Shop owner and brew enthusiast, Curtis Van Marck

Barley’s Homebrewing Supplies a welcome addition to Sapperton

There is a significant amount of excitement at my house these days because no longer will my husband have to head to Vancouver to pick up beer making supplies (one of the better known and more popular suppliers in the region has set up shop on Hastings, just east of Main) to knock off a batch of basement brew. Even more exciting is that just-opened-today local business, Barley’s Homebrewing Supplies,  has opted to find space in Sapperton – within walking distance of our house. This bodes well for those doh! moments in home brewing when you realize you have the wrong kind of yeast or not enough hops, or not enough growlers to bottle the batch (although judging from the glass collection under my stairs, that isn’t likely to happen anytime soon).

Home brewing has become pretty huge in our house lately. Ross and his friends have started out big, choosing to go all-grain right off the bat, meaning, they are actually boiling up the grains rather than mixing extracts up. It’s akin to starting with grapes when you make wine rather than buying a kit with powders or extracts you mix together. Purists argue it is better beer, and also more controllable or customizable. Once every few weeks, our basement and laundry room are transformed into full-on nano brewery, and I suspect it is only a matter of time before more permanent brewing installations will be suggested for that empty corner of the basement.

Today I popped into Barley’s Homebrewing Supplies to see what owner Curtis Van Marck, had to offer on his first official day in business. Curtis hails from Edmonton by way of East Van, and chose New Westminster as the location for his business because of a large home brewing population in the suburbs, and because of its proximity to the Skytrain. And while I can’t imagine personally hauling 16 pounds of grains to or on the train, the proximity to a Modo car sharing car at Sapperton station is definitely attractive for those who opt not to own their own car.

Van Marck has lined his shop (located at 101-455 E Columbia Street) with tubs of grains, a variety of yeasts, and assorted other supplies like sanitizer, bottle racks, bungs, carboys, and mash tuns. Don’t know what any of that is? It’s okay to ask. On his site Curtis offers some advice and how-to’s to get you going, in-store, he offers the supplies and gear to make it happen (plus a shelf for us wine drinkers and wannabe wine brewers, though that’s not the focus of the shop). Fun feature? A bike powered grain mill.

While inventory is still trickling in, he is now up and running every day except Tuesdays (breaking rank on the long standing closed-on-Mondays-New-Westminster-ism that drives me bonkers) and maintains the following hours: Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays: 10-6, Thursdays he is open later to accomodate those that plan ahead for weekend brews from 10-8, and Sundays 11-5.

You can find Barley’s online, on Facebook, and on Twitter.

(If you are into homebrewing in New West, you can also check out the Brew Westminster Google Group (you need to ask to join to cut down on spammers) and use #brewwestminster on Twitter.)

Royal City Writers record stories that might otherwise remain untold

The Lookout Emergency Aid Society sign on the Cliff Block building in New Westminster. Photo: Diane Haynes.

The Lookout Emergency Aid Society sign on the Cliff Block building in New Westminster. Photo: Diane Haynes.

For my tenth birthday, I got my first computer. There were no games on it, so I mostly just used it to type up the many short stories and journal entries I had composed in my ten years. Those files are still sitting on a floppy disc, which is currently in a box along with the macaroni crafts and storybooks of my childhood. It never once occurred to me that the ability to keep a record of those things is a privilege that, unfortunately, isn’t granted to everyone. New Westminster’s Royal City Writers (RCW) is working towards changing that.

New Westminster has been home to the Cliff Block, a transitional housing unit run by the Lookout Emergency Aid Society, for over a decade. The residents of the Cliff Block, who have experienced challenges ranging from mental illness, to addiction, to homelessness, receive support, supervision, and direction from Lookout and the Cliff Block staff. Most importantly, they are given the opportunity to connect with their communities in a meaningful way.

I didn’t know about any of this until September of this year. Coming from Coquitlam, where there is no equivalent to Lookout, I’ve lived my life with a certain amount of distance between myself and places like the Cliff Block. While I was aware that organizations like that existed, I’d always operated under the assumption that they worked autonomously from the communities in which they were situated. That is, until this fall when I met local author Diane Haynes and began working with her and a small group of dedicated volunteers as part of Royal City Writers.

Launched just a few weeks ago, Royal City Writers’ pilot project pairs writers with residents of the Cliff Block. Over the course of eight weeks, our volunteers are conversing with residents, audio recording their words, and putting their stories into print. The project was built on the idea that storytelling forges powerful connections within communities, and our intention is to give voice to those stories that might otherwise go untold.

Haynes first came up with the idea earlier this year. “The inspiration for Royal City Writers came from two sources,” she says. “My own recent illness showed me how isolating such an experience can be. And my recovery involved the practice of yoga, which includes the concept of karma yoga. The idea is that you give back to your community the strength and peace you discover through your practice. I realized I could do that through writing.”

At surface level, it’s a simple idea, but one I think could make a big difference in the community at large. It’s an opportunity for people who are from a whole range of backgrounds, but are living in the same place, to learn from each other. We hope that this experience will prove equally meaningful for Cliff Block residents and volunteer writers alike. Since beginning work on the pilot project, we’ve recruited an absolutely fantastic group of volunteers ranging from a social activist to a librarian and children’s author to a victim support worker, all of whom are enthusiastic about bringing other people’s stories to light.

“I admit I was nervous when I entered the Cliff block for the first time,” says Holly Andrews, an RCW volunteer. “Who was I to walk into a stranger’s home and ask him to tell me about his life? But actually, my conversations with my writing partner have become a highlight of my week. Learning about schizophrenia from a person who has it has been incredibly eye opening, and I’m pleased to have the opportunity to help him tell his story. Hopefully, sharing this story and others like it will challenge some of the stigmas associated with mental illness in our community.”

New West City Councilor Jonathan Cote believes “this is a project that has the capacity to bring the whole New West community closer together, to build connections between those who have experienced obstacles such as homelessness, poverty, mental illness, and addiction, and those who maybe have not. There’s huge potential here.”

As a small part of Royal City Writers, I can say that thus far, the pilot project is living up to Mr. Côté’s expectation. Writing partners have met with each other several times now, and the results have been encouraging. Working on the nuts and bolts of getting this project off the ground had distracted me from the bigger picture, but the stories that have emerged from the writing sessions have put everything back into perspective. Everyone has the right to speak and be heard, and I’m proud to be part of a project that allows people to do that.

Vagabond Players presents Dear Santa (plus: a contest!)

The Vagabond Players present Dear Santa

The Vagabond Players present Dear Santa

There is deep love and long standing commitment for community theatre in New Westminster. The Vagabond Players, formed in 1937 and the longest-running community theatre group in BC, have continued to present engaging productions over years in the Bernie Legge Theatre, a cozy playhouse nestled in Queens Park. Operated completely by volunteers, the Vagabond Players present four or five productions each season and you are just in time to catch their next show, Dear Santa, by Norm Foster.

Have you ever wondered what it is really like at the North Pole? Why don’t you come on down to the Bernie Legge Theatre in Queens Park to have a look? Santa and his busy elves have cooked up a great show for you. Join the fun as Santa Claus tries to fulfill a child’s special Christmas wish while his staff struggles to overcome a supply shortage at the North Pole. This is a laugh-filled holiday play delightfully entertaining for adults and innocent enough for the youngest boy or girl.

This lively comedy introduces a host of quirky characters—all of whom are essential to get Santa ready for his Christmas Eve tour. The show stars Sue Sparlin as Santa; Greg Dersken as Algernon, the efficient Chief of Staff; Kathleen Kelly Driscoll as Bozidar, the head honcho in charge of the elves; and Denise Fullbrook as Santa’s housekeeper. Adding to the fun are Jim Bjorkes as a pushy sleigh salesman, and Claire Temple, Faith Hurd and Andra Louie (that’s me!) as the visitors who create more complications for Santa. Rounding out the cast are Kelly Avery, Alice Woodbury, Rob Larsen, Suzanne Biehl, Helen Volkow, Amy Goheen, Lindsey McGaire and Alison Main-Tourneur as elves and choristers.

Directed by Jacqollyne Keath, Dear Santa runs Dec 6 – 23, Thurs – Sat at 8pm; Sunday matinees at 2:00pm. Special Saturday matinee, Dec. 22 – 2:00pm. Two-for-one previews Dec. 6 & 7. Book now: 604-521-0412 or online at reservations@VagabondPlayers.ca.

CONTEST: If you would like to enter to win a pair of tickets to see Dear Santa please add a comment below telling us what’s on your Christmas wish list. On Friday, December 7 a winner will be drawn at random.

‘Royal City’ swag lights coming back to Columbia Street

Several weeks ago the City of New Westminster hosted an Economic Forum. The forum was intended to highlight the changes that have been occurring in the city and promote future economic opportunities. The keynote speaker at this event was real estate marketer Bob Rennie. At the end of his speech Mr. Rennie suggested that New Westminster ditch the Royal City moniker for something more contemporary. Although I was out of town during this speech, I could almost feel the collective groan in the community following this comment. Personally I do not agree that New West should ditch the ‘Royal City’ nickname, as it is engrained in the collective consciousness of our town. Having said that, and probably more to the point of Mr. Rennie, the city should be prepared to look at how and when this traditional moniker is used.

That same week on a seemingly unrelated topic, the City made the decision to install swag lights along Columbia Street.

Historic Seasonal Lighting over Columbia Street in the Downtown (Image courtesy VPL: 41806)

In the 1950’s swag lights hung over Columbia Street and contributed to a sense of pride in the community. During this time Columbia Street was known as the Miracle Mile for retail activity and drew in shoppers from all over the region.  The decades that followed were not so kind to this street though, as New Westminster largely became known as a small, old-fashioned, inaccessible community. Just as prominent retailers began to leave the street, so did the traditional crown swag lights.

Today Columbia Street is starting to make a rebound; one only needs to walk along the street to see that something is happening down there. So it seems only fitting that the city has decided to permanently install replica crown swag lights along the street. To be honest, I am not a big fan. I recognize that this is mainly a taste issue and my opinions are very subjective. I have spoken to many people and heard a range of comments from “I think they are going to look great down there” to “the design of the lights looks dated and old-fashioned”.  I am also probably the last person anyone should be getting style advice from. Having said that, I love cities and I take great passion in exploring the secrets behind what makes a city a great place.

