Beneath the Burrard Street Bridge

Photo by Dylan Yee

This weekend it was sunny and it snowed, and Oprah didn’t buy the penthouse.  Vancouver is a crazy place.  I love it to death, never mind my occasional mad rant.  Isn’t being a curmudgeon is part of who we are?  Whether it’s Kerrisdale NIMBYs, Bus Riders’ Unionists, or anyone perched on the steps of the art gallery, Vancouver people find purpose in a constant state of upset.

I once attended a lecture at the VPL about the future of newspapers.  On the panel were media people like Charlie Smith from the Georgia Straight. When the mic came to the audience, everyone had something to whine about.  One guy even laid into the press for not reporting the “connection” between Osama bin Laden and a “secret base” under the Burrard Street Bridge.

The conspiracy theorist’s rant is a classic Vancouver moment.  Nothing about real estate prices is going to change this.  Same goes for your marble countertop or Miele range.  A city isn’t the sum of its glossy appliances.  Whether things go boom or bust, whether you’re a renter or buyer, Vancouver is Vancouver.  Always.

Photo credit: Dylan Yee

45 Responses to “Beneath the Burrard Street Bridge”

  1. condohype Says:

    Feel free to post your classic Vancouver moments. It’s fun to reflect on the everyday stuff. If you haven’t lived anywhere else, you might be surprised that it’s unusual not to say hello in the elevator.

  2. tragicspin Says:

    I thought everybody knew about the ‘secret base’ under the bridge. They used the Childrens Festival as a distraction to send up spy satellites and land the submarines full of fresh North Korean commando’s. We often sold ganga to Kim Il Sung who snuck through vancouver on his way to Euro Disneyland with Osama’s brother Raoul. They were both total toke monsters and really dug playing pool the lesbian crowd at Joe’s Cafe on the Drive and doing beers at No.5 Orange.

  3. Nascent Bomb Says:

    Several years ago when I was new to the city and still had a car, said car conked out in the middle of traffic on E. Hastings near Templeton. The only individuals who stopped to help me push it out of traffic and around the corner were a hooker and her very sheepish-looking john. (I’m a medium sized gal, by the way.)

    It did not occur to me at the time that she was a hooker, nor that the visibly uncomfortable man was a john, till ten or so minutes later when she came back alone to make sure I was ok, and I clued in to what was going on and why he had a guilty look on his face. (I’m from the suburbs of Calgary; I was naive.) She even had tips about what might be wrong with the engine, because she used to work at a body shop.

    That, my friends, is a Classic Vancouver Moment (TM).

  4. other ted Says:

    Here is one in the early 90’s there was a guy who would phone pay phones around town. I had the displeasure of talking to him at both BCIT and at the denman gas station pay phone. Funny thing is I never pick up pay phones but was telling my friend abou the freak at BCIT when the phone rang downtown and guess who it was. Well this guy wanted other guys to beat the living snot out of him and he would pay. That is a gross vancouver moment

  5. jesse Says:

    Some friends of mine moved from Vancouver to the suburbs and were complaining how they couldn’t leave their empties outside their door and have them disappear by the next morning.

    As for weirdos, don’t think Vancouver has anything different compared to many other cities. Sure this city has its own character but isn’t as “unique” as people think.

  6. Danno Says:

    My Vancouver moment was about 3 years ago on East Hastings near Main. I observed 2 guys smoking what I guessed as crack on the sidewalk. A Police cruiser pulled up next to them, so their reaction was to pick op a long rectangular box and place it over their heads and continue like no one was watching. Oh Vancouver!

  7. Charles Says:

    The first day my sister visited from Ottawa, I met her on Commercial Drive along with her friend who lives in that area. We went to Drive Organics (or was it the co-op?) and she was standing in front of the liquid aminos, saying “Wow, I’ve never seen such a huge bottle of liquid aminos”.

    And as if on cue, this foodie hippie dude appeared out of nowhere (not an employee) and started telling my sister how she should avoid Bragg’s because it’s not really all-natural, how they purportedly use hexanes to extract it. Then he started pointing out the brands she should use. And then he just kept talking on and on about genetic modifications ad nauseam.

    We eventually thanked him and rescued her. The moment we got around the corner and he couldn’t see us anymore, we burst out laughing. Welcome to East Van.

