In Which there is a Wedding in the West

I did warn you that I might be negligent this week and I really did attempt not to be, but holidays are holidays and it’s very hard to blog when there are so many lovely people to talk to instead. So it’s late, mea culpa, you’ll live.

Last week was, for the most part just a whirlwind of work as I frantically strove to get everything done before my much anticipated exodus from the city. On Tuesday I bustled from work, to my chiropractor, to the disaster that was my bedroom to pack a backpack for BC. By Wednesday, with all my things packed I stayed late at work, hurried off to my chiropractor at the last possible moment and then drifted in to Midtown for dinner and dancing. I grabbed Korean food from a fantastic little counter service place with two dance friends, one of whom was soon to deploy. It’s a strange thing this deployment business. I’ve never actually known anyone on active duty before so this was the first time I had ever wished someone well on their way to a war zone. It makes a person think and makes it painfully clear to one, just how much that person means to one. Suffice to say, that evening at dance involved a deeply heartfelt send off and no small number of hugs and admonitions to “take care of yourself”. Perhaps this is just part and parcel of the American experience.

The following day I was up bright and early and into the office well before 8am so that I could be sure that everything was wrapped up before I headed off to Newark that afternoon. I suppose I probably did leave the office earlier than I needed to (see Exhibit A: Spending 3 hours in the airport) but the trains have been so ill mannered of late that I didn’t dare risk it! It was not the happiest airport I’ve ever been in. There were growing crowds of travellers waiting irritably for planes delayed by storms. I blithely assumed that, since the boards still said my plane was on time, I’d be just fine. I was a fool to under-estimate our inestimable national carrier. With the savvy that only an old Canadian airline could muster, Air Canada piled us into the plane exactly on time, taxied out off the apron and out of cell service, and then sat for 45 minutes while we waited for a take off time. Wily old devils altogether.

By the time I rolled into Vancouver I was tired, a bit badly tempered, and very glad that I still had money on my compass card. My patient host woke up to let me in, and I collapsed in a pile in bed.

Friday morning I set out on a mad last minute attempt to gather my wits for a wedding. I needed a card at least and a nicer top if possible, and all before I caught my bus at noon. The card I found quickly enough; the top seemed an impossible quest. I searched everywhere but to no avail and so with half an hour to spare, resigned myself to the bus station where, amongst the hockey jerseys and maple syrup in the kitschy little gift shop, I found the most unbelievably perfect bright peach scarf. It was exactly the same colour as the lighter coral in my skirt and a perfectly acceptable weight for summer wear! Needless to say, it came with me.

As per usual, the bus was running a bit late, but fortunately, so was my lift from the bus station to the camp so I was able to make a stop at the good ol’ BCL to stock up for the weekend. Sometime later with several six packs of cider, we headed out to Camp Tie a Knot to join the wedding prep/celebrations. Within 2 minutes of stepping out of the truck, I was covered in mosquito bites. 2 minutes later I unceremoniously dumped my load of luggage and sleeping supplies and soaked myself in Off. I would smell consistently of bug spray for the rest of my weekend but would avoid too many more itchy little encounters with the Canadian mosquito. After some table dressing and furniture/flower distribution we all headed off to bed and I bunked down with the bridesmaids.

The following morning we were up bright and early to get the bridal party all beautified and dressed before the 11 o’clock ceremony. Fortunately, my own preparations were quick so I spent a good portion of the morning lounging around chatting and drinking breakfast champagne, before eventually being recruited to curl hair and run errands that the now fully bedecked bridesmaids could not.

The ceremony site was a bit of a hot sunny patch of field but the ceremony was heartbreakingly beautiful. They read Tyler Knott Gregson poems to each other and suffused the entire area with their friendship and love.

After the ceremony and the champagne lunch, where I met some fascinating new friends, we all wandered off towards the beaches. In true Okanagan fashion, I rapidly turned my pasty back to a lightly grilled and impressively toasty pink but by god was it ever nice to just lie in the sun with no obligations and no emails hanging over my head. Following our beach adventures, there was some napping and some changing and finally the reception. Again, the thickness of the love made it nearly hard to breathe and definitely hard not to cry. Thank heavens for waterproof makeup! I don’t think I could have survived the reading of the groom’s journal from the day he met the bride without being able to indulge in some conspicuous leaking from the eyes. Despite the unromantic nature of my own existence, I am, unashamedly, a romantic and I am instantly in tears when I encounter such full, open hearted love. I shall let my internal cynic duke it out with the weepies and whimsy that this weekend has inspired.

As we moved from our delicious dinner to the dance floor, we were in for an even greater gift. The bride was treating us to a dance. I have not seen Julia dance for many years, but having seen it once or twice early in our friendship, I have always hoped to have the chance to witness it again. I have seen a lot of dance numbers in my time. World class dancers of every style from bellydance to ballet, salsa to modern, and in all that time, I have never seen a single performer with more engaging and compelling stage presence than Julia. I can’t quite put it in to words and I am certain I shall never be able to emulate it, but the best explanation that I can give is that, when I see Julia perform, it feels like she is dancing just for me. Somehow, despite being surrounded by the whole rest of the smitten audience, I feel like I’m alone in the seats, watching a show put on just for my pleasure. I’ve asked others since, and I’m not alone in feeling this way: there is something magic in her movement and her smile and though we may never know quite why, I think it is safe to say that we are all incredibly grateful just to see her dance.