I have been fortunate to visit a lot of great cities during my life and I don’t believe that these types of beautification programs are a key ingredient. I don’t need street banners telling me that I am in the big apple to appreciate New York. Nor do I don’t need signage indicating that I have entered the hipster capital of the world when I walk through Portland. There is something genuine about these cities and there is something genuine about New Westminster as well. Our historic buildings, our beautiful streetscapes and the river all tell the story of our community.

I also think we have lost an opportunity to allow ourselves to be inspired by the swag lights from a past era, but then to take this idea and design contemporary lighting that speaks to what the city is today and where we want to go in the future. New Westminster will always be the Royal City; I am just not convinced we need to put up ’50s-era stylized crown lights along Columbia Street to maintain our special place in the heart of Queen Victoria.

Helping Others Over the Holidays

Photo by sxc.hu user rosenhamer, used with permission

During the upcoming holiday season we frequently get asked about charity drives and other ways our readers can share the spirit of the holidays with other New Westminster residents. What we noticed this year is many of our local small businesses are taking the initiative to start something and we think that’s amazing. It’s hard enough to run a business but to also coordinate something selfless that contributes to the greater good of our community shows us that businesses in New Westminster really do acare about the community.

Here’s a round up of some of the programs we’ve managed to find (including a few initiatives by various community agencies), and we’d love it if you can add in the comments any you know of that we missed so that we can update this post.

Feeding the Hungry

Paul at the Heritage Grill for years has done an annual Christmas dinner where anyone can come in for a traditional turkey dinner at no cost at the Grill. His staff volunteer for the gig. Give him a call if you’d like to help out at 604 759 0819

Shoe Drive

The amazing women running Brick and Mortar Loving on Begbie are collecting mens’ shoes to give to the needy. Used or new, drop off your shoes at their store and they’ll be sure they get into the right hands.

18th Annual Coat Drive on the Downtown Eastside

Roni and her team at the Shop 4 Paws Thrift Shop on 12th is in need of donated coats for her 18th Annual Coat Drive that we’ve spotlit before that takes place Decembeer 10th.  Roni says that each person gets a coat, some warm soup, hot chocolate, and whatever socks, hats, and mittens they can muster up. She points out “many of the people who come to the coat drive are actually from New West – I see many of the same faces walking the streets of New West, so it is nice to know we are helping not only the folks from the Downtown Eastside in Vancouver, but also folks from here, too.” Roni needs coats and helping hands, so contact her at the shop on 12th at 6th or call her at 604 540 7722.

Adopt a Family

The great folks at Family Services have stepped up this year to take over the Adopt A Family program. This year, they have about 120 families in need on their list, and only about 40 sponsors so far. Sponsors buy gifts or provide funds for the family and provide money for a Christmas celebration. Please contact them if you can help at adoptafamily@fsgv.ca or call 604 525 9144.

Cruise for Food

Paddlewheeler Riverboat Tours is offering two upcoming charity cruises on December 2nd in benefit of the local food bank. Admission on the two sailings (one is from 2-3, the other is from 3:30-4:30) is by donation plus at least one canned good which will go directly to the Food Bank. As well, they’re happy to accept additional canned goods. The captain, crew, and live entertainment are all volunteering their time. Contact the tour office for more info and to make reservations (requested) at 604 525 4465 or email info@vancouverpaddlewheeler.com

Redbrick Home Holiday Special

Thursday November 29th, from 5-9pm Michael at Redbrick Home is offering a special evening of shopping, nibblies, beverages, discounts and helping the food bank. Bring in any non perishable food items, and receive discounts on merchandise (25% off any one regular priced item or 15% off any one sale priced item), and with any purchase, be entered to win a $250 gift card, drawn November 30th.

Sapperton Tree Sale

The 5th Annual Sapperton Tree Sale is happening December 9th, from 11-3 with all sorts of local Sapperton merchants supporting and sponsoring this event. Buy your tree while enjoying music and hot chocolate while you support the RCH Foundation. Please note, tree sales are cash only. Check out this poster for more info.

If you know of anymore we’ve missed, please don’t hesitate to let us know in the comments!

What does growing income disparity in Metro Van mean for New West?

I read an interesting article recently from Atlantic Cities about income disparity in Vancouver, based on a research paper produced at the University of Toronto.

The report findings reveal three ‘cities’ within Metro Van. City #1 includes higher-status areas in historically upper-middle-class neighbourhoods, gentrified urban areas and redeveloped zones within areas like New West that are close to parks, views or the waterfront. City #2 includes the traditionally stable middle-class neighbourhoods and City #3 includes neighbourhoods where the average income fell more than 15% relative to the metropolitan area.

While we do have our own issues with income disparity in New West, I found it interesting to see where we stand in contrast to the region. The blue-shaded areas are the areas where household incomes have grown 15-288% more quickly than the metropolitan average between 1970 and 2005. The white areas are neighbourhoods that have seen an increase or decrease under 15%, and the red areas represent income decreases of more than 15% since 1970. If you zoom into the map (which is unfortunately pretty grainy, making details hard to see), New West shows up as largely white & blue, while large sections of nearby Burnaby, Coquitlam and Surrey have seen significant declines in household incomes since the ’70s.

Map showing average changes in household income by neighbourhood in Metro Vancouver between 1970 - 2005

A map showing average changes in household income by neighbourhood in Metro Vancouver between 1970 – 2005

A map illustrating the change in average household incomes between 1970-2005 in the Lower Mainland shows incomes in New West increasing in the Queensborough and the West End neighbourhoods, while remaining flat in Queen’s Park, Downtown/Uptown and other parts of the city. Elsewhere in the Lower Mainland, affluent neighbourhoods seem to have seen incomes increase, while many formerly middle-income neighbourhoods have seen incomes decline.

According to the report, “The three neighbourhood groupings or “Cities” represent a dramatic transition from the old model of concentric social areas with poverty at the urban core and a solid band of middle income districts in the suburbs. Relative to metropolitan changes, significant income gains and losses are occurring in both city and suburban neighbourhoods. There is more inequality with 54 percent of the 2006 CMA population living in tracts that either gained or lost more than 15 percent of their income relative to the metropolitan average over the 35-year period. Equal numbers of people, about 565,000, lived in the gaining and losing tracts.”

So what does this mean for New West? Well, the report illustrates that in the current economic climate, to those who have, more will be given. And to those who do not have, even what they have will be taken away.

I think this illustration shows New West in a favourable position within the Lower Mainland. While the actual income numbers continue to show significant lower income populations here than in many other more affluent parts of the city, it shows that most citizens have either maintained their incomes or increased them – which is significant in an era when so many have seen incomes eroded. Income inequality in surrounding areas appears to be worsening, and that will result in social issues that will impact us all.

There are troubling implications when you look at who is gaining and who is losing. The report says: “City #1 is overwhelmingly the home of the native-born. In contrast there has been a marked increase in immigrants in the remainder of Metro Vancouver, and especially in City #3, which has shifted from a majority native-born in 1971 to an immigrant majority in 2006. City #3 also includes a plurality of visible minorities (61 percent) while City #1 does not (23 percent).” I don’t have enough information to be able to interpret this nugget, but it does raise questions whether opportunities for immigrants are shrinking or if some other factors are at play.

During New West’s renaissance, the City appears to have consciously tried to guard against simply pushing out lower income populations through protecting and supporting local nonprofits, protecting low-income housing and taking the initiative to house the homeless (rather than just complaining about how it’s the job of the Province to take care of that problem). As a result, we are likely to continue housing and caring for a large number of the region’s lower income families. Is that bad? While I think many people automatically think about the most abrasive marginalized people when considering the issue (those who are hardest to empathize with), we do well to remind ourselves that low-income families include seniors, new immigrants, single-parent families and others who have simply been dealt a raw hand. We can’t just pretend these people don’t exist, and we can’t write them all off as having ‘made their own beds’ to lie in.

Juxtaposed with regional trends indicating worsening income inequality, it’s good to remember that many of us in the middle risk sliding into that red zone, whether through corporate downsizing, developing health problems and being unable to work for a time, lack of financial literacy (leading to taking on too much debt – another significant problem), retiring with inadequate savings or any number of other misadventures. We all believe these things won’t happen to us, but the reality is that we’re not so special or so smart that it can’t. Every one of us could make a mistake or fail to spot and address a potential threat that could set our families back economically. Wouldn’t you prefer to live in a city where there was somewhere to turn for help, if the worst should happen?

The shops I wish we had in New West

If New West's fairy godmother offered to fast-track a few new shops, here's what I'd wish for ... (Photo: suttonhoo on Flickr)

If New West’s fairy godmother offered to fast-track a few new shops, here’s what I’d wish for … (Photo: suttonhoo on Flickr)

I have many favourite boutiques and restaurants in New West, and it seems to me there are more opening all the time. But if I had a fairy godmother who would fast-track a few new businesses for me, here is what I would wish for:

A truly great coffee shop
New West does not lack for coffee shops, but it does lack for great coffee. A JJ Bean would be awesome, or better yet, something like Raw Canvas in Yaletown, which combines great coffee with a great creative space (and turns into a wine bar / lounge at night!). I want it down on Columbia Street, which just seems like the right place for a cool cafe.

An indoor play space for kids (that is also comfortable for parents)
While restaurants and cafes with adjacent play areas are popular in other parts of the city (Kinder Cafe in Coquitlam, Rocky Mountain Flatbread on Main, Cafe Deux Soleils on Commercial), there isn’t anything in New West or nearby. There are also large indoor active play areas, Koko’s Activity Centre in Port Moody, Crash Crawly’s in Coquitlam and Jungle Jac’s in Pitt Meadows, but all of these are awful for parents – and far away to boot. I would love to see a fun place where kids can play on a rainy day and parents can sit in a comfortable chair and chat with each other over good quality coffee and snacks. Bonus points if the food is healthier / more interesting than just hot dogs and pizza. I had thought that the space where Dynamic Health and Fitness is now in Royal City Centre would have made a great large indoor play space, but River Market would be another good bet for a mid-sized space. A restaurant with a small play area could be done anytime by any of our existing restaurants. Yes, it’s fewer tables, but you wouldn’t believe the number of times I’ve overheard local parents (mostly moms) pining for such a space in New West.