  8. Nick Says:

    I wonder who started the rumour… was it Rennie himself? “OMG!1! Oprah is buying in the Shangri-La! If you buy there, your value will skyrocket because of her!!” Oh, it’s just a rumour? Well, never mind then.

  9. vancityguy Says:

    Not quite sure if this is a quintessential Vancouver story, but it is West Coast.

    A little over two years ago I was recovering from a broken leg suffered in a football game. I was a few weeks along and already in a walking cast so I went to catch a movie at Scotiabank Theatre on Burrard. There was a solitary man, mid-40s, behind my date and I and he asked me how my ‘healing process’ was going.

    He then went on for the next ten minutes on the astounding healing power of the ‘Colour Healing’, describing himself as a ‘shaman’ and ‘colour healer’. He handed me three cards, all different shades of green, and told me that the energy from the colour green would make my leg stronger than it was before.

    I smiled, thanked him for the colour cards, and proceeded to watch the movie. At about the mid-way point (I think it was Pirate of the Caribbean, but I can’t remember) he got up and left the theatre. I guess the colours weren’t right.

    Anyways, that’ Vancouver for you, though I seem to run into these unique characters more in the summer than winter.

  10. Larry Yatkowsky Says:

    Crazy place allright!

    Best seller response all year.

    The scene:

    Home has been for sale since Aug 08. Market continues to tumble. First high profile agent is dumped after 5 months having generated no offers. Decision – take home off the market and have a break during Christmas.

    Mid January – New 2nd high profile RE team is engaged.

    Wham-mo! An offer!

    My question to seller – “well did you sell?”

    Seller’s response: “it was a serious offer, but we’re expecting others.”

    Now 2 months later, the market continues it’s tumble and the home is still for sale.

    Yah gotta luv it! 🙂

  11. blueskies Says:

    we are watching a house in E Van
    first weekend:
    at open nouse realtor was confident it would
    sell close to list estate sale motivated heirs
    second weekend:
    lots of viewers and a Rennie realtor bringing in client with good offer subjects off by Friday
    this weekend:
    subjects not removed, realtor not answering calls
    but it’s all good a Russian investor is coming in
    with a solid offer slightly below asking……

    i can’t wait for next weeks episode
    better’n a soap opera
    your quintessential Vancouver zeitgeist 🙂

  12. Montery Says:

    About the elevator thing.

    It’s true! I grew up in Vancouver, and I therefore always assumed that you just don’t say anything to anyone in an elevator.

    Then, one year, I went on a trip to Las Vegas. First time on my own on a trip, and first time to LV. Anyways, I’m in the hotel elevator, and this guy with a huge stainless steel belt buckle and cowboy hat and boots enters the elevator. I look at him and think to myself “wow, where’d this yokel come from?!”

    I was shocked when he said “Howdy! Where ya from?” I was like “Umm… you talkin’ to me??” of course I didn’t say that out loud, but that’s how I felt! Turns out he was from Texas (go figure!). A very strange experience for a Vancouverite I tell you! That’s when I realized I’m not in Vancouver anymore.

    Now, I think this is a symptom of the younger-folk. The rental building I live in now, most folks say hi, how are you, in the elevator. Mostly the older folks say hi. It’s hit’n’miss with the younger (under 30) crowd. As to be expected, the worst offenders for not-saying-anything are the ESL’ers who are too shy to use their engrish.

  13. Condobarf Says:

    To get to work I have to go up Main Street in downtown Vancouver. One day my bike was stolen while it was locked to the downtown police station (!). I tried walking to work but some crackheads decided to rob me near Main and Hastings. I got away but my coat was slashed with a switchblade. My next brilliant transportation plan was to buy a push scooter that was small enough to fold up and hide from thieves but fast enough to avoid crackheads. The first day I rode the scooter on Main Street I was pulled over by a police patrol car. The cops (one with obvious donut icing sugar on the front of his uniform) told me it was illegal to ride a scooter on Main Street. I thought he was joking and I made a smart-ass remark about donuts. One of the cops gave me a very bad look and appeared to be reaching for his night stick. Luckily they decided I was hopelessly stupid and not worth their time. One of them told me I was going to be killed one way or another and they drove away.

    The following day I checked with the City of Vancouver and to my surprise I found out there is an ancient Vancouver law prohibiting scootering on Main Street! How on earth would a cop know there was such an obscure law? There must be a poster at Tim Horton’s with a list of Vancouver scooter laws.

