Opera! In Vancouver!

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You may recall my whining about Vancouver Opera’s lousy customer service over the years (and my very subtle gloating about their downsizing into a mere “festival”).

There wasn’t even time for me or other non-fans to feel their absence, because a new company immediately came on the scene: Heroic Opera, whose vision is to “produce only operas of Wagner, Strauss, and Verdi“, put on a production of Wagner’s Die Walkure in June.

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Tasty German pretzel and cherry strudel–proceeds go to the church’s sponsored refugees

[If you’re interested but fuzzy on the details, this is the part of the Ring cycle that deals with Siegmund and twincest, not Siegfried being a hero.]

Like the opera B-cat and I saw last November, this took place in a church. The surtitles were projected (crookedly and with typos) onto a board behind rather than above the artists, who sometimes blocked the view. The wardrobe was contemporary. A couple of the Valkyries were a little wooden…

Nothing really mattered except the voices. The voices were strong and beautiful. Sarah Templeton as Sieglinde was particularly expressive, though her interaction with David Gibbons‘s Siegmund made both of them seem more vulnerable and lovable.

The opera was so good it didn’t feel five hours (including intermission) long.

Heroic Opera’s next project, which won’t be ’til their next season, is a joint one with Opera Mariposa: Verdi’s Un ballo in maschera in November. Keep an eye on tickets/dates here.

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Above: Ryan Caron, nihonbuyo dancer. Below: B-cat

Oh, and two weeks ago, B-cat took me to Nikkei Centre‘s fundraiser tea & silent auction in return for my taking him to the opera. Proceeds went towards the Japanese-Canadian museum’s exhibitions and programs.

We had a (mini) traditional tea ceremony with Maiko, who taught all the tea ceremony classes we’ve taken, tasted other teas and canapes, and watched two snippets of buyo dance. I enjoyed the dance most of all, though I’m a completely uninformed spectator beyond ballet.

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Proof of admission is a lovely green floral ribbon tied around the wrist!

Other than the opera and tea, I’ve missed all the events going on recently, thanks to graveyard shifts and daytime courses.

Don’t be like me; go out and support the arts! If you’re in Vancouver, you can even start tonight with UBC Opera‘s production of Ariadne auf Naxos. Let’s make this a summer of German opera.

 

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My First Race Report

“How many kids do you have?”

“None.”

“Oh. Why were you at the Easter fun run then?”

This past Sunday, I ran my first 5k race/fun run as planned. Hosted by Running Tours at Stanley Park, the event was surprisingly well managed, with an enthusiastic bunny MC/warm-up leader, friendly staff and volunteers, a nice race kit, and a freebie-filled water stop courtesy of Z95.3.

The organisers also donated a significant portion of proceeds — possibly 75%, judging by entry fees — to Canuck Place Children’s Hospice, which is more than admirable.

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The one that says “Here, have some wings” does not seem to be a coupon/voucher at all

The cookie and tea vouchers are 10/10, the running magazines are interesting if ad-heavy, and the pepperoni stick I ate as soon as I left the Running Tours office, two days before the race.

The day before the race, B-cat and I did no more exercise than walking around the cherry blossom event at Queen Elizabeth Park. We shared a maccha-cherry blossom milkshake and woke up 2 pounds heavier the next day.

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The morning of the race, downtown Vancouver was one giant traffic jam. We got off the skytrain at Granville, walked down to Burrard station, and watched the next #19 bus clank by with “Sorry, bus full” displayed.

The longest distance I had ever run was 5 km, and I was on my way to a 5k race. The logical thing to do then, according to B-cat, was to run 3 km to the race.

Because time was running out (I hate puns), we ran, passing four more #19s and two unrelated buses along the way. At least I was no longer cold by the time we reached Lumberman’s Arch…

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Free bunny ears from the race kit

Running is fun when you run your own way, at your own pace. For me, that also means running in the rain or on cool evenings.

Not only was it sunny that afternoon, but after the first km, I found myself running just before or just behind an athletic couple pushing a stroller and decided to follow them the rest of the way. Their pace was challenging; I started feeling lightheaded the last 2 km.

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I choose to think this woman let me pass her at the very end out of the kindness of her heart

But I had fun and was happy with my results. Not only did I beat my personal record for the only two other times I’d ever run 5km, I was 1st in my age group — 32 minutes and 5 seconds for this 32-year-old. Don’t tell me the serious runners took it easy because it was a fun run!!

We ran back to the Z95.3 booth to pick up the vanilla lipbalm I missed while spilling water into an entire sleeve (like a real runner!…) after visiting the sponsor tents, where we entered a Sun Life Insurance prize draw.

Today, as I was basking in the euphoria of having another story accepted by a literary magazine — more on that in a few weeks — one of the Sun Life representatives called to say that I didn’t win, but that he had time to meet up to discuss insurance plans.

When he asked why I went to the Easter fun run despite not having kids, I said I’d gotten hit by a car last year and wanted to get into running now that I could use my legs again.

His response: “Oh.”

Am I creepy for entering a fun run without kids, or is Sun Life just terrible??

Either way, I don’t regret this run: it was a blast from start to finish. I expect Running Tour’s Big Elf Run in December to be enormously fun and smoothly planned as well. Sign up if you’re in town!

 

So Apparently Running isn’t the Worst Thing in the World

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Lovely view during a lovely run

In early March, I had another nightmare about the car accident and again realised how lucky I was to have legs that still work. With approval from the physiotherapist, I started running.

First attempt: I can’t run 200 metres without stopping.

