Fashion Hangover a la Vancouver 2010

For better or for worse the Olympics have come and gone. For some of us their departure has left us with the sense of, “Hey, the party was just getting started!” for others, it’s a case of “Good riddance, no more frenzied crowds, no more line ups,  no more searchlight thingies and no more incessant  helicopter chatter overhead.” Still, lingering nostalgia remains,  and it’s not for the spectacle of Koreans kicking butt at  short track, Heineken at the Holland House  or Robson Square Zipliners. These were great things, but nothing compares to the void that has been left by the departure of thousands of athletes. And their outfits. Their really nifty, nifty outfits. For two weeks the world’s athletes accomplished both amazing sporting feats and  pushed athletic fashion to a whole new level. These Olympics can and should be remembered as a  pageant of funky spandex designs, nifty parkas and everything in between. So, while i’m not sorry to see our speed skaters’ saran-wrapped thighs go, there were plenty of designs which i’ll remember fondly.

Some of my personal faves.

I like to call this number (above) the “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Intimidation Suit”. The Austrailians did everything right here. Their opponents were probably left wondering, “Are these guys really ‘turtles in a half shell’? And if so, ‘do they have turtle power too?!’Pretty neat stuff. All part of the Australian amazing game plan to compensate for their lack of snow at home.

Personally, I don’t find curling very interesting. Probably because I never watch it for long enough to get into a ‘match’ due to my inability to comprehend anything that’s happening. With so many know-nothings like me apt to reach for the channel changer, Team Norway clearly knew what they were up against and came out with these funky attention grabbing harlequin curling clown pants. Hurry Hard Norway, way to build your curling community.

I’m at a loss for words with this one. But “brilliant” is the first one that comes to mind. This body-hugging spectacle of luminous spandex could do nothing but dazzle spectators and judges alike. Sure, the Ukranians made themselves easy targets with this creation, but let’s face it, it was a ballsy, all-or-nothing move which made them stand out from the pack. They flew in the face of figure skating couture convention. And I applaud them for it.

Ah, the Russians. Off the ice they set the bar pretty high with their street couture, which was flamboyant, stylish and boldly told the world that “watch out we’ll be seeing you in Sochi!” You just couldn’t miss them in any crowd, particularly since they often moved in coordinated packs.  They also took Olympic Swag to a whole new level, with caps and fannie packs for added punch.

Lastly, there was us and our mittens. Something like 3.5  million of these things were bought before and during the Olympics. Well done HBC. Well done Vanoc. I have to say, these hand warmers were a master stroke of fashion and functionality, who wouldn’t want to keep their hand warm and wave the maple leaf at the same time?

Goodbye Olympics. You were fash-tastic and you will be remembered fondly.

The Last Olympic Neighbourhood – Merville

As a key media outlet for the 2010 Olympics, the Daily Gumboot is excited to bring you our “Olympics Neighbourhoods” series. Here’s how it works: each week, Managing Editor, Kurt Heinrich, and Editor-in-Chief, John will profile a different Vancouver neighbourhood with a specific focus on things that might interest out-of-town visitors who arrive in The Couve for the Olympics. We will do this between now and the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver and the story will be told be the Gumboot’s editors asking and answering the five questions below. These are the straight goods that you can’t get from VANOC, the Ministry of Tourism or the City of Vancouver. Let’s get to it!



1. Where is this neighbourhood exactly, and how do I get there?

JOHN: Merville is a mysterious and secret neighbourhood that exists between the West End and Stanley Park. Few Vancouverites have ever truly found this hidden gem of a community. Unfortunately, it is unreachable by public transit, although a quick hike or bike ride through some of Merville’s amazing trails will get you into the community’s heart in no time at all!

KURT: If you want a real answer, I’d suggest typing in Courtenay, BC into Google maps. Then go a little into the bush and presto, you’re there.

