fear & loathing in Lotusland


by Zbigniew

Real Estate Yard Sale

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Hi Team:

I was hoping against hope when my lovely old landlady died, but her kids want to unload the house and cash in big.

Anyways, here’s me with a disposition towards collecting antiquated technology -rotary dial phones, turntables, transistor radios, VHS players and the like- and literary works from James Elroy to a First Folio. To say nothing of all the odds and sods and memories a divorced fella on the bad side of 50 will accumulate situated comfortably in the same locale for dozen years or so.

Anywho! Garage sale! June 4th, that’s perfect –it’ll give me a jump on the end of the month, it being my heave-ho date.

So, how do we close the deal, as it were? And when you say refreshments, what kind of range are we talking about?




Thursday, May 26

Hi Zbig,

Thank you for your email about our garage sale! Its really simple to sign up. I just need your name, phone number and address. From your email I got an idea of what you will be selling and I am sorry for your loss. I will also need to know where on your property that you will be located so we can put up signs to direct people to the right direction. Refreshements will include some coffee, tea, water and we will bring around some doughnuts and possibly muffins as well. I hope this email helps you out a bit more.

Thank you …


Friday, May 27


Sounds good, although I was hoping for beer!

Would you happen know of any rental opportunities in East Vancouver? Of the affordable sort, I mean. It’s a tight market out there and finding something affordable, livable and secure is proving a tall order, especially with all the property changing hands.

Anyhow, I’m glad you’re organizing a community event, given how much of a beating the community has had, with all the evictions and such.




Friday, May 27

Good Morning,

I will keep my eye out for any rental opportunites (sic) that come along and I will pass this onto Wendy as well. Do you own the place that you are in now? It is a challenging task especially in todays (sic) market but I will keep you posted.

Real Estate Yard Sale 2

Young, Diverse, Isolated

by Zbigniew

“The Vancouver Foundation thinktank asked community leaders and charities to identify the biggest issues facing Vancouverites and were told it wasn’t homelessness or poverty; it was isolation. Of 4,000 people from 80-odd ethnic groups who were polled, one third of respondents found it hard to make friends – something I discovered firsthand when I spent a rainy, grey winter working in Vancouver, wandering Stanley Park alone with my dog at weekends and sitting in crowded cafes by myself. In this young, diverse city, the newly arrived struggle most: among people who had been in Canada for five years or less, almost half (42%) had just two close friends.”

“Whats the world’s loneliest city?” Craille Maquire Gillies, The Guardian, April 7, 2016


by Zbigniew

Bill & ErniePhotograph: Brian Kent/Vancouver Sun, PNG

My memories of the opaquely sanctioned dog & pony show -destined to remain dormant in some atrophied cluster of neurons but reanimated by the hullabaloo of the 30-year anniversary- are not very coherent:

  • a giant hockey stick
  • an undulating highway cum hazardous concrete playground for kids of all ages
  • being coerced by a monarchist into an up-close viewing of the Prince and Princess (Too much Prince, too little Princess, from my vantage)
  • a Psychedelic Furs concert
  • a CPR exhibit that employed a mime to enthusiastically illustrate the decline in passenger rail service
  • a presentation on British Columbia’s mining industry, complete with a chorus of singing puppet minerals -featuring Molybdenum as the basso profondo (sic)
  • the Power Plant studio, where we recorded a not-too-nuanced cover of Roy Orbison’s “Pretty Woman” after a piss-up at Club ’86
  • the Philippines Pavilion -essentially a front for the sale of imported rattan furniture
  • Canada Geese in high fidelity 3D
  • gondolas
  • monorail
  • McBarge

All in all, nothing, with nightly fireworks.


“The urban recession of the 1980s was still closely linked to the slowdown in the lumber industry, even if its most obvious symptom was a rapid decline in real estate values. But since then, there have been clear signs that the Vancouver economy is both uncoupling from the rest of the province, and becoming more dynamic … it has uncoupled from its interior and become more of a Pacific Rim city, drawing nourishment from its direct links to such centres as Singapore, Hong Kong, Shanghai Seoul, Taipei, Tokyo.

