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Friendly Rivalry

bc-rivalry-nixon-100709.jpgJudging by the number of yellow cards that were issued during the World Cup Soccer final on Sunday, it's clear the teams could have taken a lesson from these Vancouver neighbours.  They both originally are from the two finalists, Spain and the Netherlands.  Both are soccer fans and both live just a few doors down the street from each other.  They also happen to be great friends, noting that the last time Spain and the Dutch fought each other in war was more than three hundred years ago.  True, the war lasted about eighty years, but on this street - if not on the soccer pitch in South Africa - all is forgiven.  Soccer Neighbours icon_video.gif

Big Wall Art

bc-graffiti-nixon-100622.jpgYou probably have seen the various ways cities try to deal with graffitti art.  Much of it is viewed, quite rightly, as an annoyance, a defacement of public and private property.  So Vancouver and other cities spend alot of money hiring people to pressure wash it away or paint over it with some neutral colour.   Utilities have adopted the habit of covering their unsightly public boxes with more pleasing plastic photo wraps of green shrubbery.  It dissaudes some of the taggers, though not all. 

But then there's an interesting approach that views spray can art as real art, that can be used to beautify the city.  Who are the artists you hire for that?  The same people the city used to hate for spray painting their works all over town - before those artists discovered that tagging doesn't pay, but spray cans cost five bucks each, wholesale.  Two very accomplished artists are now making Vancouver's largest mural right across from the Beatty Street armoury.  It's worth watching them work, but be quick, because they sure are.  If you want to learn more, head to their website.  Does anyone know if there's a school where they teach this stuff?  Spray Can Mural icon_video.gif

Secret Garden

bc-garden-nixon-100606.jpgSome fabulous teacher I had in Grade four or five decided to read to us immediately after every morning bell, rightly assuming that we probably were not quite ready to tackle arithmetic so early.  When she got to Frances Hodgson Burnett's wonderful novel "The Secret Garden", not many kids ever arrived late.  We all got there bright and early to hear the latest adventures of Mary and Colin in their glorious garden world.  This idea of earthly perfection, a profusion of delightful plants and flowers hidden away from life's troubles intoxicated me then and stays with me today. 

When I heard a real Secret Garden exists in Delta, I knew I had to track it down and do a story about the remarkable man who created it.  I was not disappointed.  Our bargain forbade me from publicizing exactly where it's located - and I am abiding by that agreement.  But he did tell me that if you want to know where it is, you might start by calling Delta City Hall.  They own it after all.  Hidden Gem icon_video.gif 

Photo Contest

bc-hope-nixon-100601.jpgOne backstory of the annual Hope in Shadows photography contest concerns a little incentive people get to participate.  For eight years, the Pivot Legal Society has sponsored this event - handing out a few hundred throw away cameras to people in the downtown eastside and asking them to take pictures of their community.  When they hand in the cameras after three days and used up all the film (I was surprised they still make film throwaways), each competitor gets five bucks.  Many people confess that's what drew them to the photo contest in the first place.  In a place where many people are constantly broke, five bucks is five bucks and their pictures might win a prize for more money.  

So everyone comes out a winner and, in the process, some great photos get taken.   And for one fellow, the contest helped him reunite with his family.  Family Reunion icon_video.gif


fun-city100510_16x9_xtralarge_1.jpgVancouver's documentary film festival, DOXA, began on May 7 and I'm guessing that one of the scores of docs being shown, "No Fun City", will create a bit of a stir.  This Vancouver documentary was written, produced and directed by Melissa James along with co-producer and director Kate Kroll - two rising stars if this film is any indication of their abilities.  No Fun City speaks to the inevitable conflict between girls and boys who just wanna have fun and other people who wanna have quiet.  It documents the underground music scene in Vancouver and the loss of concert space available to bands.  That line sounds a bit dry reading it just now.  The film is anything but, a wild ride into a really vibrant world that remided me of my own wayward youth before I became the serious, no nonsense fella I am today.  No Fun City icon_video.gif

City Hall Bees

bc-bees-nixon-100319.jpgFull disclosure time now.  I have an interest in this story.  The miracle of honey production has fascinated me ever since I was a kid on the prairies.  Manitoba creamed clover honey sent me into the most wondrous sugar high.  As a teenager, I once spent months poring over a bee catalogue imagining myself as an apiarist (that's fancy for beekeeper).  But I lived in the city, everybody knew you could not raise bees in the city. 

Fast forward 30 years and I discover that cities are changing.  Vancouver ended its ban on backyard beehives.  I called up the head provincial apiarist and took a beginner course.  Got some hives.  My life has been sweet ever since. 

Now Vancouver City Hall has gone one step further.  Not just allowing its citizens to engage in this sometimes stingful hobby, but deciding to put hives at City Hall itself.  Proving you can flight city hall.  (I'm sorry, but you need to be prepared for the painful puns you are about to hear.)  Bee City icon_video.gif


St. Patrick's Day

bc-patricks-nixon-100317.jpgFame is a strange thing.  It tends to narrow down complex people and places into easily digestible bits.  Brad Pitt is a sexy actor.  Cuba is where they make the cigars.  And Ireland?  That's the country where people drink plenty of beer. 