2. Why should a tourist/traveler be interested in it?

KURT: My favorite part about Merville is the streams. I can remember several happy occasions where I had the opportunity to A) float down them and B) dive underneath the rocks and through carved holes in the riverbed. No, I’m not on acid. There is such a place and its called Nymph Falls.

JOHN: The Merville General Store is probably one of the coolest, most eclectic places in Vancouver. Colourful local characters who never, ever leave this hidden community pull up a bar stool and engage as many tourists and newcomers as possible in conversations that run the gamut from inspiring to downright weird. Merville also yields spectacular beeches, lush pastures and forests, as well as one of the most diverse mushroom populations in Coastal British Columbia. Finally, it’s the gumboot capital of Canada, which may or may not have inspired a couple of editors back at the beginning of this project.

3. What good and/or unique things are there to eat?

JOHN: As I said before, there are mushrooms galore! But if fungus isn’t for you, I recommend sampling some other amazing treats from the 100% local bounty of Merville. A lot of people here live off the grid (and some don’t like strangers shooting film on their porches, apparently), so their diet consists of truly local beef (we saw two or three cows during our trip), chickens and other fowl, pigs, goats, sheep, small-to-medium-sized-rodents, shellfish and non-shellfish, and a wide variety of roots, tubers and berries. The culinary highlight was probably stumbling across a gentleman who was harvesting some winter squash that he was planning to serve with heaping portions of rabbit stew. Yum yum!

KURT: Another great place to check out is the Atlas. Make sure you order their chicken focaccia sandwich. And also make sure you bring an appetite. John once finished second in an international hot dog eating contest (at least that’s what he tells me) and he still has trouble eating the whole sandwich.

4. What can I do for fun in this neighbourhood.

JOHN: Merville has one of the weirdest community traditions I’ve ever seen in my travels – which include history books, television shows and face-to-face adventures around the world. The locals love to rock fight. I don’t know how to explain it more simply, other than to write this: find someone else in the ‘hood and throw rocks at that person. Typically, the first rock is a warning shot and might not actually hit the person. After that, it’s game on! Like I said, it’s weird.

5. What are your three favourite things about Merville?

1) It’s a real place. If you’re only in town for a few more days, forget the Olympics and try to find Merville. This unique, hidden and quaint little community has a lot to offer and is a once-in-a-lifetime place to visit. In exchange for my telling you the community’s location I would accept hockey tickets. It’s worth it. Trust me.

2) Adventure. Whether it’s getting in a rock fight, evading curmudgeony locals or careening through a breathtaking forest, Merville has all sorts of spectacular outdoor sights to experience in a myriad of different ways.

3) Olympic Spirit. Did you know that 100% of Mervillians support the Olympics? Also, Canadian Hockey Defenseman, Brent Seabrook is actually from the tiny Stanley Park hamlet of Merville! True story. Before moving to Delta/Tswwassen, Mr. Seabrook honed his hockey skills by shooting rocks against trees with his grandfather’s hockey stick.

Baldur Sveinbjörnsson

KerryShooter

1.Who are you?

Baldur Sveinbjörnsson. I am the only African-Icelandic player on the Icelandic Olympic team for the Vancouver 2010 Games. My sport is biathlon. I achieved a personal best by finishing in last place in the men’s 20 kilometer biathlon on Thursday, February 18. My mother thinks I am a star. My father – rest his soul – would have been proud, I hope. Now, it is time to party! I’m also really, really tall. (Editor’s Note: check out the size of the biathlon rifle next to Baldur…it’s pretty darn small – let’s just say it was easy to spot him in the International Press Centre, where the Gumboot editorial staff spent a lot of time during the Olympics.)

2. What do you do for fun?

I polish my rifle. Shoot rabbits with my non-biathlon rifle (it is illegal to shoot anything but targets with your rifle, but that doesn’t stop the Norwegians from practicing on muskrats). I really like writing haikus about my father’s homeland, Tanzania. One day, I hope to visit Tanzania and start a biathlon program in Dar es Salaam.

