Changes On The Drive #42

January 31, 2015

I decided to do my walk on the Drive a day early this month as tomorrow is supposed to be a real soaker.  Today was overcast and chilly, as we should expect this time of year. After about three months of quiet stability, retail and building change is suddenly everywhere on the Drive.  As usual, this report will move from south to north down the Drive.

The last available storefront in the Marquee Building at 2090 Commercial is still vacant.  All the others in that development seem to be thriving.

The small building and the Drive’s last surviving lawn at 2064 Commercial are up for sale, for $3.2 million.

2064 Commercial

The building was erected in October 1945 by Norman Gregory and Stan Brewer for their new venture called Atomic Transfer. This is no doubt one of the earliest public uses of the word “atomic” in Vancouver. The building was sold to Charlie and Jean Russell in 1951 when Atomic moved to 2145.  The Russells had run their Walkinay Wood Works in half the building since 1947, and they stayed as successful cabinet makers until the 1990s.  Mrs Russell, now over a hundred years old, was still living there until very recently

The Prado Cafe, with its fine parklet patio at Commercial & 4th is opening another branch in February. The new location is at 100 W. Hastings.

The Brandon Block at 1731-1739, perhaps my favourite building on the Drive, is still a mess as the owners renovate. JNZ Meats is still closed as a result. There was originally talk of putting in a new basement, but the upstairs apartments are now also stripped. They were known to be very affordable suites, but I am guessing that won’t be te case by the time this work is completed.  This is not the first time the Block has been altered. In 1913, the entire building was moved back seven feet to widen the Drive.

Strawberry Bakery, the very popular spot in the space between Mercato Mall and SuperValu has closed at the end of January. The owner decided to get married and move to Germany, I understand.


The Odlin Block at 1608-1612 Commercial is still for sale at $3.2 million.  The building’s early history can be traced here.

The storefront at 1458 is still closed but a sign says to soon expect the opening of the Bonvita Health Wellness Bar.

Last June, in Changes #34, I noted the Scandalicious waffle house at 1340 Commercial had opened a new branch at 25 Victoria.  Well, now the store on Commercial has closed, leaving the Victoria Store as their main place of business.


Beckwoman’s, a fixture at 1314 Commercial since 1989, suffered a devastating fire on 24th January.  The interior of the store was damaged but luckily neighbouring buildings, including the historic BC Mills house behind the shop were saved from the blaze.  Early reports are that the fire was caused by an old light bulb that burst into flames and set fire to the draperies hanging nearby.

Image courtesy of Bruce Macdonald

Image courtesy of Bruce Macdonald

It is impossible to tell from the street but there is a large hole in the roof caused by the fire, and the water used to douse the blaze damaged a floor that was already weakened. Given what I am told, that the store has a history of code violations, the new damage may well require the demolition of the building that was erected in 1930 by Fiore Marini to house his shoe repair business. I also understand that power has been cut to the suites in the BC Mills house behind and so the three renters will have to find accommodation elsewhere.

I hear that a number of nearby businesses have rallied to help Bonnie Beckman get through this trauma. She has been a fixture on the Drive since opening her first store at 1319 Commercial in 1981. She moved to her present location in 1989.

The storefronts at 1268 and 1108 are still vacant, with no sign of upcoming use.

Numerous rumours about what is going into the old Florida Market at 1102 have been settled.  It will be a coffee shop and roaster called Moja Coffee.  It has been designed by a San Francisco architect. Date of opening is still to be announced.

Image courtesy of Bruce Macdonald

Image courtesy of Bruce Macdonald

Drive Organics at 1045 has been sold to Choices Market.   The rebranding will take a few months, they say.

street art I_no border_small

The Liquorice candy and hula hoop store at 1002 Commercial managed to get some good publicity this month with the introduction of choloate snorting. There was a story in the Province and I believe they also got a spot on Global TV.  Good for Watermelon and her people!

The Shibuya Restaurant at 952 Commercial is still not open. The sign on the door says they are “renovating” but the pile of mail and flyers inside the door indicates that no-one has even gone in the shop for quite a while.

