The PNE (Pacific National Exhibition) located deep in Vancouver’s East Side could be called anything as far as the thousands of kids that pass through its gates every year are concerned. It’s just the PNE, where you gorge yourself on endless sugar in the form of cotton candy, twizzlers, jawbreakers, and deep-fried Oreos on the way to regurgitating it all back up after a wild 2 hours on rides called the Hellevator, the Drop Zone, and the Corkscrew.
Then it’s onto the main course for hot dogs, pizza, and Triple O hamburgers before it all comes back up again after a second pass at the Roller Coaster, Wave Swinger, and the Gladiator. Ah, nothing like the combination of endorphin rush overload and serial puking to welcome the summer for a kid in BC, and a nervous collapse at the end of the day for the poor parental unit…
Late October and it’s almost Halloween, your absolutist, most favoritist holiday of the whole year. Walking to school on the UBC campus with your bestie in fog so thick you can’t see the end of the block, you totally freak each other out by seeing skeletons hanging from the dripping fir trees and shadows of ghosts floating past darkened windows.
An eerie two-toned foghorn punctuates your whispered conversation as you strategize the best way to make it to school alive and on time. Your idiot brother, who’s been stalking you for blocks, suddenly shrieks in your ear and yanks on your hair, causing momentary all-out pandemonium…until you gather your wits enough to pummel him with your backpack and stuff leaf mould down his coat collar.
Field trips to BC’s capital city of Victoria, family camping trips to Vancouver Island, or heading up to the cabin on the Sunshine Coast — a ferry trip is something every BC kid knows about. It’s always preceded by endless waits at the ferry terminal in a hot car, the smell of ferry diesel and hundreds of cars idling, and the lure of the ocean just beyond the chain link fence surrounding the terminal.
Once you’re finally ON the ferry, after charging up the stairs ahead of your parents in order to be as close to the front of the line for the cafeteria to eat greasy and somewhat suspect ferry food, you go off in search of a window seat for the rest of the trip that’ll let you see eagles dip and soar along the shoreline in search of dinner, and small jewel-like islands float by the large picture windows on the way to your destination. Bonus points for annoying the woman sitting in front of you by kicking the back of her seat when your parents aren’t looking.
Today’s the day — you’re heading over the Hope-Princeton Pass for the long-awaited camping trip to the Okanagan — land of tinder dry pine trees, cerulean blue skies, tents pitched by the side of a sparkling lake, and badass mosquitoes.
Your dad had to forego loading his favourite camp chair with the brewski holder into the car so that you could fit in your new floatie thingy that looks like a giant purple eggplant with a bad case of gas. It’s one or the other, and your mom convinces your dad that if they have to leave that damned bloated monstrosity it would be a baaaad start to what is supposed to be a stress-free week. Nonetheless, you’ve had your childish way and now you are floating on top of the thing, slathered in sunscreen. Your brother practices holding his breath under water until he’s blue, your mom is sprawled in the shade cradling a BC cider and a book, and your dad is priming the two-burner Coleman stove for the steaks and corn on the cob. Life simply could not get better. Well. Maybe for your dad.
It’s time for that rite of passage, the dreaded Fishing Trip With Papa. August in the Kootenays, and it’s about 35 Celsius by mid-afternoon. The site of this particular scene of torture is a small mountain lake. Once there, you’re forced to sit silently in some dumb boat doing absolutely nothing for 2 hours except hang onto some stick and string with a worm on the end of it. You’re hot, you’re bored silly, and he’s the only one catching fish.
This less than stellar experience is rounded off by the endless ride home with 3 freshwater salmon on quickly-melting ice in the furnace of the car’s trunk. But the true torture awaits when you get home and realize you are expected to take part in the evisceration of said fish. The smell of it alone is enough to turn you off anything that comes out of the water as a prospective meal until the end of your days on Earth. Scarred for life.
Biking to school in the rain, pick up soccer games in the rain, Halloween in the rain, hide ‘n’ seek in the rain, walking the dog and picking up the poop in the rain, smoking behind the school gym in the rain, standing at the bus stop in the rain, picnics in the rain, swimming in the FREAKIN RAIN…