December 29, 2016

The Elbow Room Cafe ~ great shtick but....

The Elbow Room Cafe has been around a long time. Along Davie Street, but out of the West End, and officially in the high-rise, high rent district. It's a favourite among tourists and some locals too, though why isn't readily apparent.

There are rules posted in the menu, which are more an invitation to be entertained in a certain way. Don't ask for water, get it yourself, We'll bring you your first cup of coffee, after that, get it yourself. Getting crowded: leave. Don't like our choice of language: too bad.

Be prepared for banter from the servers that is rude, crude and sometimes hostile. It's all part of the act, and it works for a once-in-a-while visit. And while it isn't quite elbow-room-crowded, it is pleasantly small and intimate; the better to hear all the conversations.

To keep the locals coming back, the food could be a wee bit better, though the helpings are generous and the flavours possibly from natural sources. What can I say? It's a breakfast place and the reason anyone is here is to see how close the servers can come to being offensive. Underneath the layers of feigned anger and abusiveness, it's all about caring for each other. More or less. Maybe.

The Elbow Room Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 

Great shtick but the food: meh.

Photos by Jeem. Copyright 2016 by Jim Murray.

December 28, 2016

Boxing Day Snowfall

On Boxing Day in Canada, many people head to the malls for the annual consumerist ritual of spending money on things they don't really need.

We decided to go for a walk in the snow as yet another snowstorm blanketed Metro Vancouver and the entire south coast.

Tomorrow it will probably be washed away, but for now, our world is winter-white.

Photos by Jeem. Copyright 2016 by Jim Murray.

December 27, 2016

Christmas Day along Vancouver's Seawall

Snow is in the forecast but for now, it's sunny and brisk, and the city looks fantastic from the seawall.

There are many people out and about today. Tourists and locals. Running, cycling, walking.

Our friend and legal advisor, BT Mendelbaum (disbarred), made a grand entrance by hover craft. We didn't have much time to spend with him as Vancouver's finest ushered him off for "a discussion at the station."

We continued our walk-about before heading home for a wonderful Christmas turkey with family. Or a slight variation on turkey. Under a slight variation of a Christmas tree.

Photos by Jeem. Copyright 2016 by Jim Murray.

Christmas Eve on English Bay ~ and a television kiss

It's Christmas Eve and the city streets are quiet, and the air is cold and fresh.

We are downtown for the night, a sometimes annual Christmas gift to ourselves. The sea wall is empty, except for a few romantic souls and the usual dog walkers.

While admiring the giant tree lit with festive lights a lone camera operator from the local CTV channel came along and asked that we allow him to shoot the back of our heads for a better scene. Your faithful scribe, ever romantic, thought an even better shot would be the couple to steal a kiss.

"Oh my god, that was great! Can you do that again so I get it properly this time?" 

Later that night, after watching It's a Wonderful Life, enduring the CTV National News and then the Christmas Eve edition of the local station, there we were, for all of 2.5 seconds, closing off the newscast. With a kiss. 

Photos by Jeem. Copyright 2016 by Jim Murray.

December 18, 2016

Let it snow ~ VanDusen Garden

A wonderful snowfall today.

Slightly warmer temperatures and snow showers through the morning and afternoon, with accumulations approaching 12 cm in our Vancouver-Langara neighbourhood.

VanDusen Garden was a delightful place to visit in the morning and few others were there.

The silence of the park, apart from various bird songs, was wonderful.

Photos by Jeem. Copyright 2016 by Jim Murray.

December 16, 2016

Jeremy Corbyn ~ agent of change

"We are not doing celebrity, personality, abusive politics - we are doing ideas. This is about hope."

Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the British Labour Party is under attack. As usual. Not so much by people, but by established members of his party, and by the elites oh nation. Corbyn is often portrayed in the British press as inept and divisive, as a man who became party leader by accident and has no prospect whatsoever of ever becoming prime minister. Yet, there is he, bringing thousands of new, and younger, members into the party.

"Because I've never had any higher education of any sort, I've never held in awe those who have had it, or have a sense of superiority over those who don't."

