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Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Desolation of Smug

Ten Things I Hate About Vancouver

Just got back from Vancouver and I am tired, stressed and worn out. Each time this happens, I am reminded of why we moved to Vancouver Island twelve years ago.
Vancouver is busier, people are busier... more hurried.
As soon as the rubber hits the ground at Horseshoe Bay, I feel different. Not bad different, not Oprah-different, just different.
Here, I have tried to express this disappointed cynicism into a list. I know it smacks of sardonicism,  but fortunately for me, I am not Shia LaBeouf, so it is a plain rant, not oh-my-god-he-has-lost-it rant.

Vancouver is considered one of the best cities in the world, but from someone who used to live there but does not anymore, “the best city in the world” thing is getting a little bit too smug. It reminds me of Perfecto. In our high school, he was THE guy:  the too-good-looking guy who is too-good-at-everything and too-nice. Also, his name was Perfecto… are you kidding me? Not to be trusted. Anyway, poor Perfecto did not make it into my circle of friends. Vancouver is like Perfecto… too eco-friendly, too self-congratulatory, too smug, too hipster. Good place for Perfecto, if he has a beard and glasses now. He might, I think he is a judge. 

Beards and Plaid= Happy in  Hipsterhood
 Here are Ten Things I Hate About Vancouver.

No. 1: Entitled Panhandlers
Entitled Panhandler Giving Two Thumbs Up, Streetstyle
Just as annoying as irritable bowels, except without the running. I am sympathetic to the homeless, I am. They are courageous as hell and I could not do what they do. I would make a terrible panhandler.  This is me panhandling:

Rudy: Excuse me, do you have some Red Reishi?
       Stranger: What?
Rudy: Red Reishi, Ling Zhi it’s called. Ganoderma lucidum? Grass of Heaven?
      Stranger: What are you talking about?
Rudy: It will help my immunity! My energy! Make me less irritable!
      Stranger:  Get away from me...what kind of panhandler are you?

However, what I do mind are the entitled ones. I mean, at the very least, it should be treated as a business transaction with me the customer agreeing to exchange my money for whatever potential benefit I feel  might be forthcoming (basic human kindness, safe passage, endorphins, whatever) Everyone who works with the public  should understand the basic guiding rules of customer interaction: be nice, smile, show some appreciation. Do not let them see you get annoyed, not matter what. This just makes sense, because they (the “customers”) are the boss.

Now this happiness rule is inverse proportion to the value and rarity of the services you are offering. Brain surgery, go ahead and be rude. Panhandling? You just have to be a little less demanding.

No. 2 Ferry Lineups
Ferry lineups require preparation: ferry line up food + pillow + eyeshades + music

 The most terrible and undeniably irksome fact of life in living in Vancouver Island is being at the mercy of BC Ferries. It is like being held hostage. It is like paying through the nose for greasy popcorn at the Mega Cineplex. It is like paying for a DVD that turns out to be something you watched already but was so bad you forgot.

When we moved to Courtenay 12 years ago, it was $65 for a family of four to cross the water; now it is over $100.

No. 3 Failing at Walking 101
Do not walk in a flank...This is a sidewalk
Walking in public should not be allowed unless you know how to.

One simple rule, you walk on the right and the people walking in the opposite direction walk on their right. Keep a straight line for Pete’s sake.  Do not stop to suddenly to look at a window. Do not walk in a flank of five. This rule does not apply in Courtenay, where it is actually encouraged that you walk into each other, ending up in a social hug of some form.

Number 3.1 Corollary to Failing at Walking 101
Walking PLUS Eating  
 Not only do you risk walking into each other, there is the possibility of exchange of glop. This rule does not apply if you are John Travolta  in a three piece White Suit or the soundtrack from Chariots of Fire starts playing in Dolby Sound.
If you are John Travolta, go ahead and eat a pizza in public
 No. 3.2 Corollary to Failing at Walking 101
Texting PLUS Eating PLUS Walking
I have seen this. One thumb texting, other hand holding a burrito of some sort while walking down Robson St. (AKA madness). Text your friends on how good your falafel is! Talk while walking, but only between bites! This increases your chances of eating your cell phone by mistake should you get confused.

