Thursday, September 06, 2007

Letter From the Border

By Nicholas Allanach

My flight was great; despite some lady from the United Nations –who had come down with a case of diarrhea—taking the assigned seat next to my father. So, Sven, the flight attendant, attempted to “bump-me-up” to the all-coveted “business class”; where, regrettably, there were "no more spots." Thus, I agreed to “Take whatever you can give me Sven, as long as you don’t forget about my cooperation when the drinks start going around.” Sven didn’t. In fact, I settled into my reassigned seat nicely sipping on two free whiskeys and taking-in the beautiful eye-candy from young, smartly-dressed, Asian flight attendants. I was on my way to conclude this amazing and frenetic summer of 2007, by spending two-and-a-half-weeks in Vancouver, Canada.

It had been one year since I visited; much had changed, both for myself and in the overall make-up of Vancouver’s skyline. Wow! One year…amazing. Time really has a nasty and unfortunate habit of passing us by so quickly. My summer was—as predicted—a glorious celebration of passion, adventure, and stupid hell raising antics. And after all was said and done –I am still a malcontent, but am at least, now, partially sated; especially knowing the summer is behind me and –one year later—the autumn is here to experience again. In many ways, I chose to return to Vancouver—not only to visit my father and Ben—but for personal reasons –to reflect, look back, and see myself, again, in the same place one year later. Had I changed and what had stayed the same?

We land in Vancouver at 3am. Our friend, Ming, speeds us to pop’s condo in New Westminster (a borough of the Vancouver metropolitan area), where I rest-up for seventeen-hours. The only energy I expend is to work briefly on the screenplay, watch TV, and visit with pop’s friend’s, Tim and Calvin, three blocks away. Best to charge-up for the annual wrap-up parties of Vancouver’s Pride Week.

Saturday night, the festivities commence. We begin with martinis (fruity for the boys, dirty for me) at Jay’s and Jeff’s place on Davie Village in Vancouver’s West-End. Davie Village houses most of Vancouver’s gay clubs, bars, and sex-shops.

At this point, I feel compelled to redundantly point-out for those who cringe at such locations and/or still foolishly define love as a “sin” that Davie’s Street is less a “red-light” district than it is any other commercialized neighborhood (complete with the proverbial baby carriage, shoppers, and puppies), but what makes this one “different” is that it is adorned with rainbow flags. Of course, such “differences” are not that out-of-the-ordinary; but can be –especially for those still unable to acknowledge (let alone accept) a gay community. Vancouver, on the other hand, has become a model of tolerance. Accordingly, homosexuality is not only respected in Vancouver, but celebrated. And why not? After all, Vancouver relies on its vibrant gay community and other places would be foolish to not do the same.

Of course, Vancouver also relies on its property prices, which are predictably, developing at an amazing (and, arguably, unsustainable) rate. The skyline is filled with cranes, many building residential skyscrapers full of high-priced condos and casinos. The rapid development here seems to be racing against the seconds on the Olympic Clock, that is, subsequently, also counting down to 2010. Yes, as with all Olympic host cities a reconfiguration of the area’s overall make-up is bound to occur. In fact, there is also a five lane highway being built on the ride to Whistler -yet another, Aspen like resort community (where I had the fortune of spending a weekend with my great partying friends Steven and Wayne -another account entirely).

* * *

It was great to see Jays and Jeff again, who were (as always) great hosts. They introduced me to their many friends and ensured my martini glass was never empty. Their apartment’s deck also provided the perfect view to watch the sunset over English Bay -where boats below gathered for the annual “Symphony of Fire” international fireworks competition that would start in a few hours. Admittedly, my initial response to fireworks is always jaded. After all, when you’ve seen one –you’ve seen ‘em all. Perhaps it was the few bong rips I took, or the good company? Nevertheless, as the music started and the fireworks began, I begrudgingly had to admit –Vancouver hosts a great fireworks competition!

After the smoke cleared, we had another “session” on deck (to create more smoke), another round of martinis, and watched as large crowds filtered out of the West End, below. Unlike New York, I didn’t notice many police –an interesting phenomenon. Vancouver does have police and –like any metropolitan city— there is, of course, crime (in fact, during my two weeks there, I read about two gang shootings in Chinese restaurants, which; subsequently, caused most of the aforesaid establishments to lose a ton of business from diners who feared getting caught in any retaliatory crossfire). Anyway, what’s interesting about the police force is that it is not everywhere constantly and aggressively watching our every move.

