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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 

The Dog Guy

bc-afghan-nixon-100420.jpgOwing to the hockey play-offs, our stories have to be a little shorter than normal, as our news show is only half an hour long rather than the usual ninety minutes.  That's why for this story I was unable to put in a key point about my main character. 

John Hall is well known to people on False Creek seawall because of his daily walks to Granville Island in the company of his pack of dogs.  But I almost did not get this story done in time when he told me he had been the keyboard player with the legendary Vancouver rock band 'Prism'.  As soon as I got back to the office, I was on youtube pulling up live 1970s performances of Starship Superstar and Armagedden.  Amazing stuff.  Winner of the 'Group of the Year' Genie in 1980, my mention of Prism drew blank stares from the younger CBC folk.  But listen to lead singer, the late Ron Tabak, sing and you'll see where Axl Rose might have got his sound.  (Surely the name Axl Rose wouldn't produce blank stares, would it?)

Anyway, the piece made it to air and did not really need the Prism reference.  Hall has moved on, plays piano at the Joe Fortes restaurant these days.  Besides, touring with a rock band would have made his dog walks pretty tough.  Afghan Man icon_video.gif

Look Waaaay Up

bc-bicycle-nixon-100416.jpgI often wonder if the world has more kinds of cycles than it has cars.  Unicycles, bicycles, tricycles, those quadricycles with the funny cabana style roof you find a beach resorts.  Within the bike category alone you'll find a whole range of options.  Tandem, mountain, road racing, triathalon, fixie, recumbent, cruiser, touring, BMX and many more can all be found on the streets of Vancouver. 

But I have not seen many in the class known as Tall Bikes.  In fact, the subject of my video story, Lyle Vallie (sorry about the misspelling in the piece) figures only ten such curiousities exist in the city.  His is probably the most remarkable.  It's lightweight abd engineered to position the rider in a normal cycling position, not the easiest thing to do when your seat is close to two metres off the ground.  Lyle is an engineer who, when he's not at his day job with the high end bike shop "Mighty Riders", designs and builds high end bike components.  So this is a pretty special bit of work.  But how does it ride?  Check it out, he said.  That was where my trouble began.  Tall Bike icon_video.gif


By the way, if you're into bicycle technology, Lyle's website is worth a gander.  Here's the LINK

Oldest Bowling Alley

bc-bowling-nixon-100324.jpgHow is it possible to wander the streets of downton Vancouver for decades and not realize there's a bowling alley on Granville Street?  I was shocked at myself.  The place was staring me right in the face, the big neon sign, the bowling pin shaped sandwich board straddling the sidewalk.  Yet somehow I had missed it.

So I decided to go inside, and was shocked once more.  The place is amazing, something right out of the 1930s.  In fact it is right out of the 1930s, virtually unchanged for eighty years.  And most amazing still, it was open for business but completely empty.  Not a bowling ball was rolling anywhere.  I may have discovered a new lunchtime hobby.  But I don't have the time to spare.  Oh ho.  Ho Ho Ho.  What a stupid line, eh?  Had to use it.  Other Commodore 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


Autographs Anyone?

bc-authographs-030210.jpgStories sometimes change when reality strikes and this one is an example.  If you watched any of my Olympic stories for that Gold Medal program "The City" hosted by Ian Hanomansingh, you might have noticed I often visited the Olympic flame on the waterfront where people tended to congregate.  Congregate is a nice way to describe big, huge, crowds drawn like moths to the Olympic flame. 

After the Olympics ended, we gathered in the airy palace of light that is the CBC newsroom to consider mind movies.  Those are ideas in which we imagine how a story will look on television before we ever shoot a frame of video.  Some ideas are difficult to demonstrate, and the mind movie concocted for my story proved a case in point.   Find the post Olympic mood.  Mood.  Mood?  

What does a mood look like?  A glum face that the games are over?  A serene, satisfied demeanour?  Tears?  Joy?  Dancing in the streets?  Fury?  All of these were possibilities I prepared for as I headed back to the flame.   What I found there was mostly - emptiness.  People had abandoned the place.  What mood was that? 

But then I met the subject of my story - still cheerfully engaged in a project he had worked on diligently since the games began, and long before.   As he told me his story - and you really need to watch this one because it is quite a tale - I thought this is one Olympic mood there for anyone to see.  Olympic Record 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

Let's Raise Sheep!

    These are tough days for farmers.  Cattle ranchers still face lingering problems over BSE, hog producers watch demand dwindle over an apparently misplaced fear about the connection between pork and H1N1. 

    But that's not the case with sheep farmers. 

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

Mushroom Hunt

Back in the 90s, I did a story about a group of people who hunt for mushrooms, year round, but mostly in the fall when the forests explode with fungal delights.  They tend to be a furtive, secretive bunch who keep to themselves the location of their favourite 'shrooms.   

U-Brew Boom

Hey, you want a good news story in all this economic doom and gloom? Well, chug on this one. 

Settlers of Catan

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

Nazi Dinosaurs

The story behind the 20 dollar, made in Vancouver, hit youtube video.