3. What is your favourite community and why?

The women’s biathlon community. In this community, I am a love god. Some call me a combination of Thor, Odin and Loki – and I can dance like Justin Timberlake. The biathlon community has taken me in as their own, even if I am a foot taller than everyone here.

4. What is your superpower?

My willingness to break all the rules – even my own – to do the right thing.

5. How do you use it to build community?

The world is not designed for tall people. My willingness and skill at breaking all the rules makes me well suited to be a height-centred ambassador to the short community. I like to think that I bring a new, better, “taller” perspective to your world. Exit signs shouldn’t be seven feet off the ground, you know – some people hit their head on them.

My three favourite things about Baldur are…

1. He’s Tall. When the Daily Gumboot editors were investigating the stories of the games in the International Media Centre (sorry, VANOC, for not actuallyIceland_flag writing anything about the Olympics yet…), Baldur was easy to find because, well, he is a seven-foot-tall biathlon athlete – biathlete? Since meeting Baldur, he has helped us reach no fewer than six things that were up high and out of our reach. He can also see over the fence that surrounds the Olympic flame.

2. Baldur is a Love God. We don’t want to say that Baldur has a harem of attractive women always following him, but he doesn’t not have a crowd of attractive women always following him. Being the generous fellow that he is – and being done all of his events – Baldur was good enough to take Kurt and John on a few sojourns through the intense and passionate gamut that is the Athletes’ Village in False Creek. That’s really all that we can say about this.

3. Kindness and Community Become Him. The Daily Gumboot’s editors and correspondents have been searching for athletes to interview since the games began – after speaking (or trying to speak to) over 50 competitors, we could only wrangle an interview with two Russian aerialists. Without a translator, it was a pretty difficult conversation, but Kurt and John might be married to them now (we may or may not have been representing ourselves as “editors” of the New York Times). Baldur, without his fancy “badge” or an Icelandic track suit, was more than happy to talk to us. We took him at face value and stand by the above facts that make up his inspiring story. Because that’s how you build community.

As told by John and Kurt…

Olympic Neighbourhoods: the Punjabi Market

As a key media outlet for the 2010 Olympics, the Daily Gumboot is excited to bring you our “Olympics Neighbourhoods” series. Here’s how it works: each week, Managing Editor, Kurt Heinrich, and Editor-in-Chief, John will profile a different Vancouver neighbourhood with a specific focus on things that might interest out-of-town visitors who arrive in The Couve for the Olympics. We will do this between now and the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver and the story will be told be the Gumboot’s editors asking and answering the five questions below. These are the straight goods that you can’t get from VANOC, the Ministry of Tourism or the City of Vancouver. Let’s get to it!

Your Olympic Neighbourhood this week is…the Punjabi Market!

punjabi market

1. Where is this neighbourhood exactly and how do I get there?

JOHN: The Punjabi Market is easily found at the corner – the nexus, if you will – of Main and 50th Streets, although this Googlemap will tell you that it exists here, at Main and 49th – the neighbourhood lives between 51st and 48th streets and is a must see stop on your Olympic visit. Rumour had it that this was the proposed location for The India Gate, a superawesome design meant to be an homage to the pioneers of Vancouver’s Indo-Canadian community. Problem is, the gate wasn’t there – or it was really, really, really small. According to our friends at Translink, you can get to the Punjabi Market in 24 minutes from the Robson Square Olympic Celebration Headquarters. Hop on the Canada Line or Expo Line and then look for the 003, 025 or 049 buses.

2. Why should a tourist/traveler be interested in it?

JOHN: This neighbourhood yields the highest number of jewelry stores in the entire country. So, if you like things that sparkle, that’s reason enough! Speaking of things that sparkle, the authentic Indian clothing stores sprinkled throughout this neighbourhood cannot be missed. Whether you’re going to an Indian wedding or not – maybe you just really, really hope you get invited one day – this is the place in the Lower Mainland to get your saris, suits, kurta pajamas, salwar kameez, shermanis, dhoti kurtas, turbans, dupattas and more!

