scamcouver

fear & loathing in Lotusland

All Bodies Welcome

by Zbigniew

DSCN1791

Recently, I came across an image of the Astoria Hotel -a little bit of local-referenced colour to brighten-up a shoebox condo or a dimly lit basement suite, maybe.

In the boom preceding the First World War, hotels sprang up around the city’s core at Main & Hastings. Many primarily catered to itinerant labour, those taking leave from logging, fishing, mining and the merchant marine, as well local stevedores.

By the late 1970s, as the consumer and entertainment focus of the city shifted to Georgia and Granville, many of the hotels came to serve as modest, and decrepit, long-term residences.

While many have been destroyed over time, a 1971 provincial government heritage designation for Chinatown and Gastown spared others, and under the auspices of the British Columbia’s 2012 Habitat Housing Initiative 13 provincially owned Single Room Occupancy (SRO) hotels are undergoing rehabilitation. Of course, the current building boom is putting pressure of those hotels that remain and lie outside of these schemes.

The Astoria Hotel is one that appears to have slipped through the cracks. Perhaps as a result of its interstitial location at the edge of the DTES at Hastings & Hawks, the Astoria –constructed in 1910, and so far neither rezoned nor scheduled for revitalization- carries on.

Keith “The Laughing Hand” McKellar’s description of the current iteration of the Astoria could have been written any time over the last 40 years: “a slumlord syndicate tenement, infamous for an ongoing record of lodger bullying, dilapidated rooms and plumbing, maintenance bylaw violations, infestations of rodents, cockroaches and bedbugs. Reputed to be a shill for drug-dealing, welfare fraud, and fencing of stolen goods.”

Aside from these charming qualities, the Astoria is primarily known for its basement boxing club, which has been in place in one form or another almost continuously since the mid-1960s.

Less well known is its role connection to serial killer Robert William “Willie” Pickton. According to Stevie Cameron’s On the Farm, in the 1980s and ‘90s the Astoria was Pickton’s preferred haunt. “He almost always parked his truck or his motorhome in front of the Astoria and would amble in to buy drinks for the girls that flocked to his side. Often he’d pick one to take home.”

Willie Pickton was charged in the deaths of 26 women, but is believed to have murdered 49, many from the Downtown Eastside. In 2007 Pickton was convicted of the second-degree murders of of Sereena Abotsway, Mona Wilson, Andrea Joesbury, Georgina Papin, Marnie Frey and Brenda Wolfe. The remaining charges were stayed.

In recent years changes have come to the Astoria. It’s substantial neon sign was restored in early 2009, and its parking lot has been converted by the Sole Food social enterprise into an urban farm.

And in the bar where Pickton sought victims, there are DJs and live music. There’s also a “Rent Cheque” night: “all bodies welcome.”

Rent Cheque

 

Scat II

by Zbigniew

Scat Jagermeister

Sunrise Gentrification Check

by Zbigniew

Curbed LA offers a helpful quiz to assess the relative gentrification of one’s neighbourhood. With a few additions and modifications, a checklist reflect local characteristics of The Boom.

The maximum score is 150, broken down thusly:

0 to 30: “Functionally dull”

31 to 60: “On the map”

61 to 90: “Tilt”

91 to 120: “Condos marketed in Guangzhou”

121 to 150: “No one actually lives there”

Now, to apply the list to Hastings-Sunrise -officially demarcated by Nanaimo to Boundary and Burrard Inlet to Broadway. The resulting score will serve as baseline for future progress (sic?) reports.

Item

Value

Score
Brunch spot acclaimed for its toast

8

0

Ballet-barre-focused workout place

4

0

Proliferation of backyard chicken coops

1

1

Highly specific record store with weird hours

2

0

Flipped houses with twin-peaked roof & external mood lighting

5

5

Inexplicable “general store”

11

0

Hipster “scat” (eg. discarded receptacles of PBR, Jagermeister etc)

2

2

Children’s clothing or toy store featuring hypoallergenic bamboo products

7

0

All-natural pet supply shop

3

0

Church converted to club/bar/hotel

8

0

Bar that takes 15 minutes to make a drink

4

0

Lost cat flyers clearly made by art students

3

0

Whole Foods, Urban Fare or Nesters

6

0

Specialty grocery store

10

10

Craft beer bar (3); if it has its own brewery inside, add 5

8

0

Coffee shop selling 12 oz of beans for $16 (8); if it roasts its own beans, add 4

12

0

Fancy developing world cuisine restaurant

7

0

Plans for a “high line style park”

5

0

Café with no-laptop/WiFi times

9

0

Store that sells olde-timey products for men

12

0

Neighbourhood re-branding

13

13

Think piece in a national print magazine

10

0

TOTALS

150

31

Let the record show that on Easter Sunday, April 4th, 2105, Hastings-Sunrise is officially, if unscientifically “on the map.”

