Night Music: Carry On

September 30, 2016

Goodbye Jimmy Dean

September 30, 2016

james-deanJames Dean died sixty-one years ago today. He was just twenty-four but had already become the living embodiment of both angst and cool.

Does he mean anything to the Millennials or even Gen Xers, I wonder?

“Dream as if you’ll live forever. Live as if you’ll die today.”

Wise Words

September 30, 2016


“Make the most of your regrets; never smother your sorrow, but tend and cherish it until it comes to have a separate and integral interest.  To regret deeply is to live afresh.”

— Henry David Thoreau

Development of St. Francis of Assisi

September 29, 2016

The next monthly meeting of the Grandview Woodland Area Council takes place on Monday 4th October at 7:00pm in the Learning Resource Centre beneath Britannia Library. The topic this month is the plan for development of properties owned by St Francis of Assisi Church east of Victoria Drive.


There will be a number of speakers, and the proposal can be studied at the St Francis School website.

This discussion is another example of how the current GWAC Board is bringing forward issues of direct interest and concern to our neighbourhood.  This is such an invigorating change from some of the obstructionist do-nothing Boards of the recent past.

Public Engagement IS the Problem

September 29, 2016

There are a great many things wrong with the way Vancouver City Hall works today: the fact that we have political parties in municipal government (unlike any other city in Canada); immoral and secretive political financing rules; the at-large system; the fact that the ruling regime acts as cronies for the development industry; the historical fact that, due to the previous issue, the regime refuses to listen to the citizens in our neighbourhoods.

The combination of these structural and political problems has brought us to the dire situation we face today with housing unaffordability, an unworkable vacancy rate for rentals, increasing homelessness, and frustrated citizens who know that however strong their case their point of view will be ignored if it clashes with the greed of developers.

This last problem may be discussed at a forum called “Can Public Engagement Change Systems” to be held at SFU Harbour Centre on 6th October from 7:00pm to 9:00pm.

Registration and further details can be found here.

Image: City Paints Itself

September 29, 2016


Night Music: Love’s Been Rough On Me

September 28, 2016

The Oldest House in Grandview

September 28, 2016

At last Thursday’s Grandview Heritage Group meeting, a local resident gave an extended presentation on the history of his house which, I am certain, is the oldest house left standing in Grandview (at least south of Hastings).  It was built in 1900 and has been moved twice: once in 1937 and again in 1955 to its present location.

I was privileged to be able to offer guidance during the research.

The presentation is now available for all to see at the GHG website.  It’s a fascinating story and worth reading if you have any interest in our local history.

Happy Birthday Gems!

September 28, 2016

Gemma 2016


Happy birthday to my beautiful grand-daughter!  She takes after her gorgeous mother.


Betty Boop For President

September 27, 2016

Here is a cartoon from 1932 where Betty Boop (HRC) runs against Mr Nobody (DJT). Nothing much has changed!

Wise Words

September 27, 2016


“Soon silence will have passed into legend.  Man has turned his back on silence.  Day after day he invents machines and devices that increase noise and distract humanity from the essence of life, contemplation, meditation.  Tooting, howling, screeching, booming, crashing, whistling, grinding and trilling bolster his ego.”

— Jean Arp

Image: Roofs

September 27, 2016


Night Music: Tubular Bells

September 26, 2016

OK, so tonight’s music selection takes some commitment.  It takes 25 minutes to watch, and might mean absolutely nothing to anyone born after, say, 1960.

This is a live BBC recording of Mike Oldfield’s glorious Tubular Bells, an important artifact of the post-hippy lyrical movement.  This was recorded in 1973, about forty years before much of today’s electronic wizadry was available. It is, I believe, one of the very few truly symphonic pieces to have emerged whole from the chaos of those days. Listening to Viv Stanshall’s droll roll-call of the instruments near the end brought back so many good memories.



Commercial & Broadway: The Future

September 26, 2016



Here is an important date for the calendar for anyone interested in the future of Grandview, especially regarding development on its southern border.

On Saturday 8th October Westbank Properties will be holding an open house information session on the future of the Safeway site at Commercial & Broadway.  The session will be from 11am to 3pm at Federico’s Supper Club, 1728 Commercial Drive.