    That is my story from the Best Place on Earth.

  14. _KC Says:

    As a native from Windsor, Ontario, I had a bit of a learning curve when I moved to Vancouver a few years ago. My favourite ‘Vancouver moment’ so far was in 2007 during Playoff Hockey season. I went into the off-hours liquor store near Darby’s in Kitsilano and when i exited I was approched by a homeless women. I was expecting the usual speal asking for money/food/booze and was completely shocked when she asked if I knew the score of the Canucks game! I went into Darby’s to find out for her and let her know. She was so grateful. So weird!

    PS- I can’t handle the ‘no converstation in the elevator’ movement in Vancouver and resist the trend by always giving some type of greeting. I think if you are sharing tight space for even a brief moment of time with another human being, you should acknowledge their existance!!!!

  15. betamax Says:

    Well this guy wanted other guys to beat the living snot out of him and he would pay.

    LOL. My friend picked up a phone and got this guy in the late 80’s. We thought it was the funniest thing ever.

    Weirdest sight I had was seeing a ranting guy on a bus wear his underwear like a hat. Boxers, not briefs.

  16. dingus Says:

    Was on a bus last week, and a girl at the back spent the trip loudly meowing.


  17. chuff Says:

    thats part of the problem why people are so unfriendly, theres WALL to WALL insane homeless people everywhere!!!! So, most people just keep their head down and go into their own world.
    Thank the NDP for that, also thank them for leaky condos.

  18. DaMann Says:

    I was at a house party years ago, 90’s I think. It was packed, hot and smokey. The guy I was with lit up a cigarette, he was almost swarmed and beaten. People later told him that the place may be smokey but you can only light joints inside, cigarettes outside only unless it’s weed. “You DIDN’T know that?!!?”
    Only in Vancouver…

  19. DaMann Says:

    Just to add another thing about Vancouver. I love the place but there is some odd myth that Vancouver is a super relaxed city. I thought it was too until my wife pointed out little things to me. She is from England and she always says that Vancouver is uptight about trying to be relaxed. Very true! it can be quite an anal city.

  20. miso Says:

    Was at the Fireworks festival near Kits point. Lady had two boxers off leash in a crowd of a bajillion people. They galloped on to the blanket my kids were on, snapping at their snacks, and getting their big stinky butts in their faces. I called to her “hey d’ya mind keepin control of yer dogs?” She acted like I just called Martin Luther King the n-word. How dare I! This is an off leash park! She literally sat down right beside me on the log I was sitting on and, quaking with rage, told me I was A Very Rude Man. Right in front of my kids. And huffed off.

    So Vancouver. Where canine rights trump common sense and civility.

  21. VancityAllie Says:

    Classic Vancouver story… I was apartment hunting a few weeks ago and one lady wanted $2700 for an old 800 sq feet 2 bedroom. WOW. Talk about overpriced!

    Classic Vancouver… the snow falls this morning and already on the way to work there are 2 cars in the ditch and another stalled at an intersection.

    Classic Vancouver… a women accuses a man of not being environmentally friendly by driving to work… and she stands there drinking out of a plastic water bottle.

    Classic Vancouver… waking up every morning and reading CondoHype! Love ya 🙂

  22. Mrs Loquacious Says:

    I’m with Miso on the canine rights thing…

    Classic Vancouver…where a dog owner who takes his dog INTO the public gym to hang out while he works out, has the gall to try to convince me that it is his right as a German to take his dog anywhere, including inside public exercise facilities. Nevermind the fact that I have dog allergies – apparently his “cultural practice” of dragging his poor dog everywhere takes precedent over the rights and comfort of paying patrons.

    Classic Vancouver…where a beggar who gives a sob story and is denied loose change will boldly proceed to tell you to F off at the top of his lungs.

    Classic Vancouver…where two women on East Hastings can been seen kicking the crap out of a guy on the sidewalk, and nobody even cares enough to call 911.

    Classic Vancouver … where the hookers on Seymour not only have all of their teeth, but manage to look hotter than I do.