Certainly that appears to be the Emerald Isle's claim to fame every St. Patrick's Day.  Certainly that's what draws celebrants to Irish themed pubs in Vancouver and across the country.  But that was certainly not what I wished to discover when I went to one of those pubs on St. Patrick's Day.  I wanted to know what else Ireland is famous for. 

You can guess what happened.  It was an easy task.  Guinness and Green icon_video.gif

Neon Chinatown

bc-neon-nixon-100315.jpgThe trouble with doing a story about neon signage in Vancouver during the day is .... (fill in your answers here). 

Of course, it is not as big a problem as it is for the folks who decide that the best time to turn on the sign for the first time happens to be the day after daylight savings time kicks in.   A lovely twilight image of brightly shining coloured glass tubes artfully bent into an enticing message somehow loses its impact when the sun still has ninety minutes to go before setting.  But perhaps they were caught unawares and, besides, what does it matter in the long run?  Vancouver gets another big sign to remind us of the glory days of neon.  Or perhaps to herald a bright shining future.  Glow in the Dark icon_video.gif

Nordic Pals

bc-scandanavian-nixon-100224.jpgEver since my first story about the Norwegian Codfish Club, I have liked the Scandinavian Centre in Burnaby.  The idea of organizing monthly meetings for people to chow down on cod drowning in butter confirms my belief that frivolity is a most worthy human trait. 

When I wandered by the other day and saw banners proclaiming the Centre as the headquarters for all things Scandinavian during the Olympics, I knew I had to head back to see what's up.  This became essential when I noticed Norway - a nation with only a few more people than live in the province of British Columbia - has amassed more medals at these games than Canada. 

But the Scandinavian Centre represents people with roots from five countries that speak five different languages - all of them competing for medals.  How well do fans of one country get along with fans from another?  Scandinavian Fans icon_video.gif

Saskatchewan Day!

bc-saskatchewan-nixon-100223.jpgI like Saskatchewan so much that when a Regina neighbour once told me he did not enjoy his trip to BC because the mountains spoiled the view, I understood his point.  I did not agree with it, but I certainly did agree with what was implied by his comment.  There is a wondrous majesty to the views one can see on the prairies.  South of Regina, the mighty Dirt Hills rise perhaps a hundred metres into the sky, by B.C. standards a wart on the landscape.  But from the very top you can see the Queen City, Weyburn and Moose Jaw at a glance.  It is, in the old sense of the word, awesome. 

I am sure I have opened myself up to ridicule by those comments.  But people like me who have lived in Saskatchewan have developed buffalo thick hides.  It is a province that fosters strong loyalties, even amongst those who move away.   So when the Olympics marked Saskatchewan Day, I had to hustle down to the Saskatchewan Pavillion to see if anyone other than the provincial faithful - those of us in the know - would show up.  Prairie Connection icon_video.gif

Surrey Peacocks

bc-peacocks-nixon-100209.jpgWe city folk have a strange ambivalence towards wildlife.  We like most wild animals so long as they do not view us as dinner (bears and cougars), want to spray us (skunks), live in our attics (racoons and squirrels), bite our kids (coyotes) or poop on us (most any bird).   This list of caveats means many people do not like wild animals at all, if they happen to invade our urban environment.  But this happens rather regularly and somehow we manage to co-exist with many of the animals I just mentioned.  

Trouble is what is a pest to some is a welcome guest to others.  Witness the wildlife invasion in one Surrey neighbourhood.  Running a-Fowl icon_video.gif

Say Cheese!

bc-photo-nixon-100205.jpgWith the countdown on, Olympic revellers are getting a taste of what the next three weeks might look like.  Some streets are closed already and public art installed.  Folks wander about getting a sense of what a pedestrian friendly downtown Vancouver will look like.  Maybe it's the strangeness of walking on a street that bans traffic, or maybe it's just the thrill of being part of it all.  Whatever it is, the camera buffs are out in force, sporting everything from big expensive SLR jobs to cell phone snappers.  One thing you can say about the city during these games is that it will be well documented.  Camera Craze icon_video.gif

Olympic Facelift

Thumbnail image for bc-welcome-nixon-100125.jpgI confess that this Olympic welcoming of the world thing is turning out to be much more comprehensive an operation that I expected.  It is not just all the temporary pavilions popping up on every parking lot.  That did not surprise me.  It's the smaller changes.  Stuff disappears - like garbage bins (remember the Atlanta '96 bombing?) - and stuff appears - like clear plastic garbage bags.  Pizza sized round country flags are appearing on sidewalks, and signs directing people to venues make their way to lamp posts.  In the eternal construction site that is Vancouver, changes to the city might no longer surprise.  But it can sometimes confuse.  Witness the guy whose job is to put up some of those new signs on Vancouver streets.  Welcome Guy icon_video.gif