A hip greasy spoon diner
Back when Will and I lived downtown (years ago!), we’d often head out to The Templeton for a hearty, hip breakfast on Granville St. This weekend when we were considering where to go in New West for breakfast, there was nowhere that quite fit the bill: independents like the Coming Home Cafe and The Hideout Cafe were likely to be closed (it was Remembrance Day) and we were left with various chain restaurants or the greasiest of greasy spoons (cheap, but no atmosphere and mediocre food). We ended up at The Boathouse for brunch, which was good in its own way, but we spent the meal daydreaming about what a great Columbia St. eatery would be like. Re-Up/Fathom sometimes has brunch on the weekends, and it is very good. Maybe the owners could be convinced to open a breakfast joint on Columbia next?

A brew pub
Last night Twitter erupted in disappointment when word got out that Brown’s Social House would be the pub tenant at the Brewery District in Sapperton. New West has a nascent craft beer community, including some intrepid home-brewers, and a local brew pub was on their wish list. I’m sure Brown’s will become a popular destination for a certain type of night out, but for now Hops remains the beer geek’s pub of choice in New West. But if there are any brew pub entrepreneurs out there reading this: Sapperton wants YOU.

A gift shop for men
We’ve got Brick and Mortar Living, Lofty Living, Cadeaux and Sonse Design (among others) where you can find a lovely little something for a woman, but men are much harder to shop for. I’d love to see someone open a Brick and Mortar-style boutique with little things for men to covet and women to gift. Ideally it would tap into the Art of Manliness movement – most men’s gift stores I’ve seen are full of unimaginative, uninspired garbage. In my opinion, this sort of store would do well on Columbia St., to tap into the wedding market and give brides something really nice to buy for their husbands, or grooms to select for their groomsmen.

An independent toy store
Yes, we had one of those (two if you count the oddly named & situated Kids Kloset), but since Pedagogy Toys closed, there’s been nowhere to go locally to buy gifts for kids. I love shopping at toy stores, and I would love to see someone give an independent toy store another go. I think a toy store would do well uptown. There are lots of parents and grandparents out and about during the day, heading to Moody Park and the Library, and I could see a lot of walk-by traffic from folks in the area to do banking, grocery shopping or other errands. A toy store in the vein of the Village Toy Shop in Port Moody would be perfect.

A neighbourhood coffee shop on 12th St
Poor, poor 12th St. It has struggled for so long and is in quite the slump right now. The hill really limits how far people will walk the street, especially without a chain of awesomeness to draw you up, one store at a time. Amber’s Choice is a nice cafe at the top of the hill, but if you’re around 6th Ave or below, it’s a long way to hike for a coffee and a muffin. John Ashdown’s old cafe, Village Coffee Lounge, was in a perfect spot for neighbourhood customers, and as a resident of the West End I certainly feel its absence. I’d love to see more tightly clustered retail on 12th St., particularly around the nexus of 12th St and 6th Ave, anchored by a great community cafe.

A large mixed-use development at 22nd St. SkyTrain
Here’s the biggest item on my wish list. I want to see 22nd St. SkyTrain station built up. Last year, three of the five or six houses immediately next to the SkyTrain were up for sale at the same time, and I was holding my breath hoping a developer would buy them – alas, not how that story turned out. Still, I think a smaller-scale Plaza 88 ‘Shops at New West Station’-type development would be great there. The proximity to downtown on the SkyTrain is awesome from that station, just 25 minutes to Waterfront and less than 20 to the edge of downtown. The price per square foot vs. travel time to downtown work would be ideal for many folks. Plus, it would provide some walkable and useful businesses for the existing local residents in the area – and potentially lift the fortunes of some of the 20th St businesses as well (which suffer from the same issues as 12th St).

There’s more of course. I’d love to see more wearable street fashion, not just bridal, and more of a visible arts presence. I miss having an art supply store on the street (years ago Full Spectrum Art Supply bowed to the bridal market and turned into Paper Poet, a wedding invitation & papercraft store), and I often wish for an independent bookstore of the type I enjoy in La Conner, WA (The Next Chapter, check it out if you are ever in the area. Fireplace, comfy chairs, decent coffee and an expertly curated selection of titles).

But that’s me. What would you like to see?

Economic development will be vital to New Westminster’s future

Population growth by age in the New West trade area (including Burnaby and the Tri-Cities). Source: Urban Futures Institute

Population growth by age in the New West trade area (including Burnaby and the Tri-Cities). Source: Urban Futures Institute

At the New Westminster Economic Development Forum on Thursday, Andrew Ramlo from the Urban Futures Institute presented some unsettling insights on upcoming demographic changes in the city, and shared some truly geeky statistics illustrating New West’s economic strengths and weaknesses. A few pertinent highlights:

  • New Westminster, while attracting large numbers of adults in the prime working years between 20-55, will face the same tsunami of grey as the rest of the region when the Baby Boomers retire. Because of advances in health care, the population will remain overweighted by seniors for a long time.
  • New Westminster’s biggest economic ‘exports’ are health care and education. Fraser Health and Douglas College are the two biggest employers in the city. Public sector employers (school board, city staff, other government organizations) are also a huge source of jobs in the city.

To me, this highlights the need to focus now on economic development in New Westminster because:

  • Seniors pay lower property taxes while requiring more tax-funded services
  • Hospitals and educational institutions are exempt from paying property tax, so expanding these institutions, while providing jobs does not provide more tax revenue to the City (note: other levels of government sometimes provide grants in lieu of taxes to offset some of the cost to cities, but it doesn’t always make up for the lost revenue)
  • City governments depend on property taxes to fund services and infrastructure improvements, and are restricted from demanding other forms of taxation
  • New Westminster has one of the more dense concentrations of nonprofit organizations in the Lower Mainland, and most of those organizations don’t pay property taxes either
  • There is very little undeveloped land remaining in the city that could be built up in order to increase tax revenue

Tax-exempt nonprofits and institutions benefit from city services, yet don’t put money back in the pot. The rationale for this is that these types of institutions provide a great social benefit to the city and its public, which justifies exempting them from paying tax. That’s all well and good, but what happens when a city has more than its share of nonprofits within its borders, and then also suffers a drastic reduction in the size of the taxpaying population?

This makes me concerned about the long-term sustainability of the City’s finances. The City’s largest employers are not paying property tax, and ever-larger numbers of residents will be getting significant breaks on their tax bills as they reach retirement age. Meanwhile, there’s a ton of city infrastructure that needs upgrading, and provincial and federal governments keep offloading responsibility for vulnerable populations such as the mentally ill and the homeless to cities. That leaves an ever-larger tax burden for those of us who are under 50.

This is the same story across North America to some extent, but I believe that when you look at New West, we are currently not as well equipped to balance out declining residential property tax revenues with business tax revenue. Because we do have such a high concentration of nonprofit, government, healthcare and educational employers, and because we have so little commercial property, I fear this makes our city more vulnerable than others unless we take action now to strengthen our economy.

The answer isn’t just to attract younger people to pay the taxes the seniors are exempt from. There just aren’t enough young bodies to balance out the immense impact of the Baby Boomers. As I see it, the City needs to act now to diversify its sources of revenue. As I mentioned, the City is limited in its ability to impose new taxes, but it does have other sources of revenue already, including Development Cost Compensation (DCC) from new development, as well as grants from other levels of government, various licenses, fees and fines. But a key missing link in New Westminster is economic development, not just continuing to add more tax-exempt government-funded and non-profit jobs, but attracting more new for-profit businesses to this city.

Comparison of street front rental rates in the Lower Mainland. Source: InvestNewWest.ca

Comparison of street front rental rates in the Lower Mainland. Source: InvestNewWest.ca

New Westminster is succeeding at attracting some new large employers. The TransLink offices, for example, will be opening soon at Sapperton’s new Brewery District development, but as as I mentioned in my last post, we need to reach out to both large and small businesses. Currently I see a revolving door of small businesses in this town. We have some of the most affordable commercial rents in the Lower Mainland, and I think that attracts newbie entrepreneurs to jump in and invest without the financial cushion to soften the inevitable blows that every new business endures in the critical first few years. The City can’t take away the risks of business ownership, but it can provide more leadership in identifying the types of businesses that we believe would thrive here, actively recruit more employers to set up shop in New Westminster, and provide support to our current businesses to stay in New West and grow their businesses.

An artist's rendering of the new Civic Centre and Office Space. Source: City of New West.

An artist’s rendering of the new Civic Centre and Office Space. Source: City of New West.

This is also why I have come to believe that the City’s decision to proceed with building the class A office space above the new Civic Centre was a risk it had to take. One of the reasons why it was so important to incorporate commercial uses into the Civic Centre project was the implications for tax revenues: had the City built only the Civic Centre (and not the office tower & commercial spaces) the cost to build would have been lower, but the City would lose the opportunity not only to boost the economic activity of downtown (through jobs and in-town spending by employees & businesses) but also lose out on the estimated $660,000 in annual tax revenues from the office space. It would be just one more parcel of prime New Westminster real estate that’s a cost centre for the city, not a revenue-generator.

Today the economic development activities the city undertakes include offering information and statistics, help with site selection, providing business and community contacts and helping with government approvals. That’s good work, and business licenses have grown at three times the regional rate in New West between 2009 and 2011. But it is not enough.

New Westminster needs to present a vision that inspires businesses to want to locate here. It has to provide incentives for residents to shop here, and support local business in getting the word out beyond our borders. The business community can also do more to support each other, through partnerships, mentorships and cooperation.

In short, although we’ve come a long way from the ’90s decline, we still have a long way to go. Strengthening our economy is something that we can all play a part in by shopping locally, starting businesses here and spreading the gospel of New Westminster beyond our borders to let the world know how great this city is to live, work and play.

Visions of the ‘new’ New West

Over the weekend I attended two sold-out events that are potentially significant bellwethers for the future of our town. The first, a $175-a-plate business and networking luncheon, was a clear signal that New Westminster is open for business. The second, a $30-per-ticket gala celebrating young entrepreneurs and community organizers, showed that the next generation of leaders are already making an impact on this city.

On Thursday morning, a crowd of developers, large business owners, banks and local employers packed La Perla Ballroom for the New Westminster Economic Forum to hear a demographer, several of the City’s largest employers, a developer and famed Vancouver condo marketer Bob Rennie share their predictions on the shape of the “new” New West.

