Homeless in Vancouver: Lions and elephants and bears! Oh my!

Tabloid editors have been known to create a good headline and then write a story to suit.

It’s not journalism but neither is blogging.

When buildings employ lions, they generally have them flanking the entrance in pairs.

This lion, who lives in the Fairview neighbourhood at the Queen Mary apartments on West 14th Avenue, looks like he’s had the job to himself for a very long time—I’d be lyin’ if I said I knew how long.

He may actually be an original tenant. In which case he looks quite good for an octogenarian—perhaps a bit too much paint.

How like a bridge, the Lions Gate perhaps?

After all these years he’d be lucky if he could gum you to death.
Stanley Q. Woodvine

The Queen Mary is another example of an exquisite, elderly Fairview building that stays that way because of meticulous maintenance. It’s equally elderly superintendent just won’t tolerate signs of decay, so far as I can tell.

Consider the concrete “wainscoting” around the building’s perimeter, the window sills, and ledges—the fire escape—basically everything except the brickwork; it’s all painted with the same creamy looking reddish-brown paint.

The superintendent and I jokingly agreed one summer, two years ago, that painting the Queen Mary was like painting a bridge. No sooner did he finally get to the end of the painting than he seemed to think it was time to start over at the beginning.

He blamed it on the owner but I knew he was just a maniac for building maintenance. I recognized the condition. I was similarly sick with worry for “my building” for the two years I worked at the Masonic Centre.

Handiness—if you are so inclined—is not something you can turn off. People are wise to just stand back and let you fix things.

Earlier in this week I was in the alley one street south of the Queen Mary. I watched as the building manager of a three-storey clapboard affair rushed out of his building and start rooting in the Container blue bin. He pulled out a plastic yogurt tub, eyed it carefully, and turned to go back in.

“Being resourceful?” I asked him.

He gave me a grin and said that he was.

But I  digress.

The elephant in the street

Stanley Q. Woodvine
Stanley Q. Woodvine

When I saw the above elephant sculpture this week sitting in front of an apartment building on West 11th Avenue, I thought, “that’s new”.

To me at least.

I don’t ride down West 11th Avenue very often—just the alleys on either side—so I can’t say just how long this elephant has been glaring at passersby.

But it actually bears some similarity to another another animal sculpture that I know just recently appeared a few blocks away on Hemlock Street.

Get it? Bears some similarity?

Demurely covering, peeing or playing with itself—only the artist knows.
Stanley Q. Woodvine

This bear might be made of the same stuff as the elephant. They are also similarly chained in place. And the “vacancy” signs both feature the identical little “no-smoking” sticker.

All of which suggests to me that a landlord is using the sculptures to visibly and playfully brand their ownership of the two Fairview properties on Hemlock and West 11th.

Another instance of this kind of branding seems to be just across the street from the bear on Hemlock—one of of the two Fairview buildings decorated with a Union Jack flag and Chinese-style lions.

Stanley Q. Woodvine
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