Tough Love in Tuff City
by Malcolm Johnson, Tofino
Tofino, for most intents and purposes, is a decent enough town. The rents are manageable; the tap water is drinkable; the cops are honest; there's work to be had; there are parades and mom-and-pop groceries and a pharmacy and everything else a self-respecting small town should have. It's a good place to go for a surf or to wind down from city pace or to pretend to be as hip and with-it and painfully cool as the rest of Tofino's younger population. Yes, it seems that if you don't count the sore lack of an ice rink, Tofino is the ideal Canadian town, a sort of West Coast Mayberry. But for all its plenitudes, there is one irrevocable drawback - it is a terrible place to fall in love.
That this last statement is true is not to be doubted. But I have never quite understood why. It has always seemed to me that there are major incongruities in the romantic behaviours (or lack thereof) of Tofino's citizens. For one thing, the women constantly complain that "there aren't any good men here," and the men constantly complain that "yeah, there just aren't any good women here." These arguments obviously can't both be true; they are what are referred to in philosophical discourse as mutually negating. Tofino is a place with a disproportionate population of single humans in the 20 to 40 demographic, and the majority of them are good people of reasonable attractiveness.
So what is it, then? I'm not sure exactly, but it probably has something to do with the weather--the infinitely grey and depressing months which, instead of leading people into happy hibernation in one another's arms, instead inculcate sullen antisocial resentments against most everyone and everything as Seasonal Affective Disorder runs its winter course. And people in this town don't mix much; Tofino seems to willingly divide itself into incestuous social cliques, each with their own rigid boundaries enforced by habit, pattern, and the town's constantly churning mill of rumours and ad hominem slags.
But this, this is a new season, is it not? The equinox has passed. It is the time of emergences, of cherry blossoms and new growth, of birds and bees, of animals going looking for mates, of halter tops and bared calves and the reactivation of the slumbering libido. No matter how cold the winter, there's a springtime ahead, writes Ed Vedder on the new Pearl Jam album. So, for the deadlocked citizens of Tofino, and for the visitors in our midst, the following spring guide to local pick-up zones is provided. It's fertile ground out there; it's just a matter of gassing up the tractor, getting out there, and tilling the field.
The Pointe Restaurant
at the Wick
While this is probably the most challenging place to pick up in Tofino, it is also the most rewarding, because where else on this coast could you score a lonely, absurdly wealthy divorcee from New York City? A good pair of khakis or a slinky evening gown are required at the Pointe. Class and decorum are essential, as is the ability to order a sophisticated drink. Avoid Jack Daniels in favour of Maker's Mark, and Mission Hill in favour of a Baltani '75. When a single patron joins you at the bar, emphasize the hardship of living in an isolated backwater devoid of cultural stimulus, and appear stranded and waiting to be rescued, like a good sturdy ship that's been demasted. And emphasize the fact that you're a surfer or a boat mechanic or a kayak guide, just to make sure you adequately stir the opposite's desire to sample the rugged local goods. And if you make it back to a guest room, only three words need apply: double-soaker Jacuzzi.
Tough City Sushi
and Radar Hill
Every town needs at least one first date spot and one classic make-out spot. For our parents, the requisite first date was burgers and fries at the White Spot. For our generation, it's sushi. And Crazy Ron's manic stories about cattle ranching in Costa Rica will provide the levity need to smooth over those awkward silences that are inevitable on a first date.
If things go well, Radar Hill (which is our Mulholland Drive, our Tour Eiffel) is the place to go, with postcard sunset views and ample parking space. But beware fogged windows and the prowling rcmp.
The Long Beach
The return of spring means the return of evening glass-off surfs at Long Beach. And although this place is derided by locals as a mushy longboard wave (which it is), the parking lot on spring and summer nights is Canada's San Onofre, a scene full of warm vibes, mellow music, van doors thrown open, and the drifting aromas of surf wax and home-grown and logwood fire. The key here is to be friendly, low-key, accessible, and full of aloha. Avoid blatant surf cliches, like Jack Johnson or Sublime blaring from your stereo, and avoid excessive displays of kookdom or poseurism. If you play it as it lays and take the scene for what it is, Long Beach is a good place to meet some genuinely cool people. As that old song says, underneath the starry sky and the sea, there on the sands of Waikiki...
Every year, the Fairfield Thrifty's is voted the top place to pick up in Victoria. And the same formula applies here, albeit with a rural edge. Love, like eating, is one of the base instincts, and the two are very much connected. Plus, it's an easy-going atmosphere, with plenty of opportunity for small talk; and who doesn't want a mate who knows what to do with green chile or Boursin or avocado and lime? Also, the powers of Ritter Chocolate as an aphrodisiac have been proven by experience to be extremely potent.
The Devil Bar / Dirty Maq is by far and away the easiest place to pick up within city limits, especially on buck-a-beer and karaoke nights. It's also the venue that is most likely to cause you to wake up the next morning with a spinning headache and that sinking feeling that you did a whole bunch of things you shouldn't have the night before. It can be a sketchy place, but it's always entertaining, and there's guaranteed action of one kind or another. A word to visitors: the golden rule of travelling (never piss off the locals) is very much in effect here.
A quick word to men: the lineup is one of the worst possible places to try to make your case before the womenfolk. They're sick and tired of men puffing out their chests, paddling past them, and doing the I-Tarzan-You-Jane routine. Unless you surf like Slater or Raph Bruhwiler, which you don't, don't try to pretend that you do. Women in Tofino have seen surfing before, and they're not out there to be hit on. So lay off 'em in the water, and just remember that intelligence, character, and old-fashioned class on land will take you a long, long way, my brothers.
There you have it. It's an incomplete list, but it's a start. It is spring, and the peasants should get out there and plow the fields. And perhaps others will be doing the same; and perhaps this town ain't so bad a place to fall in love after all. And if not for love, you can at least get out there and do your part for the continuation of the species.
Malcolm Johnson has surfed, kayaked, and written the Tofino Experience for a number of years.