Bike Culture

by Zbigniew

Vancouver Cycling Map

Evidence that Vancouver’s bike culture is taking hold abounds. Witness:

The general public

Vancouver Cycling, via 24HrsVancouver 24Hrs

The bike-friendly café

Tandem Bike CafeVancityBuzz

The transportation of goods

ShiftVancouver 24Hrs

Law enforcement

RCMP Bike SquadNorth Shore News

The criminal element

The real estate agent

Cycling Real Estate

The political element

Gregor CyclingThe Globe & Mail

 

Seen in Passing: Main & Terminal

by Zbigniew

Dick Goof

Suck your own dick, goof?

Suck your own, Dick Goof?

Suck your own “dick goof”?

The Cringe: Luxury Supercar Capital

by Zbigniew

According to the local CTV affiliate (here, starting at 32:35), Vancouver enjoys the distinction of “Supercar Capital of North America.” That is, we more drivers per capita of vehicles that start at $150,000 and ascend to the millions.

The “Luxury & Supercar Weekend” returns this September.

The Cringe: Plebiscite Hell

by Zbigniew

What the hell’s wrong with kids these days?

Plebiscite!

by Zbigniew

It’s a cast of thousands!

The story opens with the driver of the 135 and …. whoosh! He thunders past, running roughshod over delicate concepts like ”full” and “bus stop.”

Here’s the operator of the 19, trying to run the red, but stopping short, his ass hanging out in the intersection -blocking pedestrian and car traffic- because an 8 and another 19 already lay claim to the curb ahead.

There’s Cubic, supposedly working on Compass. It’s coming, the stale signage assures, while the budget doubles and other cities abandon the system altogether.

Hey! Why settle for one CEO, when you can have two at twice the price?

There’s also the Board, Kevin Falcon’s gift-that-keeps-on-giving. These Faceless Ones put me in mind of Bill Hick’s routine about the Gideons: “Ever met one? No! Ever see one? NO! What are these people? Ninjas?” Ninjas -with monthly driving allowances.

And the oligarchs, of course. I imagine them perched on generously apportioned bundles of $500 bills, beady-eyed, salivating, ready to pounce. Ready to tear Broadway a borehole, to gut and annihilate and unleash the cranes on the remains.

Speaking of which, even “Expo Jimmy” makes a cameo. And nothing says guardian of the public good like the 86 year-old local chapter president of The Global Elite.

There’s a lot of Fifth Business in this tale, roles being neither Hero nor Heroine, Confidante nor Villain, but for that no (more or) less essential to bringing about the denouement.

And so, enter the Civic Officials, heralded by emails and a stale rehash of recent election tactics: “Will you pledge your support?” What’s with all the pledging? When did we start taking our cues from The Waltons?

But wait, there’s more: politicos and police chiefs, pundits and Podmores, plot twists and skullduggery. There’s a hockey player-turned shill, and a goddamn chorus, to boot.

There’s an admission price, of course. While it seems modest, those of means all appear to have comps.

Nah, I’ll pass. I prefer something with a stronger narrative, and more convincing characters.

Seen in Passing: Commercial & William

by Zbigniew

Grandview Park

Trichloroisocyanuric Acid

by Zbigniew

Parched, I welcomed the arrival of a glass of water. I brought it to my lips, and stopped cold at the faint but sharp stink of chlorine.

*

Pityriasis alba is a common skin condition first characterized by red, scaly patches. These patches resolve leaving areas of scaling hypo-pigmentation, or lighter coloration. Patients do not usually seek treatment of the lesions until this stage because of the concern for the appearance of the scales. The cause of pityriasis alba is unknown ….”

Towards the end, I would suffer such severe episodes that I gave off the rough impression of a leopard.

Short of highly toxic pharmaceuticals, the only treatment was a foul scented topical, whose frequent applications yielded ever diminishing results. Until I followed the pervasive odour, the stench that wouldn’t wash away but linger for days in my hair and skin and nostrils, inducing frequent sneezing fits. The trail ended in a chlorinated swimming pool.

*

Wednesday, March 4th, 2015

I step outside. From a few doors down, I hear coughing.

A white shroud hangs over everything I see, dimming the light and making vague shapes of the mountains.

I feel a faint burning in the back of my throat and the humbling, inescapable acrid smell/taste of burning capital.

Vancouver Port Fire 4-3-2015The Vancouver Sun