The City’s vision for the site is for multiple towers from 12 to 24 storeys with a central public plaza. I believe they also propose that Safeway become a two-storey store. However, at City Hall in June, Safeway/Sobey’s said there was no way they would accept a two-storey grocery; a position that could adversely affect the space required for the public plaza.

It will be interesting to see how the developer is planning to square that circle.


Poem: Forward

September 26, 2016


The forked tongue of the future lies ahead

Beckoning us forward.  Advance!  Progress!

Regardless of the perils and our dread


Of failure, ever onward must we tread.

And no matter how much we feel the stress,

The forked tongue of the future lies ahead.


And whether we fly the black flag or red,

The same indignations we must address

Regardless of the perils and our dread:


The starving masses, children barely fed;

And even for those who have even less

The forked tongue of the future lies ahead.


So throw away your doubts; let us instead

Rejoice in future’s coming, and impress —

Regardless of the perils and our dread —


Our generation’s mark.  Let it be said

We lived, loved, built, and understood that, yes,

The forked tongue of the future lies ahead

Regardless of the perils and our dread.

Image: Light At The End Of The Path

September 25, 2016

Light At The End Of The Path

Night Music: Marrakech Express

September 24, 2016

Memoir: Marrakech Express

September 24, 2016

It was 1971 and Ken and I took the ferry from Algeciras to Tangiers. We looked as if we had been on the road for months but, in truth, it had been only a couple of weeks — we had just let ourselves go on the easy road down through France and Spain. A man in his late twenties — which we considered to be very close to middle age and possibly wisdom  —  whom we had met near Barcelona, told us that the Moroccan authorities were targeting long-haired Europeans. This didn’t bother Ken who always kept his hair short.  But here I was on the windy deck of a Mediterranean ferry with half-way-down-my-back-length hair tied up in string and stuffed uncomfortably inside an oversized cowboy hat I had found near Valencia.

When we arrived, the customs officers barely looked at us, stamped our passports and waved us through. But our Barcelona sage had not warned us about the swarm of ragged boys who descend on arrivals, shouting their wares, begging for attention, pulling at sleeves. Most seemed to be about ten or twelve.  I cannot recall any other passengers on the ferry  — although there must have been — and the crowd of boys seemed to concentrate on Ken and I, circling us with their pleading hands and eyes, until we were brought to a stop on the quayside. Ken pointed to one boy indistinguishable from the rest. It seemed to break the spell and the others slowly dispersed.

“Francais?” he beamed through broken teeth.  We shook our heads.



“Anglais good, very good!” We were following him down the quayside now, toward the intersection where the souk gate led off to the right, and a more ordinary seafront stretched to the left. And all the time he was listing off, in a musical melange of English and French, his perceptions of our wants and how available they might be.

“You want hotel, yes?”

“Yeah.  You know some?”

“Bien sur. Many hotel, many fine hotel for ‘ippy.”  I looked at Ken and Ken looked at me. We had no real idea why we were following this kid, but neither of us had any alternative suggestions.

tabgier-soukBy this point we had reached the entrance to the area of the Petit Socco. Following the child-guide now meant pursuing the unknown deeper and deeper into alleyways that we could never hope to find our way back from.  Not, at least, on this, our first day. But follow him we did, and it was not too far into the market when he pulled us into a building sporting a colourful sign in Arabic and French — “Pension d’Petit Socco”.

The kid did the deal for us. It was even cheaper than we had expected and within a few minutes we were in a room with two mattresses on the floor, no other furniture, and a window onto a rubbish-filled courtyard where a very young girl was struggling to put heavy laundry through an ancient hand-operated wringer.

“You want keef, yes?”  Not daring to voice the thought, we just nodded. He gave us a huge gappy smile.

“Vingt dirham. I return in quarter hour.” He thrust out his hand. Ken gave him the money and the kid ran out of the room. Ken looked at me, and I looked at Ken. What the hell had we done? Would the kid bring the police to bust us?  Would he just steal our money? Shit! What had we done?

The mattresses were dirtier than anything either of us had experienced before. We didn’t need to actually see the bugs moving to know they were there in force. So we didn’t sit down. We stood at the window watching the girl work, smoking the last few of our English cigarettes, thinking our own thoughts of what the inside of a Moroccan jail would be like.