  23. Strataman Says:

    Classic Vancouver … where the hookers on Seymour not only have all of their teeth, but manage to look hotter than I do.
    Mrs Loquacious
    Damn!! You made me snort my beer! All the other ones were so right! Don’t insult no panhandler by turning them down, and apologize to the owner of three pit bulls that gets into the elevator with you and says you must be afraid of dogs cause they don’t usually snarl! which is of course your fault! 🙂

  24. Strataman Says:

    Classic Vancouver Cyclists that own the roads and sidewalks and crosswalks and lawns and ignore every traffic regulation yet explode with anger if anyone OTHER than a cyclist like a motorist or pedestrian even suggests that they might be in the wrong (such as going against a red light on a cross walk and yelling at the pedestrians to look out) while swearing at a car driver who has a green light and telling everyone how very eco they the cyclists are!) Which reminds me I haven’t seen them blocking the Burrard Bridge every last Friday. How about a new law, any one who blocks the bridge on the summer days must be there every winter day even in a blizzard; failure to do so means you are not allowed in the city for three years on a bike car or as a pedestrian? 🙂

  25. other ted Says:

    betamax funny I knew I wasn’t the only one to talk to that guy funny you had that experience.

    Speaking about pets in public places. I used to work at a place that allowed people to bring in pets, because it was all part of the work “culture” WE were so west coast engineering. My thought was what about allergies. So I would add phony balony work cultures to the list and an obsession of pet owner rights.

    Also would like to add weird guys who show up with snakes to malls and even worse one idiot was swimming with his python at white pines beach in port mooody. I just kept thinking one if this thing goes nuts there is no way you are going to fight a python in the water and win. Two this idiot was conditioning the snake so that it can be comfortable. That is the last place I would want and escaped pet to go, the public beach.

  26. Happy Renter in North Van Says:

    My wife and I were driving to a funeral in New West… We’d moved from Ontario about 9 months previous… We still had our Ontario Plates, our tags were out of date, etc… We got stopped by an unmarked cop van in East Vancouver… We started (pretend) arguing about whose fault it was for not having the plates and tags up to date and the cop got exhasperated, told us to get it fixed pronto and took off… No donut residue on him, though… That’s when my wife and I realized… Things really are different on the West Coast!

  27. RJB Says:

    Japanese tourists trying to pet a skunk in Stanley Park.

    Tourists trying to pet a mangy raccoon in Stanley Park.

    Walking out of work late one night and seeing a huge flash. I thought a movie was being filmed. Turned out to be a meteor. I start walking down the street when a woman and an 8 year old or so girl come running up the street. She asks “Did you see the meteor!?” I say yes, and she starts running again and shouts out “Check out my website! Super natural woman BC!” It was totally random and weird. I google it and find pure undiluted nuttiness.

    Drivers that try to make a quick left as soon as the light turns green and don’t care if they almost hit people in the crosswalks. If forced to stop, they get mad and act as if it’s their right to kill pedestrians.

    Effeminate gay security guard threatening me and my supervisor that we were going to fix the elevator OR ELTHHH!

    Interesting homeless people:
    Young meth addict with rotten teeth. He pretends to be from Australia and once told me he was on a “walkabout”. He always seemed to be out at 1 am years ago.

    Quarter lady. Endlessly repeats “Spare change… spare a quarter” everywhere she goes. I burst out laughing when I saw her walking in the forest in Stanley Park and she asked me for a quarter. Ask the squirrels!

    Old guy who used to hang out in front of the A&B Sound back in the early 90’s and beg for change. His pockets were STUFFED with money and he had a nervous habit of jingling them with one hand.

  28. Urban Dweller Says:

    For me Vancouver has always been about the summer, best city that I’ve lived in during the summer by far (NY, T.O, San Fran and Cowtown don’t even come close, well San Fran does).

    A few years back I was smoking pot at Kits, when one of those patrollers came by :S He asked “are you smoking marijuana”, Of course I nodded my head slowly thinking I was going to get some sort of fine/punishment. He shakes his head and tells me you can’t smoke hear go into the parking lot. Naturally I offered him a toke in jest and he said “I don’t do that anymore” lol right and neither do I.

    That to me is classic Vancouver.

    Other than that it would have to be doing the grind in the summer, just to see a really old run up the freakin mountain or you get stuck behind a group of slow moving tourists.

    The beaches, babes, production trailers, casual office attire, dining, boom/bust cycles, all classic Vancouver. Me thinks there is a whole post on this CH?

