fear & loathing in Lotusland

A River Will Run Through It

by Zbigniew

“River District is Southeast Vancouver’s newest and largest waterfront community.”

” … River District will offer a new way to live, work and play in Vancouver.”

“… fronting the river, will be Pier Point, aptly named after its iconic pier. Condominium apartments here will offer easy access to tree-lined trails by the water.”

“To the east is Avalon, named for the extensive park that repeat. [sic] The area has a great expanse of public greenspace for sport and recreation. Here, homes will be multi-family, many with excellent elevated views over the river towards Mount Baker.”

“The Future is Here”


River District

Vancouver Flood Plain


by Zbigniew

Responding to the rampant speculation surrounding Mayor Gregor Robertson’s separation from Amy Robertson, his spouse of 30 years, undeclared Non-Partisan Association (Party) mayoralty candidate Kirk LaPointe declared:

“As a journalist, I have had many opportunities to report on the private lives of public figures. I long ago concluded that, unless there is an impact on duties, those matters are irrelevant.”

That’s a principled sentiment, one that both harkens back to a time when the Washington press corps kept schtum on a sitting president’s sincere and open interest in nailing anything in a skirt, yet allows space for the baroque excesses of Our Ford.

But what does LaPointe mean by “duties”?

My youthful civic lessons, “social studies”, imbedded in me the idea that the ultimate duty of elected officials was to balance prevailing and often contradictory forces -economic and civic, private and public, capital and labour, commerce and art, freedom and security etc etc etc- in a manner that yielded the most benefit, for most people, most of the time.

Of course, only a minority was so inclined, and fewer achieved The Delicate Balance -and then not for very long.

Still the expectation –or hope- is there, I hope, that some are still dedicated to the duty of bolstering the public good, that there still remains an ember of the great mid-century liberal consensus.

Local governance suggests that we’ve clearly moved in the direction of a post-democracy.

The governing coalition is heavily funded by development forces and advances their agenda shamelessly. Heritage, parks, social diversity, views, the integrity of neighbourhoods, and the even long-term viability of the local economy combined do not effect a counterbalance –they don’t carry much weight.

At the same time they’ve abdicated their political authority. They’ve bought the old canard that the civil servants can be trusted. To the unelected they’ve handed over the political functions of consultation and the definition of the public agenda. With the city’s Planning & Development ruling the departmental hierarchy, the results are skewed, unrepresentative.

So, for the beholden, the self-neutered-but-still-nominally-in-control, what duties remain? Performance.

The play’s the thing. They’re characters in a spectacle entitled The City of Vancouver, a political soap opera of boosting, spinning, dodging, and –occasionally- damage control –as when the tower mania of the mandarins punches through the façade. Mostly, it’s endless campaigning for audience approval. Ringside are a bunch of guys in expensive suits, smoking cigars and throwing money onto the stage.

Politics as show business for ugly people -and Gregor: Mayor Handsome, the star of the show, and the hero: photogenic, green, and non-threatening. He’s had a long run, but the performance is looking old, tired, unconvincing, not quite so wholesome. And, for better or worse, that’s the issue.


It’s sunny and hot. I’m enjoying lunch on a patio, under the cool of an awning, in the shadow of cranes, by the water, with Inge Finge.

“So, who the Mayor boning?” she asks.

That’s a great question.

The Grant McConachie Memorial Designated Smoking Area

by Zbigniew

This roadway is named in memory of

G. W. Grant McConachie.

Pilot, airline president, pioneer of northern flying and innovator of the jet age, whose contribution to Canadian aviation place him in the forefront of memory.

1909 – 1965

McConachie Plaque




by Zbigniew

My bike has a high profile: I chose it for comfort, not speed.

I ride for convenience, when it’s convenient. It’s the fastest, and the most predictable means of getting to work in fair weather. I don’t wear spandex, or those rigid shoes that clop like hooves, but dress shirt, slacks and shoes. I can say, with confidence, that I am the best dressed cyclist on Adanac-Union. Of a sunny weekday morning, you can find me lagging behind the pack, on a leisurely fifteen minute door-to-door, near sweat-free commute.

I don’t wear earbuds, because they interfere with my senses and that’s unsafe. I don’t wear a helmet because I follow the rules of the road and it interferes with my Euro style and worldly sensibility: who wears a helmet in Amsterdam, or Rome, or even Toronto? Bureaucrats, maybe.


A beautiful morning: dry and sunny, with a light cool snap against my cheeks.
I ride north on Penticton. Turning left on Adanac, I get a bad vibe, an anxiousness, from a black, over-sized BMW SUV, turning to the same direction from the north.

With a solitary vehicle a half-block away heading east, the BMW pulls up right behind me, and instead of waiting for the oncoming vehicle to clear, pulls out, forward, and cuts right across my path. I brake, swerve, and shout in quick succession. To my surprise, the BMW stops.

I ride up to the passenger side.

Now, my usual approach in such circumstances is to engage the driver with the goal of exacting recognition of the fault and then move on. While this may be challenging given adrenaline levels, I tend to reserve a rather disagreeable temper for those popularly categorized as “assholes” –the congenitally unreasonable.

In the passenger seat: a surly teenaged girl. In the driver’s presumably her mother –she did not have a nuanced grasp of English. And so:

“You cut me off.”

No response. “You almost hit me. You know, with your car.”

“No,” says she.

“Uh … yes!” says I.

“You’re not wearing a helmet.”

I asked her whether it was okay to kill cyclists if they’re not wearing a helmet. Somewhere in there I apparently employed a “fucking” or two, like “fucking cyclists” or “fucking helmets,” or maybe both. I can’t recall this part precisely.

“Don’t swear: my daughter.”

