OldVancouver/EastVancouver (Vol 1)

Old Vancouver/East Vancouver (Vol 1)

I’ve always been interested in history. It didn’t matter if I was reading about the battles between Carthage and Rome a few thousand years ago or if I was wandering through a small prairie town museum. Curiosity was always an energy that took your imagination and filled your mind with the adventures, the tribulations, the warfares and loves of people and times gone by. Today is now and the future is unknown. History though is everywhere and can mean just about anything to anybody.

In a world where the documented history of mankind goes back thousands of years and touches just about every corner of the globe, this little town of Vancouver is just a mere infant. Carved out of a paradise where the local indigenous people have lived in harmony with Mother Nature for a few millennia, Vancouver has boomed, burnt, built and bulldozed for 150 years or so. Today it stands on the cusp of becoming a big league city, for better or worseimage

Mankind has always needed and wanted shelter. The evolution from primitive caves to today’s modern architecture covers a wide spectrum and many thousands of years. Around the world, buildings, temples and towns built long ago still exist and lead functional lives. Their history is shared and cherished, and people travel the world to see these wonders of ancient architecture. Family homes in other parts of the world are passed on from generation to generation. Vancouver though, in it’s hurry to become important, seems to be missing the point on history and architectures place within it.

Even though Vancouver is a young city, it is losing some of its heritage and history at an alarming rate. Here in East Van, first and second generation housing is being trampled and ripped up in pursuit of more density, more modernity and more profit. The stories behind these old homes are lost, the structures themselves vanish as we all rush forward into the future
Within the parameters of this blog and under the Old Vancouver/East Vancouver subtitle, I am going to try and document a city that used to be. Wandering the lanes and side streets of East Van with my old dog at my side, I am always on the lookout for unique, aged structures that are still standing in some capacity, that have survived so far. Vancouver is a city where 100 day old houses stand side by side with 100 year old houses. Homes built of old growth cedar get torn down and replaced with new versions built out of chip board plywood and laminate lumber. I’m not saying that this progress is bad, it’s just in some fashion it is reckless and sad.

I will not always be looking for the glamorous, meticulous old beauty. My eye also looks for the tattered, seemingly unloved survivor full of stories and mystery. It could be an old rock wall or a leaning garage but I am looking for it before it vanishes. While it is far removed from Angor Wat
or Amsterdam, Vancouver does have its own history. Larsthebabyjesus and Old Vancouver/East Vancouver is just one guys attempt to give some of this vintage architecture a bit of love and exposure

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We Know Nothing John Snow

The morning of the 5th of February, 1918 dawned cool and wet in Vancouver. The ice and cold from the previous week had been replaced with unrelenting rain. The winter had been long. The war had gone on much longer. Still raging across much of Europe, World War 1 was just the centrepiece of a planet full of conflict and death. Industrial scale carnage devastated countries and wiped out a generation. On that winter day half a world away from the battlefields, war claimed another victim. A young Canadian lad would be just one of millions.

The name of this soldier was John Snow and he had served as a private in the Canadian Army. Trench fighting on the Western Front had given him a close up look at the reality of war. John was seriously wounded on March 17th, 1917 when an artillery shell landed within close proximity. Suffering from and being treated for shell shock and right leg fractures, it was discovered by Canadian military authorities that John was two weeks short of his seventeenth birthday. He was transferred from the front, through British Red Cross Hospital #6 in England and eventually back to Canada. Never having truly healed from his battlefield injuries left John in a weakened state and illnesses he contacted while in recovery proved too much to overcome. Succumbing to the combined effects of double malaria, atypical Typhoid and complications from tuberculosis, John Russell Snow died on that early February day in Vancouver General Hospital, his widowed mother at his side. He was still seventeen years of age.

John had been born in Vancouver on March 31st, 1900 and was the eldest child. He was the sole provider for his family since his father had died and enlisting in the army provided him with a steady wage.  A strapping five foot eight inch fifteen year old, he joined the Central Ontario Regiment on Jan 18th,1916 and was in Europe with the 102nd Battalion Canadian Infantry by the end of the year. One more soldier in the War to end all Wars.

