Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Took Advantage

Of the weather, that is. And the long weekend. And the 'way too many things to do around here on a beautiful summer day.

I managed to miss Vancouver Pride altogether. They keep moving this festival around, trying to find a home for it on the calendar, and this year they scheduled it at the same time as the White Rock Spirit of the Sea Festival.

On comparing the two from past experience with both, I decided to opt for White Rock. Closer and easier to get to from my place. Cooler temperature. Not so crowded -- I thought, anyway, until I actually found myself battling crowds. And some of my favorite local entertainers were going to be there.

The Langley Ukelele Ensemble (click on the link and watch a couple of musical numbers being performed) is an unlikely creature, by all accounts. First of all, it's based in Langley, BC. And the only people in the world who know where Langley is (and most especially, how to drive around its streets, once you actually stumble on the place), are those who live there. I mean, this is a town built on the principle that a spider's web makes perfect navigational sense.

Second, this musical group is based on the ukelele...easy to spell, you just gotta know when to stop... And does anyone in the world take the ukelele seriously as a musical instrument? Isn't this the kind of thing you give your pre-schoolers to bang on to keep them otherwise quiet?

And third, the ensemble is full of teenagers. Teenagers! The bane of society, and the probable cause of all urban problems!

And the musical director -- the comedian with his back to the camera most of the time -- is a guy named Peter Luongo. I'm wondering if he's related to the Canucks' new goaltender...

Each ingredient by itself won't cause much of a ripple in the worldwide scheme of things, but put them all together, give them a stage to play on, and you have an amazing entertainment experience!

Dal Richards was there. But then, Dal is always there. He's everywhere. Always was and always will be. Two hundred years from now, he'll be performing in one or another of the local festivals.

And The Wheaties took to the stage for a shortened set right after Dal. Something got unplugged in the transition, and while their monitors were live, the front speakers were dead. It took almost half an hour to find and fix the problem. Once that was done, however, the show got lively, as it always does with Steve and Mark and the gang.

Then there were the vendors. And the buskers. And the shops on the city side of the railroad tracks (the festival is mostly on the beach side of the tracks). The food. The beach. The water. The incredible weather (ordered specially for the event, I'm sure). The fireworks (I watched the pyrotechnician setting up -- it looked like a mortar barrage, and it was being aimed directly south. The US border is a mere one mile away, and it almost got me wondering... Naw. We wouldn't. Would we?).

And then on Sunday, the local Greek Days added to the festival with their own culinary, musical, and terpsichorical specialities. I found that on my way home, trying to locate a bus (never drive to one of these things!). Whole lamb roasted on a spit set up in the middle of the street. Mmmmmmmmmm...just one more bite and I gotta go. Belly dancer? OPA! Now, really, I gotta go. 'Nother belly dancer? *sigh*

Monday...BC Day...just a day to wander around to places I never go. Playing tourist in my own town. Lonsdale Quay in North Van. Watched the UBC students Dance Club put on an exhibition of dancing that spans decades in time and I-lost-count of how many countries of origin. Wandered into some of the money magnets that pass for shops, and found out that there were definitely bargains to be had at the White Rock festival (one particular piece of costuming that I had contemplated picking up for a friend was more than twice the price in North Van as it had been in White Rock). The reverse was also true. Always shop around!

Then off to Granville Island. This was a mistake. Granville Island needs an entire weekend of its own if you're gonna do it justice. I kept getting lost and going in circles in the Public Market. No big tragedy, really; there was lots to eat and the buskers are supremely talented and endlessly enthralling.

I got talking to one of them briefly -- Koca had attached some odd-looking and intriguing-sounding things (Sese) to his djembe, and I was asking about them. He also had -- and played -- some of the oddest looking and wonderful sounding instruments from West Africa. His website will give you sound samples if you've got the right player (Macromedia Flash 8). Just click on the Marketplace tab and then click on the individual instruments.

And last, but not least, I promised Jack I'd give him a mention...

Jack "The Bear" Latek sits at the entrance to Granville Island every day from 3:00 till 5:00 pm, give-or-take. It doesn't matter what the weather is doing. He'll be there. He will spot you coming and start engaging you before you quite know what's happening. He has invented a new type of bead, he will tell you, as he finds some way to fasten half a dozen to your person or your accessories. I happened to have not only a hat with a leather cord attacked, but also a walking stick with a leather cord. Both are now utterly festooned with Jack's spring beads in neon colors. He fastened them on my hat and staff while he was telling me all about his project (see the link) and refusing any attempts at money donations. He doesn't want your money. He wants your heart.

If you have any old metal lapel pins for which you no longer have any use, or broken watches that you just haven't got around to throwing away, Jack will gladly take them off your hands. He's building "something" with them. Then he's going to auction "it" off, buy bicycle racks, and put the bike racks in front of the offices of local non-profit organizations.

If you're local, you can take your donation directly to Jack at the entrance to Granville Island. You can also mail pins and watches to:

Jack "The Bear" Latek
4383 Main Street
Vancouver, BC V5V 3R1


Jack "The Bear" Latek
Carnegie Community Center
401 Main Street
Vancouver, BC V6A 2T7

Weekends like this. Summer was made for them. Wish there were more...


Blogger Howlin' Hobbit said...

"And does anyone in the world take the ukelele seriously as a musical instrument?"
Yeah... Me!

And thousands more. Just pop over to my site (www.howlinhobbit.com) and start checking out the links.


Wednesday, August 09, 2006 12:00:00 PM  
Blogger Candace said...

I miss Granville Island. More than I ever thought I would miss the old tourist trap.

I LOVE that market, I ALWAYS get lost and find great deals. Or so I always think, anyway.

It's best to park off-island, though, although I recall the occasional great spot in Bridges' parking lot, if off hours.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006 10:42:00 PM  
Blogger Chimera said...

HH: Damn, and I thought you of all people would be able to read the satire between the lines, there...

Seriously, if the Langley Ukelele Ensemble ever gets down your way for a gig, RUN, don't walk, to where they are and grab the nearest seat you can get to the stage. Take some skeptics with you and watch them turn to true believers before your very eyes.

Candace: If you haven't been there for awhile, you'll notice a few changes next time you go. Like, don't even bother trying to find Bridges parking lot. If you do manage to get to it, you're likely to find it full of cars that arrived there last night (finally, after battling the less-than-walking-speed traffic for hours) and their drivers simply decided not to move out at closing time. Your best bet is to take the Skytrain to Waterfront Station and grab the #50 False Creek right outside the front doors of the station. That bus stops right at the entrance to the Island.

Thursday, August 10, 2006 8:08:00 AM  

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