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What to wear to avoid breathing secondhand wildfire smoke

A Vancouver lad demonstrates a children’s gas mask in 1943 (colourized from reference).—Vancouver Archives: AM1545-S3-: CVA 586-1233

Tuesday (August 14), British Columbia officially had the worst air quality in North America, thanks to smoke from the over 560 wildfires burning across the province.

In Vancouver, the Air Quality Health Index (AQHI)—with 1 being the lowest health risk and 10 being the highest —sat at 8 (high risk) from 11 a.m., when an air quality advisory was continued for all of Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley, due to the health risk posed by wildfire smoke hanging over the region. By 6:30 p.m., the AQHI had fallen to 6 (moderate risk) but the air quality advisory was renewed all the same.

The smoke blanketing Metro Vancouver contains high concentrations of fine particulate matter that can cause breathing problems for the very young, the very old and anyone with a chronic health condition and the smoke is not expected to dissipate anytime soon, according to Metro Vancouver:

“Elevated levels of fine particulate matter are expected to persist until there is a change in weather and/or fire conditions.”

In the meantime, the advisory warns:

“Persons with chronic underlying medical conditions should postpone strenuous exercise until the advisory is lifted. Exposure is particularly a concern for infants, the elderly and those who have diabetes, and lung or heart disease. If you are experiencing symptoms such as chest discomfort, shortness of breath, coughing or wheezing, follow the advice of your healthcare provider. As we are in the summer season with warm temperatures, it is also important to stay cool and hydrated. Indoor spaces with air conditioning may offer relief from both heat and air pollution.”

However, if the smoke does irritate your throat and/or make you short of breath, but you still have to be active outside, don’t worry, there’s a mask for that—just not the one that you always see some people in Vancouver wearing.

Read more…

Rising and shining on a late summer morning

This photo does not do justice to the blood orange quality of the smoke-shrouded sun at 7:26 a.m.

At 2 a.m. this morning (August 13th) I woke with a start in my parkade sleeping spot to the ringing and clanging of two or three glass wine bottles in an otherwise empty steel shopping cart—arguably the closest thing to bells that a person is likely to hear in the Fairview neighbourhood.

It was three weeks from the last welfare cheque and still quite comfortable overnight. So it was no surprise that at least one binner was in the area on the early leg of an overnight bottle run; hungry to find returnable beverage containers in the garbage that they could get cash for.

The sound of their questing and clattering passage rang for blocks through tidy alleys lined by recycling bins, dumpsters and flat-walled, brick and stucco condos.

Do not ask for whom the bottle tolls, I thought, as I drifted off back to sleep—a bike trailer that was full of returnable beverage containers sitting next to my shoulder. Read more…

Smile! The Google Street View car is back in Vancouver

The Google Street View car traveling west on West Broadway through the 1400 block at 11:02 a.m.

A Google Street View car—with its distinctive panoramic camera roof mast—was seen Tuesday morning (August 7) in the Fairview neighbourhood. I watched it pass twice through the 1400 block of West Broadway Avenue: once traveling eastbound just after 10:15 a.m. and then westbound at 11:02 a.m.

Since I began blogging in 2013, Google’s Street View cars have been as nearly predictable as comets, arriving in Vancouver every two years—first in 2014 and again in 2016—both times in early May. So a visit was to be expected in 2018 but not, in fact, as late as August. Read more…

Paint misbehavin’—a coverup of sorts at the 2018 Vancouver Mural Festival

Artist Kyle Scott studies his mural plan for the “palimpsest” of 33 East 8th Avenue.

The 30-plus new painted wall murals which will be the subjects of the third annual Vancouver Mural Festival (VMF), from August 6th to the 11th, have been taking shape on buildings in East Vancouver for weeks.

A small army of mural artists have perched atop ladders and chugging scissor and crane lifts, while braving scorching temperatures, to paint the new murals, which will join the 71 murals already completed by the two previous Vancouver Mural Festivals in 2016 and 2017.

One of the muralists I saw hard at work was Kyle Scott. He was painting an ode to his East Vancouver neighbourhood on a wall of the building at at 33 East 8th Avenue.

When I spoke to Scott on Thursday (August 2), the Vancouver artist, who says that he has only done two previous murals—both for the VMF—confessed he was unaware that the beige paint on the wall he was just beginning to cover with his mural was itself covering an earlier mural by artist-extraordinaire Raymond Boyer. Read more…

VPD should stop confiscating cannabis from homeless people already!

