Our Contributors' Choices
Best proof of Mayor Sam Sullivan's political vulnerability
Look at all the wannabes lining up for the 2008 mayoral contest. Two-time mayoral candidate Jim Green, NDP MLA Gregor Robertson, and councillors Raymond Louie and David Cadman haven't ruled themselves out of the race, which means they're probably all interested in running. Then there are the persistent rumours that NPA councillor Peter Ladner also wants Sullivan's job. Former NPA mayors Gordon Campbell and Philip Owen never found themselves in Sullivan's situation a year before they sought reelection, but it's probably still too early to write off the little bugger's political career. Sullivan has been underestimated many times before–beneath that boyish veneer beats the heart of a political cobra.
Best double dipping
The premier's former deputy minister, Ken Dobell, is a shoo-in. What can you say about a guy who contracts himself out as a provincial lobbyist (or "content consultant", as he put it) for the City of Vancouver on housing issues at the same time he has a desk in the premier's office as Gordon Campbell's special adviser? Dobell, a former Vancouver city manager, managed to duck controversy for many years, despite playing a role in a couple of serious public-policy blunders. While he was CEO of TransLink, he was the real father of the Canada Line rapid-transit project, which has forced local businesses into bankruptcy and which could eventually do the same to TransLink. He has also been the premier's point man on the ever-more-expensive expansion of the Vancouver Convention and Exhibition Centre. It started out at $495 million but has since crossed the $800-million threshold (which is an overrun that is $55 million more than the $250-million fast-ferry overshoot that was seized upon by the B.C. Liberals to crush the NDP in the 2001 election). Back in the old days, he even recommended tearing down those lovely old houses in Mole Hill. Fortunately, he was overruled by the council of the day. But it was only when Dobell decided to get into the lobbying game that big media started questioning his activities. Not too seriously, mind you–just enough to ensure the public got a whiff of trouble.
Best political sand trap
Maybe you can explain this to us. So Vancouver park board commissioner Marty Zlotnik, an avid golfer, is displeased that the Musqueam have been given the UBC golf course as part of a land-claims settlement. Zlotnik–did we mention he's a park board commissioner?–has a better idea: trade the Musqueam a second-rate chunk off the ass end of Pacific Spirit Park to get the approximately 50 hectares back. Yeah, Marty, let's de-protect managed parkland so we can enshrine some AstroTurf you have to pay to caress, and that requires endless watering and weeding. Now there's a park board commissioner talking. Oh, wait, he was speaking as a private citizen. Course he was. Fellow commish Loretta Woodcock, in asserting that COPE board members won't support Zlotnik's suggestion, said: "I find it disrespectful that Marty is telling the 1.5 million users who visited Pacific Spirit Park last year that that property is of lesser value than a golf fairway." Zlotnik must have thought he had a gimme, not the double bogey this is turning into.
Best proof that the Vancouver Sun is on Gordon Campbell's side
CanWest critics sometimes point to the way in which the government's view is often presented on the front page while the Opposition's response doesn't appear until the second, if at all. Others suggest that the Sun's political columnist, Vaughn Palmer, has lost his bite after all those years in the press gallery and befriending politicians on his cable-TV show. Then there are those pre-election editorials, which predictably plug the B.C. Liberals. But the real proof is in the images. Check out the pictures of Gordon Campbell that appear in our metropolitan broadsheet. Ask yourself why there's almost never an unflattering photo of the premier. Perhaps Sun bosses take their cue from the B.C. government's own Web site, which has become a pinup gallery for our beloved leader. There's Gordo with the Dalai Lama and Bishop Desmond Tutu. There's Gordo with some hockey players. There's Gordo hanging out with Sarah McLachlan, or reading to children, or blah blah blah. But don't hold your breath waiting for a photo of Gordo visiting a homeless shelter on the Downtown Eastside. It ain't gonna happen. The optics aren't quite right.
Bountifullest bounty on bountiful
The Vancouver Sun's Daphne Bramham writes some great stuff–really, we're not (just) being snarky here. Take those animals rights activists (please, far). But this obsession with Bountiful, B.C., and its splinter Mormon polygamists is getting out of hand. Daphne, we don't want to keep reading about it. Please, find something else. And whoever keeps running Mormon Watch below the fold on A1 should also take a step back and see the larger world–perhaps leave legislating morality to the courts? Could someone in the Sun newsroom kick off a mutiny on the Bountiful already? And what, exactly, has your interest so aroused, anyway? (At least she seems to be waiting for judgment before coming out with a book–unlike Stevie Cameron and the Pickton trial.)
Best survivor of Stanley park
Global Television's "Out on a Limb" for Stanley Park Telethon
Sure, we all love Stanley Park. But we appreciate perspective even more. So we watched, jaws agape, last January as Jimmy Pattison rallied viewers of Global TV to pledge their pennies in the name of restoring storm-ravaged Stanley Park. Tearful callers donated their cappuccino allowances to help lift the trees out of tragedy. The station's "Out on a Limb" telethon received $489,496 in public donations, $1,057,500 in corporate contributions, and a cool million from Pattison.
Save the trees! A noble gesture. But wait–the trees are already dead. Savagely murdered by a cruel act of nature. How about rallying to help people instead? You know, all those poor sods worldwide who have lost everything to an earthquake or hurricane. Rather focus on the local community? Those struggling to survive on the Downtown Eastside could sure use some of that $2.5 million.
Now, one person who did benefit was Pattison himself. He's made oodles over the years from car dealerships, commercial fishing, grocery stores, and billboards. In recent years, through his investments in forestry and a coal terminal, he has cranked his personal wealth into the stratosphere. Sure, it was a bit of a surprise to see the man with the biggest stake in the province's largest forest company, Canfor Corp., come rushing to Stanley Park's defence, yet while cameras fawned over him and his largesse (See him answer telephones! See him write a cheque!), the value of his Canfor holdings just grew and grew–by about $66 million in the six weeks before the telethon. Nobody can greenwash quite like Jimmy.
Best Example of Municipal Rebranding Gone Wrong
When municipal politicians voted in early August to change our region's name from the Greater Vancouver Regional District to Metro Vancouver, it was no doubt well intentioned. "GVRD" sounds like, say, a gastrointestinal disease. But why choose a moniker that's just advertising for one of the local commuter papers? (Have you tried Googling "Metro Vancouver"?) And won't Metro Vancouver fool tourists into thinking we have a fully fledged subway system like Paris or Moscow does, instead of just good ol' SkyTrain? Maybe it has more to do with our sucky-boo-ba councillors suffering from performance anxiety during overseas junkets, as they told reporters at the time, and GVRD just didn't seem, well, engorged enough.
Best way to cut down on landfill
Due to the endless, endless (did we mention endless?) civic-workers strike, Recycling BC has posted garbage and recycling tips on its Web site ( www.rcbc.bc.ca/documentsspecial%20notices/VanStrike_GarbageTips.pdf ) that are easy to adopt and use on an ongoing basis and will reduce the need for garbage pickups even should the city ever settle.
Silverest lining to the Library Strike
Book lovers weren't enchanted by the news that 22 municipal library branches would shut when CUPE 391 joined other unionized city workers on the picket lines. However, the strike started just after the July 21 release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, meaning that the first 200-odd library patrons who borrowed the 607-page closer to J.K. Rowling's magical epic have had dibs on it for 58 days and counting–without fines. Sometimes, it's good to be a Muggle.
Best place to live the need-for-speed dream
The streets of Vancouver
Just ask Fast and Furious wannabe Xiao Zhang, paroled in August after killing a New Zealand tourist in a hit-and-run at the corner of Granville and Drake. Though he fled the scene (and the city) and never even showed for his sentencing, he served only four-and-a-half months for the crime. The lesson? Regardless of how many lives you ruin, your carelessness, smugness, and refusal to accept blame will always be rewarded. Oh, Canada.
Best Landlord witha Conscience
Above the entrance to the Del Mar Inn (553 Hamilton Street) is painted the epigrammatic phrase Unlimited Growth Increases the Divide. In the late ’80s, the owners of the four-storey, single-room-occupancy hotel and art gallery resisted offers by BC Hydro, whose headquarters are in the adjacent skyscraper on Dunsmuir Street, to buy the heritage property. During Expo ’86, the Del Mar also resisted pressure to become a hotel for tourists at the World’s Fair. That’s 35 years of catering to the down but not out blocks from the DTES—and counting. Shawn Taylor photo.