As a symbol of the City’s interest in strengthening our local economy, I thought the event was a great success. Not only was it sold out, but many more citizens and business owners were interested and would have attended had the ticket price been less steep and/or if space had been available. But I also thought that the City’s economic development office missed an opportunity to reach out to that packed house of potential investors in our City and inspire them to action.

The event was an informative soft sell, sharing demographic trends and anecdotes from Fraser Health, Douglas College, Lowes and Bob Rennie about their organizations’ investments, activites and expansions in New Westminster. The City’s Director of Development Services, Lisa Spitale, also shared some highlights of the City’s vision for future development, particularly in the downtown. But an event like this should be more than informative. It should be persuasive and connective. articulating a compelling vision and call to action that inspires business owners to invest in the city, and acting as a force multiplier to connect people together to do business, form partnerships and become aware of relevant organizations, City resources and services in town.

The information presented at the event did change how I understand our city’s economy. Our largest employers and biggest ‘exports’ are in health care and education (many people from other parts of the Lower Mainland come here to access those services). While this helped me to gain new respect for Royal Columbian Hospital and Douglas College’s positive contributions to our local economy as employers and magnets drawing people from other parts of the Lower Mainland, I felt it also illustrated New Westminster’s weaknesses in other sectors. New Westminster will remain a bedroom community unless we can generate sufficient employment opportunities in sectors beyond health care and education.

On Saturday, a very different event illustrated the new New West in action when almost 200 people filled the ballroom at the Inn At The Quay to recognize 25 of New Westminster’s talented up-and-comers at the NextUP gala organized by NEXT New West and sponsored by The New Westminster Newsleader. The themes in this event were very different.

The event was light on information, but heavy on inspiration. The guest speaker, East Van bootstrapper Mark Brand, shared his story about launching two successful restaurants in the Downtown East Side before buying the legendary Save-On Meats butcher shop and diner in the neighbourhood. His message for New West was to believe in your neighbourhood and take the risk to invest in your community. He also advocated integrating marginalized residents in community transformation, hiring what he called ‘barrier’ employees, for example, who have physical or mental disabilities, or who are recovering from addiction.

The room was full of young talent fired up with big dreams, and I believe the message took root, reinforced by the example of the 25 go-getters recognized at the gala. I was one of those 25, and what I found remarkable was how diverse the activities were of those people on the list: business owners, volunteers, community organizers, sports advocates, and more. The challenge for New Westminster will be to support the crazy dreamers who take the chance to start something new, and provide them with resources and connections that will help small initiatives grow large.

On Thursday and Saturday I witnessed two separate spheres of activity that will lead to positive growth and change in our city. What’s needed is to bridge the two. We had an economic development forum that lacked vision and a celebration of talent with more potential than proof. The economic forum made absolutely no mention of the role of small business in our city, while the NextUP event lionized initiative but not consistency. What New West needs is a balance, blending the tried and true with the fresh and new.

Small businesses and large are both vital to New Westminster’s future. New ideas and risk-takers are essential to progress, but as our city’s long list of failed small businesses shows, there’s a lot more to success than a promising start.

Key to the City

I was at the Dublin the other day, having a snack with a friend (okay, and maybe a beverage). We got our bill, and it was 20% off. Later in the week, I was checking out a new chair at Red Brick and realized I would get an extra 10% off if I went for it. I decided to stop by the British Store for some sweets and a tea on my way home, and got 10% off my sweets.

How was I getting all these discounts? I have a Key to the City. No, not some giant, oversized, pretend key, but the hyperlocal New Westminster – specific key tag system put together by Tourism New Westminster. There are over 40 businesses who participate in this program, offering buy one get one discounts, percentages off, and other deals on goods, services, food, places to stay, and things to do just by flashing a key tag right before you buy.

The program continues until the end of April 2013 and there are about 250 key tags left available to buy for just $10 each (you can buy them right from Tourism New Westminster or at participating locations) but we have a keytag to give away for free! Comment on this post about how you’d use a Key to the City, and we will draw one lucky commenter at random, Friday November 9th at 3pm PST.

 

Musings from a first time soccer coach

A couple of happy Royal City Youth Soccer players. Photo: Tayfun Ozdemir.

A couple of happy Royal City Youth Soccer players. Photo: Tayfun Ozdemir.

I don’t edit emails for content as often as I should. At least I didn’t when I contacted RCYSC (Royal City Youth Soccer Club) looking to help out with my son’s soccer team. When I offered to volunteer as a coach, I meant to write that I could volunteer as an assistant coach. Needless to say, I was surprised when the coordinator emailed me back with my very own team roster. I have never so much as coached an ant farm, never mind a gaggle of six-year-old-boys with varying attention spans. I knew this would be an adventure.

RCYSC as an organization makes a good first impression. There are a lot of solid people volunteering in the background to make things run smoothly. About the only thing they don’t provide is coaches, so that’s were lucky dads (and moms) like me come in. The club offered a couple of coaching clinics, free of charge, with instructors provided by BC Soccer. I spent a half a Saturday in a classroom, and the other half on the field doing drills, sprints and learning technique.

The first thing they teach you is to keep things fun and to keep the kids interested. I think I’ve done pretty well on both accounts. You quickly learn that over-coaching is a mistakes; explain something for too long and you’ll soon have eight kids digging for worms or talking Pokémon.  Basically the kids are there to get their beans out and it’s my job as coach to channel that energy into what should resemble some soccer skills. At first I had no idea how my team would respond to Coach Matt. My Italian-Hungarian background has blessed, or cursed me, with a rather booming voice; getting their attention without yelling was no problem. I have yet to cave and resort to using a whistle.

How did our team do? While no records are kept in terms of wins, losses, and goals scored, the kids make sure you don’t forget. We did well, and the boys all seemed to enjoy themselves.

The best part of the whole experience was watching kids improve their skills and build their confidence. It’s easy to coach the natural athlete who excels no matter what the sport, but much more rewarding with the one who isn’t so sure of himself.

Update: This blog entry has been a long time in the making. I have since signed up for another year of coaching. The first thing I noticed with my new team is:

  1. They are much more skilled than they were a year ago.
  2. They also have a lot more sass than they did a year ago.

I guess you can’t have one without the other. It should be another good year.

Sustainability in New West: envisioning our future at Nov. 2 & 3 event

Envision 2032

Envision 2032 is the name of the City of New Westminster’s sustainability framework that will guide City planning. 2032 represents one generation from now – a length of time that is easy for people to imagine when making decisions that affect the future.

This is a guest post by Mark Allison, a Senior Planner with the City of New Westminster who is coordinating the team working on the Envision 2032 process. He has led a number of award-winning sustainability plans in communities around BC and was formerly the Senior Planner and Manager of Advisory Services for the Whistler Centre for Sustainability.

What exactly is sustainability?! The word has been thrown around so much in recent years that it’s been interpreted many ways. We’ve chosen to adapt a well-known 1987 definition created by the United Nations that is broadly accepted around the world:

“Sustainability” is meeting the needs of the present generation in terms of social and cultural needs, the economy and the environment while promoting a high quality of life but without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

New Westminster’s 2012-2014 Strategic Plan created a focus on building a high and sustainable quality of life for its residents and called for the creation of a sustainability framework, or “Sustainability Lens,” to “guide and test all future decisions and initiatives against balanced economic, social/cultural and environmental perspectives.” Envision 2032 is the name that’s been given this sustainability framework and it is intended to become the guiding policy document for the City.

ICSP sustainability lens

New Westminster’s 2012-2014 Strategic Plan created a focus on building a high and sustainable quality of life for its residents and called for the creation of a sustainability framework, or “Sustainability Lens,” to “guide and test all future decisions and initiatives against balanced economic, social/cultural and environmental perspectives.” Envision 2032 is the name that’s been given this sustainability framework and it is intended to become the guiding policy document for the City.

If you’ve been around the City for a while, you may recall that “Envision” was the name of our 1998 Official Community Plan. We thought that the name was still applicable, since sustainability planning is all about visioning the future that you want and then taking the steps you need to get there. The “2032” in Envision 2032 is the year 2032… one generation from now. While we usually think several generations ahead when planning for the future, one generation is what most people can wrap their heads around. It’s roughly the time between a child being born and the time that they become an adult ready for independence. Most people can imagine that length of time, so we thought it would be a good timeframe for the plan.

So why are we doing a sustainability plan now? Well, besides providing a logical, consistent way to move towards our desired future, most would agree that our region and the world are facing some enormous sustainability challenges to address in the social, economic and environmental areas. The idea of “think globally, act locally” is definitely fitting.

Socially, New Westminster is in a unique situation when it comes to age demographic shifts, the so-called “baby boomer tsunami.” Not only are we going to have thousands more school-age children in 20 years, we’re projected to have tens of thousands more seniors living in the community by then. It’s going to be a huge challenge to provide the schools, and the recreation, housing and health care needs of these residents.

Economically, it’s probably safe to say that most people are either concerned or very concerned about whether there will be jobs for them and their children in the future, whether their pensions will be enough to live on or whether they’ll be able to afford to buy their own home. With a global economic meltdown just a few years ago and countries all over the world close to defaulting on their debts, there’s a strong desire for communities to create strong and diversified local economies and employment opportunities.

Finally, while often overshadowed by economic concerns, it’s hard to ignore the looming environmental crises facing the planet. Many scientists, for example, say that we may already be at the tipping point where greenhouse gas concentrations may cause runaway climate change at the same time that demand for fossil fuels seems insatiable with supplies dwindling.

Sustainability encompasses not just environmental concerns, but also social and economic.

Sustainability encompasses not just environmental concerns, but also social and economic.

What can New Westminster do in the face of these challenges? Quite a lot! While communities can’t do everything on their own and local governments get the smallest piece of the government revenue pie (while having to provide most of services that people need day-to-day!), communities are where most sustainability action starts. Communities and local school boards provide the playgrounds, schools and seniors centres. Small, local businesses create the majority of jobs in Canada. Local governments facilitate affordable housing and the way that we design our communities is a major determinant of resource use and whether people will drive or use more sustainable transportation modes… local governments provide the sidewalks, bike paths and transit shelters that encourage walking, cycling or taking the bus.

