The liner notes from The Doors: Live in Vancouver, 1970 quote Ray Manzarek: “Such a cool seaboard town. Smell of smoking salmon in the air. First Nations people’s vibe in the air. Clean air in the air.”
Jim Morrison’s views on Vancouver’s air quality, caught between tracks, are somewhat less florid and fancy: “You guys sure have a beautiful city here, you know that? You really do. You can’t imagine how refreshing it is to come out of a sewer like Los Angeles and breathe some fresh air for a change.”
Forty-five years on and Vancouver -always a sort of far-flung suburb of the City of Angels, a Bedroom Dreamland- has finally caught the big city mojo.
We’re warned to stay indoors to avoid the particulate matter of forest and dockland fires. A short stroll risks exposure to rancid humours rising from the city’s bowels and the high-pitched reek of apparently cooking garbage. Meanwhile, the stink that wafts off False Creek is enough to warrant a rechristening -Shit Creek.
The sewer is in full flow.
By the by, The Doors concluded their Pacific Coliseum performance with, naturally, “The End.”
“Waiting for the summer rain ….”
Finding Mr. Right (aka: Beijing Meets Seattle and Bei Jing yu shang Xi Ya Tu), according to the Internet Movie Database:
“City girl Jiajia is traveling to Seattle to give birth to the son who’s going to help her win over her rich, married boyfriend. Armed with his unlimited credit card and the singular goal of bringing a little U.S. citizen back to Beijing, Jiajia knows how to play this game of modern love. But when Jiajia arrives in Seattle, the city which inspired her favorite movie Sleepless in Seattle, nothing goes right: she’s stuck sharing a small house with two other pregnant ladies, she has trouble reaching her boyfriend on the phone, and eventually, even the credit card stops working. To top that off, the only person willing to spend time with her is her driver Frank. Frank is the opposite of everything she ever wanted in a man … or could he be exactly the kind of guy she really needs?”
A China-produced knock-off of a cliché-addled Hollywood rom-com featuring unlikeable lead characters, Finding Mr. Right comes off as a lifestyle advert targeted at the People’s Republic of the Recently Enriched. At least I think so; I confess I could only endure a few minutes before succumbing to an aesthetic toxic shock.
I risked such exposure following the Globe & Mail’s “Beijing meets Seattle: Rom-com sets off Asian buying spree.” In particular:
“The screenplay for the film (its English title is Finding Mr. Right) could almost have been written by Seattle real estate agents; it was that much of a boon to the market.”
“It was ‘massive advertising, and there has been a lot of response,’ said Dean Jones, chief executive officer of Seattle real-estate company Realogics Sotheby’s International Realty, which has a team of agents (the ‘Asia Desk’) fluent in Cantonese, Mandarin and other Asian languages to cater to the continuing, broadening influx of buyers.
“Originally from Vancouver, Mr. Jones said that Seattle is following a similar pattern as Vancouver, San Francisco and Los Angeles. Vancouver’s reputation as a hedge city, that is, a relatively safe bet for property investors who can afford it, has spilled over to Seattle with its comparatively lower prices (30 to 50 per cent lower than Vancouver, Seattle realtors say).”
While it goes unmentioned in the article, there’s another Vancouver-connection regarding the movie. Other than a few scenes in Beijing, and a very few establishing shots of Seattle, Finding Mr. Right/Beijing Meets Seattle was filmed entirely in and around Vancouver.
So, while real estate shills and pundits and their political affiliates dismiss the influence of Chinese money on the Vancouver market, the city serves as both a discount production centre for extended advertisements of Pacific Northwest Coast property for Mainland China and a source of human capital to serve that market. Beijing meets Seattle, with Vancouver serving as a kind of relationship facilitator. Or pimp, if you prefer.
Finding Mr. Right performer Wei Tang shilling lifestyle at YVR:
From afar, medieval Florence, San Gimignano, Lucca, Oltrarno, Bologna and other northern Italian city-states looked like pin cushions.
Wealthy families constructed the towers, slender needles of stone reaching as high as 100 metres.
These served as refuges –bolt holes stocked with resources: food, water, weapons, friends, allies and private armies. Where city walls dissuaded a rival’s city’s hired condottieri and their “free armies,” the towers served as redoubts against the far more frequent incidents of civil strife; primarily inter-clan warfare. Between disputes -typically ignited, Romeo & Juliet style, via street level rapier-induced punctures- the competition expressed itself in the expenditure of wealth and the construction of ever taller towers.
While many endured for centuries, most of the towers vanished with the growth of civil society. Dismantled, their stones were recycled into the construction of more modestly-scaled and utilitarian structures: shops, offices, dwellings and public facilities.
A very few remain, serving such solemn duties as tourists traps offering panoramic photo opportunities that can only hint at the street life below.
“It is not enough merely to build a clean, healthful, orderly, smooth-functioning urban organism, although every agency of government should strive toward this end. In every possible way it must erase from the mind of the city dweller the monotony of daily tasks, the ugliness of factories, shops and tenements and the fatigue of urban noises. It can do this by showing a decent regard for its appearance, and by various devices it must occasionally touch the emotions. The city becomes a remembered city, a beloved city, not by its ability to manufacture or sell, but by its ability to create and hold bits of sheer beauty and loveliness.”
