4 weeks ago
Thursday, June 16, 2011
I was up late last night.
I watched Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final. If only because I have not missed a Cup-clinching game since ... 1980, I would guess. The spring that witnessed the end of one NHL dynasty and the beginning of a new one. Back in an era when dynasties were still possible.
Even in the midst of a disastrous Greyhound bus trip across the country with a frigid female companion in the summer of 2000, I still managed to catch Jason Arnott's overtime goal behind the analog fuzz of a tiny TV atop the diner refrigerator in a charmless Calgary bus station.
But last night, after the entirely predictable (yet obviously unfathomable to Canuck "enthusiasts") Game 7 loss, I couldn't tear myself away from the CBC affiliate in Vancouver. Soon after their Cup hopes were efficiently extinguished by the Bruins, the civic humiliation escalated right under the paternalistic eye of the national broadcaster.
Not to exaggerate, but I was spellbound with a morbid fascination while witnessing, at a digital remove, the desecration of my familiar lieux de memoire in the downtown core. So little of that downtown has changed, it seems, since I spent the better part of a decade in that city. I probably know that downtown better than I do the downtown where I now live. The iconoclastic stripping of the altars around Georgia, Granville and all the other familiar streets had a surprising emotional impact on me. With the exception of the dear friends that I made while I was there, some of whom still reside in that beautiful city, Vancouverites always seemed, to me at least, unnaturally frozen under a patina of affected coolness and detachment which supposedly rendered them unencumbered by the societal stresses of the East, towards which they often wagged an empathetic or condescending finger.
But underneath there seemed to be a repressed sense of marginalia and neglect, leavened with a bizarre sense of superiority and entitlement.
When that reaches a boiling point, and the primordial sludge bubbles to the surface (it penetrates far beyond the parochial yet passionate milieu of NHL hockey), all it seems to take is a few combustibles and an igniting agent.
What bothered me most about watching things unfold last night was less about the fully loaded cretins who were burning and looting, but rather the non-participants who were obviously enjoying the spectacle of watching, and photographing/videotaping with their insipid 'smart' phones, the property and psychological damage being inflicted on both their home city and their international reputation. Smilin' and wavin' to the rest of the world as the flames flickered. The downtown, not to mention the social order, was momentarily turned upside down during a bizarre charivari of carnivalistic mob rule while the police watched from the sidelines. I have to believe that any global currency that the city and province might have accrued during the hosting of the 2010 Olympics (itself a problemmatic "event", but that's a debate for another day) went up in smoke bombs and tear gas last night.
Which begs the question. If Sid hadn't have squeezed that puck through Ryan Miller's short side, what might have happened in downtown Vancouver? Surely nothing of the sort that took place last night, as the 'international community' was there to chaperone. When left to their own devices and resources, its a different outcome, apparently.
Last night, I kept waiting for Hugh Dillon's elite reponse unit to show up and restore some order.