While creating a long-range plan for everything that’s involved in moving a community of 60,000+ 20 years into a successful and sustainable future can be a daunting task, there’s luckily a number of existing models that we can follow. There are a number of basic steps:

  1. Create an awareness of sustainability in the community… like writing this blog!
  2. Identify all of the policy areas where you can influence sustainability.
  3. Create a vision of what the desired future looks like in each of those areas.
  4. Determine where you are now in each area.
  5. Work together with community partners to create actions that move you from where you are now to where you want to be in the future.
  6. Select key indicators and regularly monitor and report on progress towards the desired future.

Eleven policy areas have been identified, which we think covers most things:

  • Buildings, Sites and Urban Design
  • Individual and Community Well-Being
  • Economy and Employment
  • Energy and Emissions
  • Environment and Natural Areas
  • Heritage and Neighbourhood Character
  • Affordable and Appropriate Housing
  • Land Use and Development
  • Parks, Culture and Recreation
  • Resources, Waste and Infrastructure
  • Transportation and Accessibility

The next step is visioning and creating a concise set of statements that describe the desired future in each of these policy areas. This will be the focus of the Envision 2032 Sustainability Fair events being held at the Inn at the Quay on the evening of Friday, November 2nd and the morning of Saturday, November 3rd:

The first event, on November 2, 7-9:15pm,  is “Let’s Talk Sustainability.” This inspirational evening will introduce the Envision 2032 process and features an exciting lineup of engaging speakers who are leaders in the sustainability field. Doors will open at 6:30 for refreshments and networking.

The following day, November 3 from 9 am – 1 pm we’ll be presenting an interactive workshop, “Envision New Westminster,” where the vision statements that will form the foundation of Envision 2032 will be created. Participants will be able to attend breakout sessions for two different policy areas. Doors will open at 8:30 for refreshments and networking and a light working lunch will be served at noon.

It’s important for anyone wanting to help define the future that the City will be working towards, which will be the foundation of Envision 2032, to attend these events and provide us with your vision.

For more information on the process, to provide feedback and to register for Sustainability Fair events, visit www.envision2032.ca or send us an e-mail at envision2032@newwestcity.ca… and of course you can also follow the process at www.facebook.com/envision2032 and www.twitter.com/envision2032.

We’ll also provide you with regular updates on this site to keep you in the loop!

 

Second Annual New Westminster DocFest this weekend

New West Doc Fest, October 19 & 20 at the Laura C. Muir Performing Arts Theatre, Douglas College (700 Royal Ave.)

New West Doc Fest, October 19 & 20 at the Laura C. Muir Performing Arts Theatre, Douglas College (700 Royal Ave.)

Did you know that New Westminster hosts an annual documentary film festival? The second annual New West DocFest is coming up this weekend, October 19 & 20, at Douglas College’s Laura C. Muir Theatre.

The festival opens on Friday evening with a presentation by guest speaker Mark Jaccard, a professor at SFU, followed by the screening of Chasing Ice. This year’s films cover a range of topics including the environment (Chasing Ice and White Water Black Gold), women in India (The World Before Her), the video game industry (Indie Game the Movie), and the power of corporations (Big Boys Gone Bananas).

In addition to the program of critically acclaimed documentaries, the festival also incorporates music, theatre and art. Short theatrical performances throughout the festival will be presented by Act Now, a youth theatre group focused on sustainability.

As a fairly new event in New Westminster, this will be a critical year to determine the long-term viability of the event. According to one of the event organizers, Andrew Murray, the vision for the festival is to become more than just a local event: “We want to create an event that is unique to New West that will not only draw people locally but also throughout the Lower Mainland.”

Admission is just $7 per film ($5 for students and seniors). For more information, visit www.newwestdocfest.ca.

Santa Parade Needs a Makeover

Today it smelled like cold, and I found myself thinking about the upcoming holiday season. I recalled recently reading a piece in the Royal City Record that the folks at the Hyack Festival Association are proposing to change up the Santa Claus Parade of Lights to a event that focuses on Hyack Square and a giant Christmas tree, with some sort of light display along the wall of the Salvation Army.

Thank goodness, I say. Why did this take so long?

Just look at how happy they all are!

Christmas Parade Past – Photo by Dennis Sylvester Hurd

The three times I have attended the Parade of Lights since my son was born, I have had to leave early when he got fussy or bored or cold, and the watery hot chocolate isn’t enough to keep him occupied. We see the same floats and groups march on by for more than an hour that we see in the (much warmer) Hyack Parade in May. The one time we were there long enough to move to Hyack Square, we clustered around to watch the spectacularly miniature tree get lit while a number of politicians talked about how the Christmas spirit was alive and well (which it is – I’m not being a Grinch here). There were no bleachers, no seating, not even organized areas to stand – no way for the short folks such as myself or my child to even see what was going on as we stood in the scrum of people with hardly a way to even get out of the crowd mid way through. My son didn’t care one tiny bit for the speechifying and was bored bored bored. We left, and went home and watched Miracle on 34th Street, drank eggnog, and ate mandarin oranges.

A number of the councillors are quoted in the Record’s article as being concerned about the change, and while they don’t necessarily oppose it, they mostly seem underwhelmed and even somewhat resistant to the idea. All of their comments centre around their own opinions of the parade. One comments that “he always liked the parade”, and cites concern that it won’t attract families if it is presented in another format. Another says “Personally, I like the parade,” and worries that a transition to another format will be too quick. I’m not trying to single out anyone out, here, but only one of our current councillors is currently raising a young family in our city.

In the article, Mayor Wright is quoted as saying “Change does not come easily to anybody. We welcome your new ideas. We have to work into them.” His comment is absolutely spot on. The Santa Claus Parade of Lights in its current format is  boring and outdated, and while I want to support the parade and the many community groups that volunteer their time and effort, I can only placate my son for so long while we passively watch it stream by. I wonder how many people continue to come to the parade year after year to watch the same thing over and over because there is no other free community holiday festival?

Dear Hyack Festival Association,

You have my wholehearted support to change the Parade into something that actually feels like a holiday celebration in the city. You can’t do it soon enough.

Sincerely,

Jen

Embrace public art to add surprise and whimsy to New West spaces

InsideOut

InsideOut

Art is a funny beast. Viewed in defined “art-appropriate” spaces – think hotels, building lobbies, hospitals, cafés and galleries, there are few styles, works or mediums that we don’t appreciate. From contemporary painting, large-scale black and white photography, avant-garde sculptures and mixed-media work, to hard to interpret audio pieces, we accept it as art, as something that is inherently good for us to be surrounded by – even when we don’t understand it.

As artist Martyn Reed of Stavanger, Norway said in an interview about public art with Juxtapoz magazine, “Art, on a philosophical level, even academically, is good for people; it improves the quality of people’s lives, which is why we put art classes in prisons; we have art in hospitals because it makes people’s lives better, it’s present in pre-op and in every ward, there are pictures. Everyone believes this, you don’t get people saying, ‘It doesn’t improve the quality of people’s lives.’”

Yet despite the positive and emotional connection many of us have towards art, we neglect how important the context in which we perceive it truly is. Viewed outside the confines of its regular context, we lose that same openness and acceptance of the quirky, hard to understand or strange. The vibrant club poster stapled to a telephone pole is no longer an ink print, but a nuisance. The series of wheat paste concert posters is no longer pop-art, but vandalism. The large-scale photographs stuck to a blank wall, they too cease to be considered art.

Public art or art created in and for the public sphere gets a bad rap. It can polarize a cohesive community into those who are up for a bit of whimsy in the public domain and those who are vehemently opposed to it. Of the diverse forms of public art, few are as vilified as graffiti. For many, the mere mention of the word invokes images of hastily spray-painted train cars, or sprawling script along vacant walls. Graffiti is akin to neighborhood blight.

And while in some cases graffiti does represent a lack of respect for a place, there is the flipside of the graffiti spectrum. Street artists and residents collaborating painstakingly over a period of hours or days, to create art for the betterment, interest and enjoyment of the community in which they reside.

This role of community generated public art or graffiti as social and economic tool is not often talked about, but can have a huge impact on a city. In an open letter to the mayor of Stockton, California – a fledgling city on the verge of bankruptcy, M. Revelli the editor of art magazine Juxtapoz, cites examples of Stavanger, Norway, Bristol, United Kingdom and New Orleans as examples of cities that have embraced an attitude of tolerance and openness to public art and are reaping the benefits of dollars spent in their cities. The influx of money to the city comes in the name of tourism as curious locals, art enthusiasts, bloggers and others in the art world travel to experience the works in these cities.

Another such city that has embraced graffiti and public art as civic tools is the city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In that city, well-known street artist Steve Powers, completed Love Letter, a series of murals along the elevated subway line to help give a sense of pride to residents from the different neighborhoods in which the murals were installed.

Discussing his experience in Philadelphia to Juxtapoz magazine, Powers explains, “Nobody saw any benefit of the project for their neighborhood. Once we got to painting and people saw the results, they got excited about their neighborhood again. Everything has been great ever since. And when they see people coming by daily to take pictures, the equation becomes very apparent. More people coming to the area translated to more foot traffic, which translates to more businesses.”

In addition to the economic benefit to the local economy of embracing public art, the social benefit of a community creating, appreciating and discussing art is invaluable. In a unique public art project, French artist JR – winner of the prestigious TED Prize, had the idea to empower people and strengthen communities around the world by encouraging widespread participation in a global art project, The InsideOut Project.

Sourcing co-creators from around the world, individuals or groups upload black and white portraits of themselves that subsequently get turned into large-format posters (they’re big, very big) and returned to the individuals to be posted in their own community. Using only their face to share a message, JR’s wish is to inspire people from all over the world to indulge their inner artist, taking pride in their communities ultimately making them better more interesting places to live.

Closer to home, New West is in the midst of a civic renaissance of sorts. After years of slow growth, the city is adding a more diverse and interesting culinary component to its reputation as an affordable city with great quality of life, good transportation, loads of amenities and a strong sense of community. While the depth of offerings is still developing, people are now moving to, coming to and staying in New West because of its food offering. What would the impact be if New West added a dynamic public art component to its urban fabric – reclaiming vacant spaces and knitting a sense of surprise into our public spaces?

Imagine a collaborative series of murals along the back of the buildings that face the Skytrain, short-run sculpture installations in parks or other public spaces, art installations in vacant commercial storefronts or our own chapter of the InsideOut Project. If only our city had disused wall space, vacant lots, empty storefronts or large unused areas along the waterfront … hmmm.

