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False Creek

Started: 2019-07-24 20:21:50

Submitted: 2019-07-24 22:50:49

Visibility: World-readable

30 June 2019: In which the intrepid narrator returns to False Creek 33 years after Expo 86

The first time I remember going to Vancouver, BC was in 1986. I was five years old and my parents borrowed my grandparents' RV and drove north from the Bay Area to British Columbia, stopping by my great-grandparents' farm in Kelowna, and spending time visiting Expo 86 in Vancouver. We stayed at an RV park somewhere out on the eastern suburbs, next to the brand-new Translink line, and took the fancy completely-automated trains into the city to visit the fair.

The fair was set up around False Creek, an ocean inlet on the south side of downtown Vancouver that early European explorers hoped might be a major river leading into the interior of the continent (possibly even leading to the Northwest Passage) but turned out to be a dead end. I remember only bits and pieces of the fair. The thing that made the biggest impression was an art installation where old cars and other vehicles had been painted white (including the windows) and had been set up in lines to look like they were driving into the water on one side of False Creek and emerging from the water on the other side. (I think this confused me at age five: why were the cars set up that way? Why were they not being used? Were they really at the bottom of the ocean inlet under the water?)

I also remember seeing multiple movies, probably short length highlighting whatever country sponsored the pavilion we were visiting, including 3D movies with polarized glasses. At one point, according to my parents, I declared, "I don't care if I don't see another movie in six years!"

Metrotown Station on Vancouver's Expo Line
Metrotown Station on Vancouver's Expo Line

I returned to False Creek 33 years later, riding the same modern Translink line from the suburbs in the east, this time accompanied by my own nuclear family. The striking geodesic dome on the east edge of the ocean inlet had been reclaimed as Science World, a science museum with more than enough exhibits to keep my children occupied for the day.

Science World on False Creek
Science World on False Creek

I watched Julian play in the sand in an outdoor play area until he grew bored, then took him upstairs in the museum to a surreal life-sized mirror maze built out of two-meter-tall mirrors on a triangular pattern. As I walked through the maze it was hard to distinguish what was an open space I could walk through and what was a mirror because I always approached mirrors at an oblique angle so I didn't see myself in the mirror; instead I saw something but it was hard to tell what was real and what wasn't. (In some cases I could spot smudges where other people had bumped their face into the mirror; in other places I had to walk slowly, with a hand stretched out in front of me so I would hit the mirror with my hand instead of my face.)

The maze reminded me of a kaleidoscope (in particular, the one Calvin and I visited in Mumbai) except some of the mirrors were open so there was a path through the maze.

Julian was not especially amused by the maze; I carried him through. (Carrying him prevented me from taking any pictures, so I can't actually show you what I saw in the maze.) By the time I approached the end of the maze I could see the exit before I could reach it, because the mirrors reflected the exit around several corners.

I found Kiesa and Calvin, and traded children, so I followed Calvin around the museum. While we were looking at the human bodies hall a staff person approached us and asked if we'd be willing to participate in a study. It seemed amusing, so we agreed, and she led us to another part of the museum where I signed the consent forms and filled out some demographic information and Calvin went into a room (with a video monitor, so I could sort of see what was happening inside) to take an evaluation that sort of sounded like an implicit bias test.

With Calvin's human subject duties fulfilled, we met for lunch, which turned out to be another science experiment: Beyond Burgers at the museum's cafe. As life-long vegetarians we were not impressed; the burger tried too hard to emulate meat to the point where its flavor profile passed beyond things that I have been trained to find appetizing.

False Creek
False Creek

After lunch I followed Calvin through more of the museum, before eventually departing the museum. I wanted to visit the nearby Chinese garden, but Calvin and Julian were captured first by an elaborate water table on the pier around the museum, and then by the playground adjacent to the museum.

Calvin and Julian play with the outdoor water table at Science World
Calvin and Julian play with the outdoor water table at Science World

I set out on my own to the garden, with Kiesa staying with the kids at the playground. On the way to the garden, in the grassy median in the middle of the street, I passed a sculpture identified on Google Maps as "Trans Am Totem" featuring five cars stacked on top of each other on the top of a large tree trunk.

Trans Am Totem
Trans Am Totem

I entered the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden from the side that did not charge admission, then (as I explored the garden further) found a statue of Sun Yat-Sen, and the admission gate for the center of the garden.

Dr. Sun Yat-Sen statue in Vancouver
Dr. Sun Yat-Sen statue in Vancouver

The garden was small but elaborate; it came with a detailed pamphlet telling me about the parts of the garden, what they represented, and how they fit together. The back of the garden was occupied by a community room for the Chinese community in Vancouver, and featured an art exhibit of portrait photography of people in the community.

Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden
Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden

I found Kiesa, Calvin, and Julian at a coffee shop a few blocks from the garden. When we were refreshed we headed back to the Translink station to leave, but when we were three-quarters of the way there I realized that Calvin was not wearing his backpack. He expressed distress that he had left it at the coffee shop, and took off running down the sidewalk towards the coffee shop. I followed at a brisk walk; I caught up with him at one of the crosswalks but lost him at the next crosswalk.

When I reached the coffee shop, Calvin was nowhere to be found; he had apparently failed to recognize the shop and had ran straight past it. I entered, found his backpack sitting under the table where he had left it, picked it up, and continued walking in the direction Calvin had been running, hoping he would realize he had gone too far and turn around, and wondering what our contingency plan was if he didn't. This time, hope turned out to be a reasonable strategy; I saw him running towards me through the crowd on the sidewalk. I gave him his backpack, and we returned to the Translink station to head back to the hotel, where we'd left the car after checking out in the morning.

(This was the second time Calvin left his backpack after eating and I had to remind him to go pick it up; the first was at lunch. I wondered, cynically, if this was a ploy by which he was trying to lose the journal I assigned to him to write as a summer homework assignment (though I assume not).)

We drove out of Vancouver, across a series of bridges over the Frasier River (the actual river leading into the interior of British Columbia, though not to the Northwest Passage), and drove along Boundary Bay towards the US border. The border crossing was almost empty, late on a Sunday afternoon, the day before Canada's national holiday; there was no line in our NEXUS lane and only the briefest of wait in the regular lane. The border guard asked only what our plan was and whether we had anything to declare, then waved us through.

From the border we still had two hours of driving to reach Seattle, past the obligatory traffic jam around Marysville and Everett on I-5. We reached the house in the evening, after a brief but entertaining trip to Canada.

I have a few more photos from our day on False Creek at Photos on 2019-06-30.

Modern mobile phones make my head hurt, and I speak as the owner of a
sheepskin that proclaims me to hold a degree in computer science.
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