Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘High Feast Days’ Category


Ian all set for the 2012 Pride Parade – and just about to ask when they’re going to start throwing candy.

What started as a protest march in 1978 is now a major celebration and a huge tourism draw. The first Sunday in August, the Vancouver Pride Parade brings an estimated 600,000 people to the West End to celebrate the city’s large and vibrant gay and lesbian community. It’s always a great show.

Yesterday’s edition was the first KJ and I attended here since 2008. It’s one of the things we have missed about Vancouver in the years we’ve been away, so we’d been looking forward to the Pride Parade ever since we moved back.

Ian was pretty excited, too – but he was just in it for the candy. A lot of candy was thrown his way at the Pride Parade in Victoria last year.

The first highlight of this year’s parade was Vancouver’s own Jenna Talackova. Jenna became famous earlier this year when she successfully battled to be included in the Miss Universe Canada pageant after originally being disqualified because she is transgendered.

Grand Marshall Jenna Talackova.

Shortly after Jenna, one of the perennial crowd pleasers of the Pride Parade came along.

Every year, two entries are consistently the most entertaining, in my opinion. Dykes on Bikes is one of them – and, you guessed it, they’re a bunch of lesbians riding motorbikes.

You hear them coming well before you see them, but as soon as they pull into view the crowd goes nuts. They’re just really good fun. I wanted to include a video, but I’m apparently not set up for that. For now, a picture will have to suffice. Video of Dykes on Bikes is at http://youtu.be/PP9CRNa3f5M

Dykes on Bikes bring the noise.

Now, since the days of the original protest march back in 1978, Vancouver’s gay and lesbian community has made some serious progress. Getting fired for being gay is no longer on, being denied an apartment is also out, and for some years now, gays and lesbians have enjoyed the right to get married – just like everybody else. A mixed blessing that last one, perhaps…

Anyways, the area of the West End called Davie Village, which centres on Davie Street, is a thriving section of the city where a great many businesses have rainbow flag stickers in their windows to show they are gay friendly. And a great many of these businesses also had entries in the parade.

In fact, early into the parade yesterday, I started to wonder if there was any major business or institution which did not have an entry in the parade.

There were the first responders:

The Vancouver Fire Department was on hand.

The Vancouver Police Department was on hand.

And the paramedics were also on hand, which was a particularly good thing since it was hot as hell, and it was nice to know help was close by in case somebody passed out.

All sorts of other groups were there, too:

The Vancouver Men’s Choir.

The Vancouver School Board, which is working hard to reduce bullying in schools, was out in force.

Some ladies who are clearly not fans of oil tankers or pipelines – quite a hot topic in B.C. at the moment.

Some folks looking to legalize cannabis – a much easier sell than the oil pipelines currently being discussed.

The Terminal City Rollergirls were there too, spreading the gospel of roller derby. No sign of Ellen Page or Drew Barrymore, though, unfortunately.

And (I'm not ashamed to admit it) one of my favourite entries in the parade, the Brazen Hussies.

And (I’m not ashamed to admit it) one of my favourite entries in the parade, the Brazen Hussies.

These are only a few of the groups we saw in the Pride Parade yesterday. And we only stayed for half of it, because it was so damn hot and Ian was starting to wilt. This gives you an idea of the liveliness of the gay and lesbian community, though.

An indication of the clout it now enjoys can be seen in the number of big companies which had entries in the parade:

The TD Bank is closed on Sundays, so one of Canada’s largest banks had a lot of folks in the parade.

The three major TV networks were represented:

CTV was on the scene.

So was Canada’s public broadcaster, the CBC.

And B.C.’s top network, Global, was there in a big old bus.

Plenty of other companies were there, including two inspired entries from the good folks at Trojan Condoms and Viagra:

Whoever does the marketing for Trojan should get a raise.

Viagra was there to give folks a lift as well. (Sorry.)

Probably the best indication of how far the gay and lesbian community has come, though, is the fact that almost every political party from all levels of government made a point of being in the Pride Parade.

The BC Liberals, the BC NDP/Canada’s New Democrats, the Green Party, the Conservative Party of Canada were all there. And so was Dr. Hedy Fry, the Liberal MP for the host riding of Vancouver Centre – who, along with Dykes on Bikes, is one of the perennial crowd pleasers I mentioned earlier.

Full disclosure here: I worked on Hedy’s re-election campaign in the 2006 federal election. And I’ll tell you what, you have not worked hard until you have worked for Hedy.

While Hedy makes her people work hard, she also works hard herself. She provides excellent service to her constituents and is one of the best friends the gay and lesbian community has. She was a strong advocate for same-sex marriage before it became legal.

Hedy is very popular with the gay community, and she clearly loves them back. Every year, she has one of the most imaginative and fun entries in the Pride Parade.