Of course, one surprising place to see the police (and fire department) was marching in Vancouver’s annual Pride Parade. In fact, I saw the Vancouver Chief of Police passing-out beaded necklaces to people along the route while the Fire Department provoked water balloon fights from the crowd. The stupid anxieties preventing such spectacles from occurring in New York’s Pride Parade (to say nothing of the annual St. Patrick’s Day fiasco) are non-existent here. Unlike America, Canada’s gay community is not treated like second-class citizens.

The Pride Parade was great –lots of dancing, interesting floats, and an opportunity for the community to celebrate. Even churches marched (not in protest —but in solidarity) alongside nudist groups (that were most certainly naked) and activist contingents (little irritating to see the 9/11 conspiracy nuts, but that’s another ramble entirely). After the parade, we walked down to the Second Beach park where a large crowd moved through a causeway filled with tents and stages (most complimenting the 140 “floats” from the parade). While making my way through the festival I glanced back at the skyline along the shore of English Bay and could saw hundreds on their decks partying.

Respectively, our growing entourage decided it was also high-time to celebrate with refreshments. So we marched to an outdoor beer garden along Davies Street where spill-over from the parade was also tying-on an afternoon buzz. After a few rounds, we were off again to Jay’s and Jeff’s for another “session” and round of martinis. As the libations flowed, inhibitions inevitably dropped (of course, inhibition is the last experience you’ll have around a group of gay men on Pride Weekend). What also dropped was my pants, since I took on the dare to “moon” two blonde lesbian girls—wearing matching plaid skirts—putting on a show of their own on one of the decks in the building across the street.

Eventually, the girls yelled “Come on over! …We’re in apartment 405!” So, Jays and I walked over to invite them back to his place for drinks. They agreed, we danced and drank some more. After a few rounds, and mindless conversation, the girls decide to leave; however, while out on deck, later on, I noticed one of them hunched-over and crying in the parking lot below. Jays and I decide to see if the –obviously underage- drunk girl was ok. She wasn’t, and judging by the look in her eyes, this crazy chick was tripping.

Even worse, tripping girl had somehow gotten it into her head that “One of you guys stole my white purse!” Of which, we knew was untrue; nevertheless, we agreed to let her back into the apartment and give the place a sweep. She found nothing, but still made a lot of noise. On top of the white purse accusations, she began crying and freaking-out because her friend wasn’t letting her back into the apartment. Jays and I escorted her back to her building and immediately left after she stumbled her way in through the lobby doors. There was no use following that kind of trouble anywhere –dangerous!

Fortunately, my libido subsides and the munchies take hold. We decide on fried chicken. When we get back from our journey for food, the crazy white girl is also back; but this time, in Jay’s building, wandering around the hallways screaming for her “white purse.” We again, escort her outside; eventually, things grow quiet and we try to sneak-in a quick nap before going out to an all-night dance party in some warehouse on Victoria Drive (i.e. “Boys Night Out Events Presents – “Freedom” with D.J. Manny Lehman”). Meaning –super gay!

I wasn’t able to get any shut-eye, before the party, my mind was racing –too much to drink and no desire to rest. Eventually, my friend Steven arrived. We drove to pick-up some more of his friends and, at some point, someone in the car started passing out “beans”, which we could “use at our own discretion.” This was turning more-and-more into another one of my “Lindsay Lohan evenings”! I pocketed my “bean”, knowing the effects would not be conducive to my present state of mind. Besides, the fried chicken and drinks from earlier were doing a number on my lower bowels. Perhaps John Waters was right? “Any drug that makes me love everyone -sounds like hell to me!”

When we arrive at the “Freedom” party, I’m a bit letdown –but not surprised; the whole place is packed with sweaty, shirtless, beefcake men. Sausage factory. Even worse, the venue has limited circulation. The air smells like a locker room. The floor is slick with sweat and spit. I keep escaping to the outside, where a stockade-like smoking section is set-up for fresh air. Steven could tell I was not feeling well. Regardless, I try to shake off the nausea and dance some more. I felt better, but the heat was just too much. So, I decided to take Steven’s keys and return to his apartment for a much-needed nap.

Ming is gracious enough to drive me back to Steven's. When I get upstairs, I’m exhausted. The silence is comforting. After a quick rinse, I lay back on the couch. A loud motorcycle goes by outside –the night, for many, still rages on, but not for me. I think back again to this summer. I feel good about where I’ve been and all I’ve seen (too much it seems to find the time to record back –even to myself); nevertheless, I take comfort in knowing –the adventure continues and one year later –who knows? Had I changed? Sure. I’m alone, but one thing remains the same –I’m still searching and this New World (despite how busy and frustrating it can sometimes get) is also still here to explore.


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