Wednesday, March 30, 2011

King Robert Pays a Royal Visit

We were honoured by a royal visit from one-of-a-kind, incomparable Bob Nagel. At the airport we initially looked in vain for Robert and were approached by a shaggy old hippie. I reached into my pocket for some loose change before realizing the old bum was Robert himself. Wow. He hasn't had a haircut in nearly a year, having decided he wants to enjoy a ponytail before checkout time. Good on him.

Robert knows how to have a good time like no one else of my acquaintance. That's why I and all the others who know him elbow each other for the privilege of hanging out with the old guy. Mary and Mike are among the elbowers. They came for supper and partook of an evening of irreverence and raucous ribaldry. No one called the police.

We took him on a little grand tour -- to Granville Island and Gastown in Vancouver, to Bowen Island where niece Sarah has a new domicile with Pier and two-year-old Teo, to Coquitlam to see soon-to-be-three Lexi and those other people she lives with.

I had completely misconceived Bowen Island: I imagined it an enclave for BMW-driving Howe Street types but no, it turns out to be more like Lasqueti Island, where long hair and Patchouli oil are still in vogue. Sarah and her guys live on the side of a rainy mountain slope. On Friday evening a trusty woodstove kept us warm. Teo liked the red fire engine we brought for him and took it to be bed at slumber time. On Saturday morning we all hiked to Dorman Point, soaked up the views across English Bay to UBC and Wreck Beach then we caught the noon ferry.

It is good for us that Lexi loves the outdoors. Her entourage joined her for a perambulation through the big wood across the road. We exchanged pleasantries with squirrels and turned over logs in search of salamanders and rough-skinned newts but had to settle for centipedes and sow bugs instead.

Robert is ordinarily not a big eater but the Pacific Buffet on the ferry back to Vancouver Island was altogether too tempting even for him. He pronounced it a feast to remember.

Marc and Cai made Bob's acquaintance two summers ago, in Cape Breton. Like so many others they fell victim to Bob's charms instantly. On returning from a day and a half-long trip to PEI they greeted us not with 'Hey it's great to see you!' but with a querulous 'Where's Bob!?' So of course they too elbowed their way to the front of the queue for a merry meet-and-greet.

On Tuesday we climbed Mount Wells to look for warblers and ogle the early satinflower extravaganza. Now bear in mind that Nagel is in his 82nd year; nonetheless he was the one with energy to spare for a flurry of show tunes all the way up the hill. Pal Judith returned in the nick of time after several weeks in Cuba; on the last evening she came to have her way with her old friend.

There was just one problem: it all ended too soon. Robert stayed eight days and then it was done. There is consolation. We can comfort ourselves in the knowledge true and certain that, if we're spared, in just a matter of weeks festivities resume on the opposite coast.

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