Monday, June 29, 2009

O, Canada 2 or The Many Faces of Boo 3

Benjamin cozies up to the natives.
Canada. For most of my life, I didn't know much about it. I knew that Celine Dion, Jason Priestly, and Sarah MacLachlan came from Canada. I knew that hockey was a big deal in Canada. I knew that there was a maple leaf on the Canadian flag, and that Canadian peeps said wacky things like "aboot" instead of "about" and "sore-ee" instead of "sorry." Oh, and I knew that Canada was north of America. Eh?
But then Canada began to figure more prominently in my life. My good friends Deb and George are from Canada, as are most of the guys in our volleyball crew. Vince has extended family in Canada. He also loves snowboarding in Whistler, and he takes frequent business trips to Vancouver and Toronto. Then there was my state of mind after the 2004 elec-- Nevermind. I digress. I decided that it was time for me to experience Canada firsthand, and so Benjamin and I tagged along with Vince on his most recent business trip to Vancouver.
After a quick check-in at the airport, it took us over an hour to get through security. Over an hour. With a TODDLER. By the time we reached the gate, Benjamin was behaving like a strung-out little junkie baby who'd had too much sugar and not enough sleep. One moment he was laughing and the next moment, bawling. On the plus side, the mood swings wore him out so much that he konked out for a good part of the flight.
We arrived in Vancouver early enough in the day to settle into our hotel and then take a leisurely stroll to Yaletown Park, where we met up with Vince's second cousin Andrea, her husband Ron, and their son Lukas. We had a great time catching up with Ron and Andrea, and Benjamin had a great time rubbing bark chips into his mohawk.
The next morning, we drove to Whistler - location of Vince's bachelor party, site of the 2010 Winter Olympics, and home to the most expensive Mongolian barbeque in the world. The bill was enough to give us vapors, so we forced Benjamin to eat all the scraps that fell on the table.
As we were walked back to the car after strolling around the Village, Vince said, "We should go see some outside nature stuff. Benjamin's too sheltered: he's spent his entire life in Playa Vista." Before I could ask him what exactly "outside nature stuff" was, Vince had dragged us into some woods where were nearly run over by dirtbikes. Turns out those "woods" were an area designated for bikers to practice stunts. He then took us down to a little stream beneath the main roadway to show Benjamin more outside nature stuff.

That night, Benjamin slept like a baby. At least, he slept like how I imagine most babies his age sleep, which meant that we enjoyed a single 10-hour stretch of uninterrupted slumber. Maybe all that outside nature stuff did him well. Or maybe he was just exhausted from the crazy mood swings he experienced while in the car.
Believe it or not, the above pictures were taken sequentially within a ten-minute span of time. I know what you're thinking, and yes, it sure does look like Benjamin's just as crazy as his mommy.
On Sunday, we met Vince's extended family for a picnic on Kitsilano Beach. Vince's Dad's cousin Auntie Gladys and her husband Robert were there, as were Vince's second cousin Darren, his wife Neema, and their daughter Savannah. Ron, Andrea, and Lukas also made it out. The three little third cousins seemed to get along really well, and when Benjamin felt the need to relieve himself in front of everyone, Lukas and Savannah didn't even hold it against him.
On Monday, Vince had to go to work so Benjamin and I were on our own. We spent a good chunk of the day at the Vancouver Aquarium. Benjamin seemed to enjoy looking at the different exhibits, but what really piqued his interest were these two Aquarium employees.
Perhaps it was their matching red shirts, or maybe the entrancing "swoosh! swoosh!" sound their brooms made, but whatever the reason for their appeal, Benjamin was completely enamored of them. The moment he saw them, he ran over as quickly as his chubby legs would take him, and just... stared. Luckily, they didn't mind their little stalker, and one of them even blew him a kiss as she walked away.
That evening, Benjamin and I met up with Vince and some of his colleagues for dinner in a nice restaurant. Luckily, most people don't eat dinner at 5:30 pm, so the restaurant was relatively empty, which meant that the Boo was free to roam around while hollering at the top of his little lungs. Luckily, two of Vince's colleagues, Jeff and Kyle, were more than happy to help keep an eye on the little terror.

Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end, and Tuesday was the day we were to return to LA. Before heading to the airport, we visited Neema and Savannah at their home in North Vancouver. Benjamin and Savannah seemed to get along really well, and they played together on their own quite contentedly. Note to self: the next time we're in Vancouver, I should just dump Benjamin off at Neema's place.

All in all, our trip was a lot of fun. It was wonderful to catch up with family and to watch Benjamin react to a new and unfamiliar environment. Hopefully, it's a little more familiar to him now, because I really hope to return in the not-too-distant future. Vancouver totally rocked, and give you three reasons why...

Reason #1: Canadians are really nice!
It seemed that most everyone we came across was really chipper and really polite. Also, there was this wonderful sense of openness amongst strangers that I wasn't used to. It just helped us feel right at home. In fact, I felt so at home that I let a complete stranger cuddle with Benjamin at the beach (see picture, above right). Kidding! That's no a stranger; that's Uncle Ron.
Reason #2: Canadians LOVE their coffee!

One of the first things I noticed in Vancouver is that there is a Starbucks on every corner. I'm not exaggerating: there's a Starbucks on every corner. And as you can see in the above picture, there are sometimes not one, but two Starbucks (Starbuckses? Starbii?) on a single corner. What you can't see is that just a block behind me there is another Starbucks, and two blocks beyond this corner there's yet another Starbucks. Maybe all that caffeine is what's making Canadians so happy.

...and finally....

Reason #3: Canadians are down with tats!!
There are a lot of tattooed people in this city! And for the most part, the tattoos weren't sloppy or unkempt; they were quality ink jobs on "normal" (or at least normal-looking) people - people that looked like they might have corporate jobs, retirement accounts, spouses, kids, or patio furniture. Only a few of them looked like they might be musicians. Even cooler than the high PCT (per capita tat) was the fact that being prominently tattooed didn't seem to carry the same negative social baggage that does in other places. I mean, any country with a chain bookstore that includes a children's section designated for tattoos has got to be pretty relaxed on the topic, right?

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