Echo Ukee, echo Toff

I met with Abby, ex of the Sacred Stone Spa in Ucluelet, now of the Stone Spa in Nelson, and we shared a nice cuppa tea.

I tried repeatedly to catch Shawn and Carla, ex of Words End Bookstore in Ukee, now of iLovenNelson.com and UndergroundArtsRailroad.com, but despite several visits and calls i never managed to catch them at the office.

I wandered into Enchanted Gifts, on Baker St. (the main drag), and started chatting with the owner, who turned out to be Francois, ex of the Enchanted in Tofino.

And at a street market i saw a newsletter put out by Eco Society with an article by Lee-Ann, ex of the Friends of Clayoquot Sound. I thought i’d look for her in town, and found her by pure coincidence on a street corner, waiting for the light to change.

These folks told me about others who have moved from the West Coast to Nelson and area (the Kootenays, or “the Koots” to those in the know). And the single, striking word they all used about their new situation was “happy.” Happier than they were on the coast. Francois elaborated: when he plays hockey, there’s a melange of freaks, cops, hippies, straights, young and old on the ice and they all get along; people don’t pigeonhole each other, don’t separate into cliques, don’t gossip behind each others’ backs and boycott each others’ businesses because of something someone said five years ago. Others echoed the sentiment. Damn — are we like this on the coast?

But there was one thing they all, every one, regretted: they pined for the ocean.

Decamp

Moved on to Victoria, via a steep Pacific Coach Lines fare ($40, city to city; next time i’ll use public transit at each end, for about $19 including ferry). The sky started clearing as i came off the ferry. I rode the top front seat of a double-decker bus on the milk run into town, sitting next to a garrulous native fellow going the shop in the city and in front of a young, Type A public health nurse and her laid-back partner, who were dissecting their lives and plans — job stress, crack addiction, best neighbourhoods to live, preferences in sport — in excruciating, unignorable detail.

The bus drew up on Hillside, next to Long & McQuade, and i disembarked spontaneously to check out their hand rhythm section, which i found freshly stocked with new toys. Then i found MEC, where i revamped part of my wardrobe, then the downtown hostel where i’m trying out my new membership tonight, in a dorm with about 40 other guys. It’s been a few years and i want to know what i’m up against, hostelling it across the country.

Everything seemed to slide along nicely once i got back on the Vancouver Island, and that gives me a good feeling about the place. So now i’m thinking, yeah … Victoria … i might be able to do that.

Now to get in touch with some people….

Going, going, gongshow

So after weeks of putzing and procrastination (or maybe just waiting on cosmic alignment) departure folds together in hours, like some clever kid’s toy.

  1. Late Friday, Helen’s daughter and son-in-law confirm they’ll arrive Sunday evening, so no more room at the inn (Helen’s floor).
  2. On Saturday, Henry tells me he’s heading back to Victoria tomorrow and will drop me off at the ferry if I like.
  3. Saturday afternoon I finally bestir myself down to the locker and rearrange, sort, salvage. Drag a car-load from Helen’s to locker, leaving a veritable snowdrift of my stuff across her living room floor. (Sorry, Hel, you’re a saint.)
  4. Sunday morning, pack my knapsack and throw what’s left into a conveniently leftover blue plastic tote. For the first time in weeks Helen’s floor is clear, the locker holds all my possessions … and the fact of departure is before me.

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henry, driving by the sunning rocksRiding shotgun in Henry’s big black truck. Henry’s a talker, fortunately, so I can listen and not abuse my sore throat too much. I suck on cough drops like they are candy. (Yes, I know, they are.) The internal barometer is reading “indeterminate” — like it would be so poetically correct if I were to feel better with every passing mile, but so repulsively cliched too.

On the ferry, I sit at the back when the boat pulls away, thinking it’ll turn around and I’ll be at the front. But it’s the double-ended kind that doesn’t turn, so for a while I watch Vancouver Island, my home for the past ten years, slowly recede over the shiny-grey water. I do decide I’m feeling incrementally better, though. And reminding myself I won’t be going back for two whole months — or ever, maybe.

There are indications I’m out in the wide world. Two women behind me, one saying, “What is it with men and sunscreen? They never want to buy it, never remember to put it on.” Her companion says, “More men get melanomas than women.” Not a likely conversation on the west coast.

Later, in a different seat (this time at the real front), I’m reading photocopied excerpts from a book called The Religion of Technology (1998), in which author David Noble makes the case that, far from being diametrically opposed, our current technological fervour actually has its roots deep in religious feeling. In a nutshell, we are engaged in the project of returning ourselves to our state of perfection before the fall from grace. I’m sitting at the portside end of a long row of empty seats, and at the starboard end of the row a guy sits reading Wired magazine — pretty much the New, Improved Testament of tech boosterism.

To my left, on the outer deck, a man in a “wifebeater” undershirt and boxing gloves hammers one of the steel pillars. I take a clandestine picture, thinking, “I’m not in Kansas anymore, am I?”

Coming into Horseshoe Bay, the ferry stops engines not once but twice, giving the five-blast auditory finger to two motorboats that irresponsibly cross our bow. Welcome to traffic.

23:53 p.m.: Commercial Drive, fourth floor apt. — home of my eccentric, since-high-school artist friend Robert.

So far it feels … okay.

Vancouver is my oyster