31 March 2010

Underclass Vancouver

No. 6682 - 02 Jun 2009 - 21:19:19

Underground Vancouver

No. 5491 - 27 Nov 2007 - 14:02:12

30 March 2010

Untitled II

Green Door

No. 7835 - 29 March 2009 - 08:00:05

Gastown, Vancouver

In the deepest, darkest, bad neighbourhood, beauty shines through from corners and alleyways and beckons one year later.

29 March 2010

Pavement and Aesthetics

No. 3495 - 10 Sep 2009 - 14:02:54

Gastown, Vancouver

Reportedly expensive and certainly lovely are the new sidewalks on the Granville Street Mall. They have the look of the beach at Point Grey Foreshore but without the assistance of tidal action they will probably need to be power-washed on a regular basis. Their beauty will be enhanced if they withstand their purpose; time will tell.

28 March 2010

Shank's Pony

No. 1254 - 18 Feb 2008 - 14:25:57

Gastown, Vancouver

Shank's pony is is an old-fashioned expression that refers to using one's own legs as a means of conveyance and was apparently a favourite expression of my Swedish American grandfather Arthur Luther Hammerquist.

In spite of once being an enthusiastic walker I am currently a shadow of my former self.

27 March 2010

Palm Sunday Parade

No. 9389 - 05 Apr 2009 - 11:10:20

Gastown, Vancouver

And so Holy Week begins on Sunday, March 28, 2010 with a parade around the block on East Cordova Street. It is an ecumenical event which includes Roman and Anglo Catholics at its start. Accompanied by the Carnival Band, the participants sing and wave palm fronds, drawing attention to a special moment in the church year. After dropping the romans off at St. Paul's, the anglos continue on to St. James where they reenter the church along with the band and their cacophonous outdoor sounds. Quietly at first but steadily and louder comes the rolling thunder of the mighty Casavant pipe organ, filling the edifice and everyone in it with its sonic vibrations and bringing everything to attention as the service commences seamlessly.

Come for the music and meet the community.

26 March 2010

Yaletown Sunrise

No. 2032 - 03 Feb 2008 - 08:54:55

Buildings on Fire

250 East Houston Street, NYC, 1981

Throughout the 1970's and early 1980's buildings in the Lower East Side and Brooklyn were being burned for insurance money or by squatter negligence. This building burned three times while I lived in the neighbourhood. Eventually, the Red Square development (see below) was built behind the chain link fence and initiated a new image for Lower Manhattan. Luxury came to live cheek by jowl with poverty. I was there when it started and twenty years later the neighbourhood is more luxe than poor. Burned-out tenements and graffiti marked storefronts have transformed into chic boutiques, highly designed restaurants, and tiny but expensive apartments. The visible poverty has made way for gentrification and those of my friends who remain (mostly middle-aged artists, anarchists, and musicians) question where it went to and when they must follow.

Manhattan is prohibitively expensive these days and many young artists and up-and-comers choose to live in Brooklyn or Hoboken. No wonder my ex-husband holds on tight to the excellent apartment and lease I left with him in 1992 and which lease is our daughter's legacy. A New York City rent-stabilized apartment lease is almost as good as real estate especially in this landmark neighbourhood of venerable 19th century history, architecture,
and charm.

25 March 2010

Red Square

250 East Houston Street, NYC, 1997

Gastown, Vancouver

Completed in 1989, this 13-storey, red-brick luxury apartment building marked a shift south and east in New York City real estate interests putting pressure on a community more famous for its ethnic (Jewish and Hispanic) roots and culture and starving artists. When Mr. and Ms. Wall Street started to move into the area, they created a need for hip, available, if not affordable, Manhattan addresses, and re-gentrification began in earnest. The provocative name, liberal additions of public art by downtown artists, and four "Askew" clocks inspired by a watch featured at the MOMA which grace the water tank enclosure were conceived by principal developer, Michael Rosen. Within the next decade, west along East Houston Street, to the Bowery, so many towers were erected in the shadow of 9/11 that the city was pressed to implement contextual zoning for what was left of the Lower East Side.

There was a contemporary debate in Vancouver regarding non-contextual developments in Gastown at the time the eight-storey Van Horne tower, 22 East Cordova, was built in 1996. Critics remarked that it was out of scale with the older and smaller architecture of the previous century in the city's most notable heritage neighbourhood ; such decisions irrevocably change the the expectations and direction of the urban landscape forever. Inevitably, matters of presence, density, and profitability prevail and in the 21st century the Woodwards development is welcomed enthusiastically even though its residential tower, at 43 storeys, is higher and bigger than anything the Van Horne could ever aspire to be.

Twenty years later, Red Square is a familiar fixture on the Lower Manhattan landscape with the East Village on the north and the Lower East Side on the south of the Houston Street artery and, critical opinion has since been transformed into historical perspective.

24 March 2010


Land's End, San Francisco, 1999

23 March 2010

Modern Girls circa 1980

Gastown, Vancouver

The 100th post of Dime Chronicle recognizes 30 years of modernity in the face of being a girl.

21 March 2010

Cherry Picked

No. 6993 - 27 Mar 2008 - 13:44:30

Gastown, Vancouver

Oppenheimer Park, in the centre of what was once known as "Little Tokyo" in old Japantown, is undergoing alterations. The funny little pink clubhouse and the resplendent trees over it that bordered the north side of the park along Powell Street are now gone to make way for a necessary but inept-appearing upgrade. A few of these memorial trees remain in the east quadrant where a new playground is being constructed alongside a new dark grey activity centre. A replacement row of ornamental cherry trees has been planted along a diagonal pathway that drives into these improvements and past the ballpark which has been unavailable to local residents during construction. Along this northern side of the park there is now nothing in view except the broken-down storefronts across the street. Perhaps the perspective will improve when the money is spent and the transformation is officially complete.

