Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Victoria

For the first time, in, well, ever, the Missus and I went out for a night, that is, overnight, without the kids. For those of you without kids, I'm sure you're thinking of one thing, for those with kids, you're thinking what we were thinking, "Uninterrupted sleep!"

Whereas the world often thinks of Vancouver as 'pretty' and 'quaint' (if the world ever thinks of the hamlet of Vancouver, at all), Vancouver is a pit of despair, grime, and abject villainy compared to the capital of British Columbia, Victoria. Named after a German who nevertheless epitomizes Britain, Victoria is a place for, as they say, "the newly wed and the nearly dead". Weddings and pensioners abound.

It's a city that looks like it was painstakingly crafted, brick by brick to be the quaintest, most flower basket festooned city in all of North America. There are little pubs that must've cost a fortune to look 'just right', where 'right' is whatever the prevailing opinion is about how an Irish/Scottish/Whatever pub looks like. There is history too. Of course, in BC, history is anything that's lasted more than 50 years.

It's remarkably safe. The homeless folks are more dread-locked hippy than 'scary and perhaps forgetting some meds' types. There are gardens and hanging baskets and well-painted architectural details. It's difficult, if not impossible to find the 'bad' part of town. I narrowed it down to 'any place that hasn't had a coat of paint in the last 3 months', or 'any street that my wife tells me is 'bad''. It's bewildering.

We went over there for a wedding. One of those stunning affairs peopled by the youthful and brash, those optimistic and idealistic beacons of joy and verve that make you wonder when you ever were that. Damn. Perky. We had become the staid, quiet, and somewhat tired thirty-somethings who watched the wedding with distant, half-remembering smiles. It's odd, going to these things. A bunch of strangers who all know two people very well, or are obligated to know them. It's an ultimate test of mingling, making pleasantries and acquaintance with clerks from Fred Meyer's or bankers from Wickitaw, everyone looking dapper everyone asking the same questions. Usually giving the same answers, come to think of it.

I can barely handle those things. It's an extroverts paradise, and only tolerable to this introvert by partaking in the open bar and by faking it. And there is always the Inner Circle, the groom and bride and all their best friends. The best you can do is try not to be too intrusive as they have their last party as wild kids, unfettered by tragedy and life's small injustices. I always feel a little odd. I feel like I'm taking up a space that maybe could have been taken up by someone closer and more important. Invariably, this is true. But I don't mind being part of the crowd. Why I can' t be part of the crowd while at home, safely away from small talk with strangers, I'll never know.

It wasn't all bad, of course. The Missus had a great time. Victoria is really a great place to visit if you like peace, quiet, and hundreds of years of iron-willed British World Domination reduced to High Tea at the Empress for $55/head. And, if you can believe it, they had their wedding at the Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters. Which, in reality, is some coal magnates hunting lodge/man-castle that blah blah blah, family tragedy, blah blah blah, heirs to the fortune killed or offed or succumbed to dysentery, blah blah blah Canadian Military bought it for a song.

It was no Hearst Castle, mind you, but still, pretty damn awesome. Wood paneling and overprice light fixtures never fail to impress.

There were other niftily nerdy things about our trip.

Oddly enough, our hotel (which wasn't Xavier's School) was situated in some sort of nerd enclave. There were about 4 comic book shops and a Games Workshop, which looked to me to be a D&D... uh.. store? It was pleasant to wander through, and try and recognized old heroes I used to collect, and flinch at the bizarre representations to the female form, and physics defying homages to spandex. And gravity, actually.

There were nice little niches for indie comics that featured artists I had heard of, or thought I'd heard of, and which all made me feel less cool for not really being too interested in it all. The comic shops and whatnot are places where I should feel at home, where, nerd-man-child that I am, should be home at last. Oddly, not so much.

On the way home to the hotel, I stopped by this place, which had pretty much every single toy I had played with or (more likely) toy that my friends had that I coveted. Quite literally in every display were these amazing magic talismen of nostalgia. And they were all pretty reasonable, (like say, 15 bucks for Hocus Pocus). They also had these little art installations, like say, a steampunk AT-AT. Or the Alien from the same movie made out of nuts and bolts.

So there were things for the Missus,and things for me. And during one of our many walks, just wandering around the pretty stores and cobbled streets, I saw the highlight of the entire trip. I think this could be the highlight to any trip, actually, but I'm not sure if seeing him means we were I'm in the dodgy part of town or not.

6 comments:

Monkfish said...

Oh how the mighty have fallen. Great pic.

Archagon said...

Hey, we saw the same guy when we were there!

http://www.flickr.com/photos/archagon/3729325972/

Chris D said...

Niteowl, your writing is fantastic these days! Well done. Makes me want to avoid weddings, though...

itchylick said...

Nice. I need a permanent vacation. Hope you enjoyed your sleep.

The Nighthawk said...

Damn, that guy wasn't there when the Missus and I were there last month! Awesome pic. :D

And yeah, that little stretch of street (Johnson I think) has 4 comic shops anda GW store all within about 500 feet. And they all stay in business!

Lotta said...

Oh, I'm so jealous!

/adds Victoria to "want to go here" places on the map