Dear Brian Williams: You’re Welcome!

Recently, a thoughtfully polite thank you note from NBC Nightly News Anchor and Managing Editor, Brian Williams (pictured), has been making its way across the Canadian Twitterverse. Mr. Williams, after apparently stealing several dollars worth of items from his hotel room, passed along a heartfelt post-Olympic thank you note.

The Daily Gumboot’s online community, a veritable focus group and/or cross-section of Canadians – we do have ideas from everywhere, after all – is well placed to provide some you’re welcome anecdotes in response to Mr. Williams’s class-act of a thank you note. After all, we Hosers are a courteous lot, aren’t we?

Here is our new friend Brian’s note with my responses in italics

Thank you, Canada:

For being such good hosts. No problem, Brian. I mean, when you drop $8 billion on a party, you can be pretty confident it’ll go reasonably well – the rest of the “hosting” comes to us naturally; I mean, have you ever been to a Canadian kitchen party? We basically took that formula and applied it to the Olympics.

For your unfailing courtesy. You’re absolutely right. We even made mistakes – hydraulic-based ones as well as hosting a “winter” event in a rain forest during Springtime – just so other countries wouldn’t feel outperformed in the future.

For your (mostly) beautiful weather. Beauty is subjective, Brian. And some people think soulless gray drizzle is gorgeous.

For scheduling no more than 60 percent of your float plane departures at the exact moment when I was trying to say something on television. Honestly, this was a mistake. The plan was for the float planes to depart when CTV’s Brian Williams was trying to say something, not you. The intern responsible for this catastrophe has been fired.

For not seeming to mind the occasional (or constant) good-natured mimicry of your accents. Wait. Vancouver accents too? Wow. We thought you were making fun of Newfies and/or French Canadians. This mimicry will not be taken lightly, eh.

For your unique TV commercials — for companies like Tim Hortons — which made us laugh and cry. Oh my goodness I first saw the one with the immigrant family from Africa on a plane and embarrassed myself by sobbing and hugging the person next to me. Luckily, she was crying too.

For securing this massive event without choking security, and without publicly displaying a single automatic weapon. What’s an automatic weapon? Just kidding. Vancouver actually has a horrible gang problem. Not kidding. Seriously, though, the police went above and beyond during the Games and, in many peoples’ opinions, changed their reputation within Canada’s cultural landscape.

For having the best garment design and logo-wear of the games — you’ve made wearing your name a cool thing to do. Agreed. Are you surprised, though? We’ve been toque-making for centuries up here.

For the sportsmanship we saw most of your athletes display. Again, we apologize for winning all those gold medals. Sorry.

For not honking your horns. I didn’t hear one car horn in 15 days — which also means none of my fellow New Yorkers rented cars while visiting. First, could you really hear anything with all those float planes flying by? Second, everybody got scared of potential traffic and took public transit into town. Third, many, many people honked when Team Canada won the hockey game. These people were probably not from New York.

For making us aware of how many of you have been watching NBC all these years. People from around the world really, really, really liked Seinfeld.

For having the good taste to have an anchorman named Brian Williams on your CTV network, who turns out to be such a nice guy. He says the same thing about you. And someone from this blog may or may not have started a rumour that Canada’s Brian Williams is your uncle.

For the body scans at the airport which make pat-downs and cavity searches unnecessary. We’ve all been to airports and we all know you probably don’t fit the profile of someone who gets their cavity searched, Mr. Williams – but it’s awfully nice of you to empathize with those who do as well as compliment these machines that go for $250,000 a piece.

For designing those really cool LED Olympic rings in the harbor, which turned to gold when your athletes won one. Fun fact: those “rings” were actually the different recycling bins from City Hall with the bottoms cut out and turned sideways. The intern who swam out to the barge and turned the lights to gold 14 times did a way better job than the float plane guy.

For always saying nice things about the United States…when you know we’re listening. Well, people up here really like this Obama guy. Could you tell your countryfolk to stop screwing it up, please? Thanks.