While I’m no artist, I appreciate the arts –no matter where on the brow they may fall, and would like to see a greater sense of playfulness and surprise in our public spaces. I am interested in helping push New West towards being a city that embraces the economic and social potential of public art through an open attitude towards it. We need not strive to be an art capital, just a community of engaged citizens who embrace the potential of the arts and aren’t afraid of a more dynamic and whimsical public sphere.

As for those black and white portraits through the InsideOut Project, mine arrived in the mail a few weeks back and all I need to do now is paste it up. Group exhibitions are always better than solo efforts. Get in touch with me if you’re interested in a group effort or check out http://www.insideoutproject.net

New West Activities for September 29

This weekend is a hugely busy weekend in the Royal City – there is so much to do! And we’ve had such great weather that it is a perfect time to get out and about. Here are our top three picks for Saturday family activities:

Support Family Place at their first annual fundraising garage sale on Saturday from 9-2. They’re at 93 Sixth Street, and they tell me there will be lots of childrens toys, games, household goods and clothes. Money goes to help support all their awesome programs, and to continue to provide a warm and welcoming place for families with children aged 0-6.

Check out the awesome new festival mashup, River Fest! In celebration of World Rivers Day, the Hyack Festival Association and the Fraser River Discovery Centre have teamed up to produce a new giant event on the mighty Fraser. Check out the Facebook page for details, but activities include music, crafts, information tents, and all sorts of other family friend activities. On Friday and Saturday.

Stop by the Lantern Festival in Queensborough from 6-9pm on Saturday September 29. Activities include assembling an LED lantern, music, sparklers, and a scavenger hunt. it takes place at Port Royal Park, at the east end of Ewen Avenue in Queensborough.

Freelancer Unconference This Saturday + Ticket Giveaway!

I never thought I’d be a freelancer, but here I am, doing it, and I am so happy to have made the switch. It is not for everyone but it works really well for our family. So, I’m really bummed out that I won’t be able to make it to the upcoming 3rd annual FreelanceCamp at The Network Hub – New West, taking place this Saturday September 15, from 9-5. It’s a full day unconference style event on all things related to freelancers, entrepreneurs and small business owners. But you should really go. Here’s why:

As unconference camps go, all sessions that will be held that day are decided that morning. Anyone who wants to lead a session pitches, and the attendees vote on which ones they like. The sessions then get scheduled on a board, where there are typically 3 to 4 sessions that happen every hour for the whole day. You can find out more info about the event here: http://www.thenetworkhub.ca/freelancecamp/

Photo by Jeremy Lim

There are lots of freebies to be received (moo cards!), and lunch (from Re-Up BBQ, Fathom, Pamola or Wally Burger) is included in your ticket price of just $15. Seriously – $15. That is an amazing deal. Note that The Network Hub will be receiving zero dollars. This year they’ve decided that 100% of the proceeds (after lunch expenses) will be going to Kiva.org. They’ll be funding small business owners in the developing world, and will have a session on Saturday so that the attendees themselves can decide which projects the funds should go to. The pool of funds can then get bigger and bigger every year, and they can keep supporting more and more entrepreneurs in the developing world to help them sustain their communities.
Attendance is capped at 150 because of space constraints, so I recommend signing up ASAP. We are also super excited because The Network Hub has given us a pair of tickets to give away. To win, leave a comment and let us know what class you’d love to lead and sit in on if this was your conference. We’ll draw the winner Friday at 8AM using a random number generator.
(PS: If you are planning on going, but want to enter, go ahead and buy your tickets and if you win you’ll get your purchased tickets refunded)

 

Dumped Mattresses KVT Photography

Show Your Love for the Fraser River: Join the New West Shoreline Cleanup

The Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup™ is an annual event that helps keep our oceans, rivers, and lakes healthy. People from all across Canada join in to remove the human-made litter and garbage that was either dumped or accidently deposited into our water systems.

This year on Sunday, Sept 23, the South Dyke Road Riverfront Cleanup—to register, click on the link— will launch the beginning of New Westminster’s RiverFest, an art and environmental festival inspired by the Fraser River.

The Cleanup is a family friendly event, open to everyone who welcomes taking care of our shoreline. And this year, participants can show their love for the shoreline in a few different ways.

Previously Non-Recyclable Items

Throughout Canada, waste from cigarettes remains the top cleanup item collected. Last year approximately 350,000 were removed from our shorelines. This year—for the first time—all cigarette butts picked up from the New West cleanup will be sent to TerraCycle, a company that specializes in recycling previously non-recyclable items, such as pens, inkjet cartridges, and Tassimo coffee, tea, espresso, milk and hot chocolate T Discs.

In New Westminster, Nestlé candy wrappers and empty containers from Garnier® personal care and beauty products can be taken directly to London Drugs. TerraCycle Canada will then recycle these items into park benches, waste bins and more!

Styrofoam, another previously non-recycled item, was also one of the top items collected at last year’s cleanup. This year, with the launch of Styrofoam collection at the New Westminster Recycling Depot, other recyclable items collected during the cleanup, including Styrofoam and paint cans, will be picked up by the City Of New Westminster for recycling.

Removing litter, however, is just one way that participants can show their love for our shoreline.

Invasive Plant Pull

Kids and adults can also take part in an invasive plant pull of non-toxic plants.

This year participants can take part in removing holly, Lamium, morning glory, purple loosestrife, Scotch broom, and another patch of English ivy—check out the photo from last year’s plant pull.

Plants are considered invasive for a few reasons. One reason is because people or animals have brought them from their original natural habitat to a different one. These non-native plants become invasive depending on their adaptability—how quickly they can grow and multiply in the new habitat.

When non-native plants grow quickly, they take over and force native plants from their home. They rob them of their space, sunlight, water, and nutrients. Over time, these invasive plants change and damage the conditions of the natural habitat. For these reasons, invasive plants are carefully removed to not spread their seeds or other plant parts that can regrow from special habitats like—our Fraser River shoreline.*(Definition from For Peat’s Sake: The Story of Burns Bog, available at the NWPL)

For those of us who love the taste of blackberries, it can be hard to learn that the Himalayan blackberry is considered an invasive plant (Invasive Species Council of British Columbia). It’s dense thicket and thorny stems can be hazardous to humans and animals alike. The plant can also out-compete native shrubs with deep roots that can provide stability along the shoreline. To minimize the hazard of the plant’s long shoots, Jennifer Lukianchuk, Environmental Coordinator from the City of New Westminster, and Cindy Sale, Communication and Events Coordinator from the Fraser River Discovery Centre, are going to show their love for the shoreline by putting on safety equipment to prune off some of the more exposed shoots.

South Dyke Road Riverfront Cleanup and Invasive Plant Pull

The Shoreline Cleanup starts from 9:30 AM at the pier at Suzuki Street and S Dyke Road in Queensborough, New Westminster. Participants under 19 are welcome but must attend with their parent or guardian or bring the signed waiver with them. Waivers can be printed off the website.

Please bring boots that can get muddy and wear pants to protect yourself from the shrubs that grow nearby. Bring either a pen to help with data collection or tongs (some will be supplied by the City) to pick up litter, and snacks and water for yourself.

The South Dyke Road Riverfront Cleanup is organized by New Westminster Environmental Partners (NWEP) in partnership with the City of New Westminster and Fraser River Discover Centre.

Massey Victory Heights Residents’ Association Family Picnic

Join the Massey Victory Heights Residents’ Association on Sunday September 9 at the Westburnco Reservoir Park on Churchill Avenue from 1-4 for a Annual Family Picnic. BYO-Blanket and picnic, or enjoy free hot dogs. Watch a show: The New Westminster Police Department’s K9 Unit will be putting on a demonstration, and there will be a martial arts demonstration too! For the kids, check out Bell E Buttons balloon clown, the bouncy castle, and races! Check out info from New Westminster Fire Deparment, the Arts COuncil, and the Hyack Festival Association.

Check out the MVHRA website for other info at www.masseyvictoryheights.com

 

New West underrepresented in regional Urban Futures Survey

New Westminster residents often complain that our opinions aren’t well represented in regional planning. Not being the type of community to take disappointment quietly, we are becoming a bit notorious as a hotbed of rabble-rousers due to our vocal protests against good-for-the-region / bad-for-our-community projects like the defeated United Boulevard Extension proposal. So when Place Speak‘s public involvement lead Spencer Rasmussen reached out to me about getting better New Westminster representation in the 2012 Urban Futures Survey currently underway, I was pretty impressed. According to Spencer, Vancouver is currently overrepresented in the ratio of survey participants, and so he’s reaching out to try and get more folks from places like New Westminster to try to correct the balance.

Here’s a note from Spencer on what the Urban Futures Survey is all about, and why it’s so important for New West folk to participate:

The recent controversy over the Pattullo Bridge is an opportunity to step back and think about the region we want live in. The decision regarding the bridge – along with in numerable others – will change Greater Vancouver. We need a vision, and citizens’ voices must be heard.

The 2012 Metro Vancouver Urban Futures Survey is designed to do just that – to give residents a voice in the planning of our region. It is the third in a series of studies that impacted the decisions that make Greater Vancouver what it is today. The parks we enjoy, the recycling bins in front of our houses and quality of our air are all connected to the results of previous surveys. The 2012 survey repeats that process, polling residents on the future they desire.

To work, every community must be represented. In New Westminster, that means 65 residents sharing their opinions. 45 have done so already, but 23 are still needed. Completing the Urban Futures Survey gives our region the information it needs to plan a better future for you, your family, and your community. Please take 20 minutes to share your opinions: Take the 2012 Urban Futures Survey

If you are more comfortable reading Chinese, PlaceSpeak has translated the Urban Future into Chinese Traditional text. The Chinese version can be found here: 城市未來發展調查2012

The 2012 Urban Futures Survey is being conducted under the aegis of Lambda Alpha International, the Society of Urban Land Economists, with the support of the Real Estate Foundation of British Columbia, the City of Vancouver, the City of Surrey, the City of North Vancouver and Vancity.

You can learn more about the Urban Futures Survey here, and be sure to like the Urban Futures Survey Facebook Page and follow PlaceSpeak on Twitter.

 

13th Annual Doggy Fun Days Coming Up!

The 13th annual DOGGY FUN DAY is coming up on Sunday, August 26 in Queens Park from noon to 3 pm in the south field above the off-leash dog park—fun and games for dogs and their people. The event goes on rain or shine. Who doesn’t just love a wet dog! (Fortunately there has been only one rainy day in the history of the event.)

