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A very Vancouver Christmas

December 27th, 2009 · 3 Comments

A lovely Christmas weekend drawing to a close, the kind that makes easterners grind their teeth. People were out running in shorts in today’s sunshine, mixing with those toting their snowboards or skis to the bus stop as they headed to the slopes. We can only hope the weather is not like this in February, or the entire world will decide to move here and we will all have to move to trailers in Chilliwack.

And then the thick fog of the previous two days helped create that sense that normality was suspended — kind of like having a heavy snowfall, but without all the inconvenience. A nice restful few days that helped a lot of us recover from the pre-Christmas craziness. Me especially.

Every Christmas turns into a mission for me, as my family has frequently noted. I can’t think of a Christmas that hasn’t turned into a high-stakes quest for something. One year, I decided to write and bind books for my nieces, with my son providing the drawings. I think we finished around 3 a.m. Christmas morning. Another year, I had to find a certain set of poker chips for my son, which led me to a weird warehouse in deepest Burnaby late on Christmas Eve.

Besides the adrenaline rush of setting a weird challenge for myself and then meeting it, one of the most pleasurable parts of my Christmas quests is the way I get to explore my city all over again. This year, I was hunting for an antique sewing box for my step-daughter and mounted, formerly live animals for my son, who can always be counted on for quirky passions.

I didn’t find either one, or not at a price I was prepared to pay, but I had the greatest time prowling through dozens of stores, from dumpy thrift stores on Kingsway to high-end antiques shops on Dunbar. I ended up with vintage suitcases, a silver coffeepot and (almost) a small mink neck warmer.

In my travels, I also found myself at Steve Kulash’s taxidermy store opposite Central Park in Burnaby, a little slice of 100 Mile House or something like it in the heart of the city, complete with rusting truck in the back. Surrounded by pictures of, I presume, Steve skinning various wild animals in the forest, Steve showed me around his amazing stores, where I was surrounded by pelts, skulls, life-size bears on their hind legs, someone’s dear departed golden retriever, looking like he was waiting for his master to arrive any moment, a bobcat pawing at a bird flying by, many animals with antlers and much more.

Not surprisingly, Steve has a bear at the current Museum of Vancouver show on mounted animals (Ravishing Beasts, only $11 for adults! — the make-do present I had to settle for later).  Alas, at $300-400 for the lowliest rodent and $150 for a chicken, it was all a bit beyond my budget. (So was the $175 duckling in the window of a store on Main.) But the experience was all worth it.

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