Yesterday, my partner M and I rode our bicycles to the beach near Vanier Park, Vancouver. It was a cloudy but sunshiny day and I suggested that we go to the Museum of Vancouver for old times’ sake. The place held special meaning for us – we went there two years ago, on our second date ever. We had lunch – cheese, wine and fancy olives – on the dock before heading up to the museum to explore a Banghra Me exhibit – about the Punjabi/Western fusion pop music style. We also got to dress up in 1950s tuxes/dresses as part of a Vancouver in the 1950s exhibit. And in the First Nations exhibit, we picked up cards with the names of fish and plants in a First Nations language and tried in vain to pronounce them correctly. It was a beautiful day.
This time we witnessed the photography of Joe Average, a gay West Coast artist known for his pop art and his commitment to art education for youth. His photos were landscape, mostly, digitally altered to draw out haunting, surreal colours, like the green paint on a shack in Finn’s Slough, or the primary colours of the façade of the Ovaltine Café on East Hastings Street. One particularly striking photo was a close-up of a seagull’s feet, where the skin popped out like fish scales. It was labeled Yogi’s Feet.
After that we wandered into one of the main exhibits, Sex Talk in the City. Here, the museum presented a fascinating history of sex education in Vancouver, including the struggles over including queer sex into the curriculum. Also shown was the turbulent history of sex workers from the early 1900s onward – and how race and class played into their oppression. Police records and mug shots of these women and the “vagrants” who used their services were posted on a wall, one next to the other.
Also included was a display of various and sundry vibrators through the years, and how they were first used exclusively by medical professionals as a treatment for hysteria – the paroxysm of patients were not considered orgasms. Later, vibrators were marketed as “body massage” devices, and often included parts that would make them useful for household chores, like polishing or dusting. Few vibrators from the 80s survive, as apparently they were made from plastics that have not stood the test of time. The style of vibrators mirrored the style of household appliances of the same era – the vibrators of the 50s made from sturdy metal and stylish too.
Other parts of the exhibit that I particularly enjoyed were the history of gay pride parade and the history of contraception and abortion rights. And then there was the Neon Vancouver exhibit next door, with signs from the 50s-70s, when Vancouver was a growing metropolis and its citizens argued over whether the neon signs constituted light pollution. Personally the lights bothered me less than the noise – the loud hum of electricity, constant and unrelenting.
After our visit to the museum, M and I made our way to a patch of grass, where we enjoyed a picnic, drank some Langue-Dog white wine and mused about how much our love has deepened as we have gotten to know each other. I played her Joe Cocker’s song “Your Are So Beautiful” on my iPhone as we watched the crimson bird-kite flittering overhead. Finally I pulled out the ring we had chosen together from an artisan jeweller on Granville Island and asked her to marry me. Her eyes lit up and she said yes, we kissed and hugged each other closely.
M had been talking about having steak for at least a week so I suggested we go to the Keg to celebrate but instead we decided on The Boathouse – it was closer. First we soaked in the last of the sun at Kitsilano Beach, before heading up the stairs to one of the more scenic restaurants in the city. The view, over the ocean, was spectacular. M ordered steak, with mashed potatoes and Chinese broccoli. And I ordered a seafood pasta dish. For dessert we ordered alcoholic beverages – coffee, grand marnier, and kahlua for me, and hot chocolate, kahlua and brandy(?) for M. It was a fitting end to a perfect meal.
We rode our bicycles home in the dark, along the water. I took E, our pug, out for a final walk and jumped into the shower to wash away the kernels of sand between my toes from the beach. We finally fell asleep next to each other, basking in the calmness that comes from knowing that we are committed to each other. Life partners. It truly was a magical day.