The old sandwich place at 907 Commercial has completed its renovation and the new Kin Kao Thai restaurant is expected to open any day now.  I’m looking forward to that.


Finally, and just off the Drive west on Venables, the old Prop House is being redesigned and repurposed with relatively inexpensive spaces for artists, writers and others.   That could be an excellent addition to the neighburhood.

Quite the month, eh?


Previous Changes on The Drive posts.

Image: Rope, Metal, Wood, and Water

January 31, 2015

rope metal wood metal

Night Music: Some Girls

January 30, 2015

Richard Brautigan

January 30, 2015



Today would have been the 80th birthday of Richard Brautigan.

There were entire decades during which I read and re-read the complete Brautigan canon every single year. After Dylan Thomas, Richard Brautigan was my most important influence.  He was especially valuable to me in giving inspiration and value to my flash fictions and poems.

I read and re-read the koans that are the stories in “Trout Fishing In America“, the utter tripiness of “In Watermelon Sugar,” the essential genre pastiches such as “The Hawkline Monster,” “Sombrero Fallout,” and “Dreaming of Babylon“, the straightforward vulnerability of “The Abortion.”  And the poetry.  Every year I read them, for decades.

I just finished “Trout Fishing” and “In Watermelon Sugar” for the first time in a long time, and I may go back to reading Brautugan every year again.

What Are We Doing To The Planet? #8

January 30, 2015

The following articles regarding human impact on the planet caught my attention this week:


According to a well supported report pollution is now the leading cause of death in developing countries.

In 2012, pollution – in the form of contaminated soil, water, and both indoor and outdoor air – was responsible for 8.4 million deaths in developing countries, finds Pollution: The Silent Killer of Millions in Poor Countries. That’s almost three times more deaths than those caused by malaria, HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis combined: Malaria claimed 600,000 lives in 2012, HIV/AIDS caused 1.5 million deaths and tuberculosis killed 900,000 individuals.

Why should we in the developed world worry (other than for humanity’s sake)? Because…

… polluted air from newly-industrialized countries can blow into your hometown; mercury from mining and coal plants can find its way into the fish you’re having for dinner; and arsenic and other toxins may show up in the rice and other food in your pantry.

Similar poisons are already working their way into our children’s health in the form of pesticides:

A commonly used pesticide may alter the development of the brain’s dopamine system — responsible for emotional expression and cognitive function – and increase the risk of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in children, according to a new Rutgers study … Using data from the Centers for Disease Control, National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) the study analyzed health care questionnaires and urine samples of 2,123 children and adolescents.  Researchers asked parents whether a physician had ever diagnosed their child with ADHD and cross-referenced each child’s prescription drug history to determine if any of the most common ADHD medications had been prescribed. Children with higher pyrethroid pesticide metabolite levels in their urine were more than twice as likely to be diagnosed with ADHD.

Finally this week, dams on the Missouri River are killing off the sturgeon.  The dams apparently cause dead zones where the oxygen levels are too low to support the survival of young sturgeon.

“Pallid sturgeon come from a genetic line that has lived on this planet for tens of millions of years; yet it has been decades since anyone has documented any of the enormous fish successfully producing young that survive to adulthood in the upper Missouri River basin … “This research shows that the transition zone between the freely flowing river and reservoirs is an ecological sink – a dead zone – for pallid sturgeon,” [Professor Christopher] Guy said. “Essentially, hatched sturgeon embryos die in the oxygen-depleted sediments in the transition zones.”


Previous What Are We Doing posts.

Image: Stormy Mountain Sunset

January 29, 2015

stormy mountain_sunset

Wise Words

January 29, 2015


Night Music: Go Now

January 28, 2015

“Go Now” was one of THE important songs for me back in the mid-1960s.  I never thought I’d hear a better version than the Moody Blues’ original recording. But when Denny Laine was part of the Wings Over America tour in 1976, he outdid himself with this incredible live version.