Olympic Hosts

bc-olympic-nixon-net.jpgVancouver's Tourist Board has issued a 10 point list suggesting how people can become good hosts to the tens of thousands of tourists who will arrive for the Olympics next month.  It's a good idea, since many of those tourists will have no idea where anything is, so helping them out is a very friendly thing to do.  That is providing we know more about the Olympics than they do.  I went to find out just how Olympic informed our citizens are.  The results - well what do you think?  Venue Confusion? icon_video.gif 

Christian Bookstore

bc-christian-nixon-net.jpgA visit to Pilgrim Book and Bible in Vancouver where the last minute shopping rush is on even as people reflect on the meaning of Christmas.  I must say I have rarely been to so friendly a place.  Holy Day Sales  icon_video.gif

Food Runners

Have you ever gone to a steam tray buffet and wondered what happens to all the leftover food?  It never occurred to me that there's a rather simple means to deal with it.  Send somebody out to pick up such perishable food, take it to where people need it and give it to them.  All because of BC Foodbanks, and a guy named Juan.  icon_video.gif

Giving Back

It's a truism that tough times often bring out the best in people.  That's certainly what happened with a woman I met during my foodbank series.  She went through a tough spell herself, met people whose needs were far greater than her own and decided to help out, and help out and help out.  Deb's Story

Old Films

Back in the 1960's there was a joke about the easiest way to clear a room was to offer to show off home movies.  But you know what?  Wait a couple of decades and those old films suddenly look really interesting.  They become a window on another world.   


Culture Crawl

I saw the posters - 3 Days 300 Artists - and thought there must be a story in this.  The Eastside Culture Crawl has been held every November for more than a decade.  It's a chance for lesser known artists - and plenty of well known ones too - to showcase their work in one frenetic free-for-all at dozens of galleries and makeshift galleries throughout an area roughly from Vancouver's Main Street to Commercial Drive. 

Quest for Food

You've heard of food banks.  But did you know there's a grocery store in Vancouver that offers food at a fraction of the price that it costs in regular supermarkets?  Now, of course, there's a catch.  Still, it is a remarkable service and one you should know about, especially if you qualify for the discounts.  Discount Dinners icon_video.gif

Classic Car

Here's a story about some folks who decided they would not turn their backs on high school drop-outs.  They knew that once a kid leaves school before finishing grade 12 - there's not alot out there to help them get the training needed to obtain good, interesting jobs. 

Rennie's Dream

   If you have spent any time in Vancouver's Chinatown, no doubt your attention has been drawn to the Wing Sang Building on Pender Street.  It was built in 1889 and for the past several years, it's been boarded up as construction crews work on it.  Most of that work is now finished, and it's a remarkable thing to see what it looks like inside.  Private Museum icon_video.gif

Fig Picking

You may have noticed fig trees in Vancouver.  Not too many though, I suspect because we live in what gardeners call a hardy growing zone and getting a good crop of figs is never a sure thing.  But this year's fig crop appears to be pretty good, and the picking has begun.  I joined a special group of fig harvesters, who share their bounty with others.  Tree Fruit Project  icon_video.gif 

Olympic Medals

2010 Olympic announcements are becoming a near daily event as the February games get closer.  But unveiling of the medals to be awarded to athletes surely ranks as a big one - maybe almost as big as the decision to close half of downtown to traffic when competition starts. 

Dog Funeral

In the search and rescue parlance, he was known as a cadaver dog - trained to uncover dead bodies.  And a golden retriever named Barkley performed that role so well that

Fiddle Kids

Remember that Beverly Hillbillies episode about the famous violinist taking up fiddle playing after learning the fiddle player made two million dollars a year?  A classic.  Well, here's yet another reason to take up fiddle playing.

Yarn Bombing

Here's something unusual.  You take a few bags full of wool, get out the knitting needles and create stuff to adorn everything from buses to fire hydrants.   My question (and maybe yours too) WHY????

Got Horseshoes?

Hey everyone.  Just back from holidays, spent variously at an ocean beach, and a fast flowing stream.  The water was warm, the weather was good - so it was one of those lucky vacations we all hope for.  And speaking of which - how about horseshoes, that talisman of things lucky. 


Big Barbecue

Follow along as we join Tara McAteer's mission to provide thousands of free meals to people in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.

Birks Clock

A well known Vancouver landmark has been missing for the past two years.  Where did it go?  And what's happened to it? 

Dying to Get In?

What to do when your graveyard is full, yet the grass still needs cutting?  That's the dilemma Vancouver's biggest cemetery found for itself. 

Eagle Cam Chicks

The eagle cam sensation continues to attract web viewers worldwide, attracted to this up close view of wild life the makes for some amazing reality TV.  

Settlers of Catan

With video games dominating the distraction set, why are board games making a comeback?