The kid was back in ten minutes. Closing the door, he threw me a huge brown paper bag full of deep green leaves, and a pack of ZigZag papers. His smile, if anything, was broader than before.

“You want girl?  Young girl maybe?  We shook our heads.

“Not my sister.  Honest.  Virgin girl, very good!”

As he said this he looked so young, far too young to understand what he was offering. But he seemed clear enough.   We shooed him out of the room, but not before he had wheedled another 10 dirhams out of us for finding the hotel.  In the end he seemed pleased enough with his morning’s work.

We stacked Ken’s huge back pack against the door.  Then for another ten minutes we stood there, staring at the bag of kif, sure that this was when the police would actually arrive. But our resistance weakened with every passing minute. I took the ZigZags and created a three paper spliff into which I tipped the last English cigarette. In the meantime, Ken had cleaned a small pile of leaf and we added this to the mix. A good tight roll, a piece of the now-empty Player’s package as a filter band, and we were ready. We took turns toking, leaning against the back wall, watching the door, expecting the gendarmerie at every moment. But the kif was good — very good — and our fears gradually drifted away like the thick aromatic smoke.

We stayed in Tangiers for four days, becoming ever more confident in our trips along the steep alleyways and covered lanes that tumble over the hillsides. We explored the Grand Socco, a large square with a permanent market that attracts visiting tribesmen and tourists alike; we tramped the precincts of Moulay Ismail’s minaret which dominates the souk, reveling in the sight and feel of its cool polychrome earthenware tiling;  we even wandered south to the tourist beaches where we leaned on iron balustrades and fantasized about the buxom daughters of German burgher tourists who were obliged to sit on the sand in the wan January sun. But most of the time we sat around outside Café Maroc in the P’tit Socco, just a few steps from our hotel.

Café Maroc was a happening place. It was in the youth of its career as a meeting centre, social club, and bulletin board for the ever-increasing number of young travellers from all parts of the world making their way through Tangiers. At the Maroc you could find a lover, a good deal on dope, a ride on a Harley through Afghanistan, a tip on the best place to stay in Bombay or Katmandhu or St Louis, and, most important of all, friendship and company. You could also get the Hippy Breakfast (a huge omelette and an orange for a couple of dirhams), one of the best tajines in the whole of Morocco and a fine cup of hot sweet mint tea. It was, perhaps, the aroma of heated mint from a score of cafes and market burners that best defined the P’tit Socco.

It was at the Café Maroc on our third day that we heard about the train to Marrakech. I had spent the whole of the time it took to slowly eat my omelette listening to a Canadian fellow’s grand idea of hitching his way around the entire perimeter of Africa, south from Morocco, down around the Cape, up again through Egypt. It was a grand plan fueled by several chillums of calculation. When he left, Ken and I started thinking about what we were actually going to do, now that we had arrived in Africa. I was keen on reaching Kenya somehow, maybe working on a game farm; Ken had his eye on South Africa – he never did have any politics. Nothing seemed too hard to imagine, nothing seemed to difficult to try. Ken walked back to the hotel and returned with his map. Over more tea and another sweet kif spliff, we traced various routes on the map which was so small that sometimes our fingers covered whole countries.

It was at about this time that someone at another table mentioned the train to Marrakech. We waved him over and plugged him for information. He had just returned from the southern city, he told us, and taking the train back had been a trip: cheap and colourful, and a heck of a lot quicker than the trucks he had hitched to get down there.  He couldn’t tell us much more before he was drawn away into another conversation. Ken and I peered at the map.  Marrakech was a long way south of Tangiers.  That was a start.



When I left England, I wrapped three T-shirts, three pairs of underwear, two pairs of socks and some washing gear in my bedroll. In the small Army pouch I’d purchased from a Surplus Store, I kept my money, my passport, and my copy of “Siddhartha”. Ken, on the other hand, had purchased the largest back pack I had ever seen. In it, he crammed enough clothes and camping gear to last him at least three years after any nuclear holocaust. It weighed 40, 50 pounds! By the time we had spent three days hiking through France, he must have realized he had brought too much gear. But, at every stop, he would unpack and re-pack the whole darned thing. I spent our last night in Tangiers lying on my bedroll on the floor — we had stacked the mattresses in the corner — smoking and dreamily watching Ken go through his ritualistic packing. It was if he thought that to pack it differently would somehow reduce the weight. I fell asleep laughing.

We arrived at the station early the next morning only to discover that the train didn’t leave until late afternoon. Ken didn’t want to carry his pack (which mysteriously had lost no weight through repacking) all the way back up to the souk, so we sat in the huge cool ticket area and watched the crowds milling around. At that time of day, everyone looked to be just like businessmen everywhere. It would have been really boring if we had been straight. Sometime around lunchtime we decided to buy tickets.

“E” class was  half the price of third class. In third class, you were able to fight for a seat:  in “E” class there were no seats. The carriage was definitely not a cattle car — it had a full complement of windows. Rather it appeared to be a regular train car with all the seats and fittings removed. We thought we had gotten on early but the carriage was already full. Tribesmen in white shirts and pants, their heads swarthed in dark cloths, carrying ancient long barrelled rifles, sat on wide wooden boxes. Dark robed women squatted amid goats, their eyes and their hands — both moving always — the only visible expression of their personality. And dark-eyed, ragged-kneed kids everywhere it seemed, their apparent malnourishment and bright white teeth a lasting memory. Ken and I stood in the doorway for a long minute, surprised and a little scared, until another group of women and their goats pushed us in from behind.  At the far end of the carriage we found a spot and sat down, trying to claim as much space as we could in the crowd.

It was dark when the train pulled out with a sudden shudder that threw me awake from a sitting doze. Ken looked down at me from his perch atop his backpack. The smell of too many close bodies and goats mixed with the coarse smoke of Casa Sport cigarettes assailed me first. I have always been sensitive to smells. It was not unpleasant on the whole, but there was a lot of it. I fished in my pouch and lit my own Casa, turned around to look down the length of the carriage. A dozen small lamps had been lit as soon as we were away from the station. They swayed in the hands of children or perched threateningly on boxes, throwing a warm, golden light. And as I watched the shadows play across the roof and along the creases of flowing garments, I slowly became aware of the low hum of voices, of muffled snores, of children playing quietly.  I closed my eyes and imagined I was in some transplanted hobo novel.

As the slow night moved on, family groups seemed to close up together, leaving a little more space on the floor.  I unrolled my bedroll and lay flat out on it, snoozing almost immediately with the gentle swaying of the train.  As I was drifting off, I vaguely noticed Ken lay his pack down flat, and rest his head on it.  And then I was asleep.

I’ll never know if it was the sound of Ken’s head hitting the floor that woke me, or whether the youth ran over me on his way to the door that separated our carriage from the next. Whatever it was, I was wide awake and watched as the kid struggled to get Ken’s pack through the narrow door. Ken was still rubbing his head as I swiftly rose and went after the boy. Passing through the now-swinging entrance and gingerly stepping over the gap, I pushed open the door into the next carriage and looked for the kid.  He wasn’t there;  and he had certainly not had time to run the full length to the other end. From the bleary looks I was getting, it seemed that I was the only disturbance the travellers had seen that night. I stepped back into the gap between the carriages and looked out into the dark.  We were travelling quite slowly and as my eyes accustomed to the dark, it looked like the passing ground was flat.  Ken joined me.

“He jumped,” I said.

“Jesus God,” he whispered.

We must have stood watching the dark night pass by for an hour or more without speaking.



Image: Street Art #2

September 23, 2016

street art II coloured lines

Happy Anniversary To Me!

September 23, 2016

On 23rd September 2001, I started my first blog. It was on Blogspot. In 2004, I switched to Typepad, and in 2008 came to rest at WordPress (thus, the v.3 in the title of the blog).

Before that, from the late 1980s through the 1990s, I had operated a number of Bulletin Board Services (BBS) both for myself and for others, and had then been active with some of the early online communities (UTNE Cafe, Brainstorms, etc).

So, today is the 15th anniversary of me on blogs. I’ve had a lot of fun and hopefully, if only for a moment or two, I have managed to reach out and touch someone.