Beach Avenue

I didn’t realize until I saw for myself. They put a monster building on the site of the old Black Top taxi lot and disappeared the “Beach Cafe” coffee shop at 701 Beach Avenue. The coffee shop was in the old style with round stools with red vinyl padded seats at a counter and a few booths where generations of hard-driving cab drivers tried to drink enough coffee to obliterate the miserableness of their lousy cab driver existences.  

The walls of the coffee shop were adorned with a few old, framed black & whites of extinct Black Top cabs and their extinct drivers.  The taxi offices, such as they were, were connected to the cafe.  The shift dispatcher, the formidable and indomitable Ella Read, took and made calls from an office the size of a closet.  She sat in there all day working the phone and smoking cigarettes.  When I didn’t have a steady car, that is the same car with the same number for the same shift five days a week, I worked “spare”, as it was called.  

The call would come from Ella in the early afternoon asking if I wanted a car for tonight.  If she was calling and I hadn’t already worked five days that week as a spare it was a good idea to say, “Yes” or Ella would come through the phone line and bight me.  I think, though, that inside her hard exterior was a soft interior.

She’d give me the car number and I’d come down to the lot at the appropriate time, pick up the keys in the driver’s room with the sheet, being the legal-sized “trip sheet” with the carbon copy where you were supposed to record every “trip” involving a paying customer or customers and the time and the pick-up and drop-off location, and then I’d head out to the lot to find the car.  Sometimes it was on the lot, sometimes it was parked on the street somewhere near the lot and sometimes there was no car because the day driver had a longer last trip than he’d planned on.  If he was more than a few minutes late he’d give me a couple of bucks to make up for it.  I remember only two lady cab drivers. 

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The gas station next door at 711 Beach Avenue is history too although the shell is still there with the old pumps. The fleet used to be all gas powered then it went to natural gas. It was common on the afternoon shift which was 3:45 p.m. to 2:45 a.m. to drive two or three hundred miles and go through at least two full tanks of gas.  

If I got low on gas and was far from the lot gas station I bought gas at a gas station and put the receipt in the cash envelope at the end of the shift, deducting the amount of that gas as well as the gas from the lot pumps from the car owner’s take for the night.  The split was 50 – 50 after that between the owner and the driver with two per-cent deducted from the driver’s share and held back for income tax.  

Unless a trip was dispatched it didn’t necessarily have to go on the trip sheet.  This was when you picked up a “flag” fare, somebody waving at you to pick them up if there was nobody but you in the cab.  It was a hard-scrabble hustle business and if you were getting lots of flags on a busy night you wouldn’t record them all and the cash was yours. Everybody did that within reason.  It was a cash business.  Only a fool of a cab driver would ever accept a cheque for a trip.  There were credit cards, and taxi vouchers and company accounts, but no debit cards.

Few gas stations at the time also dispensed natural gas so if the cab ran low it could still be switched to run on gas.  When I was out of natural gas and had a trip downtown I could make it into the lot to re-fill on natural gas.  Driving a cab for ten or eleven hours wasn’t necessarily a gas.  

On the afternoon shift I didn’t have to stay out until 2:45 a.m.  I could park the car around 2 a.m. especially if the night was slow.  Graveyard shifts were 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. with the expectation that the cab would be in service the entire 12 hours.  Some drivers only worked graveyard, some only worked day shift.  In my career I worked all three shifts, most of them afternoon but occasionally I’d opt for the thrills, chills and spills of graveyard.  Cool. Graveyard.

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This sign wasn’t in place during my career.  It’s at the northwest corner of the taxi gas station.  The chain link is new too, much newer than the sign.  That pole has to go.

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Then there’s this thing.  It’s hanging above Beach Avenue from the underside of a section of the famed Granville Street bridge just past what would have been the eastern end of the Black Top cab lot.  The cab lot and the high, vaulting, dun grey concrete of the bridge support arches towering directly above what at one time had been the False Creek terminus of downtown Granville Street before the bridge was built wasn’t much to look at unless you loved driving cab and lots of dun grey concrete. 

I called cab driving the worst job in the world.  I was never robbed or threatened by anyone and only ever physically removed a customer for being drunk and disorderly once. I doubt that it was the worst job in the world, then or now, but the pay was lousy considering all the hours in a shift and wouldn’t be great today either.  But it was better than nothing which is what I was looking at otherwise, at the time.  Today all the Black Top cabs still have black roofs and yellow bodies but the drivers now, who used to be all white, are all brown.  And I doubt very many of them can afford to live in Vancouver where they do most of their driving. These chandelier things and just about everything else in town costs more than it used to.