Third attempt: I can’t run 200 metres without stopping.

Sixth attempt: I aim for 500 metres. Now my throat tastes like blood.

You’d think I could run at least 1 km, since that’s how much we had to run in elementary (after-school run) and high school (milk run, Terry Fox run), but hey I’m full of surprises.

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That squirrel ate the tofu out of my pad thai

What was more surprising than me (haha) was how quickly running stopped sucking and became fun. Two weeks later, I signed up for a 5k as something to work towards and installed Strava to track my progress. Since I had 0 Strava friends at the time, I was happy logging the most inane “runs” like the above.

One rainy morning, I went to a Hoka One One event and ran an almost-5k alone around Burnaby Lake.

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Sample pair of Hoka Clifton 3s — so squishy and light

I didn’t end up buying the test shoes, because I’m a terrible person [who needs more arch support], but B-cat convinced me to invest in runners actually made for running… even if they’re not as cute as $20 canvas shoes.

These homely Stinson 3s were the ones I ended up with:

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So much arch support

Now, after one solid month, I can finally run 5 km without stopping and my body fat percentage is down to 17% (vs. 11% to 13% in the early 2010s and 25% after I started dating B-cat).

Running is great. No wonder Murakami is into it.

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Streets in Vancouver smell like magnolia and cherry blossoms

Lest any of this sounds like bragging, I should point out that not only is my 5k personal record abnormally slow, but B-cat had completed a 5k before in jeans and totally wrong shoes and took only half the time.

He also looked gorgeous doing it.

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“I wasn’t expecting to run,” he says.

Yukon Trail

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Near Takhini River

You have died of dysentry.

I’ve just gotten back from the Yukon. My mother took me and my cousin J up to see the Aurora Borealis, and B-cat came along, too, for a distraction from being injured and cooped up with me in a basement.

I enjoyed going north in 2010 and am grateful to revisit the museums, huskies, outdoors, etc., but this has been a terribly stressful trip. The group dynamic is as follows:

  • My mother stops speaking English or eating meals whenever we go on trips (all three of which, excluding childhood ones, took place this year). She tries to dissuade me and J from eating, saying we’re too fat;
  • J is not fat. He is shy? grumpy? and only speaks to my mother when she speaks first and to me when the others aren’t around. He rarely talks to English speakers;
  • B-cat is an English speaker who makes occasional remarks to J and my mother, but mainly wants to chat up strangers;
  • I am the worst travel buddy.

 

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J and a Little Free Library by the half-frozen Yukon River

We do end up eating real food, but don’t see much of the Northern Lights through the clouds. During this time I’m still receiving rejection letters, an integral and awful part of writing fiction, and sending demand letters to Torquere Press, a publisher whose owners — Kristi Boulware-Talbot and Joanna Talbot — have now decided neither to pay its authors nor to return the rights to their work.

Then Trump talks to the president of Taiwan, and suddenly both pro-Trump and anti-Trump Americans are spouting strong opinions about Taiwan, whose very name confuses them because they’ve only skimmed through the Wiki:history article.

But I did see two red foxes, a dozen red squirrels, and a lot of nice people, so I guess this is just one of those trips that improve upon ending. If you like small, snowy towns, visit the Yukon — besides the lights, I recommend Mount McIntyre for the vigorous hike to the peak.

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J, me, and B-cat

No, Really, the Policemen’s Ball doesn’t Revolve around Cheese

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Reception entrance

I attended the Vancouver Police Department holiday reception and the local Winter International Lolita Day tea a few days ago. Nothing artsy, just nice outings after two weeks of cake and fiction.

B-cat and I have birthdays just a day apart. Although we’re not the type to throw ourselves birthday parties, there were still several dinners to go to and candles to blow out. I personally received three full birthday cake — two black forest and one red velvet, if you like minutiae — and the sugar and my advanced age combined to remind me of how little fiction I’ve written since high school…

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Artichoke and granite-like mystery cheese

…So that kept me busy until I took B-cat to, as he puts it, the big policemen’s ball (look up “Simpsons garbage man can song”). Held at the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club with its beautifully decorated entrance — especially past the lawn — the event is the first I’ve attended since the foundation started sending me invitations.

B-cat was held up teaching undergrads, so he was 1.5 hours late to the two-hour event. Instead of going in alone, I sat in the club lobby and wondered why all the serving staff were Asian. I also watched the police officers presenting that night interact with the public and police dogs.

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Justice, a canine officer

The police dog in the shot is wearing a vest with a mounted camera, equipment courtesy of some grant or the other. With him are his handler, a higher-up, and two members of the emergency response team (the Canadian equivalent of SWAT) with their gear. They later went in to speak of these and things they hoped to raise funds for, like shallow-water rafts.

It was only then that I remembered VPD was in charge only of Vancouver proper. I rushed home with a guilty conscience to look up the Burnaby RCMP, the people I bug about noisy neighbours and lost passports… but they don’t appear to be soliciting donations.

Anyway, the VPD has many community programs to support. And knows good cheese!

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Seriously, though: Can you identify this cheese? It’s delicious.

******

As for the ILD afternoon tea… the tea shop was dimly lit and overpriced, and the Chinese owner kept taking pictures of us without asking. Still, we had good company.

On a vain note: Unlike most Asian women, my face is long and droopy rather than wide or round, so ordinary hairstyles that hide the sides of the face are amazingly unflattering on me. But I hardly ever wear anything gothic, and B-cat never dresses like a man from centuries past, so let me leave this here:

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