I wanted to shake up my life and go sailing (or learn on the job, so-to-speak) so headed to Florida to crew on a catamaran. This is about how it went or, rather, didn't - and my life since. Hopefully it will lead to a catamaran on the clear aqua blue waters of the Caribbean Sea, watching the sunset, a coconut rum and coke in hand. You must START AT THE BEGINNING of the blog, April 2009, to get the whole story...

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


My agonized-over plan for a very busy day at the WSC hub ends up working perfectly. With over 40 of our own buses and about 50 of WOP's, the entire day went without a hitch and the bus drivers seemed really happy with it as well - no confusion as to who arrived first so who goes next. At the end of the day Richard, the big honcho from Florida, patted me on the back and said 'great job today'. High praise indeed from a very reserved man.

Finally a few days off. It's my son-in-law's 31st birthday today so I call Ashleigh to find out what to buy him. I am thinking tools, as he doesn't have much of those - being fresh off the plane from England and all. She tells me that her dad got Rob some for Christmas but she's not sure what all he has so she makes a call to him (her dad) and calls me back. Box-end wrenches. So I head down to Sears to buy a Craftman set. Geepers. Who knew there were so many variations of one tool! There's a plain set. Then there's one that ratchets on the closed end. Another set ratchets on both ends. One set has reversing ratchets. Then double that because there's standard size and metric size sets. I stand there for about twenty minutes. The ratchet ones are cool and you can 'try' them because one in the set is attached to a little plastic nut. I try it and it's pretty nifty. What to do. What to do. Finally, I let the price dictate. I buy the plain set. Nothing fancy. Still $60. When I get to the till, the clerk tells me that they go on sale for $35 on the weekend. Crap. But then she says to just bring in the receipt and I will get a refund. Cool!

That done, and with the savings, I decide to add something special to the gift. First I stop at the grocery store and buy him some Cadbury Mini Eggs and two Creme Eggs. He eats those by the dozen. I can't even eat one so I have no idea how he does it. I give him a hard time about his addiction to them and feel guilty buying them for him, but it IS his birthday. I then go to the liquor store for the special part. I scan the rum section for some Pusser's Rum. It's from the BVI and I know that Ashleigh and Rob ran out of what they brought back with them just before Christmas. There's none on the shelves. I ask a clerk and he says they just get it for the Holidays. He says he will check on the computer to see if any stores have some stock left. His search shows that Cloverdale have four bottles. So I drive over there and buy one. A liter of rum in the BVI costs about $9. I considered Pusser's expensive at $16. This bottle costs $45. But I know he will be thrilled so it's worth it.

Tomorrow I am heading down to spend the day in Vancouver and then going to a Victory Medal Ceremony at 6:30. All the venues are a sea of red in the spectator stands and I don't want to be wearing my usual black. I need something red to wear but I don't have anything. I remember a red wool jacket I gave to Denise last year when I culled my wardrobe. Hoping she won't mind, I go take a peek in her closet and there it is. I pull it out to wear tomorrow. I am sure she won't mind.

I am up early as I need to pick Olga up at 9. When I get to her place, her husband is with her. I am fine with it but surprised. She tells me she told me but I don't recall that at all. The plan is to drive to North Vancouver and park the van at my daughter's place and then take the bus down to the SeaBus. The reason being that Ashleigh is coming to the medal ceremony and I don't want her traveling home alone so Olga and Andrew will take the SkyTrain to Surrey and I will go with Ashleigh. That way I can give Rob his birthday present before I head home as well.

Before we get on the SeaBus we take a walk to the dock to look at a Russian tall ship, the Krusenstern, that is in port. Olga claims it's the largest tall ship in the world but, looking at it, I am thinking that is maybe some Russian propaganda because I am positive I have seen larger. But I don't say that. I just admire it along with them. I am sure it would be an impressive sight with the sails unfurled.

Once we cross over on the SeaBus, we take the Canada Line SkyTrain to the Athletes Village. Only when we get off, we are nowhere near the Athletes Village. So we walk down a long path and across a road to the gate where five RCMP guard the entrance to a gravel lot and long road that seems to lead to the village. It's obvious we won't be able to go take a stroll through for a look-see, but there are tents set up and I wonder if there's any venues or attractions here to see. I ask the police and they say that the tent is where the athletes and workers eat. (Really?! They couldn't have included a dining room in the huge glass structure they built?) There's nothing to see. So we head back where we came from but follow the railroad tracks to another tent that is set up alongside. This is the departure point for the Street Car that Bombardier built and was brought over from Brussels. It runs to Granville Island. We hop on that and it's beautiful inside. I remark on how narrow it is and the lady who is a Bombardier rep say's that's because it's made for narrow European streets. Which I sorta figured on my own. It runs very smoothly on the specially installed rails, which was the only cost to the city of Vancouver for this service. The street car's themselves were shipped here by Bombardier.