Best place to study a foreign language
Cambie Street during rush hour
As part of the effort to perpetuate the myth that we have a great transit system, Vancouver continues the seemingly never-ending SkyTrain construction along Cambie Street. It now takes no less than 11 hours to drive from Yaletown to Marine Drive. And while merchants along Cambie are dropping like flies, some good can come of all this. Why not take those 11 hours behind the wheel to improve yourself? We suggest studying foreign-language tapes. Perhaps even learn Mandarin. Then in 10 years, when the train is finally done, you can take it–rapidly!–into Richmond and use your newly acquired skills to barter properly at the night market.
Best seat upgrades (on a bus)
Thankfully, a new line of community shuttles is on the road. No more of those awful-looking seats that were covered in stains that made you wonder if someone's Depends didn't live up to its name.
Best sign Vancouver bus riders haven't lost small-town manners
Riders who regularly thank their bus driver for dropping them off, even on downtown routes during rush hour.
Best sign Vancouver bus riders need to lose small-town inappropriateness
Riders who clip their nails on the bus.
Most bewildering bus-riding behaviour
Although there are always street people who talk to themselves and display strange behaviour (hey, we've been known to giggle to ourselves when the stress just gets too much), what is more confusing is the behaviour of riders who seem normal and display logical yet thoughtless behaviour. For example, the ones who board an almost empty bus, yet stand directly in front of the exit, even though they're not ready to get off, thereby blocking anyone trying to disembark. WTF?
Most annoying new-bus flaw in need of tweaking
The new low-floor buses are super-cool-looking and a stellar advance in accessibility for everyone, but there is one aspect of the new design that could use some improvement. No, it's not that the interior overhangs on the sides are so low that people sitting in the back seats bang their head when they stand up. That's just good entertainment. What is more annoying is the frequency with which riders have to shout out, "Back door, please" when the green lights don't flick on at a stop. No tip for you, Mr. Bus Driver!
Best reason to carry an umbrella in the summer
Yes, a furled one can be useful for spiking off-leash rottweilers at the beach. And sure, you can tie ribbons to the handle and call it a parasol. But a bumbershoot really comes in handy when passing any of Vancouver's 20 firehalls. Between Victoria Day and Labour Day, firefighters engage in a dirty-tricks war known as bucket season. Perched on the roof, armed with pails, they wait for unsuspecting comrades to wander into the drop zone and–whoosh! In the splash zone? Not to worry–your umbrella kept you dry, and now you're inches from a firefighter in a wet T. Ah, super, natural British Columbia”
Best place to go blind
Downtown Vancouver on a rainy day
Contrary to popular belief, the best place to go blind in Vancouver is not Wreck Beach. (Though there definitely are a few shrivelled body parts flopping around there that could do permanent damage if stared at too long.) No, if you are longing for an excuse to sport an eye patch, simply head downtown the next time it rains (don't drive–there's a catering truck in the city's last street-parking spot) and take a stroll under any of our hundreds of awnings. Once there, you will find that roughly 90 percent of those carrying umbrellas will also be fighting to get under that awning in an effort both to keep their umbrellas dry and to jeopardize your depth perception. Why do they give out tickets for jaywalking, but not dry-walking?
Best training for the Apocalypse
With last November's boil-water advisory, Vancouverites were treated to a little inconvenience, as well as a preview of what full societal breakdown might look like: fights in the supermarket over water. Over water! And with this summer's garbage strike, we're getting used to being a little dirty and dishevelled. While many would agree that these events have been an environmental wake-up call, here's hoping we see the end of them soon.
The other three horsemen?
It's one thing to like where you live. It's another to engage in the kind of self-satisfied back-patting that Vancouverites are often guilty of. Now to go with the commercials featuring people chirping the slogan, new B.C. licence plates also bear the cringe-inducing The Best Place on Earth. If you have to say it, it's probably not true.
Some people will camp out for anything–witness those who braved the elements in front of Future Shop for up to 24 hours in anticipation of last year's release of the PlayStation 3 and a little system called the Wii. It's comforting to think that spending 50 hours obsessing over Resistance: Fall of Man can give you transferable life skills. Persistence, people!
Some treat their pets like children, but carrying a dog around in a baby sling or in your arms, burping it by smacking it resoundingly on the chest (both witnessed on the streets of Vancouver), seems like taking it a bit too far. Not to mention the proliferation of dog daycares, bakeries, and spas. What's next? Mummy-doggy playtime?
Most annoying doggone trend
Dogs play in dirt, sniff each other's bums, eat off the ground, and are often smelly and unhygienic. So why are people increasingly bringing them into stores, particularly ones that have food products, instead of leaving them outside as they should (or in the case of food premises, as they must, according to B.C.'s Health Act)?
Best things not to think about while shopping for your pampered pooch
1188 Homer Street
While you are waiting for Fido to finish his time in the spa, or browsing to find Fifi the most marvellous luxury stroller, do not, on any account, let your mind stray to the fact that there are more than 1,000 children in government care in British Columbia, waiting in temporary foster homes for someone to adopt them.
Best way to get rid of Styrofoam peanuts
Answer the ad on the Vancouver Recycling Council of B.C.'s Vancouver Reuses Web page at www.vancouver.reuses.com/. On the day we looked in, Tina Lin offered to take all the "Styrofoams" you've got "in any form and condition" from just about anything, including product used to cushion glass, furniture, office equipment, appliances, and more. Contact details on the site, which also lists free stuff from furniture to flooring.
Upgrading to a fleet of new computers? Consider donating your working discards to Computers for Schools in British Columbia, "the premier, nonprofit provider of refurbished computers to B.C. schools and communities", First Nations, and nonprofits. Volunteers refurbish your castoffs, which are donated to schools and libraries around the province–some 85,000 since 1994, part of a countrywide total of 790,339 machines. Nearly 10,000 computers were given out last year alone. See www.cfsbc.ca/ for more info. Note: workable computers only; CFS-BC is not a recycling depot.
At long last, and decades overdue, a free provincewide "end-of-life" electronics recycling program makes it easy to lay all those tired TVs, computers and peripherals, printers, and fax machines to rest. See www.electronicsrecyclingbc.ca/ for drop-off depots (most Salvation Army stores), or, if you've got an office full of outdated stuff, contact Encorp directly at 1-800-330-9767 for disposal. The operation is funded by handling fees levied on current and future electronics purchases ($5 for a notebook computer to $45 for a huge TV). To recycle rechargeable phone batteries, cellphones, and other related waste, see SPEC BC (www.spec.bc.ca/greenpages/topic.php?reTopicID=148) or Recycling BC (www.rcbc.bc.ca/).
Best 21st-century alternative to a knitting circle
Free Geek Vancouver
117 East 2nd Avenue
If you're an individual and don't qualify for a freebie or low-dough machine from Computers for Schools in British Columbia, then Free Geek Vancouver is for you. The catch (of course there's one) is pretty easy: donate 24 hours of your time to Free Geek and a computer is yours. Old computers are used for teaching purposes (volunteers learn how to refurbish or recycle), and all computers–working or not, and in any condition–are accepted. Check out Free Geek's calendar for social and skill-sharing events, and there's an on-line thrift shop, too. Free Geek Vancouver is the first Free Geek in Canada; there are seven in the U.S.
Unlikeliest source of free firewood
Railspur Alley, Granville Island
There's a large lidded box marked Free Firewood in Railspur Alley–between the Old Bridge Street entry point and the Agro Café–that occasionally has a stash of good wood for the taking.
Best New Landmark
As a greeting for visitors to its traditional land beneath the south end of the Burrard Bridge, the Squamish First Nation has erected a fine new welcome figure, a five-metre carving of a man with arms outstretched, beside the greenway linking Granville Island and Vanier Park. It marks the site of the village of Sun'ahk, which was established around 1839 and comprised houses, a cemetery, orchards, and a 370-square-metre community longhouse. Between 1900 and 1913, the B.C. government, planning major industrial developments for this location, coerced the aboriginal residents into selling their land. The sale was recently litigated by the Squamish, and the feds agreed to pay them $92 million as compensation for the loss of a number of reserve sites, including Sun'ahk. Mark Mushet photo.
