It’s a dark, wet, dreary rush hour commute home, on a slow moving bus. A thin film of steam coats the windows. Its just warm enough to make my collar stick to my neck or produce some exotic disease that will feed on patience and imagination. I’m about 10 metres too close to some schmuck mindlessly scraping his chin stubble against the artificial fibres of his once-shiny black coat.
The doors open and I’m on the pavement, drinking in the cool air.
This is my favourite shop. A One Stop Shop for a good range of quotidia. They do everything: cut your keys, fix your shoes, hem your pants, and rent you a washing machine.
And now they’re expanding into whimsy. Of all things quickly antiquating -a photo booth now stands outside. Four poses for $3. Pictures processed and air dried, while you wait.
Wednesday, May 25, 2016
I was hoping against hope when my lovely old landlady died, but her kids want to unload the house and cash in big.
Anyways, here’s me with a disposition towards collecting antiquated technology -rotary dial phones, turntables, transistor radios, VHS players and the like- and literary works from James Elroy to a First Folio. To say nothing of all the odds and sods and memories a divorced fella on the bad side of 50 will accumulate situated comfortably in the same locale for dozen years or so.
Anywho! Garage sale! June 4th, that’s perfect –it’ll give me a jump on the end of the month, it being my heave-ho date.
So, how do we close the deal, as it were? And when you say refreshments, what kind of range are we talking about?
Thursday, May 26
Thank you for your email about our garage sale! Its really simple to sign up. I just need your name, phone number and address. From your email I got an idea of what you will be selling and I am sorry for your loss. I will also need to know where on your property that you will be located so we can put up signs to direct people to the right direction. Refreshements will include some coffee, tea, water and we will bring around some doughnuts and possibly muffins as well. I hope this email helps you out a bit more.
Thank you …
Friday, May 27
Sounds good, although I was hoping for beer!
Would you happen know of any rental opportunities in East Vancouver? Of the affordable sort, I mean. It’s a tight market out there and finding something affordable, livable and secure is proving a tall order, especially with all the property changing hands.
Anyhow, I’m glad you’re organizing a community event, given how much of a beating the community has had, with all the evictions and such.
Friday, May 27
I will keep my eye out for any rental opportunites (sic) that come along and I will pass this onto Wendy as well. Do you own the place that you are in now? It is a challenging task especially in todays (sic) market but I will keep you posted.
“It was all I had in the way of a home. In it was everything that was mine, that had any association with me, any past, anything that took the place of a family. Not much; a few books, pictures, radio, chessmen, old letters, stuff like that. Nothing. Such as they were they had all my memories.”
The Big Sleep, Raymond Chandler
For what was a popular house design -there must be a dozen iterations in my immediate neighbourhood- there’s little information that’s readily available.
The Vancouver Heritage Foundation broadly categorizes it as a “Mid-Century Vernacular Bungalow” -simple side gables or hipped roof, two or three bedrooms on one main floor and a partially sunken basement; a generally rectangular, asymmetrical front façade with one large “picture window” and no attached garage. (No mention is made of a signature component: a window adorning the front vestibule, alternatively round, octagonal, square, or rectangular.)
The Foundation dates these houses from the 1950s, but the one I live in was first occupied in 1948.
It’s a modest abode, but sturdy, well built and functional: a few cozy rooms, some nice finishes, and a kitchen that hasn’t changed much since c. 1967.
The grapes were planted almost 50 years ago. From a tree-like trunk the trailed vines produce a thick canopy and an oasis for unprogrammed hot summer afternoons. The grapes are edible, if you like mouth-puckering tart, thick skins and big seeds. My octogenarian neighbour Vincenzo taught me to prune it, and I’ve learned enough to do this for others that find themselves too superannuated to negotiate a ladder. On Sunday afternoons in February or March I feel vines for vitality and pass quick judgment, with shears.
There’s a fig tree, a fecund beast whose harvesting takes over my life for 10 days every summer -picking, canning, and eating until I can’t stand the sight of them except for maybe one more.
The garden plots yield rotating successes and disappointments, seemingly independent of my coaxing. Vincenzo wanders over, nods in approval, or shakes his head in dismay. He has radicchio seedlings for me, wrapped in a few pages of The Courier.
My mother-in-law lives a few blocks away. Before I’ve crossed the threshold, coffee is on the stove and food is on table.
My immediate neighbours are a mix of long-term residents and relatively new arrivals from Ontario, Quebec, the States, Hong Kong, and numerous other parts. With a goodly number we break bread, sample and consider the qualities of fermented beverages, play board games, shoot the shit, shuck and jive.
All in all, not much -just everything.
My wife’s family assumed ownership of this house in 1964. It has served as an asset for the many children to build a nest egg and purchase their own. Unfortunately, our timing is poor: current market conditions have rendered that beautiful formula obsolete.
The asset is now subject to a new and complicated algorithm that encompasses a kaleidoscope of needs, wants, generosity and more than a little greed, social capital and cold calculations, faith, trust, and inheritances current and future. The equation is nestled within a much larger one composed of international capital movements, ineffectual/incompetent/corrupt governance, and widespread social disruption.
Somewhere in that swirling vortex of complexity and uncertainty lies the thing that was missing, that I didn’t know was missing, that I unconsciously sought for years and years, the feeling that dawned on me not so long ago on a quiet and rainy afternoon in a museum of a kitchen in the arms of my love: I’m home.
I can just barely recall –from those alternate universe days before siblings- a toy store filled with baubles and an occasionally indulgent father.
My first encounter with an Italian deli –the heady odours of cheese, meats and gesticulating Mediterraneans- was at Adelina’s. Columbus goes back at least a generation and I knew the family from high school.
Bon Bon morphed into Dogwood and then a sandwiched shop of some quality, with a couple of iterations in between.
The coffee shop has been in almost constant metamorphosis. Its many incarnations included the ridiculously named “Fonzi’s.” It must hold the block record for “Shortest Tenure.”
Dentists and druggists, barbershops and beer makers.
The flower shops and convenience stores with their ready gifts and refreshments have moved back and forth and back.
In one fell swoop the entire block, the whole kaleidoscopic and idiosyncratic collection of unfashionable, unpretentious and highly serviceable quotidian service is to be obliterated and replaced. The low profile jumble is to make way for five stories, but no narrative.