fear & loathing in Lotusland


by Zbigniew

“It was all I had in the way of a home. In it was everything that was mine, that had any association with me, any past, anything that took the place of a family. Not much; a few books, pictures, radio, chessmen, old letters, stuff like that. Nothing. Such as they were they had all my memories.”

The Big Sleep, Raymond Chandler


For what was a popular house design -there must be a dozen iterations in my immediate neighbourhood- there’s little information that’s readily available.

The Vancouver Heritage Foundation broadly categorizes it as a “Mid-Century Vernacular Bungalow” -simple side gables or hipped roof, two or three bedrooms on one main floor and a partially sunken basement; a generally rectangular, asymmetrical front façade with one large “picture window” and no attached garage. (No mention is made of a signature component: a window adorning the front vestibule, alternatively round, octagonal, square, or rectangular.)

The Foundation dates these houses from the 1950s, but the one I live in was first occupied in 1948.

It’s a modest abode, but sturdy, well built and functional: a few cozy rooms, some nice finishes, and a kitchen that hasn’t changed much since c. 1967.

The grapes were planted almost 50 years ago. From a tree-like trunk the trailed vines produce a thick canopy and an oasis for unprogrammed hot summer afternoons. The grapes are edible, if you like mouth-puckering tart, thick skins and big seeds. My octogenarian neighbour Vincenzo taught me to prune it, and I’ve learned enough to do this for others that find themselves too superannuated to negotiate a ladder. On Sunday afternoons in February or March I feel vines for vitality and pass quick judgment, with shears.

There’s a fig tree, a fecund beast whose harvesting takes over my life for 10 days every summer -picking, canning, and eating until I can’t stand the sight of them except for maybe one more.

The garden plots yield rotating successes and disappointments, seemingly independent of my coaxing. Vincenzo wanders over, nods in approval, or shakes his head in dismay. He has radicchio seedlings for me, wrapped in a few pages of The Courier.

My mother-in-law lives a few blocks away. Before I’ve crossed the threshold, coffee is on the stove and food is on table.

My immediate neighbours are a mix of long-term residents and relatively new arrivals from Ontario, Quebec, the States, Hong Kong, and numerous other parts. With a goodly number we break bread, sample and consider the qualities of fermented beverages, play board games, shoot the shit, shuck and jive.

All in all, not much -just everything.


My wife’s family assumed ownership of this house in 1964. It has served as an asset for the many children to build a nest egg and purchase their own. Unfortunately, our timing is poor: current market conditions have rendered that beautiful formula obsolete.

The asset is now subject to a new and complicated algorithm that encompasses a kaleidoscope of needs, wants, generosity and more than a little greed, social capital and cold calculations, faith, trust, and inheritances current and future. The equation is nestled within a much larger one composed of international capital movements, ineffectual/incompetent/corrupt governance, and widespread social disruption.

Somewhere in that swirling vortex of complexity and uncertainty lies the thing that was missing, that I didn’t know was missing, that I unconsciously sought for years and years, the feeling that dawned on me not so long ago on a quiet and rainy afternoon in a museum of a kitchen in the arms of my love: I’m home.

Dream Kitsch

by Zbigniew

East Van Attenuated

My thinking about art and life comes largely out of growing up in a quiet but skittish Vancouver, which has since transmogrified into something I barely recognize as my own. An immense influx of capital has transformed the city into a spectacle that engenders in its visitors feelings akin to the discovery of the secret of poetry, unaware that it is misrecognition of depth for surfaces. Vancouver has become adorned in what Walter Benjamin called dream kitsch, ‘the last mask of the banal, the one with which we adorn ourselves, in dream and conversation, so as to take in the energies of an outlived world of things.’ It is not just things that become outlived but the people for whom the city is no longer a possibility.”

“Ken Lum on Canada vs. the USA”, Ken Lum, Canadian Art

Young & Old

by Zbigniew

Overheard, on the Queen of Capilano, en route to Horseshoe Bay:

Young Man: “Your return is based on how much risk you want to take on. But even a low risk will give you an 8% return -minimum. Knock off your mortgage interest and you’re still making 5% a year -minimum. You don’t even need to live in the place. He’s done great by it and really seems to know what he’s talking about.”

Old Man: “Hmmm.”

through_rose_colored_glasses_by_welcometorealityPhoto: welcometoreality


Buddy’s Move

by Zbigniew

“It’s hard to imagine that a city now known for its bloated real estate, yuppie cokeheads and inability to buy a beer, gave birth to bands like D.O.A. and the Subhumans and made Dave ”Tiger” Williams a hockey star. If the Vancouver of 1980 met the Vancouver of 2008, it would give it a curbie.”

Sean Condon, “Time Travel: Vancouver 1980,” Only (April 15, 2008)


Bowen Island is not exactly an exotic locale, lacking virtually all the usual aesthetic opportunities. However, it’s bucolic, quiet, and close: There’s exactly one other human being on the long hike up Mt. Gardiner, which yields spectacular views of the metropolis just a skip over the water.

The interregnum between sanctioned feasts completed, and the vehicle patiently waiting in the ferry line-up, I pass the time with a walk in the cold and sunshine.