I am disappointed to find that there's nothing special happening at Granville Island. I had heard that there was a great high-wire act and other entertainment but there's nothing going on. Maybe that happens just on the weekend. It's a rainy day but I can't imagine that would be why the outside gathering area is devoid of any activity. Olga and Andrew don't want to spend any time here if there's nothing to see. On a normal day, meaning no Olympics, this place is fun and great to walk through. But one can do that any old day. We are here for Olympic fun and there's none of that going on here. So we get on a Aqua Bus, at $3 per person it's the only transportation we have to pay for as our accreditation gets us on all public transit for free. We bob our way on the waves to the other side of False Creek, disembark, and catch a bus into Yale Town.

We make our way over to Live City Downtown to finally go see Christopher at work. There's not much of a lineup so we are at the security gate in less than 15 minutes. Getting through security is just like the airport. Purse and phone in a gray tray. I beep when I go through the gate so am swept with a sensor bar by an Asian woman. I keep beeping and the woman insists I have stuff in my pockets. I do. Two toffees and a plastic lip balm I just won at a free drink stand. I slid my free bottle of vitamin water down a table marked like a curling rink and got it right on the bulls eye. I was told if I got it on the mark, there were Tee shirts autographed by athletes as prizes. So I was excited when I hit it right on. The guy hands me a Chapstick. What the....? Anyhow, I pull it and the candies out of my pocket and say, "These aren't making that beep." and toss them in the tray. She sweeps me again and I beep. "Pockets" she says. "NOTHING IN THEM" I reply, somewhat short. "There's ZIPPERS here. ZIPPER?" I try to make her understand but I think that this is another case of a language barrier. "I pat?" she says. "Fine." I reply. She pats. Nothing there. She sweeps again. It beeps. "What under there?" "My pants. My shirt. Nothing else." She doesn't believe me. I am starting to lose my patience. It's a frikking outdoor parking lot with a couple of tents, for petes sakes. Not the Pentagon. She finally accepts that it's the zippers when it happens on the other side and lets me go. What a performance.

We go into the pavilion tent thing that is set up on the right. The Canada House is on the left and we will go there later. Christopher is sitting behind a black-curtained off area where the sound boards are. He is on his laptop so doesn't see me right away. When he looks up, I am shocked by how completely exhausted he looks. I haven't ever seen him look this wiped out. He isn't getting much sleep. He starts at 8 in the morning and goes to 1 a.m. every day - no days off. We hug and I introduce him to Olga and Andrew. I ask him if he has time to break away and have lunch with us at White Spot in an hour or so but he doesn't. We chat for a bit. It's really hot inside the building so we don't stay long. We get in the lineup for the Canada House and it takes about 30 minutes for us to get inside. I am surprised to see that the Stanley Cup is on display and there's another lineup to have a picture taken with it and two Mounted Police. I am about the farthest thing away from a hockey fan as one can get, but I decide that this is a unique opportunity so line up for a photo. Andrew is really excited about getting his picture taken with it so I'd be lining up anyway.

That done, we walk around the rest of the displays. There's a cool one of various skis and snowboards that Olympians have used over the decades. A couple of skis are very primitive, from the 20's and made of plain wood. I read the labels on some of them and a gold medal was won by the wearer of one of the wood set.

I hear tell we spent ten million dollars on Canada House. And it was built by a USA company. Not impressed. I was hoping there would be something amazing inside for that amount of money. Outside certainly is nothing to write home about. Yes, there's a giant TV screen built into the outside wall. But the rest is cheap pre-fab product that almost looks like that plastic corrugated stuff they use for signs. I'd love to know why it cost so much. And why they couldn't have found someone in Canada to make it so that, at the very least, the money stayed here.

Olga and Andrew haven't ever eaten at White Spot and, as it's a B.C. legend, I had suggested that we have lunch there and they readily agreed. So we walk down Georgia Street and after a short wait, are seated at a cozy table in the back. We order the 'Zoo Sticks'(deep fried breaded zucchini) for an appetizer, and three Legendary Burger Platters for our main course. When it all arrives, they dig in and find it delicious. As I had hoped they would.