Having now shown my ridiculous adulation for her dancing, I should probably tell you a little more about how wonderful Julia is in general. I met her in first year university. I was a shy awkward small town kid convinced I was too big and too tall to ever be feminine or sexy, and then I met Julia. She towered over me and was the very embodiment of femininity, both effervescently friendly and incredibly alluring. She taught me to drink rose and love life, to shimmy and to teach others the same. We spent many nights of our undergraduate degrees wine drunk (or more drunk) and happy whether celebrating Lucia, or just making it through to another Friday. And as if she had not already done enough to help me blossom into the dancer that you all now know, she also introduced me to a whole troupe of fantastic ladies who, though all different and unique, shared a common strength, sensibility, and feminism that still inspires me to demand more from life and refuse to be devalued or patronized because of my X chromosomes.

Thus, this past weekend was not just the stunningly beautiful marriage of a much loved friend, but also a chance to be reminded of some values that I had perhaps let slide longer than I ought. If I could still look at champagne without a slight glaze of fear settling over my stomach, I’d raise a glass to Canadian women, and the men that love and respect them as equals.

Sunday morning I rolled out of the bunkhouse just in time to shove a few pancakes into my face and commence the clean up. We returned the camp to its wilder state, packed no small number of vehicles full of decorations, gifts, and people, and headed into Penticton. On the way, we stopped for some hang-over helpers. My partner in crime settled into a Taco Time burrito while I dug my spoon into a strawberry cheesecake blizzard. Ridiculous as this may be, I miss DQ more than any other Canadian institution. There is just something particularly magical about their ice-cream and especially their cakes!

Once fed and handling our hangovers with ever so slightly more grace, we arrived at the bride’s parent’s house for the gift opening. After a few more hours sitting lazily in the warm shade, I was shuttled back to Summerland to catch my bus. It’s never a good sign when the bus is already 30 minutes late before it even gets to you, and when your bus driver gets lost in Merritt? Not unexpectedly, we got into Vancouver VERY late, but at least my fellow passengers were amusing if a bit too loud to allow me any sleep.

Back in Vancouver, I spent Monday morning taking advantage of the relative value of the dollar I am paid in and the dollar I could shop in. To be honest, even without the imbalance, I would have still made a trek to Winners. I am not the most “on trend” of individuals and I have never liked skinny jeans. I like the wide leg jeans but I’m not nearly svelte enough for that business, so I am a dedicated wearer of bootcut and flares and for many years now, the only place I’ve ever been able to find a decent pair of jeans for less than $100 has been the Winners on Granville St. This excursion was no exception so now I can finally toss my poor woeful prior pair with inner thighs worn to pieces by the friction of my frantic stride.

Triumphant after my shopping adventure, I met a friend for lunch by the waterfront where we ate pizza and quaffed beer and apparently discovered that I had not eaten enough that day. One beer in about 45 minutes with only half a pizza to absorb it was apparently enough to do me in. I would spend the rest of the afternoon tipsily wandering through Metrotown hoping to find a nice dress for next weekend’s wedding while praying that none of the patient sales clerks could tell how hard I was finding it to focus.

That night, my lovely host Martina and I grabbed dinner and a gossip session at Fable Kitchen. It was a 10-15 minute walk from her apartment and everything they make is fresh, local, and phenomenal. I had a pork belly and scallops that defied all previous understandings of just how delicious either of those things could be. And if that wasn’t enough already, we finished with a lemon meringue parfait which featured custardy perfection topped with earl grey ice-cream and perfectly torched meringue. To say it was delicious does not even begin to explain.

Tuesday I had great ambitions of writing this all up for you but I maybe got distracted and instead had more adventures. I started my day with brunch at an unassuming little diner in Kits with two more good friends from UVic days. We ate fried chicken and waffles eggs benedict which is absolutely as crazy and as delicious as you might imagine. We then roamed around Kits until we could move comfortably again and they headed off to attend to their busy lives while I returned to the dress hunt. Apparently the combination of being cheap and being my size in Vancouver is just untenable because I found myself still empty handed back downtown at 4:30 for coffee with an acquaintance from my ballroom dancing days. It’s always so interesting to see people again several years older and wiser and hear how they’ve managed to stride or fumble their way through.

And then finally, it was dancing time! The evening started with a 1.5 hour lesson from the inimitable Myles and Tessa and ended with some magnificent dances with the smooth as silk Vancouver swing crowd. I have missed the way they feel. I find that I cannot put it into words, but there is something fundamentally different in how the folks out East dance versus the people here in the West. Someday I hope to define it but, until then, I will have to settle for saying that they way they bring me out of my anchor out here just feels so damn good I don’t even have words for it. They are also a lovely bunch of folk and treated me to more than enough flattery to leave me glowing like a Christmas tree when it came time for me to head back out into the night in search of a bus.

That about brings us up to date and leads me to where I am now, sitting in Kafka across from my latest brunch buddy who I caught up with over insane roast duck pancakes and a coffee milkshake. He needed to get some work done and I badly needed to get this blog written so I’m here using the presence of another person as guilt induction should I stop tapping away on my keyboard for too long, and lo and behold, from this has birthed a blog! It’s been a wonderful adventure thus far and I’ve still another wedding and all of Victoria to catch up with! I’ll try to be more prompt next week, but no promises.

See you on the flip side,
The Salsa Girl


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