my first Celebration of Light

July 23, 2009 at 7:46 am 11 comments

Celebration of Light 2009

Tonight was Team Canada’s turn; I couldn’t miss that.

I pushed my way onto the Skytrain at the Broadway station. The police roamed the platform; stopped a young man with a metal water bottle, sniffed it, and emptied the contents over the Skytrain tracks. There would be no booze consumed in public tonight. I was relieved I hadn’t thought to bring my “water” bottle.

The weather was perfect. The sky was blue and cloudless; the crowd amazing, covering English Bay like some patchwork quilt. I arrived a half an hour before the show was to start, but already there was barely a bare spot left on the grass. I walked up Beach Drive and found myself a fairly good seat right next to the sidewalk. I figured I’d be able to retreat with relative ease once the last of the fireworks had gone off.

The audience was young and old. Next to me sat a mother and her two small children, the girl holding up her digital camera, armed and ready. To my right sat a young woman sipping Coke from a can, the straw perched between her glossy lips. And behind me sat a frail man from a nearby retirement home, in his scooter, poised at the side of the road.

There were a few false starts. Well, not false exactly – maybe just a few trial shots. Then 10 o’clock arrived (the organizers were remarkably on time). The deejay’s voice bellowed across English Bay, asking us to stand up for the national anthem. “Oh Canada” subsided. The moment had arrived. The sky filled with the thump thump thump of colourful shooting stars. At first it was hard to make out the music, but then “We’re off to see the wizard” started and not even the loudest of bangs could conceal its familiar tune.

The finale was suitably grandiose (boom, boom, BOOM), and in the background “Somewhere over the rainbow” played — which is, like, one of my favourite songs. At the end of it the sky was grey with smoke and the air hung thick with what smelled like pipe tobacco. Mmmm.

Afterward I clambered to my feet and followed the crowd. Somehow I ended up on Denman Street and then walked somewhat circuitously to the Waterfront station. My theory was that by the time I got to the station, the initial throng would’ve dissipated. That and I (ahem) got a little lost. Anyway, I made it to the station only to discover a very looong line-up outside. My heart sank. I fell in line. Surprisingly though it moved quickly and even better was that the train wasn’t all that packed. Even as we passed Burrard and Granville stations, it didn’t get full. Police were everywhere. As were the Skytrain attendants. They’d obviously planned this well. They’d had experience.

That was it, my first Celebration of Light. Next up, South Africa on Saturday.

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