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The Golden City

Driving off the ferry at Tsawwassen, we catch our first glimpse of Vancouver, tiny against the Lions and the North Shore Mountains in the background, the expanse of farmland in the fore.

The dream of a golden city

It is nestled between rock, forest, water, fertile earth and sky of billowy clouds. It nurtures me still, 11 years after leaving it for Pender Island. Every time I visit, it inspires me as much for the memories it contains and for the dreams and sense of possibility it gave me. Memories of possibility.

The city and its sprawl look the same, yes, a little bigger. So much larger than it was when I realized I was in its thrall, a little more in-your-face. And as it expanded in subtle ways, so my notion of the city expanded as if my pants grew shorter, my shirts needed letting out, and I needed glasses to see its edges.

Now, visiting two, three, four times a year, the city seems rent by change each time, its opaque fabric torn by new towers, construction cranes, faster roads, and more clamour.

Still recognizable

But look! The sky is still visible, the beaches and seawalls curving gracefully along the shorelines. There are the North Shore Mountains and the Burrard Street Bridge, Jericho Beach, and the neighbourhoods of Kitsilano.

There is something in the angle of light, though. It’s different in ways that register fleetingly only from the corner of my eye.

Isn’t quite the same

You can drive Broadway, across the road coverings over the new subway line and think, “Oh yes, that’s different!” But you can slough it off and say that once they cover the hole and clean things up, it’ll all be the same again.

But it won’t, really. It will be pristine. There will be young trees along the sidewalks, and new buildings will quickly replace the old ones. And that rumble-down, smudgy, bumpy look that is the real Vancouver (real in my imagination) will be gone. It will have disappeared.

And moreover, there will be a subway underground (from Clark Drive to Arbutus Street), moving hundreds of thousands of transit users along the Broadway corridor. Unseen. The B-Line will be a shadow of its former self, and what will it do to the space between stations? The computer stores, the greasy spoons, and coin shops.

New things will grow

I’m not good at imagining the future. All I know is that these things will change the Vancouver I knew when I left the city. In the drive to make transportation more efficient, to move more people faster and more comfortably, some things will fall away. And new things will grow.

It is easy enough to live with a new high-rise office tower as it grows into the skyline over two or three years. But driving across the Granville Street Bridge and seeing so many architectural buildings suddenly there … the spiral stacked and the ones with splashes of colour.

Rivers of cars

The W no longer dominates the skyline. The Hotel Vancouver is still there, but it has also disappeared, suddenly dwarfed by slender, skyward thrusting towers that make streets like Georgia Street into canyons with rivers of cars and traffic lights.

Sometimes I look for a building or a street feature and find it’s no longer there. Other times, looking across Coal Harbour and unable to remember what used to be there. The city is haunted by ghosts shimmering over some new slash of cement and glass.

Ghosts of old buildings

I suddenly remember the hefty rooming houses that presided over Dunsmuir and Georgia streets in the 1960s. Where in the mid-70s, my friend Miles and I sat on the steps of one of them puffing a joint, watching for police the disapproving glances of the passersby.

The billiard rooms, the strip clubs, the dank alleys lined with dumpsters and pavement stained with piss and hardened gum and cigarette butts. A discarded syringe, a soiled jacket.

In the late 1970s, driving taxi for McLures Cabs, I picked up an English rock star at the airport. 1 As we crossed the Granville Bridge into the downtown, he regarded the city with bright eyes.

So tidy, so orderly

“It looks like an architect’s model,” he said. “Everything so tidy, everything so orderly.”

Yet he’d been raised in the industrial squalor of southern Yorkshire. He saw Vancouver’s newness next to the mishmash of brick streets and row houses and slag heaps of his own home.

I dropped him at the Four Seasons Hotel and watched him stroll into the golden lobby. He regarded the canopy of starlights, marble counters and plush seats, awe-stricken as if he’d arrived at the Taj Mahal.

Seeing his sense of wonder made me think that could have been my reaction for much of my life to that point. The bright lights and big city were all around me.

A purveyor of glamour and promise

Now I was a taxi driver. I drove visitors through the streets, told them stories, showed them the bridges and mountains, and flew them over Burrard Inlet and False Creek. A kid with an adult’s access to Vancouver, a tour guide, an ambassador of sorts. I was a purveyor of Vancouver’s glamour, its sense of promise, the dreams so within reach.

There is another dream. The towers have fallen away, the pavement is gone, a sweeping maple tree suddenly at the corner of Carrall and Hastings Streets, instead of the old Merchants Bank Building. A couple of horse-drawn carts clattering down the dirt roads.

Past and future

A man standing beneath the maple tree has noticed me, staring intently as he rummages in his pockets. He pulls out a rolled cigarette, strikes a wooden match on the sole of his boot and lights the smoke.

He exhales and levels his gaze at me, suspicious. He’s dressed well enough, though his pants and boots are covered with dust. A brass watch chain is clipped to his vest.

He is of the past; I am of the future in a place we have been transported to. Both of us know this city is golden. It has burrowed into our veins. But is it really ours?

A small man shuffles into the picture, wearing his own strange clothes. An animal skin tunic, a woven cedar cap. His face is heavy, sun and wind-burned, his eyes weary. He takes nothing in and looks at no one.

He walks past along the dusty road toward the outskirts of this village on the edge of the world.


Happy Monk Tidings - November 30, 2022 🍞 - Bakers Choice: Cranberry-Pecan Sourdough; BLOG: Tassajara Wisdom/Perfect Loaf Mastery; REMINDER: Happy Monk holidays fast approaching! [ See LinkTree in Profile ]
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#theperfectloaf #perfectloaf #perfectloaf #maurizioleo #tassajarabreadbook #tassajarabread #tassajaracookbook

Happy Monk Tidings - November 30, 2022 🍞 - Bakers Choice: Cranberry-Pecan Sourdough; BLOG: Tassajara Wisdom/Perfect Loaf Mastery; REMINDER: Happy Monk holidays fast approaching! [ See LinkTree in Profile ]
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Just rockin’ the Olive Sourdough at 4:30 a.m. in the morning. Into Mildrith’s fire they go!
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#woodfired #woodfiredoven #woodfiredovenbread #bread #realbread #naturallyleavened #baker #bakery #bakerslife #bbga #artisanbread #breadhead #breadmaking #breadmaking🍞 #sourdough #sourdoughbread #coboven #earthoven #earthenoven #olives #olivebread #olivesourdoughbread #penderisland #southpenderisland #happymonkbaking #happymonkbakery #happymonkbakingcompany #southerngulfislands #southerngulfislandsbakers #southerngulfislandsbakeries #penderisland
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Introducing this bread, Raven Ring Bread (a take on Hapanleipä, a Finnish bread) a recipe borrowed from @ravenbreads. The stand is made by my neighbour, Ken, a gifted woodworker. See you at the South Pender Growers and Makers Market, if it don’t rain too hard! ...

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It was a dirty day, Wednesday. The sky hadn't been washed, the ocean was soiled, and the air was muggy and smelled oily. Then, moments before the rain started, the sun shone through and a glorious slash of colour opened up. And a rainbow! No unicorns, sadly.

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Dog days. The beginning of summer mellowness. Baked in languor. But sometimes it's hard to let go. Shouldn't I be baking something? [See LinkTree in Profile ]
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#penderisland #southpenderisland #happymonkbaking #happymonkbakery
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Dog days. The beginning of summer mellowness. Baked in languor. But sometimes it's hard to let go. Shouldn't I be baking something? [See LinkTree in Profile ]
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#penderisland #southpenderisland #happymonkbaking #happymonkbakery
#happymonkbakingcompany #dogdays #dogdaysofsummer #southerngulfislands
#southerngulfislandsbakers #southerngulfislandsbakeries #southerngulfislandsbc
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This is James Morton, my father, who would have been 100 years old today if we hadn't lost him 36 years ago. I've surpassed him in living age and spent more years without him than with him, yet he still whispers in my ear and is a great listener when I talk to him. Taken at 14th Ave. and Burgess St., Burnaby, 'round about 1955. Handsome devil, ain't he?

This is James Morton, my father, who would have been 100 years old today if we hadn't lost him 36 years ago. I've surpassed him in living age and spent more years without him than with him, yet he still whispers in my ear and is a great listener when I talk to him. Taken at 14th Ave. and Burgess St., Burnaby, 'round about 1955. Handsome devil, ain't he? ...

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  1. If you must know, it was Pete Thomas, the drummer for Elvis Costello’s band, The Attractions. If I had been one cab ahead in the line-up, it would have been Elvis Costello himself who’d have climbed into my cab. And I noted that Costello was carrying a copy of Edward Gibbon’s The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. The unruly punk star reading a book of that stature was quite a revelation. I was a huge fan of Costello!

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