fear & loathing in Lotusland

Seen in Passing: Terminal & Station

by Zbigniew

Invasive Species


by Zbigniew

From CP Rail’s Community webpage:

“At CP we know that a railroad may serve as the arteries of a nation, but at its heart is community. That’s why through CP Has Heart, we’re committed to improving the heart health of men, women and children across North America. And along the way, we’re showing heart whenever we can.”


The Worst of Vancouver, 2014 Edition: “Winners”

by Zbigniew

Dear Scamcouverites:

Thank you for completing the second annual Worst of Vancouver Survey. Your wit, wry observations and outright contempt are a ray of light, miraculously shining through a dense forest of construction cranes, glass towers and the persistent fog of obfuscation.

And on to the results …

1. The worst excuse for a public park

Winner, by a nose: Main & 18th Park (with such a name, and that is the official title, how could it be otherwise?)


Also known as: “Poodle-on-a-Stick Park” and “That thing at 18th & Main Street”


  • Stanley Park (“Too many tourists.”)
  • Pigeon Park
  • “Dude Chilling Park”
  • “That one in Yaletown that has NO GRASS.”

Dissenter: “I think our parks are pretty good.”

2. The most annoying branding or re-branding of a neighbourhood

Hands-down winner: “The East Village”

Not Village


  • “Stay outta my fucking neighbourhood assholes! It’s Hastings-Sunrise for Christ’s Sake!!!”
  • “Like, do we think we’re fucking NYC? What a joke.”
  • “Let’s go one further: ‘E-Vil.’”


  • “SoMa”
  • “Railtown”
  • “Little Saigon” (“There is no Saigon. There is Ho Chi Minh City. Revisionism stinks.”)
  • “Strathcona Village”
  • “The Beach District”
  • “LoLo”
  • “NoLo”
  • “RoLo”*

* Just making this shit up.

3. The most egregious example of lost heritage

The Legg Residence: “They saved the fucking trees but not the house?”

Legg Residence

Of the many contenders:

  • Canada Post Main Office
  • Chinatown
  • The Ridge
  • The Waldorf
  • The Pantages Theatre
  • The Hollywood
  • “All the trees. Let’s call it natural heritage.”
  • Vancouver

4. The civic party most likely to split the vote in favour of the development coalition

And because there’s no oppositional consensus, it’s a tie: The Cedar Party & COPE

5. I know things are getting bad because …

  • “Leaky condos are back.”
  • “There are hardly any Vancouverites left in Vancouver.”
  • “Too many people seem to be fine with the fact that vancouver is becoming a playground for non resident super wealthy folks. They seem to think we will all benefit; sadly misguided.”
  • “I moved to New West because I can’t stand it in that yoga obsessed, snotbag, $3,000 a month city.”
  • “I am borrowing change from that homeless guy at Howe and Dunsmuir.”
  • “I shit myself on the bus and it didn’t smell any worse then before.”
  • “NPA sounds half-reasonable at times.”
  • “I read Scamcouver.”

6. If the scam in this town had a face, that face would belong to …

Winner, by a country mile: Mayor Gregor Robertson (specifically: “Gregor wearing one of Rennie’s argyle vests”)



  • “Beggar Robertson”
  • “Hi-Rise Robertson”
  • “Fucko McStooge.”

Personal favourite: “One of the Real Housewives of Vancouver.”

6908224954_83063a3b02_zPhoto: Stephen Hui (

7. “I’d check out ____________________, but there are just too many douchebags or hipsters there.”

“That’s a lousy attitude. The kind of attitude a douchbage or hipster would likely espouse.”

Winner: “Vancouver”


  • Food trucks
  • Any eatery on Main St.
  • “Crapt. I mean Craft.”

8. “The cost of living in Vancouver is so high, and the jobs so shite, that ____________________ is starting to look like a viable option.”

