Tag Archives: the Drive

My Excellent Birthday Adventure

steampunk, the Drive, Vancouver, East Van

Steampunk often involves gears, bolts and brass. From: http://www.bloodyloud.com/steampunk-jewellery-jm-gates/

Last week, it was my birthday. I’ve lived in Vancouver for years, and in the same neighborhood, yet there are many places on Commercial Drive, or The Drive, that I have never visited. I decided this year that I would choose to wander The Drive and try to hit five places I have yet to enter. I was going to start at noon and have friends join me as they could.

My first stop was the Time Travelers’ Bazaar at the Britannia School. Being no more than a five-minute walk from my place, I thought I knew where it was. However, Britannia is a huge complex that includes the school, daycare, library, skating rink, pool, courts and other buildings. Even if you know your way around it’s not easy to find the right spot. I went toward the cafeteria but all the doors were locked. I ended up picking up three other souls wandering as lost as me. Luckily one of my friends had come from another direction and found his way in.

The Bazaar was just for the day and everything from Steampunk jewellery to hats and bonnets, guns, masks, fascinators, fabric and sundries. I wandered in there fro about a half hour but with three friends trying to find me and coming from various directions, I headed to the Drive and told them which corner I’d be on. We went north for a couple of blocks and found the Windjammer Restaurant. I said they’d only been there a couple of years and someone said no since the 70s. I do know my hood well enough to notice when something goes in. It turns out the cafe has been around since the 70s but used to be on Main until about three years ago. Eight of us didn’t fill it up but definitely gave them a Sunday boost. Fish and chips are the specialty with choices in cod, halibut and salmon, plus poutine and a few other dishes. The special was two moderate pieces of cod, with fries and cole slaw for $6. The meal filled us and tasted fine. I don’t know if I’ve ever had stellar fish and chips. but the ones in England last year were better. These were fine and worth the price but nothing to write home about.

Commercial Drive, Vancouver cafes, food, burgers

Cannibal Cafe specializes in meat and is one of the newest restaurants on the Drive.

We crossed the street at Venables and then moved south along the Drive, wandering in and out of shops I’ve been in before. But part of the adventure was for my friends as well. Some people left, others joined and we continued along the way. The second place I wandered into that I’ve never really noticed much before was the Mr. Pets. It’s a large pet store across from Mark’s Pet Stop near 3rd and Commercial. I tend to support the little guy and usually stop in Mark’s but I was looking for special kitty kibble to help my cat who doesn’t jump too well. The shop has everything from cats to canaries (supplies) though I could hear a few birds. I actually didn’t explore the full store but bought the kitty treats.

Having eaten late and feeling still full we just stopped for a drink at the Cannibal Cafe with decorations above the prep area of plastic knives and cutting instruments covered in fake blood. They have beer and cider on tap and specialize in hand-ground meaty burgers plus smoked meat, salmon and turkey, and of course poutine. While we only drank, a friend says the burgers are good. Prices look reasonable and I’ll come back some night for a bite.

head shop, bongs, Smokers Corner, the Drive

This creature is for smoking. Found at the Smoker’s Corner

We were now into late afternoon. We stopped in front of a store’s window display that held strange blown-glass fish monsters. It turned out these were bongs for smoking your favorite substance. The head shop is called The Smoker’s Corner and only one friend and I were brave enough to wander in and look at all the artistic glass pipes. The weirdest gadgets were gas masks with long, clear green or pink tubes. I guess it meant you could get stoned and get your fetish on at the same time. None of us smoke but it was an adventure in weird pipes, to say the least.

