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Back from Vancouver now -- the city of shame. Everyone I talked to there referenced the hockey riot a few weeks back. They all shook their heads. They all swallowed in embarrassment. They all talked about what a change it had been from a year previously when the entire city had united in a moment of shared good feeling. Get over it, city. An exciting trip for me, I have to say. Caught up with some old friends, talked to some very nice audiences, stayed in a hilariously sleazy district, visited a nude beach, and found time to hit two great bars. If you get the chance, visit the Alibi Room down at the eastern end of Gastown. More hoppy IPAs than you can shake a stick at. And there's a place on Commercial Drive called Bier-something that has a fantastic mussels and beer special. Don't mention the hockey riot, though. They'll apologize for hours. All right, all right. I'll get to the nude beach. I had never been to one before. Not even as a twenty-something travelling around Europe. Somehow the opportunity never came up, or if it did I was always sick or asleep or something. My friends would go and I would listen, yawning or vomiting enviously, to the stories they told when they returned to the hostel. So when I was visiting UBC and saw an arrow pointing own and a sign -- CLOTHING OPTIONAL BEACH -- and I had a free half hour, I thought, Now is my time! I confess to a teenaged heartlift as I approached. What kind of wonders would be unveiled? (All right, I guess I knew what kind of wonders -- but not the precise ones.) I wondered if I'd be too embarrassed to disrobe, or if people would laugh and kick sand when they saw my pathetic scrawny torso? Imagine my chagrin when I found myself part of a small but impeccably dressed group of beachers. Every one of them (and I checked) wore shorts and tops, dresses, bathing suits. There was a guy in a vest and bowler hat, for heavens' sake. Not exactly like the picture there but you get the idea. Clothing was optional, and they had all opted yes. My heart sank back down to middle-aged territory. I walked along the shoreline, totally in fashion in my shirt and rolled-up trousers. Maybe Vancouver should be ashamed of itself after all. That recumbent couple at the hockey riot were way more risque than anything going on down at the nude beach.


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