Biggest turnoff turn-on
Ten landmarks and 150 businesses (including the Straight) took part in Turn It Off Day on May 16. BC Hydro reported that between 7 and 9 p.m. on May 16, 70 megawatts were saved (the equivalent of 1.2 million incandescent light bulbs). If this continued, there would be enough energy to power 8,000 homes for an entire year. So flick off, eh?
Best proof that 2010 madness is something to cluck about
We're okay with the Welcome to Vancouver signs visitors see upon entering the city, but we scratch our heads at the newly hatched (July 27) decision for us to become "the first host city in the world to recommend the removal of eggs from caged hens from all city-run facilities". According to Chickenout.ca, a project of the Vancouver Humane Society, this makes Vancouver the "First Cage-Free Olympic City".
Best imitation (we think) of a graveyard
1050 Smithe Street
While it had all the appearance of a creepy urban cemetery during construction, the slim dirt perimeter surrounding the condo tower next to the Sutton Place Hotel has been landscaped within an inch of its life. But that still can't hide or disguise the dozens of headstonelike slabs of rock that crowd the gardens, entrance, and driveway of "Tombstone Towers". Makes us wonder if each condo purchase includes a headstone and tiny burial plot.
Best beautification program
Vancouver streets and bridges
Street banners are getting downright pretty these days, adorned as they are with everything from Norman Takeuchi's iconic kimono collages (forming a "kimono clothesline" on the Burrard Street Bridge) to Kerrisdale's colourful florals. We also like the banners ringing GM Place. On one side of each is a Canuck–we've spotted Brendan Morrison, either or both Sedins–and on the other an assortment of hockey fans. Designer Rudy Kovach and architects Ron Thom and Bill Leithhead conceived the Vancouver street banner program to celebrate British Columbia's 1958 centenary, and it's been copied by cities all over North America. Banner artists, who receive only a small honorarium to cover their costs, have included Jack Shadbolt, Gordon Smith, Don Jarvis, Takao Tanabe, Alan Wood, Nick Bantock, Barbara Shelly, Sylvia Tait, and Gordon Smith. Want to own a banner? In late October, the city donates the banners to UNICEF, which sells them for $25 each at 201–3077 Granville Street. (See www.unicef.ca/portal/SmartDefault.aspx?at=1400.)
Best neon homage to a wheelchair
Regent Medical Building
2184 West Broadway
Nope, Mayor Sam Sullivan doesn't yet have a souped-up neon special for Granville Street clubbing, but there is one gracing the city's most compact display of neon at the Regent Medical Building. Every street-level business along the strip–cafés, shipping depot, dental centre, computer shop, and medical supply store–is decked out in glorious neon. Best of the lot is Macdonald's Prescriptions & Medical Supplies. The only thing not in lights is the building's signage.
Best Aztec temple
To the best of our knowledge, it hasn't been used for sacrifices, but every time we pass that small-scale replica of an Aztec pyramid and temple overlooking Fisherman's Wharf and the western tip of Granville Island, our thoughts go all Apocalypto. The structure in Creekside Park, on the north side of Creekside Drive, serves as a fountain, its waters cascading over a series of granite-slabbed steps on all four sides to the basin below. Run, Jaguar Paw! Run!
Best decorated bridge
The Burrard Street Bridge, inaugurated in 1932, is the oldest existing bridge in the city, and also the most decorated. Massive concrete pylons, embellished with marine motifs in art-deco style, hide part of its steel superstructure. At either end, the bridge is flanked by huge representations of the cylindrical glass and wrought-iron braziers that Canadian forces in the First World War used to keep themselves warm. Its popularity is also its millstone: to increase capacity, city council has chosen to expand its sidewalks. The original cost of $14 million has since been disputed; Heritage Vancouver's Donald Luxton pegs the true bill at closer to $50 million. The battle–and the bill–seem to be taking on Olympic proportions. Forgotten in the brouhaha is the fact that the undercarriage of the bridge could accommodate a second deck–way back in 2002, architect Peter Reese suggested the creation of what he called "Snauqway", combining a pedestrian and cyclist bridge with a mix of First Nations interpretative kiosks, commercial enterprises, and art studios.
The enclosed steel-mesh overpass between Raymur Avenue and Glen Drive, over the Great Northern Railway line in Strathcona, is one of only a handful of bridges in Vancouver that are exclusively for pedestrians and cyclists. It was constructed three decades ago, in response to direct action by parents in the neighbourhood. Concerned by the risk to their children, who had to cross the tracks to get to school, mothers banded together to blockade the railway, and the city gave in to their demands. From the top of the overpass, the view to the north is a classic West Coast industrial landscape: rail lines, workyards, the massive B.C. Sugar refinery, an orange crane at the Port of Vancouver, and Grouse Mountain as backdrop.
Best alternate view of the city
The Squamish and Musqueam people gave descriptive names to a number of places on the shores of Burrard Inlet, False Creek, and English Bay. The only one to survive, in Anglicized form, is Stanley Park's Siwash Rock. Among the lost placenames are: Ee'yullmough, the site of a village beside today's Jericho Sailing Club, which meant "good spring water"; Skwayoos, today's Kitsilano Beach headland, meaning "face"; Khiwah'esks, by Science World, meaning "separated points"; and Skwahchays, now False Creek Flats, meaning "hole in bottom", as the easternmost section of the creek was a lagoon that emptied itself at low tide.
Best East Van summit
From the intersection of Lakewood and East 4th Avenue, the roads in all four directions go downhill. You're at the highest point of East Vancouver's Grandview Ridge, with fine views west across the city to the Point Grey peninsula in the winter months.
Best idea to celebrate Pierre Trudeau
Former Vancouver councillor Alan Herbert thinks there should be a statue of Pierre Trudeau somewhere in the Davie Village. Herbert, who is gay, thinks Trudeau should be honoured in the West End for saying the state should stay out of the bedrooms of the nation, long before this view became mainstream in Parliament. Trudeau is also the father of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which has been interpreted by the courts as providing equal rights for gays and lesbians. That led to same-sex pension benefits and to the legalization of same-sex marriages in Canada. Yup, we owe it all to P.E.T. Say yes to the statue of Trudeau and no to discrimination. Who really cares that he gave the finger to the folks in Salmon Arm? And if New Democrats and Conservatives have a problem with that, fuddle duddle 'em.
Best brainwashing since The Manchurian Candidate
Lately, it seems Vancouver has seen a marked increase in old-fashioned ice-cream trucks playing old-fashioned calliope music. There's even one with 1940s cowboy music, complete with clip-clopping hoofs and neighs and whinnies. It's all very cute and retro and reassuring in a Norman Rockwell–type way, but there is a darker side. Much in the way a verbal cue can awaken a Cold War sleeper agent, a few verses of "Turkey in the Straw" can incite a ravenous zombielike craze for a Revello, an Astro Pop, or even an Eskimo Pie faster than you can say, "Fido! Down!" Forewarned is forearmed.
Best sign of corporate encroachment in Vancouver
While Starbucks has already colonized the city with innumerable shops and we've had GM Place for a few years, Vancouver venues are slowly being snapped up and rechristened with corporate monikers that often have no relation to what they do. If you want to go see films or modern dance, would you ever think of going to the bank? Apparently Scotiabank thinks so with its Scotiabank Dance Centre and Scotiabank Theatre Vancouver (formerly the Paramount Theatre). Vancity had the same idea with the Vancity Theatre in the Vancouver International Film Centre. And Science World was temporarily the TELUSphere (nice caps) before it became Science World at the Telus World of Science (nice redundancy). What's next? HSBC Capilano Suspension? ING Direct Lions Gate? Hey wait, would the unmortgager pay enough to upgrade the bridge? We'd take the ING GIC RSP HOV lane. Wouldn't you?
Best purple hat
Who is the woman wearing that triple-take confection we've spotted on several occasions on West Broadway? She always seems pretty blasé, which must be hard considering the height of her chapeau (it's about a half-metre) and its decorations (purple fake flowers, leaves, and shiny hearts and stars). Props to the wearer: this is not only the best hat around, but it would cause What Not to Wear host Clinton Kelly a total system shutdown. And that's a good thing.