A Camellia For Princess Valerie

No. 7583 - 20 Mar 2008 - 12:03:46

20 March 2010

Egg and Dart

Gastown, Vancouver

The March 2010 equinox occurred at 17:32 (10:32 PDT), Coordinated Universal Time (UTC), also known as Greenwich Mean Time (GMT).

19 March 2010

Corporate Artwork

No. 3834 - 15 Mar 2010 - 09:54:50

The line between corporate and fine art is blurred. In order to succeed in the one it is necessary to understand and exploit the other.

There is a resistance to using the grander, more obvious Georgia Street entrance of the Vancouver Art Gallery (building on the right side of image) that dates back to its transformation from courthouse to arthouse. There has always been a fear of democratic assembly on its steps which is based realistically on its historic roots as a centre of all things law and order in the old town. Is this still a viable excuse for a modern, post-Olympic city? Naturally the VAG wants to control their narrow, professional creativity and protect itself from the vagaries of a broad, public creativity and it is also likely they are more concerned with getting a new, sexy building and therefore have put the life of their existing improvement on perpetual hold.

Ivory towers and stone lions impress, while effectively preserving the cultural aspirations of the ruling class and the things it values, in spite of the occasional financial/art bubble. The art world PPP's (private-public partnerships) depend on corporate endowment and profitable cooperation unlike the patronage of a member of the elite interested in art for art's sake. The art for business model of the Cultural Olympiad was inaccessible to those without discretionary entertainment funds or alternatively to those unwilling to sign paperwork promising not to say mean things about VANOC in return for artist funding. This model has dramatically affected government arts funding where it still exists.

It is difficult to stay in the game as a free-thinker; paradoxically one wants in but does not know how to find acceptance in the line of duty.

17 March 2010


No. 4307 - 17 Mar 2010 - 10:49:38

No. 4752 - 19 Mar 2010 - 14:27:58

16 March 2010

Victorian Lamppost in Decline

No. 4632 - 12 Mar 2008 - 17:23:56

15 March 2010

Bygone Era

N0. 028 - 31 Aug 2006 - 17:55:44

Gastown, Vancouver

Here is a venerable storefront on Clark Drive which was just so for decades: cheerful and tacky and firmly rooted in a 1950's sensibility. Then, a couple of years ago, the inevitable happened - neutralization. The insidious practice of painting older, less attractive buildings in shades of black and grey has become commonplace as an alternative to renovation. It is an inexpensive method but with a dark side. Closeup these buildings appear modernized and the dark colours cover a myriad of flaws but from only a short distance they also give the appearance of black holes on the streetscape as if they were disappeared.

This building is now painted in a muddy taupe, with streamlined signage for an upgraded car repair business; it is offensively dull. The excitement of orange and typeface has made way for the artificial sophistication that appeals to today's upmarket car owners (TAUPE). A more expensive and deliberate version of this type would be the new convention centre on the harbour. The darkish grey gives it a dour and overcast expression that sucks the energy out of the landscape. It was made, not for beauty but, for power.

In a northern city with many natural grey tones and low lights such a practice needs to be identified and curtailed before all of the low rise buildings of a certain age disappear visually down to their inability to reflect light. Although they may not be beautiful by design they are physical components of a unified and occupied street life and, by extension, city life. If progress goes unappreciated it is because it sometimes lacks common sense; encouraging colour and light in this city is an exciting solution to dullness. No better example can be found in the architectural lighting and colourful bunting installed for the Olympics. The relative affordability of such an approach makes a case for preserving the many fine examples of mid-century modern in all of their colourful finery. At the top of that heritage list is Chinatown. Attempts to improve and strengthen lighting must be encouraged and supported in order to save what is left of this historic neighbourhood. But I digress.

In conclusion and with regards to Clark Drive: better street lighting, more crossing lights, speed reduction, better bus service, trucking redirection and, the planting of trees from north to south would improve its quality of life and visible attractiveness. People live here.

14 March 2010

100th Birthday Greetings to Ed Hatfull

Gastown, Vancouver

Ed Hatfull is my father's cousin. He was born in Oceanside, Long Island in 1910 and resided there until he retired in 1979. I know this because I sought him out when I moved to New York in the autumn of that year and was informed he had just left for Florida. I finally met him, ten years ago, when the 90 year old widow came alone to Vancouver to embark on an Alaskan cruise.

His father Edgar, who emigrated from England in the early 20th century, was a jeweller at Tiffany's in Manhattan. Edgar's older brother Charles Sidney, known as Sid, was my grandfather and is the man on the left in the photo above. When Sid left England in 1910 his first stop-over was in New York where he stayed with Edgar and and his family including baby Edgar. The other man in the photo, my father Douglas, was born seven years later back in England during the First World War but before that bit of fate Sid moved on to Vancouver where he settled. He then sent for the trunk of carpentry tools he left behind in Oceanside and the top and front were partially re-painted by Ed Senior who added the new forwarding and return addresses.

This trunk is my most beloved artifact. It provides tangible connection to my father's people and I can know my great uncle by his hand printing. Incidentally, I also inherited a small ruby ring Uncle Edgar made for his niece Winnie before he left England.

If I had the opportunity I would fly to St. Petersburg to visit my father's oldest living relative whose secret to longevity must surely be due in part to his jolly, positive nature. He is from a receding generation and a worthy source of family history and inherited conviviality.

Hurrah Ed and congratulations as you enter your 101st year. Your card is in the mail and this post is for you!

13 March 2010


No. 2675 - 25 Jun 2008 - 18:24:02