Wednesday, 27 February 2013

I'm having a moment (early morning Vancouver)

It is 6:15 am in Vancouver. Standing on the balcony, none of the noises that usually define Vancouver are audible: no cars, no honking, no swearing of people in the alleys.  A full moon is setting over English Bay, and the only thing I can hear are the squawking voices of arriving Canada Geese.  Vancouver almost seems livable again.
A feeling completely different from the one I had last night driving over Cambie Bridge.  One was getting used to the unnatural sprouting forest of display-glass condo towers in Yaletown, but in the middle of the bridge I noticed that another branch of this forest was marching North and West from the former Olympic Village. And looking East one could see the first saplings starting to cross-hatch the sky on the horizon. Crossing the bridge, I felt surrounded by an almost solid wall of people stacked in these human parkades. Even the escape West towards the Ocean looked difficult since seemingly guarded by the advance of highrises up the ramps of Burrard Bridge. A short moment of claustrophobia was extended driving along Smithe through the checker-board of Downtown, where almost every square now had the maximum number of permitted highrises.  While the regular grid pattern of the luminous highrise windows being extended over the grid pattern of the city had an almost artistic quality, a thought forced itself in my mind that was first articulated by Yusuf Islam (the former Cat Stevens):  "But, Where do the children play?"  Poor man! He felt the need to write this song in 1970. What must he feel singing it today?  After all, Cassandra's curse would not have worked without her gifts.

Seems some of that people-phobia was also felt by the seagull visiting the balcony at 7 am:  While previous visitors had  shown no fear or hesitation going after food, this one evaded the first tossed blueberry as if under attack, but took heart (probably after catching it a few floors below) and came back to the railing. However, it would not go after the blueberries rolled onto the balcony floor until I had closed the sliding door and it could see me sitting at the desk in the room again.

And I can't get this question to go away:  How does a seagull pick which balcony to land on? Do they pick a random one?  One where the lights are on in the morning? One where they saw someone on the balcony earlier? None of the above?  This question popped in my mind when I took this picture:  There are a lot of balconies to choose from!

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Why you should keep the radio on (it might change your life)

It's been almost a year since the times when I lived an unhappy existence on East 10th Ave in Vancouver. Many factors contributed to that unhappiness, and the change was accompanied by weekly new favorite tunes (mostly old ones). And it was possible to predict the changes in my life by paying attention to my changing favorite tunes.

The dreaded Status Quo: Grateful to Bob Dylan and Dave Mathews Band for lyrics and incarnation:

"There must be some way out of here" said the joker to the thief
"There's too much confusion", I can't get no relief
Businessmen, they drink my wine, plowmen dig my earth
None of them along the line know what any of it is worth. 

Torment: Thanks Donovan!
You've got to pick up every stitch  
You've got to pick up every stitch  
You've got to pick up every stitch  
Mm, must be the season of the witch 
Must be the season of the witch

Thoughts of revenge?: Bob Dylan again! One of the scariest songs ever written
There is no YouTube version. But listening to the original nasal voice acoustic version will change your life!  Old Testament style Justice and why quiet hate is much more dangerous than raging anger.
Edde Vedder comes close: 

But there's a one thing I know 
Though I'm younger than you  
That even Jesus would never  
Forgive what you do

Well let me ask you one question 
Is your money that good?  
Oh will it buy you forgiveness 
Do you think that it could?

I think you will find  
When your death takes its toll  
All the money you made  
Will never buy back your soul

And I hope that you die  
And your death will come soon I
'll follow your casket 
By the pale afternoon

And I'll watch while you're lowered  
Down to your deathbed  
And I'll stand over your grave  
Till I'm sure that you're dead

Deliverance! another Dylan

And while he tossed his shackles in '77, I will 'officially' leave mine behind at his concert in Vienna in October ;-):  Peter Gabriel's Solsbury Hill

My heart going boom boom boom
"Son," he said "Grab your things,
I've come to take you home." 

So I went from day to day
Tho' my life was in a rut
"Till I thought of what I'd say
Which connection I should cut 

 I will show another me
Today I don't need a replacement
I will tell them what the smile on my face meant

My heart going boom boom boom
"Hey" I said "You can keep my things,
They've come to take me home."

And what's this feeling? Go Go Gadget Gospel by Gnarls Barkley

I'm well on my way
I'm almost everything
And this is my day

I'm free! Look at me! Behold everything I'm allowed to see
Free,! Come and see

I'm free! Look at me!
Freedom in hi-fidelity
Free! come and see

And this one is painful but inevitable:  Going On from Gnarls Barkley (Oh thank for that those two lines)

This is the start of a journey.
And my mind is already gone
And though there are other unknowns
Somehow this doesn’t concern me.  