In the confines of Snug Cove I cross paths with a certain new varietal of Lower Mainland colonist, one who enjoys his day-trips in very large and noisy groups. A member of this contingent walks toward me, a young fellow carrying a sports bag. A Louis Vuitton sports bag.

And without any further prompting, in the picture-postcard confines of sunny and dull exurbia, a long dormant and deep-seated body memory suddenly awakes.


Alan was on the fringe of our little group of ethnically diverse miscreant explorers and minor league vandals -the token “Canadian.” The main thing I remember about him was the oft-repeated rumour that he suffered an undescended testicle.

His older brother, Buddy, left a much stronger impression. I recall a chiseled face a little like Matt Dillon’s in The Outsiders, but with a cheap haircut, a regularly shifting pattern of scrapes and bruises, and significantly less sentience about the eyes. Although I took great pains to avoid him, it proved challenging: Buddy was a journeyman criminal that worked our Renfrew-Collingwood neighbourhood like a sub rosa tax farmer, a private and unsanctioned agent of 1970s income redistribution.

Anonymous theft seemed to be his preferred MO. Items left unsecured out-of-doors had a way of quickly disappearing. I lost a beloved bicycle to him -a red three-speed, a generous gift from my parents following a prolonged recovery from pneumonia at St. Paul’s; it vanished after a half-dozen rides and a brief lapse in judgment regarding its security. I catch a last glimpse a couple of days later, as Buddy pushes it up Lillooet Street, its modest profile too low for him to ride to its new owner.

There was also a more personal approach: the shakedown.

Buddy -and his ilk, a loose and aspiring Anglo-Saxon mafia farm team- employed a particular maneuver. Walking down the street, en route to the comic book shop, and out of nowhere Buddy appears on my right and engages me in inane banter. Before I gather my wits, his left hand comes up and strikes me, flat palm down, against my upper chest –not too hard but quick, producing a disconcertingly loud smack! The palm turns into a tight grip on my down jacket and the conversation veers towards monetary matters, his right hand hanging loose and ready to join the discussion. I say “jacket” because I recall these shakedowns taking place against grey skies, on cold, damp and all-too-empty streets. I suppose warmer seasons were reserved for ripping-off bikes or that other East Vancouver piecemeal gig of the time, the B & E.

I never participated in the demand side of the this low-level income redistribution scheme. However, I became an adept of the left-handed palm-down-smack-and-grab, a regular feature of angry confrontations with friend and foe alike, roughly comparable to the settlement procedures popular on Hockey Night in Canada.


As Louis Vuitton quickly comes abreast of me and passes, my muscles twitch and I’m readying to pivot 180˚, sidle up on his right, make an inane comment about the weather, and in the interval of confusion … smack! -let him know just how much I admire his choice of luggage.

Of course, the rational side of my consciousness quickly kicks in, like a circuit breaker. My emotional solidarity with Buddy is clearly misguided: I certainly don’t need a designer sports bag or its black market cash equivalent; Buddy’s moved on, to Matsqui, real estate, or whatever; our East Van is long gone, its rough and ready street rules and equalizations no longer apply, certainly not on the cusp of 2016 on Bowen Island, not even as an echo to spook some hapless schmuck.

Besides: too many witnesses.

2015: The Scam Reviewed

by Zbigniew

As 2015 draws to a close, the New Year is being heralded by the chorus of chainsaws and bulldozers -regularly punctuated by shouts of “RACISM” Blue skies and sunshine, sure, but it’s pretty chilly in the long shadows of residential towers and supply-side solutions. Feeling the cold? Well, you can always warm up with a dish named for the greediest man in town. Or, work harder.

In 2015 news of Our Scam made its way to some new and exotic lands, including Belize, Croatia, Cyprus, Macau SAR, Montenegro, Morocco, Namibia, Puerto Rico, St. Martin, and Senegal. Also, China.

The most popular posts of 2015:

My personal favourite, virtually ignored, was Sphere of Influence, wherein an attempt was made to define the extent of Vancouver socio-poleconomic influence through the use of FM radio transmissions.

The most “clicked” media in 2015:

Pedestrian AccidentsCrashes Involving Pedestrians, 2009-2013, Insurance Corporation of BC

Ski and Knife FightRod Filbrandt, Tar Paper Town

Bruce Stewart: Dollarton Pleasure Faire, 1972

Bruce Stewart: Dollarton Pleasure Faire, 1972


Beyond “scamcouver” and “gregor robertson and/or bob rennie plus colourful adjective,” some of the more interesting search terms driving traffic to this downbeat blog included the following:

  • “astoria rent cheque”
  • “maplewood flats squatters”
  • “2968 mathers crescent west Vancouver”
  • “’lotusland’ branding strategy”
  • “why is vancouver so fucked up”
  • “why is north vancouver so lame”
  • “west vancouver people are stuck up”
  • “developer nick bosa is an asshole”

Some of the comments left here in 2015:

“Do you think bjarke is on coke or meth?”