The big winner: “Toronto”

The also rans:

  • Abbotsford
  • “Hope-less”
  • “Drunken Duncan”
  • Courtenay-Comox
  • Sycamoose (sic)
  • Sudbury, Windsor, or Hamilton (“Tried to think of 3 worst cities in worst province of Canada.”)
  • “Living in a van.”
  • “Anywhere but here.”
  • “I don’t know, death?”
  • “Suicide.”

9. The motto on Vancouver’s coat of arms reads “By Sea, Land and Air We Prosper.” This should be updated to “By _______________, _______________ and _______________ We Prosper.”

“Safe to say ‘we’ should be changed to ‘some’ or ‘a few.’”

The purely subjective winner: “By Sea Glimpses, Land Values and Hot Air We Prosper”

Mix & match other contenders, as you please:

Scams              Condos                        Sushi

TED Talks        Real Estate                   Community Gardens

Condos           $500 Rain Jackets       Rudest Fucking Cab Drivers in the World

Heroin             Condos                         Overseas investors

Crane              Concrete                       Condo Pre-sale

Fee                 Development Permit     Fine

Yoga               Consumerism                Political Apathy

Condo            Townhouse                    Slumlord

Tanker            Pipeline                         Condo

Rennie            Pot                                 Bullshit

Condo            Bike Lane                      NIMBY

Developers    Development                Developing

Reductio ad adsurdum: “By Condos, Condos and Condos We Prosper”

10. “The one thing that gives me solace is … “

  • “My family and friends.”
  • “Nice sunny days in the park.”
  • “It’s at least not a frozen tundra.”
  • “Some people are still against the Enbridge pipeline and show up to rallies. Environmentalism is still here, somewhere.”
  • “Booze.”
  • “Money and weed.”
  • “I can still smoke a joint.”
  • “My cheap little basement suite.”
  • “I was born here, and refuse to give up.”
  • “Working on my Vancouver exit strategy.”
  • “It’s all crashing down and sinking when the big one comes”
  • “How little I care.”
  • “One day I’ll die.”
  • “This blog.”

by Zbigniew


The Human Origin

by Zbigniew

In 1960, following visits to the Berlin Aquarium and the British Museum of Natural history, Murray Newman envisioned a bold old idea to reel in the punters for his fledgling Vancouver Aquarium: life sized sculptured replicas of the charismatic orca. In 1964 sculptor Samuel Birch was hired:

“He set up a harpoon gun on Saturna Island …. Two months later, a pod of 13 killer whales approaches the shore. Burich harpoons a young whale, injuring but not killing it. Immediately, two pod members came to the aid of the stunned whale, pushing it to the surface to breathe. Then the whale seemed to come to life and struggled to free itself–jumping and smashing its tail and, according to observers, uttering ‘shrill whistles so intense that they could easily be heard above the surface of the water 300 feet away.’ Burich set off in a small boat to finish the job. He fired several rifle shells at the whale … but the orca did not die.”1

Newman proposed saving the 15 foot, one-ton whale. A line was attached to the harpoon in its back and the whale towed to Vancouver, a journey of 16 hours through rough seas and squalls.

“Moby Doll” –the first killer whale to be studied in captivity- was put on display in a pen at the Burrard Drydocks. He died 87 days later.



“The pressures facing our oceans, and indeed our entire earth, are complex. The Vancouver Aquarium, with its long history of research and conservation work, is committed to generating science and expanded public engagement to promote the long-term solutions. Almost all of the pressures in the ocean realm are of human origin, and it will have to be humans that bring forward the needed changes.”2

Dr. John Nightingale, President & CEO, Vancouver Aquarium








A Summertime Primer

by Zbigniew

Sitting by the window for the better part of an hour and its been a river of humanity, an uninterrupted flow of youth and families, posers and poseurs, a couple of shirtless guys with large snakes draped over their shoulders, a significant contingent of suburbanites, and a whole lot of newbie’s -all making their way down Davie for English Bay and for the Festival of Light.

The Festival of Light -it’s all you really need to know about Vancouver, a summertime primer:

  • corporate sponsorship;
  • competition;
  • crowds;
  • cops;
  • razzle-dazzle;
  • drones; and,
  • forgettable.

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.