Best all-you-can-eat buffet for predators
From Wreck Beach south to Point Roberts, the shoreline where the Fraser River delta meets the sea comprises a series of wetlands and tidal flats that provides one of the richest wildlife habitats in Canada. It's an essential stopover on the Pacific Flyway, the migration route along the western coasts of North, Central, and South America. Millions of birds (including 1.2 million shorebirds and 750,000 waterfowl) migrate through the delta each spring and fall, using the Fraser delta as a staging area where they can find rest and food on their journey. About one million birds overwinter here and many are year-round residents–at least 320 species have been recorded. In addition, millions of juvenile salmon migrate through the river's estuaries each year, spending up to several months feeding and sheltering in the tidal marshes, where they acclimatize to saltwater. Altogether, there are about 90 species of freshwater and marine fish in the area. Rising sea levels due to the effects of global warming pose a threat to the unique and complex ecology of this part of the Pacific Coast.
Best recipe to roust terrorist squirrels
If you're troubled by marauding squirrels who have the cheek to dig up plants to stash winter snacks after they've clearcut tender veggies and flowers, help is at hand. This all-natural remedy–habanero-pepper spray–is cheap and effective. One taste and they're gone to wreak havoc elsewhere. Use caution around kids and non-marauding animals, and remember to rinse when using on vegetables since residual spray will add heat. Apply every week or two and after rain. Here's the recipe. Blend six habanero or Scotch Bonnet peppers with two cups of water. Mix at high speed for two minutes. Pour into a container and set aside for a day. Strain liquid through cheesecloth. Put liquid into a one-quart spray container. Fill to top with water. Apply liberally (or to Liberals, who also put it on their plate).
Best picnic spot in the shadow of a 13-metre mechanical-bird sculpture
George Wainborn Park
This pleasantly designed 2.5-hectare beachfront green space not only provides some grass for all the new tenants along this segment of False Creek but also offers a couple of picnic tables for those who like to dine al fresco. Not sure you have the right park? Look for the wind-powered Khenko (meaning "heron").
Most flagrant waste of precious urban space
In Yaletown, at the corner of Nelson and Mainland streets, there is a park. At least, it is a cleared space with benches and unpleasantly modern art, where one could theoretically eat sandwiches and watch pigeons consume the crumbs. But who would do such a thing? The park is made entirely of a nubbly, moonlike surface, heat-reflecting bleached concrete, erratically dotted with craggy mounds from which thin trees spurt like half-tweezered blackheads. It is about the most uninviting setting imaginable. Yaletown: as you reap, so do you sow.
Best Pickup Basketball
Now that the development along False Creek is finally wrapping up, Vancouverites can truly enjoy David Lam Park, running west of Drake Street between Pacific Boulevard and the water. At the southwest end of the park are a couple of tennis courts for the Yaletown yuppies, but the real action is to be found at the basketball courts. It’s not Venice Beach or the hard courts in New York, but the pavement is smooth and the nets are real cotton mesh, not chainlink. Shawn Taylor photo.
801 West 22nd Avenue
Between the busy local parks and a lack of treeless public spaces, urban model rocketry presents a number of challenges. Douglas Park (between West 20th and 22nd avenues, and Laurel and Heather streets) is one place, however, where you can usually find a space between the soccer players, cricketers, picnicking families, and rocket-eating trees. With two playing fields, the park more often than not provides the 100-square-metre area needed for a launch. So head down to your local hobby store, pick up some model rockets, and unleash your inner Final Frontiersman. (Check out the Canadian Association of Rocketry's Web site, www.canadianrocketry.org/, for more information.)
Best little mountain to climb when you've got your Maria Von Trapp groove on
Ron Basford Park
From the False Creek Community Centre, head east along the boardwalk and keep going till you reach the easternmost tip of the island. Here, with benches to rest on during your climbs, is what's prosaically known as the Mound but is actually named for the onetime Vancouver Centre MP. Climb to the top wearing your dirndl, whirl like a dervish, and sing your little heart out.
Best reason to take oneself out to the ball game
Nat Bailey Stadium
4601 Ontario Street
Although this year's Vancouver Canadians radio-ad campaign ("Take me out to the ball game/I'm gonna take my shirt off even though I'm really hairy/and I'll probably get a bad burn") was a hoot, it took second place to the Nat's real attraction: the food. Repainted and thoroughly spiffy, the updated stadium this season offered trays of fresh sushi to go with traditional weight-gaining concoctions like caramel corn, ice cream, and hot dogs that really are a foot long. Oh, and the team had a good August, too. Until next summer.
Best beach no one knows about
North Beach, Buntzen Lake
A beach with great natural beauty and no crowds? In the Lower Mainland? Sounds like an impossibility, but North Beach at Buntzen Lake fits the bill perfectly. Skip South Beach, which is by the parking lot–it's crowded and loud–and take the three-kilometre hike through the woods to the north end of the lake. The trail is uneven and a bit of a slog on a hot day, but it's all worth it when you get to the end. There's some beautiful scenery and an isolated sandy beach where you can swim or sunbathe. There's also a grassy picnic area, and even a small pier where you can fish or just sit back and commune with nature. With no gas-powered boats allowed on the lake, the only nautical traffic you're likely to encounter is the odd canoe. Bonus: the lake has been used for such relaxing Hollywood fare as Lake Placid, Freddy vs. Jason, and It. You go ahead; we'll wait here”
Biggest cup the canucks may ever win
Jeff Cowan was available off waivers from the lowly Los Angeles Kings, and as such was not expected to add much beyond occasional punching. Yet the 30-year-old forward provided physical play, and vastly exceeded his brief by adding speed and reliable performance. After Cowan scored two goals to lead the Canucks to a 5–1 win over Tampa Bay on March 6, an ecstatic fan tossed her bra onto the Garage ice, earning him the nickname Cowan the Brabarian. Good on you, Jeff, but consider the marketing possibilities. Granted, you're not likely to get a call from Girls Gone Wild founder Joe Francis. But in the spirit of promoting local business, you should at least aim for an endorsement deal with a local lingerie designer. If you don't shoot, how will you score?
Best $600,000 the Canucks ever spent
Signing Trevor Linden for 2007–08
For less than half the price of Jan Bulis, Linden proved to be a great fit with the Sedin twins on the power play and tied Mattias Ohlund as the Canucks' leading point scorer in the playoffs last season. Plus, Linden–known to spend extra time when visiting fans at BC Children's Hospital and Canuck Place–is legendary for his community service.
Best Place to Eat Before a Canucks Game
605 Expo Boulevard
If crowds are any indication, the place to be pregame is the Costco snack bar directly across from GM Place. Until the puck drops, you'll find fans stuffing themselves with cheap hot dogs, pop, sundaes, and the other fast food you'd expect to eat at a game. Even if you don't want to chow down there, it's still worth a visit just to watch grown men on their way into GM Place–many of whom have paid more than $100 a ticket–try to hide Polish sausages in their jacket pockets to avoid paying the arena's exorbitant prices.
Best way to survive GM Place
Hate getting squashed and slowed down by boisterous fans as you leave the Garage? If you're bound for downtown anyway, follow the stairs or the ramp down to the ground level of GM Place facing B.C. Place Stadium, and then cut across the dome's sprawling exterior concourse to the bottom of Robson Street. It's a big timesaver, and the difference in congestion is Saskatchewan versus Shanghai.
Best numbers at a fashion show
On a glorious summer's day in August, more than 8,000 Canucks fans eagerly piled into GM Place for the unveiling of the team's new jersey. The result, which incorporated the blue and green of the original jersey, filled newsprint, blogs, and airwaves with debate (although the orca in the logo was something many of us didn't want saved).
Best reassurance that Eastern sports media suck
Normally, hockey commentators in Toronto love to glorify the tradition of NHL playoff marathons. But there was an exception to this rule on April 12 when Vancouver beat Dallas 5–4 on Henrik Sedin's quadruple-overtime goal in Game 1 of the first round. The sixth-longest game in NHL history ended at 3:32 a.m. Eastern time, and some wimpy talking heads and columnists in the Centre of the Universe just couldn't handle staying up. Suddenly, changing the playoff rules became a priority. How about going to four-on-four after regulation time? Or why don't we just embrace that dreaded Euro-innovation, the shootout? Naturally, none of this whining would have occurred if Doug Gilmour or Bill Barilko had been involved.
