Sunday, March 19, 2017

Aquarius/Let The Sunshine In

Nelson back in English Bay - photo by Junie Quiroga
Nice to be back in the ocean again after such a long winter. While in theory I could have kept swimming in the ocean and stayed warm enough in my 5mm wetsuit, it was a nice change to be inside for a few months and work out with some of my Aquatic Centre buddies. Needless to say it's a completely different experience with all the crowded lanes and everyone rushing to beat the clock.

Crowded Vancouver Aquatic Centre
 As someone who has to compete everyday in the workplace I can't understand why people would want to spend their leisure time in such a competitive training frenzy instead of just enjoying the pleasure and exercise of a good swim.There's more to life than competition and anyways, they haven't a hope of beating any of Michael Phelps' Olympic records. Out in English Bay there are no time clocks or crowds, just some birds, the occasional seal, and the opportunity to contemplate life as you float in Nature's watery embrace.

 Vancouver Aquatic Centre from the inside - photo by Junie Quiroga
The first thing you notice about the Aquatic Centre is that it's completely closed off from the outside world. Not a window in sight to let in any light or to share the view of English Bay even though the building itself is right on the beach. A truly ugly, concrete bunker that must have been designed by a blind man or someone who specialized in Cold War bomb shelters.

Vancouver Aquatic Centre from the outside
Crystal Pool from the inside

Crystal Pool from the outside
Even its predecessor the old Crystal Pool, which lasted from 1928 - 1974 until the Aquatic Centre opened a few blocks away, had at least one window. It was also the pool where Elaine Tanner, Canada's last great female swimmer and winner of Olympic, Pan Am and Commonwealth medals, trained. Thankfully the time is coming soon for the Aquatic Centre to be replaced with a new facility, but, where it goes and what it will look like, are closely held secrets.

Sunset Beach
The most obvious place to build a new facility would be around Sunset Beach which right now is nothing but a hot dog stand, a muddy playing field, and an empty parking lot. The view of the ocean and mountains is fabulous and, with a little imagination, a world class facility could be built that really highlights West Coast design. A new Aquatic Centre could be built for free by one of the big developers and, in exchange, the old site could be turned over as compensation. Whether or not the City and Parks Board can arrange something this simple or get bogged down in all sorts of social housing, density, and bike lane arguments is another matter altogether.

English Bay - photo by Junie Quiroga
 As long as I have the ocean to swim in I don't really care what they do with the Aquatic Centre. As much as I appreciate the lifestyle of a high density city, being able to get away from all the people by simply slipping into the ocean is magical. I don't need windows either and, if this is my age of Aquarius, all I can say is let the sunshine in.

Sunday, March 5, 2017


Laughing Men - photo by Junie Quiroga
The biggest story so far this year in Vancouver has been the snow, the snow that just won't go away. Vancouverites pay big bucks to live here (as everyone knows) and one of the reasons is because we don't have to put up with snow like the rest of Canada. A little snow over the Xmas holidays is fine and, of course, all the snow the ski hills can handle is also okay, but it's not supposed to fall in the city. When it does it's not supposed to last and, once we get things all cleaned up and washed away, we don't want it to return.

Crying Men - photo by Junie Quiroga
But this year things were different and, as a result, the laughing men were no longer laughing, the mayor's bicycle obsession came to a screeching halt, and everywhere there were people stranded at bus stops while those in automobiles were playing bumper cars on the slippery unsalted streets.  The only people smiling were the auto body repair shops who had more work than they could handle. While parents fretted over school closures and losing their free daycare service the children themselves were happy at being able to legitimately cut class. For those who worry about the lack of exercise kids seem to get these days it was almost as if an "act of God" finally got them to put down their electronic toys and go outside to play.

Snow covered bikes - photo by Junie Quiroga
Most upset of all were the resident Canada geese population who were left scratching their heads at this change of circumstance. Used to not having to fly south in the winter or north in the summer they wondered what the heck was going on. Rain was one thing but snow was definitely not what the travel agent had promised. Angrily protesting on the beach they even nudged out the anti-tanker crowd who had to join forces instead with the anti-Trump protesters on Georgia Street.

Angry birds - photo by Junie Quiroga
While things got even tougher for the homeless people who continue to flock to the capital of British California in spite of all the bad drugs, the geese were more concerned with a lack of the good grass that was always legal no matter who was elected Prime Minister.

Birds searching for good grass - photo by Junie Quiroga
But the geese needn't worry because, in the West End there are plenty of misguided but goodhearted folks who are hoping global warming will one day become a reality but in the meantime are happy to contribute to the confusion and provide gluten free snacks to their feathered friends. This type of winter only happens every 20 years or so and, if the latest predictions are correct, this may be the last one before our weather changes to be more like San Diego's. If that happens none of us will ever have to think about going southbound anymore and all will be good.

Geese on English Bay in the winter - photo by Junie Quiroga