I have no idea what the “real” Vancouver means as a phrase or where the “real” Vancouver might be, but somehow the phrase resonates for me. Like bumping my head on a low ceiling.
The real Vancouver yesterday:
Exploring by foot again, pith helmet off as it rained delightfully, off and on, from start to finish, I walked down Davie Street past crouching and seated homeless guys in their 20’s. Bearded, tattooed, and grimy, they begged for change or zoned out. Storefronts offered lots of unappetizing food that was rooted in the invention of the Fryolater.
Reaching the bottom of The West End, near Stanley Park, I turned right onto Denman Street to reach Legendary Noodles, my destination, which was closed as it was before noon. So it was time then to walk through Sunset Beach Park and take a tiny ferry on False Creek to Granville Island and the Public Market.
The Market seemed less grand than the day prior, but still remarkable, rather like a very attractive person who’s been up all night. The Kaisereck sausage stand was wonderful: Grilled and savory. The Montreal bagel guy had a huge oven and I bought a $1 poppy that was soft and chewy, but still had a crisp crust and probably was the best bagel I have ever eaten.
Leaving the market, feeling disengaged from The Bear, whom I met the day before, I walked further along False Creek, passing by running dogs and beautiful, little homes. It all seemed like something of a happy dream.
Up a hill in search of 12th Avenue, I came across Victoria General Hospital instead: Sprawling, looking like it needed a hug.
Finally: Rangoli, my goal. Next door to Vij’s, which is closed until the evening, this restaurant has a terrifically small menu that offers lots of subtly spiced, vegetarian driven dishes. Of eight entrees, none named or familiar, five were all veg; the other three were goat, lamb, and chicken. My dish of black chickpeas and tomatoes was by far the best Indian meal I’ve ever had outside the subcontinent.
Sated, I walked down a hill and saw a line of people waiting for a bus. I joined the line and headed “downtown.” A person reeking of marijuana, pleasant obviously, grimy, with a wispy beard, looking to be in his 60’s, sat down beside me. I can smell the pot even now. He explained that he was from the Yukon–“Five days by bus”–and noted that the bad street I saw the day before was part of, “The ten worst blocks in all of Canada,” due to the crack addicts. He told me which stop would land me in the aptly named Gastown.
I walked from Gastown through Chinatown to Main Street. Lots of empty lots, abandoned buildings, and so on.
Tired but goal-oriented, I made my way back to Legendary Noodles, which was open, of course. A big plate of specatular noodles with pork and fried garlic and a cold beer. The noodles were fresh and firm and the pork sliced just right.
At night, at last, Guu–a branch of several izakaya in the city. They gave us a big table, hidden near the kitchen, and in short order 42 small dishes were shouted back and forth and arrived to bus. Delicious tuna, pumpkin, fried chicken, salads, tofu, and bamboo shoots, all washed down with Sapporo and shochu.
Nightcaps on Granville and time to turn in.