Less than twenty five years later, war would again rage across the same battlefields in Europe. Around the globe, World War Two killed millions. In the almost seventy five years since, conflict has raged almost non stop throughout many corners of the world. A conservative estimate is two hundred million people have died in these wars. Sovereign state wars, proxy wars, cold wars, religious and ethnic cleansing, revolution and narco gangsters. Child soldiers, land mines, suicide bombers, cluster bombs, napalm or nuclear attack. Humankind continues to fight and kill and wage war in ever more efficient and deadly fashion. Civilians have become pawns and fodder, almost disposable and anonymous in the name of greater war.

At it’s core, almost every person on this world really want nothing more than a consistent food and water supply for their family, a roof over their head, good health and safety. Perhaps they might like the ability to pray to their own gods without persecution. Alternative versions of the golden rule can be found in different countries and religions but essentially they teach us all the same thing, treat other people the same way you want to be treated. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. No one should ever have to or need to kill or be killed.

John Russell Snow did not die suddenly in the winter of 1918. It was a protracted and difficult death that was caused by war. He was a very young man who had barely lived and perhaps never loved. I wonder if he thought he was fighting and dying for a just and noble cause. Did he realize his was a needless death and that he was never even given a chance. What would he think the about seventeen year old men and women that are still dying today in needless bloody carnage around the world. That 101 years after his death we are still fighting, still killing and still dying. If anything has been proved by humankind’s perpetual warfare madness, is that we know nothing John Snow.

Point Great

I am sitting at a beach bar on the west coast of Bali with my lovely bride. The wind is aggressive and the waves are burly to the uneducated eye. Few surfers brave the sea but many are watching it with keen interest. We share this balmy balcony with dozens of others and most seem equally as enthralled and enticed by the power of the ocean. After watching people and enjoying the vibe, I kept being drawn back to one individual. He kind of kept to himself while intently watching the sea, his focus always the waves.

There is a movie that was made in the early nineties. The storyline was based on California surfers who wore masks of former presidents of the United States as disguises while pulling off split second timed bank robberies. A young FBI agent goes undercover to infiltrate the gang and bring justice. Patrick Swayze and Keanu Reeves both give vintage performances in the lead roles. Surfing, intrigue, love, bromance, cinematography, extreme sports, violence and a wonderful cliche finish make this a truly enjoyable film to watch. As a character in the film a slight step behind the two main antagonists, Gary Busey provides us with a wonderful acting job playing a flawed, fearless aging FBI agent, and he has been chasing the surfer punks for a long time.

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I thought a lot about Gary Busey, Point Break the movie and surfing as I kept my eye on the man watching the sea. From where I was sitting, I couldn’t truly tell if I was looking at the movie co-star or a doppelgänger. Generally I will give people their privacy and not intrude into personal space, but I was drawn to this man. I drained my beverage and explained to my lovely bride what I was up to. Angling across the deck I approached and introduced myself. Explaining that I was Canadian and not a surfer, I inquired if it was a big surf that day. The absence of riders was a curiosity to a non surfer. Instead of blowing me off, the Gary Busey look alike laughed and explained that it was the biggest surf in six months. Over the course of the next few minutes, he pointed out where the break was, where the beach was most dangerous and what bar had the best food. I listened enthralled as knowledge flowed out of him and broke over my head. At this time one of his buddies came over with a pizza and sat down. I declined their offer of a slice and we said our goodbyes. I returned across the patio and carried on with a lovely afternoon with a lovely lady.

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The guy who could have been Gary Busey and his buddy exited the bar and walked down to the beach. I watched intently as I tried to ascertain what they were doing and it quickly became apparent. Both men were cinching up flippers and pulling on swimming gloves. Goggles were pulled over eyes and they quickly entered into the sea. Some people are water people, born of the ocean while others watch tentatively from the shore. Powerful strokes quickly propelled these two swimmers out into the pounding surf and past the break. In big seas that kept all but the very best surfers sitting on their boards on the shoreline, the Gary Busey look alike guy and his buddy body surfed very large waves like a couple of dolphins. They would cut hard through the face of the wave then duck under just before it would crash over their heads. Up they would pop and freestyle back to the starting point, ready for another ride. It was truly an awe inspiring display of swimming skill and big balls.

