Best of Vancouver: City Life

A Diwali-themed Canucks jersey, the best place to learn about psychedelics, and more

    1 of 3 2 of 3

      Best instant collectors' item

      If celebrity endorsements are any indicator, Pitt Meadows graphic artist Jag Nagra knocked things right out of the hockey rink when she dreamed up a special Diwali Festival jersey for the Vancouver Canucks.

      Built around the team’s classic stick-and-rink crest from the early ’70s, Nagra’s design incorporated Diwali lanterns, pinwheels, fireworks, and lotus flowers as a tribute to a festival that celebrates lightness over darkness. The customized V on the shoulder was topped by a flame, with vibrant yellow the main colour.

      The alternate jersey made its debut on November 5 on Diwali Night at Rogers Arena when the ’Nucks wore it during warm-up. And if the gift shop was swarmed by fans right after that, Seth Rogen might have been partly to blame.

      The comedian and part-time potter took to Twitter to proclaim: “Will trade a vase for one of these! (Size large? Can only be bought in person in Vancouver).”

      The response from lifelong Canucks fan Nagra? Posting on Twitter, she kept things concise with “Holy fucking shit”.

      Best pandemic therapy for community activists

      People did a lot of new things when COVID-19 struck and kept them mostly at home. Some learned to bake. Jak King did another thing. The city watchdog and resident of Grandview-Woodland wrote a book. “This is my pandemic cure,” King told the Straight in a phone interview. His book is titled Battleground: Grandview. An Activist’s Memoir of the Grandview Community Plan, 2011-2016.

      Best reason to consider a green burial

      Because starting in 2022 it’s going to get cheaper to have an Earth-friendly funeral in Vancouver. City council approved a staff recommendation to provide a 50 percent discount from the current rate for a green burial at Mountain View Cemetery. A single interment in a so-called sustainable lot will cost only $4,761.90 next year.

      As explained in a staff report, interment in these areas “requires no use of outer (typically) concrete burial containers, no embalming chemicals and only fully biodegradable caskets, containers or shrouds”.

      Best place for life drawing classes

      These are not your typical life drawing classes. Students sign up for Tuesday night sessions at Catfe in International Village (2035-88 West Pender Street) to work with an artist for 1.5 hours sketching the onsite cats.

      Due to their “pawpularity”, cat life drawing classes now run weekly, every Tuesday at 7 p.m., and we highly recommend booking ahead (, as they fill up quickly. Instructor Erin Green also teaches at Emily Carr University of Art + Design and runs her own art school through Children of the Craft.

      The classes are a really fun way to interact with the cats, which are so used to being showered with affection that they sometimes seem to wonder why people are just standing back and observing them. That often piques the curiosity of the newbies and shyer cats and encourages them to come out.

      Some of the kitties like to get involved with the drawings, often deciding that paper is the perfect place for them to sit or that the pencils are new toys.

      Best community comedy stage

      American social networking platform Nextdoor has its problems, including attracting neighbours who love to fight with their fellow neighbours. Just because the grasshole across the street waters his lawn eight days a week all summer, there’s no need to rat him out to the entire hood.

      But Nextdoor can also be endlessly amusing, as those signed up on the Templeton thread know. Sprinkled between posts about everything from car break-ins to where to find Polish-style pickled eggs on Commercial Drive is occasional comedy gold.

      Some are surreal—a June post featuring what looked like a miniature sasquatch crawling out from under a porch was accompanied by the cryptic “Have you seen him?”. Summer brought an angry octogenarian named Santos White complaining about East Vancouver’s “tree problem”. (The problem? That would be there’s too many trees.)

      Such posts are usually nuked by Nextdoor watchdogs after a few hours, but some slip under the radar. Take a bow Cedar Cottage’s Kevin Hand, who on October 1 took the stage with “Hi again everyone, not sure why my last post was deleted, but anyway, something a little serious…I don’t want to alarm anyone but there are a couple of guys or boys riding in a bright white sports car, waving their arms in the air and I wonder who do they think they are, and where did they get that car?”

      Best community makeover

      As Canada’s official Hollywood North, Metro Vancouver has long been called on to double for other locales, usually ones found in America. Remember the Bates Motel and gothic home popping up in Aldergrove a few years back? And the Vancouver Trade and Convention Centre playing a Tokyo airport in Godzilla.

      Astute viewers might have noticed that the beginning car-crash opening of the Netflix horror hit Midnight Mass looks suspiciously like it was shot in Stanley Park. From there we flit to the weatherbeaten fishing community of Crockett Island for the series’ main setting; while the locale is never specified, everything screams Maine, U.S.A.

      As Steveston residents know however, the battered shacks and early 20th-century church were all built in Richmond’s Garry Park. Production crews created an elaborate creepy-looking village on the site, with filming taking place—after a brief COVID-19 pandemic shutdown—over three months in 2020.