Henry contemplates the four joints-worth of cannabis that the Vancouver police didn’t seize.

My Homeless friend Henry couldn’t believe it Sunday evening (July 22nd), when two Vancouver police officers on bicycles swooped down and took a bag of weed from him that he had received only an hour previously from another homeless person.

It’s hard enough to imagine why Vancouver police would bother confiscating cannabis now that full legalization is just three months away (October 17th). It’s even harder to imagine why they would take it away from a homeless person.

The seizure took place sometime between 5 and 6 p.m. Sunday, in the alley on the south side of the 1400 block of West Broadway Avenue. Henry has been nearly bedridden here in a doorway for over two weeks now, nursing what he believes is a torn muscle in his right shoulder. Whatever the cause, the result has been incapacitating and terrifically painful at times.

Henry’s one trip to Vancouver General Hospital two weeks ago earned him a scant two Tylenol-Codeine tablets—hardly enough to manage the pain of his shoulder. As a mutual friend put it: Henry is a sick man and cannabis is his medicine.

Early Sunday evening, Henry had been gifting some of his medicinal cannabis to another homeless friend and—just his luck—he still had the bag in plain sight when the bicycle police happened upon him.

“That’s a big bag,” Henry remembers the officers saying and then, “that’s too much.”

Two other homeless people witnessed the seizure. The one who had received some of Henry’s cannabis was every bit as angry and demonstrative as Henry himself and both of them loudly and repeatedly called out the officers for stealing from a homeless person.

Henry was too stunned and angry to get either of the bike officers’ names and he says that neither of them displayed a visible badge number. He described the most vocal of the two as “chubby, maybe 200 pounds, with an English accent” and a wispy beard and/or mustache.

In the face of curses and insults the two officers apparently remained calm and unwavering in pursuit of their sworn duty to confiscate the weed.

“We’re taking this illegal substance,” Henry remembers the larger of the two officers telling him.

At no point did officers ask if he had a medical cannabis card (he doesn’t).

Henry says that the amount of cannabis confiscated from him was nearly 30 grams. He explained that he had purchased it an hour earlier on spec, from another seemingly homeless person that he did not know personally but who, he said, was carrying an awful lot of weed.

The fellow only wanted $50—payable next welfare day—for what Henry estimated was $150-worth of quality weed.

It was too good a deal to pass up but in retrospect Henry wonders if he was set up.

Putting Henry’s paranoia aside, I am inclined to view the cannabis seizure as targeted harassment on the part of the Vancouver police against the visible homelessness in the upscale South Granville area of the Fairview neighbourhood.

However, it’s arguable that it was just business as usual for the VPD. Read more…

Public hearing to consider heritage status for defunct Hollywood Theatre

Visualization from redevelopment proposal by 4184 Investments, Ltd. showing a restored Hollywood Theatre.—4184 Investments, Ltd./Marianne Amodio Architecture Studio

A redevelopment plan that proposes to save the 83-year-old Hollywood Theatre at 3123 West Broadway Street, will be the subject of a public hearing at Vancouver City Hall, on July 17, beginning at 6 p.m.

The developer that owns the lot at 3123 West Broadway Street, on which the Hollywood Theatre sits, is offering to spare the theatre and, in fact, to refurbish it and guarantee its existence as a neighbourhood performing arts centre—if, that is, the City of Vancouver will waive the existing zoning restrictions and allow the developer to build a 6-storey tower on the lot adjacent to the west side of the Hollywood.

According to a post on the website of the neighbourhood group that has been working to save the Hollywood Theatre, the development proposal submitted in February by 4184 Investments, Ltd., would preserve the facade and parts of the interior of the Hollywood and then some:

“The proposal would see the Hollywood Theatre’s current owner retain the Hollywood Theatre with irrevocable Heritage designation, through a Heritage Revitalization Agreement (HRA) and operate it as a for-profit entertainment/cultural venue . The HRA would transfer existing development potential of the Hollywood property to the adjacent lot, together with additional bonus density as an incentive for heritage retention and restoration. The result would be a 6-storey mixed use, commercial/residential (strata) building next door to a revitalized Hollywood Theatre.”

Read more…