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Last updated on 8 June 2008

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Friday, August 27th, 2004

Nanaimo! (There’s a star there to indicate where it is!

The New VI station in Nanaimo is so darned cute. It is hard to believe it is so tiny when one sees it on tv. (Having said that, it is astonishing to see the size of most studios…they are so wee. Perhaps the size of a larger room, but that’s pretty much it. I guess the camera adds 10 feet as well as 10 pounds!) Located on the main street of Nanaimo, it consists of one big studio room with a small kitchen and unisex bathroom in the back. I arrived at 6:25 am and unloaded the car of Sea Monkey toys and books. The street was fairly quiet, save one very hungover or still drunk from the night before man who tried repeatedly to open the security door of the ATM.

The New VI!

I set up the tanks and Sea Monkeys on a high orange table with a rubber top, then went to meet my fellow guests. Ron was billed as a “New VI commercial star” — he owns a few tires companies in town and pays for advertising on the station. He was asked to cook a meal and chose dates wrapped with bacon, which smelled incredible, sesame seed coated salmon, and caesar salad, although he failed to bring the Parmesan cheese. The woman there, whose name I have completely forgotten, was the representative from the Island North Film Commission. She was there to speak about movies and television shows which have been filmed in the area.

Have your say at Speakers’ Corner! Just put in a $1.00 and talk for a minute!

I went out for a smoke and wandered about the complex, debating whether or not I should plug a loonie into the Speakers’ Corner box for a laugh. I opted not to do so, primarily because I figured I’d say what I wanted on the show. Besides, I’m really cheap some times.

Wake up early and catch the fun!

The usual host, Bruce Williams, was not present, so entertainment reporter Adam Sawatsky hosted the programme. He was very nice and funny, and had quite the talent for the segues from one guest to another. For instance, both Ron and I had brought bobble heads — his of Bibendum, the Michelin tire guy, mine, obviously, of Sea Monkeys — and he held those up together to talk about both of us. Another time he called the anchor woman, someone in Victoria named Astrid, a Sea Monkey.

“New Day” has an interesting set up. On a usual morning show, one arrives, sets up, has some beverages, and waits. You will be asked to appear from say 7:49 to 7:54, then go away until you are called upon again — say from 8:49 to 8:54. On “New Day”, all three of us sat in various corners of the set and Adam visited with us all at random moments. It offered us less time per interview, but allowed me more time to think of what I could say next, what I wanted to focus on after the commercial break. It was great, but I think the woman from the film commission was annoyed because I really did ramble on at times. Oh well, I, for one, was pleased. The host spent quite some time at my table, talking about the book and showing the Sea Monkeys. We managed to do a little racing, and he must have read at least five poems out of the book. Yep, well pleased!

An outdoor view of the New VI studio in Nanaimo

Astrid, the aforementioned news anchor in contact with us only by satellite and the hearing impaired text that scrolled on the screen, did not seem impressed with Adam’s constant reference to Sea Monkeys. I personally thought it was hilarious, but she seemed to have difficulty naming our competitors for the race. I think she chose Daisy and Oswaldo or something similar.

The programme ended at 9:00, but I lingered for a bit to speak to the others. Turns out Adam Sawatsky is a closet Coronation Street fan, so we grumbled for a bit about the pre-emption of the show for the freakin’ Olympics! Very cool.

A little more downtown Nanaimo!

Raymond, the Sea Monkey guy, called just as I left the show, so I called him back and he told me how great I was…you have to love that! I returned to the hotel shortly thereafter, and we packed and left for the day. We stopped at Commercial Street again and wandered a bit. We had planned to make a drive out to Coombs first, a town north of Nanaimo to see the shop with the goats on the roof. Turns out the goats are gone, but the girl at the gas station said the grass was still there. We didn’t really feel that seeing grass on the roof of a shop was worth a full 30 minute drive, so we left. (“Look mom! Grass on the roof!” “Well, I never. Better get a picture to show the folks at home!”)

We stopped at a non-profit second hand book store operated by Nanaimo Literacy. We bought two books, then wandered down the street to a thrift store to buy some cutlery. No forks, no spoons, but they did have a wonderful set of sporks. We passed.

Nothing cooler than a pirate!

We found a cafe called Pirate Chips. They sold…wait for it…chips, as well as other fried savouries such as a deep fried Nanaimo bar with ice cream (Is the ice cream fried? There are some things man was not meant to know!) As Love Ken loves pirates and as I needed to do my good deed for Good Friday, I dropped off a Sea Monkey sunken treasure tank. Pirate Sea Monkeys for a pirate based shop. The girl at the counter seemed genuinely weirded out by my act, but I felt great, so it’s all good.

(The whole good deed on Friday thing — called Good Friday — is part of Join Me, a group whose only goal is to make other people happy by doing good deeds. We’re the Karma Army, and we’re spreading good cheer!)

We left Nanaimo around noon for Victoria, a 100 km trip on Highway #1. After twenty minutes or so we saw a sign for Chemainus, home of outdoor murals and sculptures, and we decided to take a peek.

