Tag Archives: disasters

Res Gestae Divi Augusti

The divine deeds of August done, birthdays and retrogrades, retiring rhetoric before Irene gores the shores. We are no longer one, our desert tents closed against the sandstorm on opposite ends of this war camp. The new moon passing a statesman, our regards meaning jack in the general scheme. Maybe we are emboldened by this tax revolt, this rejection of too many lies, the recognition in the streets that we have lost our way. But maybe we are just foreclosing on lifelong dreams, the trend of a dying industry, the time to read, the lambs succumbing to another scam, sacrificing our propensity to hope, to make a difference, to avoid feeling paranoid and sick, when all in all it’s just another brick…



Burning Rituals

The detail of this map was sketched in by Major Matthews, Vancouver’s first Archivist, some 50 years after the fire that wiped out the new city of Vancouver on June 13th, 1886. Matthews interviewed dozens of Vancouver’s early inhabitants — many who were children when the fire occurred — and pieced together a detailed account of the fateful day.

The CPR work crews had been clearing land between the old Granville townsite (Gastown) and today’s Burrard Street, preparing their land grant to sell lots in anticipation of the coming railway, and the influx of new settlers it was expected to bring. They burned the massive slash piles and, as June 13, 1886 was a hot dry day, the conditions were ripe for the fires all over the area to catch and spread. The accounts tell of a “summer gale” blowing up from the west in the early afternoon, carrying embers that began raining down on the townsite. Within forty minutes of the first building catching fire, the whole town was ablaze.

The heat of the fire was apparently so intense that people were vapourized, and the sap of the wood buildings would heat and boil, making buildings literally explode into giant fireballs that leapt across streets and buildings like incendiary bombs. Of the town’s original 600+ buildings and shacks, only about half a dozen were spared, including the Hastings Sawmill, the town’s main source of industry and employment. The next day, the millowners opened their gates and allowed anyone to come and take lumber so that the rebuilding could begin immediately.

In order to prevent another destructive fire, many landowners decided to rebuild using bricks and mortar, and so the Gastown buildings we see today are mostly built of these materials. One exception, which can still be seen today on the SE corner of Hastings and Columbia, is the oldest original woodframe building in downtown (the original Hastings Mill store, which survived the fire, was later moved to the foot of Alma street and is now a museum).

125 years later, the Fire Department held a celebration of the history of firefighting in the city at Maple Tree Square. It was kind of odd for firefighters to choose this day — a day when the fire won and devastated the city — to celebrate their history. But burning rituals, like civic celebrations, help us to both remember the past, and move on from it. If I had a spot of land, or even a wood burning fireplace, I’d be burning a bunch of relics from my past as I prepare to move on from this chapter of my life, too.



Campbell’s Legacy: Dishonest, Abusive, Disrespectful

Well, it had to happen eventually. The truth had to leak out about Gordon Campbell. And finally one shoe has dropped. Apparently sick of dissident Liberal Cabinet member from Kootenay East, Bill Bennett, telling everyone that the Premier had to leave NOW, not sometime next year, the lame-duck Premier decided to boot him out of cabinet.

But, good old boy that he is, Bill Bennett wasn’t going to go away quietly. He called a press conference a few hours after getting ousted and, within minutes, started ripping Gordon Campbell personally and telling anecdotes of the abusive, dishonest, bullying ways of the Premier. It is a fascinating, horrifying and disturbing tale Bennett tells. Campbell is portrayed as a man who clearly shares the traits of a classic psychopath. Not too surprising when you look at the way Campbell has lied and cheated and bullied his way through 3 election victories.

Gordon Campbell is, quite simply, a total disgrace. Bad policies are one thing, but the portrait Bennett paints is of a man who is really sick, and likely needs some serious help. Especially frightening is the reference to the “battered wife syndrome” that pervades the Liberal caucus, and the women MLAs that Campbell reduced to tears on many occasions, and especially the three women who quit because of his disrespectful and abusive nature.

Meanwhile, The Vancouver Sun’s Vaughn Palmer, who is considered by some (on the right) to be the best political columnist in BC, still has his nose way up Campbell’s backside, and only two days ago wrote a column called “History Will Show Campbell in a More Favourable Light”. Earth to Palmer. Wake up already! You might want to rethink your fawning. Bennett’s tirade is only the tip of the iceberg. Just think of all the sordid secrets surrounding the sale of BC Rail that could still come out….

There’s a link below to Bennett’s lengthy press conference (which is going viral), but I’ve pulled some of his choice quotes and copied them out below.

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“I’m tired of the bullshit that goes on in politics and I’m really tired of the way Gordon Campbell thinks he can just run on people. He can run on me. I’m a tough guy, I can take it. But I’ve seen him do it to other people in our caucus. You have almost a battered wife syndrome inside our caucus today, inside our cabinet. It’s really sad, and all the man has to do to give the B.C. Liberal party a chance to renew itself is to leave. That’s all he has to do.”

“He’s got a history of intimidating people over the years… many, many, many, people have been intimidated by him…. I’ve seen him angry on many, many, many occasions…”

Reporter: “Have you seen people in tears after one of his tirades?” Bennett: “Absolutely. Absolutely.”

“I think you’re all aware that he is a very intimidating human being. He does have a temper. He does talk to people disrespectfully in caucus. I’ve seen him do it dozens and dozens of times. He’s done it to me.”

