A Few Reasons to be Proud in Vancouver
The sunset cast a butterscotch and tangerine glow over English Bay, in Vancouver, British Columbia. In the distance, the snowcapped mountains towered above the city, shadowy, jagged, mysterious.
In Vancouver it is possible to breakfast in one of the parks that hug the coastline, to bike along the seawall, to eat lunch while sunbathing on the beach, and then to ski in the nearby mountains - all in the same day. And, later that same evening, to dine at a fabulous restaurant, where abundant harvests from the sea and nearby farms are prepared by chefs who specialize in nutrition and imagination.
While Vancouver boasts mythical splendors, there is also trouble in paradise, and Vancouverites are aware of that, too. Amidst a frenzy of growth - the city is preparing for an onslaught of Olympians in winter, 2010 - there is an impatience to forge ahead. Yet, that impatience (and construction) is just the price a city pays for ambition, and if it all comes together, Vancouver will be even more spectacular than it is now.
So, join me as I pay an uproarious visit to Vancouver’s gay village, explore one of the city’s trendiest neighborhoods, and sample a few of the city’s many cultural offerings, hotels and restaurants.
Davie Street, Delilah’s and West End
At two o’clock in the afternoon the gay bars and pubs are already packed along Davie Street, a busy artery that snakes its way through Vancouver’s West End and down to Yaletown (a trendy newer neighborhood; more about it later).
I joined Angus Praught, owner of Gayvan.com Travel Marketing, a longtime Vancouverite, for dinner at the fab Delilah’s Restaurant and Bar on Comox Street, which boasts a killer martini. Praught publishes a comprehensive guide to the vibrant gay scene in the West End. He was in the midst of describing it to me when he was interrupted by the personage of one very glam Carlotta Gurl de Vander Vogue, a drag queen who commands (and usually gets) immediate attention.
"I know you can’t take your eyes off me," Carlotta Gurl (Carl McDonald from Labrador) declared, and, unsolicited, proceeded to accost me. After several uproarious songs, costume changes and lewd dancing, Carlotta Gurl returned to our table. She lifted her skirts to reveal her well toned derriere. Then she straddled me, caressing my earlobes with wanton abandon. Lest her molestation escalate further, she rose to greet her (adoring) audience. But something was amiss: the spotlight was inoperable. No problem: someone produced a flashlight. Carlotta Gurl instructed her new assistant on how to hold the beam on her fabulous face and fluttering eyelashes. A pale light outlined her ruby lips as she mimed a song by Cher, and finished to wild applause.
While plans are busily underway for Pride Day on August 2, it hasn’t been a smooth ride. According to published reports in Xtra West, the local gay newspaper, a total of seven Pride directors have resigned from the Vancouver Pride Society in six months, making the management of this city-wide celebration a rocky one, indeed.
Unlike Toronto’s Pride Day activities where a paid executive director sits at the helm of the yearly event that attracts hundreds of thousands of celebrants, Vancouver relies on volunteers. Tempers flare on the board, according to the newspaper, leaving disorganization (and bad feelings)in its wake.
Yet, despite these public squabbles, Praught assures me that this year’s celebration will come off without a hitch.
"In Vancouver, the community rallies in times of trouble and in times of celebration," Praught said.
There have been several incidents of trouble: on March 13 of this year, an alleged incident of gay bashing took place at the Fountainhead bar in the West End. The victim is Ritchie Dowrey, 62, who, according to published reports, still suffers from severe brain damage as a result of an altercation with a man who allegedly yelled anti-gay epithets while severely beating him.
"Two public rallies have taken place this past year, one this past spring called the ’Enough’ rally, and one this fall called ’Join Hands for Justice,’" Praught told me. "In both rallies, thousands of people, gay and straight, took to the streets in support of the gay community, demanding an end to violence against gays."
Next :: where to stay, eat, and play