fear & loathing in Lotusland

The Correct Emphasis

by Zbigniew

“The couple had been renting a condo in Mount Pleasant, but seven months ago – inspired in part by the growing community of Vancouver van-dwellers sharing their stories on YouTube – they decided to downsize.” (Emphasis added)

‘It’s comfortable’: Couple living in van has no interest in going back to condo,” CTV Vancouver, March 26, 2016

New Homeless

“A staff report to Delta council noted that ‘while conducting parking enforcement at night, bylaws staff encountered a number of homeless individuals sleeping in campers and vans at roadside.'” (Emphasis added)

Homeless in industrial parks,” Delta Optimist, May 4, 2016

Disaster Island

by Zbigniew

Mystery of Disaster Island cover

“This was not his room. He was not in the house in Winnipeg where he lived all his life. He was in some strange place on the British Columbia coast – and even before he saw the place, before he found out anything about it, he knew he didn’t want to be there.”

Mystery of Disaster Island, Ann Rivkin


by Zbigniew


Corbie Fieldwalkers’s hauntingly beautiful vignette on the disintegrating remains of a Point Grey home whets my appetite for a first hand investigation.

On this weekend afternoon the sky is luminous, milky white, and smooth. It looks solid, manufactured, an artifact. On the slow cruise west my mind wanders into the biospheres of 1970s science fiction films: Brave New World, Logan’s Run, THX-1138 –where The Man wears a creaseless jumpsuit and tolerates no gaps between economic and religious dogma.


West Point Grey is bounded by Blanca, 4th, the UEL, and the water.

While there’s a good number of older homes still standing, hiding behind hedges or thick stands of trees, the usual indicators -orange meshed trees, cleared lots, grotesquely oversized new houses- are all present and accounted for.

Short of my destination I parked the heap and get on the hoof.

It’s quiet; very quiet. The local population seems comprised mostly of grounds keepers and construction workers. I attract looks equal parts curious and suspicious. A couple of noncoms laying paving stones stop their labours to watch my progress down the street through narrowed eyes. And a good day to you.

I come across an abandoned home. It’s not the one I seek but … a coming attraction?

This one’s not yet decayed, but gone to seed: overgrown lawn, untended fruit trees, an abandoned garden. The air is saturated with the scent of magnolias and cherry blossoms.

If the house itself has any historic architectural significance, it’s lost on me: I classify it as Big, Old & Beige.

A flier advertising the City’s new glass recycling program hangs from the mail chute. I peer inside at the early 1950s -for the moment still secure behind locked doors and intact windows.

West 2nd Derelict

I move on to the primary target, just down the street. A hedge/chain-link tag team secures its perimeter, but this gives way to a gate encrusted with ornamental padlocks. I lift the latch and stroll.

Into a memory of a field trip, to a forest. This forest, maybe, of silent giants and wet green air. I fell for the dream. This dream of a wet coast wank cum quintessential Terminal Garden City fantasy: the private urban forest.

A long, curving roadway framed by mature evergreens leads to the remains.

It’s unexpectedly modest, right down to the one-car attached garage.

It’s in rough shape: windows smashed, a sagging roof-line, a thick carpet of moss covering the shingles.

The door stands open. Glass crunches underfoot as I wander inside. Thoroughly trashed and tagged -it’s ultimate décor.


The trees have been tagged, too. However, this vandal has been sanctioned.

Diamond Head Consulting integrates “environmental features, creating great places”; that is, they “distill the relationships between natural and urban systems”; that is -goddamn it- they cut trees.

These trees. As far as I can see, they’ve all been tagged.

Dead trees standing. Their fall marks the end of this fantasy. It’s making way for another that will happily exchange a quiet forest retreat for the ostentatious display of wealth.

Like the one down the road being constructed by the suspicious bricklayers: an outlet mall-inspired palazzo, with a garage that could sleep six comfortably. Oh, and an ornamental tree or two.

Palazzo Nouvea

The Cringe: Burquitlam

by Zbigniew


Also, in English:

Our Speculative Future

by Zbigniew

Sea levels are rising, but the flood is already here.

