Vancouver, Feb. 16, 2010

When my friend Diana went to the Winter Olympics in Lake Placid in 1980, she got hypothermia. If she were here in Vancouver, she’d get wet. I arrived at around 5:40 p.m. on Feb. 15. It was relatively dry until around 7:30, when it started to drizzle. By the time my friend Ariana and I walked back to her apartment (near Granville and Broadway)  from downtown at around 9:30 Vancouver time, it was pouring. Not exactly Winter Olympics weather, but nobody downtown seemed to mind.

I definitely didn’t mind: a week ago I hadn’t planned to be here at all. This whole trip came about thanks to the efforts of Karen Corrin at the Vancouver Jewish Community Centre, who secured a Canada Council grant in January to bring me out to do two readings to school groups.

When she called in January and asked if I could come for a reading before the end of June, I asked if I could come during the Olympics. At the time I didn’t realize quite what a preposterous request it was: apparently some schools are closed during the Games, and even the public library where she works in Richmond isn’t scheduling any programming. Transportation is an issue because some roads are closed. But God bless Karen, she knocked herself out. On Feb. 8 she called to tell me she’d been able to schedule readings for the mornings of Feb. 16 and 17. So here I am!

Downtown Vancouver was hopping on Monday night, despite the rain. The lineup to get into the free concert at Vincent Lam Park featuring the Hasidic reggae singer Matisyahu (aka Matthew Paul Miller) stretched around a fairly long city block. We watched him on a screen rather than stand in the line and risk not getting in.

There are screens all over Vancouver. The airport was full of them. If you were trapped in the airport for the entire fortnight, you wouldn’t have to miss a thing, and you’d stay dry, too. Then again, it was nice to get outside and see the sights, and the people, and the faux international conflicts (at one bar with outdoor tables — and an awning — a woman wearing a USA shirt was egging on a bunch of guys wearing Canada shirts. At the edge of the crowd was a woman draped in a British flag. She was standing with a guy — they were obviously a couple – and both were looking superior, presumably because they were staying above the fray.)

All kinds of little kiosks have been set up around the Vancouver Art Gallery, as well as some photographable art including a shiny red thing that is supposed to be a canoe but appears to be made of painted cast iron and would therefore sink if someone attempted to put it in water. There were yards of paper lanterns to celebrate the Chinese new year, and also some strange looking upright cylinders that looked a little like Sprite cans but I think had something to do with freedom in Darfour. But again, it was raining and I couldn’t see well. I’ll check again tomorrow, in the daylight.

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