Tag Archives: Vancouver

Here we go…

I have always been fascinated by the dynamics that happen around events. When I was little, and my mother would be preparing for the jewish holidays, she would be in a frenzy trying to get everything done on time. Her mom, my Bubbe Marie, would be there to help sometimes, my Bubbe Asne, my father’s mother would come, but mostly she was alone. Trying to manage making a dinner for 15-20 people in a house with 4 kids, a nutcase for a husband, and a body that had been failing her since her 20’s.

Vancouver is in somewhat better shape for their big event. I have watched as every available surface has been coated with advertising slogans, mascots, and lots of pictures of happy, healthy, good-looking people, maybe it will make up for the reality on the streets. If people see enough advertising, maybe they’ll look real. Each day, the pulse increases, and we are about to burst. There are so many layers to what is happening right now, and many people I know, including myself, are feeling incredibly conflicted. Excited by the fact that our “no-fun” city is filled with people playing music, and people of all ages out in the streets. While artists are being muzzled, citizens being muzzled, and over the next few weeks potentially much worse. I hope not, but both sides are basically saying “make me..” As a storyeller, and new filmmaker, I am excited by what I could do with the footage I capture, and the stories I can gather from what I see over the next few weeks. At the same time, I am very aware of the anxious mother hovering over the city right now; wanting everything and everyone to look nice, everything to taste good, and most important, no fights during dinner. Not much luck of that happening.

Maybe in the end, after everybody has gone home, and it’s just us again; maybe something will have changed for the better. That deciding it was okay to take our right to express away for pop and stuffies, was a really bad idea. Maybe you will have learned that no matter how hard you try to keep the peace at the dinner table, if the kids aren’t happy, they’re going to let you know it. Every family that lives in denial of the problems they have are inevitably faced with them, and the more you push them down, the harder they will push to be revealed. This could have gone differently, we could have paid attention to the evidence. Did some real research on the impact before we put together a bid. Looked around the house, and saw how people were suffering, struggling, and not just people in the Downtown Eastside, but all over the city, and we could have made the descision to take care of our house and the people in it, before we invited in an army of strangers, and an army to protect them. It’s almost as if the guests mattered more, but isn’t that always the way with parties.


Together again

Last year The Economist compared Vancouver’s escalating violent crime to the situation in Colombia. Our “civil city” could never be as miserable as that barbaric place, no, not us.

And then here, in a more desirable comparison, is the top 31 places to go in 2010 from the New York Times website. Vancouver Island was the pick of the Province coming in at number 25. Followed by our friends in Colombia at 26. Well, maybe not that desirable on a list of 31, but still pretty good ; )


50 days(make that 48) until the Olympics

I wanted to start writing this post the day I noticed the Olympic clock showing 50 days to go until we get our “world-class” screw. The marketing is amping up. There are reports in the paper each day about another fucked up thing VANOC is doing to screw artists, small business people and of course the daily invasions of privacy by police and RCMP towards any dissenters and their acquaintances.

I was talking to some friends the other day about feeling like I needed a plan for when the Olympics are officially here. I started to imagine what I would do if I had unlimited resources and Bond-like equipment at my disposal, and I was a shape-shifter. I would perch myself on the top of Shangri-La (the highest building in the city of Vancouver) and I would set up my lair. I would have all kinds of tracking equipment. I would document everything that was happening everywhere for the entire Olympics. I could zoom in anywhere. Not sure what I would do from there. Mostly I just wanted to float above it, watch all of it, not the games, but the dynamics in the street. I feel afraid. I wonder if it will be like a lot of things that happen in this city, a lot of hype and then nothing. Or will it be like the many riots that have happened in this city over the last 100 years, resulting in deaths. I am trying to think of a third option, but all I seem to be left with is this sense that something deeper will be lost after everyone has gone home with all their souvenirs, Believe t-shirts and quatchi dolls.

What will be lost? What do I think I would see high on top of Shangri-La? I would watch the city I fell in love with lose any sense of innocence it ever had. Expo was a mild plundering, but the Olympics is a whole new level of criminal. No place is innocent, certainly not Vancouver. It’s not like we haven’t experienced collective trauma as a city. So how does this feel different and what do I imagine will happen to this not-so innocent place? Not sure. I just know that the city will be armed with a level of security that we have never seen before and it’s pretty clear that VANOC, and the City have no qualms about taking away our human rights for the sake of the games. People aren’t going to behave, and they shouldn’t. People are pissed, and for good reason.