And you can stand right there if you want
But I’m going on
And I’m prepared to go it alone
I’m going on
To a place in the sun that’s nice and warm
I’m going on 

I want nothing to do with  

May my love lift you up to the place you belong
I’m going on
And I promise I’ll be waiting for you oohoohoo
Don't follow! 

So sad (Capable by KO)

Baby got a little problem with the drugs man
And I tried to stop her, well
But she loves them
But I can't do nothing that, last one man
Her nose keeps on bleeding but it's, but it's
but it's nothing and I
And I won't forget when, when she said

I lick a ring around this L
So that it burns all night
And I pass round that philly so, so
So we can all get high
You see I never knew
I never had a clue that
That you were capable of love
That you were capable of love
So lick a ring around your L,
So that it burns all night
And I pass round that philly so, so
So we can all get high

If baby keep on thinking, wells
she gonna hurt herself
Baby keeps on drinking cause
She lost all her wealth
Yeah,she love that liquor
She wanna have my kids
But this ain't my problem but
Be Jesus says it is
And I won't forget when, when she said

I'm so glad you informed me
Her strong point was never loyalty
B!tch never done shit for me
I had to leave her, and
Well now she's just another story
When we pass around that 40
And she says she's so sorry well I
I don't believe her

Hope Springs Eternal  (Thank you Sheryl Crow for Leaving Las Vegas!)

Life springs eternal
On a gaudy neon street
Not that I care at all

I pour a drink
And I pull the blind
And I wonder what I'll find 

But these days it seems
Nowhere is far enough away
So I'm leaving Las Vegas today

Such a muddy line between
The things you want
And the things you have to do

I'm leaving Las Vegas
And I won't be back
No I won't be back
Not this time

More songs as they happen

Sunday, 24 February 2013

Feed the world? (Not today, I feel lazy)

Please note: This is not a directed criticism of a particular restaurant or the people that work in it!  The staff at this particular restaurant was helpful, courteous, and friendly! I am quite certain that the issue to be discussed is an issue (for me at least) in most restaurants all over the city, province, country, etc. etc.

The above picture shows French Toast prepared for Breakfast Guests at a restaurant with a view in Vancouver (The probably would call it "A View with a Restaurant"). Sunday morning must have not seen many guests, since when I arrive at 9;30 the French Toast vat seems untouched by eaters. The picture shows the French toast 5 minutes before closing (thus the clean vat on the left) and AFTER I had my French Toast.  And guess what will happen to all that French Toast?  Fellow cynics probably guessed right:  Dumpster, Landfill, garbage incinerator. But why waste all that food, you ask?  It's the easiest solution!
When I realized that the restaurant was closing and all this food was left, I asked the staff whether they had a homeless shelter pick it up or if they make use of it in any other way. The answer was NO, and the excuse provided right with it was "We can't risk that because people might have food allergies". Personally, I don't think people in homeless shelters have the luxury of taking into consideration real or hypochondriacal allergies to sea food, peanuts, lactose, or gluten (I still don't know what the latter is) and I conveyed that to the staff.  But the real problem is a different one.  The hotel staff wants to go home instead of looking for a person that will reliably pick up this food. They don't want to even consider having to wait for a shelter food person that might be late.  People providing food to homeless shelter want a reliable source of food that provides them with a fixed number of meals per day. If on a certain day the restaurant has many guests and the amount of leftovers is low, the shelter food manager would have to look for alternative sources, which again is more work. Perfectly understandable, both sides.  But!  Imagine the result. Leftovers from all of the buffets of all of North America going to the dump.

/end uninformed rant/ 
If anyone actually has any experiences on this subject (unlike me), i.e. failed attempts, additional reasons against, etc. etc., please feel free to comment. Personally I see ranting as a means to learn, which might not always be obvious ;-)

Self Confidence (or reverse cameras on cell phones)

I remember days when I dreaded having my picture taken. Wasn't even that long ago. And the thing that changed it was not a shrink. What changed my life was a cell phone. Actually a reverse camera on a cell phone. It started out as taking pictures of spring flowers in Vancouver for someone still frozen in Dawson Creek. The full size pictures from the standard camera would not transmit via SMS, so I started using the reverse camera for smaller file size and just for fun started putting myself in the picture (or the foliage).
Brett vorm Kopf
A random selection in definitely not chronological order:


Lila Mais?
Don't you love Safari?

Oh Rapunzel, thy hair is so soft!

Yiman! You on Lamma Island?

Rebel with a cause

Where is Myra anyway?