3. What good and/or unique things are there to eat?

JOHN: Look, friends. When it comes to a good curry, don’t mess around in the “Indian” or “Asian” section of your local conglomerate of a grocery store. Book off an afternoon and travel to the Punjabi Market to collect all the best spices this side of Delhi. While collecting these culinary staples, stop for lunch, a snack or dinner at one of the Punjabi Market’s fantastic restaurants. The All India Sweets & Restaurant is a popular community-destination for locals and tourists alike. Kurt and I also got four amazing samosas for two dollars from a very nice man in a parking lot. Delicious.

KURT: To get a little more specific I’d like to recommend the samosas. When John and I were last down there we bought four for only … wait for it… $2. That’s right – its South Asian prices right here in Vancouver. Can’t be beat.

The India Gate is just a block away...trust us...
The India Gate is just a block away…trust us…

4. What can I do for fun in this neighbourhood?

JOHN: Check out the Sunset Community Centre during the Olympics (and after, if your flight gets canceled) for all sorts of supercool cultural events. Kurt and I were lucky to do our walk-though of this hotbed of community-minded-activity during a rehearsal for the Vancouver Parks Board’s Community Happenings, a celebration of Vancouver’s cultural landscape that will be happening in a neighbourhood near you throughout the entire Olympic experience. Get out there and enjoy yourselves!

KURT: If you happen to be around the neighbourhood in April, make sure not to miss Vaisakhi. It’s a massive festival that tens of thousands of South Asians (from across the Pacific Northwest) take part in. During Vaisakhi, dozens of floats, marching groups, Khalsa school attendees, politicians, and gawkers mingle in the middle of the street. On either side are dozens of small kiosks (some manned by grandmas) all giving away thousands of dollars of free food. It’s an amazing smorgasboard of delights from curry to prakoras. All homemade. Well worth the traffic jam you need to navigate to visit it.

5. What are your three favourite things about the Punjabi Market?

1. The Food. Best. Samosas. Ever. And they were two bucks. The difference between curry and real curry are the spices. Do the right thing. Visit the Punjabi Market.

2. Celebrating Bollywood Hindi Cinema. A nice chat with some folks in one of the many, many, many Bollywood-specialized video stores in the Punjabi Market taught me a valuable lesson about the pitfalls of accepting Bollywood as the only expression of Indian film – it’s just the most popular and internationally renowned one. After all, in a country of over one billion people that recognizes over 15 languages as “official” ones (Editor’s note: seriously, Canada, stop pretending it’s hard to manage two) can there really be just one kind of Indian film?

3. Bright Colours. I live on the Drive, man. People wear black a lot. It was a pleasure to see some brightness for a change, especially against the eternally gray backdrop of the wintery West Coast.


Olympic Neighbourhoods: The North Shore

As a key media outlet for the 2010 Olympics, the Daily Gumboot is excited to bring you our “Olympics Neighbourhoods” series. Here’s how it works: each week, Managing Editor, Kurt Heinrich, and Editor-in-Chief, John will profile a different Vancouver neighbourhood with a specific focus on things that might interest out-of-town visitors who arrive in The Couve for the Olympics. We will do this between now and the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver and the story will be told be the Gumboot’s editors asking and answering the five questions below. These are the straight goods that you can’t get from VANOC, the Ministry of Tourism or the City of Vancouver. Let’s get to it!

Your Olympic Neighbourhood this week is…The North Shore!

1. Where is this neighbourhood exactly and how do I get there?

JOHN: Do you like boats? I hope so, because getting from Downtown to the North Shore means crossing one of two bridges or, if you go car-less, taking the Seabus to Lonsdale Quay. Here is an interactive map that really ties it all together.

2. Why should a tourist/traveler be interested in it?

JOHN: People from the North Shore will tell you that this community represents the pinnacle of a “West Coast” lifestyle. Truly, no other place in the Lower Mainland possesses the combination of nature, suburbia, urban-chique, and small-town-friendliness. This is the place where a traveler can realize the purest of West Coast experiences: catch a gorgeous view of the cityscape over a steaming cup of fair trade, locally roasted coffee and then move on to a day of skiing, golfing and kayaking or mountain biking and then wrapping it all up with a micro-brewed pint of delicious beer. It’s a beautiful thing.

