Pandora’s Seed Droops

March 31, 2013

I spent the last week reading “Pandora’s Seed: The Unforseen Cost of Civilization” by the National Geographic Society’s Explorer-in-Residence Spencer Wells, and I was thoroughly disappointed.

I’m guessing that if it was a reader’s very first introduction to the disasters caused by the Neolithic Revolution — hierarchy, stress, planet destruction — then perhaps some of the chapters would be of value. But for the many who have studied this topic for a long time, including a couple of mentions on this blog, this was little more than a recap.

There was too much of the Sunday supplement style of writing, describing flights to exotic locales, cab journeys, and the minutia of other scientists’ looks.  I sometimes thought I was reading the lead-in to a People profile. He did have the occasional good line; perhaps the best of which correctly describes agriculture as “a virus, expanding in influence despite its negative effects on human health.”

But this was generally too shallow a dive for me.

Christmas In The Sun!

March 29, 2013

VD and 33 flags

Seen today at a sun-drenched Victoria and 33rd!

A Day Full of History

March 29, 2013

As part of my research for volume 2 of “The Drive”, I spent yesterday at the City Archives digging up papers on the local provision of social services and the birth of the Grandview Woodland Area Council in the 1960s. I was also checking out documentation on the last gasps of the Grandview Chamber of Commerce which had been the narrative hook throughout volume one.

I know it is not everyone’s cup of tea reading dusty old minutes of long-ago organizations, and studying earnest reports that usually didn’t go anywhere, but I just love it.

I chose to go yesterday because it put me in the right place for the regular Vancouver Historical Society‘s lecture series.  Last night it was the splendid Eve Lazarus talking about one of Vancouver’s most flamboyant entrepreneurs, Alvo von Alvensleben.  During my researches into the great building boom of 1908-1912, I had come across von Alvensleben, and I was aware he left Vancouver under a cloud at the beginning of the First World War.  But Eve filled in a wide range of detail, from his family in Germany, through his investment exploits in Vancouver, to his later life in Seattle.  It was a fine talk, a packed room, and a bunch of good friends.

Before the talk began, just before sunset, I took this shot of downtown Vancouver; an unusual view.

Vancouver from MOV_small

Whistling Looney Tunes On The Viaducts

March 29, 2013

wile e coyoteThe Courier this week has a story about the reservations the Strathcona Residents Association (SRA) have about the unholy haste Vision Vancouver has for demolishing the Georgia Street viaduct.  Many of these concerns are shared here in Grandview which will be the dumping ground for all the City’s eastbound traffic if we allow Council to move ahead in support of their developer allies without a comprehensive plan in place.

I wrote a letter to the Courier in support of the SRA’s position:

I am writing in support of the Strathcona Residents’ Association position on the demolition of the the viaducts as discussed in your article.  To demolish the viaducts without a comprehensive plan is simply absurd.

Cllr. Meggs’ position that we should demolish and THEN plan is horribly reminiscent of Wile E. Coyote running off the edge of a cliff in the vain hope that gravity will be suspended and not hurl him into the canyon below. But Vancouver is not a cartoon, and a rushed and foolhardy decision to move ahead — primarily to serve the needs of the Aquilini developments around the stadium — could damage the eastern parts of the City for a generation or more.

At a recent public meeting of the Grandview Woodland Area Council (GWAC) of which I am a Director, City engineers explained that the rush to remove the viaducts had caught them by surprise, that they had considered this a project that would take several more years to consider and plan. It is clear, therefore, that immediate demolition of the viaducts is a political decision rather than one that focuses on the traffic and social needs of the community.

To rush this decision today would be as rash as Tom Campbell’s decision to build the viaducts in the first place.

My own position on the viaducts is that they should be re-purposed rather than demolished.  But either way, bringing them down without a plan is ridiculous, and clearly exposes Vision’s desire to please their developer pals at whatever cost to our city.

Happy Holi!

March 27, 2013


La Patrona: A First Review

March 26, 2013

It was a marvelously perfect Spring day today for my first trip out of the house in nearly a week.

The ever-loving and I had a lot to do — what with shopping and blood work, banking and pharmacy visits, a haircut and a visit to the book store — and we really enjoyed both the sunshine and the cool air as walked from one end of the Drive to the other.  We had already decided to give the new restaurant La Patrona a try, and by the time we got there we were happy to rest our weary limbs.