Best Place to Freak Out Your Mom or Banker
Drop by New World Designs (306 West Cordova Street, 604-687-3443) and pick up one of the shop’s syringe pens. (The red-ink jobbie is the freakiest and most realistic.) You’re ready to pluck it out of your purse or pocket and give it a shake. Depress the plunger (that gets the refill into position) and sign that Visa chit. Other cool buys? Coffin-shaped flasks to fill with favourite spirits, and some creepy spider-webbed umbrellas. Patrick Koslo photo.
Best Canucks talk
There are a few places on the Web to get us through those horrid Canuck-free months, to connect us with people who still want to talk about whether Morrison is in decline or just getting over injuries, if Naslund will get his red-hot wrister back, if Dave Nonis was poorly advised or just insane for passing on Anze Kopitar and taking Luc Bourdon, and why they still have that orca on the uniforms: www.hfboards.com/, www.canuckscentral.com/, and alt.sports.hockey.nhl.vanc-canucks on Usenet.
Best defier of suburban death
The audacious Newton resident is often the squeaky wheel at bike events like Critical Mass. But when about 50 cyclists (including Surrey councillor and former mayor Bob Bose) descended on Scott's home turf on March 24 for the inaugural Surrey Critical Mass, few expected Scott's near squashing on the Fraser Highway. An impatient overtaking dump truck almost pasted Scott to the two-laned tarmac as he hailed the eager riders on his sound system. Documentarist Robert Alstead digitally shot the whole incident: www.youneverbikealone.com/surrey-critical-mass-inaugural-ride-20070325 .
Best canal cruisers
Rain City Bikes
108 West 1st Avenue
Looking to cruise the seawall while fantasizing about windmills and canals? Or are you more into a cargo bike for your shopping? The Dutch are nothing if not practical. When it comes to both cruiser and cargo bikes, they're in the vanguard of retro-cycle design. Typically, these three-speeders feature racks for your groceries or front-mounted bins deep enough to fit your kids in. You probably shouldn't tackle the North Shore trails on one, but they're perfect for our city streets.
Anyone with an interest in early BMX and cruiser bikes, some complete with banana seats, will want to check out Skull Skates' new on-line bicycle museum, the perfect companion to its board museum). Both are the brainchild of P.D.'s Hot Shop (2868 West 4th Avenue); one visit is guaranteed to bring out the kid in you.
Best place to fall down
Whistler Air Dome
Lot 8, Blackcomb Mountain
Backside tailwhips and frontside flipwhips–these kinds of hair-raising stunts are standing mountain biking on its ear. Until recently, the sole local venue for practising such manoeuvres was the Whistler Mountain Bike Park. Now, a better option is to head indoors to the Air Dome on the slopes of Blackcomb. The Air Dome's foam pit guarantees a soft landing each and every time. The biggest challenge for novices is the steep run-in where riders pick up speed, launch off a kicker, and perform a trick before gravity reels them back in. Action occasionally features the rock stars of the downhill bike world, especially during the Crankworx Freeride Mountain Bike Festival in July, but on most days the crowd is made up of kids and parents from around the Lower Mainland.
Best manufacturer of a vehicle nobody makes anymore
150 East 1st Avenue
Back in the 1980s, just about everyone, it seemed, had a replica kit car of some kind on the market. There were resurrected Jaguar SSs, bogus Lotus Super Sevens, fake AC Cobras, phony Morgans, Volkswagen-engined MG TDs, and even ersatz Austin-Healeys. One of the more popular repro models was the Porsche 356 Speedster (driven by Jane Fonda in Coming Home). For a while there, faux Speedsters were popping up all over the place, often hastily built and treacherous to drive. Needless to say, most of the manufacturers of these cars are long gone. But not Henry Reisner and his 30-year-old Intermeccanica. Operating out of a nondescript facility near 1st and Main, Reisner quietly sells second-generation Porsche 356 Speedsters and Roadsters to customers around the world, as his father, Frank, did before him. Prices start at $40,685 for the low-windshield Speedster model, and each one takes about six months to build.
One Vancouver resident has taken ride-pimping to a whole new level. Spotted downtown and at Illuminares, his car, a blue VW bug, has been decorated with what the owner says are hundreds of pounds of decorations. You can't miss the beast: it features a couple of working fountains, and has a rather patriotic bent, with its lettering, flags, and hockey motifs. Impressive.
Angstrom Power Inc.
109–980 West 1st Street, North Vancouver
When it comes to energy solutions, there's a tendency to think big. Companies such as Ballard Power Systems envision a day when the roads are filled with cars and buses that run on hydrogen fuel cells–a day that may never come, owing to hydrogen's poor energy density. Vancouver's Angstrom Power produces, among other things, micro-structured fuel cells for hydrogen-based bike lights, flashlights, and a general-purpose charger. Many of the challenges of hydrogen energy become more manageable when used on such a small scale. Yet with widespread acceptance, these devices could end up saving as much energy as a nationwide fleet of fuel-cell vehicles.
Best nightmare you can't escape
Urban Rec League
Most of us learned the basics in elementary school: avoid softball-sized projectiles hurled by your opponents; a hit on the shoulders or lower body means you're out. But P.E.'s not over and it turns out that dodge ball–as it's played in the Urban Rec League–has come a long way. Coed five-on-five action (now there's a term we never tire of reading) pits two teams in a one-hour total-body workout of dipping, ducking, and hucking. As with ultimate Frisbee, from whose ranks many players in Vancouver's dodgeball league are drawn, it's the spirit of the game that counts. Unless you're picked last. Then it's just ritual abuse all over again.
Best additions to the Hall of Fame
Team Prime Ultimate
BC Sports Hall of Fame
Gate A, BC Place Stadium
777 Pacific Boulevard South
Who knew that tossing a Frisbee could get you into the BC Sports Hall of Fame? Since the 1990s, Vancouver Ultimate League teams have dominated Ultimate Frisbee competitions. An all-star group of local women who play for the Prime Ultimate team won the world championships in 2000 and again in 2004. Last October, to honour their achievements, Prime's 2000 and 2004 teammates found themselves among the first to be celebrated in a new permanent gallery at the BC Sports Hall of Fame. Dedicated to local "she-roes", the gallery is named In Her Footsteps–Celebrating BC Women in Sport.
Best place to bowl a maiden over
On Saturday afternoons throughout the summer, Vancouverites can sit on the slope beside the Brockton Point sports pavilion in Stanley Park to watch the gentlemanly game of cricket played in one of the world's most idyllic settings. With a backdrop of Coal Harbour, totem poles, and Mount Baker, you can watch batsmen and bowlers from countries throughout the Commonwealth deliver maiden overs, field at such unusual locations as silly mid-off and third man, and suffer the fate of being lbw (leg-before-wicket), caught in the slips, or clean bowled by a googly.
Best new Olympic sport
In January, the International Olympic Committee announced that skier cross will be an official sport at the 2010 Olympics. The Canadian Snowsport Association responded with a weeklong camp at Cypress Park (where Olympic freestyle skiing and snowboard events will be held) to help identify athletes capable of making the team. There's no show on snow like a skier-cross race. Four skiers stand shoulder to shoulder at the top of a twisting course. When the gate drops, they bolt like racehorses. During the minute or so that it takes them to careen downhill, racers negotiate jumps, rollers, and whoops; handle the G forces on wide-banked turns; and sail over tabletops. The first one to cross the finish line wins. Simple, eh?
Best new topographic map
In May, cartographer and mountain rambler Jeff Clark, of Clark Geomatics ( www.clarkgeomatics.ca/ ), launched his Bivouac Backcountry series of maps. The 1:50,000 scale, tear-resistant, waterproof chart of Southwest Garibaldi Park details the trails and access routes between Squamish and Whistler, both inside the provincial park and along its perimeters. Directions to important features within the park, such as Diamond Head and the Black Tusk, are also included. The price is $18.95.
