By lex, on May 1st, 2007
Overcome by the skull-thwacking he took in the afternoon lecture series, your correspondent ascended to his lodgings for to lay him down and nap a while, rest being an important ingredient to good health of every kind, and he’d need his strength for after. After two hours and a bit sleeping on both ears, I found my way down to the “Gala Dinner,” wherein a creditable steak was set beside some class of fish product all set atop of bed of risotto or maybe it was tabouli, like. Red wine there was also, but served in such minuscule quantities that you were led to perhaps believe the waiters were counting on the leavings for to send their children through college.
A right good conversation we had of it too, our table being composed of the 6th distance learning cohort of the Naval Postgraduate School Systems Engineering Management/Product Development for the 21st Century curriculum, meaning that even though we were for the most part comprised of math and engineering geeks along with the (decidedly) odd knuckle-dragger, we still had a bit of personality about us due to our naval antecedents.
After supper there was a good hour of speechifying the subject of which I deeply regret that I cannot much relate to you, inasmuch as I absented myself from that part of the “gala.” Having sought my entertainment elsewhere during all that blather, I did return in time to see the Sloane-Kettering Cancer Center math alphas vanquishing other alphas from the US Coast Guard, Coca-Cola, Hewlett-Packard and DaimlerChrysler in the annual Edelman Award competition. It appears that the Coast Guard and DaimlerChrysler were allowed into the competition on a hyphenated name waiver, but never mind.
We’d plans for the night, but those horrible plebes from cohort 7 would want to tag along even though they were already well in their cups. There’s nothing more provocative to a man who takes a sip of his own from time to time than to be bound in company with others who already have an insuperable lead over him, so two or three of us dropped them off at a congenial spot where live music was being played in order to seek out what ever other forms of entertainment might be available in downtown Vancouver late on a Monday evening.
“To seek, to strive, to find, and not to yield,” wot? Nor did we yield, not even a little.
This morning discretion seemed far the better part of lectionary virtue, and your scribe remained far above the jostling crowd below by confining himself to his digs up on the 20th floor until the proper moment had come to face the morning day. The yin of my breakfast eggs and sausage was balanced by the yang of the accompanying cr?™pes – I will deny having eaten them if you tell a soul. Hot black coffee in endless quantities set your correspondent nearly to rights, and the wireless internet in the cafe allowed me to engage in a bit of the old in/out screediness.
Thus restored in spirit, if not yet whole in body and mind, I toyed with the notion of playing “Spot the Canadian” on my return. You know the rules: Sidle up next to a person at the street corner and – not in any way interfering with him or her, say “Oh, I’m sorry.” The ones who guiltlessly reply, “No, no – pardon me!” are the natives.
But no: We are guests here.
The weather upon our arrival two days ago was so pleasant as to be unremarkable for even a transplanted San Diegan, but Vancouver it appears can be capricious. It’s frosty-breath cold today, with a soft, muttering drizzle that threatens to explode at any moment into a full-fledged deluge. Considering that it’s May Day, the notion makes you right thoughtful – the homeless are legion downtown, and you wonder how they might have survived the winter months.
Apparently two of the better places to rest are in the doorways of two enormous churches straight across the road from my hotel, and physically across the street from each other. The elder is the First Baptist Church of Vancouver, whose cornerstone was laid in 1902. The younger is the Saint Andrews-Wesley Church, built in 1927. Cut from the same stone quarry it would seem, they are very nearly twins – gray Gothic reminders of an older time, a time perhaps when more people dared to hope and the ladies were expected to wear hats and gloves on Sundays.
And yet, striving for all that – the newer is just that little bit taller than its predecessor. Sufficiently so that you don’t have to wonder at it really – is it the angle, or the light? No: The 1927 church is certainly taller. You wonder at the calculation which went into that construction, the conversations that the elders had.
“Shall we build our bell tower just as tall as the that of the Baptists across the street, or taller, more nearly to heaven?”
“Taller. Certainly taller.”
Cautionary tales about the building of tall towers in antiquity notwithstanding, present generations seem embarrassed by all the fuss: You cannot easily find a picture with both of them in the same frame, or at least I could not. I wonder if those 1927 Baptists were at first alarmed before becoming tartly dyspeptic when the scope and scale of the Andrews-Weslyan bell tower plot was revealed in all of its vertical malevolence. Or did they instead content themselves with their more nearly Christ-like humility?
Lovely buildings though, beautifully, even lovingly constructed they nevertheless had an air of historical eccentricity. Holdovers, as it were. Not really much in use anymore, but a shame to knock them down.
I thought I heard organ music within the one, and decided to go inside and listen for a bit, nearer my God to thee and all that, maybe check out the stained-glass windows from within, but no: The church door was locked.
I went over to its neighbor, stepped over the sleeping homeless man, tentatively tried its doors as well – also locked.
There’s something just a little sad about a locked church door. Even when it makes perfect sense. Homeless people and all.
Or perhaps it’s just the weather.