How to Be a Vancouverite 101(reblogged from the Vancouver Sun)

This Vancouver Sun article, written by a newly arrived Brit, has been getting a lot of play this weekend.   Had to reblog!

How To Be A Vancouverite 101.

How to be a Vancouverite 101

Kale-munching, yoga pant-wearing, seawall-running, Canuck-worshipping: Vancouver, your West Coast ways are strange to me. I arrived here almost a year ago, head over heels in love with this city. But I’m trying hard to fit in and I think I’ve finally got a definitive top ten of How To Be A Vancouverite.

Start saying “awesome”

Fact: any conversation you have with a Vancouverite will include at least three “awesomes” and two “perfects.” If you want to really blend in, toss in the occasional “good times” and a “right on.” Alas, as a Mean Brit, I sound like I’m being sarcastic if I say any of these. Spoiler: I probably am. Good times.

Always be doing something healthy

Is the city motto: “Don’t walk if you can bike. Don’t bike if you can run. Don’t run if you can kayak”? I keep overhearing conversations like “So did you do that 150k bike ride? You did? Awesome!” So you’re all slender and gorgeous and healthy. You know that’s weird, right?

Wear Lululemon

I went to get kitted out at their Robson Street store. Never have I felt more like a Mean Brit. It was like a magnet for sunshine and happy people; basically, my nightmare. I got a cute top which turns into a minidress and some yoga pants. I challenged myself to walk through the West End wearing them — an act that would be greeted with suspicion and calls to the gendarmes in Paris where you don’t even put out your garbage without full makeup and a nifty suit. The last time I felt so exposed was walking to Brighton Pride dressed in a corset and frilly knickers. But I guess I looked the part as I got asked for directions.

Complain. A lot.

Whether you’re trash-talking the weather, moaning about Vancouver being an unfriendly city (while chatting warmly with me, a stranger!) or just grizzling about how no-fun the city is (always when you’re on your way to an exciting-sounding event) you lot love to whine. Is it because you live in paradise?

There’s life and there’s death and then there’s hockey

I’m told that to be a true Vancouverite is to be disappointed by the Canucks; I met the cute one at a bar opening and asked him for a photo for my friend’s kid. He said no. He was “busy” eating chips. Does that count? It was disappointing.

Embrace Yoga

Last week I went to my very first yoga class at Robson Street Yoga. I picked a class for “stiff people.” Turns out “stiff” in Vancouver means “not quite able to tuck your foot behind your ear.” In England it means “can barely touch toes.” I spent most of the class in red-mist rage at how un-stiff everyone was. Cheats! I liked the bit where you lie on the floor though. Is there a class for that?

Become kale-obsessed

Seriously, what is it with you lot and kale? OK, so it’s good for you. You can do a bunch of cool stuff with it from smoothies to sautéing it. It’s tasty and a pretty decent swap for chips and … yeah, OK, I get it. Kale is er, awesome.

Stick to the rules

You love to hate your endless rules like no beer on the beach and the unfathomable madness of your liquor laws, but whenever I discuss this with Vancouverites they always end up in favour of the law. Know what? I think you kind of like being told what to do, you kinky lot.

Be a foodie

If it’s not seasonal, organic, free-range and local in this town it may as well be freaky lab-grown burger meat. Hanging out at Farmers’ Markets while planning to go to a Food Truck festival so you can discuss dinner plans is probably the No. 1

Vancouverite weekend occupation.

Go from Zen-like calm to fizzing, swivel-eyed rage in less than three seconds when asked about bike lanes

I never knew Vancouverites could lose their cool over anything other than hockey until I discovered your “unreasonable argument” trigger. Sure, you all love cycling, just not if you have to lose car lanes to do it. I like to toss this one into conversation when things are getting too “awesome.”© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun

Here’s all I have to add:

Wish I could say I’m on some healthy cleanse – nope, SOP at home.  On the road I eat whatever’s there, at home I’m a true Lotus Lander 🙂

Breakfast this morning:  Spelt flakes with organic blueberries and soy milk.

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Going to the beach this afternoon – its warm and sunny.  Not riding my bike, but will have to hike the 400 steps down and then back up from the trail.  Picnic lunch is going to be quinoa salad with kale and apples.

