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The ’56 Bel Air — an American Dream worth having


The Italian word for “very beautiful” is bellissimo — itself a very beautiful word. But you only say this if you’re referring to guys. To say that a woman is very beautiful,  you say that she is — bellissima!

To say that a car is very beautiful, you could say that it is Bel Air-issimo (or –issima), depending on the gender of the vehicle.

This is to say that it looks as good as a 1950s Bel Air, which is saying something.

In the body of the Chevrolet Bel Air, I think that the post-Second World War American automobile aesthetic achieved one of its most balanced expressions, just before it fell over the edge into excess verging on parody and arguably, absurd sexualization,

While the 1956 Bel Air convertible is really swell-looking and certainly more valued by collectors, I think I prefer the 1956 two door Sports Coupe —  one of which I was lucky enough to see on Sunday afternoon, for all of the 15 minutes that it was parked on West Broadway Avenue.

Nothing ugly about this American (except its gas mileage)


The faux-convertible hardtop roof, the “speedline” styling of the slanted headlight housings and the especially graceful front and back wheel wells, not to mention the two-tone paint job, limned by thin, flashing lines of chrome.

In the 1956 Bel Air Sports Coupe, all these individual elements combine harmoniously to produce the appearance of effortless, clean-cut perfection.

Nothing seems out of place and nothing seems excessive. The car brooks no argument, only admiration.

Though it was something of a luxury model in its day, to a modern eye it could be a 1950s everycar.  We would accept seeing almost anyone step out of it: a banker, a movie star, a stenographer, or a shopkeeper. And we could imagine anyone wanting to step into it. It looks both desirable and attainable.

War is said to be diplomacy by another name and consumerism has similarly become an adjunct of Western democracy. It was in the retooling of American society after the Second World War that consumerism was really ramped up in order to satisfy, or at least blunt, the appetite for progress and positive social change denied through the war years.

But if postwar consumerism was only offering new cars and refrigerators and the like, and not new civil rights, it wasn’t entirely a con job either.

A Bel Air was a steel, glass and chromium rendition of freedom, prosperity and upwards mobility, that any one of hundreds of millions of Americans could see themselves owning — if they worked hard enough.

In that way, back in the day, a Bel Air was the American Dream made real and give its makers credit, 59 years later it still looks pretty dreamy. Click the image to enlarge it.

Model Year Curb weight Length Mileage
Cadillac Escalade 4WD 2015 2652.6 kg 5179 mm 16.6 L/100 km
Chevrolet Bel Air Sport Coupe 1956 1550 kg 5,016 mm 15.6 L/100 km
BMW M5 sports sedan 2015 1550 kg 4,910 mm 9.9 L/100 km
Honda Accord Sedan EX 2011 1550 kg 4,930 mm 9 L/100 km
Smart Fortwo hatchback coupe 2015 820 kg 2695 mm 7.8 L/100 km

How enthralled is that kitty in the window?


A cat in a flat watching me Saturday night from a second storey window.

Cats, it seems to me, watch people in much the same way that people watch their smartphones — with curiosity, anticipation and a general air of one hoping for some sort of functionality or entertainment.

Want your litter changed, or a door opened, or something to play with? There’s an app…I mean, there’s a person for that.

Dogs, being simple, honest creatures, watch people, I think, largely just to see if either food or “walkies” are in the offing.

That’s all I wanted to say. Really. Click the images to enlarge them.


What choo lookin’ at?

The Downtown Eastside now delivers to Fairview

Neither the bicycle or the guy in cuffs could easily stand up by themselves.

Neither the bicycle nor the guy in cuffs could easily stand up by themselves.

About two hours ago I was halfheartedly watching two big blue and yellow Unitow tow trucks slowly circle the 99 B-Line bus that had conked out in the westbound curb lane of the 1400 block of West Broadway Avenue at about 5 p.m. I wondered which of the two would leave — they don’t tow buses as a team.

When I next looked up from my window seat, an additional drama was unfolding: two “streety” guys were out in the far westbound boulevard lane — basically standing in the middle of West Broadway. Between them was a bicycle which they were each gripping with both hands and apparently each trying to tug way from the other.

I vaguely knew one of the fellows, who at about 6-foot-two-inches considerably out-leveraged the other, shorter fellow (who I didn’t know) and who seemed to be having trouble standing up.