  29. sgt.turmeric Says:

    In the late 90s I was living in a rooming house in East Vancouver. The room across the hall from me was occupied by an ex-con (10 years for armed robbery, he claimed). We’d occasionally have tea together in the evening. One day he knocked on my door and asked me if I wanted any bananas. He had found a big box of bananas in an alley, apparently. I politely declined.

  30. Boombust Says:

    When GM Place was built, I was CERTAIN they would change the nearby Skytrain station name to “Stadia Station”.

    They didn’t.

  31. NascentBomb Says:

    Hey, what about the homeless guy with the pet pigeon? I forgot about him. The pigeon has a string tied to its leg and it hangs out on the guy’s hat or his shoulder. I’ve seen him downtown and on Commercial Drive. That guy’s awesome.

  32. other ted Says:

    RJB Says: I laughed out loud about the meteor story. funny you mentioned it one night on spanish banks a few years ago I was a meteor just huge. lit up the sky couldn’t believe no one else saw it. It was like out of a superman movie. It went in the water i think.

  33. VHB Says:



    You’re right. People in other cities never do that.

  34. Danno Says:

    OOO I almost forgot about my favorite panhandler “Wavey”… You all know the guy that stands on the north side of Hastings and HWY1…. He’s always there Waving with a smile at the cars passing by. He’s gotta be the happiest panhandler out there!

    I use to give him a coffee every Thursday evening on the way home.

  35. Skilled consumerism Says:

    Was at at the Commodore and saw people passing joints openly and openly smoking pot everywhere. (Not a smoker myself anymore)
    Then I saw a guy light a cigarette and the security go into Code 5 takedown mode-multiple guards, agressive posture, the whole deal.
    I hate smoke of all kinds so I was a little confused.

  36. Grumpus Says:

    Who was that (possibly homeless) lady who hung around downtown with a pet duck named Bobby? Surely she is in someone else’s memory banks, because even though I hardly ever left the house i saw her all the damn time there for a while.

    Bobby was awesome. He wore a cardigan.

    I would say that this pair was Classic Van, but i don’t see such awesome tag-teams too much.

    I do agree with the observations that lighting up a smoke frequently has the same social effect as pulling a pin on a grenade.

  37. Urban Dweller Says:

    @ VHB

    Vancouver has a tonne of great restaurants and is known as a foodie city, just for clarification. Jesus a lot of people walk around with sticks up their ass in this city.

  38. dingus Says:

    “Jesus a lot of people walk around with sticks up their ass in this city.”

    Yes, indeedy. Despite the reputation as Lotus Land, this is categorically NOT a laid back place. Spend a week somewhere else, and you will notice the difference when you come back.

  39. NascentBomb Says:

    @Danno I LOVE Wavey! More people in this town need to pick up that guy’s attitude. He’s doing his job, and he’s got a smile on his face. Wonderful.

  40. Van-zee Says:

    I remember the duck lady. How about that one rat named sniffy?

  41. anon Says:

    Oh, so you’ve got underground CIA bases in Canada too. Seeing as OBL was CIA through and through.

  42. grumpus Says:

    Van-zee, I remember Sniffy! That incident motivated me to summon all of the smarmy moral outrage that nerdy adolescents are capable of, and write a letter to “The Province” expressing this (ah, the futile avenue of expression that is the Province’s “Letters to the Editor” page…)
    That Rick Gibson fellow is a bit of Classic Vancouver that is not so good – people with nothing to say, saying it loudly, with inarticulate references to Art being all the scaffolding that blundering ego needs…

  43. Joe Says:

    Good Vancouver story:

    My first day in town. Padded down to the shops early one damp morning and every single person on the way to Main St looked me in the eye on passing and nodded hello. After two years in Toronto this was very refreshing.

    Bad Vancouver cop story:

    Sitting in a Timmies at the window bar next to two uniformed cops. I was there 45 mins and they were there when I arrived and still there when I left. It was a nice sunny day. After they’d finished discussing the cars they were planning to buy – one a Mercedes- one cop said to the other, “Easy life eh? Sit watching girls all day – all paid for by the f*#ckin’ taxpayers!” Then how they laughed. I think of that every time I see the police chief asking for more resources.

  44. billy Says:

    Ha! This message board is hilarious!

    Is it mostly for people that can’t afford Vancouver real estate?

  45. David Wootton Says:

    LOVE it or LEAVE it! Vancouver is the hippest city in CANADA. Of course real estate is high as everyone wants in!

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