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Turned into a nice day yesterday so the BBQ on the deck last night was fresh, wild BC salmon with a Granville Island Farmer’s Saison and a bottle of Road 13 Rose from the Okanagan Valley.  (note: this pic taken last night – like there would be leftovers!!)  

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If I keep writing about food I’m going to have to start a food blog!  Gotta go do a few downward dogs to limber up for another tough day on the Best Coast.

Need a super chill, super mellow, bluesy vibe to kick of Sunday, some Amos Lee should fit the bill.  Have a great day y’all.

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A Moveable Feast

With all due deference to Mr. Hemingway, although it’s not Paris, I’ve been lucky enough to unexpectedly have this summer in Vancouver when I thought I would be long gone to Virginia. And wherever I go after this it will stay with me, for (it’s) been a moveable feast. Maybe it’s the poignancy of knowing I may leave this autumn, or maybe it’s just a karmic gift after last summer, but for whatever reason it has been superlative. I’ve spent some time away, work and vacation has taken me regularly to the US South, but it’s the times at home that stand out.

I have, in many ways, already taken leave of my past life here; said goodbyes and given up regular activities, so I’ve had to, of necessity, redefine my lifestyle this summer. And, much to my surprise, I’ve found that home still has a lot to offer. I’ve ended up asking myself whether the lifestyle I want is right here in my own city? Granted Vancouver has put on a show and given us a truly spectacular summer (would I be writing this when the rains of November seem to never end!) but it seems that through the lens of immanent departure I have fallen in love with the West Coast all over again. And I haven’t really even been that far from the city; no island paradise kayak or camping trips (yet!) but I’ve just been getting out and playing tourist in my own town, appreciating everything the city has to offer.

One of the things I love doing on Saturday morning is spending time browsing at one of the many local farmer’s market. On a recent Saturday I went with a friend to explore Trout Lake Market, one of the original and oldest farmer’s markets. It was a beautiful, warm, sunny day and we got to walk all around Trout Lake on our way to the market (well actually we were yakking, missed a turn and got on the wrong pathway . . . .a fortuitous wrong turn!)

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And it truly was a moveable feast at the market. As well as bushels of fresh, heirloom, organic vegetables, we bought delicious goats milk cheeses, creamy blues and delicate fetas, a duck breast sausage marinated in King Heffy beer, (so delicious!!), wild mushrooms and warm breads.  A glorious profusion of humble beets and carrots.

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After all that walking and gathering, it seemed time for a repast and what better idea than brunch at Timbre on Commercial Drive. We did eat as well, but debated if it was necessary after these Bloodys. Truly awesome.

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Many a good idea (and quite a few bad ones . . .oh wait, in my life there are no bad ideas!) have been hatched over a drink, today was no exception. Casually mentioned that Trombone Shorty was playing in Whistler that night at some slightly strange event/festival/yoga/hippy/love in called Wanderlust. For the life of me I still can’t figure out how a rockin’ trombone player from New Orleans ended up playing at a yoga festival in Whistler, BC, for FREE, but he was and he did. Driving to Whistler to see the show, then driving back that night seemed like the Best Idea Ever. And since we had a bounty of deliciousness, a picnic at Lost Lake was the ideal start to our Whistler adventure. A couple of hours later we were headed up the Sea to Sky highway, picnic basket in hand. A feast was had, but in the unpredictable way of mountain weather, it sure was moveable, Here’s the spread we had set up by Lost Lake.

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Minutes later a thunder and lightning storm rolled over the lake and onto our picnic.

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We took temporary refuge under the trees, but to no avail.  Our picnic was getting wet and, even worse crime, the wine was being diluted! We could see that the storm was localized to the lake – blue skies and sunshine shone down less than a mile away – so we hastily threw everything back in the basket and headed down the road to Alta Lake where it was sunny, Yeah, picnic was back on!! Got everything set up a second time when . . .drop, drop, drop . . .the thunderstorm had rolled on over our way. Moveable feast indeed. This shower was short-lived so we toughed it out till it passed and enjoyed every morsel.

With all the too-ing and fro-ing we were seriously behind schedule getting to the free concert venue in Olympic Plaza.

