Wide open (west)

by Yule Heibel on July 15, 2004

There’s a longer entry I mean to write, but just for now, two pictures I took on Tuesday night (13th). They’re from a parking lot that has an adjacent empty historical building. Both are scheduled to be developed into an 8 story monster (to be called Bambu) that will be sited in a 3-(tops)-story downtown neighbourhood, Chinatown Victoria BC, a national heritage site. Bambu advertises itself as “irreplaceable loft-style condominiums” in the “low 100s to 500s” price range. Now, what’s in fact “irreplaceable” is actually the heritage of Chinatown. But heck, if you have the permit to build a monster in its stead, you can bloody well call it whatever you like, eh? And what do you call an 800-lb gorilla? Bambu. It’s a sad story, but the photo of the couple — no, sorry: the couple, not the photo of them — is I think tremendous. The man seems aloof, but he was really very friendly and open. The woman was a trooper: I asked them for permission to take their picture, and since they were panhandling, I offered them money, too, and she immediately posed jauntily, jumping into the role of model. I just took the one picture, it didn’t seem fair to shoot a bunch, but maybe I was wrong. It was interesting to separate them into two different photos, which I fiddled around with on iPhoto but don’t show you here. He is very different when divided from his lady, while she retains her projection, with or without him. Draw your own conclusions; it’s all theatre and keeping up appearances, even on the street. They seem to go well together, though. The other photo shows the parking lot wall with a chunk of plaster torn off the brick wall underneath. It must have been done deliberately since it’s in the shape of a profile. The “head” is looking at a tree growing out of a crack between building and asphalt. And just to the left is a sprayed-on logo for Bean Around the World, a local coffee shop on Fisgard Street. Victoria’s Chinatown is really beautiful, despite the overlay of touristy crap and the fact that Vancouver’s Chinatown outdistances Victoria’s in terms of bustle. Much is still authentic, much is decrepit, crooked, allowing you to bend your head if you care to look. And despite the relentless preening of tourism’s disneyfication, it still shows the deep bending of the back that the Chinese had to maintain while trying to create a foothold here. So, I opened a Flickr account, but haven’t had time to upload photos. Soon, soon. (Maybe?) These photos, probably more photos, and then some stories here. There is so much to talk about in regard to this town. It’s an interesting place. It can make you angry and leave you agape.

Brick wall/ tree:

{ 1 comment }

Marja-Leena Rathje July 16, 2004 at 12:57 pm

I really enjoy your writings about the seamier side of touristy Victoria, the reality behind the prettiness!

Your art history writings sound fascinating….do you still do any?

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