“The first time he got angry at me… he got so angry at me, that he got in my face, he got so angry at me, he actually spit in my face. He’s not a nice man. He’s not a nice man.”

“He took me behind the barn, and he was outraged… he started to shout at me… he caught me by such surprise, I was just amazed. Here he is, the Premier of the province, and he’s spitting on me!”

“Look… when they decided to kick me out they would sit down and talk about how they were going to spin this… So they had a little plan all set for me, I mean they took my phone away, they shut it down so I couldn’t call anyone, they shut down my credit card… they knew exactly what they were doing. They couldn’t trust me not to tell the truth.”

“Everything he does is staged. I’m surprised they didn’t have someone from PAB there organizing the event.”

“I not only got shot down, I mean, he was abusive in his response…. He did his usual bully thing, and that was the end of that.”

“There’s Christy Clark, there’s Carole Taylor, there’s Olga Ilich: three outstanding, intelligent women who should be here right now, they should be here serving British Columbians. Ask yourselves why they’re not here? They’re not here because of Premier Campbell, that’s why they’re not here.”

“I had had enough of the way that Premier Campbell runs his shop. It is disrespectful to the people inside, it is disrespectful to the people of the province. It is time that he goes… he’s lost the public entirely. Now, I just don’t think that the public has any respect left for the Premier of BC and he should just leave.”

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Damage Control


Sometimes I wonder what the bloody point is? I mean, c’mon, it seems like I’ve been in damage control for over a year now. The latest freakin’ shocker was caused by a burst water main at Powell and Main on the night of November 1st.

Like a mini tsunami, the water rushed down Powell and Main streets heading for the low ground, as water always will. The water coming down Powell took a hard right on Columbia, and rushed down to Alexander St. The water coming down Main hung a left on Alexander and rushed down the street and railway tracks.


Predictably, the two rivers met at Columbia and Alexander, and settled in the dip in the street in front of my place. Yes, it appears I have the distinction of living in the lowest point in Gastown…

So there I was, chilling out after an extra long day of meetings and work deadlines. I had finally kicked back at about 8pm with a brewskie, but no sooner had I taken a sip, I heard voices, oohs and aaahs, and the unmistakable trill of my neighbour repeating over and over, “Oh my fucking god.”

Of course, I ignored it at first. There always seems to be some commotion on Alexander Street these days, and I just wasn’t up for grabbing a hockey stick and venturing out to face yet another irate gangbanger or crackpot who has swan-dived off a nearby rooftop (which happened in September, btw). But after about 10 minutes the street noise had only grown in volume, so I poked my head out the window to see what all the fuss was about.


For a second, I thought I was back in Venice, it looked so beautiful. Of course, when I looked down and saw the water lapping at the side of our building, my thoughts took a turn for the worse. I went downstairs, only to be greeted by water pouring under my front door, making a beeline for my basement. I heard rushing water below, so I headed down, only to find that the air vent was acting like a sewage pipe, and the water on the railway tracks, maybe 4 feet deep, was pouring in. FUCK!!!


I managed to stuff some towels into the pipe to stop the water, then went upstairs and tried to block the water coming through the front door. It was no use though, the water was too high. It being fall, the storm drains were all blocked with leaves thanks to the lack of City maintenance. The water wasn’t draining, but rising.

So I went out and watched the scene, resigned to yet another water-related disaster, the 3rd time in 7 years Alexander Street has been flooded, and all the local basements ripped apart and rebuilt. Needless to say, our insurance has tripled over this time.


Well, we all gathered in the suite with the most alcohol in stock, and drank wine late into the night, cursing the City, which will, once again, hide behind the Charter and claim no responsibility whatsoever. While the police were suggesting we pack up and prepare to spend the night in a hotel, the City’s Risk Management guy finally showed up about an hour and half into the flood. He was all pissy, having to leave the Canucks game early, and told us he wanted to go because his friend was waiting for him in the car. What the Fuck? He refused to approve hotel rooms for us, and was pretty much the most useless person imaginable to have around in a crisis. No doubt he makes a ton of money, though. My guess is he knows all about “sustainability”, which is the only reason he got hired. Needless to say, at one point, one of my more surly neighbours was ready to take his head off after his whining and “oh, poor me, this ruined my night out” winge-fest.

In contrast, the police were top notch, and one of the female officers took charge of the scene, making our Risk Management boy-toy look like a wilted flower under the pressure. The Waterworks guys were also awesome, and had no problem using their truck to pump water out of our basement once the storm drain was cleared. At 4am, they announced that their truck was full, and that they had pumped 63,000 litres of water from our building’s basement. Yes, that’s right, 63 THOUSAND litres! Did I mention that the City takes absolutely no responsibility whatsoever for this type of thing?! Total fuckers.


Today it’s November 10th, and the drywall and stuff from my basement has finally all been ripped out. I can see through to my neighbour’s suites on both sides now — not exactly private. I am, admittedly, near the end of my rope, and thinking once again of bailing out of Gastown. Citizens are supposed to have the right to privacy, comfort and peaceful living conditions, but this neighbourhood is a non-stop gong-show, and the stress, worry, and financial drain has pretty much left me without the wherewithal to stick it out here any longer.

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I used to think that I was the only ghost left in this part of town, but now I’m starting to think old RH Alexander, who the street out front is named after, has been secretly messing with things all these years. Must be still holding a grudge that he never got to be Mayor. If I see him, I’ll be sure to give him a good dose of gassy….