fear & loathing in Lotusland

Month: April, 2014


by Zbigniew

The limits of Vancouver’s arts and culture were in plain view at Vision Vancouver’s one-night-only production of Protecting Vancouver’s Cultural Spaces. (Fox Cabaret, April 28, 2014).

From a preposterous narrative that asks us to believe the incumbent party on City Council has the interest or capacity to save space for anything other that branded lifestyle residential units and No Frills outlets, to the thin performances by the leads –Geoff Meggs and Heather Deal, as “Smart Councillor” and “Happy Councillor,” respectively- this show was a dog, of the poodle sculpture variety: expensive, of questionable aesthetic merit, and “why am I looking at this?”

Okay: redeeming elements. Some genuinely warm performances. Kate Armstrong, Ernesto Gomez and Esther Rauschenberg –all clearly ad-libbing- broke out of the dialogue straightjacket to bring some life to the proceedings.

Otherwise, some pretty strange ideas arose from the clunky, clichéd-ridden morass. The need to negotiate harder –much harder- with The Organization -a kind of collective ego and a vortex of destructive energy- definitely peaked my curiousity. At any moment I expected Bob Rennie, dressed as Jupiter and hurling lightning bolts, to descend from the rafters for a Battle Royale. I was mightily disappointed.

And confused, too. “Art carts?” “Digital spaces?” Does the future lie in crevasses and virtual space?

Or: What’s there to negotiate when you take their money?

The production’s ultimate failure -its pointlessness- lies in its inability to acknowledge and explore such fundamental questions.

These inconsistencies seem to have been lost on the mostly simpatico sold out crowd. But clearly a soft crowd, intensely papered. How would it have stood up to a more discerning audience? Yet another question to go unanswered.


by Zbigniew


“As far as I’m concerned, it’s a damned shame that a field as potentially dynamic and vital as journalism should be overrun with dullards, bums and hacks, hagridden with myopia, apathy and complacence, and generally stuck in a bog of stagnant mediocrity.”

Hunter S. Thompson, writing to Vancouver Sun editor Jack Scott, October 1958

Vancouver Sun, April 22, 2014:

2014-04-23 11.55.26

I Confess

by Zbigniew

Lately I’ve been receiving a barrage of emails from the incumbent civic party reminding me how wonderful food carts and backyard chickens are. Also: send money.

The latest arrived just before Easter, that geegawed Rite of Spring, the festival of rebirth and renewal.

A self-deprogrammed “Polish” Catholic I may be, but the faith has long and tenacious tendrils –like a freakishly oversized and invisible Portuguese Man-of-War. Over the weekend I was stung by a confessorial nematocyst, if you will.

For the record, I last attended confession on Holy Thursday, 1982. As I recall, I confessed to a priest that I had borrowed a move from Onan’s playbook and the subsequent barrage of creepy questions regarding my motivations set me promptly on the path to atheism.

But there’s something that’s bothering me –bothering me enough to make me want to end my long confession-free streak. Something for which I am profoundly ashamed. For the good of what I could describe as my soul, I feel the need to confess this transgression, and I feel its necessary to confess specifically to you. Just so we’re clear.

In the 2008 municipal election, I supported Vision Vancouver.

By “support” I don’t only mean that I voted for them –although I did that, too.

I bought a party membership.

I attended several fundraising events.

I volunteered to call potential supports to secure their vote.

On the eve of that vote I went knocking door to door in my neighbourhood.

I wrote a cheque to one candidate in particular for an amount that was –given my circumstances- pretty generous.

At a gathering I hosted to mark what became the occasion of Barack Obama’s election as President of the United States (the subject of a separate confession), I actively solicited my friends to lend their support.

And, yes, I voted for them.

And I attended the victory party. It was there, on the first night of the new regime, that I had an inkling of my moral error: I didn’t like the crowd, a bunch of corporate squarejohn types; the political clichés rang pretty hollow; and, it dawned on me what a bumbling speaker the newly elected Mayor was –a graduate, with honours, of the Paul Martin School of Oration.

I had believed them, and that was my sin: I was naïve, a sucker, willfully ignorant of the face of power and its proxies.

My support is long gone, and only the emails remain. They serve as a kind of scourge and a reminder that I need to atone.


Seen in Passing: Willingdon & Moscrop

by Zbigniew


Seen in Passing: Boundary & Still Creek

by Zbigniew


The Drill

by Zbigniew


NB: What follows is not meant as an indictment of all Translink bus drivers. Many are professional, courteous and skilled and do their best to move the public to their desired destinations as efficiently as possible. Sadly, other drivers are strangers to such traits.

The events related took place some seven years ago, before policies promoting density strained our public infrastructure and the scam had yet to burst its seems. A time when catching a bus on a spring morning was a reasonable proposition.


The 135 Burrard Station was my preferred ride. An express for its home stretch through Vancouver along Hastings, it made but six stops between Renfrew and my desired disembarkation at Pender & Howe. This self-powered option was ultimately preferable to the various trolley incarnations of the slow-boat-to-China -the #14 and the #16, particularly in the frequent circumstances when one of these were stuck immediately behind the other in an interminable public transport hell.

But with one driver in particular, the trick was getting on the 135. He was old codger, but built like a brick shithouse with a shaved head, graying mustache and aviator sunglasses. He looked every bit a sadistic drill sergeant.

The first time he drove past me –those mirrored eyes focused on some distant point far down Hastings- I stood there, dumbly watching the backend of the quickly retreating vehicle. Was it possible he could not see me in the clear light of a sunny spring morning? Was it possible it was out of service, with passengers? Was it full? Not even close.

The next morning: I spotted it cresting the hill at Lillooet. As it approached I detected no flagging of speed and brought my arm up in the universal sign for “Hey!” But it roared by with such force that I had to step back from the curb. I flash-registered the stony profile of the driver -my newfound nemesis, Sergeant Shithouse- before shutting my eyes against an induced windstorm of dust, cherry blossom petals and exhaust fumes.

A few days without incident gave me hope that the matter had been an aberration. I was wrong.

I started strategically varying my commuting routine, with the hope of finding purchase on some more welcoming sprocket of the local transport infrastructure. As often than not, however, I instead found myself standing at the curb, passed over by the 135, dismissed by its bald pated and impassive pilot.

I would try to attract his attention. I would wave semaphore-style, or raised my arms palms-up in a “what gives?” gesture: nothing; not so much as a turn of that taciturn head.

Another morning, with no change in the sound of the engine as the 135 came up the hill towards Renfrew, I played the only card left to the resigned-yet-fucked-off: I focused squarely on those mirrored lenses and gave the Sarge a salute -of the one-fingered variety. As he drove past, he turned to look at me.


A week had passed without incident, when the 135 pulled to a stop and I alighted and I found my friend at the wheel. Up close he looked like a slab of beef. Three other men, younger skinny guys in maybe their early 30s, stood clustered around him.

I paid my fare, and the bus pulled from the curb.

“You look familiar to me,” said he.

“Oh yeah?”

“Yeah. You look like somebody who flipped me the bird. You flip me the bird last week?”

He turned his head towards me, a big, round heap of granite, with a hairy lip. I saw myself reflected in his sunglasses, looking calmer than I felt.

“Last week?” I said. “It couldn’t have been last week.”

The guys standing there start laughing. Sarge turns his attention back to the road and I take a seat near the front.

Sarge is talking -brakes, speed, stoplights.

It hits me: he’s training them! Jesus Christ!

As we pull up to the stop at Nanaimo, Sarge announces, “It looks full back there. I’m giving this one a pass.”

One of the trainees looks around and sees what I see: a few empty seats. He passes this crucial bit of information along.

“Well,” says Sarge, “it looks full to me.”

And on we went.

Seen in Passing: N. Grandview Hwy & Commercial Dr

by Zbigniew


Sleep Now