There was a third person — a woman — who I thought I recognized (but didn’t). She had long, light brunette hair and a languid manner and she stood off to one side gesticulating with a plastic 7-Up bottle in the direction of the two gentlemen.

And there were two ambulance paramedics — I think they had just been driving by and stopped to investigate why three people were blocking traffic in the middle of West Broadway Avenue.

Meanwhile, the Unitow truck drivers seemed to have sorted things out amongst themselves because only one remained to tow the bus without distracting competition.

And then two of the Vancouver police department’s shiny black Dodge Chargers arrived in the eastbound lane, all burbling with red and blue LED light. Read more…

Crowds begin making their Grexit from Greek Day


Too much for this 99 B-Line bus (probably the round whatchamacallit in the corner).

It’s 6;30 p.m. in Vancouver. The skies are now overcast and a light drizzle is intermittently falling through the sultry early evening air.

From my vantage point in the the 1400 block of West Broadway Avenue, I can infer the course of distant events in much the same way that astronomers can detect unseen planets by perturbations in the orbits of planets that they can see.

For instance, I can see that waves of people are making a hasty “Grexit” from Greek Day, which is is taking place down on a stretch of West Broadway Avenue in Kitsilano, 13 blocks westward, between the five blocks of Macdonald and Blenheim Street.

I can see this because in the last hour and 50-some minutes westward 99 B-Line and number 9 Boundary buses have quite suddenly increased both in terms of their frequency and their filling.

The westward rush hour of buses continues but has has subsided slightly in frequency. At its peak, just after 5 p.m. the buses were coming almost one-a-minute and the first few were stuffed to the ceiling.

It didn’t help that at the very beginning of the rush, one of the full 99s conked out in the 1400 block (TransLink maintenance has come along twice to poke at the motor but the bus still sits idle).

One member of the first TransLink maintenance crew shook his head and admitted the obvious to me that Greek Day was very “challenging” for the transit schedule — and then, seemingly apropos of nothing, he expressed the hope that I had voted Yes in the referendum.

So many departing revelers should just mean more elbow room for other attendees still arriving at Greek Day because the giant family-oriented block party continues for another two hours, until 9 p.m. tonight!

Greek Day has, in past years, attracted something like 100,000 people so we can expect several more hours of heavy ridership on transit buses coming out of Kitsilano. Click the image to enlarge it.

The Fire and Rescue crew at Fire Hall No. 4 remember


On Tuesday, June 23, the flag was flying at half-mast outside of the shared building in the 1400 block of West 10th Avenue, which houses both the Vancouver Public Library’s Firehall Branch and the Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services Fire Hall No. 4,

The firefighters were certainly marking the National Day of Remembrance for Victims of Terrorism, which commemorates the anniversary of the bombing of Air India Flight 182 off the coast of Ireland and is a time to remember all victims of terrorist acts that have occurred around the world.

But Tuesday was also the day of the funeral in Markdale, Ontario, for air tanker pilot William Hilts, who died fighting a forest fire near Cold Lake, Alberta, on May 22.

And there was a small, bright red, firefighter’s helmet perched snugly on the very top of the flagpole. Read more…

No one wants my damaged lithium-ion battery


Unsafe at any speed! The Kindle batter in its mobile safety containment: a cardboard box on my bike trailer.

Unsafe at any speed! The bad battery in a cardboard “containment unit” on my bike trailer.

So far, no one wants to take the bloated lithium-ion rechargeable battery that I pulled out of a Kindle Fire.

On Tuesday I wrote about the Kindle tablet that someone left on a dumpster; how its puffed-up lithium-ion rechargeable battery had clearly suffered a thermal meltdown and what a dangerous thing that could be.

I was hoping to quickly and safely dispose of it at one of the two big box consumer electronics retailers located in the Fairview neighbourhood that are listed as participating in B.C.’s battery recycling program: Call2Recycle.

But I was turned away at both businesses and told that the others I had yet to approach wouldn’t be able to help me either. Sales representatives reacted with either shrugging regret or shrinking horror, explaining that they just didn’t have the facilities to safely handle the thing.

The thing was a battery but it might as well have been a dead cat stuffed with dynamite! Read more…


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