Vancouver's current frenzy of real estate speculation is no secret so I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised, driving along Burrard Street on the weekend, to discover that a hole in the ground has replaced one of the city's well known business establishments, the Art of Loving sex shop.
Normally the Art of Loving would not be considered a literary landmark, but it played a delightful cameo in my own publishing history.
In 2006 I published a book about the history of prostitution in Vancouver, Red Light Neon. The publisher, my friend George Fetherling, decided it would be a clever idea to hold the launch party at the Art of Loving, which it was.
About fifty people crammed into the small store, sipping wine and beer amid glass cases of assorted sex toys. The easily-embarrassed among us hardly knew where to look. It gave my wife special pleasure to see our son tending bar in front of a wall hung with whips and other bondage paraphernalia. My one-year-old grandson was there, playing happily on the floor with a basket of vibrating rubber ducks (don't ask me), the only objects in the room that seemed age-appropriate.
One friend arrived late. He had disembarked from the bus a block away and wandered into the Art of Living furniture store, thinking to himself that even for a literary event this one seemed remarkably poorly attended.
Even the gossip columnist from the Vancouver Sun was there, presumably attracted by the offbeat location. He snapped a photograph of myself with two members of my old-timers basketball team who had managed to make it. At one point I found myself in conversation with a very friendly woman who introduced herself as Madame Scarlet. I believe she bought a copy of the book.
I have had many book launches over the years but this one has to be the most memorable so I was a bit saddened to note the disappearance of the store. However, checking on the internet, I discovered that the Art of Loving has simply moved, not closed. For those of you who are interested, you can find your "practical tools for increasing intimacy" here.