Image: Fleet In Fog

January 27, 2015

The Fleet in Fog_web

Night Music: Knofler, Clapton, Collins & Sting

January 26, 2015


Apes and Ebola

January 26, 2015

With thousands of humans dead in West Africa from the scourge of ebola, it is perhaps understandable that the cost to animals has gone unremarked.  However, according to a new report, ebola has killed a full thirty-three percent of gorillas and chimpanzees in the region over the last twenty-five years. The death rate among the apes is even higher than in humans, with 95% of infected gorillas dying.

“A year ago, one research team made significant progress on finding an Ebola vaccine for chimpanzees, yet once the disease started spreading amongst humans again, the researchers diverted their attention. Given the extent of the ape plague, perhaps it’s time to allocate some resources back to protecting the animals, as well. As Sophie Muset of the Jane Goodall Institute points out, “If you want a healthy ecosystem, the more you have to invest in health for wildlife and humans… because really, it all works together.”

I have no idea what can be done, but the crisis must at least be discussed.

Poem: Aromamore

January 26, 2015

was it the jitterbug perfume

she poured on my soul

— the fragrance of an everlasting kiss —

that keeps me staring

into the dark?

my neglected work

— lying angry like an abandoned maiden

scattered across my desk —

shivers with jealousy

as I part the curtains once more

and stare into that scented slice

of memory

On Dictionaries

January 25, 2015

While suffering — though definitely not in silence — from some nasty bug that has laid me low for three days now and shows few signs of abating, I have at least had a chance to rest and read. One of the most interesting pieces I got to spend time on is this marvelous Slate piece about the creation of the 4th edition of the Merriam-Webster dictionary — the OED of American English.

Merriam-Webster have caught up with the times:

More than half a century after it was published, the company’s landmark book—Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged, known in lexicographic circles as Webster’s Third, W3, the Unabridged, or the Third—is getting an overhaul. The Third is a behemoth—4 inches thick, 13½ pounds, 2,700 pages—that falls like a crashing wave when opened. A fourth edition, by contrast, might never exist as a physical object. This latest revision, a project Merriam-Webster hopes will secure its dominance in the tenuous business of commercial lexicography if not ensure its future survival, is happening entirely online.

The article includes some fascinating snippets about the history of dictionary-making in America, and provides insights into how the old and the new are melding in the current production. For example:

The New Words file contains about 1,700 nominees for word-dom. But it isn’t the sum and substance of the Unabridged revision. Merriam plans to re-examine and when necessary—and it’s usually necessary—rewrite each of more than 476,000 entries from the most recent printing of the Third, in 2002, when the original 1961 edition, plus its seven addenda, was first made available online.

An incredible task and not without its risks from a business perspective. After all, with no physical book to sell, the potential revenue streams are more difficult to assess:

On its face, this might sound like a terrible plan. Merriam has tasked the majority of its employees with rewriting a book that likely won’t generate revenue the old-fashioned way, through hardcover sales. The project involves the subscription-only Unabridged site, not Merriam’s free online dictionary, which is based on its smaller desktop book, Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary. So there’s no guarantee it will find enough customers willing to pay $29.95 a year to turn a profit. Plus, the work could take decades to complete. By the time the Third gets close to being a Fourth, it’s not clear how people will use a dictionary, or even what a dictionary will be.

This is a wonderful piece for anyone interested in the future of vocabulary and the use of dictionaries. Thoroughly recommended.

Image: Tree and Coaster

January 25, 2015

Trees and coaster for jak3

Night Music: No Woman No Cry

January 24, 2015

A Target on Capitalism’s Back

January 23, 2015

target-storeThe pro-capitalists always argue that under that system people get paid what they are worth to the organization.  I want one or more of them to explain to me how the CEO of Target Canada — a perfect symbol of failure in the retail sector, with the company in bankruptcy costing the US corporation billions in write downs, and having suffered a major credit car security breach on top of everything else — can walk away with $61 million?

That $61 million is more than the entire severance packages for Target Canada’s 18,000 staff who have been thrown out of work through no fault of their own due to that same CEO’s incompetence.

Come on you supporters of capitalism; tell me how this fits with your beliefs.