At this point I pulled the pin on a grenade that I find effective when dealing with people from certain cultures; ie. those that do not have a strong tradition of democracy or embody an innate fear of authority.

“I’m going to report you.” This was ridiculous, of course, but I retrieved my phone and went through the motions of photographing her front plate.

This produced a prolonged verbal explosion from the driver. While the precise content eluded me, I was of the distinct impression that she was upset. She drove off -this time making a wide berth to avoid me. I was sorry to see her go, as we were getting somewhere.

She stopped for the light at Nanaimo, and again I cycled up to the passenger window. The daughter kept her eyes half-focused on some indeterminate point in the distance.

I suggested that given the obvious amount of capital available to her to purchase such an expensive vehicle, that she might want to consider directing a small portion to education on its proper use –something like that, anyways.

Apparently swearing in front of her child was no longer a high priority, as mom flipped me the bird, waving it about erratically, shouting “Fuck you!” repeatedly until the light turned green and she drove off, pulling into the Templeton parking lot.

My job done, I rode on.

My pace was leisurely. My senses were unobstructed.

I yielded as necessary. I halted at Vernon, for the dangerous dogleg connecting it with Union, even as other helmeted and iPod-enhanced cyclists blew off the stop.

Not for me, such indiscretions.

But I was wary -of the occasional car that sped by, or those that burst across Union to effect a rush hour shortcut.

I pondered the narrow physical gap and the wide social gulf, and questioned the rationality of my choices, for I don’t live in Amsterdam, or Rome, or Toronto, even.

The Candidate

by Zbigniew

This is how I heard it.

Joel Solomon & co. are fishing around for a mayoral candidate for November 2008.

Ideally said candidate could plausibly smooth over the inevitable inconsistencies of Green policy tied to big capital. An autocrat with a progressive face, that’s the desired catch.

David Levi was the first choice. A former stock broker and Vancity Board Chair, and social venture capitalist with affiliations in sustainable energy and the non-profit sector, he fit the bill nicely.

Alas, Levi came with far too much baggage. Being the son of former New Democratic Party cabinet minister Norm Levi wasn’t too detrimental, but David had a prolonged stint as an NDP bagman –not exactly the cleanest of jobs.

And this job needed clean, unburdened, fresh. “Green” in more than one sense.

So, from the clothing optional hot tub at Hollyhock, Solomon and co. are pondering their next move, when the question is posed: “what about him?” I imagine an inclined head focusing attention across the tepid and bubbling divide, to the failed medical student turned farmer, organic juice magnate and Member of the Legislative Assembly for Vancouver-Fairview.

“Telegenic.” Oh, yes.

“Light as a feather.” Yes, but that has its advantages, too.

The fish didn’t put up much of a fight.

Seen in Passing: Granville & Smithe

by Zbigniew

Granville & Smithe

Hat tip to Johnny Drift

Even Worse: The 2014 Worst of Vancouver Survey

by Zbigniew

High-priced basement suite rents got you down?

Ceaseless construction noises rattling your thoughts?

Lost all faith in the local democratic process?

Channel that despair into the 2014 Worst of Vancouver Survey. Smart-ass invective most welcome.

To take the survey just click below:


Survey closes July 1, 2014.

Greenest City Chainsaw Mash-up

by Zbigniew


by Zbigniew

Perusing DOXA’s 2014 guide, I came across an advert from media sponsor CBC:


Several elements caught my attention: the rictus smiles, the highly managed hair and makeup, the cardboard-cut-out-against-skyline-background cheesiness. Wither the Mother Corp? It’s getting harder and harder to distinguish the public broadcaster from its private counterparts, both in wrapping and content.

I found some relief from the plastic in the construction crane sticking out of the part in Rene Fillippone’s sculpted hairdo. Oh, those ubiquitous cranes.


I can’t speak to its origin, but this delineation of Downtown Eastside neighbourhoods seems to be the “offical” take. Certainly, it was recently employed by the City of Vancouver in its Downtown Eastside Local Area Plan:

DTES-LAPP1_0Gastown, Chinatown, Strathcona. I draw your attention in particular to Oppenheimer, or as its officially known, the Downtown Eastside Oppenheimer District.

On May 2nd I came across this on CBC’s website: Could Railtown be Vancouver’s next Yaletown?

“Old warehouses and factories are giving way to restaurants and furniture shops, fashion studios and offices for high-tech firms.” The primary draw of course are rents: between $14 and $22 per square foot, about half of the price of neighbouring Gastown.

That the juggernaught is rolling east is not exactly news -recall the land play that all but destroyed 439 Powell. What’s extraordinary about this article is the accompanying map:


Oppenheimer has been swallowed near-whole by “Railtown,” the previously unofficial appellation of a modest strip of Railway & Alexander streets from Gore to … Princess? Heatley, maybe.

From SoMa to NoLo, the rebranding of neighbourhoods is popular tactic. It’s bottom-line savvy to create someplace from a suburban nowhere. Or, to erase and replace existing and troubled associations. Would you be more inclined to purchase one bedroom + den 550 sq. foot granite countertop condo in Railtown or the Downtown Eastside Oppenheimer District?

The article –which, curiously, lacks an attributed author- makes repeated references “Railtown,” while the Downtown Eastside is mentioned only once in a quote by Hastings Crossing BIA representative Wes Regan.

Its a pretty tight frame frame for a story, something more usually seen on Global or CTV?

There’s a story that matters here. But what is it?


I’m awaiting the DOXA screening of Shameless Propaganda, a history of the early years of the NFB and Cancon agitprop, when the CBC ad comes up in the projected pre-show rotation. But something’s different in this version.

I catch it when it comes around again. It’s Rene’s hair. The construction crane: it’s gone -erased.


Seen in Passing: Cordova & Seymour

by Zbigniew


Rubbish Detail