I did actually venture into the crazed throng on Saturday night. First we gathered at a friend’s near to the SkyTrain and had drinks at her place, knowing that places would be packed downtown. Then we (seven of us) walked over to the SkyTrain and boarded, losing half our party immediately. But we yelled that we’d meet them off the train since one of our party needed to buy a ticket (and some of us didn’t bother I think).
At around 9:30 pm we boarded a pretty full train where people were cheering and toasting with beer bottles, and got off two stations later and immediately found our friends. The escalators to and from the trains were absolutely packed with people cheering and slapping each other’s hands as they went by. When you think of all that loose young testosterone mixed with booze and euphoria it’s amazing how friendly everyone was.
I’ve been in this city a long time and know the downtown well, yet when we exited onto the street I had no idea where I was. One reason was that I had not taken that particular (and new SkyTrain) that exits onto Granville St. (I think). But we felt like we were spawning against the flow of thousands of people. And that is not an exaggeration. From one side of the street, across the road and to the other side of the stores, were hordes of people walking, dancing, stopping to take pictures, slap hands and give a woohoo. There was such a flow of people in red and white, Canadian flag capes and painted faces that it did indeed look like a red tide.There was supposed to be the decentralized dance party at the art gallery but we either missed it or it was smaller than we thought. The city had put plastic tiles over the grass to save the lawns from all the feet. Still it was a muddy morass and I wonder if the lawns recovered (remember Vancouver has green grass all year long).
We managed to get down to the new skating rink and I couldn’t tell you if there was anything going on in the rink. I think it had all stopped by then but there was a live band. People were packed in, sitting on the cement steps and standing crammed in and even though it was raining lightly people stood and watched, umbrellas folded. One woman had short red red hair and was dress in a red polka dot mini skirt, white vest, white legs and was dancing. Next to her was a guy in the plaid mac lumberjack shirt, holding a Mountie nutcracker. As they danced I joined in and there was another guy just dancing with anyone who would dance.
One of my friends was wearing a red velvet dress with white fur and a matching red sequin santa hat. We joined in the dancing as much as we could and when I accidentally lightly bopped a guy in the head with the umbrella I was dancing with, I apologized and then told him it was good luck. He just laughed, no dirty looks. Truly for the thousands of people, there was nothing but euphoric happiness and maybe a bit of overwhelmed stunned looks. There was one couple, their faces fully painted with Canadian flags, their clothes matching, just sitting against a wall looking exhausted. I didn’t see any porta potties though I hear there were a few but there were obviously way too few and the clean-up today in parkades and out of the way places is not pretty.
We passed a band playing on the street; a bit of funk reggae and they were pretty good. We danced (a few of us) there for a bit as well. I have no idea who any of these bands were and I really couldn’t keep my directions straight with all the people. We eventually made it over to Yaletown, where the streets were also blocked off for the sea of bodies. There were white tents set up in front of some restaurants, probably to fit extra bodies. Two of my friends had left by this point, already hitting the full point for crowds (how can you tell we’re not in our twenties).
Every place had a line-up that would have taken at least an hour to get into. We finally wandered into one restaurant, a sake bar. I didn’t have my glasses but can read okay close up. I had to ask my friend if the prices for the bottles of sake were real: $132, $156, etc. No wonder this restaurant didn’t have a crowd. We ordered a bottle of wine and small appies/tapas as everything in Vancouver is called regardless of ethnicity of the restaurant. I split two deep fried prawns and one scalloped covered in coconut like, very light and crispy batter. They were actually very good and cost $11, an average cost for very little fancy food called tapas.
After that, around midnight, we were all full on the crowd fount. People were still going pretty strong but there is only so much people watching you can take. The trains were moderately full leaving downtown and now completely empty entering. Still the tired partygoers kept their good mood and there was relatively little bad attitude given the numbers we had in a party that rivaled everyday life in India, and Mardi Gras mixed together.