It’s a tidal wave of cold, hard, dirty cash, a roaring, murky confluence of loose policy and looser barriers. The floodgates and sewers have been opened wide and the custodians have abandoned their posts, leaving us to the Fates.

It’s trashing everything in its path and the signs of its passing are everywhere: a local daily, wrapped in an ad hustling concrete and glass; the ass of a bus, adorned with a rictus smile eager to primp and pump or dump your home in a landfill; on Commercial Dr. street lights, usually reserved for notifications of flea markets, concerts, and burlesque, invaded -like a rash- by Boffo’s snake oil shill; the trees wrapped in orange mesh; the trees disappeared, for nothing more than being at the wrong place at the wrong time. As the deluge reaches 12th and Cambie, it turns into a 12% pay raise.

I seek refuge –the high ground- but it’s not safe: I find is another whirlpool of filthy lucre ready to swallow me whole.

The Museum of Vancouver’s Your Future Home: Creating the New Vancouver claims to engage “visitors with the bold visual language and lingo of real estate advertising as it presents the visions of talented Vancouver designers about how we might design the cityscapes of the future.” Or, to put it succinctly, “FOR SALE!”

Bought and paid for by Marcon Investments Ltd., Wesgroup Properties LP, Macdonald Development Corporation, Glotman Simpson, Henriquez Partners Architects, Adera Development Corporation, BTY Consulting Group, Brooks Pooni Associates etc etc etc, it’s a vision oblivious to the tsunami, unruffled by a spike of deaths among those sleeping rough, the young people living in vans, money laundering, corruption, empty homes, disemboweled communities, or the loss of canopy.

But hey, it’s nice and quiet here; have a look through the showroom and help yourself to the spec sheet:

Vancouver Spec Sheet

“Face Value”

by Zbigniew

Quotation marks can be used to indicate dialogue, direct attribution, and the titles of poems, articles and other short works or compositions.

Quotation marks can also be used to reflect sarcasm, irony, euphemisms, or slang. The word or phrase in quotations cannot be taken at face value.

"Nanaimo" 1"Nanaimo" 2


by Zbigniew

It’s dank: wet and damp, grey skies and greyer markets, floating billboards, and a concerted effort to manage expectations downwards.

Forecasts call for more.

In this moment, a brisk wind carries the scent and petals of cherry blossoms. Warmth and light fill the brief gaps in the cloud cover. The loathsome sounds* have withdrawn to the fringe, far enough to be drowned out by birdcalls and the rustling of branches.


* These include sounds associated with asset improvements, cranky fauna, proselytizers of sacred or secular fantasies, and elected officials and leaf blowers.

High Rise, Vancouver

by Zbigniew

Video, theatrical trailer for High-Rise; audio, Trump Hotel & Tower Vancouver

Pseudo Forest

by Zbigniew

The living forest may be in full retreat, but its replacement has arrived on the corner Granville and 62nd.

Digitized, modernized, metalized, and anchored in concrete, as perfect and dead as skeletons picked clean by scavengers.

Mtal Tree - Grove

Metal Tree

Metal Tree - Detail

The Legitimacy of the Narrative

by Zbigniew

Simon Fraser

It reads as follows:

Simon Fraser (1776 – 1862) was a fur trader working for the North West Company; the rival of the Hudson Bay Company. The North West Company sought to control the rich and untapped fur supply of the west by establishing trading posts in central and northern B.C. and to find a viable route to the Pacific.

Starting on May 28, 1808, Simon Fraser became the first fur trader to explore the river that would one day bear his name. He set off from Fort George (now Prince George) in four birch bark canoes with his clerks John Stuart and Jules Quesnel, nineteen voyageurs and two First nations interpreters.

Along the way, Fraser and his men met many First Nations people; sharing food, trading goods, exchanging gifts and listening to their expert knowledge. They urged other routes on Fraser, “But going towards the sea by an indirect way was not the object of the undertaking,” Fraser wrote. “I will therefore not deviate.”