Where I come from and where I'm going
Like the hat?


Captain Cook, I presume?

I really do not know what to say to this one
Ich glaub, mich laust der Bhudda!

Perspective is everything


courage to look stupid

round bridge, round face (time to get that camera fixed!)

Saturday, 23 February 2013

Empire Landmark, Cloud 9, and the views

Saturday morning at the Empire Landmark on floor 34 with a view of English Bay.  Back in a place where seagulls circle below ;-)

Waking up ravenous, I decide to give the Cloud 9 breakfast buffet a chance. $16.95 + 12% HST for a buffet that on the handout sheet available in the lobby does little to impress. An when you meet the actual buffet, you realize they did not under-exaggerate on that hand-out.  The view is nice; they apparently do not rotate the restaurant for breakfast for cost reasons (!), and the food is OK with a mediocre selection.  Still can't complain; one pays for the view.

 But after yesterday's lunch I am used to getting a view for free! In addition: the view from my room is better and I can smoke there!  Restaurant Management maybe did not think about this:  After this experience I am very hesitant to try the advertised 'gourmet' dinner in the same restaurant. And after briefly checking some restaurant review web-sites (dinehere etc) I find my gut-feeling confirmed once again:  Rating 2.5 out of 5, with people giving it 5/5 for the view, so you can guess what part dragged the overall score down again ;-)

But! (oh oh): Tomorrow morning, when Vancouver has donned its wet grey outfit again I will be sitting here again, typing this update on my laptop .  There is something about sitting in a restaurant as the only guest, sitting by a window on the 42nd floor with coffee and food sharing the table space with my laptop, looking over a rainy city, harbour, and Stanley Park, that for me is incredibly conducive to writing.  Go figure!


In a typical RTFM (Read the F@#$^ Manual) situation, Conrad, father of my pseudo-nephew Mika) will call me on February 28 to inquire whether he should take Chantal and Mika for Chantal's 40s birthday to the Observatory on Grouse Mountain or to Cloud 9.

Friday, 22 February 2013

Just another Friday in the Year of the Snake (or is it?)

No, NOT just another Friday. I am reminded - by the article of RED clothing that I m wearing somewhere -  to make every day of this year count!

8:30 am
A quick look outside the motel window confirms what I have dreaded: Pouring rain, not the most exciting material to work with for a fun day.

8:44 am
Certain relationship issues motivate me again to be at an undisclosed location for 2 days. After perusing Expedia for a short while, I book a room with a view. Oh, right. Rain...  This is going to be a pooper !

9:17 am
The hourly weather forecast calls for sunny breaks by 1 pm. Yeah right! But then it also calls for sunny skies tomorrow; maybe I'll actually get a view from my room with a view!

11:00 It is raining even harder now!  And some of the raindrops have structure to them when the melt on the windscreen!

11:50 Maybe this will turn out ok?  It stopped raining.

12:30 pm I am picking up Yiman for lunch at the Library, and I am happy to point to the southern sky when she gets in the car to point out the light grey-bluish spot that is manifesting there.  Kudos weatherforecast-person!

I inform Yiman that today is my treat and that I already have picked the lunch location. Yiman remains in the dark almost even after the word 'revolving' has been mentioned, but quickly gets excited once we get close to Top of Vancouver.  The glass-walled elevator on the outside of the building has lost none of its attraction: Yiman, showing that she's a Rooster and no chicken, takes in the view right from the glass walls. The restaurant at the top still offers one of the best views of Vancouver, this time aided a bit by sunny breaks! The elevator to the restaurant is free, and prices are comparable to better ground-level restaurants. The food here is actually excellent, so for all you cheap-skates:  This place has excellent food and you get the view for FREE!
The view from the viewing platform just below isn't quite as nice. It's not as much the lesser altitude that affects the view, but the size and angle of the panes of glass. Paying $15.75 to use the elevator to that viewing platform is outrageous. What is even more outrageous, is that to use one of the two tourist telescopes installed there, one has to pay an additional Dollar. Operators of the Viewing Platform, HAVE YOU NO SHAME?

2:50 pm Excellent fish main courses and inventive (and good ;-) desserts have been eliminated and having dropped off Yiman, I proceed to Robson Street in order to get the best room available by means of early check-in.  Room 3411 at the Empire Landmark again! Despite some new rain drops on the windscreen, this Friday is turning out alright. One thing the smoking floor at the Empire Landmark and the Top of Vancouver restaurant have in common: Seagulls do not circle overhead, but rather below. Something I could get used to.