The cliche ending of the movie has Patrick and Keanu brawling at the edge of the ocean while handcuffed together. Justice will finally be served or ones mans destiny will prevail. Squeezing every bit of acting ability out of Keanu Reeves that is possible, the movie ends with bank robber surfer dude Patrick Swayze swimming out into the huge ocean swells. The connection between that movie and the man who could be Gary Busey frolicking in the massive Indian Ocean surf is an amazing coincidence. I often look back to that beautiful Indonesian beach and wonder what went down. What message was Keanu, Patrick and Gary trying to send me? The answer I believe is to have patience, study your surroundings and be aware of the dangers in life. When your ready to take the next step, dive in and swim hard with your head up. Surf the ups and downs of life and keep smiling. That’s what Gary Busey look alike guy would do.

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Write or Wrong

A number of weeks back this blog stumbled into existence. So far it has had little cohesion in the subject matter presented from article to article or in the timing of each publication. Thoughts on the American political system and the challenges it presents to itself and the world shared blog space with musings from alley wanderings. Each story would just work its way through the proper channels to my fingertips and the words would dance right on to the screen. Like a musical instrument, if you do not practice it you will be unable to play it up to your potential. To write well, I need to write often.

To be a good blog writer, you should perhaps be a reader of a wide variety of articles presented many different ways by all levels of writers on any number of subjects. In this aspect I was remiss so I started researching the whole blog phenomena and my potential place in it. Very quickly the information presented on the sheer multitude of blogs in the social media world was overwhelming. What do you want to know because right now somebody is writing about that very subject or something else entirely different with photos attached. Who is left to read what is written?

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It was easy to start getting discouraged. In theory, if you are going to devote a good portion of your life to something, perhaps getting paid a little stipend for your efforts would be a nice bonus. Who doesn’t want to be remunerated for partaking in a pleasurable activity? I perused through the travel blog and children’s story blog areas. I stumbled across a site that was rating the Top 50 Travel Blogs in the whole wide world. Some were inspiring and some dealt with maximizing your travel points. Others wanted to assist me in traveling with children or tell me where best to watch sunsets in Central America while traveling as a solo middle age woman. They are all so full of content, it seems almost impossible for one to break free from the crowd and rise to the surface. There is brilliant, unread literature scattered all throughout the blogosphere.

It just makes sense that out of this mass of media, someone would be offering you the opportunity to maximize the monetization potential of your blog writing. They can teach you the way to blogging success and of course it does come with a fee. Every “successful” blog writer out there advertises on their site that they have the winning system and are willing to assist you in one form or another if you provide them with a little of your hard earned cash. I am a natural sceptic in regards to people telling me how to be better as long as I pay them some money. I can do it myself for free. The people behind this one particular pitch though came at you a bit differently by providing some pretty in depth and interesting comment up front for free. What they have to say in regards to blogs having a business plan and a direct constant focus in content to maximize potential viewership and sponsorship really caught my attention. Currently I write unfocused and free.

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The last few days have been very introspective in regards to my writing path and where it might lead. Did I want to enter a much faster, social media world and see if I could compete? How many blogs and blog writers does the world really need? The alternative idea of spending the winter archiving previous writings while fleshing out some new children’s story ideas would be a very easy choice. Throw in a steady flow of life observations onto this space over the next few months and that would be the simple plan. I thank the website that offered to teach me how to make money off of my writing for planting a seed of thought. I will use the winter thinking about the kind of writer I want to be. If I think I’ve got the chops to take a stab at blog writing glory, I will be in touch with them in the spring and see what they have got to say. In the meantime, I’m just going to keep on writing and see where the current takes me.

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Remembrance Day Tale

Remembrance Day Tale

Mother Nature did her part nicely. Vancouver had absorbed an almost biblical 40 days and nights of constant rainfall but the skies dried up and brightened to an iridescent shade of charcoal. It provided the colour accent to match the mood of the crowd at the cenotaph. Another Remembrance Day had been recognized and and those gathered were solemn, reflective and thankful. An almost pleasant day was a blessing to the veterans.