Image: Street Art IV

January 23, 2015


What Are We Doing To The Planet #7

January 23, 2015

The following articles on our impact on the planet caught my attention this week.


What is killing the birds in San Francisco Bay?  No-one is sure, but it certainly isn’t natural and it certainly is man-made.

“The goo is coating their feathers, which causes them to lose their insulation and leaves the birds vulnerable to hypothermia. So far it has mostly affected diving birds including surf scoters, bufflehead ducks and horned grebes on the eastern shore of the bay, however more affected birds have been reported on the west side near Foster City. The goo is also beginning to harm other species, including sandpipers.”

New figures released show that some parts of the Arctic ice cap “has thinned by more than 50 metres just since 2012.”

“The findings show that over the last two decades, ice loss from the south-east region of Austfonna, located in the Svalbard archipelago, has increased significantly. In this time, ice flow has accelerated to speeds of several kilometres per year, and ice thinning has spread more than 50km inland – to within 10km of the summit.”

Global warming is not just affecting ice sheets, it is also likely to have a direct affect on the cost of bread in the near future.

“An international consortium of scientists have been testing wheat crops in laboratory and field trials in many areas of the world in changing climate conditions and discovered that yields drop on average by 6% for every one degree Celsius rise in temperature. This represents 42 million tonnes of wheat lost – about a quarter of the current global wheat trade – for every degree. This would create serious shortages and cause price hikes of the kind that have previously caused food riots in developing countries after only one bad harvest.”


Our impact on the earth has increased significantly since 1950, and humans’ impact is accelerating according to a set of 24 global indicators, or “planetary dashboard,” published in the journal Anthropocene Review (19 January 2015).

“It is difficult to overestimate the scale and speed of change. In a single lifetime humanity has become a planetary-scale geological force,” says lead author Professor Will Steffen, who led the joint project between the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP) and the Stockholm Resilience Centre … After 1950 you can see that major Earth System changes became directly linked to changes largely related to the global economic system. This is a new phenomenon and indicates that humanity has a new responsibility at a global level for the planet,” he added … Co-author IGBP Deputy Director, Dr Wendy Broadgate said, “The Great Acceleration indicators allow us to distinguish the signal from the noise. Earth is in a quantifiably different state than before. Several significant Earth System processes are now driven by human consumption and production.”

This is all very scary stuff, folks.  We ignore these clear indicators at our children’s peril.


Previous What Are We Doing posts

Night Music: Ella

January 22, 2015

The Day The Revolution Began

January 22, 2015

The_Russian_Revolution,_1905_Q81561Today is the 110th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday”, when the Tsarist authorities fired upon and attacked a march of unarmed protesters in Saint Petersburg led by Father Georgy Gapon. Official casualties listed between 90 and 130 dead, though witnesses consider the figure of 1,000 killed and wounded to be more accurate.

Bloody Sunday led to severe unrest across Russia, including anarchist-inspired mass strikes and workers’ councils, and was eventually the prelude to the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917.

The use of the mass strike and elected workers’ councils — anarchist tactics dismissed for decades by Marx and Engels — proved decisive in bringing workers, peasants and intelligensia together. “A new weapon, more terrible than street warfare, had thus been tested and proved to work admirably,” observed anarchist Petr Kropotkin.

The events of 22 January 1905 led eventually to the Tsar’s October Manifesto and the 1906 Constitution which granted a modicum of civil liberties to the people and created the first Duma or parliament. More importantly, after January 1905, the Tsar was recognized simply as another vicious autocrat rather than the Father of the people and his position and prestige were fatally damaged.

The reaction to the January massacre closely followed anarchist ideas, proving the value of the anarchist theories of the mass strike and self-governing recallable workers’ councils. However, in the years following, reactionary social democrats under Lenin and others gradually manipulated their way into control. They infected the revolution with the false dogma of Marx-Engelsism and the corrupting idea of the “vanguard” which, after 1917, led inevitably to a dictatorship not “of” the proletariat but “over” the proletariat in the evil state capitalism of the Soviet Union.