Acorn Lane

 

My stock is up and it’s got nothing to do with “Acorn Lane”. Yeah, what a name for a lane or anything else. Lanes are horrible. They’re lanes. What are you supposed to do in a lane? What can you do? What you can do is almost nothing. Turn around, maybe? Try to get out of here? You’re lost and just don’t know where you are? That’s enough questions. Maybe that’s what lanes are for. I never thought of it like that. This is cool.

I was thinking of fabled, well-storied “Salal Road” a moment ago and how there’s no salal anywhere around there. And that put me back in that place where Saturna is worse than Ireland.

You’re getting the gears everywhere. Of course, there’s no acorns on Acorn Lane. Everybody knows that. That was the intention the whole time. Ever since the name went in. It’s like “Saint Kevin’s Parade” in Dublin. It barely exists.  There’s no Saint Kevin and no parade. Search in vain. But once you get used to the idea, you kind of like it. I do too. Or should that be, “Me as well.” I wish I knew.

It’s nice here and I also think again, “How do they do this? Who are these crazy people living around here in such a beautiful place? It doesn’t make any sense. What’s wrong with them?”  Don’t’ they understand that it isn’t any good to say, “Well, I live in a beautiful place. I mean after all. What you’re saying is you don’t see any acorns in Acorn Lane? You’re not looking hard enough.” And I’m thinking, “maybe that’s right.”

Dig it up because I’ve been to the acorn show and there aren’t any acorns around here. Not that I can see. An Acorn Lane would take an Acorn Lane tree which would be an oak tree. Zero oak trees to be found. Not here, leastwise. There must have been one here at one time. It’s about the ones that aren’t here now. Moving on.

But I think of Acorn Lane. It’s often in my thoughts wherever I am and it’s a blessing considering all the other things I have to think about that are vastly more confusing and complex. I get through everything because I’m tough. I’m a tough acorn. I have the little acorn hat and here I am falling to the ground, separated from my mother oak in the usual way. Hoping for germination is a very confident little acorn down here. I’m an acorn. It’s me. I’m free. I’m back. We’re everywhere all the time. Acorns are us! Acorn Lane!

Finally, I understand what Acorn Lane is about. Motivation. Acorn Lane represents motivation. I need to say it twice because I need it, need motivation.  Motivation motivation!!

Now I know. Acorn Lane. You know what? I’d pay to see it again. One thing I really like is it’s highly unlikely I’m going to run into somebody around here who stops, focuses in, says, “I know you! You owe me 42 million dollars!” And runs off. And even if it did happen I’d do what I always do, without exception, flee the scene myself, but in a leisurely way. No panic. Some derelict gambler. It’s just the creativity talking.

It’s been a beautiful few months and a fine summer and everything is looking good on Acorn Lane. I don’t know, it’s silly, but I remember the great Fats Domino. And I don’t mind that I might be a bit chubby because Fats validates me and I’m definitely looking for some of him next time at the Free Store. Fat chance.

This Just In From Acorn Lane

 

 

Salal Road

It’s just weird that anybody thinks they can get away with this. But it couldn’t have been just one person. It took a whole lot of genius brains to put this act together. This is the shortest road in history. And they call this a road? What’s next around here?

I didn’t know I’d lost my mind because I’m so old but I read the story at the Postmedia site starring the so-called Vancouver Sun newspaper. There’s nothing bright about the Vancouver Sun to light up your day. Darkness blots out the sky, but that’s not what I’m talking about. And that’s not my whole opinion. Postmedia through senility or whatever still employs a few good writers. Despite itself.

It’s about according to the experts my brain disappeared a while ago. And I did my best work in my twenties. How I profoundly wish that had been the case because I did no work in my twenties. I lazed around enjoying my twenties and work intruded hardly at all. If I’d worked harder I’d be even more famous today than I already am. I just didn’t need it. My opinion.

I’m not sure what I’m driving at but it makes about as much sense as Salal Road. There isn’t even any salal on it. I don’t see any salal anywhere around here and I’m a pretty good salal spotter. I’ve been around. I even know what it is. It’s green.

It’s alive, unlike my brain apparently. By my forties I’d already tailed off significantly, according to the experts and their expert study. Now it’s really over. If you read it’s true it must be true. It’s just that nobody wants to admit it.