A howling good time at Doggy Fun Days

Doggy Fun Day features doggy–human interactive games, such as a 7-legged race (or however many legs are involved with two people and their dog) and the egg and spoon race (which features one person, one spoon, an egg, and as many dogs as you can handle dragging you across the field). And of course what event would be complete without a doggy look-alike contest—dress up yourself and your dog and see if you win a prize.

Of course, the ever-popular (four paws up) “Bobbing for Wieners” contest is a perennial favourite. Come and see if your dog can unseat the current champ. (And yes, there is both a large dog and a small dog contest, so the Beverly Hills Chihuahua doesn’t have to compete against a Hooch-like mastiff.)

It's my turn! No, it's my turn!

Or just come and hang out and visit the vendor displays to see what is new and happening in all things dog, while the dogs do their own version of “meet and greet” (and we all know how that goes).

Teaching Your Person to Give You A Treat

Contact doggyfunday.nw@gmail.com for more information on the event.

Doggy Fun Day is a fundraiser for VEATA, the Volunteer Education and Assistance Team for Animals, a New Westminster-based registered charity dedicated to bettering the lives of animals through educating people on proper pet care, providing financial and fostering assistance, and raising awareness on animal-related issues. Email: veatasociety@gmail.com

Are ‘born & raised’ New West folk different from the rest of us?

Are ‘born & raised’ New Westminster folk that different from those of us who moved here by choice?


How to make friends in New Westminster

Friends gather together to watch The Princess Bride at Summerfest In Grimston Park

Friends gather together to watch The Princess Bride at Summerfest In Grimston Park

It’s hard to make new friends as an adult.

You make friends in the places where you spend your time. Because most adults lose track of hobbies, spending their days at the office and their nights and weekends with spouses and immediate family, we spend time in only a few places: home, the office, the mall, the grocery store, the movie theatre, maybe a favourite restaurant or two.

It’s not like it was in your teens and twenties when your social calendar was very busy and your obligations were few. As a result, friendship researchers find most people find and make their lifelong friends in college or high school. When shopping, watching movies or eating at restaurants you pass by a lot of people, but you usually talk to very few. At the office, people change jobs frequently, which can limit the number of repeated interactions. Sensitivities to competition, income differences and job pressures make the office a poor setting to let your guard down and share intimate confidences with cubicle pals.

We are lucky in New Westminster. The community here is very good at creating the conditions that help friendships form and grow.

There is a science of friendship dating back to the ’50s and holding up through the new millennium. The elements of friendship are these:

  • Proximity
  • Repeated, unplanned interactions
  • A setting that encourages people to let their guard down and confide in each other

Proximity

We tend to underestimate the role of proximity in making new friends. As a parent, it’s obvious that it makes a difference in my kids’ friendships: neighbours, the kids of my friends and classmates become ‘best’ friends, while those who attend different schools or live even a few blocks farther away tend to be farther away from their hearts. But as adults, we assume that friendship has more to do with shared interest than how physically close we are to a person.

You can walk New Westminster from end to end in about an hour. Our six square miles is dotted with bus stops and SkyTrain stations that make it easy to leave the car at home when you go out and our tree-shaded boulevards are a pleasure to walk. The simple fact that we live in a smallish town within the larger Metro Vancouver district provides us with the physical closeness to neighbours that helps make friends.

Repeated, unplanned interactions
Our retail districts are concentrated in just a few areas, so if you work or shop locally, you find yourself in the same haunts again and again. Once you become connected with the New West community through social media, parties and events, schools or involvement in one of the many local organizations, you start seeing the same people all around town – particularly in hot spots like River Market, the Uptown nexus of Sixth and Sixth and coffee shops all around town.

Many New West folk park on the street instead of garages, and even this simple act brings us closer. And, in many of our neighbourhoods yards are not just decorative; families gather with neighbours in yards as common spaces. In New Westminster, we actually see our neighbours, and over time, in many neighbourhoods, neighbours become friends.

A setting that encourages people to let their guard down and confide in each other
This is the trickiest factor to overcome. Aside from the political social scene, in which a certain amount of gossip and backbiting is sadly to be expected, I have found the New West social scene to be very welcoming and open. Most people here still suffer from the cultural reticence to ask for help or admit to vulnerable feelings, but with the first two ingredients in place (proximity and repeated interaction) we can gradually become comfortable enough with people to open up a little. When that goes well, a little can quickly turn into a lot.

What of shared interests?
What you don’t see in here is connections based on shared interests. As I mentioned, people tend to assume friends will be people who share their taste in music, film, activities or other interests. This isn’t wrong, exactly, but it doesn’t work the way people think. It isn’t the shared interests that bring people together. Rather, the share interests provide a reason to interact on a regular basis, and a starting point to open conversations that can build trust over time. I see this happen in two ways in New Westminster:

  1. People gather together in activities related to shared interests: wine tastings, the Farmers Market, foodie events, board game nights, curling club, artists’ organizations, and more. When the same people consistently attend these events, they develop a rapport that opens the door to trust. Over time, they transition from smalltalk to conversation about ideas, opinions and feelings, and from there they may become friends.
  2. Friends who first gathered together because of proximity (neighbours, local Twitterati, or NEXT New West social club members) uncover shared interests through conversation and develop new hobbies and activities together. A number of friends who met via Tenth to the Fraser activity, tweetups or other local activities have taken up new hobbies (archery, canning, beer and wine-making, and more) and participating in these events provides them with new opportunities to get to know each other better, deepening trust and friendship.

We here a lot about how our modern society can be very isolating, and when you look at the elements of friendship it’s no wonder:

  • We isolate ourselves in our cars, reducing opportunities to interact with neighbours. We spend too much of our limited leisure time in front of the television, further limiting the number of people we interact with in a day.
  • We over-schedule and, feeling exhausted from the 9-5 grind, spend time at home or with existing friends instead of in places where we can encounter new friends.
  • Flimsy friendships based on fleeting encounters, often in socially charged situations (such as at the office), don’t inspire sharing deep thoughts or feelings. We stick to smalltalk and feel unsatisfied with these interactions as a result.

If you are looking to make new friends in New West, the conditions are all there to support you.

If you want to make new friends, here’s what you need to do:

  • Be out in the community, in person and online. Shake hands, introduce yourself and show up to the same events over and over so you can get to know the regulars, and they can get to know you. The first key to friendship is showing up. You won’t meet anyone new in front of your TV.
  • Spend time in your yard and walking around the neighbourhood. Shop and eat locally. You’ll be surprised how often you’ll see acquaintances out and about around town. Go up to them, say hi and see if they have time to join you for an unplanned coffee chat.
  • Talk about things that matter. Ask questions, debate issues, share feelings. Invite friends to try new experiences: go to an event, learn a new skill, or go somewhere you’ve never been before. In my experience, participating in doing something together can really open up a friendship.

Ultimately, what you want to do is move from people who inhabit the same space, to people who do things together, to people who trust and care for each other.  In other words, to become friends.

Outdoor movie screenings in New Westminster this summer

Crowds gather to watch E.T. on an outdoor movie screen at Summerfest in Grimston Park. Photo: Harry Pehkonen.

Crowds gather to watch E.T. on an outdoor movie screen in Grimston Park at 2010's Summerfest. Photo: Harry Pehkonen.

Nothing says summer like movies al fresco, plus the price (free!) can’t be beat. There are a number of outdoor movie screenings coming up in New Westminster this summer. Here’s a list of the ones I have heard about so far. If you know of an event I’ve overlooked, please comment to let me know. All movies in this list are free. Remember to bring your own picnic blanket or lawn chair if you go.

JULY

  • July 14: The Princess Bride Summerfest in Grimston Park features a free screening of The Princess Bride. Swordfights, giants, princesses, magic potions, Rodents of Unusual Size … what more could you want in a movie? Festival starts at 2pm with classic picnic games, mini-Farmers Market from 3-7, live music from 5-9 and the movie starts at 9:30.  Movie sponsored by Derrick Thornhill of Park Georgia Realty. Free popcorn provided by Community Savings Credit Union.

AUGUST

SEPTEMBER

The value of ‘a pint’ in New West: a (semi) scientific exploration (AKA ‘pub crawl’)

It started like most scientific research: someone asked “why?” then sought the answer.

Except that I asked “how much”, and I was hardly the first to ask. As any scientist will tell you, most science is just collecting more data to confirm results already collected by others, so we boldly followed the trend to where many had been before.

In this case, the people we were following were the good people at the Campaign for Real Ale. Following a story that hit the regional media, a minor #NewWest Twitterstorm addressed important issues in the local pub scene: namely sizes of pints, and value for the money. This caught the attention of a few good people loosely affiliated with Tenth to the Fraser, and with many new options for the pub aficionado popping up in New Westminster, it seemed like a chance for a little compare and contrast exercise to better inform your summer pubbing. The actual research was performed on a summery day in early May, but now that summer has arrived, the results are ready for peer review.

Very official scientific experiment here. Photo: Harry Pehkonen.

Very official scientific experiment here. Photo: Harry Pehkonen.

We assembled a cracked research team. At the first pub, attendance included no less than two PhD physicists, two MSc geoscientists, and two Professional Engineers. Our technical team consisted of stenographers, computer scientists, photographers, measurement professionals, teachers and poets. All would be put to test.

Being good scientists (or science fans… or science fiction fans…or poets) we sought to control all variables. All pubs were visited on the same Saturday night. We were rigidly consistent in our orders, and we used the same precise measuring tool at each pub. Being environmentally conscious, we would not think of wasting the beers we ordered, so they had to be consumed. This worked out doubly well, as it forced us into carbon neutrality, as it took driving between pubs completely off the table…

There were various ordering techniques amongst the assembled research party, but I attempted the greatest constancy: ordering “A pint of your second most expensive beer, please”. There may have been some discussion after this, as apparently it is an unusual way to order, but I invariably agreed to the first beer offered by the waiting professional, deeming that the Second Most Expensive Pint™. I’m not above mixing beers, and all this fluff about “starting light and moving towards fuller flavours” has no place in science.

Throwing caution to the wind, Research Team 2, code named “Tig”, ordered “whatever’s on special tonight” to provide an extra dataset for the less-beer- inclined. Mixing drinks in this manner is usually advised against, but science is not without its risks.