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But instead of being at the back of a huge crowd, much to our surprise the plaza was basically empty. Wet, but empty. Those yogis are lightweights! We were able to wander right up to the front of the barrier, centre stage and enjoy a stunning sunset as the skies cleared, the plaza dried and we waited for Shorty,

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The show was everything I had hoped for, my companion hadn’t seen Shorty before, but I was pretty sure I knew exactly what sort of kick ass night we were in for, Anywhere in the US Shorty draws large crowds of devoted fans; when he took the stage in Whistler there were maybe 20 people milling around and I was the only one showing of my “Who Dat” shirt. Some musicians might have decided it was a waste of time and put on a lackluster, bare minimum and I’m outta here set. Not Shorty, He decided to win over some fans and put on a show to remember, Two hours later the plaza was overflowing with hand clapping, foot stomping, dancing and singing new-born Trombone Shorty fans, The man is amazing (ok, so the picnic wasn’t the only deliciousness around!!)

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The entire day was truly a Moveable Feast for all the senses. Great food, great wine, gorgeous scenery, incredible music and great company, Thanks for a spectacular day, Here’s Shorty, getting funky y’all and killing American Woman at the Salmon Arm Roots and Blues Festival. If you get a chance to see him live, do it!

Open My Mouth and Out Comes . . .

I was getting on the bus yesterday with my dragon boat paddle in hand.  Why?  Loaning it to a friend who has taken up paddling.  I’m in semi-retirement from my team, so I thought someone should have the use of this carbon fibre beauty.   I hadn’t  really considered it, but I guess to the uninitiated (that’s non-dragon boaters – I know, a scant minority of the population!!) it looks like a rather large instrument that might be wielded to some effect against a naughty schoolboy, and is somewhat unusual to see on the bus.  A particularly droll soul at the stop commented that he hoped the paddle wasn’t for the driver . . . and before I had a chance to even consider the repercussions, out of my mouth popped “only if he’s been particularly naughty”.  It was 7:00am.  I clearly hadn’t had enough coffee.  But even I could recognize the started expressions on the faces of my fellow transit riders.  Oh my.  I think I made at least one person’s day  – he of the big grin – but there were a few pursed, prune mouths and askance stares.  Incorrigible . . . or is it encourageable?  Either way, there are times when even I’m surprised by what comes out of my mouth.  No filters  . . .really, no filters.

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I’ve gotten a lot better at work at monitoring what I say, but every so often I inadvertently drop a real clanger. Those little hamster wheels in my head are busy figuring out all the permutations of the subject at hand and somehow, sans filter, out pops whatever it is that’s spinning around in there.   I have managed, on occasion, to silence a room.  At that point I usually surface out of whatever personal world I’ve been inhabiting, take one look at the faces around me and realize that I must have said something particularly startling and that maybe not everyone would have chosen those words or that moment. Oh darn, another career limiting move.  I have managed to not do any permanent damage to my career (at least I don’t think so) other than earning a reputation as being someone who generally just says what she thinks, is a wee bit eccentric and somewhat cavalier about personal reputational risk.   All in, not a bad rep to have.   I like what Ghandi has to say about speaking the truth and not apologizing.

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But I would also temper that with a wee smidgen of humility.  In being me, I would imagine that I’m not always “right” (ya think?) and that “right” might often be a very individual perception.  It’s ok to be a minority of one, but not if you hurt other people in the process.  Laugh at me all you want for my irreverent and somewhat wacky sense of humour, but I don’t ever want to go for laughs, points, success or anything else, at someone else’s expense.  There is nothing that is worth leaving a trail of bodies behind you for.  Always be kind.  And if you shoot from the hip, be prepared with a mea culpa and the occasional apology.

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You would think this tendency would make me an open book in personal relationships,  Well . . .apparently not so much.  I may think I’ve been crystal clear, but the reality, I’ve been told is that I play my cards very close.

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I must have some talent as a listener because people have told me the most extraordinary things about themselves on very short acquaintance.   And even when I think there has been a mutual exchange, on further reflection I’ve realized that I listen a lot and say very little of substance.  The honesty street has been one-way.  I have a small gift at weaving good stories that in their humour and detail can deflect from actually revealing anything that might leave me vulnerable.  I can talk all around something, but in the end never really say what I’m thinking.  When it comes down to it, I could count on one hand the number of people who know the whole story of my life.  I have a real gift at deflecting away from anything that is too real and too personal, blogista notwithstanding.

