The Squids Among Us
“The world’s most powerful investment bank is a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money.”
Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone
Goldman Sachs’ kind walk among us. They’re definitely smaller, a little less conspicuous, but every bit as bloodthirsty. The Beedie sub-species are on display at the 105 Keefer rezoning application open house at the Chinese Cultural Centre. They’re here to observe and spin, in the face of community opposition, a positive impression of the latest iteration of their Chinatown condominium project.
Of course they’re playing the game, making revisions, changing designs. They’re all too willing to shave off a floor, reduce the number of social housing units, and plop some art, somewhere.
But it’s their forth kick at the can. They’re not here to engage in some kind of public dialogue about the cultural life of Chinatown. This is America: time is money. It’s the square footage they want and they’ll take it anyway they can. This is going to happen, by hook, crook, and campaign donation. Patience is running low. The beast must feed.
The tension level is set by the rent-a-thugs at the front door. Beedie’s security drones are thick of limb, thicker of skull, and dead of eye. I saunter past a lunk watching me with all the sentience of an upended chesterfield. Clearly, I’m too legit. With others they take a more hands-on approach.
I enter on a demonstration already in progress: a phalanx of placarded youth are rallying against. Meanwhile, community organizer Melody Ma is being harassed by the aggressively incoherent marketing subordinate Renu Bakshi.
A few City of Vancouver flunkies decorate the periphery, trying their best to blend into the displays. They’re doing well.
Judging by the architectural drawings, Beedie & co. are definitely not wedded to an idea, a “vision.” The concept, if we can call it that, is an out-of scale lump, sporting a few Chinese characters and staggered setbacks.
A street-level passage will invite porousness. It’s fun trying to locate it in the renderings.
And there will be retail and restaurants, if not exactly those depicted.
I thought myself early, but the intrepid Kevin Harding is already here the better part of an hour. He reports a large crowd of very-unlikely locals filling out comment forms and promptly leaving. Stooges, more like, of the lower company echelon variety.
But senior management, the squids proper, remain. In this crowd of the unfashionably but comfortably attired they stand out like highly polished carbuncles – artisanal warts. It’s mostly white male gym jockeys, in form-fitting suits and Italian shoes. I suspect they have lines of credit to accommodate their obviously intensive grooming regimes.
Perusing the bumf, I wander into earshot of well-articulated concern about the private wealth these projects produce for a few and the negative consequences they bring to many others. Bravo.
In response a little company twerp wannabe – sporting a tight suit, a tighter haircut and a flag pole stuck up his ass – offers, “Well, there’s the Community Amenity Contribution.” I snort so hard that I involuntarily power eject a glob of winter mucus out of my left nostril. Not very classy, I know, but I would argue a fitting contribution, given the circumstances.
I wander over the scale model. This is how they see Chinatown: a bland undifferentiated collection of beige polygons begging the gift of their cynical capital.
Squids drift into view. They hover over Chinatown like a pair of outsized, well-healed, coldly calculating aliens, contemplating the lifeforce to be sucked dry. And if its blood they need, the empty lot at Keefer and Columbia is a bulging artery, all too exposed to the funnels that are steadily probing.
Outside, beyond the models and the thugs of various description, in the cold, some other ideas.
1940 to 2017