fear & loathing in Lotusland

The Cringe: Plebiscite Hell

by Zbigniew

What the hell’s wrong with kids these days?


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

Us & Them

by Zbigniew

“And as more of what used to belong to ‘us’ was sold off and developed by ‘them’, the hunger for floorplates and square footage and award-winning design and river views became insatiable. If they ran out of land to build on, no problem. They would now literally monetise thin air. The principle of ‘air rights’ development in London was nailed by architect Terry Farrell’s Embankment Place. A client could commission a great design saturated with Farrell’s trademark postmodern wave-it-through-planning magic, acquire the air rights above Charing Cross station and whack a massive office block on the roof. Ingenious. A private incubus squatting on an anaesthetised public space.”

Ian Martin, “The city that privatized itself to death,” The Guardian

Refuge: Stepping Out

by Zbigniew

With everyone in such a goddamn hurry, I remind myself that the trick is not to give in to such foolishness.

It’s Friday evening and the sky is clear and the light is slowly waning. I pass on the subtle pleasure of coaxing a ticket out of a Translink automaton and all that crowded bus transfer jazz and opt for the long walk –circa 50 minutes, plus dawdling time.

A few steps off the main road and the droning traffic suddenly drops off to background levels. By the time I reach Trillium Park, the big noise is the intermittent pop of cleat striking ball.

At the public works yard I wave for the security cameras and pause at the Malkin side when I spot a Ken Lum diptych –A Tale of Two Children: A Work for Strathcona. Did I know this was here? I take it as a surprise.

Walking east and now and then I’m reminded of the near-by chaos, as lead-footed drivers desperate to shave a few minutes off the commute roar past. Otherwise, it’s pretty quiet.

The park is apparently all but empty. I pause at the eagle’s nest. Last week a gentleman carrying a substantially lensed camera and a Hancock Wildlife Foundation affiliation expressed his concern for the resident eagles, then absent and a couple of weeks overdue. There are positive developments.

Strathcona Park Sunset

Strathcona Park Aerie

Strathcona Park Eagle

Further east, sandwiched between warehouses, a substantive number of skateboarders are doing their thing.

The path to the gap in the fence and a short cut across the tracks is marked by a concentration of consumer waste, from plastic cups and stained leather shoes, to used needles and discharged condoms, including one coloured a violent mustard.

I arrive at the base of the hill, at the edge of what was the inlet. East of here the road – framed by mini-forests of evergreens and power lines and bathed in copper- sweeps slowly and quietly upward.

But first I need to forge a raging river of glass and metal, six lanes wide. I trip the switch, and wait -for the light, and then the stragglers taking liberties. The waters stilled and parted, I step out onto the road, and take my sweet time crossing.


by Zbigniew

Vancouver Especially

Vancouver Especially - Detail

Ken Lum’s Vancouver Especially includes some very fine details: bricks of many hues, door handles and bedspreads, graying paint and aging stucco. But it’s a representation, a fake, right down to its artificial turf.

Kitty-corner, just a few metres away, is an olde style house I like to think of as a Home Depot Special. It looks unoccupied, a fake house -right down to its artificial turf.

Gore St Artificial Turf

Pre-displacement Map

by Zbigniew



Pre-displacement MapVancouver Especially

Chinatown Sold

Chinatown Cleared

Chinatown Reconfigured

The Foreign Service

by Zbigniew


This graphic -on display at the Grandview-Woodland Community Plan, Hastings Sub-Area Workshop on February 14th- caught my jaundiced eye.

I find the choice of “gears” to represent the relationships between the community, city, senior levels of government, and developers to be an apt metaphor: mechanistic, kinetic but rigid and predetermined. That the community is depicted as having no direct influence on developers is a nice honest touch, however unintentional. Intentional?

Labeling the civic gear as “the city family” also rings true, if I think of the traditional family structure (at least the ones I have suffered): paternalistic, hierarchical, unequal. In this particular scheme, that would leave Cultural Affairs as the runt, without substantive influence. Social Development enjoys a profile, sure, but occupies a rung below Real Estate and -in these spin intensive days- the loud-mouthed and superficial sibling, Communications.

Planning, of course, is in charge -the pater familias, the master of the house.


Circa 1960, Vancouver’s Planning Department was popularly known by city employees as The Foreign Service.

“Foreign,” for it was the last redoubt of the once mighty ex-pat British colonial administration. In lock step with the sun setting on Empire, the local detachment abandoned the command and control of lesser functions. While a few remained behind, like characters out of a Graham Greene novel, to carrying on in wog-held territory and supervise the care of the destitute or the manicure of civic lawns, the smart and smartly dressed ones -right down to the scented kerchiefs stuffed into their shirt sleeves at the wrist- retreated to the safety and influence of the high ground, upstairs. The brave few daring to exit the elevator were greeted accordingly: “we’ve a visitor from the colonies!”*

“Service,” for they served the money. In the 1950s and ‘60s that was public money, federal cash earmarked for highways and “urban renewal.” Building the paper case for the improvement of Strathcona by bulldozer, this Service consisted of “windshield” surveys –the wholesale condemnation of housing stock conducted from the removed comfort of an automobile. (I picture a couple of toffs in an MG, marking tidy rows of Xs on a clipboard, and making pit stops for G & Ts.) And so, the modus operandi: an understanding defined on the Q.T., with legitimacy endowed via process and public farce.


I open with a salvo aimed squarely at the bureaucratic minstrels. I do admire their thick skins. They nod dutifully at my complaints -the last minute distribution of information, the questionable blah blah- and promptly move on.

Certainly, I try to be helpful. I suggest renaming the neighbourhood Treeless-Poorview, and I pounce on the proposal for a plaza at Hastings and Commercial as an ideal location to enjoy the downwind aroma of the waste reduction plant. Alas, my ideas fail to gain purchase.

Sharing my table is Solterra VP Mike Bosa. In his opinion Burnaby is more affordable because they’re building more. (Personally, I think Burnaby is more affordable because it’s Burnaby.)

The corporation owns the entire north side of Hastings, from Clark to McLean. This includes the Waldorf Hotel. Mr. Bosa’s eagerness for a rezone and as much allowable height as possible + additional density for amenity is offset by the mute placards calling for the preservation of local heritage.

Throughout the course of the day Mr. Bosa exchanges involved but sotto voce asides with the ranking planner, Andrew Pask. Scented or otherwise, I assume Mr. Pask left his handkerchief at home -or possibly the office.

* I’m not inventing any of this.

The Spirit of Mr. Peanut

by Zbigniew

On a day reserved for heart-shaped pancakes and/or assignations, I opt for the Grandview-Woodland Hastings Sub Area Community Clusterfuck.

I’ve cogitated much on my approach, my own rules of engagement. And then, I am moved by the spirit of Mr. Peanut.