This summer really was beginning to feel like the summers of the “before times”.
You know, the time when we didn’t have to think about a deadly virus wiping out tens of thousands of people and the political and medical crisis that followed. This was when most of us lived carefree lives and looked forward to connecting with friends and family near and far before the start of another school year.
For Eric (the hubster) and I, we finally began planning trips again that were put on hold these past two years. Vancouver, British Columbia, is a city we thoroughly enjoy and it has been a regular summer destination prior to the pandemic. Because of our mutual love of contemporary architecture, Canadian culture, and the delicious culinary options, Vancouver has a lot to offer. We’ve been going to the great white north so often that we’ve developed some great friendships there too. The other big draw for us are fireworks. Yes, fireworks. In July, Vancouver hosts an annual international fireworks competition which is one of the largest displays on the continent (Celebration of Light).
By the way, this event isn’t a celebration of the American Fourth of July holiday!
Over the years, we have seen some truly amazing pyrotechnics here ranging from various shapes, cascading waterfalls, and even some that rise and fall and rise again in the night sky. All of this plays out at the scenic English Bay. This was the 30th year of this event (except in 2020 & 2021) and there were a record number of people in attendance (at least a million) including the spectators on boats and adjacent beaches.
The size of the crowds were massive! So much so, that Eric and I stationed ourselves close to an exit for a quick escape once the program was over. We weren’t being too paranoid about catching COVID here and could have easily worn a mask as some did at the event. Honestly, with the amount of cannabis wafting in the air, it would have been easier to catch a contact high than COVID. Which would probably explain why I was craving a bag of Nacho Cheese Doritos as we walked back to our hotel. Luckily this was Canada where more than 85% of Canadians have been vaccinated and the Celebration of Light was an outdoor event.
Since we would be traveling (flying) again later in the summer and fall, we agreed to mask in airports and planes to be extra safe. I had my 40-year high school reunion in San Diego coming up at the end of summer and I wanted to arrive there and return home to Portland with only glowing memories and in good health. At work, we periodically receive exposure notices in various departments and sections of our building, prompting me to mask again in elevators and small conference rooms with others. I already mask when riding transit so a few times in the office isn’t a big deal. Since we also work hybrid schedules in my office, with one required office day, that leaves plenty of space to move about on the additional days I’m in the office.
As the summer’s warm months quickly rolled by, it was finally time for our trip to San Diego. The last time Eric and I were there was 10 years ago for another of my high school reunions. This time was special though. Not only because of my high school reunion, but I was also having a reunion with my former castmates for a show I performed in at SeaWorld San Diego called City Streets (I’m in the yellow hoodie.) some 30+ years ago. I left the show and moved to Los Angeles prior to its official closing some time in the 90s and hadn’t seen most of my castmates since.
Sidebar: We both used to live in San Diego which is where we met but I’ll save that story for Valentine’s Day!
After arriving in San Diego and getting settled at our hotel in Old Town, Eric and I grabbed an early dinner at one of his favorite Mexican spots Old Town Mexican Café to celebrate our mini weekend getaway. La comida de México (Mexican food) is Eric’s favorite type of food. If he could, he would eat it daily. I like Mexican food too, but Eric really loves the rich blend of flavors. We ordered a carnitas dinner for two and started off our dinner with an adult beverage, Margaritas. Sadly, these drinks were the worst Margaritas we’ve ever had. The drinks tasted like they used Mountain Dew for their Margarita mix or some other sweet and sour premix. When the server returned to ask how the drinks were, we we’re honest in our response. He suggested a different margarita next time but we declined for another. Dinner was delicious so at least we left with good food in our bellies!
After wandering around Old Town and reminiscing of the vague familiarity of the area, we met up with my friend Greg with his group of friends in Hillcrest for more adult beverages. Then Eric and I did something we haven’t done in years, we bar hopped. We wandered the gay boulevard of University Avenue and stopped at places new (AWOL – friendly staff with a great garden and Mexican food truck), and old (Flicks, Number One, Rail, Moe’s and back to Flicks again). It was the ultimate date night complete with dancing, something we haven’t done together in years. Looking into Eric’s eyes and seeing him smile was heartwarming.
When 1:30AM rolled around we called a Lyft and headed back to the hotel.
When morning arrived, we were in for a rude awakening. Without going into too much detail, I’ll just say we enjoyed ourselves immensely, Eric more than I. In fact, he spent the day in bed and missed the day’s events. The reunions were fun and it was a great time catching up with castmates and classmates. I was even asked to emcee my high school reunion and wrote a poem “1982, Then & Now” in their honor. The next day we would be returning back to Portland.
At the airport, I decided to do some reading at the gate as Eric explored the expanded airport since our previous visit years ago. I noticed that Eric wasn’t wearing his mask and muttered something about how most of the airport staff weren’t masked so he ditched his mask and I followed suit. The flight back to Portland was full and Eric, being the sweetheart that he is, sat in the middle seat next to an unmasked and sleeping passenger. The guy ended up sleeping from the moment he was seated in San Diego until we landed in Portland. I’m envious of people who can sleep in moving vehicles, I’m not one of those folks.
Anyway, days later Eric commented that he wasn’t feeling optimal but attributed that to his body still recovering from the previous weekend’s bar-hopping extravaganza (aka the 2022 Booze-a-Palooza tour) and continued to power through the week. I didn’t really think anything was wrong because after traveling he tends to feel worn down. Beds elsewhere are rarely as comfortable as our California King at home for my 6’6″ spouse.
On Thursday, I received a text, “Hun, I have COVID”! Ah, s*@t! I thought, and coordinated picking up Paxlovid for his recovery. I tested too when I got home and was negative. We’re lucky to have enough space to keep a safe distance from one another and be masked even when in the same room.
Within five days Eric was up and back at work following a negative COVID test. To be safe and sure, I tested again before heading back into the office and was again, negative.