You are asking for pictures after 9 am?  Phone died. Hopefully not permanently! And yes, I even picked the same brand for the new phone as the old one, in order to minimize the amount of brain work required to get used to the new one (It's a PHONE, it shouldn't require that much thinking!), but the picture tells a different story.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Pho Japolo (or the 20 ounce glass of wine)

Yes, full-size napkin holder

I am back at Pho Japolo on Marine Drive close to Lions Gate Bridge in North Vancouver, home of the indecently large glass of white wine. Something new was on their wall menu today and I'm eating it as I type. Cambodian style dry noodles and soup.  While I usually have the Vietnamese seafood noodle soup, in which the seafood to water ratio is a bit low for my taste (not too low: I keep eating it:-), the Cambodian dry variety is served with chicken and seafood and is very yummy, with a seafood to water ratio a bit too much on the high side (read: enough seafood but small side soup bowl).

A note on the glass of wine pictured: This was served about a month ago with the words: "This today special for you". And no, this is the extreme 'special' version. Normally the glass is 3/4 or 3/5 full, but compared to the standard of other restaurants, which would in this glass measure in at the 1/4 mark, even that is still astonishing. After the pictured glass, I had to order extra food, with grease,to absorb the alcohol. Didn't work though; my inebriation level during driving was a bit higher than what I would normally would put the limit at. 

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Another First! (Bowen Island and Ferry walk-on)

Given that it not only is the year of the snake, but in particular the year of the water snake (the other elements being metal, wood, earth, and fire), so ferry travel should be particularly suitable ;-)  I boarded the Queen of Capilano at Horseshoe Bay bound for Bowen Island after paying $12.65 for me and the bicycle for a return trip. After a short (20 mins) but very scenic crossing, I arrived in Snug Cove to see a street leading from the ferry terminal up a steep hill. I had expected reasonably flat terrain, even after consulting Google Maps. Nope. Hills, even on the 'flat' route. On two or three stretches I had to resort to push the bicycle up the hill. In addition to hills, I had not expected many cars. Again a wrong assumption. They thinned out quite quickly though, once I made my way across the island and at the ferry terminal half an hour before the sailing back to Vancouver I could even enjoy the strange of noise of hearing not a single car.
 The first bike push up the first hill was fortunately interrupted by buying cigarettes at the General Store, run by friendly Asians. As become apparent friendly store employees/owners are not the norm here. I bought some salty pretzels and some water, which were welcome on my several stops to take pictures or just to catch my breath. First stop only for scenery was a reservoir lake serving as the Bowen Island drinking water supply and I hope for Bowen Islanders that their water tastes as good as it looks.
Further up the hills I had to take another breather and dumped the bike in the road ditch to cross the road to take some pictures of sheep. The picture just wasn't working so I went back to the bike, when two rather large animals that had been laying down unnoticed by me just behind the fence behind the bike, got up in unison and directed their spit orifices in my direction. Lamas! My words "Don't you DARE spit at me" did not visibly appease them but at least no spit was forthcoming, so I kept
 talking. They seemed to like my company and I kind of liked their quiet foreign demeanor and after a while they started turning their heads in various directions but did not leave. Treating it as a photo shoot, I gave them instructions which look to use, until we all had enough and I cycled on.
After 40 minutes of an uphill trip I came to a point at which I realized how high I had climbed. The road from here looked like it continued to the shores far far below. The thought of having to cycle back up to that spot from those shores did not appeal to me, so I went for a small lunch at Ruddy Potato Cafe & Garden. Their Italian sausage soup was quite good and reasonably priced. I twice mentioned that I was wondering what was down at this shore, because I kind of dreaded coming back up the hill here, but both times the waitress just said "Oh No, don't go UP there; go down to the shore!"  Treating it as a karmic wave with a fence post I turned around a cycled back to Snug Cover; a much easier ride now!

The ride back was only interrupted at the Lama fence, where after some calling I noticed one of them in a stable-type edifice in the very back.  It was looking right at me, its ears flapping this way and that way, but despite this attention it did not come back to the fence, so I left.  In both these encounters I did not see either of the two Lamas move a single leg!
Having time to kill in Snug Cove, I entered this Marina store to fill a standing order for fridge magnets. Prices here ranged from standard ($3.50 for a magnet) to outrageous ($45 for a stamped silver-COATED Native bracelet). When I mentioned Navaho solid silver two-layered-work bracelets, the owner tried to BS me with the "silver got sooo expensive" story. Even at $29/ounce, the material for a bracelet only costs $60, which I paid for a gorgeous older Navajo example. Mme Owner tried this on me: "Because silver is sooo expensive, solid silver bracelets can not be had for less than $1500". Add to this a generally unpleasant demeanor, and you have my experience in this store. Enter at your own risk. 
My second lunch (mussels & wine) was had at Miksa. The staff was friendly (including unsolicited tips where to take the bicycle), the restaurant comfy, and the food good. The food might even be better next time if they stop using flour as a thickener in the mussel broth, as I advised ;-)