Best Neon Gallery
Okay, so it’s also the only gallery in Vancouver devoted to “exploring the limitless possibilities of light”, but that doesn’t make Lumen any less wonderful. The gallery (in International Village, 88 West Pender Street) specializes in things such as photographs in light boxes, but it doesn’t shun more traditional media that set off these unusual works to excellent advantage, such as sculptor Joachim Schuster’s semi-abstract stone sculptures. Lumen makes the future look friendly. Patrick Koslo photo.
Best reason to wear tearaway pants when hiking
The Grouse Mountain men's room
Before ascending any taxing hill, it is prudent to empty one's bladder. At Grouse, modest men do so in the bathroom beside the Starbucks at the bottom of the Skyride. But beware! The men's urinals are diabolical. The bowls are angled and fitted in the exact manner to eject incoming fluids straight back at the donor. It works every single damn time. "Sure," you're thinking. "That's crazy talk." Well, try it, smart guy. We dare you.
Best incentive to bonk a funbox, and all that other pre-apres-ski stuff
Grouse Mountain Resort
The problem with winter sports, with the exception of snowball throwing and bumper surfing, is that they are expensive. Skates, skis, boards, and hockey gear will set even the thriftiest shopper back plenty. But you can find a crazy-good deal on snow passes: the Y2Play pass, briefly on sale mid-season at Grouse, takes you through the rest of that year and all of the next for $275. Okay, that's not dirt-cheap, but it's not $700 either.
Summit Seeker Card
Grouse Mountain Resort
Whenever we go to Ottawa or Toronto on business, we take our running shoes. And every time we put them on for our lunch-hour run, someone will point and say: "You're the ones from Vancouver, eh?" Keeping up this laudable image of superior fitness requires suffering. There's probably nothing in Vancouver that combines trendiness with a gruelling ordeal like the Grouse Grind. Next time, consider dropping $20 on a radio-frequency-chip-equipped Summit Seeker Card, which gets you a year's worth of bag sherpa-ing and on-line scorekeeping of your ascent times. Next to a music player, it could be the most valuable source of motivation around.
Best spot for a back-coun try kicker
Ziggy's Meadow, Blackcomb Mountain
Up the 7th Heaven Express, down the Green Line, and start your traverse off the first switchback. Stay as high up as you can and go as far as the seasonal rocks will allow. Enjoy a minute of powder and then pick your spot. The runway is a little gentle so prepare for a hike, but the tranny is perfect and the landing strip is long. Pack enough beer and munchies to last the day and you're living a Rebagliati high.
Best reason to risk your life on a summer day
Lions Bay cliffs
With a rope swing, a diving board built right into the rocks, and the Indian over 20 metres at low tide, it could be the best cliff-jumping in the world. Just come prepared to be shown up by the local kids, who are always ready to huck the sickest you'll ever see. The spot is accessible by car followed by a hike down the railroad tracks, but cops patrol this route often. With Sewell's Marina only a 10-minute ride away, your best bet is to make it a day on the boat.
Best yoga in a public place
One of the greatest ocean views in the city and all the grassy space you could ask for. In the morning, the water is smooth as glass. In the evening, the sun will set right in front of you, calmly melting into the far-off peaks of Vancouver Island. If home is where the heart is, this is the spot to find your Zen.
Metropolis at Metrotown
4700 Kingsway, Burnaby
Pitted against ever-improving game consoles, computers, and even cellphones, video-game arcades are a dying form of entertainment. But they are not yet dead, especially those that offer virtual reality, simulator rides, and other experiences not available from inexpensive devices. Of the handful of true arcades remaining in the Lower Mainland, the best is CHQ. Packed with jet, car, boxing, gunfight, guitar, drum, and dance simulators, not to mention a hundred bopping teens, a visit is like stepping into the Sprawl universe of William Gibson–an infinite explosion of jangling neon overstimulation.
Best place to get ripped off on a dime bag
Corner of Granville and Robson streets
One block from the Vancouver Art Gallery steps and just five minutes from the downtown movie theatres, the corner of Granville and Robson is a convenient drop to hit on your way to a last-minute sess. But buying weed off these guys is really more of an alternative means of charity than scoring some dope. If you're in a pinch, you can always depend on them being there; just don't depend on getting high.
Best disorienting view of downtown
798 Granville Street
It's a subtle, extraneous, and possibly accidental design feature, but the building at the intersection of Granville and Robson streets–whose refurbished neighbours and gaudy JumboTron suggest that it may be a new feature corner of the city–contains a marvellous observation platform. On the third floor, by the elevator, the floor juts out subtly toward the floor-to-ceiling windows, offering a striking all-weather view of the pedestrian flow below, scrolling from here to there and who knows where.
Best supermarket sweep
The decrepit Safeway at Robson and Denman should have been torn down around the same time as the Berlin Wall. Instead, after innumerable false starts, the variety-deprived supermarket finally closed its doors at 6 p.m. on August 11. Presumably Mikhail Gorbachev will be too busy endorsing Louis Vuitton to attend the opening of its two-floor replacement in late 2008.
Best reason to get up in the morning
400–21 Water Street
Ah, the self-employed. They love to brag about their freedom–freedom from commuting, adhering to strict schedules, and wearing pants. Still, some freelancers like to have structure, which is where WorkSpace comes in. As the name suggests, WorkSpace offers independent contractors a shared work environment outfitted with computers, WiFi, ergonomically correct chairs, meeting rooms, a full-service café, and a kitchen. They even offer yoga classes. And instead of staring at your apartment wall all day, you can take in the stunning view of the North Shore mountains. You should probably go the "corporate" route and wear pants, though.
Best place to get buffed, polished, and soused
La Vallée Restaurant & Lounge
Executive Hotel Vintage Park
1379 Howe Street
On the second Tuesday of every month, La Vallée mixes martinis and manicures for a happy hour with a twist. Guests (it's inclusive, not gender-specific) receive a signature martini, chocolate-covered strawberries, said manicure, and valet parking for $40.
Best head-to-toe pit stop
Feet Reflex Therapy Hair Design Studio
5345 West Boulevard
An appointment or two at this curiously named but industrious salon will have you feeling and looking good. Not only can you get fashionably coiffed, you can take advantage of "Chen's traditional Chinese medicine", which uses acupuncture, acupressure, and foot reflexology to cure what ails you.
Best sign that Gastown is the new Yaletown
1 Water Street
A major proliferation of restos and swank furniture stores is always a tipoff. Koolhaus is fleeing Kits for Gastown, opening in October, hot on the heels of Inform's huge expansion. Restaurant openings are surpassing Yaletown and Gastown's 2007 newbies; so far, Boneta, Kasbah Bazaar and Café, Le Marrakech, Cobre, So.Cial, Canvas Lounge, Flux, and Jules have all debuted, plus the Modern nightclub adds even more grooviness to a scene that pops with Chill Winston, Salt, Fetch, Irish Heather, Shebeen, Six Acres, Alibi, Al Porto, La Casita, Brioche, and a dozen or two others. Revel is rumoured to be opening soon at 238 Abbott Street.
Best adult toy store
221 Abbott Street
Elevate your mind–this Gastown shop isn't that sort of adult store. But it is a fun find to turn friends on to–adult and otherwise. Occupied is packed with sweetly clever kawaii (anything cute) Japanese toys, sock monkeys, notebooks, stationery, and bags. Owner Miss Jenelle says that gifts from Occupied will distract you, make you happy, and comfort you. They make us smile.
Vehicles in direst need of relocation
Consummy Mummies are the new breed of mothers, status-conscious covens of whom, zaftig in yogawear, parade down West 4th Avenue. Often they are in twosomes, sometimes in Macbeth-ian threesomes, usually at a legato pace the cruel would call bovine, wheeling this year's lapdog (a baby) in obscenely expensive and very ugly strollers. Do they break rank to let you pass? Er, no. And what they're doing in Kitsilano, home to single renters and struggling–and probably child-free–new homeowners, is a question to keep you awake nights. Please ladies, hit the highway and take your vehicles, the pedestrian version of SUVs, to where they belong: the 'burbs.
Best new measure of demographics
There are 88 Starbucks outlets in Vancouver, six on Robson Street alone. We therefore propose the introduction of a new common unit of measure: the Starbuck. It handily combines distance with population density, multiplied by such ancillary factors as the cost of retail space and the prevalence of small dogs being carried as fashion accessories. Therefore, it is principally a measure of time: the higher the Starbuck, the easier it is to find body sugaring or okonomiyaki and the harder it is to find liver and onions or a Money Mart.
