What a beautiful day for a bike ride… so, off I went, on a long one.
Usually, these rides wind up down by the water somewhere… Spanish Banks, Kits, out by Science World, English Bay, Stanley Park. I always manage to wind up at one of them. Today, it was most of them. And certainly, almost always, Vanier Park –- that beautiful, wide-open green space behind the Planetarium. Back in the 90s, when I lived near Granville Island, I was there almost daily. I’d usually walk west from my place… sometimes so lost in thought, I’d suddenly (well, a few hours later) find myself at UBC and have to take a bus back home.
But Vanier Park… there were two reasons I loved that spot. One, my favourite bench (which is still there, overlooking the water) and two… Ray Bethell.
If that name doesn’t ring a bell, it’s about to… because if you were ever down there at some point over the last 40 years, you’ll almost certainly remember the guy whose kite flying was so out-of-this-word that it was hard to imagine that what you were seeing was actually real. The guy flying three kites at once; one from each hand, the third tied to his waist, all three synchronized and doing acrobatics that were hard to believe and astonishingly beautiful.
I got to know Ray pretty well back then, and I’d often stop and chat with him. In fact, when he passed away in December of 2018, I wrote a little bit about it… back in the days when I didn’t post much to Facebook, haha. You can read it here:
And so today, as I was riding around that corner that used to be his turf, I thought about an interesting aspect of his life; he was older than I am today when he picked up his first kite. He then lived another 38 years… where, over time, he simply became the best in the world. As I wrote in that piece, whether you’ve seen him doing his thing or not, go re-live some memories and/or prepare to be astonished. Just Google the name or find him on YouTube. The dark, leathery tan… the wide grin… the unique cap. A lot of tattoos, with a lot of stories to go with them. And, of course, the kites.
It just goes to show, sometimes you can teach an old dog new tricks. Ray himself had a most interesting life, an eclectic collection of jobs. It was after he retired that he took up kites… which led to sponsorships and world travel and a whole 2ⁿᵈ act of his life.
Especially for those from whom this pandemic has been a life pause/reset/restart… or, at least, has led to some sort of introspection that further leads to thinking “what next” -– there you go. It’s never too late to do something else… and to eventually be doing it far better than you ever imagined.