Posts Tagged ‘Denman Street’

This is how we roll in Vancouver.

This is how we roll in Vancouver.

A few years ago, my wife’s mother and father were visiting from Korea. During their visit, something happened that is a perfect illustration of what I think is the best thing about Vancouver’s West End – the incredible sense of freedom it provides.

We were at a noodle shop on Robson Street. The in-laws were facing the street. KJ and I were facing the kitchen. About midway through the meal, KJ’s mom suddenly started to exclaim something in Korean. I looked up and her eyes were wide with surprise.

KJ’s dad looked up to see what she was so startled by. His eyes went wide too, and then he also started speaking Korean excitedly.

KJ looked over her right shoulder towards the street, I looked over my left, we both saw about a hundred naked people riding bikes, and then we promptly turned our attention back to our noodles. We had both been living in the West End for years by the time this happened. Nothing shocked us any longer.

Our blasé attitude towards mass public nudity shocked KJ’s parents even more than that year’s edition of the Naked Bike Ride. This just isn’t done in Korea.

You’ll notice most of the naked bike riders are wearing helmets. That’s because it’s the law.

Now, I don’t mean to suggest that the West End is the only place in the world where folks feel free to ride their bikes naked. It’s called the World Naked Bike Ride, after all, and something like 70 cities took part last week. But I bet it takes a bit more courage to participate in most of those cities than it does in Vancouver.

As the naked bike riders rode past Ian and I along Denman Street, nobody said anything much about it. A bunch of folks watched, amused. A greater number of folks, though, just kept on walking as if nothing was happening. No insults hurled or anything like that. It was all very live-and-let-live, which sums up the West End quite nicely.

As long as you’re not hurting anybody, you can pretty much do whatever you like. You could probably walk naked down the street any day of the week if you wanted to. In fact, I once saw a dominatrix taking her “slave” out for a walk on Davie Street. She was wearing leather. He wasn’t wearing much of anything at all, except for some contraption around his willy – to which a leash was attached so his mistress could lead him around. As I recall, nobody said anything about that either.

The West End has to be one of the most tolerant and free places on Earth. I love it, and I couldn’t be happier to live here again after so many years away. A lot has changed in Vancouver, but the West End still seems to be as tolerant and free as ever.

Sure hope they put on some sunscreen.

No bike left behind.

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