There seems to be no ferry running between noon and 3pm, but lunch at Miksa and one of the short bike excursions shortened the wait before the ferry took me back to Horseshoe Bay.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Who the heck are these people? (Denise & Hans & Max)

Ok, new to blogging. Mentioning names and no one has a clue who they are. Denise got blogged twice already, so for the record:  Denise, Hans, and Max are the lovely owners of a lovely soon-to-be B&B in lovely Robert's Creek on the lovely Sunshine Coast close to Vancouver (note absence of final lovely ;-).  I think officially they are not open yet; so the phone number will follow when they decide that they are. A skinny version of Hansu (Hans) could be seen walking Wreck Beach about 10 years ago, which is roughly when I had last seen them. I called them again on a whim on a Thursday noon in June 2012 and was on the Ferry to Roberts Creek the same afternoon. After my chosen homelessness at the end of July 2012, they provided me with a lovely, loving, and beloved 'home away from no-home' on numerous occasions. Without their care, decency, common sense, and happiness I would have never been able to implement the No-more-nonsense lifestyle ;-) Oh, did I mention that Max is the dog that managed to mellow this strict cat person?  A few snap shots taken since the summer of 2012.

Monday, 18 February 2013

The people of Vancouver (Caveat Emptor)

How does one describe the people of a city?  A daunting task with no starting point. Let's describe them using my digital cameras ;-)
I got my first digital camera for free, because one of the attendees at one of Conrad's Work Less Parties lost the camera there and didn't bother to pick it up for over 2 months.  Another citizen of Vancouver was responsible for the repeated theft of my digital cameras, so I bought quite a few used on Craigslist.  One nice seller I met at a Starbucks on Main Street. He arrived late because he was using transit.  Not sure whether he was homeless or financially challenged, but he wore a nice big old long coat, was friendly in a friendly way, and sold me a nice Canon for $40, that worked flawlessly until it too was stolen. Others seemed a bit shifty, but since I usually got their phone numbers, I am quite confident that the cameras were at least not stolen (before I bought them ;-).  All the used cameras I bought worked flawlessly.
The cell camera at the CNY parade
I realized two days before this year's Chinese New Year Parade, that the latest incarnation of my line of cameras was not there anymore (It survived both Hawaii & Cuba), so at the last moment I started to peruse Craigslist. Everything seemed fine at the start, except that the person trying to sell a Sony Cybershot did not give me their phone number and did not send cell texts.  When I met them it was a chubby woman from New Westminster in the shiny blue Ford Mustang of her unwashed looking boyfriend. Money and camera exchanged hands.  Only when attempting to charge the camera at home, did I realize that the battery had given up and could no longer be charged. No big deal, eBay will provide me with a new battery for $5. And this seems quite a good example of what this city is turning in to: A giant maze for a glorious race of Rat against Rat.  Maybe these people thought that the buyer would miss his money. Not really, for minimum input I will have a working camera. The main annoyance was to have to use my cell phone camera again at the Chinese New Year Parade, despite having had the foresight to look for a real camera. But then I don't think these people will ever quite comprehend that. It can't be expressed as a Dollar figure. On the other hand: the cell phone camera did its job ;-)

Denise and the Snakes (Chinese New Year Parade)

 When I cancelled my plane trip to see Denise in Roberts Creek at the last moment because I remembered that the Chinese New Year Parade was held on Sunday, Denise decided to come to Vancouver to see the parade as well. After picking her up at the ferry in Horseshoe Bay, we made use of the free Sunday parking in the ICBC parkade at Lonsdale Quai and took the Seabus downtown.  After pushing our way through the crowds, we found a nice second row spot behind short people at Pender & Columbia. Despite various MLAs buying votes by handing out little red envelopes and blocking the view of the parade, we had a great view.   On the political side: Libby Davies handed out the best red envelopes (red and green wooden pearl bracelets), Adrian Dix by far the worst (neither Denise nor I could or wanted to identify the type of candy) and the Premier of BC (I don't even know her name) took part in the parade for the first 100 meters or so and then the flock of microphones and video cameras indicated that the TV illusion had been created and she went somewhere else.  After an hour of a very enjoyable parade Denise and I both were freezing and starving, so we decided to chicken out and grab some comfort food at a table with a view at Steamworks in Gastown.