La Patrona has taken over the space that was for years the Caffe Amici, famous mostly, I believe, for the old geezers who would sit on the patio and leer at the passing women.  The new place is bright and clean and the El Salvadoran family that run it — mother, son and daughter-in-law — are friendly and eager to make it work.  They offer breakfast, lunch and dinner, though right now they have a small basic menu that I am sure will grow over time (papusas are promised eventually).

Herself had a classic breakfast with poached eggs and bacon, and the eggs looked picture perfect rather than wet and squiggy as they are in so many places.  She certainly enjoyed it.  I tried their special Deep Dish breakfast:  a casserole filled with a scrambled egg, ham, tomato and onions mix cooked on a piece of naan bread.  It was cleverly seasoned and tasted great.  It was big enough that I couldn’t finish it all.  The coffee was strong and delicious and came with re-fills.  I am sure we will be back.

They are a fine addition to the Drive’s eclectic food choices and I wish them all the best for a successful future.

Fish and Chips On The Drive

March 24, 2013
Is this the future for Grandview Park?

Is this the future for Grandview Park?

As I have written earlier this month, there is much controversy about having food trucks on Commercial Drive.  I have written my own letter to the City which I am happy to share here:

I am writing to complain in the most vigorous terms about the imposition by the City of a mobile food truck that has recently begun parking in front of Grandview Park. I am also concerned that additional food truck licenses are being considered for Commercial Drive against the wishes, I believe, of the BIA and most residents in the neighbourhood.

According to the City’s own food truck program documentation, the City expects food trucks to

(a) create local economic benefits;
(b) provide food options for communities currently underserved; and
(c) enlive the street scene.

It is clear to anyone who knows Commercial Drive that none of these expectations are being met in this case: The economic benefits will flow only to a merchant who already operates on the Drive; there are already 93 restaurants on Commercial Drive between Venables and Broadway offering a dazzling array of eat-in and take-out food options (inclusing excellent fish and chips); and Commercial Drive is already considered one of the most lively street scenes in the City.

The previous paragraph will be true for any and all food trucks that appear on Commercial Drive. With regard to the Daily Catch’s van in particular and its position on Grandview Park, there are additional issues. As you are aware, Grandview has a significant deficit in green space when compared with other areas of the City. Therefore, to have our premier park marred by the presence of a food truck is simply outrageous. The truck also takes up coveted street parking space used by all property-tax-paying businesses on the Drive. There are also odour and noise issues to consider.

Each of these problems will be magnified by the presence of — so we hear — up to four such trucks on the Drive.

With regard once again to the Daily Catch, there can be no argument that they have now invested considerable sums on their truck and so some compromise needs to be found for them — away from any Park or residential area. Having them remain outside their own store seems one option, though I understand a number of food businesses on that block have complained about their presence. Perhaps they could move to the Cut where they would gain traffic from the SkyTrain. Perhaps they could be accommodated on the City’s parking lot at Commercial and Adanac where the bike route would be favourable for them. Other suggestions have included the Waldorf Hotel and the busy transit area of Commercial and Hastings.

At a well-attended public meeting of GWAC earlier this month, the President of the Commercial Drive BIA specifically stated that the BIA was and is utterly opposed to food trucks on the Drive, and that they had only become involved through pressure from the City. Given that both the BIA and a considerable number of residents are opposed to their presence, can you please give assurances that no further food trucks will be imposed on us?

The letter was sent to the City Licensing Department and copied to The Daily Catch, the BIA and GWAC.

I’m sure there will be readers who support the idea of food trucks here, who don’t mind our Grandview Park being turned into a version of the PNE midway where fast-food grab-joints fill the air with grease and other noxious fumes.  Fair enough, but many of us don’t want that kind of dystopian future here.

As the letter notes, there are already almost a hundred eating places within walking distance of the Park; no one is going short of choice.  In fact, if you find yourself at the Park and feel a desire for fish and chips, walk just two blocks north to Windjammer Fish & Chips where the food is at least as good as on the truck, is cheaper, and where you can sit down and enjoy your meal in the comfort of a restaurant.  Or just walk across the street to Fet’s where they also serve excellent fish and chips and you can enjoy their patio seating.

Or, of course, you could go to the Daily Catch store, buy a lovely piece of fish and cook it yourself at home.