      And then, like the Bates Motel in Aldergrove, it was suddenly all gone, which—admit it—is kind of a drag given that the supernatural American-gothic community of Crockett Island was more fascinating than super-natural Garry Park will ever be.

      Best reason to let employees work from home

      There are many reasons why employees and employers are happy with the pandemic-induced trend of working from home. A paper released this fall by Statistics Canada provides a good justification: a full transition to telework by qualified employees could lead to a reduction in annual emissions of climate-changing greenhouse gases (GHGs) of about 8.6 megatonnes of carbon-dioxide equivalent due to reduced commuting. (A megatonne is one million tonnes.)

      The 8.6-megatonne reduction represents six percent of direct GHG emissions from Canadian households in 2015.

      Best reason not to be overwhelmed about saving Mother Earth

      The thought of saving the Earth is just too daunting for many. But take heart. A campaign by the Metro Vancouver regional government shows that you can become an ecowarrior right in your laundry room simply by switching to cold water.

      This practice will reduce the amount of microfibres produced while doing laundry. These fibres—including beads and fibres that are less than five millimeters in size—contribute to microplastics pollution in oceans and are harmful to aquatic life.

      Best example of changes in washroom habits

      Bidets are washroom fixtures that do the same job as toilet paper, and they are widely used in Asia and Europe. With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver noticed that more locals are beginning to have a liking for bidets, particularly the handheld sprayer type. In an online post, the board noted that bidets require “comparably less water than it takes to produce toilet paper”. In short, it’s environmentally friendly.

      Best reason for Canucks fans to ignore ESPN’s weekly power rankings

      In the November 3 edition of its regularly updated list, the sports channel ranked the Canucks 29th in the league, with only Montreal, Chicago, and Arizona below them. Yes, that’s right: the Canucks were ranked lower than the Kraken. (Though they did have nice things to say about Conor Garland.

      Best urban fishing spot to hear teenagers scream

      No, it’s not Crystal Lake. It’s the hidden-away Sanctuary Pond in Hastings Park, where the shrieks from Playland’s thrill rides next door regularly penetrate the foliage of the serene and green oasis.

      The pond is stocked by the nonprofit Freshwater Fisheries Society of B.C.—usually two or three times per year, in the spring and fall—with anywhere from 350 to 1,500 Fraser Valley rainbow trout of immediately catchable size. (All applicable provincial fishing regulations apply, and etiquette tips are posted at the only place on the pond where fishing is permitted: a dock at its north end, near the PNE agriculture barns.)

      It’s not a huge body of water, so the trout don’t last too long, but enough of them stay away from the dock’s catch area to survive to feed the cormorants, great blue herons, and belted kingfishers that frequent the pond and make great photo subjects for keen-eyed visitors.

      Janet McDonald

      Best place to learn about psychedelics

      Medicinal Mushroom Dispensary )651 East Hastings Street)

      The Medicinal Mushroom Dispensary has a fantastic collection of books on everything drug-related—from works on the CIA, Contras, and crack to the history of opium to a psilocybin bible.

      For adventurous Vancouverites, there are peyote cacti for sale. Before you go rushing down there, you need to know that the plant is a long-term commitment and a hefty investment. A peyote cactus takes a good seven to 20 years to mature before you can slice that baby up and cure it for your next trip.

      Side note: no matter how green your thumb, don’t even think about showing up unless you’re 19 or older. 

      Best sign that a pigeon just died

      If you are walking a residential neighbourhood and occasionally notice a small pile or scattering of downy white feathers on the grass, usually between the sidewalk and the street, look up. If you are lucky, you will spot an urban hawk, often a Cooper’s, with its limp prey on a boulevard tree’s suitable butchering branch, daintily plucking the breast feathers before devouring the meat.

      Sometimes you will be alerted to the raptor’s presence by the first of the feathers to fly, drifting down like an incongruous summer snowfall. This is a common occurrence in East Van residential neighbourhoods between Commercial Drive and Renfrew Street, but it can happen almost anywhere.

      Often the beautiful hunter is close enough to take a picture with your phone.

      Just don’t make too much noise or it might leave the table without asking permission.

      Best return to normalcy

      Aright, let’s admit that things were still far from normal this year. But at least you didn’t feel like the luckiest person in Vancouver every time you saw a 24-pack of asswipe sitting on a supermarket shelf.

      Best Death Valley impersonation

      In most years Vancouver isn’t the kind of city where one walks around asking their fellow citizens “Hot enough for you?” This past summer wasn’t most years, especially for a sun-scorched stretch in late June where temperatures hit 32 ° C by the water, and closer to 40 ° C inland.

      For four days—June 25 to 29—sensible folks decided against leaving the house and instead opted for daily ice baths and repeat viewings of wintery classics The Thing and A Simple Plan while camped out in front of the Utilitech oscillating three-speed fan.

      It felt like hell on Earth, to the point where even the most belligerent of climate-change deniers found themselves wondering if, maybe, Greta Thunberg is perhaps onto something. Things were only moderately less sunbaked days, weeks, and months that followed, with Vancouver clocking its second hottest summer on record.