After lunch we walk a couple of short blocks to line up for another 20 minutes or so at the Vancouver Art Gallery to view the showing of Leonardo da Vinci's sketches of the human body. They are on loan from Queen Elizabeth's private collection and free to see for the duration of the games. They are the original drawings and the detail is spectacular. I read that he drew from a cadaver that he slowly dissected. The drawings were revolutionary and the first of their kind. In fact, he died before he could make them public and so were packed away by his heir and forgotten for over a century before being discovered. Even then, there was nothing to compare to them. I remember reading that da Vinci liked to write backwards, in a 'mirror script', and I can see that the neat rows of tiny script is indeed backwards. It's sobering to gaze on these parchments and try to absorb that da Vinci touched them and that every line is from his very hand. Another once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Ashleigh calls while we are in the gallery to say she is on her way from work and should be downtown in about 45 minutes. We take our time over the rest of the drawings and then head down towards B.C. Place Stadium, where the Victory Ceremony will take place. We stop on the way to watch a bit of the hockey game between Canada and Russia on the huge screen on the side of Canada House. The score is 3-1 for Canada and another goal is scored by Canada while we are there and a tremendous roar goes up all around for blocks. So great.

Ashleigh arrives and wants to pop in to see Christopher so we stay on the sidewalk and watch the game while she dashes off to see him. She's back in 15 minutes and we walk down to the stadium to take our seats for the ceremony. We are up on the fourth level, so pretty high above the stage, but it's a great view. There are huge screens that all of the goings-on will be projected on so we won't miss anything. While we are waiting, suddenly Ben Mulroney and Tamara Taggert come out and announce that Canada just won the hockey game and that we won gold AND silver in the ladies 2-man bobsled. A huge cheer goes up from the half full stands. They come back a bit later and play an Olympic trivia game with the crowd. It's lots of fun.

I didn't realize that each Victory Ceremony celebrates a province or territory of Canada. Tonight it's Ontario's turn and so there's a film about tourism there and a couple of Ontario bands play. Olga turns to me, all concerned. INXS are the featured entertainment tonight. "I think this is not INXS" she says in her heavily Russian accented English. "I think maybe we have a mistake and INXS is not playing tonight." I reassure her that the band will be on later and she seems much relieved. The bands are done playing and several stage hands roll out the podium for the medal ceremony. As I sit and look down on it as we wait for the awards to begin, I am suddenly struck by how amazing it is to be here. I am about to see athletes receive their medals, in person. I have watched this over and over for years on the TV and now, here I am, seeing it with my own eyes. I have to say I become a little overwhelmed by it and choke back a lump in my throat that has suddenly made an appearance. As I do, the lighting changes and and it's announced that the medalists for the ladies 5000m Speed Skate are walking on stage. The bronze medalist is our very own Clara Hughes, so we won't get to hear our national anthem tonight. But as she receives her medal, a huge roar goes up from the crowd. There is so much national pride going on in Vancouver right now, we would put the USA to shame. It's so out of character for us as Canadians, and it's so great to witness.

Once the medals here are handed out and the Czech anthem is played, we get to watch the medals at Whistler being handed out via the large screens. No Canadians this time for the men's 4 x 10K relay.

INXS finally makes their appearance and the party starts in earnest. I like a few of their songs but I can't say they are a favourite band. I find them a bit too heavy rock for my taste. Tonight they are very loud and very rock and roll. Olga is bopping away to the beat in her seat on one side of me, and Ashleigh is tolerating the music on the other. She is more a David Gray, Ray Lamontagne, Bob Marley sort of gal. I am a more David Gray, ColdPlay, Josh Groban sort of woman. We stay for most of it, and I have to say that the lead singer is fabulous. He is very energetic and entertaining, his voice is incredible, and he's gorgeous. But after an hour, my head is starting to pound. I look over at Ashleigh and mouth "do you want to go?" She nods. So I yell to Olga that we are leaving and we hug good bye. It feels great to get outside in the cool air and the comparatively deafening silence.

We walk to the SkyTrain and thankfully there's no lineups. I am really enjoying having a bit of time with my daughter, something I don't get much of anymore. We chat and laugh most of the way back to her apartment. I am happy to see I don't have a parking ticket on my car when I go to get Robs birthday present out of the back.

Once in the apartment, Rob looks like he might have been napping. We hug and I wish him a happy belated birthday and give him his gift. He loves the chocolates. The Pusser's Rum makes his eyes pop. "I didn't expect to see any of this again unless we went back to the Caribbean." he exclaims. It's a big hit. And he is very happy with the wrenches.

I don't stay long. They are both tired and have to be up early for work. And I am pretty worn out from the day's activities and have to be up at 8 to go back downtown to get my hair done at Avant Garde Hair in Yale Town. Christopher's girlfriend, Izzy, is a hairstylist there and now does my hair. Up until recently, I have had two hairstylists in my entire adult life. One for 10 years and the other for 20. I wanted to support Izzy when she started at Avant Garde and was thrilled with her talent with hair... mine in particular. So now she is my new stylist and I don't plan on switching for a very long time.

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