People are losing their homes, they have friends that are losing their homes, we are paying more and getting less, and there are people dying on the streets. It’s magical actually, how we can put up new buildings on Hastings Street and nothing seems as bad, like somehow the problem with homelessness dissappeared. We can dress up the streets, repave, put in benches, gardens and nice bathrooms, and the poverty and addiction has vanished. It’s not just the Olympics that are trying to create the illusion that Vancouver really is “the best place on earth”. Our planning department, developers and local BIA’s have used it as an excuse/incentive to gentrify. To create a false reality. Where people are pretty, healthy and wealthy, and everything is “fine”.

So what do I think is going to happen? More accurately I will hope, because I can’t know. So I hope that no one gets hurt, but people have already been hurt. I hope that the Olympics will be the the much needed kick in the head to knock us out of our naval gazey complacency. Maybe that’s what we’ll lose, our sense of security that we live in the best place on earth, and that we need to fight to keep it that way, make it that way, and no political party, or international sporting/cultural event in the world is going to do that for us.

Dear Mayor and Council,

I came to council chambers this morning, not completely sure why. I think I wanted to look at all your faces, and those of your staff. I’ve spent the last few years projecting my hate on to this city as if it were an ex-lover that had “done me wrong”. I was hating it for a number of reasons. The 16 years I’ve spent watching people die and suffer in the Downtown Eastside while more feasibility studies, conferences and reports were produced, and the rest of the city whined about how the neighbourhood makes Vancouver look bad. I started to hate you because of this beautiful place that I along with 1600 other people signed a petition to save, and a smaller group of us fought through court systems, bureaucracy and finally bulldozers and lost in favour of 4 beige faux heritage duplexes that look like all the rest of the junk out there that’s supposed to make us look like we appreciate old things.

Speaking of old things, there is also the Pantages, another reason why I’m pissed. Maybe it’s that no one actually knew what do with a developer that genuinely wanted to do a good thing, and not have to have his ass kissed for it. Maybe he was just decent and a business man, that wanted to find a way to make it work. They put together business plans did community outreach that would rival any effort City staff has made in years. They wanted to give jobs to people, and I know this is a hard one for people to believe, but poor people want work, not more studies or reports. It was about the density in the beginning, it wouldn’t have cost you a dime. Instead, your controlling, destructive and uninspired staff, put them through 38 months of hoops and basically screwed them around to the point that the theatre will be coming down shortly.

Today, I came down to hear about Woodwards. I was part of the first protest around the building on May 6 1995 and have maintained a connection to the project through campaigns for affordable housing, protests with each new developer that wanted to take it on, Woodsquat, and various community art projects I was asked to do, by the community, the City and finally from Westbank. I came today, because I wanted to bare witness to the bullshit once again. Always trying to do the right thing, or think were doing the right thing. Woodwards has been flawed from the beginning. There was alot of optimism in the early days, but because the community could never buy it on its own, they would always be dealing with you, your staff, and developers that like to have their ass kissed and act like there doing the community some big favour. While they make all the sweet agreements at the beginning, they eventually found their way along with your help to squeeze out of just about every commitment they made to the project; grocery stores and affordability to non-profits for example. So now we have W2. Trying to find a way to cover their costs by running a cafe, sounds good. No, why don’t we have JJ Bean instead, let W2 sink and leave the space open for people who can pay. Why not, we seem to do this frequently, put people through the City of Vancouver bureaucracy torture test, and see if they survive, or if they cry Uncle.

I am angry because I care about the city I live in, and the people I know and love who are trying to survive here, trying to make it a better place, a truly livable place, and they are being quashed at every turn. I gave up on Council changing very much over the last few years, left, right, middle, doesn’t seem to matter, you all seem to lose your will, your sense of honesty, and your ability to say what’s in your heart. Maybe because you have so many people to please. You along with your staff have turned this city into a passionless marriage, where we are polite, things seem safe, but we all know they aren’t. It is only getting worse here. More violent, more addiction of all kinds, most expensive rents in the Country, more homelessness, and an abominably low level of support for its artists. I’ve spent the last 720 words telling you what makes me mad, what I think is wrong with the city, it’s staff, and you, our elected council. We’re not much better as citizens, but we do try, as I imagine you do, to make this place work. I think If I wanted to ask you anything, I would want you to learn how to listen again, to be good for your word, like in the case of the Pantages and Woodwards. Just because we elected you it doesn’t mean you know what is best, nor does your staff, and when they are messing up like they have repeatedly, they need to be called on it, and fired if necessary. I want you to fight for us; as hard as we are willing to fight to make Vancouver truly livable, to make it a real passionate marriage where we’re not afraid to say what needs to be said and do what needs to be done, because we know the marriage is worth it.

