Appeared in North Shore News – August 6, 2010
Smiles and stings of a summer day:
“This will only take a minute,” said the pert Asian woman as she seized me by my metaphorical lapels. Right: Sixty seconds later I was $15 poorer.
This occurred at a sidewalk sale near Capilano Mall’s food court. The woman expertly sized me up as an easy mark.
In a trice, a very small amount of time, she was rubbing a dark substance on my hand — mud soap made from Israel’s Dead Sea.
“It cleans more than other soaps and helps with sunburn,” she said. Why the Dead Sea should disgorge mud of special properties was and remains a mystery to me.
A further mystery is how my feet carried me to the cash drawer. I don’t recall moving them.
“That’ll be $20,” said Supersaleswoman, able to leap tall buyers’ resistance at a single bound, “but for seniors it’s $15.” Gee, I didn’t think it showed.
It was worth $15 to watch a really slick operator at work. Not that I’ll be back.
West Van town hall’s proposal for a massive seven-storey old folks’ home on the Wetmore site is surely headed for one hell of a fight.
Residents of the pleasant houses across from the tiny park beside the site would yearn for the days when the Wetmore Volkswagen dealership was their only obstacle to sun and sea. The proposed edifice will nibble away at the park too — named John Richardson Park, who knew?
The deal is for a 125-year lease. That’s essentially selling the land (and at a price sure to be seen as glass beads in years to come). By 2135 even Coun. Bill Soprovich could be weary of topping the polls and safely retired.
Bob Sokol, West Vancouver’s director of planning, lands and permits, concedes that there is “some concern about the height of the building.” Yeah, there would be that.
Town hall is collaborating in the old developers’ game of proposing the outrageous, retreating to the objectionable, and with the fall-back plan that they hide all along — probably a four-storey complex. “See, we listened to the public.”
The City of North Vancouver has let loose a grandiose plan to build new cultural edifices with money it hasn’t got. I didn’t think the summer has been that hot. Unless there’s another explanation for the lunacy.
Actually, there’s a lot of it going around. There’s the Vancouver Art Gallery’s determination to quit its Georgia Street quarters for new digs across from the post office costing $350 million. Predictably, the “art community” rapturously supports this folly. “Communities” are always behind projects paid for by taxpayers.
The VAG pleads it has no room to display 10,000 paintings in its crowded vaults. I challenge it to refute this: At least 9,000 aren’t worth showing. That’s why only the spiders see them.
The truth is that art galleries are in show biz and desperate for money. We are so spoiled, certainly in “world-class” Vancouver and “centre of the world” Toronto, that only the artistic equivalent of a bases-loaded home run in the last inning of the World Series is a draw.
Merely competent or even very good paintings don’t cut it. Curators exist to package paintings of themes or eras (Old Masters, impressionists, Group of Seven, American realists etc.) and export them, sprinkled with a few famous works that can be hyped. Leonardo da Vinci’s doodles are a sure sell anywhere.
Back to the city’s fantasies. Under the clever head North Van Seeks Cultural Revolution, Benjamin Alldritt reports in this paper that the three occupants of “the elderly and quirky Presentation House complex” would get new, separate quarters. Cost: at least $43.5 million.
The turn head, as we say in the newspaper biz, smartly lets the air out of this balloon: City Does not Have the Money for Plan’s Costs. City finance director Isabel Gordon acknowledges that it will “take a very long time to save up” for these entities.
Extra, extra, read all about it! Governments are broke. Taxpayers are hammered. Personal debt is a mountain. We’ve lived beyond our means for decades. Make do!
In another part of the lunacy: Reroofing BC Place will officially cost (don’t believe it) $458 million. The temporary, open-to-the-elements Empire Field stadium was stuck together for just $15 million — and B.C. Lions fans love it.
North Vancouver’s Ralph Bower, retired Vancouver Sun photographer known for creative odd-ball shots, and a great habitué of the track — for years he was the Sun’s handicapper styled “Railbird” — was at Hastings Park last Saturday.
Bower was literally at the rail when the gate opened for the sixth race. A horse named Private Mambo instantly threw its rider, blindly careened down the track, its blinkers apparently twisted over its eyes, and crashed into the winners circle enclosure, making “the loudest sound I ever heard,” Bower said.
It was horrifying. The horse died. A security guard was injured. The rest of the races were cancelled.
Only later did Bower — who is preparing an exhibit of photos from his racing collection — realize that he’d have been in danger himself if the horse had travelled a little further.
And, of course, he didn’t have a camera at hand for what would have been one of the most stunning photos of his outstanding career.
Yurika Kimura will never perform again at West Vancouver’s Silk Purse. By common consent of a mesmerized audience, limp from her playing of Chopin and two inhumanly demanding Liszt pieces, this 18-year-old girl from Japan is destined for some of the world’s top concert halls.
How can director Cheryl Karchut, who retires next month, do it — attract many artists far above the modest venue of Argyle Avenue’s 65-odd-seat Silk Purse?
Apart from her own excellent contacts and personality, with a little help from her friends.
In this case, Keiko Alexander, for years the generous conduit for Japanese artists like Yurika Kimura. She’s the wife of Jeff Alexander, president and chief executive officer of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. You can’t put a price on the value of such great citizens to the West Vancouver community.
And, while we’re at it, if the relaxed sprawl of strolling throngs, dog walkers and creeping vehicles along Argyle during the Harmony Arts Festival didn’t convince town hall that the street’s destruction for a biker-hiker trail would be an act of official vandalism, nothing else will.
This insanity from Victoria, pushed by cabinet minister Kevin Falcon and abetted by cycle fanatics and misguided North Shore Liberal lieutenants, has to be stopped dead in its ill-conceived tracks. Permanently, no resuscitation when the “controversy” ebbs.
© Trevor Lautens, 2010