This year, she was a mermaid. Video of Hedy the Mermaid and her entourage of sailors is here: http://tinyurl.com/bmt7dt2

The indomitable Dr. Hedy Fry, MP for Vancouver Centre, had yet another outstanding entry in this year’s Pride Parade. Sorry the photo isn’t better 😉

Now, every year when the Pride Parade rolls around, a few folks start griping. “Why do we need a Gay Pride Parade?” is one of the things you’ll hear. “We don’t have a Heterosexual Pride Parade.”

Well, it seems to me the folks who say such things are actually making the case for holding the Pride Parade. There are no Heterosexual Pride Parades because such parades are absolutely unnecessary.

I don’t think there is anywhere in the world where heterosexuals are murdered because they are sexually attracted to members of the opposite gender. Or where they are disowned by their families because of this. Or refused a job. Or fired from one. Or refused an apartment. Or beaten.

Gays and lesbians in Vancouver have moved beyond this for the most part. They have struggled for this and, in the process, helped Vancouverites reach a point where most of us couldn’t give a damn who anybody else sleeps with and where almost nobody bats an eye when they see a couple of guys, or a couple of women, holding hands or kissing.

But the fact is that this is a pretty unusual state of affairs. In most parts of the world – even some parts of B.C., unfortunately – gays and lesbians cannot live with anywhere near the level of freedom and safety enjoyed by the gay and lesbian community in Vancouver. And forget about holding a Pride Parade in a lot of these places.

Until gays and lesbians are fully accepted everywhere, and until Pride Parades can be held everywhere, Vancouver’s Pride Parade will continue to be not just a good time but a moral imperative.

P.S. – We – and by “we” I mean my son Ian – only found one fault with this year’s Pride Parade: not enough candy. Ian got lots of temporary tattoos, stickers, buttons and whatnot. But only one packet of Skittles. As far as he’s concerned, Victoria’s Pride Parade wins.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »


On Wednesday of this week, Koreans celebrated their own version of Thanksgiving. Called Chuseok, it is the most important holiday of the year and combines a harvest festival with the vestiges of ancestor worship. There is also a great deal of booze involved.   

While Chuseok proper was on the 22nd, it’s a three-day break from work. And in my wife’s family, the visit to the tomb comes the day before Chuseok. So, on Tuesday, Ian and I joined two of KJ’s cousins, their wives and children, and my father-in-law on a visit to the tombs of his mother and father. Other families do this on the morning of Chuseok itself.   

A view of some of the tombs (burial mounds, really) at the graveyard where my father-in-law's parents are buried. You can also see some folks paying their respects.

A view of some of the tombs (burial mounds, really) at the graveyard where my father-in-law's parents are buried. You can also see some folks paying their respects.

 

While very few South Koreans actually still worship their ancestors, they continue to pay their respects to their parents and grandparents by trimming the grass and plants around their tombs and making offerings of food and makgeolli (a milky-white Korean rice wine). Then, everyone gets down on the ground and bows before the tombs. After this, it’s time to drink the makgeolli and eat the food. Kind of an interesting concept for a picnic really.   

Ian passing the time while we wait for one of KJ's cousins to arrive with his family. The pink Paul Frank outfit with blue trim is a gift from my wife's younger sister, who insists the outfit is unisex. I'm not entirely convinced, but what can you do?

Ian passing the time while we wait for one of KJ's cousins to arrive with his family. The pink Paul Frank outfit with blue trim is a gift from my wife's younger sister, who insists the outfit is unisex. I'm not entirely convinced, but what can you do?

 

KJ didn’t come with us to the tombs because there was cooking to do. And this being South Korea, cooking is women’s work, so she stayed behind to help her mother out. After we returned, the wives of the cousins pitched in as well to help get everything ready for the big day. We men did absolutely nothing to help. I might point out here that South Korea is a land of cutting-edge electronics and Fifties-era social mores.   

On the morning of Chuseok, we all got up very early and waited for my father-in-law’s elder brother to arrive from Busan. He’s a retired priest – actually a monsignor, which is even better, just below a bishop. In fact, he trained almost all of the priests currently active in the Busan area, I’m told.   

Well, if you’re Catholic, it’s pretty darned handy to have a priest in the family because you can have Mass without leaving the house. And that’s what we did. It’s part of the Lee family’s way of celebrating Chuseok – Mass first, bowing to photos of the patriarch’s parents and then eating breakfast. However, I should confess, that I missed the bulk of the Mass and all the bowing, because Ian just couldn’t stay still that long. Since I didn’t understand a word of what was being said anyway, it fell to me to take him outside and walk around in the rain.   

Now, there are some important differences between Korean Thanksgiving and North American Thanksgiving. One is that there isn’t just one big meal in the Korean version. There are three – breakfast, lunch and dinner – and they’re all the same. Each meal featured a bowl of rice; bulgogi (a marinated beef dish); Korean-style tempura; marinated squid; a variety of kimchis (fermented vegetable dishes); some other dishes I’ve forgotten about; and makgeolli. Yup, rice wine at about 7:30 in the morning. Lots of it, too.   

