No Place Quite Like It

By HOWARD BERGER

VANCOUVER (Nov. 1) – The more I visit this city, the more I grow to realize how preposterously unique it really is. Multiply that statement – on Halloween – by any number you wish.

I spent nearly four weeks here during the 2010 Winter Olympics and never came across – in that entire time – the number of oddballs I passed in a 15-minute walk along Robson Street last night. Holy mackerel  did they pour out of the wood-works – men dressed like women; women dressed like men; people dressed like dogs; dogs dressed like humans. It just didn’t end and I marginally regretted not having my trusty Nikon with me. Marginally, because I’d be writing this – gravely injured – from a dark alley had I snapped photos.

The “person” that struck me most was a man – roughly in his late-20’s – walking a dog and looking every inch like Edith Bunker. That’s immediately what came to mind: the Jean Stapleton character from All In The Family, with the pill-box hat and frumpy dress. Wonderful actress though she was, Stapleton had nothing on this crackpot, believe me.

Another person was done up like an enormous vagina. That’s right, female genitalia… I’m not kidding you, though indecent exposure laws might have shortened his or her night. If you’re in possession of a Hustler Magazine, turn to the centerfold and you’ll see the costume.

If not, use your imagination.  

IT WAS MUCH SAFER TO PHOTOGRAPH ILLUMINATED B.C. PLACE STADIUM FROM MY HOTEL WINDOW LAST NIGHT THAN THE HALLOWEEN WEIRDOS ON ROBSON ST.

At the intersection of Robson and Burrard, Gumby had Pokey on his shoulders. And, if you know the contour of Gumby, you’ll understand how dexterous that was. Other people were bleeding all over the place. In most cities, you’d consider it part of the Halloween attire.

Here, I’m not so sure.

One facet of downtown Vancouver not at all unique to Oct. 31 is the homeless. At least twice per block, you’ll be requested – though often politely – to clean out your wallet. If you travel even semi-regularly, it becomes easy to decipher a real homeless guy from a fake. I was stopped in my tracks outside a pub by a young man with an up-turned baseball cap who claimed to be “starving.” Problem was, the guy weighed about 250 pounds. If he was starving, I’m emaciated.

The underprivileged here can be fussy. A few years ago, I went for dinner with some media pals at Zefferelli’s – a terrific Italian spot on Robson. Leaving with a bag of leftovers, I walked toward a legitimate homeless guy – from head to toe, a vagabond of the highest order. Offering him the bag, he looked up and said, “Whad’ya got there?”

“Chicken and spaghetti.”

“I never eat the stuff.”

You figure it out.

But, damn, do I like this city!

And, I did have my Nikon in hand for the trip here yesterday: 

RISING OUT OF CALGARY INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT ?? AT 12:25 P.M. LOCAL TIME ON A BRIGHT, COOL AND WINDY AFTERNOON. HAD SOME GOOD BUMPS ON THE CLIMB.

TEN MINUTES INTO THE FLIGHT, WE PASSED OVER THE CANADIAN ROCKY MOUNTAINS ?? JUST SOUTH OF BANFF, ALTA. THE VIEW, AS YOU CAN SEE, WAS AWESOME.

IT WAS WARMER – AND DARKER – HERE IN VANCOUVER AFTER THE 1:13 FLIGHT.

HAWKING CANUCKS PARAPHERNALIA AT VANCOUVER AIRPORT.

B.C. PLACE AND ROGERS ARENA OUT MY HOTEL WINDOW (ABOVE) FROM 15 FLOORS; THE WAVY ROOF PANELS (BELOW) THAT COVER HOME OF THE B.C. LIONS.

EMAIL: HOWARDLBERGER@GMAIL.COM

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