I’ve been thinking a lot about a question that was posed to me recently, that I thought, in the moment, I had answered very clearly.  It wasn’t an easy ask, a friend had to share their vulnerability and was seeking reassurance that if the chips were down, they could rely on me.  There might have been a bigger question in there as well, about sticking around and longevity. I gave a thoughtful answer but on further reflection I realize that I never answered the core question “if I need you to be there for me, can I count on you”.  I should have just said yes, but the hamster wheels got spinning and off I went on a tangent.  I need to go back and just say yes, because I’m pretty sure that got lost in translation and I plan to fix that as soon as possible.

Which brings me back to a quote that has lived on my blog for as long as I’ve been writing it:  “When You’re Through Thinking, Say Yes”.  From the first time I read it I was drawn to this title of an album by Yellowcard.  Maybe I’m only now figuring out why.   “Save me from myself and be the soundtrack to these stories that I tell”

Show us Your Rainbow – Pride Week in Vancouver

There was a lot going on in Vancouver this weekend, I’m going to need a couple of blogs to cover it!  But to kick it off, here are some of the sights and fun of Pride Week, an event I always enjoy. My favourite Pride memory is still a Sunday a few years ago, 2003 to be exact, when a friend I were headed down to the West End to watch the Pride Parade. We parked quite a few blocks away and were walking down towards the beach when we met two men, about our own age, obviously from out of town and just as obviously lost. As we were all rushing in the same general direction they stopped us and asked us if we were heading to the parade and if we could give them directions. We brought them along with us and found out that they had been married the day before.  They were both so obviously happy and so delighted to be finally, legally married that whenever a discussion about same-sex marriage comes up, I always remember those two people, happy and in love, regardless of gender.  Canada was the fourth country in the world, and the first outside of Europe, to legalize same-sex marriage.

We were sitting having brunch on Commercial Drive on Saturday when through the open patio doors came the roar of hogs, closely followed by the sight of naked breasts on large motorcycles.

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It was the Dykes on Bikes, the vanguard of the  Vancouver Dyke March. I’d love to link directly to the the DM website, but it was down because it had exceeded bandwidth – what an awesome problem to have! The Dyke March officially kicks off Pride Week and it “prides” itself (pun fully intended!) on being much less mainstream and commercial than the official Pride Parade.

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Have to admit I had to google “Foreskin Pride” – I was completely stumped as to how that could relate to the Dyke March.  Turns out it doesn’t . . .except that it’s about freedom of choice and in BC . . .well there is an old saying that any gathering of more half a dozen people in BC is a protest – I think it stems from either the Clayquot Sound anti-logging protests or maybe the labour rallies . . .could be either here in Lotus Land!  Anyway, Foreskin Pride seems to be protesting forced circumcision.

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There is even . . .wait for it  . . . a Foreskin Salute.  This video has the PG version of the salute – google away if you want to see the XX rated, Pride Parade version, it’s hilarious.

And yes, the Dyke March is not just about women, it’s about the men who care for them, about families, about equality and Pride.

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City Hall decided to recognize the Davie Street Village this year by painting the crosswalk at Davie and Bute  in a permanent rainbow, not surprisingly one of the first of it’s kind in Canada.  City crews painted it overnight last Sunday and Tim Stevenson, who was the first openly-gay provincial cabinet minister in Canada, made the announcement Monday morning to kick of Pride Week.

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Sunday it was time for Pride Parade, which after 35 years has grown to be the fifth largest in the world with over 650,000 people and 150 floats in any given year.  I can remember when I first came to Vancouver and went to Pride, it was anything but mainstream and was considerably less commercial and way raunchier than the mostly family friendly parade it’s become, attended by provinicial politicians, tourists, local businesses and families.   Even the venerable Vancouver Opera got in on the action this year with a glamorous float of divas and queens.

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boys will be boys

Boys will be boys!

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Even the local firemen get in on the parade.

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Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson getting his Pride on.

The sun was shining, it was Sunday Funday, colourful, loud, sparkling, Pride.

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And because she’s one heck of a diva, Grace Potter – Paris – Ooh La La!