Here in Pittsburgh, the town I am in for a conference for work people are called Pittsburgers. The city itself is quite pretty at night. Situated between two rivers it’s a bridgebound, shiny, snow-capped, and enchanting town during the evening. During the day it is a dreary, gray, cold, and dull place to visit. I have no explanation for this conundrum. I just wanted to share it with you.
I went to Vancouver last weekend. It was Valentine’s day, The Olympics were in the air, and we wanted to see what was up. So having already been in Abbotsford BC following a wedding, my friends Andrew, Scott and I rode the morning train from Surrey to downtown Vancouver our goal: to see what all the fuss was about.
Firstly I need to point out that our experience up to then was pretty great. We had stayed with lovely Canadian people who bent over backwards to make our stay pleasant, we had gone to a fantastic wedding and had angered several Canadians with our driving (apparently people in Canada get very angry if you get lost and pull into their driveway to turn around. Also, Andrew seems somewhat intent on almost hitting scooters…)
So, think really awesome time…then contrast it with Vancouver. We arrived there expecting to experience the cultural presentations of various pavilions each with the theme of a participating Olympic country. We were relatively excited to meet people, eat things, see new things, and receive free stuff. Our expectations were quite effectively dashed to the rocks.
We rolled in at 10:30am to discover that all things Olympic open at noon. The lines were already starting to form outside the golf-ball-shaped building that was the Russia house. We, being bold and wise Americans decided that we didn’t want to stand in line for 1.5 hours with 5 other people just to see the inside of the Russian pavilion. We moved on. For about 2 hours we walked through an olympic area that had not yet awoken. All was still. We inevitably made it to downtown vancouver and noted the fact that apart from the absurd street dancers and crowds…nothing had really started. We walked across what we have learned to be the West Vancouver bridge 2 times. Once to find out that it wouldn’t let us take the fast way to where we wanted to go, and another time to get back to the way that would let us do that. Balls.
Now, the sun was shining as brightly as it was able to shine and the weather was a very balmy and comfortable temperature, but our spirits were low. There was nothing awesome happening at all. By noon we had ventured far into the city and began our trek back only to find that all the pavilions now had lines that were massive. Most of all the Russian pavilion. We were not in the mood for standing around. It was now two o’ clock and we were super tired from walking, but we determined that we would by no-accounts be stopped from seeing and entering the pavilion of our own country: the good old US of A.
A friendly Canadian official googled its location. It stood adjacent to the Irish pavilion which we had passed roughly three times during the day. What fools we had been! Although we were tired we dutifully boarded the train and rode it back downtown. After a 15 minute walk we arrived to the place that the pavilion ought to be…and couldn’t find it. The irish pavilion was OBVIOUS. Blaring irish music from within, a bold flag, and huge lines. Where was our pavilion? Surely it wasn’t the building with random snowflakes obscuring the windows? Oh, but it was.
Much to our surprise as we decided to “just check” this one building…it turned out to be our own nation’s pavilion. US athletes were painted on the walls, everyone wore Team USA pins. We had made it. We were stepping forward into theoretical victory when the woman working there asked us, “Can I help you?” our response followed, “Yes, we’re looking for the US pavilion. We’re Americans.” She then told us the most aggravating thing ever. “Sorry, but you can’t come in without an invitation from an Olympic sponsor.”
At that we had had it. We were so tired and grumpy from walking that no one led the charge into the “THIS IS OUR COUNTRY!!!” argument that ought to have shattered her ability to deny us entry. We gave up. Scott asked about ice cream places and the woman (with a suspiciously Canadian accent) told us that she didn’t know any. BS. Who doesn’t know where the places to get ice cream are? Even the lactose intolerant folks do. Those are the places they avoid.
FYI: It seems that those people who are huge on tolerance gladly accept the intolerance of people whose stomachs can’t break down lactose…It’s a double standard if you ask me.
We walked for about 20 more minutes till we came to a coffee shop that we figured must have ice cream. It was the most absurdly avant guard coffee shop I have ever been in. I hated it. The misplaced jazz was terrible and clashed with the ridiculously huge wall cushions and created a storm of “I want to go home” in my soul. The huge cushions attached to the wall stretched to a useless height that ushered in a massive picture of a face near a cup of some fancy coffee beverage…a face without eyes. I shan’t go there again. Not to mention the fact that we had to walk by roughly 3 pornshops on the way. A sketchy place for coffee…
In any case, defeated by our own country, we entered and Scott asked about ice cream or milkshakes. The woman said there was none. I ordered a muffin and water. He ordered an iced coffee. We sat and waited for Andrew to see if he could find bubble tea. There was no bubble tea, so within about 10 minutes he came and sat with us. In his hand was a pink beverage that looked just like a strawberry milkshake or I am a fool. We asked him what it was. He said it was a fruitchillo and pointed to a sign to our right that approximately read “Fruitchillo…blah blah blah…with the option of vanilla yogurt or Gourmet ICE CREAM.” The Canadian woman had boldly mislead Scott and myself (who never says no to ice cream). There we sat without ice cream watching Andrew finish his.
At this point we discussed the injustice of being denied entry to our own pavilion was fairly on par with what we should have expected. All the other countries allowed entrance to experience their culture and heritage. When we thought of what the USA had to offer those outside the USA it made sense that what we had to offer was the chance to come in provided one could show that we were someone by our corporate affiliations. Appropriate, but infuriating.
Only now do I realize that this is a slight shift from what I usually feel on Valentine’s day. Usually I get rejection in the USA. This time I got rejection from the USA…I feel about the same either way. Remind me to send the US pavilion a dozen dead roses.
Nonetheless, Go Team USA.
I had fun at work on Friday. I can count the number of times that that has happened in the past two months on one hand. Hence, I would like to point that out. It was a lot of fun. I ran around with kids as they did the “review olympics” . I even realized that I could be sarcastic with the person who is the new teacher. That was a great discovery. I lived a very sarcastic afternoon and early evening. Nicely refreshing.
I decided to give up on cynicism for the new year. That’s one of my resolutions which I figured would be important. I find that I am prone to be cynical instead of hopeful. The chance to lean towards a small amount of doubt is way easier and often more fun than being disappointed because I chose to have a small amount of hope that things would work out in a given situation. It also makes it easier to not participate in things because “they mostly suck anyway.” This year I lean towards owning the truth that the Holy Spirit is always working for the redemption of the world, even in the most depressing of situations. Even in the US government. Even in Haiti. In the darkest places of the world the light shines forth the most brightly. Maybe we should just practice expecting it…