small town mayor

Written after the November 14th 2008 election
Not sure why I wanted to post it other than it was sitting in drafts for this long and didn’t feel like deleting it. Our new council has proven to be a mixed bag of some bold choices, safe ones, and some disturbing ones. They aren’t as lousy as the last council, but that’s not saying much. I did have some hope for this crew, as seen below. They inevitably are trying to please a whole city, or maybe just developers. I guess I just don’t really believe that this system works, because it doesn’t work for everybody, and we should have a system that works for everybody, it can be done, I know it can, it’s just way harder to do. Read on if you still feel like it. Have a good day.

In the last year I have thought alot about what it would take to make Vancouver less fucked up. Two things- a kick in the head, and  bold, creative leadership from our City Council.  It seems as if we might be getting one of those.   I have described Vancouver as a small town in conflict with the part of herself that is a social-climbing, hedonistic, gold-digging, pathetic, pushing 40, party girl. Well maybe not quite like that. I am 41 after all.  Gregor Robertson is a farmer, and a Mayor.  He makes juice, rides his bike, has hippy activist roots.  He is our small town Mayor.  He looks like this city, or how it used to look, before it abandoned it’s tie-dye for beige( although he does wear alot of beige).  I’m not being sentimental, i’m just conscious that there was a time in this city where people seemed to have more fun, inspiring movements were growing, and there was some boldness being shown. We have been devastatingly complacent about the issues of dying women at the hands of serial killers, overdose deaths, homelessness and our epidemic HIV infection rates. We have been because we have moralized their deaths and their life situations.  The tie- dye set believed in peace and love, and freedom.  Not about confining people to socially appropriate boxes. Yeah, they were flakey, and there were problems with the movements that grew out of the 60’s, they were human, of course there will be problems. Regardless, their intention was to change the messed up world they were seeing around them. A world that valued power over love, war over peace, money over humanity. I can only hope that our small town mayor and his friends still believe the reverse to be true.


I have to write a synopsis for a story. A story that could be a documentary someday, or this term.  School is good, but it hurts.  I have to be okay with not knowing how to do things, not being naturally good at them, like Final Cut pro and working with cameras. Key things if your going to make films.  Its the writing part that is even more troubling right now. That’s the part i’m supposed to be able to do, but i’m stumped by how to write a synopsis for a story that could be a film.  What will it be? The Vancouver story, the Addiction story? That’s all i think about, those are the stories i want to tell.  I just don’t know how to fit them in to a classical narrative, a paragraph, more than a rant and it needs to have a payoff.  How about “were all fucked, now we can relax!”

I’m questioning today whether i can follow through with School. Maybe all the techy stuff is just not for me, too hard on my brain, and then i remember that i need to be patient, and slog through it a while longer. Its a funny thing to be needing confidence to go through sucking at something, but that is what i need right now, confidence and patience.   School still feels like the right choice in many ways, i like the routine; getting up early, making my lunch and snack, getting  my books together, going to bed early.  I feel like a mom sending her kid to school.

A portrait of a city

Portrait of Vancouver

Vancouver caught in a moment of honesty, no mountains, no oceans, no cherry or magnolia trees, or mediocre architecture(with a few exceptions). Photographer Rob Kruyt is portraying a rarely revealed truth about our City, its darkness and its ugliness. That we have created policy after policy that has kept the appearance of our neighborhoods as beautiful places for beautiful people, and anything or anyone that doesn’t fit that criteria gets torn down or comes to the Downtown Eastside. Homeless people aren’t just in the Downtown Eastside, and those walls are breaking, the walls that protect the beautiful and the young, and those who want to stay beautiful and young from the realities of the fragility of the lifestyle created here, a lifestyle that is beyond the means of most people that live here, a lifestyle that has neither style or substance, but is more like smoke and mirrors.

It is the mountains, the ocean, the cherry and magnolia trees, the people i know, and for the last 15 years, one of the greatest buildings in our City that keeps me here, so maybe i just feel duped because i fell for this beautiful place. I fell in love with this beautiful place, and now, not so much. I think she’s ugly on the inside, cold and a bit of a ditz, but still pretty. Not sure where this leaves me, but maybe its like a fight with someone you love, you have to tell them about the things that are bugging you, and hope they can change or that maybe you can live with who they are, or maybe you just leave.