do the evolution

I had a wonderful day yesterday.

I walked the dog to Willows Beach, where dozens of Oak Bay residents were sunning themselves in freak 30C weather. It was so pretty, and everyone was so happy! And people always stop me to tell me how gorgeous Riley is. (He’s a very pretty retriever. He’s just got ADHD)

And after I came home, the tide came in a bit, and I went swimming. Swimming in the Northwest is sort of taking one’s life into one’s own hands. The water is about 55, at best. It’s easier to slide into when the tide comes in, because the shoreline water heats to 60-ish as it comes over the rocks. But it’s still REALLY REALLY COLD. I almost gave up after wading in to my thighs and feeling every blood vessel contract and the cold bite in.

Fortunately, I have a subcutaneous fat layer. I’m not overweight; I’m just part harbour seal! And this is my native environment, after all. I used to swim half an hour, twice a week, in that water. So I reminded myself of that, slid into the water, and after a couple initial shudders, swam out towards San Juan.

And it was so worth the cold! The water here is perfectly clean (compared to Los Angeles, at least) and clear, and feels like silk. It seems denser than the ocean in SoCal. It’s smoother, somehow, a different texture. And it is, to me, a part of coming home, a symbol, swimming in the water that is as much a part of my home here as the land is. Being in that water – being able to swim in it – makes me feel like I belong here like nothing else does.

Actually, speaking of native creatures, the local seals are AWOL. Tourists were swarming the Marina yesterday, so that might be why, but a couple kids were chucking seal snacks (chopped herring) into the water off the docks, and the five resident harbor seals didn’t show up. I walked around the docks a bit, looking for them, but they didn’t show up. I love those seals – they’re like pets, and they’re ludicrously cute – so I hope they come back soon. Maybe someone tried to feed them canned tuna again.

Later in the evening last night, I found myself half-drunk, dancing gleefully to Pulp’s “Common People” on a dance floor in Old Victoria, at Evolution. I adore Evolution because it’s always 1996 in there. I think it has been since the club opened in 1999. Even when the songs antedate that late-90s GenX golden era, they’re still in the same genre. So it doesn’t seem out of place to hear “Du Hast” and “Somebody Told Me” within five minutes of each other.

We alternated between Evolution and Hush over the course of the evening. Hush used to be Rumours, a gay bar. Then girls started going there to dance without getting hassled by straight guys. Then the straight guys followed them. Then the club shut down and reincarnated and now no one knows what it is. Except that it has a DJ that plays rave-style techno – and really, I didn’t have enough of anything in my system to dance like that for more than twenty minutes without getting bored. (“LIGHT SWITCH RAVE!”)

Actually, usually in the course of a night at Evolution, I’m pretty much guaranteed to hear:

  • Nine Inch Nails’ “Closer”
  • Rob Zombie’s “Living Dead Girl”
  • Underworld’s “Born Slippy”
  • at least one Linkin Park track
  • a random Garbage track
  • the latest Hot Hot Heat (go, local boys!)

It’s like the mid-90s never ended! I suppose, in a way, in my hometown, they never have. The economy didn’t turn around for Victoria the way it did the rest of the world. It’s a bit of an alternate dimension, 1996 +9 rather than 2005. And that’s exactly what I like about Evolution – it is like a quick parallel step to an existence I left behind when I walked onto a boat to Seattle on May 1, 1998.

Evolution is also where every freak and misfit in Victoria goes, and I suppose I qualified well enough for that by mid-1997. It’s where you find the goths, the metalheads, the punks, the nerds. I immediately ran into one of the girls I went to school with, who was also an alternative-type by the end of Oak Bay High. I might be the arrving party queen of West L.A., but unfortunately, when re-introduced to the Victorian underground, I find, I really haven’t changed that much in the seven years since I left the Island. I’m still a psuedo-goth from a small Canadian city underneath everything I’ve lacquered onto that in L.A. – and it is a long way from the Standard rooftop bar to a dark club in Chinablock.

So yesterday was a fantastic day – but a bit strange, because most of my life is so far from here. Because I’m home so infrequently, and have been gone for seven years, days like yesterday are more like returning to 1997 than just visiting a physical location. It makes me happy enough to be here, but it might make it a little hard to leave, when I have to, tomorrow afternoon. Being home with a different perspective, appreciating Victoria so much more than I did as a teenager, will make getting on a ferry more difficult.

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