I also popped into the long-running Dr. Vigari Gallery. It’s not new to me but the location is so it counts as half a bonus point. The last place on the Drive that was new to me was the Mediterranean Specialty Foods. The Drive is known for its Italian flavor, sporting many coffee shops, the Portuguese Club, old Italian restaurants now revamped, stores specializing in pasta, olives and salamis and El Sureno, another ethnic food store. I’ve been in all the others and somehow missed this one. It was a treasure chest, with bottles of different oils and vinegars, olives and peppers, pasta and spices lining the shelves like a caravan of goods. Definitely a cornucopia for the foodie. I’ll be going back here the next time I’m shopping. There are more oil than all the other shops put together. I also have some friends who like to play with their food so this place will be great for gift shopping.

food, olives, oils, the Drive, Commercial Drive, foodies

Mediterranean Specialty Foods. Owner Jack Elmasu. From Montecristo Magazine

That was the last official stop and since it was Sunday all of the shops were closing. What else to do on a birthday tour? Why, stop somewhere else to get a drink. We stopped at the Dime Roadhouse, a remade restaurant where one of the old pasta restaurants lived for years. I’ve only been there twice before and the sound was so loud you had to scream. For whatever reason; perhaps the better than expected good weather, being a Sunday, everyone was hungover…the noise was at a lower level and we could actually talk at normal level. A few more friends joined as others left. We ate dinner there. The Dime’s food runs no more that $4.95 for a dish. You don’t get massive portions but I had butternut squash risotto with goat cheese and it was enough and fairly tasty. You can’t go too wrong. Another friend had nachos for one; again, a good enough size. And if it’s not enough, order something else. Since I had been at the Dime before, it doesn’t count, but I’d not been to the bathroom there before. 🙂

For a Sunday Birthday adventure I got to show some of my friends more of my hood and after a very long time of living there I found new places. It was low key and great day out.

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Neighbors

Vancouver has neighborhoods set up with market areas. It’s not all neighborhoods but some of the better known ones are Kerrisdale, Kitsilano, the West End, Champlain Heights, Commercial, Fraser/Kingsway, Main St., etc. We have a few malls outside of downtown but not a lot. What these community shopping areas do is keep people local and able to shop within walking distance.

I live near Commercial, which has many shops and numerous restaurants/bars. We have several fresh produce markets that are cheaper and better quality than Safeway’s, which I rarely ever go to (and it’s farther). Some of the places have live music and there are a variety of funky shops from clothing to futons. Other cities have different styled areas. Calgary is so spread out that they have big box shopping centers everywhere and you have to drive around the center as it’s not set up for walking. Of course, they sometimes get real winter too.

I do remember being in Montreal, and like Vancouver there were shopping districts. These tended to be much larger but then so is the population of Montreal. What these areas do though, is give a better sense of community and culture, as each place takes on a particular flavor. Kerrisdale has wealthy older people and part of the Jewish community. Kitsilano is trendy with a lot of young (yuppy) couples and families.

Commercial Drive has the old Italian community and a lot of artists. We’re considered the bohemian part of town and there are a fair number of artist studios in the vicinity, which spawned the East Van Culture Crawl. This happens once a year (this year it’s Nov. 21-23) where studios are opened to the public to wander through. Some have demonstrations and some have items for sale. Thousands of people now go through the Crawl.

Even more than community of shops, I have found a community with my neighbors. Our street is not very long and partly blue collar industrial. Our particular block is the only one with houses on both sides of the street (about six per side). That’s pretty small and most of us have lived there for years. I’m not a homeowner but a long-term renter. I know my neighbors and through my landlords the people across the street. We nod to each other, stop and talk as someone is raking the leaves, or knock on a door to drop off a jar of jam.

My neighbors have a key to my place. If I’m stuck somewhere I can call them to feed the cat. We watch each others’ homes and cars and we’re aware if there are unfamiliar people in yards.The part I like best is just being able to say hi to my neighbors, to recognize them and their pets. On our little street, I like this sense of familiarity. When I was young I don’t remember it being this strong but then I was a kid. My mother knew the neighbors and I was long-term enemies with my neighbor two doors down, while my brother and hers were best friends.

So I’m glad I have that community sense in my neighborhood. It makes it real, and borrowing an egg or a cup of sugar are things that happen often enough, as well as stopping in for a glass of wine or to watch a show. And we have a lower crime rate because we know each other, and better understanding of any happenings. Here’s to my neighbors.

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My Mental Health Day

Thursday was my health day. Because I work in one city and my doctors are in another, I try to get all the appointments together. So I took a sick day to see my podiatrist, my GP and get my eyes checked after the laser surgery.