Best dancing fountains, stores with assortment of colourful semi-useful plastic doohickeys all priced at $2, and concession stands where you can buy various drinks made out of beans and/or grass
4151 Hazelbridge Way, Richmond
Best refuge from the towers of mammon
Christ Church Cathedral
690 Burrard Street
The cornerstone of the oldest surviving church in Vancouver was laid in 1894. Christ Church Cathedral, in the heart of the business district at 690 Burrard Street, was originally an Anglican parish church, gaining its current status in 1929. It has been extended and renovated many times (most recently finishing in April 2006). Designed and built in the Gothic Revival style of 19th-century England, it has a sandstone exterior, pointed-arch windows, buttresses, and a steep gabled roof. The cathedral's interior has a fine timber framework, a hammer-beam ceiling made of cedar, and Douglas fir flooring. Thirty-two beautiful stained-glass windows, most of them memorials, depict Old and New Testament scenes, often set against Vancouver landmarks–such as St. Nicholas presiding over the Lions Gate Bridge. Christ Church has excellent acoustics, and Gregorian chants are sung there every Sunday evening.
Best place to escape the rat race in East Vancouver
Tung Lin Kok Yuen Society Temple
2495 Victoria Drive
The large Buddhist temple at the corner of East Broadway and Victoria Drive is only a short walk from the busiest transit terminus west of Toronto. Yet it's quiet. Very quiet. Entering this temple for the first time and seeing the enormous gold statue of Buddha, you feel like you've just arrived in Bangkok. On some days, nobody is there apart from a man sitting quietly at a desk near the front door. It's the perfect antidote to an overcrowded ride on the 99-B.
Best place to escape the rat race on Vancouver's West Side
Too many to mention. How come there are so many glorious parks and beaches on the West Side? Could it have any connection to the NPA's stranglehold on power in Vancouver for most of the last 70 years?
Best example of brotherly love
Shree Mahalakshmi Hindu Temple
467 East 11th Avenue
Actually, there are lots of great examples in this city, but here's just one: a Hindu temple in Mount Pleasant dedicated to Laxmi, the Hindu goddess of wealth. But the reality is that this temple also honours the poorest people in the neighbourhood. Every week, there's a feast for the worshippers. After the meal ends, massive helpings of spicy and nutritious Indian food are served to homeless people.
Best lest we forget
St. Patrick's Parish Church
2881 Main Street
At the corner of East 13th and Main Street you'll find the captivatingly named Forget Tower. The 25.5-metre structure is part of the new St. Patrick's Parish Church that opened in May 2005, replacing the crumbling original built in 1910. The tower was erected in honour of the parish's long-serving pastor Monsignor Louis Forget (1917–1960) and the 63 follower families who helped establish it. Bucking trends, this is one church whose membership is expanding: today, more than 2,000 people attend masses in St. Patrick's two chapels, which explains the enormous parkade out back. Tucked in behind the Forget Tower is a peaceful, accessible landscaped courtyard with pews for reflection, the Stations of the Cross, and religious statuary.
Best Reason to Pay your Fare
You never know what you’re going to see aboard the SkyTrain. Half-naked drunken yobs from Surrey have become just part of the scenery, but there are still sights that make us double-take. The BC Lions’ mascot clutching a tambourine is scary, but if that’s who’s moonlighting as security for TransLink, we’re all for it. Better that than getting shot. Rebecca Blissett photo.
Best in-flight service to Vancouver
B.C. Air Ambulance
With service aboard many airlines dropping to an all-time low, at least one kind of crew still sees passenger comfort as a priority. Taking part in 8,800 medical transports around the province annually, both emergency and routine, B.C. Air Ambulance crews apply their skills in cramped, isolated, and often bumpy conditions to make sure patients get VIP treatment on their way to Vancouver's tertiary-care centres. And on October 1, the Ministry of Health is reducing all ambulance charges. That means for MSP cardholders, the cost to the government will be about $4,500 per air trip. Cost to you? $80.
Best name for a health-care provider
Younger Facial Surgery Centre
105–2025 West Broadway
Dr. Younger seems eminently qualified for his job, having been at various times a clinical prof in UBC's department of surgery, an examiner for the American Board of Plastic Surgery, and vice-president of the American Academy of Facial Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery. Judging by the before-and-after pics on his site, he just could be the go-to guy for that younger look.
Worst name for a health-care provider
Dr. Chris Hacker
102–1755 West Broadway
We have no business mocking this person, no doubt an outstanding dentist. (A Mothering magazine on-line forum thread calls Dr. Hacker "totally gentle".) But passing his stencilled window every day gives us the shivers. It just does.
Best restaurant moved by Cambie
The Afghan Horsemen
202–1833 Anderson Street
It could be argued that the Tomato Fresh Food Café should scoop this category, but we're going age over beauty here. After two years at Broadway and Cypress, this one-of-a-kind restaurant moved to 445 West Broadway, a location it occupied from 1976 to 2007. Now it's at the entrance to Granville Island. While management says it's happy with the extra space, it's less than thrilled by what necessitated it. Despite the fact that rush-hour traffic between Main and Granville has slowed to less than walking speed, the Afghan's last landlord tripled the rent, after three decades of 10-percent increments. The Afghan Horsemen didn't just fall into its spacious new West Side location; in a very real economic sense, it was pushed.
Best restaurant killed by Cambie
3466 Cambie Street
Or maybe it's a coincidence” Located a couple of doors south of the Park Theatre was far and away the most "ambidextrous" vegetarian restaurant in town. Whether you wanted a fake burger with real fries or fake chicken with real chow mein, the friendly staff at this Chinese/Buddhist eatery was happy to oblige. Not anymore, though; the Om is toast.
Best reasons to drink and drive on cambie
39th & Cambie Liquor Store
5555 Cambie Street
Firefly Wines and Ales
2857 Cambie Street
The Signature Liquor Store added a kitchen in the huge reno, put to good use now during wine, beer, and spirit tastings. See www.bcliquorstores.com/en/mattersoftaste/upcomingevents/ for what's on. There's always a food pairing and sometimes entertainment. Meanwhile, down at West 12th, Firefly Wines and Ales offers both a beer and a wine for sampling every Friday afternoon between 4 and 7, with a paired appetizer served alongside. During Cambie "construction", both are easily accessible, with Firefly offering valet parking in the Plaza 500 Hotel parking lot accessed off 12th. Remember to spit–you're driving, fer chrissake!
Best example of bigger is better
688 Dunsmuir Street
David Aistenstat dropped a cool $8 million on his sumptuous new restaurant, situated behind the faí§ade of the 1928 B.C. Electric Showroom (former home of Science World). Aisenstat had planned a seven-metre neon deco-ish sign on the building's Dunsmuir and Granville corner until the city's heritage department asked that he make it larger. He did, and now it's a grand nine metres tall.
Best revised takeout area–Japanese
912 Clark Drive
Fujiya has added a couple of coolers to its flagship East Vancouver location. This may seem like a small thing, but it means there are more varieties of bento boxes, sushi trays, and noodle bowls, and many more items in total–no more (or greatly reduced) crushing lunch-hour disappointments as hapless patrons arrive to see the last order of short ribs, croquettes, or fish cakes being spirited away by some other hungry bastard. While you're there, check out the specials table, which at any given time might be unloading slightly elderly boxes of Pocky or the little tubes filled with brown stuff that are inexplicably named Chocolate Collon.
Best sign that you've really made it–Japanese
Northwest corner of Burrard and Smithe
We reported on this cool hot-dog cart last year (owner Noriki Tamura arrived in Vancouver in early 2005 and had the cart operational by May), at which time it operated on a somewhat chaotic schedule. We've been thrilled to watch as Vancouverites and tourists joined Japanese students–who knew a good thing when they tasted it–in lining up for Japadog's Japanese-style hot dogs. How successful is Tamura? Hours now are almost regular, Tamura has staff, he's got a Web site (www.japadog.com/), and he's planning to expand in Vancouver, to other parts of Canada, and then to Japan.
