Canada Day in Vancouver, Lee Aaron, Fireworks on English Bay

Last Wednesday (1 July 1998), I celebrated my first Canada Day outside of Ontario. Until that day, I had always had the luxury of being in the same time zone (and twice being in the same city) as the National Canada Day celebration. I will say one thing — the celebrations out here just don’t come close to what Ottawa puts on show.

Allison and I rose late that morning, opting to catch some extra sleep. We then tried to figure out what it was that we wanted to do. Both of us had the day off, but with nothing particular in mind, we decided for a three-fold attack: IKEA, Canada Place, and Granville Island.

The first stop was IKEA, where we bought a few things that we needed around the house (a couple of picture frames, a second set of dishes, and a few kitchen utensils), and ate a quick lunch.

Then it was off to Canada Place to find some Canada Day cheer and celebration. It didn’t take long to find it — our first indication was a formation of World War II fighters buzzing the Burrard Inlet, laying smoke trails with each pass.

We walked right down to the hotel lobby, and wandered inside. While we were in there, we noticed a sign on the wall for the Canada Day celebrations. As tradition held, a large number of new immigrants were sworn in every July 1, and that day was no exception. Following the ceremony was a long list of performers. One in particular caught my eye…

Lee Aaron.

That’s right, Lee Aaron, Canada’s “Metal Queen” from the late 80’s. I hadn’t heard anything out of her in years, and I had periodically wondered what had happened to her (usually when listening to furnaceface’s “Ballad of Richard Iomi”). Allison and I thought we’d stop in and see if we recognised any of the songs she played.

One thing that I noticed right away as being odd: Her band was introduced as the “Swinging Barflies”.

It seems that Canada’s former “Metal Queen” now sings swing. It was, shall we say, a rather major change in her style. A rather discomforting change. We didn’t stay too long.

We went outside and started wandering down the pier (Canada Place normally functions as a dock for cruise ships). Along the way, we looked at some of the little presentations that had been set up. Allison (and I) found it very annoying that there was almost no uniquely Canadian presentation. We found a Mexican mariachi band (who were almost completely drowned out by the singing swarm of Latin Americans surrounding them), and a Caribbean steel-drum band. Several food stalls, almost none of which featured a “Canadian” dish.

Aside from the RCMP demonstrations (nothing as fancy as the vaulted “Musical Ride”) and the infamous “Beaver Tails” (which, coincidentally enough, the last time I had one was with Allison when we were in Ottawa four years ago), there was almost no Canadian identity floating around. It was a little annoying, but I reminded myself that Canada isn’t a melting pot, and we do our best to showcase each culture as best we can.

I still would have liked to see something made from maple syrup though…

Afterwards, we went down to Granville Island to get something for dinner. It was not nearly as bad as I thought it would be, but the traffic was still worse than usual. We didn’t stay long, just enough to buy some chicken, pork chops, and vegetables. Then it was off to home.

As we were making dinner, we made plans to meet with Tyler, and Mike and Michelle downtown to see the fireworks that night. It was a simple little process that we would have to change a little as we went along.

All the walking we had done that day had done a number on Allison’s feet, and she had a blister on her foot that could make most people break down in tears. So we ended up changing plans, and meeting the other three downtown.

No sooner than we had run into the three of them than I noticed something missing … my car keys. They were still in the ignition in my car. I ended up having to jog back to my car (Mike came along for the fun of it, so it seemed) to retrieve them.

The fireworks were nothing overly spectacular — the Symphony of Fire is much more impressive. But all things considered, it wasn’t that bad. On the way back towards our car, we ran into an old friend of Allison and Tylers — John Paul (known as JP). JP dragged the lot of us into the Hotel Vancouver for over-priced drinks. Allison and I didn’t get home until almost 02:00.

Late on 980705, I passed an important mark in my new life — I have now been in British Columbia for six months. I can’t believe that so short a time has passed since my arrival … all the things that I’ve done, all the things I’ve seen, all the things I still want to do, and it’s only been six months.

Of course, it’s been six months of me being without friends or family. It’s pretty rough at times. Allison’s the world to me, but even she can’t make up for my closest friends. There’s just something about the way people who know me. After the barbecue Allison and I went to on the weekend, though, things might change later in the future. But that’s yet to be seen.