3. What good and/or unique things are there to eat?

JOHN: I defer to Kelly White’s performance for this one. But, if you’re like 72% of our readership and sneak peaks at the Gumboot during free moments in your cubicle at work, then you might not be able to watch the video. If this is the case, there are, allegedly, super-popular, must-try cheese sticks at the Queensdale Market and the mysteriously fantastic sandwich makers at La Galleria in the even more mysterious Edgemont Village.

4. What can I do for fun in this neighbourhood?

JOHN: Ummm…everything! Again, I encourage you to watch this in-depth video about the secrets of the North Shore. Of all the places that Kelly took us, the Lynn Loop was the most inspiring. It reminded me of being back on Vancouver Island (where I grew up) and the idea of being able to do everything from a two hour round trip to an overnight camping excursion where, according to the locals, “you need to know what you’re doing” is what makes Vancouver an absolutely unique urban experience.Check out trails and a full list of other west coast activities here.

5. What are your three favourite things about the North Shore?

KELLY:

1. Being so close to trails and forest so that anyone can get away from the hussel and bussel of city life and enjoy the fresh air on weekends.

2. The friendly community-feel of the North Shore~ residents care about their community and it shows.

3. My favorite outdoor summer festvial, Caribbean Days! Every late July, Waterfront Park hosts a Caribbean Days event with music, a parade, food, and a beer garden. It’s the one event I never miss every year, it is awesome!

JOHN: I wholeheartedly agree with Kelly’s answers above (although I didn’t try the pizza at Taylor’s Crossing), but will just add that my Aunt Julie Ann lives in North Vancouver, so I’m always happy to visit her and get up to some shenanigans.

Olympic Neighbourhoods: The Downtown East Side

Your Olympic Neighbourhood this week is…The Downtown East Side (with special appearances by Chinatown and Gastown)!

As a key media outlet for the 2010 Olympics, the Daily Gumboot is excited to bring you our “Olympics Neighbourhood” segment. Here’s how it works: each week, Managing Editor, Kurt Heinrich, and Editor-in-Chief, John will profile a different Vancouver neighbourhood with a specific focus on things that might interest out-of-town visitors who arrive in The Couve for the Olympics. We will do this between now and the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver and the story will be told be the Gumboot’s editors asking and answering the five questions below. These are the straight goods that you can’t get from VANOC, the Ministry of Tourism or the City of Vancouver. Let’s get to it!

1. Where is this neighbourhood exactly and how do I get there?

JOHN: Well, I will once again leave it to Kurt to create and deliver an amazing Googlemap. This neighbourhood is part of the “Olympic Corridor,” so you will be walking to it, my tourist friends. As mentioned in the video, many a tourist has aimlessly wandered or bicycled into “Canada’s poorest postal code” while trying to navigate their way from Gastown to historic Chinatown. Many tourism bloggers will tell you to be wary of such misadventures. We say “explore all communities” and “talk to strangers” here at the Daily Gumboot; just be sure to bring common sense along during your exploration.

KURT: Here’s the map. The big red icon  (surprise, surprise) shows roughly where the neighbourhood is.

MainandHastings

2. Why should a tourist/traveler be interested in it?

JOHN: Well, there are a lot of problems in the Downtown East Side; addiction, abuse, poverty, neglect, violence, and injustice are right out in the open. In spite of many political and business leaders’ best efforts to “clean up” the DTES before the Olympics, the homeless remain in this neighbourhood. And so does hope. Believe it or not, a lot of good people do a lot of good things in this neighbourhood. From Tradeworks, a woodworking cooperative, to United We Can, a collection of social enterprises that create employment for disadvantaged folks, to the Potluck Cafe, see the video, the DTES possesses some fantastic stories of human innovation. Look. Go to the West End, Yaletown and Kits and strike up a conversation. Then go to the Downtown East Side and have a chat with a local. Which conversation is more interesting and memorable? Yeah…that’s what I thought.