Near the centre of Vancouver, there is a very large graveyard that has been in constant use since the early days of the city. With Fraser Street providing its eastern border, it stretches north and south between 31st and 43rd Avenues. Within its boundaries lie thousands of people, some recognized with 10 foot tall tombstones and others with just a small piece of stamped concrete to show that someone is buried in that spot. The lay of the land is undulating while still climbing the rise up from False Creek. The views of the North Shore Mountains and downtown are stunning. If being buried in a graveyard is where you want to be placed after you have finished living this life, Fraserview Cemetery is as nice a place as you could want.

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Unbeknownst to most people of this city, and something I discovered on Remembrance Day 2015, is that there is a veterans section in the quiet, northwest corner of the graveyard. A small cenotaph, a memorial and a path dissect the hundreds upon hundreds of graves. All are marked only with a plaque in the ground giving name, rank and date of birth and death. Sometimes the unit or branch served with is also provided. There are no tombstones making one resting place stand out from the others. The night before, all the veterans grave sites are marked with a small Canadian flag by local youth groups. This area of the graveyard is where we now go after attending the official ceremonies. What better place to reflect on our luck and fortune in life than to be where people are buried that died for you/us/me to have that opportunity for freedom.

While we mourn for those that have fallen, we know nothing of their stories. We walk through the graveyard, reading grave markers, wondering about the fallen ones families, their loves and lives. Noticing a gravestone with a date of death of Christmas Day or New Years Day makes you realize that war and carnage did not take holidays then as it so stubbornly refuses to do now. New graves are being dug elsewhere in the world while we introspectively wander amongst the fallen from past wars in this quiet city oasis.

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The sky begins to darken and we gather our things and prepare to mount our bikes and ride homeward. A lone car parks along the inner roadway of the cemetery adjacent to the veterans section and and an elderly couple get out. She holds his arm firmly while they navigate carefully through the grave sites searching for one in particular. They come to a stop, then the gentleman squats carefully and wipes the fallen leaves from a certain grave, one amongst hundreds getting some personal remembrance on this day. I drift over and respectfully ask them if I can invade their space and moment with a loved one.

It’s my fathers grave the son tells me. He died in 1936 but it was the First World War that killed him. Dad was gassed when in France and he had trouble breathing the rest of his war shortened life. The family owned a business in south Burnaby and I went to work with my dad everyday until he died when I was six. The son continues to talk while I and his lady friend listen, his wife died in 2012 he adds to the story. He looks into the past while he recollects how his older brothers used to beat on their fathers back with thick rolled up towels as he lied across the table. They would break chunks of gas damage from his war ravaged lungs that he would then cough up in spasms. The stark memories of a child 80 years ago vivid, the anguish in his voice real and now.

I thank them for their time and tell him I am honoured to know the story of his father. I explain that we come here often to reflect on life and liberty and enjoy the view. From now on we will visit his father personally every time we come to the graveyard. He thanks me for stopping and having an interest in remembering his father and all the other veterans. With that we say our goodbyes, they return to their car and me to my bike. In a graveyard of unknown victim’s of war and sacrifice, one man now stands out to us from his fallen comrades. The life long love of a son for a father he barely knew resonates through my mind as I digest his heartfelt Remembrance Day Tale

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Remembrance Day Fail

Remembrance Day Fail

Walking by the church, there was a funeral going on
Veterans standing on the stairs, trying to stay strong
Young men still inside their heads, had seen tragedy and death
And now another soldier, had taken his last breath

When duty called they answered, they didn’t ask the cost
Did they know the price of war would mean a generation lost
And all the generations since, do they remember or even care
That those veterans at the church still smell death upon the air

Would the men and women of today sacrifice their lives
What would they think of friendly fire if it killed their husbands and their wives
They really care, they feel the pain but not in their back yard
If lunch is late or coffees cold, they figure life is hard

The veterans fought to give the life and freedoms of today
How few remember, how few care, what would the fallen say
To know they fought, to know they died, to see them dying still
And what it means to many is enough to make me ill

So go ahead, shop till you drop, just don’t fall in a trench
Knee deep in mud, artillery fire, trying to save the French
But if you know a veteran, say thanks and shake their hand
So you can live your life exactly as you planned
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Remember the wars, remember the veterans, remember the sacrifices. I cannot even begin to imagine what it is like to be in battle. The thought of having other people shooting at me to kill using guns or bombs, artillery and other weapons of small scale destruction is just not a rational one to a sane person. The concept of individual combat to the death or being a bit player in a large scale military manoeuvre while under fire is beyond frightening. Multi year campaigns through extreme weather. Attack, retreat, kill, destroy, repeat.