For sharing Joannie Rochette with us. “Glowing hearts” was redefined in a the most beautiful way by her indescribable courage. This was a very, very nice thing to say, Mr. Williams. Thank you.

For reminding some of us we used to be a more civil society. You know, we don’t actually hug each other this much on non-Olympic days. Hey, you’re welcome. It’s not easy being so community-minded. But the hugs, friendly police and smug sense of Europeanish superiority help us get through it.

Mostly, for welcoming the world with such ease and making lasting friends with all of us. Amazing. So, since we’re friends, can I stay with you in New York? And, um, do you know Jon Stewart?

To all the Canadians out there, I encourage you to let Mr. Williams know how much his thoughtful note meant to our national community! You can email your You’re Welcome note by following this link or send a hand-written card to this address:

NBC News
30 Rockefeller Plaza
New York, N.Y. 10112

Now get out there, get writing and have fun with it!

- JCH

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.

Decentralized Dance Partying: Not a Spectator Sport

DDP

The 6th-ever DDP gets underway

Well, fellow Vancouverites and citizens of the world, the Olympics have drawn to a close. They swept this fair city with their upper-middle-class sensibility, polarized audiences across BC, inspired heavy criticism, inspired heavier drinking, encouraged athletic excellence, obnox-ified Canadian pride, and generally left us all reeling.

Love them or hate them, there was something undeniably awesome about the energy the games brought to Vancouver. Be it through political protest or exuberant celebration, communities were galvanized and Vancouver’s many social silos crumbled in the wild 17-day melee of sport, art and culture. And beer. Enormous issues aside, the games quickly became one big party.

Now, of course, BC is set to weather the $8 billion hangover. Throwing a 3 million- invitee party for 17 days runs a hefty tab, the extent of which will only be known tomorrow when the BC budget is announced.

Which is why it’s somewhat ironic that my fondest memory of the Games cost almost nothing to produce, required no lining up, and was only marginally sanctioned by VANOC. I’m talking about the Decentralized Dance Party I attended on the Saturday following the opening ceremonies. And, pseudo-Olympic-dissenter that I am, I have a bold claim to make: it changed my perspective.

Uphill Sidewalk Skeleton: Look for it in 2014!

Uphill Sidewalk Skeleton: Look for it in 2014!

The Decentralized Dance Party (DDP) works something like this: Tom and Gary, BFFs with a die-hard love for parties and a penchant for throwing them, pick a time, location, and costume theme. This information is spread virally, though their website and expansive Facebook group, and when the crowd assembles over 100 ghetto blasters are distributed. Using a radio transmitter to project crowd-pleasing playlists to an empty radio station, the boom boxes act as far-reaching speakers.

All of a sudden it’s a mobile dance party in the streets.

And on Saturday, February 13th, that street party represented the very best of Vancouver’s 2010 events. It was open to everyone, totally free, and completely steeped in fun. Beginning with a rousing rendition of “Oh Canada” at 6pm in Yaletown, the party snaked through the downtown core, picking up hundreds of rogue dancers as it moved. There were trampoline competitions, uphill skeleton races, giant sing-alongs and an overwhelming sense of inclusion.

For a few hours radical, non-partisan community was forged in the heart of the world’s most commercialized event.

It was some powerfully fun stuff.

The author demonstrates the Decentralized Dance Party Spirit

The author demonstrates the Decentralized Dance Party Spirit

I don’t mean to suggest that a mere dance party can right the highly publicized wrongs of VANOC. I’m also not blindly endorsing the street partying that happened during the Olympics. I witnessed some very dodgy, near-riotous crowds during my forays, and I can’t say I’m sorry to see them disperse.

What the night made me realize, however, was how crucial civic events are for creating a sense of place and community. In some ways, the Olympics merely served as a backdrop for experiencing the city and its inhabitants. Strangers conversed on street corners, well-organized protestors drew international attention to Vancouver’s social challenges, and art and music were everywhere. Obtaining overpriced tickets to sporting events became secondary to human interaction, cultural participation, and dancing in the streets.

Luckily, decentralized dance partying is not a spectator sport.