Pacific National Exhibition (PNE), Mom Visits

Summer has begun its slow end — the Pacific National Exhibition opened this weekend. I can only assume that its Toronto counterpart, the Canadian National Exhibition, also started this weekend. As back home in Ontario, the opening of the PNE is a reminder that the summer is much shorter than we all think.

Allison and woke up Saturday morning, and decided that we would go to the opening day of the PNE. I had never been to the opening day of the Ex (CNE) in Toronto, let alone even been to the PNE, so I thought it would make for an interesting day.

Following our brunch of breakfast burritos (scrambled eggs, black bean salsa, and some cheddar cheese wrapped up in a tortilla shell), we headed out for the Shopper’s Drug Mart. We understood we could buy passes there to the PNE. As it turned out we could only buy passes to Playland, which is the amusement park portion to the fair — and it was a lot more expensive than we thought.

Nevertheless, we boarded the Skytrain to the 29th Avenue station, and took the PNE Express bus to the fair. When we got to the gate, we found that instead of buying the standard $6 ticket, we could buy a $15 dollar ticket that would get us into Cirque Parasol, a Cirque du Soliel rip-off. (There are a few of these roaming about, all trying to get their own pieces of the pie.) Thinking that this was a good idea, we put out the extra cash, and wandered in.

Our first stop was the farm show, or more specifically, the farm animals. This is the last remaining part of the agricultural beginnings behind the PNE (the CNE in Toronto has a similar background). We viewed the endless lines of cows, goats, sheep, llamas (yes, llamas), chickens, and so forth. Unlike previous years (in Toronto, that is), this excursion began to bother me. I realised that all the animals in the barns were destined for a future in the slaughterhouse.

Perhaps it’s conditioning from having lived here, and been exposed to a more left-wing environment (Ontarioans don’t think twice about things like this). But eating vast quantities of meat (particularly red meat) actually begin to make me feel a bit ill.

Exiting the animal show, we began to wander about the fair grounds. Although we had bought tickets to Playland (the amusement park portion of the PNE), we opted not to go on it that day, preferring to look about the PNE itself. We caught a showing of Superdogs, a staged show put on by Technikal (a dog food manufacturer), which sends pooches of all sizes down a runway and over a wall (made of hollow plastic tubes, just in case the dog doesn’t make it). It’s the most popular thing to see at the PNE.

After venturing around most of the PNE grounds, we went into the Dream Home. Every year, for about 80 years or so, the PNE has had a Dream Home contest. You buy tickets to attempt to win an amazing home, containing every luxury one can think of. This is the house I want. When we come back the next time, I intend to buy enough tickets to win it.

Shortly thereafter, we had dinner at the smokiest place in the PNE — the barbecue chicken stand. A bad idea. Following dinner, we headed over to Cirque Parasol. It was an amazing show, considering we paid only $9 for it. It was hardly to the calibre of Cirque du Soleil (see Road Trip of the Southwest United States, Touring Las Vegas and Cirque du Soleil Mystére), but it was still pretty good.

When we got out of the show, it was almost 9:30, and time for Chilliwack to play. Chilliwack is one of a hundred Canadian bands that probably never would have hit it big without the Canadian Content rule imposed by the CRTC. Without that rule, I never would have heard of Chilliwack, let alone remember over half the songs we heard. It was kinda eerie.

Following the concert was a fireworks display. Compared to the Symphony of Fire, it was pathetic. But it was much longer than the Canada Day fireworks display. That was annoying. It wasn’t well organised, and it had no lead-up to the end before finishing by setting off every last firework they had. Following the works, it was time to go home and rest.

The following morning, we had to go pick up my mother and grandmother (whom I refer to as Nana) from the airport. They were coming in to take a cruise out of Vancouver and up through Alaska. We rose a little later than I had hoped, and very hastily cleaned the apartment. Then we hauled out the door, and headed for Richmond. I figured we would be a little late. We more than likely saw mom’s plane land, followed shortly thereafter by Nana’s.

When we arrived at the airport, they weren’t there. Allison and I hunted through the arrival lounge without being able to spot them. Of course, there was a reason for this. First of all, mom arrived through a different gate, and wound up in a different area to accept her luggage. Nana required assistance getting off the plane (she has had her hip and one of her knees replaced, so she doesn’t get around very easily anymore), and took a bit longer to arrive. Allison and I forgot to mention that we had been late in arriving…

After picking up their luggage, we headed back to the car and out of the airport. We stopped in at the Milestone’s restaurant on No. 3 Road in Richmond for brunch/lunch/whatever. There we had a long talk about just about anything, but mostly how home was, how other relatives were, and so forth. Following lunch, it was time to show them where we lived.

This was somewhat worrisome for me. You see, there is only one bed in the apartment. I hoped that Nana wouldn’t be offended or anything like that. Luckily, she wasn’t…

The conversation resumed, and we started discussing other matters. Then I found out, much to my horror, that my Uncle David had sold the cottage in Waskesiu. I was completely shocked and crestfallen. Although he did sell it to an old family friend that we could probably borrow it from, the luxury of just going was now gone. I felt like a part of my childhood had been ripped away. I had so looked forward to going back, but now that was a distant dream.

Finally, we jumped back in the car and took them down to the Pan Pacific Hotel. We found out, much to our chagrin, that we could not yet check them into their room, because the room wasn’t ready yet. So we took a voucher for free drinks and sat in the lounge for a while, watching cruise ships depart and sail out of the harbour.

When the room became available, we went upstairs and relaxed their for a while. It was a huge room, surpassing the size of our apartment. We watched a few more cruise ships exit the harbour (they all enter in the mornings) and listened to Enya on the in-suite stereo. After an hour or so, we opted for dinner.

The in-house restaurants weren’t exactly cheap, but they weren’t over-priced either. Besides, neither Allison or I were paying. The conversation, as you can guess, continued. We talked all through dinner and dessert, until finally it was time to call it a night. Mom was three hours ahead of us, and exhausted. Nana wasn’t too far off from falling asleep either. We bid them a good night and a safe trip, and went home … after being robbed when we paid the unbelieveably high prices for the parking.