Right now it’s warm to downright hot in Vancouver. An unusually hot day is anything over 30 Celsius. So yesterday was a nice day to take off. I stopped by Art’s Auto on Clark Dr. He’d worked on my burned out signal light earlier in the week but it still wasn’t working right so he said to bring it in Thursday. However, after I left that day, it seemed to work fine so I dropped by to pay him. He said, oh don’t worry about it. If you have problems, come back. Not only does he run a good mechanic’s shop but he does things like this. Saturn looked at my car and charged me $90 to tell me I needed to spend $600. Art looked at the same problem but when he couldn’t fix it, he didn’t charge me a penny for the time. Thanks, Art.

Then I mosied downtown to my GP’s. Unfortunately it’s one of those tune-up appointments where everything is checked and probed. The oh so fun pap smear and after a certain age, the doctor says, it’s best to check the anus too. Oh joy. But relatively painless if discomforting.  

I then had an hour to kill so I walked a few blocks down Davie. I haven’t gone along there in years. Many of the shops are the same and I just wandered in and out of a few stores in the sun. It amuses me that the stores that have men’s underwear in the windows always have mannequins with prodigious packages. Those gay boys. Then I went back to my podiatrist and he chipped away at the orthotic (unfortunately it didn’t work when I tried it later).

It’s nice to have a day off during the week and it’s been a long time since I have taken one. With a few hours until the eye appointment I decided to go to the Comicshop, my old haunting ground. I had worked there for years as a book buyer and it’s one reason why I get any score at all on a geek test. Well, that and being into science fiction and fantasy, even if I don’t dress like a Trekkie. I picked up a few comics that I still read: anything by Los Bros Hernandez, (the Love & Rockets related comics), Fallen Angel (though I’m starting to get tired of it), Castle Waiting and Echo (the new comic from the author of Strangers in Paradise).

After talking with the guys, Doug and Brent, for a while I decided to wander up and down 4th Ave. in Kits. This is the trendoid yuppie area. I used to know it well when I worked there but it’s been maybe a year since I went into the shops. The Bath Shop was gone. So was one of kitchen shops. Both are now clothing stores. Other shops had come and gone and by the higher level of trendification I could tell the rents had had been substantially raised. I found a little craft store, a charity run for people with disabilities. They sell all sorts of handmade toys and sewn objects. There were some sock monkeys so I checked them out for Kij, who always needs a source for more. The woman there confirmed that the rents had shot so high that many people had to leave. The charity had shrunk to a smaller space to survive. I figure it’s only a matter of time before the Comicshop can’t afford the rent. 

I did go into Capers when I saw there were lovely cream yellow and deep purple gladiolas and bought some for my place. It was also fun to just walk along and look at the people and the way they act. I bought a top and then drove downtown to the laser eye clinic for my checkup.

One bad thing is that it’s during a workday and rush hour. I actually found some metered parking that wasn’t too far. As I was about to put money in, the meter the guy who collects the coins came by. I told him to go first and then joked that he could just give me the money. He said, I’ll give you some free time. How much do you need? I said an hour but realized afterwards I needed less. He popped my loonie through the parking meter twice and then gave it back to me. Thanks, meter guy.

Eyes are mostly doing what they’re supposed to though my midrange is still dragging. I go back in three months to see if that’s improved. When I got home, I parked the car and then walked up to the Drive to buy some food for me and the wee beast, and to get some cider for a friend’s barbecue in the evening. It was just too nice a day to stay inside. And considering the worry I still have over my mutant tooth, which is healing slowly and which they say I might now lose (I’ll look like hillbilly trash if that happens because I can’t afford $3000 for an implant…so I’m freaked), I wanted to enjoy the full day.

That’s why I went to the barbee and sat around talking to a few people. I haven’t been in a great mood of late, too stressed by money issues and boredom. My mental health day was just really pleasant and low key. Those little acts of generosity by the mechanic and the meter guy were uplifiting. When I finally got home I was going to write my 200 words but I fell asleep with the laptop on my lap.

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