Posts Tagged ‘East Van’


An old photo. A new project. A bit over a week ago Meg and I decided to embark on our own little chronicle of East Van – its institutions, its food, its history, its people, its struggles and celebrations and possibilities. Viaduct, we’re calling it, though viaducteast is its web-name.

Why viaduct? Well, the Georgia Viaduct is a known marker of one’s entry into the east side, and the former site of Hogan’s Alley, a hugely important but too-often forgotten working class district, and for a long time a centre for Vancouver’s black community. But also – and from the site’s own description – “a viaduct is a bridge for carrying traffic. It is also a journey over water, a deviation from a path, a step astray, or the practice of traveling.”

And that sounded like what we wanted, that sounded like our community, and that sounded like us.

This all started – as so many of Meg and my plans do – with a lazy Sunday in bed, drinking coffee and chatting about this’n’that. We talked about those places that define the east side for us; we talked about gentrification, and the loss of those places; we talked about the ones that somehow seem to hang-on against all odds; we talked about the fact that, no matter how much the yuppies move in, the east van locals refuse to be moved. (All while recognizing, of course, that each of us fits not only the category of east van locals, given our long histories and roots in working class communities, but also the category of yuppies, as we’ve had a number of years in well-paying jobs that grant us even more economic and cultural privilege than we were born with.)

And so we’re off, the site now up and running with its first post – the story of our dinner last night at The Brave Bull’s House of Steaks on the corner of Hastings and Clark. Yeah, that place. Yeah, there really is food in there.

We’ve got quite a list growing in our heads about what to add –  more restaurants, old theatres, community gardens, pubs and lots of things we’ll leave unsaid til we do our visits, collect some photos and write our stories. And our friend Tammie may well be joining the fun too, so we’re quite hopeful that we can get something going here that captures this part of the world, at least as seen by a few of its  radical “participant-observers”, as we say in sociology-speak. 

For now, you can see the site in its infancy and decide for yourtself if you want to stop in for a bite at the Bull. We certainly hope you’ll visit us on-line periodically to see what we’re up to. And if you have suggestions for East Van places to visit or myths to explore, or want to jump on board and join this little collective-in-the-offing, just give us a holler and come on in.


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Workers Cabaret

One of the things that’s been most exciting these past few months has been the re-kindling of my love of singing and guitar-playing. And particularly my soft spot for old labour tunes and protest songs. For the first time in quite a while I’ve been running through Joe Hill and the wobbly singer-organizers, Woody Guthrie, Phil Ochs and John Prine, It’s a blast, and has reminded me how much of a difference daily singing can make to my emotional state.

And if there’s one thing better than singing, it’s someone to sing with. Meg and I have been trading songs, learning some new ones, laughing as we stumble over wrong chords and forgotten lyrics. And those are some of the moments I most look forward to with her.

So I was especially thirlled with her suggestion that we pull together a few songs and play at a Workers’ Cabaret that’s held once a month at a local bar.

Yes, The End on Commercial Drive hosts these nights of labour ballads and resistance songs, and we’ve decided to throw ourselves into the mix sometime soon. No dates yet for our own singing – first we’ve got a pick out a few songs and practice up – but May 15 is the next Cabaret. My parenting schedules might keep me away that night, but I’ll see what I can do. And in any event, Meg will check our the scene and report back. I’m excited just at the prospect of hearing about it.

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There are few things better than stepping of a plane, locking eyes with the one you love, and meeting in a kiss. ‘Nuff said.

But what’s really on my mind today is the announced intensive-monitoring of activists being justified by the 2010 Olympics. News reports today are raising alarm bells that Vancouver’s Olympic dreams might just provide an opportunity for activists from a range of movements to come together. It’s worth reading the coverage in full, so I won’t bother paraphrasing it all here. Rather, what I’m noticing today is how my own hopefulness grows as the security-types get worried.

It’s been a long time since Vancouver has seen a real challenge to social order, the last being the anti-globalization struggles of the mid to late 1990s. At that point, I was working within the labour movement, spending alot of energy and time in trying to get the mainstream left off its fear of the radicals and – if not to radicalize its own position – to understand the critical role played by anarchists and the so-called black bloc in forcing the state to display its violence nakedly, in opening public debate, and by extension in allowing social democrats to be heard at all.

It was an amazing time, a rekindling of broad-based social struggle, a concrete resistance to the mantra “there is no alternative” which had dominated popular culture for so long. But something happened, particularly after the attack on the World Trade Centre – that mass resistance collapsed, as many retreated into patriotism, many more moved towards anti-war organizing. And for the last decade, nothing has really brought together radicals, unions, churches, indigenous actvisits and so on and so in anything near the same way.

Enter the Olympics. I’ve had this conversation with numerous people over the last couple of years – does the Olympics represent an opportunity for a renewal of mass resistance? Seems to me it has the potential. Questions of land claims, ecological devestation, surveillance and security, public spending, labour and more, all come directly to the fore in the build-up to an event like this. What is more, the initial state- and self-censorship that arose in the wake of 9-11 has worn off in the last few years, opening a cultural space for various shapes of protest to emerge in ways they haven’t for some time.

Now, whether any of this will actually happen is a whole other question. But it does seem to me that resistance to 2010 is an incredible potential. Corporate and security forces certainly appear to be concerned, and that in itself should make us take a closer look at where the fault-lines are in the social order, and how these might be made yet more unstable in the Olympic build-up.

For my part, I’ll be with Meg tonight at Britannia community centre, for a public forum on whether 2010 will see a formal Olympic site housed in the eastside. But as much as the debate, I’ll be interested to check out the overall numbers of people and the various communities and activist group that turn up. Tonight might just provide a glimpse into where we are sitting on that line from potential to actual resistance, from isolated protest to generalized struggle. And, perhaps, too, tonight we’ll want to raise a toast to the cops and  security advisors out there who, by the front page of the Province,  reminded us all this morning that these Olympics are indeed a worthy target of our resistance.

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