“Looking at less tangible factors … we could argue that that Vancouver’s recent growth has come from a self-reflexive belief in itself; it succeeds, postmodern style, more because of its image as a place ‘where the action is’ than because of any evident material cause.”

Paul Delaney, “Vancouver as a Postmodern City,” Vancouver: Representing the Postmodern City


By 1986 the Lower Mainland was no stranger to foreign capital induced megaprojects –witness the Guinness Family development of the British Properties.

Expo brought this dynamic in from the sticks, to the city’s industrial heart, wiping the economic and historical slate clean -a six-month psychic bulldozing by circus. Beehive burners and Sweeney Cooperage were obliterated by a giant watch and a corkscrew rollercoaster. The world was in motion and the motion was up, an elevator to an eventual stop at a circa 40th floor luxury penthouse.

So cleansed, the site’s 83 hectares were sold in bulk to Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing at the wholesale price of $320 million dollars. But wait! If you buy now, the Province will throw in soil remediation, netting the good citizens of BC a scandalous $145 million. And so: “Li Ka-ching!”

Grotesque spectacle as marketing strategy, bulk foreign capital dictating urban development and redevelopment: these are the obvious Expo legacies.

But other nasty seeds were planted in the lead-up to the World Exposition on Transportation and Communication (Class II). In the intervening 30 years these have yielded a bumper crop of bitter fruit.


In May of 1986 I was halfway through my undergraduate degree.

I paid my own way, thanks to an affordable tuition -about $1,000 a year for a full coarse-load- and a union job. At Vancouver General Hospital I distributed meals, collected the remains, and operated an industrial washing machine, among other tasks. If there was any “fat” in the system, I didn’t see it. The work was sweaty, dirty, odorous and honest, with daily exposure to the worst a malfunctioning or injured human body can offer, but the best of grace and resilience.

I worked full-time in summer and on-call the rest of the year to focus on my studies. I didn’t exactly live high on the hog. I earned enough to keep my 1977 Volkswagen Sirocco –no functioning heat, radio, or sex appeal- on the road (for extended periods, anyways), graduate debt-free with the vague impression that I had possibly learned something, and scrimp together enough to backpack across Europe -on the cheap.

While the Reagan-Thatcherite dogma was only recently installed by the early 1980s, in BC the neo-liberal agenda was in full tilt under the Social Credit Party and Bennett fils. Having already beaten-up the working public with its proto-austerity “Restraint” regime, Expo opened up new opportunities for the Socreds to dismantle the social safety net and pave the way for dispassionate markets.

In the immediate lead-up to the exposition: six hundred people -mostly poor and elderly occupants of Downtown Eastside SROs- were displaced to make room for tourists, the provincial government having refused to outlaw evictions; university tuition climbed dramatically, as the circus’ deficit grew from $6 million to more than $300 million; and, both against a backdrop of an on-going cold war against organized labour.

These are the other legacies: widespread housing unaffordability and insecurity, massive and debilitating student debt loads, and low-wage employment.

My old union job? Outsourced to an international conglomerate that maximizes shareholder value by limiting wages and providing the worst of goods and services; food is now prepared in Calgary and trucked to Vancouver hospitals, while the poor schmuck that took my place makes less now in relative and absolute terms than I did 30 years ago.


On a late summer night in 1986, I’m ‘where the action is,’ patiently enduring the overture that announces the imminent start of the nightly fireworks display.

I am obviously oblivious to the good fortune of having caught the tail end of a social economy that gives a working class kid some opportunities, but I am uneasy. My delicately balanced world of work, study, and rudimentary independence is starting to slip. I’m in the the hole for my suddenly expensive fall courses, and a pocketbook-destroying job action looms on the horizon.

The elaborate and forgettable configuration of ignited powders builds to a crescendo, accompanied by a hysterical chorus that demands, insists, “Something’s Happening … Something’s Happening … SOMETHING’S HAPPENING … SOMETHING’S HAPPENING HERE!” I look up at the tracers fading away, and as the echoes of explosions diminish and the crowd starts its cheering, I think, “There goes my tuition.”


It is the 40th anniversary of Habitat Forum.

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.