I guess the “War to End all Wars” wasn’t as successful as perhaps first believed. War seems to still be as popular as ever. Maybe the scale of the conflict isn’t as large but a fair sized portion of the globe has some type of war for a multitude of reasons going on. Resources, geography, religion and stupidity are some of the justifications that a percentage of mankind thinks war, even a limited war is acceptable. I just can’t accept that the people dying in these current wars really want to die anymore than the veterans we so honour on November 11th wanted to die. Even a promise of everlasting paradise doesn’t quite seem like a good enough reason to die in war.

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This year for Remembrance Day, I’m going to think of Vimy Ridge and Dieppe and mourn the brave Canadian souls who fought and died in the two world wars, as well as Korea, Afghanistan and so many other locations around the globe. I will also reflect on all the soldiers who fought for the other side. I will not forget those that are dying today in conflicts around the world. War is not the solution, why do we keep killing each other trying to prove that it is.
So while those of us who actually remember will spend a few moments of our time wearing a poppy and shedding a tear, many will be grateful for the long weekend. They are not quite sure why they got Friday off but it’s awesome. War happens in other times and other places to other people. It’s going on for millions and millions around the world today and there will still be war tomorrow. The wars of yesterday seemed to have solved nothing. So for all the combatants on all sides and all the civilians who seem to increasingly take the brunt of the carnage, I’m going to remember. I’m going to remember that they are human and that they probably really didn’t want to die. War and the reasons for it are pretty fucked up. So when you remember to pack your car for the long weekend to go shopping or camping or visiting or whatever you do on a long weekend in a free country far away from the madness, please don’t forget. Those veterans on the church steps remember.

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No News is Good News

No News is Good News

I was wanting to write a story about flowers and rainbows, but it just wouldn’t flow through my fingertips. It would have been so easy to just sit back and talk about how wonderful the mountains looked in the rare autumn sunshine. The air is fresh and clean and the leaves flutter to the grass like snowflakes in the breeze. It’s a beautiful time of year, but pretty thoughts seem far away. Our little naive corner of the planet keeps hip hopping merrily along while many parts of the globe deal with war, terror, disease and natural disaster. A day does not go by where you are not informed about something bad happening somewhere else.

In this constant information assault that comes from multiple sources and directions, what is required for something to stand out of the news stream and catch your attention? There are so many stories of atrocities, conflicts, and tribulations available to us in the news media. People become numb to constant bad news and look for a happier alternative. Into this void fits social media, which mixes in the recipe of the day or another funny animal video to capture a percentage of society’s attention. Legitimate, important news stories can be found within and much valuable work is conducted through social media but it is quickly becoming primarily an entertainment medium. The idea or concept of looking beyond and behind what is presented by the major information streams is a foreign process to most media consumers.

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We are mere days away from an election in the USA that defies belief. A career politician who is the tainted wife of an ex president and a mega rich dangerously flawed man of the common people compete in a billion dollar competition of illusion and delusion. While the political discussion rages on about the right to carry open weapons, secret emails or men’s treatment of women, minimal discussion can be found about some serious stuff going on in the rest of the world. While the continuing madness of Syria and Iraq dominate the news feed, there are many other stories bubbling below the surface that are disturbing, dangerous and of serious consequence to international affairs. Whether it’s Libyan or Central African conflicts or Philippine politics or the South China Sea standoff, there is shit going on that is important to all of us

I am not a researcher but I read about a lot of different things. Here are a couple of stories that are very current that jumped up and got my attention from the background  of the media stream. A sideline to the current Mid East quagmire is the perpetually ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinians and the rest of the Muslim world. I sat mesmerized reading the story about an organized, well planned and currently being implemented take over of both the Israeli military and police force by the radical Jewish right wing. Officer school and police academy are today full of a large percentage of students from this community. Graduates already populate the ranks of both forces.These are the fundamentalist in the Jewish world and they are on a path to control Israel’s military arsenal and security forces. Israel is a nuclear power. How will this development co-exist in a world already grappling with the multiple challenges of Muslim fundamentalism and the Christian Right wing.