Why at that time didn’t I wonder more why I still walk the earth at all? Why didn’t it occur to me then that it’s over for me, I need to die. Because, they’re right. I don’t remember losing my mind which, according to them again, just proves what they’re saying. I lost it a long time ago. I’m glad I know about this now. It’s about time because I’ve been thinking, even now, with the advancing years, that I’m such a smart person. So brave. Pretty incredible.

That’s how hard the truth hurts. My “cohort”, the most recent stupid concept of what group I supposedly belong to, my legion of doomed legionnaires, my generation except I don’t have a generation and never strived for or wanted to be part of anything resembling anything called “generation”, it sounds so dirty, makes me wonder why we many, we who apparently are so many, in our elderliness and confusion in still being here after forty, if that was really the case and we knew we were finished, then obviously we’ve sucked it up because we function yet. We’re getting used to it and we’re not forty anymore. We timed the market. The way I have to about Salal Road.

We walked away with the picture, upstaged everybody and left town at midnight. I wouldn’t change a thing even if I didn’t have a brain, which, and now I agree with the experts, was in retrospect pretty much the case. But I was brains enough to survive and I’ll get through this news too, that my brain died a long time ago. I’m okay with it.

The days get shorter and you get longer. That’s the bit of wizardy and wisdom communicating itself to me now at Salal Road. I won’t say on Salal Road because from everything I’ve seen we’re down to a pretty much sort of private short driveway here. I need to know more about this sign. Forgive us our press passes but what is your name, please? I said to the cop on the phone, “I’m not walking past the door. I’ll come down Alder.”

The road sign. The highway to nowhere and that’s what I kind of like about it after all. Perforated steel post and a ten by six inch or so or whatever in metric metal sign, ivory white background behind block capital letters in black. Same old. Beautiful. Walking back everything is great. My mind is a basketball and I’m bouncing it around on the road and doing a little dribbling. It feels good.


Last in a series

The Clearing

After that hailbomb we walked up…

I like it. A lot of land has been cleared up here. The exposed soil is a cedar brown. There’s a lot you could do with this big new patch of ground although I can’t think of a single thing right now, mostly because of where this big clearing is. So I presume there will be a reforestation effort across the curve of time. There’s nothing like big wide open spaces and new vistas to make you think.

I like it. It’s always a learning experience. It’s after the battle. The trees are down and gone away, the earth has been churned up and all the woodland creatures have run off. The world up here as it was is ended and it’s new times.

The land has really been ripped up but it’s not anything different from what I’ve seen elsewhere. Vast tracks of ground have gone through the same thing for all kinds of reasons for many moons. I’m not shocked or feverishly wringing my hands and weeping for all the terrible devastation. I like it. It’s different. It’s business.

Impressive towering pyramids of slash have been built up and they’ll make for some cozy barbecues when fire season’s over in the fall. It’s quite an easy “show” really, just rolling lumpy land unlike some of the hairy sidehills I recall, logs tumbling down and bonking off each other like ten ton toothpicks.

That reminds me of something funny. Saturday Creek. The Super was standing on the road looking up the hill and something like what I’ve just described was happening. “What the hell’s going on up there?” He said, looking at me. “You the hooktender here?”

I was green as grass and it was my first morning in camp. Any camp. I was standing on the road a few feet from this guy who’d just pulled up in his pickup. If I was standing around it was because I was waiting for somebody to tell me what to do. There were four sides going at that time and I guess it was hard for Finnerton, his name was, to keep up with who was doing what where. He had a beautiful daughter. I never worked a side as tough as Saturday Creek the rest of my time in the industry.

Please. Please. No more logging stories. A heavy steel swing gate, locked, blocks the entrance to this new logged-off land on this new punched in road off the main drag not far from home. Other people now I hear are using that expression, my expression, “punched in” and I’m not sure how I feel about it. Am I a force for good or just another glib hacker? The gate is solid but could use some paint. What’s left of the original paint is a vomit yellow, frittering away, but it’s a fine, solid gate and it feels good.

One note about woodland creatures. I never saw “Bambi” before. I mean there was “Lady And The Tramp” and “Pinocchio” and “Dumbo” which is probably the greatest movie ever made, not the remake, the original, and “101 Dalmatians”, but I never had the opportunity as a kid, I guess, to see “Bambi”. I always thought Bambi the little deer was a girl. I didn’t, for the life of me, know Bambi was a boy until two nights ago.