Dublin Castle, 7:30pm

Pat shows off the Official Pint Measurement Device. Photo: Harry Pehkonen

Pat shows off the Official Pint Measurement Device. Photo: Harry Pehkonen

For the first week of May, the deck was remarkably crowded with what are presumably the denizens of Fraser View frolicking in their native habitat. The view is just short of really good, the food is above good, the waitress is named Kelsey.

Upon the warming up of the Graduated Cylinder of Truth®, I ordered the Second Most Expensive Pint™, which was apparently the Guinness-produced import “Kilkenny”, served in a tall branded glass. The service pint ordered by a member of our technical staff (Stanley Park Lager) was served in a standard BC-issue b509 “dimple” pint glass, served a little above the line to a measured 520mL.

All beers were enjoyed, including the one on special. The walk west began.

  • Pint: Kilkenny – 510ml for $6.75 ($6.62 per Metric Pint)
  • Special: Okanagan Springs Pale Ale: $4.75.

Brooklyn, 8:20pm

A crowd entered the Brooklyn to the dulcet tones of Huey Lewis and the News, which called for immediate occupation of the Billiards Room. The remarkable view of a non-eponymous bridge was hardly enjoyed, as a furious game of push-the-coloured-balls-towards-a-corner ensued. Certain River Market Staff displayed suspect caroming skills, while being stared at down the nose of more professional science-management staff. It seems dedication to data gathering has already begun to fade. Then Pink Floyd came on the stereo, and a more erudite discussion of the merits of ice-filled urinals ensued. I’m starting to like this team.

The Second Most Expensive Pint® was the quasi-local Granville Island PI, served in a glass of suspect volume but compelling pinty-shape. The B-team reports a Long Island Iced Tea of the vodka-coke-syrup variety, but with the “double” serving size on special, it was an easy choice (although, the fact it was a double probably bodes poorly for future data gathering).

  • Pint: Granville Island Pale Ale – 325ml for $4.24 ($6.52 per Metric Pint).
  • Special: Double Long Island Iced Tea: $6.10

The Met, 9:00pm

Until the group sauntered into the Met at 9:02 on May 5th, this reporter had completely forgotten about both Cinco de Mayo, and that Lenny Kravitz, bereft of any irony, recorded a version of “American Woman” that grooved less than the original performed by Burton Cummings and his merry band of Mormons.

Further, the Second Most Expensive Pint™ at the Met, an India Pale Ale entitled “Green Flash” was similarly unknown to me. It was, to the concern of our data collection team, sold as a “sleeve” in a tulip glass (OMG, the variables are adding up…). I told them not to worry. Don’t let it frighten you, let it liberate you! Collect the data, we will worry about getting it through peer review later. If measured by hops per dollar, this would be the clear winner, but we had a graduated cylinder, not some magic bitterness-epiricizing device.

With conversation veering towards political and religious minefields, and the surprise appearance of a City Councillor in our midst, things had the potential to get seriously out of hand here. Not helped by the “theme of the day” special: a Cinco-de-Mayo Margarita. Good thing it wasn’t national Dog Bath day.

  • Pint: Green Flash IPA – 434ml for $6.25 ($7.49 per Metric Pint).
  • Special: a Tig-Approved Margarita: $4.50

The Heritage Grill, 9:45pm

I can only assume this is a Rock-a-Billy band. Lesee: Hollow-body Gretsch, skinny jeans and straw hat, drummer and bassist both standing up, bandana tied around a limb. Yep, that there is Rock-a-Billy. Where does Paul find these guys? I gotta hang out here more often.

At this point, it was probably prudent to put this rag-tag group in the back room, for the courtesy of the Rock-a-Billy fan base. Just how many cigars did Thurston Howell pack for this supposed Three-Hour-Tour? Did he have cigars? I seem to remember cigars.

It appears a poetry context has broken out on the little stage in the back room. A researcher is relating a rhythmic tale of “…a young man from Kent”.

Shooters? No-one said anything about shooters. Yes, those appear to be shooters. In for a penny, in for a pound.

Another funny-shaped glass, apropos for the Weisse-beer, I guess, but there are a lot of cloudy beers lately, they don’t cause headaches, do they? Don’t measure the orange! Fruit is good – gotta keep up the Vitamin C, but not part of the measure… damn variables. How am I going to get that out of the cylinder? Must think of peer review, they can be real jerks about stuff like that. What did you call that shooter again? Tastes like trouble.

  • Pint: Kronenburg Blanc – 503 ml for $6.25 ($6.22 per Metric Pint).
  • Special: The Julian (Rum & Coke): $4.50

The Drink, 10:40pm

Look, if you are out drinking pints as fast as you can- a hockey net in the urinal not only looks like the coolest idea ever- it helps with certain aiming situations that you ladies may not understand, OK? If you didn’t want to know about it, why did I come out of the bathroom encouraging you all to go look at it?

Man, this place is cool. They seem to have got the hipster thing down without the grimy bits. Like your hipster brother-in-law got showered and dressed up for a wedding, just enough tweed and leather to know he listens to Modest Mouse, but not drinking from a mason jar.

More cloudy white beer- these branded glasses are messing with our science, and my head. Orange is good, though. Eat the peel- that’s why Belgians never get hung over. That was Eddy Merckx’s secret: orange peels and amphetamines. Whattya mean Kronenbourg is French- Really? Eddy’s gonna kill me.

Special? That looks like some fancy cocktail. No crappy ounce-o-liquor-n-pop here: those are actual berries floating in a pool of vodka. This place is like a freaking Orange Julius with mood lighting, only fuzzier around the edges – actually, most of the edges have been fuzzed right off. Or is that me?

  • Pint: Kronenburg Blanc – 495 ml for $6.72 ($6.79 per Metric Pint).
  • Special: Bliss: $7.28.

Hops, 11:25pm

Att his point, I am clearly getting smoother- at the peak of my charm. Seeing as how I strode into the place and ordered “a Pint of your second most expensive beer”, and the waitress said – I quote- “OK” [make note on pad, walk to bar to place order], like the last 17 people who stumbled in off the SkyTrain ordered the same thing – As un-nonplussed as I have ever seen. Actually a little creepy in her plussed-ness. How does she stay so plussed? What have I got if not a shock value? Is she onto us? Hide the Cylinder! They called ahead! They are all against us! The guy over there with the sombrero- I’ve seen him before, we are bring followed… or maybe he beat me to the punch, looks like the kind of jerk that saunters into a bar and asks for the second most expensive tequila….

This place is great- where are all the construction workers? Is that real wood? What did you say!?! Oh, Deschutes, I thought you were calling me names. This stuff is definitely the schute. In a good way. Pity the fool over there on Team B with the fruit-less martini.

  • Pint: Deschutes IPA (“Sleeve’)– 383 ml for $7.00 ($9.13 per Metric Pint).
  • Special: Martini w/Grey Goose (but no floating fruit): $8.55.

Terminal Pub: 12:15

Depressing Halo song, then Cyley Myrus….starting to get me down. What!?! A Scientist never leaves his cylinder behind! This is unacceptable! Run Forrest, Run! Is that waitress giving me attitude? Hope she doesn’t spit in my beer… whattya mean I’m the surely one, you sure it wasn’t her? I just ordered… second most expensive beer TEE-EM… think she likes me? Cuz her 20oz. pint is actually 520ml… that’s like 21 ounces or something… don’t you double it and add thirty? Lemee countee my fingers. Where are my fingers? Dunno… maybe making up for it being Rickards… Not sure I can drink this whole thing… Red Bull? Who gave the B Team Red Bull and Vodka after midnight? They’ll be up all night. You ever hear the sirens in this town? Gimmie some of them Nachos…you sure are prettier than your twitter… than on the twitter… Loudest Bathroom Ever… I SAID LOUDEST BATHROOM EVER! What was that about an after party?

  • Pint: undetermined… technical difficulties… please stand by….
  • Special: Vodka Red Bull – It’s not what you pay, it is what it costs you…

Conclusion

... and a fun time was had by all. Photo: Harry Pehkonen

... and a fun time was had by all. Photo: Harry Pehkonen

For the record, there only thing for certain about “the pint” is that it changes with location and product. It was once said “a pint is a pound, the world around”, but it was also said “a pint of pure water is a pound and a quarter”. Worse, they are both right. Almost. For those raised in the warm socialist cuddle of the Metric System, this all seems baffling, so I will use the Metric System to try to make sense of pints.

Canada, being a Commonwealth country, uses the Imperial Gallon (for most things), and one eighth of the Imperial gallon is an Imperial Pint: 568ml. When you sell things like drinks in Canada, the Federal Government regulates that a pint is 568ml. Anything else is not a “true” pint. This is equal to 20 Imperial ounces, which are 28.4ml each. It also happens to represent the amount of water that weighs about 1.25 pounds. Which is equal to 568g, but you knew that already.

Down in the Excited States, they invented their own, smaller US gallon, which comprises 8 US pints, which are each 473ml. Ever pragmatic, their pint weighs just a little over a pound, and when divided up liquid ounces, each weighs an ounce (allowing for spillage). Since there are 16 ounces in a pound, there must be 16 liquid ounces in a pint. So US liquid ounces are about 29.6ml each, slightly larger than the Imperial ounce.

Ever wonder why a can of beer is 355ml, but a bottle of beer is 341ml? 355ml is exactly 12 US fluid ounces. 341ml is exactly 12 Imperial ounces. I realise that doesn’t answer the question, but it’s gotta mean something! It is also a better explanation than the one I gave my nephew: that the little bit of beer you can never get out of the can because of the rim of the can is exactly 14ml, and they put that much more in the can to make it fair. I’m a favourite uncle.

None of this explains the hybridized “Metric Pint”, which is the defacto pint served in British Columbia and much of continental Europe, and measures 500ml. Those round glasses with a handle and deep dimples that make it look like a hand grenade- what we call a “pint glass”, is typically 500ml to the line (although more will fit, up to a full pint if filled to overflowing). As are most of the “branded” glasses in which you may receive your Stella, Kronenbourg, or Kilkenny. A “sleeve” is a straight-sided tapered glass, and it is anyone’s guess of its capacity, as glass thicknesses and base heights vary widely. The one person who almost certainly does not know the capacity of the sleeve is the waiting staff delivering to you, so take it easy on them.

I could go on at length, but I’d rather do this over a pint. Of any size.

A blog about life in New Westminster