 4. Food Courts:
There's People's Court, there's tennis court, then there's Food Court
 These abominations of the dining world are very popular, specially in underground malls. No windows, but lots of bright lights. As far as dining experiences go, it is its own category. A array of stalls of fast food, fried mostly, in copious amounts. I watch as the mountain of garbage is emptied continually… a continuous stream  of coffee cups, plastic straws, food wrappers, Styrofoam trays, plastic spoons and aluminum condiment packets.

It makes my head ache and there is a voice that is saying “Get out of here while you still can.” But I can’t, I don’t have a cell phone and my wife asked me wait by A&W. I am trapped. 

5. Dressing Out of Context  
Larry Bird called, he wants his shorts back.
I am talking boots in the summer, shorts in the winter. Inappropriate fashion has always transcended inappropriate taste, but lately, the two have crossed over into uncharted territory. Shorts are now worn in the middle of winter, and paired with leggings or high socks.  Boots on the other hand, can be worn just like sandals, especially if paired with shorts.

6 Traffic
Roadwork commences at the start of traffic, or is it the other way around?
 You can not escape Vancouver without being caught in traffic.  You can mitigate it by leaving early or arriving late, but you pretty much have to allow an hour to get anywhere. 200th St in Langley still gives me nightmares. Coquitlam Center: 20 minutes to traverse two blocks, you get passed by a senior in her scooter.

Is there somewhere on this planet that I can go anywhere in town in under 15 minutes (including parking). Oh yeah. I live there already.

6.1 Corollary to Traffic:
Permanent Road Constructions Projects

We have been away from Vancouver for 12 years and the corner of North Road and Austin has been in construction for all this time and is still under construction. How does this happen? Are they just digging black holes? Are they looking for lost innocence? Is it a tunnel to Vancouver Island?

7. Karma Jars:
This should be just stopped. I would find it less offensive if the term Karma is actually being used properly. Otherwise, it is simply blatant psycho-blackmail: “If you do not tip me, you will return as the underside of a chair to which gum is stuck to”.  Do not fall for it.

Actually, what  would help my karma a lot is if I find a note in the jar that says:

 “This is the  PIN for our bank account… please empty it to zero …then  walk to the corner of Main and Hastings and give the entire sum to the first person you see… and then walk away”.

If the establishment does this, I will change my mind about your Karma Jar in my next life. Unless I come back as a Karma Jar.

No. 8: Mega Dega Anything
half an hour to park + half an hour to choose a movie
Why do we need a theatre with 40 screens?  Why does one need a phone the size of a TV ? Why are Starbucks across the street from each other? Why do I need a Trenta coffee?

No. 8.1 Corollary to Mega-Dega
The Shortage of Public Washrooms

Do people in Vancouver even have bladders? I see them drinking coffee and yet there are no public washrooms around. If you need to pee, you will be immediately faced with this sign:

This requires you to buy a beverage in order to empty your bladder of your last beverage.

No. 9 Tiny Parking Spaces Un-suitable for Trucks.
I do not drive a small car.
 This is not a photo of my truck, but like many of the people in Vancouver Island, I do drive a truck. This is out of necessity because we have to haul stuff and we occasionally have unplowed country roads in the winter to contend with. So, when it is necessary to venture in Vancouver, we do not have the zippy cars that are such the fashion. However, it seems that parking stalls are designed for zippy car dimensions.  Please give us some properly sized parking spots and THEN, you can park your car under our trucks and it all works out.

No.10. Ungodly High Parking Rates

1 cent for every 6 seconds for meter parking in Gastown? $40 daily parking rate if you check into a hotel and park your car while you are at the hotel? Good thing they have not caught me taking up 1.5 zippy-car stalls.

That’s the list.

Kreegah! Bundolo!
Now I have to post Ten Things I Love About Vancouver.

Ten Things I Love About Vancouver


...OR Just In Case the Karma Jar Thing is Legit

…OR Whoever Said the Best Things In Life are Free Named His Yacht, His Horse and His Hacienda “Free”

No. 1: Asian Produce
 Some foods I have to stock up on whenever I go to Vancouver: green papaya, purple taro, Jaggary sugar, black bean paste, cassava, adzuki bean. I really miss Vancouver’s ethnic markets and enclaves of Korean, Vietnamese, Japanese, Filipino, Indian. Chinese and Persian delicacies, to name a few.