Harland Bartholomew, “A Plan for the City of Vancouver, 1929″
Excerpts from “Developer producing instant luxury condos in six weeks for resource towns,” Business in Vancouver, June 10, 2015
An Alberta developer with his own Chinese factory claims he can build a 48-unit luxury condominium in Vancouver in six weeks at half the price of conventional concrete construction.
“We can offer luxury urban-style living in even the most remote areas,” said David Weiss, project director for New York City-based Primco Holdings LLC, which has partnered with Stack Modular. “That’s what every small community is looking for, whether it’s an LNG [liquefied natural gas] project in British Columbia or a mining town in northern Ontario.”
Weiss said he has been in talks with a Vancouver developer, who he would not identify, in delivering a similar project into the city’s white-hot condominium market.
It squats on the corner, an over-sized, out-of-scale brute, of the “heavily discounted modern” variety.
It comes with a coach house offspring. (While there’s a resemblance in terms of materials, not so the style; Dad was apparently of the generic “peaked roof” persuasion.)
Nearing completion, construction stopped abruptly five or six months ago.
The front door is wrapped in plastic, windows frames are incomplete, a decorative column stands half-cladded. The already rusting gas meter suggests premature decay. (Or, just shite materials.) The whole scheme sits tired and heavy among heaping piles of compacted dirt.
Curiously, its many exterior lights are in good working order. These have been operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week, providing the now-fashionable-for-residential dramatic ambiance once reserved exclusively for landmarks and penitentiaries.
But what’s being highlighted here? Insufficient funds? A contractual dispute?
Perhaps its an elaborate public art piece, gifted to the good citizens of Hastings Sunrise for our edification. A running commentary on capital’s eternal vigilance and dim wit.
Mrs. Cylbulski notes some acquisitions from one of the surfeit of garage sales in our neighbourhood. She picked up some LPs for me, but on the walk home abandons them in an alley, thinking I wouldn’t be interested.
“Oh? What albums?” I ask
“Strange Advance and …. What’s the matter?”
We spend the wee hours of Saturday morning driving around quiet alleys in search of martial harmony and a memory in an analog medium.
A sunny weekday morning in early June 1983, the loose end game of a high school schedule, and we ply into an early ‘70s Plymouth Fury, a goodly-sized apartment posing as an automobile, to drive up Mt. Seymour. But for the two chair lift operators, we appear to have the hill all to ourselves. Splitting into pairs for the last leg -me with Jim and his recent acquisition: a boom box of impressive size and specifications. Against a clean blue sky we float above the treetops, riding a slow moving wave of warm sunshine, crisp air, and a haunting tune carrying along the hillside. A carefree afternoon in the sun; a world away, punctuated only by occasional yelp induced by the sobering impact of well-hurled ball of loosely compacted slush.
Worlds collide, with all the attendant friction, disruption, and destruction.
The agglomeration of ugly clustered northwest of main and 2nd (the “Greater Village”?) is entering its 3rd stage -“The Creek” etc etc etc- and it’s metastasizing south, with development proposals in for the 1800 and 1900 blocks, an excavated pit on Sophia bordered by a now-evicted tenant’s flowers, the active destruction of the old Jantzen swimsuit factory to make room for the tower, the maker of shadows. There’ll be more: Aquilini owns most of the parcels in between. Disappearing Main Street gets more relevant by the week.
Downtown and the Post Office is on the chopping block, the province is ready to deprive all those new condominium inhabitants of a hospital, and even the CBC wants to join the seller’s market.
UBC proposes 145 square foot units –less spacious than the interior of 1970 Plymouth Fury- Surrey is “go” on a 50 story tower on its “civic plaza,” Brentwood is a massive construction site preparing for 10 new buildings, including a 53 story monster, and even White Rock –of all goddamn places- is “reviewing its official community plan.”
The political leadership is busy. Counting the proceeds of the sale of his home, he who occupies the mayor’s chair suggests “ a collaborative” solution, and takes policy cues from the likes of self-proclaimed “thought leader” Bob Rennie -a glorified car salesman legitimized by an investment portfolio comprised of expensive art and even more expensive influence.*
Bob says complaining about foreign investment is racist. Tell that to the Chinese officials running Operation Fox Hunt to repatriate fraudulently acquired funds laundered in Vancouver real estate.
Or the apparatchiks that freely acknowledge the presence and influence of Chinese money and that “[t]here is a huge stake for a lot of local people in keeping this thing going.”
And so a blogger at The Economist says were “mind numbingly boring.”
Day in, day out: it’s in my face or I catch a glimpse out of the corner of my eye or I walk through a shadow that had never been. The corrosive capital hard at work, the corruption at play, the worn and tattered façade masking a profound political failure, and the social and economic catastrophe that’s in the works. Mind numbing, sure, but boring it isn’t.
Not yet, anyway.
*Rennie’s capacity for self-aggrandizement is really pretty impressive. At the Jim Green memorial held at the Orpheum on April 15th, 2012, many a speaker waxed eloquently about Jim and the impact he had on their lives; Bob Rennie presented a slide show that prominently featured -who else?- Bob Rennie.