A mural in Chemainus.

I chose a stupid place to park, considering there was a huge middle of the town lot, but it worked out in the end. We walked along, first passing the public square with the statue of the snipe hunters and a magnificent mural of Native peoples. We saw the mural for the first white girl born in town in the late 1800’s. We saw the post office mural, the telephone company mural, and various others celebrating the lumber industry in town. A magnificent one adorned the side of the post office, one commemorating those who died in WWI and WWII. It showed a crying family who had just received a telegram advising their loved one had died. On one corner rode a man on a bicycle who delivered the mail, and in the middle a copy of the telegram with “we regret to advise…” So tragic.

The secret garden. Sit and rest a while.

The murals were amazing, and the streets were lined by small shops in older period homes and mini-malls. The secret garden behind a few shops held painted yellow benches and a lovely gazebo, which invited people to sit for a while, as long as they took away their litter and cigarette butts. All the benches circled a ring of grass. Just lovely. We stopped for fudge, and then a home-made lunch of leek and potato soup, grilled cheese sandwich, and a shared piece of coconut creme pie. All was fresh and lovely, and the pie actually tasted of coconut instead of sugary sweet cream. Amazing!

A good time was had by all at the snipe hunt!

We ended our tour of the town at the snipe statue, a sculpture of two men waiting with bag and lantern beside the river, looking for snipes. The story ends with “and they all had a good laugh” when you know that the snipe hungers probably beat the hell out of someone for making them stand by the river all night, and then they might have laughed as they grew drunker and drunker.

We left the town around 1:30 and began our drive down to Victoria. I am quite ignorant about the geography of the Island; I was completely surprised that we drove up and down the Malahat mountain. Okay, so it only reached about 350 metres, but it was still impressive. I have come to learn that there are actually glaciers on some of the mountains, so there are ones much higher. Just shows how little we know about our own backyard (I have said you could spend your entire life just travelling around BC and not see all of it. I think I need to amend that to travelling around the Island! There is so much here!)

Victoria is highlighted in blue!

We arrived at Victoria around 3:30 or so, even though I had taken the wrong road — Douglas instead of Blanshard. We stopped in at the Dominion Hotel, a place at which I had booked us for three nights. There was a bad vibe there from the beginning. First, they had us down as a non-smoking room. Then the price was elevated by $10 from the quoted rate on the phone a few weeks ago and we would have to pay for local phone calls, meaning it would cost me money just to pick up my e-mail. Then, we were advised that we would have to take our own bags to the room. (“What do you expect when you get a discount at a downtown hotel?” I expect some freakin’ service!) The final straw and the one that annoyed me the most was the $9.00 a day parking fee for the parking lot next door. Not only was it insecure with only 14 spots for the entire hotel, but in the middle sat a drive through liquor store. This may not seem like much, but as one who has had her car broken into more times than I can count, this worries me a great deal. I had such a bad feeling that the only thing I could do was ask for a refund. The woman helping us apparently offered us one, but I honestly didn’t hear that. I missed this as she was speaking so quietly, and only heard the end of this statement — they had already had three cancellations that day, and I would have to talk to the manager. I waited to speak with her, and was that a mistake or what? What an obsequious cow. She called me “ma’am” repeatedly and reminded me of their 48 hour cancellation policy. I asked her to call me Susan instead of ma’am and told her that I was aware of this policy but felt that it was irrelevant as I was not comfortable there. She was quite rude to me, but kept the smile on her face. I told her I was concerned we would have to carry our own bags from the car upstairs. She offered us free phone calls and a lower rate, but I declined again. (Yes, I’m stubborn but I was really annoyed.) Then I told her that this was no way to treat a writer doing interviews in town, and I think this was the moment she went ballistic, although I couldn’t tell with that fake smile adorning her face. She told me she would refund my money, then asked me to leave. I was not rude, did not swear, and in no way gave any indication I would be violent or too loud. She just wanted me out of there. I went outside and waited for my money. She came out, pounded money into my hand, and I told her I wanted to go inside to talk about this. She told me I was not welcome inside. Wow, what a reaction. I guess she isn’t accustomed to people actually speaking to her properly, instead of doing the annoying sales person thing of “yes, ma’am I understand. I am hearing you say…” stuff. Anyway, we ended up at the Traveller’s Inn a few miles down the road and everything worked out well.

I have come to realize we are motel, not hotel, people. I am tired of places charging too much, then charging for all the things you get free at a motel…parking, water, phone calls. I have stayed in two high quality hotels — the Pan Pacific in Vancouver and the Harrison in Harrison Hot Springs (both paid for by someone else) — and I didn’t think they were all that great. Sure, the Hot Springs had the hot springs, but otherwise there wasn’t much to talk about. The cafe and restaurant were okay, but we only ate there because we had vouchers for freebies. The Pan Pacific had air conditioning problems one time, and guests had to pay for parking at an inflated rate and pay for use of the gym! What’s up with that??? I have given up on hotels and booking in advance. I’ll wait to see the place and then make up my mind!

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