Lunch was the same, except it featured soju instead of makgeolli. Soju is basically the national drink of Korea. It’s a distilled beverage typically between 24 to 27 per cent alcohol, clear, slightly sweet and cheap as borscht. A 300 mL bottle costs about 60 cents in the supermarket. Not the greatest alcoholic beverage in the world, to be honest, but after about three shots you don’t even notice it tastes a bit like mouthwash.   

Dinner was also the same, except that the cast had changed. The cousins and their children had gone off now to visit the families of the wives and they were replaced by my father-in-law’s sister, her husband, their two sons, and KJ’s two sisters, their husbands and their kids. The booze changed, too. This time, it was Scotch. And lots of it.   

The menfolk sitting around enjoying Scotch while the womenfolk put the finishing touches on dinner and bring the food to the table.

The menfolk sitting around enjoying Scotch while the womenfolk put the finishing touches on dinner and bring the food to the table.

 

Once dinner was finished, it was time for the main event, which was the priest uncle giving KJ a stern lecture in front of everybody about how terrible it is that we’re traveling all over the place with a baby in tow when we should be buying a house or some such and being respectable people, instead of, in his words, being “worse than gypsies.” After he was done, my mother-in-law took a pretty good run at KJ, too. I’d been instructed by KJ in advance (we knew this was coming) not to say anything at all, so I went out for smoke breaks anytime the urge to spout off approached irresistible levels.   

And here is where Thanksgiving Korean style revealed itself to be essentially the same as Thanksgiving in Canada or the United States: It’s a time for family to travel sometimes great distances to get together for a big meal and to remember just how much they really piss one another off.   

Good times.

Read Full Post »


Wednesday was Children’s Day here in South Korea. It’s one of four days in the year when children aren’t tortured with endless hours of school, study hall, after-school classes and cramming – the others being Chusok (Thanksgiving), Christmas and Lunar New Year. This holiday is a pretty big deal. 

Like children in any other country, Korean kids greatly love presents, so gift-giving plays a prominent role in Children’s Day. In the days leading up to this holiday, I saw many people walking around with toys or clothes they had just bought for their children, their nieces and nephews or their grandchildren. There was also a definite sense of excitement among the kids as they counted down to the big day. 

Ian With His Children's Day Loot

Ian With His Children's Day Loot

One of the really nice things about Children’s Day is that it’s a national holiday. Korean parents have pretty brutal schedules – long days at work, long commutes and fairly frequent compulsory drinking sessions with work colleagues. They don’t have nearly as much time to spend with their kids as parents in the West do. This is their chance to get in some quality time. 

At the Lee household, we decided to go on a picnic. Now, the in-laws’ house here in Yangsan has a nice front yard that I think would work just fine for a picnic, but no. Kids need to have something to brag about. They can’t just be sent off to school the day after to tell their friends they had a picnic in their front yard. They need to be able to boast of having gone somewhere. And so we went somewhere. 

The somewhere we went is called SPO 1 Park in Busan. Now, it’s not really a park in the sense that I’m used to. It’s a sporting complex surrounded by bike paths. There are some narrow strips of land with trees and flag stones between the bike paths, and we had our picnic on one of them. Since Korea is not very well endowed with green grassy fields, it’s also where a huge number of other parents decided to drag their kids for their picnic. 

We thought SPO 1 Park would be a great place for a picnic - and a million others in the Busan area had the same idea.

We thought SPO 1 Park would be a great place for a picnic - and a million others in the Busan area had the same idea.

I can’t say I found it terribly restful. The periods when Ian was content to sit with everybody on the padded Pororo groundsheet were fine, but he doesn’t like staying still for very long. I spent a lot of the picnic shepherding Ian as he went off in random directions searching for random things to put in his mouth. This is one of my daily duties, but what made it exhausting was making sure the little guy didn’t get mowed down by someone rollerblading, running or riding a bike. And there were lots and lots and lots of kids and adults engaged in those activities. 

All the cousins in one spot. Jun-pyo, So-min and Ian, as well as Jun-pyo's mom Kyung-hee (my younger sister-in-law), and my unphotogenic self.

All the cousins in one spot. Jun-pyo, So-min and Ian, as well as Jun-pyo's mom Kyung-hee (my younger sister-in-law), and my unphotogenic self.

I must say, I was happy we took the kids out for a picnic, but I was especially happy when it was over and we could go home to have some cake and actually have enough space to stretch out our legs. Like so many holidays in Korea, Children’s Day is exhausting work. 

So-min and Ian discuss how the Children's Day cake should be divvied up.

So-min and Ian discuss how the Children's Day cake should be divvied up.

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: