Corbie Fieldwalkers’s hauntingly beautiful vignette on the disintegrating remains of a Point Grey home whets my appetite for a first hand investigation.
On this weekend afternoon the sky is luminous, milky white, and smooth. It looks solid, manufactured, an artifact. On the slow cruise west my mind wanders into the biospheres of 1970s science fiction films: Brave New World, Logan’s Run, THX-1138 –where The Man wears a creaseless jumpsuit and tolerates no gaps between economic and religious dogma.
West Point Grey is bounded by Blanca, 4th, the UEL, and the water.
While there’s a good number of older homes still standing, hiding behind hedges or thick stands of trees, the usual indicators -orange meshed trees, cleared lots, grotesquely oversized new houses- are all present and accounted for.
Short of my destination I parked the heap and get on the hoof.
It’s quiet; very quiet. The local population seems comprised mostly of grounds keepers and construction workers. I attract looks equal parts curious and suspicious. A couple of noncoms laying paving stones stop their labours to watch my progress down the street through narrowed eyes. And a good day to you.
I come across an abandoned home. It’s not the one I seek but … a coming attraction?
This one’s not yet decayed, but gone to seed: overgrown lawn, untended fruit trees, an abandoned garden. The air is saturated with the scent of magnolias and cherry blossoms.
If the house itself has any historic architectural significance, it’s lost on me: I classify it as Big, Old & Beige.
A flier advertising the City’s new glass recycling program hangs from the mail chute. I peer inside at the early 1950s -for the moment still secure behind locked doors and intact windows.
I move on to the primary target, just down the street. A hedge/chain-link tag team secures its perimeter, but this gives way to a gate encrusted with ornamental padlocks. I lift the latch and stroll.
Into a memory of a field trip, to a forest. This forest, maybe, of silent giants and wet green air. I fell for the dream. This dream of a wet coast wank cum quintessential Terminal Garden City fantasy: the private urban forest.
A long, curving roadway framed by mature evergreens leads to the remains.
It’s unexpectedly modest, right down to the one-car attached garage.
It’s in rough shape: windows smashed, a sagging roof-line, a thick carpet of moss covering the shingles.
The door stands open. Glass crunches underfoot as I wander inside. Thoroughly trashed and tagged -it’s ultimate décor.
The trees have been tagged, too. However, this vandal has been sanctioned.
Diamond Head Consulting integrates “environmental features, creating great places”; that is, they “distill the relationships between natural and urban systems”; that is -goddamn it- they cut trees.
These trees. As far as I can see, they’ve all been tagged.
Dead trees standing. Their fall marks the end of this fantasy. It’s making way for another that will happily exchange a quiet forest retreat for the ostentatious display of wealth.
Like the one down the road being constructed by the suspicious bricklayers: an outlet mall-inspired palazzo, with a garage that could sleep six comfortably. Oh, and an ornamental tree or two.
Sea levels are rising, but the flood is already here.
It’s a tidal wave of cold, hard, dirty cash, a roaring, murky confluence of loose policy and looser barriers. The floodgates and sewers have been opened wide and the custodians have abandoned their posts, leaving us to the Fates.
It’s trashing everything in its path and the signs of its passing are everywhere: a local daily, wrapped in an ad hustling concrete and glass; the ass of a bus, adorned with a rictus smile eager to primp and pump or dump your home in a landfill; on Commercial Dr. street lights, usually reserved for notifications of flea markets, concerts, and burlesque, invaded -like a rash- by Boffo’s snake oil shill; the trees wrapped in orange mesh; the trees disappeared, for nothing more than being at the wrong place at the wrong time. As the deluge reaches 12th and Cambie, it turns into a 12% pay raise.
I seek refuge –the high ground- but it’s not safe: I find is another whirlpool of filthy lucre ready to swallow me whole.
The Museum of Vancouver’s Your Future Home: Creating the New Vancouver claims to engage “visitors with the bold visual language and lingo of real estate advertising as it presents the visions of talented Vancouver designers about how we might design the cityscapes of the future.” Or, to put it succinctly, “FOR SALE!”
Bought and paid for by Marcon Investments Ltd., Wesgroup Properties LP, Macdonald Development Corporation, Glotman Simpson, Henriquez Partners Architects, Adera Development Corporation, BTY Consulting Group, Brooks Pooni Associates etc etc etc, it’s a vision oblivious to the tsunami, unruffled by a spike of deaths among those sleeping rough, the young people living in vans, money laundering, corruption, empty homes, disemboweled communities, or the loss of canopy.
But hey, it’s nice and quiet here; have a look through the showroom and help yourself to the spec sheet: