First visit to Heritage Hall
We left Calgary at lunchtime on a Friday. The wedding was at 7pm. We drove a blue Pontiac Transport minivan like it was a Cold War space shuttle. But there are only so many hours one can pick up crossing the Rockies. We got one on the time zone change at the BC border, and three-quarters of another on an empty Coquihalla.
In our haste, we hadn’t brought a map—nor an address for Heritage Hall—we just knew it was in Vancouver on Main Street. So that summer evening I caught quick, scattered glimpses of the street from the corner of my eye. I remember seeing the constituency office of Libby Davies. I remember Margaret Mead quotes plastered onto the side of an old building. I remember thinking how easy life would be if sushi were as cheap and plentiful as it appeared to be on Main Street, and that a small group of people really could change the world.
Behind a dumpster on Watson, we changed into crinkled wedding guest attire. We had missed the ceremony, managing to conspicuously slip in just after dinner. A stranger at our table, a musician, had saved us two plates of food, and made eager introductions. It turned out the groom had recorded, engineered and mixed a big chunk of the music we would listen to that night—much of it created by those in attendance. There was a table with musicians from 54-40. At another, a photographer, who had exhibited work about the neighbourhood at the Tate Modern. Relaxing, finally, with a very hoppy beer, on the steps of Heritage Hall, after our white knuckle drive, I had two thoughts. The first: so THIS is Vancouver’s Main Street. (I had drastically underestimated its larger significance.) The second, which hasn’t left my subconscious several years later: Who is Eugene Choo? And where had he been?
In the years that followed the wedding, Main Street became my first stop on any visit to Vancouver. Then it became a temporary base. And then my home. (I had lived off Centre Street in Calgary and always felt an affinity for the declivity of Main.) I would attend little art shows and comic conventions and Diwali celebrations and rigged rezoning hearings at Heritage Hall. And, of course, more weddings. The couple from the first wedding now has two girls. And not a week goes by that I don’t wonder about Eugene Choo. My short-term relationship with this street can be summed up as: “late.” But also as having somehow returned myself.
If you google Eugene Choo, you’ll find as lovely a description of the neighbourhood as I have come across:
“Mount Pleasant started out as a densely wooded hilltop marked only with a deeply rutted wagon trail, a few isolated farms attempting to carve orchards out of rain forest and a simple cottage that acted as mercantile.
Today that cottage is Eugene Choo. Racks that once held fishing rods, woolens and bolts of cloth now carry the necessities of a modern life. Tailored suits, hoodies and dresses line the walls alongside books, t-shirts and handmade shoes.
Proprietor Kildare Curtis is proud to sell the best in Canadian and international design, in the community of Mount Pleasant since 2000.
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