-Jenables, on Bjarke Ingels in Gesamtarbeits Scheiße

“Wanting? More like ‘Lacking’”

-kasimirkish, on the Mayor’s canto-pop star Wanting Qu in The Cringe: Love Birds

“Oh man, this is painful to watch. It’s almost hard to tell if it’s a parody or not. I thought university was supposed to be fun. Where’s the ultimate frisbee and alcohol poisoning?”

-Mark, on squeaky-clean kids and the transit referendum in The Cringe: Plebiscite Hell

“[I]t’s also pretty hilariously entertaining to think these city planners and staff take their jobs so seriously, yet are so consistently bad at what they do.”

-Jennifer, in Sub-Area Monopoly


“Good job, Vision! Now you can bump up the ‘new parks created’ number on your next re-election brochure.”

-Fred Victer, in The View from Here

Alas, Fred was not totally satisfied with my efforts, as noted n the response to At the Margins: “There are plenty of things to critique about public transit and land policy in Greater Vancouver; your cutting but pleasing writing style is underemployed in this case.” Fred, your critique, nestled in praise, is much appreciated.

Scammer of the Year

To be eligible for “Scammer of the Year,” candidates must have been character assassinated in this blog’s “Scammer” category at some point over the course of the preceding 52 weeks. Candidates are judged for their ability to present themselves as stalwart citizens while simultaneously deforming the local psychogeography for their personal enrichment; extra points are awarded for douchey behavior. The winner will be notified of their victory by poison pen letter, which will be accompanied by the cash prize comprised of whatever Canadian Tire money I happened to have pinned to my refrigerator. A likeness of the winner will be installed in a future “Strip Mall of Shame” –although the development permit is still awaiting City Hall approval.

The candidates for the forth annual Scammer of the Year award are:

  1. For unashamedly and with a straight face promoting a complete pile of steaming shit as a “complete work of art” in a northern European accent, Bjarke Ingels.
  2. For camping out for four nights in the midst of the Welfare Challeneng in order to purchase a $36,000 bottle of scotch, and for appearing in a Uwe Boll film, Delta Group factotum Bruce Langereis.
  3. For watering lawns in the midst of a drought and a ban on such activity, the University of British Columbia.

And the winner is … Bjarke Ingels.

Green Growth Leaders Paneldebat med erhvervsledere

The Last Word


2015 in an image: international capital, local capital, and the front.

Wishing you better in 2016,


Soul Crushing

by Zbigniew

“Each of those casements opened onto a room where how many comedies had transpired! And how many dramas, for that matter! Their shudders had been closed in times of mourning, they had been bedecked with bunting and hung with fairy lights on occasions of victory. For the first time there came to me the vague thought that houses have a soul, composed of the joys and sorrows and labors of those they have sheltered, and that all have their history: secret, romantic, or joyful.”

G. Lenotre, in Luc Sante’s The Other Paris



“When these old homes come down, a whole history goes with them—the materials that were used to build them, the gardens, the successive owners and their secrets. These old houses and apartments are repositories of narrative. The story of our city is diminished every time one disappears.”

Vancouver Vanishes: Narratives of Demolition & Revival, Anvil Press


Good Luck City

by Zbigniew

From National Geographic, “Vancouver – Good Luck City,” April 1992:

Good Luck City 1

Good Luck City 2


by Zbigniew


“The World Soundscape Project (WSP) was established as an educational and research group by R. Murray Schafer at Simon Fraser University during the late 1960s and early 1970s. It grew out of Schafer’s initial attempt to draw attention to the sonic environment through a course in noise pollution, as well as from his personal distaste for the more raucous aspects of Vancouver’s rapidly changing soundscape.

“The project initiated the modern study of Acoustic Ecology. Its ultimate goal is ‘to find solutions for an ecologically balanced soundscape where the relationship between the human community and its sonic environment is in harmony.'”

The World Soundscape Project


Excerpt from “harsh noise” performer The Rita’s response to Pietro Sammarco’s Vancouver Noise & the Harmoniously Productive City, December 9th, 2015:

Seen in Passing: Stanley Park Dr. & Avison Way

by Zbigniew


Strictly by the Numbers

by Zbigniew

1884-east-end-priv-subdivHistoric Atlas of Vancouver & the Lower Fraser Valley (Douglas & McIntyre, 2005)

1897-1901 - Key Map AKey Plan to the July 1897 Fire Insurance Map of Vancouver (updated to 1901)

406ldff4a-1926-4573-8c0e-63065e3fc0c6-MAP343City of Vancouver Archives, AM1594-MAP 343-: MAP 343.01

CFD_NGwW0AETW31.jpg_large_aBrewery & China creeks, source unknown

bab1d482-5b72-4aa3-893a-c2c9ab241fed-MAP420City of Vancouver Archives, AM1594-: MAP 420

Postal Zones

Vancouver Postal CodesSarnia Flowers

STC94-943_Vancouver_map2aCensus of Canada (1981) Geography Files


districtsVancouver Police Department, Patrol Districts


CVAGzbNUwAAFxal.jpg_large1988 Electoral Boundaries Commission






MarketTrends-Residential-Detached-Homes-Vancouver_AUGUST-2015Urban Vancouver Properties, Market Trends