2.27.2016

vancouver, day four

Our last day in Vancouver was a full one. It included a library, great art, a meet-up with an activist-friend... and noodles!

I didn't want another breakfast at the hotel, so we poked around a bit online and found something nearby. This place didn't open til 10:00 (I guess hipsters don't wake up early) but we noticed the Acme Cafe next door. It looks like a diner - an authentic diner, not a fake retro ironic diner - but with a contemporary menu. The food was very good - I had a truly excellent frittata with portobello mushrooms - but the best treat came with the bill. We unintentionally qualified for the early-bird special: between 8 and 9:00, buy one breakfast, get another free. A BOGO breakfast? What fun! And an amazing deal, as the food is outstanding and not cheap..

After breakfast we walked to the Vancouver Public Library, the Central branch known for its distinctive look. The library hadn't opened yet and there was the usual crowd waiting to get in. Anyone who imagines that libraries are no longer needed should stop by right before one opens.

I'm not sure why a library should look like the Roman Colosseum, considering the original function of that ancient building (far more brutal and bloody than is commonly known). But it's an impressive and distinctive structure, and Vancouverites voted for it in a design competition. I like the inner concourse, which gives the feel of a city block across from a library, but within the library complex itself. I hope in the warmer months there is public seating on the huge open plaza in front of the building. If there isn't, it's a ridiculously wasted space.

We wandered a bit inside the library, which is very nice. I saw something I would love to emulate in Mississauga... more on that if I'm able to help make it happen.

After the library, I went to the Bill Reid Gallery, while Allan went to check out a bookstore. Bill Reid, for any readers who don't know him, was a Canadian aboriginal artist, writer, teacher, and spokesperson. His most famous work is the Spirit of Haida Gwaii, this sculpture, which lives at the Canadian Embassy in Washington DC, and is pictured on the old (pre-Harper) Canadian $20 bill. The gallery is wonderful, a little gem of a museum. I enjoyed learning about Reid's life, although I could have used more context for some of the Haida modern cultural history. Of his own background, Reid (whose father was a white Canadian) said, "I am neither Haida nor non-Haida, neither white nor not-white. I am a person of the Haida Gwaii". I was also surprised to learn that before becoming a visual artist, Reid was a writer; I bought a beautiful book of his writing.

After meeting up again, with a few complications, we took a long train ride out to The Drive, a Vancouver neighbourhood with a counterculture flavour. We walked a lot, checked out a lot of used bookstores and a few oddball boutiques, and ate way too much excellent wood oven pizza. Eating too much was definitely a theme of this day. Unfortunately, The People's Co-op Bookstore, one of the places on The Drive we were most looking forward to, was closed because of fire damage.

From The Drive we took a B-line "99" bus to some other neighbourhood, transferred to another bus, all to pay a visit to this creatively-named store: The Regional Assembly of Text. Funny thing, Allan dragged us all over town to get there, and I was just humouring him. But as soon as we walked in, I was smitten and wanted to buy armloads of stuff. The store is full of beautiful hand-made cards with book, writing, and library themes. There are beautiful writing implements and blank books, stamps and buttons, pads and paper. The store displays a collection of old manual typewriters and file boxes, and a huge collection of zines that you can browse in a closet-sized reading room. It's an absolutely lovely store and worth a visit if you love print.

Then it was back on another bus to yet another used bookstore! When it comes to bookstores, the man is insatiable. I was way past my limit for both buses and bookstores, but my patience was less important than the payback I'd cash in later.

Our afternoon collapse was short, as I had my heart set on one more bowl of ramen before leaving Ramen City. We went back to Gyoza, the place from our first night, and I savoured yet another tomato-pork broth and noodley goodness.

After dinner, we met SB at a Gastown pub, the first time we met in person. S is a central person in the west coast branch of the War Resisters Support Campaign. She's also a CUPE activist and a librarian. We have a few things in common! None of other potential Vancouver meet-ups with internet friends worked out, but this one was really special.

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Waking up early as I do, I've been able to see Tala and Diego on the webcam every morning. I'm worry free, so happy to see them happy!

2 comments:

The Mound of Sound said...


Just wondering if you managed to see the second bronze casting of Bill Reid's Spirit of Haida Gwaii that's found at Vancouver airport. There are just the two castings but but the green-tinted bronze at the airport with its jade blending into bronze effect seems vastly better than the dull, black casting that sits outside the embassy in Washington. Our province is known for both the quality and quantity of our jade that was used by our coastal First Nations and is prized across Asia.

As an emigre from Vancouver now living on Vancouver Island, I've enjoyed your observations of the city. Those of us who experienced Vancouver in the 70s have lost much of our fascination with the place as it has evolved especially since the 90s. Yes, it's far more cosmopolitan now but that comes with a price. It used to be positively magical, laid back yet well tended - a place for white collar, blue collar and no collar alike. I wish you had been able to experience it as it was then.

laura k said...

Yes, we saw it as soon as we got off the plane.

As far as the changes to your fair city, I can understand that, but I didn't know Vancouver then, so it's not a loss to me. I feel as you do when my Canadian friends visit NYC, and I know they're getting the watered down, homogenized version. I guess that's what it is to love a city. They are always changing, and we knew them when.