Best bifurcated restaurant
Lombardo's Pizzeria & Restaurant
900 Burrard Street
There's no shortage of Italian food in Vancouver, but the number of real Italian restaurants is nowhere near as plentiful. And places equally good at pies and pasta? Fuggedaboutit. But Lombardo's has always been an important exception to both these rules. Originally found only in the Drive's Il Mercato Shopping Centre (1641 Commercial Drive), this eatery was so low-key, almost all customers strolled over from their homes and nobody ever made a big deal out of how great the food was. Happily, this summer Lombardo's saw fit to open a second branch just around the corner from the Scotiabank Theatre Vancouver. The food is just as scrumptious, though the crowds are far more daunting.
Best restaurant tips
Players Chophouse Restaurant & Lounge
808 Beatty Street
More than just a great place for steak, Players Chophouse is yet another establishment owned by the illustrious Points West investment group, a collection of B.C.–based pro athletes who fight the off-season doldrums by dabbling in the restaurant biz. Naturally, the place is full of Canucks, Lions, et al. Eavesdrop on the right conversation and you might get some inside info that will help earn enough money on Sports Action to pay for your meal.
Best restaurant tips II
1 West Cordova Street
Want the inside scoop on the best up-and-coming restaurants in town? Easy. All you have to do is make like a celery and stalk a chef or server and see where they eat on their day off. Recent surveillance of this sort leads to one conclusion: Boneta is Vancouver's culinary hot spot du jour. On any given Monday night (the traditional night off in the service industry) Boneta's dining room looks like an awards banquet for the Food Network. But these people aren't merely making the scene; they're eating (and drinking) their hard-earned money wisely, enjoying some of the finest cuisine (not to mention of the finest wine lists) in the city. You'd be smart to follow their lead.
Best pie to put Toronto types in their place
2001 Flavours Pizza
595 West Pender Street
Situated at the corner of Pender and Seymour among the shopping-cart princes trolling the alleys and the wannabe rice kings trolling the ESL students is 2001 Flavours, the best by-the-slice pizza joint in town. And while some may be put off by its exorbitant prices (50 cents more than most others), this hefty pie might just have what it takes to make all those tourists stop whining, "There's no good 'za in Van, eh!"
Best Big Smooth Move
In the wee hours of July 29, between midnight and 5 a.m., BCIT moved 12 aircraft, all student “training tools” for its aerospace program at Canada’s largest aerospace training school. The planes—a Falcon 20, a Boeing 737, three Aerostar 600s, a Cessna 180, a Turbo Commander, a Piper Navajo, an Alouette helicopter, and three ultralight aircraft—were towed from the south side of Vancouver International Airport to hugely expanded digs in the new Honeywell Aerospace Education Hangar, part of the new and expanded Aerospace Technology Campus on Russ Baker Way in Richmond opening October 13. Mark Mushet photo.
Best place to eat Chinese food and not get shot
Kirin Seafood Restaurant
City Square, 555 West 12th Avenue
Say what you will about gangsters in Vancouver, they do know the best places to eat Chinese food. Problem is, sometimes uninvited dinner guests come by to, well, shoot people. That said, maybe you're better off doing your dining in a more upscale environment. Kirin Seafood Restaurant, on the second floor of City Square, is a hidden gem. A gorgeous room and stellar view combine with first-class service and traditional cuisine to create one of the finest culinary experiences in the city. And you can leave your bulletproof vest at home. (The Georgia Straight accepts no liability for death by gunshot if you do choose to banquet bareback.)
Best $1.87 California roll
388 Robson Street
What can you get for a toonie? A candy bar. A small coffee. Three little apple pies from McDonald's. Or you can have a pretty darn good California roll from Ebi-Ten. While you're there, order a nice bowl of noodles or some tempura on rice. It's cheap but authentic. And good. And did we mention cheap?
Best blessing disguised as being booted out of West Van
When proprietors Gerald Tritt and Noah Cantor of Vera's Burger Shack at Dundarave Pier–the 30-year-old flagship established in 1977 by Vera Hochfelder and his partner (they retired in 2000)–were booted out by the District of West Vancouver over an alleged disagreement about out-of-sync year-ends, they ended up profiting nicely. Poor summer weather would have meant a substantial loss of business, cash, and probably staff. They kept busy expanding, and there are now nine Vera's locations in Metro Vancouver ( www.verasburgershack.com/ )–and none in West Vancouver.
Warmest welcome in West Van
1860 Marine Drive
It's no secret that West Vancouver ites really don't want you hanging around. They don't like your Wal-Mart wardrobe, your '92 Toyota Corolla, or your dog's lack of pedigree. But there is one place in the land democracy forgot where everyone is made to feel welcome: Café Trafiq. Sure, the gourmet coffees, breakfast pastries, deli fare, and traditional tapas are among the best in the region, but it's the warm atmosphere and even warmer staff (go there twice and they'll start addressing you by name–really) that will have you wondering if you accidentally crossed the Second Narrows instead of the Lions Gate.
Best reason not to go to the Middle East
516 Robson Street
Land mines, suicide bombers, and bloodthirsty U.S. imperialist adventurers have all contributed to the Middle East's low spot on our holiday destination wish list. And that's a crying shame because not only are we missing out on the region's glorious history, culture, and beauty, we're also passing up great Middle Eastern cuisine. Thank your god that Falafel Maison–with its warm service, reasonable prices, and unbelievable food–is here to give you a taste of what you've been missing.
Best duelling delis
1220 Davie Street
813 Davie Street
Davie Street's European Delicatessen is no secret to West Enders. In addition to under-a-dollar packages of pita and the best hummus in the city, the shop carries many deli delights popular in the Middle East (the owners are Persian) and Europe that are hard to find in the West. Slowly expanding shelves provide more space to display a range of specialties, including spice varieties, a range of dried pastas, pestos, nuts, fresh olives, and tins and jars of pickles, jams, and other prepared foods.
What may not be as well known is a newer European delicatessen called Urban Deli that is more Eastern European than Middle East. (Its sandwich board has text in English and Serbian.) Boasting a broad selection of dried and cured meats, including smoked sausages and kebabs, known as cevapi in the Balkans, it also features a cooler at the back with pastries called burek (layers of dough and filling), as well as a dairy product called kajmak, which is similar to clotted cream. You'll also find shelves loaded with interesting prepared foods imported from Europe, including a half-dozen varieties of sauerkraut.
Best li'l grocery store
300 Powell Street
To be honest, this is something of a dangerous position to take. We are also fond of the Como Market on East Hastings near Nanaimo Street, and of Donald's markets (kitty-corner from Como as well as on the Drive), not to mention the upscale Capers, with its fabulous deli bar. Nor can we say that we have actually tested all of the li'l grocery stores in town. However, Sunrise is a place that sells wonderful produce (tellingly, to the professional eatery trade), inexpensive Chinese takeout, and products from its sister operation, Sunrise Soya Foods. Sunrise is a Vancouver institution, making tofu since 1956. It uses non–GMO soybeans and has an innovative streak, as demonstrated by its range of sweet dessert tofus, indispensable to vegans and the merely calorie-conscious.
Comidas mas autenticas
788 Davie Street
1102 Davie Street
The Red Burrito chain may be spreading throughout the city, but those fast-food "burritos" aren't the only option for Downtown Vancouverites who like a bit of salsa with their meal. El Taco got its start in Yelapa, Mexico, by way of Nelson, B.C. Justine Langevin had been living in the small town south of Puerto Vallarta when she decided to open an authentic restaurant back home with her father, Gil. Their Vancouver location has been in operation for 10 months, and their one-pound burritos ($6.25 veggie, $7.25 meat) are the best in town. They take great pride in their food, soaking beans for 12 hours before slow-cooking them for another 12, and roasting their chicken in a green mole sauce so it's juicy and tender. Their house-made salsa is the perfect topper; buy a jar to take home.
Three blocks northwest, the sound of live Cuban music drifts across the intersection of Davie and Thurlow every Thursday. Its name may conjure images of northern Africa, but it's just a leftover from when the spot first opened. Back then, it was serving falafel and shawarmas–like more than half the food joints in the same block–but it quickly (and wisely) converted to Mexican specialties. Sopa Azteca is its version of tortilla soup, and its pozole and pancita, served only on weekends, are the kind of dishes the chef–who hails from Mexico City–was serving back home.