It's an odd kind of situation, and the similarities with  Bernie Sanders are obvious: an older white guy attracting young people with a message that hearkens back to a different time altogether, to a time when workers' rights and civil society actual meant something. A time when creating a level playing field for people through education, health care and progressive taxation, was the accepted and expected norm.  In the UK Margaret Thatcher changed all that and the policies of  the war criminal Tony Blair and his gaggle did nothing to change it. Jeremy Corbyn is having none of that, thank you very much, and many seem to be in agreement.

"We're not going back anywhere, we're going forward, we're going forward in democracy, we're going forward in participation, we're going forward with ideas."

He calls himself a democratic socialist. He's vegetarian. He rides a bike, takes transit, and doesn't own a car. He's 67 years old and a bit dishevelled. Possibly because he rides the buses and bikes.

"We know the gap between rich and poor is widening. We know living standards are stagnating or falling and insecurity is growing. We know that many people feel left behind by the forces unleashed by globalisation - powerless in the face of deregulated corporate power."

The Blairites are particularly irritated by Corbyn's willingness to embrace the old ways in a new way, and in the process grab the attention of all kinds of citizens who know something is wrong with the way Britain has been doing things. He's shaking up British politics by offering an alternative to the elites.

"If we are only seen as protectors of the status quo how can we expect people to turn to us when they can see that status quo has failed? We must stand for real change, and a break with the failed elite politics and economics of the past."

It remains to be seen if Mr Corbyn will ever become Prime Minister in the UK, but his message, and the appeal of his back-to-leftist-basics, is resonating. On both sides of the Atlantic. Donald Trump, and his ilk around the world, need not be the only opportunity for real change in our society. Bernie Sanders was on to something. And so is Jeremy Corbyn.

Here in Canada, we need to catch up.

By Jim Murray. Copyright 2016.

December 14, 2016

Bâtard Boulangerie et Café

Bâtard has several definitions:
  1. It's a hybrid of different cultures and styles
  2. It's also an oval loaf based on the baguette
  3. A story by Jack London, and after spending three months in Yukon ourselves one winter...
  4. And, it's unique individual of questionable parentage

In Vancouver however, Bâtard is a great boulangerie and café in Fraserhood.

Bâtard is a family business created by Chris Brown of Rise Artisan Bakery (he's the former owner on Ecco il Pane) and Bruno and Sally Born (and daughter Elsie Born) of Finest at Sea on Arbutus. Whatever the lineage, Bâtard is a fantastic bakery and more.

The building is over 100 years old and and some of the exterior features are original. On the inside, things have been opened up with the bakery and epicierie on one side, the café on the other. There are local products as well as some interesting European items too.

Batard Boulangerie and Cafe Moderne Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

The pastries are excellent, with the croissants being the best in Vancouver.

The sandwiches are wonderful, mainly because of the bread, but the ingredients are fresh and made-in-house, like the roasted chicken that went into this Chicken Club.

Coffee, as one might expect, is highly sufficient. There are better coffee shops in Vancouver, but this place is special because of the excellence of its bakery.

Bâtard is located on Fraser Street between East 23rd and 24th Avenue.

Photos by Jeem. Copyright 2016 by Jim Murray.


December 12, 2016

Snow in our neighbourhood ~ turning to slush

It happens almost every winter on the southwest coast of Canada and while the rest of the country takes it for granted, here in Metro Vancouver, snow is a big deal. Even if is only ten centimetres at most.

Many of us, especially those working in the public sector, devoted employees all, hope for a snow day, and a paid day off. Sadly, it seldom happens.

Instead we get a day, perhaps two, of winter weather. Sidewalks are sometimes cleaned, as per municipal bylaws throughout the region, but usually not.

Kids build semi-snow structures and snow people, and the city slows down ever so slightly.

In a day or two or three, the rains will return, and winter will be washed away completely. Until next time. And some of us, like our lawyer-friend, BT Mendelbaum (disbarred), will spend the entire winter watching, waiting and praying for the next potential snow day.

Photos by Jeem. Copyright 2016 by Jim Murray.