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A drift towards extremism is troubling on many fronts. How do the zealots of any religion find their way to the controls of power. I believe that most practitioners of any religion just want to pray to their gods in peace and security. They want a safe, well fed home for their families and love and good will to their fellow man and woman. Some form or another of the Golden Rule seems to exist in most societies yet we as a planet currently seem to prefer dogmatic, brutal conflict over human rights and respect.

Another story that I have been following for awhile is occurring in America. While the news focus understandingly is on the federal election, there is a drama being played out in the Dakotas in the heart of the USA. Local, indigenous people and their supporters are fighting against an unwanted pipeline that will cross native land and water sources. This protest is being met with force by the authorities and the potential for violence looms large. Mass arrests, tear gassing and confrontation have already occurred as the worlds media is starting to pay attention. How will America deal with this current protest with First Nations? This at a time where election rhetoric is focused on ethnic walls of separation and barriers to certain religious groups and the whole election process is under a microscope. The big melting pot, land of the free brand is under assault in a difficult global climate.

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I’m personally of the opinion that Mother Nature is in charge anyway. All the conflict, turmoil and intolerance throughout the world are moot when Mother Nature steps up to the plate. All differences seem petty when her mighty power is unleashed in anger. She will have the final say in our mutual survival and she needs to be cherished, respected and worked with. So with that in mind, and with indigenous peoples around the world generally more in touch with the spirt of the earth, a very interesting sidelight played out during the Dakota protests. A herd of plains buffalo appeared over the horizon, a small glimpse of their past multitudes and testament to a recovery from near extinction. The appearance of these buffalo right at the moment and location of tense confrontation will be seen as a positive sign from the traditional gods that this fight is just and will not be given up. It adds another piece to an already festering problem for American governments and business, that public protest against unpopular and possibly unlawful actions will not only continue but will possibly be emboldened. America is already trying to digest and come to an understanding in regards to Black Lives Matter and police shootings, absorb the millions of legal and illegal immigrants into the country as well as provide a return of hope and wealth to a struggling middle class. An angry, empowered indigenous population is another distraction to a country engaged in difficult challenges at home and around the globe.

It’s a beautiful evening and the people of Vancouver are out everywhere. Bars and restaurants are full and walkers, joggers and riders are all over the seawall. The troubles and challenges elsewhere in the world seem far away when it is such a pleasant night in paradise. I think I will keep riding and try and find myself some flowers and a rainbow. Perhaps I can find a pot of the golden rule at the end of it to share with the world.

Streetlosophy 101

Streetlosophy 101

Occasionally as you manoeuvre around this town, you come across social commentary, words of ancient wisdom or just some good old fashioned advice. It’s not a headline screaming from a free advertising saturated news paper handed to commuters as they access our transit system. Just as unlikely, this food for thought is not presented to you via one of the many electronic forms of media delivery and reception so popular today. In fact, it is best if you put your device away and keep your eyes open as you go about your daily life.

I am always on the look out for stuff out of place. Whether I’m walking or riding one of my bikes, my eyes are always scanning to and fro. Aside from the random street art I love so much, there is also a lot of “Streetlosophy” presented to the citizens of this city. It can be scratched into fresh concrete or graffiti under a bridge, but it’s a message from somebody to someone, maybe to everyone. What I find so interesting is that this individual would take the time to present this bit of information to the street. The writers of these words all have different reasons for putting forth their thoughts for public consumption.

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On a random block of Kingsway someone has posted “Bill Clinton is Thug” on a construction site plywood wall. As you ride up the bike ramp from Queensborough to the Alex Fraser Bridge, “Ted Cruz is Canadian” is written onto a concrete ramp support column. Quiet political comment on an individual who may be the 2020 Republican Party presidential nominee. So far no visionary statements about Justin Trudeau or a labour tirade against Christie Clark have been spotted adorning any surface. Why American politics have been chosen as subject matter for some “Streetlosophy” in a Canadian city is an interesting curiosity .