A tough life on the streets.

A tough life on the streets.

KURT: There are also a lot of terrific places to see. Some of Vancouver’s best heritage sites exist in the Gastown area (right next to the DTES). There you can see dozens of turn of the century (and older) buildings. The brick buildings with wood ceiling beams are fascinating to see and not duplicated anywhere else in the city.

3. What good and/or unique things are there to eat?

JOHN: Chinatown is full of unique things, such as duck, which is a favourite of my editorial partner, Kurt Heinrich. With the delicious restaurants of Gastown just a stroll away, you will be in position for good eating.

KURT: Good places to check out include Nuba (for healthy middle eastern and Mediterranean food), the Potluck Cafe (mentioned in our video), the Carnegie Cafeteria (if you’re all tapped out after paying thousands for Olympic tickets and want to buy a meal for just 2 bucks), the Cambie (great for burgers and really cheap beer), and Hons (a Chinese cuisine experience like no other).

4. What can I do for fun in this neighbourhood?

Gastown - chock full of heritage...

Gastown - chock full of heritage...

JOHN: People watching is always a good bet. Many Canadians affiliate altruism with fun, so lending a hand and helping out at one of these fine establishments would certainly add an interesting and meaningful chapter to your Olympic visit.  I also highly recommend taking in some kind of performance at the Firehall Arts Centre (if you have time you can check out the Vancouver Police Museum, too). And, if you’re lucky, you will be in the ‘hood on a day when the Portland FC street soccer team is playing a game.

5. What are your three favourite things about the Downtown East Side?

1. Holy crap, this is hard. I will forgo one answer to just say that, in the eyes of the world, what does it say when a country as rich as Canada lets people become marginalized in such a way? It doesn’t say much. And we can do better. We must do better.

2. Bus rides on the Number 20. A return trip on the last bus to my neighbourhood, Commercial Drive, from Downtown is, well, an experience. I’ve had my fortune told. Been asked to sell my girlfriend. Intervened in what was possibly a gang fight. Held a baby. Sang carols. Debated the meaning of life. Been educated about micro-lending and community currencies. And had my hair brushed. If you really value personal space, perhaps take a cab.

EastHastings3. The DTES Bazaar. Nice try, Marrakesh, but Vancouver has a pretty darn good street bazaar where you can find all kinds of stuff – sure, mostly none of it is obtained legitimately and the whole bartering economy serves to provide temporary fixes for people who are holding on to some sort of life by the skin of their grubby and malnourished fingertips. Or something less dramatic. Besides, where else in Vancouver can you come across this delightful – and possibly not hypothetical – scene?

DTES BAZAAR WHOLESALER: Anyone want to buy a bike? Nice bike here. Good price.

DISTRESSED TOURIST: Hey! That’s my bike!

DTES BAZAAR WHOLESALER: No. No it’s not. It’s my bike. But I’m selling. Wanna buy it?

DISTRESSED TOURIST: I’ve had this bike for three years. My wife and I rode over from Victoria yesterday. I left it for a few minutes outside while I went into a grocery store to buy some fruit. That scratch – right there – that happened riding the Galloping Goose trail in Saanich! It’s mine!

DTES BAZAAR WHOLESALER: No, that didn’t happen. And these two guys say that it’s my bike.

FIRST BAZAAR BYSTANDER: Yeah, it’s his bike.

SECOND BAZAAR BYSTANDER: He rides it all the time. I seen it.

DTES BAZAAR WHOLESALER: So, do we have a deal?

[and scene]

So there it is. In 2006, when I landed at the airport in Nairobi, a gentleman named Mohammad gave me some good advice; he called it the Two Rules of Africa: “never underestimate peoples’ kindness and don’t trust anybody.” The same might apply for your visit to this Olympic Neighbourhood, too.