No. 2 Rokko’s Fabric and Sari House on Main Street

Here you will find the best deals in fabric and they will sell you a whole bolt of cloth and you will have a lot of fun haggling over the price. Glorious experience for the sew-ciable type. Bet you did not know…I was a tailor at one point.

No.3 The Drive, Gastown and Main Street
Commercial Drive AKA The Drive
These are three of my favorite neighborhoods. I lived off Commercial Drive and First (Salisbury Street) in my University days with my brother and we fixed up this 100 year old house. I loved those days and now, the community has not just survived, it has flourished.

No. 4. Funny Business Names
This is so much fun to play: spot the accidental joke. Where else would you find joyous establishments such as: Happy Date, Foo’s Ho Ho and Negative Space Chinese Restaurant.

No. 5 Richmond Night Market
Go to the Ikea on Bridgeport and follow the crowds to the secret area.
This is so much fun and relatively inexpensive. You just have to be prepared to walk a long way from parking. Red bean shaved ice on a hot summer nigh? Oh Yeah.

No. 6 Queen Elizabeth Park
Seasons Restaurant at Queen Elizabeth Park
This was and still is a favorite spot in Vancouver. I worked some summers at the restaurant in the park and got some serving skills in “Fine Dining”… such as “develop the prescient skills  to read the customer so you don’t have to ask” As poor students in Vancouver, this was central to the bus routes and was a great spot to spend an afternoon dreaming about the future.

Now is the future we used to dream of and now we dream of the time we were dreaming of today. Hey!....I am caught in a loop here…someone should beatbox right about now.

No. 7: Skytrain Stations

The stations are all different. My all time favorite is the Brentwood Station which looks like the airship in Star Wars, the one in which Hans Solo is captured and frozen.

No. 8: Westminster Abbey in Mission
Peace. Quiet. Chanting.
Serenity defined. Meditate , pray, sit, chant. It is all here. We take every chance to visit this place and it is special. When we lived in Port Moody, it was a special day to get up early and drive to Mission for the early morning service.

No. 9 Port Moody
Port Moody is cool. Port Moody is natural. Port Moody is family.
 This is our homebase in Vancouver and most of our family live in the area. Rocky Point Park rocks and walking on the mudflats at low tide is still allowed. The site of many family picnics.

Port Moody is “growing up” with the Skytrain being built right through the center of town, so it’s a mess right now traffic wise. But it still has its proximity to the lakes and mountains and offers a good balance of the artsy and active lifestyles. We miss living there.

10. Secret Restaurants

The dining choice in Vancouver is mind boggling but one of our nieces shared her secret list of restaurants of which we have tried a few. We got stuck because the few that we tried were so good, we just kept coming back. There remains so many undiscovered secret restaurants to find.

To make it on our list, they have to offer top notch novel food at reasonable prices and be consistent. All these places are going to be busy, so be prepared to wait. It will be worth it.
Ap Gu Jung soup..the side dishes are free
Oh, FYI, there are three simple rules of Asian dining:

Do not ask what it is...and definitely do not ask for gluten free, you will be kicked out. Asian definition of organic is: it used to be alive, now it’s on your plate.

Do not attempt to change or substitute, you will get the same stuff  with your own personalized “condiment”. Do not complain and return anything to the kitchen to be “fixed”. Unspeakable things will happen.

You come in, you eat, you go. This is extra important: if you notice people standing right beside your table making you uncomfortable while you eat, they want your spot.

Here is a partial secret list of the best-no-frills eateries:

Japanese: Fuji Sushi in Coquitlam, Shabusen on Georgia
Korean: Ap Gu Jung  on Robson.. plays K-pop all day and night
Vietnamese: Ba Le on Main and Kingsway 
Flota serves dimsum (old-school...with carts) starting at 7:00 AM
Chinese: Flota for dimsum, Cindy’s on Nanaimo for everything else
Filipino: Kumare in Richmond, Pin Pin on Main
Kumare Filipino Restaurant... order the Sisig (do not ask what it is)
Bubble Tea: Dragon Ball Tea of course
Lastly….Amazing torta sandwiches at Nuffy’s Doughnuts on 49th  (open all night, offers fusion food and yes, doughnuts too)