Another subject that gets frequent mention in the random philosophy found on the streets is religion. A writer declaring that “Jesus Saves” certainly gives you his one religion opinion and wants you to know what works for them. Another lays it all out there for everyone to see with their “Religion Sucks” declaration. In light of so many of the worlds current challenges and wars being based on different versions of religion and gods, I am inclined to agree with this writer’s viewpoint. Perhaps this is news that should be announced from the headlines and billboards.

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Then you come across a comment carved into a wooden park bench declaring “Asshole Dinner.” I’m not sure what message the writer is trying to get across to those who read these two image creating words. A substantial period of time was taken to present these thoughts to the public. This is no quick burst of sharpie wisdom on a convenient surface, this requires some determination. I’m thinking that this message has deep meaning for whoever graced us with their eloquent woodworking skills, written as much for themselves as for any potential audience.

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The make everybody feel better snippets of “Streetlosophy” can be found in the most unlikely of places around town. You can feel the pureness of the messenger as they drop “4give & 4get” on a side street painted road line. The why can’t we all just get along sentiment of “Imagine Peace” radiates a better world from an abandoned shop window. The message that if we work together and treat each other like we want to be treated ourselves, this is a good thing for citizens to be made aware of. It’s called the golden rule and if more of us quit breaking it, perhaps this world truly could be a place of hope, peace, respect and love for the people who live on the planet. All the gods know the current system isn’t working very well. I think I’ll go write that down on a wall somewhere.

 

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Freedom is not Free

The snow continued to fall. The six young warriors knew that their time had come and that none of them would survive this battle. Up the trail escaped the entire village, their trail rapidly vanishing in the winter storm. All would have time to get through the pass and vanish into the secret trails. The price of this time was the lives of the chosen six.

Their fear was mixed with pride. Songs of death and creation were chanted under breath. Faces were painted. Each was now ready, no words were exchanged. As one, they slipped silently into positions of ambush. Weapons were ready for use. All that was left to do was wait, and it wouldn’t be long. Noise could already be heard from down the trail. The grunts of the enemy could be heard working their way up the steep path.

The pursuit of the People had been relentless. A foe who wanted what they had and would kill them all to to get it. An enemy who would take to the mountain paths in winter to try and surprise the village. A strong, savage enemy. They would be an unsuccessful enemy because of the six in hiding, ready to fight to the death so the People could live.

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A location had been chosen by the leaders of the village. It was a narrow spot and difficult to climb but it could be defended from above. With a surprise attack, the bodies of the enemies would block the movement of those coming up from the rear. Many of the pursuers would die before they would overrun the hidden six.

The first enemy appeared around the corner, breathing heavily but eyes alert. He was followed by a procession of comrades, armed and fierce and working hard in pursuit. They were unprepared for the ambush. With no warning, the chosen six young warriors released arrows from their bows into the chests of the first six enemy. A momentary silence was broken by screams and war cry’s. Six more arrows were released and found their target. A shocked, surprised opponent had been caught off guard, but now pressed forward with skill and anger. They gained ground up the trail through the snow, around the bodies of their own. One by one they were able to reach the ambush sites of the six warriors. War cries became death songs became silence. There were no more arrows, a quick bloody battle was over.

Blood stains are seen on snow at the site of a plane crash outside Almaty

 

At the site of the ambush, the leader of the enemy gathered his surviving warriors. They had been the victors in this fight, they had been defeated in their quest. Their losses had been heavy. Winter will be hard after this failure in the mountains. They quickly honoured and buried the dead, then turned and retraced their steps down the trail and back into the storm.

Up in the mountain pass, the retreating village now knew the results of the six young warriors sacrifice. The People were free from pursuit and danger again. Slowly songs were heard. Quiet mournful songs of recognition, of understanding and of appreciation of what had transpired that day back down the trail. The joy of survival was balanced by the pain of loss. The village would survive the winter, but the cost of their freedom was dear.

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Grey is the new Black

The dude blew by me quickly on the inside lane, then veered hard to the right. He cut across my lane just in front of my bike and made his exit from Highway 99, oblivious to everything except the electronic device in his lap. There were no other vehicles within 1000 meters on the freeway to my rear. This vehicle operator could have casually slipped into the lane behind me and cruised onto his desired exit. Instead he drove like an aggressive idiot, eyes downward. I know it was a dude and he was distractedly driving because I glanced over as I rode on. I had to see where this driver fit into society’s stereotypes.

