Virtual Fantastic in the City of Night

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The city has shrunk. Viral spaces have grown, segregated by ribonucleic function. Genetic social engineering. Never mind the passports that keep you from entering certain places. Your polite resistance. Vaccinated or not, the virus is still there. Feel like playing Russian roulette?

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In the fancy restaurants downtown, life stirs again. Packed with baby boomers. I don’t think their generation expected this final battle. Welcome to the 21st century, flower children, our holograms are ready to serve you.

Many places are still empty. Cafes, usually bustling on a Friday night, now sit empty with chairs stacked on top of tables. Stores boarded up and closed for good. Dark. Silence. The younger crowds scattered or missing altogether. They’re at Earl’s; yes, it’s always happening at Earl’s.

The constriction is real. Palpable. The pandemic, like an anaconda, slowly squeezing the life out of the city. Not as bad last year when there was more silence and darkness. Now, there is more light and sound. Faces. Like Picasso porn, disjointed scenes full of promise and titillation.

Avoid the crowded streets. Always.

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“Check out that dude ahead of us. He’s got a vape. Watch how the steam blows out of his mouth. Can you smell it? The sweet aroma of the vapor? Those particles traveled all the way from his lungs and into our nostrils. The same goes for everyone around us. The very act of breathing. We’re lucky in a way. If this virus had been just a bit stronger…”

Corona-punks. Anti-heros. Shunned to the margins because some nerd made a mistake in a Chinese lab and released this thing into the world. Or was it by design? Anything is possible at this point. Apparently, they wanted to infect bats with nano-aerosols containing chimeric spike proteins. You can’t make that shit up. Reality in scifi mode.

So for now, we’ll have to content ourselves with strolling along the razor-thin edges of the city. Find pleasures wherever we can. Try to put the virus out of our minds while avoiding close contact with others. Talk about cognitive dissonance. Ha! There is no escape. We still don’t know how it will come to an end. Shall we ask the oracle? Maybe it’ll blow over with just a little sneeze, or maybe it will drown us in waves. Whichever, Pandora’s genetic box of goodies has been opened. We’ll just have to deal with it.

So faced with this existential threat, what are our priorities this Friday evening?

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Reggaeton music blares from taco trucks, right across from the gallery, where the native children memorial has been set up in Robson square. There is heavy foot traffic this cool evening. Not quiet as busy as it used to be, but a bit of the old vibrancy has returned. A quivering and nervous energy permeates the autumnal atmosphere.

Plenty of masks but not as many as last Fall. As I navigate through the crowds, I wonder who’s vaxxed and who isn’t? Maybe in the future we can develop an AR app to scan people and quickly determine someone’s vaccination status. Wouldn’t that be fabulous, kids? Welcome to the new and improved dating game!

But enough of my nonsense, and let’s get to what I really came here to talk about: Arthur Erickson.

This famous architect was born in Vancouver. He designed many buildings world-wide and several in his home town that included a museum, a university, downtown square, and other landmarks of the Vancouver urbanscape. His last major work was the Trump tower downtown. So the man was obviously a very stable genius.

A new art installation called ‘Erickson Revealed’ showcased to the public recently, so I decided to check it out. That’s what I find myself doing downtown instead of solving the world’s problems back in my secret lair. The installation consists of video clips and images projected onto the side of a building that used to be known as the MacMillan Bloedel office tower, but has now been changed to the Arthur Erickson tower in honor of the prolific and influential architect. Multimedia wizards projected a 10-minute film honoring Erickson, who passed away in 2009.

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We congregate on the sidewalk across the building, maintaining a safe distance from one another. The sound of music rises, and the windows flicker with light. Red, purples, and greens. Bright geometrical patterns. Photographs of a young Erickson flash across the projection along his architectural masterpieces. After about 10 minutes, the music rises to a crescendo, and the show comes to an end. Then it starts again in a loop until 10 PM.

So that’s what we’re doing at the end of the world, faced with an existential crisis, we move on and try to forget. Behind me, the classical music fades. Ahead, the streets glisten with that old glint of pre-pandemic life. Uneasy and furtive glances. Let us act normal shall we? Stick apart and just try to forget.

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