But the Fraser River – “is terrible to behold the rapidity and turbulence.” he (sic) wrote. “The rocks are amazing high and craggy … whirlpools and eddies surpass any thing of the kind that I ever saw before.”

Fraser and his men were frequently forced to portage, risking the hanging walkways, spindly scaffolds and dangling ladders built by the local First nations to traverse the steepest cliffs of the Fraser Canyon.

In the fertile Fraser Valley, Fraser and his men encountered the Musqueam people. The day before he reached his goal, he noted, “We arrived at a large village … the chief invited us to his house and served us with fish and berries … the chief consented to lend us his large canoe ….”

On July 2, 1808, Fraser wrote, “We came to a place where the river divides [now New Westminster] into several channels. Seeing a canoe following us, we waited for its arrival. One Indian of that canoe embarked with us and conducted us into the right channel. At last we came in sight of a bay of the sea.”

From the north arm of the Fraser River he could see the open Straight of Georgia beyond. Fraser had fulfilled his quest but the route he discovered to the Pacific was too difficult to serve the North West Company’s commercial needs.

Yet Simon Fraser’s historic adventure was a triumph of spirit and exploration. He challenged the dangerous river traveling more than 900 kilometres in 36 days. Amazingly, his entire crew survived the expedition. Fraser’s discoveries mark the beginnings of modern British Columbia with the Fraser River as a vital commercial hub and transportation corridor for our region.

Perhaps Simon Fraser, seen here in deep thought, is contemplating the incredible changes his journey of exploration set in motion. This evocative sculpture is the work of noted British Columbia artist Ken Lum.

Marine Gateway

Simon Fraser - Ken Lum

Stó:lõ -Halq’eméylem for “river people”

S’olh Temexw is the traditional territory of the Stó:lō people.  According to our swxoxwiyam, we have lived here since time immemorial.  The Stó:lō traditional territory extends from Yale to Langley, BC.”

Stó:lõ Nation

“Respected Stó:lõ family historians (ská:sls, or ‘those that keep track of everything”) strive to document for their audiences exactly how they came to know what they know, and how they have preserved what they know unadulterated from those from whom they learned it. Sloppy or questionable oral footnoting calls into question the legitimacy of the narrative itself, the worthiness of the historian and, by extension, the status of the historian’s family. Indeed, information collected among neighbouring communities indicates that it is a Coast Salish belief that to intentionally modify or alter ancient historical narratives will actually result in physical harm coming to members of the listening audience.”

A Stó:lõ-Coast Salish Historical Atlas, “Introduction,” Keith Thor Carlson

“[Charles] Borden’s regional chronology for the Lower Fraser Delta was organized around the larger distinction between prehistory and history, the boundary separating them coinciding with the arrival of the North West Company explorer Simon Fraser to the Fraser River in 1808. Aboriginal people also use the period of first European exploration –‘the coming of the white man’- as an organizing principle in their histories. But this is less to cite by date a specific turning point than it is to refer to the larger and ongoing processes of colonization. In fact, Musqueam oral tradition regarding the community’s encounter with the explorer highlights Fraser’s theft of a canoe from an upriver village.”

These Mysterious People: Shaping History and Archaeology in a Northwest Community, Susan Roy

“Consequently, when they arrived at Musqueam they were considered enemies. Villagers ran to fetch their warriors. Curiosity overcoming caution Fraser went ashore to examine a huge community house 457 metres in length. Warned to return to their canoe, they found it abandoned high and dry by the ebbing tide. Their armed Kwantlen pursuers, seeing the group’s predicament, closed in, joined by the Musqueam warriors who “began to make their appearance from every direction howling like so many wolves, brandishing their war clubs.” The crew desperately dragged their canoe to deep water, threatening their opponents with their firearms. Unable to continue they were forced to turn back up the river. “

Greater Vancouver Book, “Simon Fraser – Explorer,” Barbara Rogers

“He knew he was at the Straight of Georgia from Vancouver’s map, and wanted to continue to what he called ‘the main ocean’ but, feeling threatened, decided against it.”

British Columbia, A New Historical Atlas, “A River Not the Columbia,” Derek Hayes

Simon Fraser verso