I spend a lot of time on two wheels. One of the beauties of riding is it gives you a lot of time to think. So as I continued along Zero Avenue, a salad of mixed ideas is being tossed inside my head. The USA is meters away to my right, there is agriculture galore on both sides of the border and  5000 square foot farmhouses dot the countryside. America is a country having a reality show election that is being played out live and everyone actually gets a vote. Canada is a country that always seems to vote for the same government the USA voted in ten years ago. Both nations are facing challenging times where leadership is paramount. Deep subject matter for sure but my thoughts are elsewhere.

The concept of “what is a grey area and its relationship with traffic flow?” has grabbed a hold of my grey matter. What now constitutes the rules of the road? Everything from U turns to speed limits seems to be fair game for personal interpretation of the rules. I’ve had a rant stewing for a long time now about self entitled drivers. When did tailgating in the slow lane at 70 mph become the new NASCAR 500? Back off everybody, come on. Since moving to East Van, I’ve added self entitled cyclists to that list. Roundabout protocols is just a start but inconsiderate recklessness and silent passing without courtesy is a riding shame. People are now operating their bikes like they drive cars.

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As I was self righteously preparing my thoughts to rip a shred off of all those bad drivers and self absorbed cyclists, riding on two wheels gave me the time to look inward. I pondered my disapproval of their skills and attitudes while riding in the fall sunshine under the shimmering watch of Mount Baker. Slowly the realization came to me in regards to my own personal driving and riding history. I admitted to myself that I have run a yellow light and I have ridden my bike on a sidewalk without wearing a helmet. The fouls I’ve committed may not be as serious as blowing courtesy corners in the dark with no lights on a bike or being one of those too numerous dick drivers on the roads, but they are still fouls. How can I stand on the soapbox and pontificate if I have also committed transgressions? Where does societies inaction to all our infractions lead?

Where is that line? How do you know when you have crossed the delineation that sets the boundary between the rules of the road as we were all taught and operating within the “grey area”? Where and when was “grey area” discussed and who set the fluid grey boundaries? Sometimes I think that the whole traffic light, green means go plan is just a giant science experiment by secret government officials. The question they are studying is how many years will it take North American driving society to totally transition from green means go/red means stop to the reverse. With the amount of late light runners today, people are actually delaying moving forward on the green for a number of seconds, just making sure the coast is clear. Every year traffic waits longer when they have the right of way.

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Why are we all losing sight of the right way? Nowadays it seems more of us so called good, law abiding people are dabbling our toes in the wrong way. If the other dude looks like a lady, ethnic, aged religious scenester is doing it, then we all will as well. A gradual vehicular, transportation anarchy is unfolding before our eyes. Now they are going to add driverless cars to all the traffic flow, riderless bikes are sure to follow. Why is this dangerous misbehaviour accepted? It seems like a done deal that we all will just operate our personal transportation units faster, more aggressively and with less consideration for others.

A movement can only begin if people jump on board and take it forward. One driver or rider at a time makes the commitment to courtesy and to following the rules of the roads. Together we can stop this selfish driving nastiness and bring a return to a time when personal transportation wasn’t just every person for themselves. I know it can be done and I’m going to be one of the first to sign up when that day comes. Crossing the Port Mann Bridge, my mind is clear as I ride back into Vancouver. The lovely late afternoon sun glints off the windshield of the car hard on my ass. I accelerate deeper into the allowable speed limit “grey area” of the car pool lane to provide myself a little comfort zone then change lanes on a solid line. The dude blows by at about 50 shades of grey over the line.

There are some old cliches or sayings that hit the nail on the head when it comes to pompous righteousness. He who is without sin can cast the first stone is one. Thou shall not throw stones if one lives in a glass house is another. I try real hard to be a courteous, safe driver and rider, and I know most other people on the roads or bike paths try hard as well. Yet if we all still go grey from time to time, how do we stop those who push the boundaries further? I guess it’s true what they say, grey is the new black