Years, friends. Decades. Eons out here in space. The ravages of time. I didn’t know and the realization comes at last. I’ve been taken down by an assumption, long held. It’s like you’ve made up your mind forever and you think you know what this movie is about. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never seen it. As it turns out you don’t have a clue. You feel like a fool but finally you’ve learned. And you feel stronger.

Don’t worry about forgetfulness. I don’t. I want forgetfulness. I do. It helps me relax. I have a lot of complicated things I deal with every day and relaxation is vital. It’s self-interest. And self-interest appeals to everybody. I’ve seen it.

 

They Made A Wasteland

Great to see it’s over, or almost over. I hope so anyway, whatever’s next. I must say I haven’t seen a log truck loaded like that since I left the industry myself. I was on the point of getting all misty-eyed with the memories I was so blown away with such an awesome sight. Cedar, all of it, fine good-sized red cedar logs.

I did a lot of second loading myself, happy and proud to do it dodging around the claim with the loader in our own pickup. Boomer was a master and I thought it strange, in a way, that I’d come this far in little more than a year from a rookie setting beads to second loading for Carl Boomer, city slicker and gentleman amateur that I was.  I must have been good.

We loaded eight trucks one day. Most impressive, The Woods Foreman was content. Boomer could pour you a cup of tea with the grapple on his loader and spill nary a drop he was that good. Always a pleasure working with someone who knows what they’re doing. I wish it happened more often. If you’re still out there somewhere, Carl—Avanti!

It’s 2019.  It’s all good.  I loved being a logger.  It’s a lot of logs later. I don’t know what’s happening in the Alberni Canal and have to say don’t much care. But it was important to me once, it was a job. All of it. I wanted the work. But it’s 2019 and do we still need the wood? What really was of absolute necessity here? Deforestation as an issue hasn’t gone away anywhere.

Human beings are great. They will justify the unjustifiable forever. Why? Pride. As the Tsawout Edler explained not too long ago in the spirit of reconciliation, “We can’t get rid of you and you can’t get rid of us.”  It’s all good.

Someone’s got to do the esplanin around here so there it is. That’s why woodland massacres happen like the one that unfolded out here on the rarely visited, wild and woolly lands to the east on this mysterious island.  Maybe it was the belief that no one would notice.

I couldn’t help it. It was the first thing that came to mind as we motored past that new road off the main drag to the east, way out past the Winter Cove Road junction, mud from the new road splattered all over the pavement.  It certainly looks like a purpose-built road for logging hacked out and built up with one thing in mind.

Uprising

A clearcut by any other name is still a clearcut. And those few lonely, tall deciduous trees left standing in the middle of this big patch of decimated woods are left to represent what? Conservation? Some people have odd senses of humour.

I couldn’t help it. “They made a wasteland and called it peace.” They made a wasteland and called it progress, initiative, getting our own back, it’s ours and we can do what we want with it. But apparently what’s gone on is also, to some, looking a lot like a fiasco, with, you guessed it, unintended consequences. Perfect. I don’t have the details in front of me. Who needs details when you can see for yourself?

I had an affliction once that fortunately I was able to outlive—a weakness for Penguin Classics. I’d buy them at the drugstore when I was supposed to be reading other stuff during my mis-education at university. Tacitus. Agricola. Stand back here it comes.

Solitudinem faciunt, pacem appellant.

They made a wasteland and called it peace. I know. My Latin’s a tad rusty too. I don’t concern myself too much with it and you shouldn’t either. Don’t worry about it. Times have changed.

My Latin was as non-existent then as it is now which is why I was reading Tacitus in good old English provided by a couple of fine old English scholars when I should have been reading my psyc textbook which I quite naturally found an agonizing bore. Psyc had the days, Tacitus had the nights.

I liked the Romans, thought they were cool. They got by without a lot of stuff we take for granted today like power saws and log trucks. The use of slaves wasn’t cool but the Romans weren’t without their good qualities. Aqueducts. What’s cooler than that?

And they had some pretty good writers and some pretty lousy emperors. The question remains even now. Why wasn’t I in “Classical Studies” as they were called, at the great university? Because, like so many humans, I’m contrary.

Everything’ll be okay. That’s what Nana always used to say and Nana was always right. Almost always anyway. I can go on making my dubious distinctions and  doubtful, arcane references and the rest of the wood on the ground will be taken away and the future will unfold. Nana was brilliant. Of the making of controversy there is no end, Nana used to say. Eat your porridge. Try it with some Roman ruins. Yum…

Temple of Artemis, Jordan. David Bjorgen/Wikipedia


Pansies courtesy CS Nicol