      The daily average temperature was 18.9 ° C, well above the normal 17.2 ° C, and second only to a sweltering summer of ’58. As for single-day summer records, the city has actually been hotter than it was this June, with the thermometer hitting 34.4 ° C on July 30, 2009. A time, it should be noted, that didn’t feel the end of times in a Death Valley way, which is anything but the case today.

      Best enough-of-that-shit

      For years and years and years, the best part of going to the Templeton swimming pool in East Van was the endlessly vandalized Vancouver park board sign in Templeton Park.

      On a good day, that sign would read “Templeton Park and Pool”. But because Templeton secondary school happens to be right next door, there weren’t many good days. Instead, pretty much any day you snickered at it, the sign read “Templeton Park and Poo”.

      Every time the “l” was added back, it would be gone again in hours. You can be against teenage vandalism, but you can’t deny that teenage vandalism can be funny.

      Evidently tired of the Sisyphean task of repairing the sign, the Vancouver park board decided to play dirty pool a couple of years ago by changing the sign to read Templeton Park & Aquatic Centre. The joke being that Templeton Park Poo, err, Pool is no more an aquatic centre than Britannia Ice Rink is a state-of-the-art winter sports centre.

      The big opportunity here for some old-school fun? Still painted on the outside of the building are the words “TEMPLETON PARK POOL”. Grab a ladder, some grey paint to remove the “L”, unleash your inner Bart Simpson and you’re guaranteed to be a legend—at least at Templeton secondary.


      Mak Parhar, as seen in his final video on his Facebook page.

      Most outrageous antivaxxer

      That honour has to go to recently deceased yogi Mak Parhar. What can you say about a guy who takes a camera into Royal Columbian Hospital to investigate the COVID-19 “hoax”? Or who puts the words “Earth is Flat” on the rear window of his car? Or who insisted, as he was coughing away on video, that he didn’t have “CONVID” because “CONVID” doesn’t exist.

      Parhar managed to enrage lots of people, including deputy premier Mike Farnworth, who referred to him as an “idiot”. But Parhar’s videos, which remain alive on his Facebook page, show that sometimes, crackpots can be highly entertaining, especially when they’re running down fellow antivaxxers by staring menacingly at the camera and calling them “fucking cowards”.

      Best Christmas-season kickstarter

      There are countless ways to steel yourself for the insanity that is the Christmas season. Spend the last week of November getting your liver tuned up for December with a bottle of Baileys for breakfast, a six pack of Granville Island Lions Winter Ale, and a 26er of Sailor Jerry for dinner—eggnog strictly optional.

      Having all your Christmas shopping finished by December 3 is never a bad goal, and remember that few movies say “Christmas is coming soon!” like Silent Night, Deadly Night. But what really makes a statement that the most wonderful time of the year is here is bringing home the perfect tree.

      To make things truly memorable skip the big-box stores, load up 1979 Ford LTD Country Squire wagon, and unleash your inner Clark Griswold at a tree farm. Maple Ridge’s Alouette Tree Farm is close enough to the city that you don’t feel like you’re driving to 100 Mile House, and far enough from the East Van cross that the air feels fresh and clean.

      Basically you pull up, grab a saw, pick your dream tree, and then start making like Paul Bunyan. The big bonus is that your Grand fir tannenbaum will last the entire month—big-box Xmas trees tend to be cut back east in early November and then shipped west, which means a reduced shelf life. A freshly cut tree, meanwhile, is pretty much guaranteed to last the whole Christmas. Unlike your liver.

      Best last-game finish to make the playoffs by a Vancouver sports team

      The Vancouver Whitecaps hadn’t even qualified for the MLS playoffs since 2017 and started the 2021 season with only two wins in their first 12 games. Many, if not most, fans had written off the team’s chances at qualifying for the postseason given the team’s early performance, the ’Caps’ dismal record the past three years, and the fact that the club was playing its first 19 games away from its home pitch in 11 different U.S. stadiums because of COVID-19 protocols.

      But a change that saw head coach Marc Dos Santos fired and replaced by interim coach Vanni Sartini—along with a return to B.C. Place and the summer signings of Scottish midfielder Ryan Gauld (who ended with four goals and six assists) and U.S. striker Brian White (12 goals, five assists)—sparked a seemingly moribund squad to a blazing finish that saw it lose only two of its last 22 contests.

      Going into the last game of the season on November 7—against the very motivated Seattle Sounders, who would clinch the Western Conference championship and the Cascadia Cup with a win—the ’Caps needed a victory to get into the playoffs for sure (while a draw combined with an assortment of other conference scenarios might have done the trick). A loss, though, and their heroic comeback would be for naught. But they got the draw, thanks to a goal by Gauld (from White) and two last-second extra-time saves by star goalkeeper Maxime Crépeau—and they made the playoffs, to boot!

      Next up: Sporting Kansas City in Round 1. Phew!