Monday, August 20, 2007

Postcard from Jersey

received today, 20 Aug,
Hi Gaz
Having a lovely time in Jersey. Had a bit of the wet stuff. Just started growing web feet but it's nice and warm. Went to France for a day trip. You would love the buildings in St Malo. Had a bit of a rough time coming home on the boat. Carole's thinking of becoming a martian - she turned that green. She's okay now, Love mum and dad

Monday, August 13, 2007

Admiring Crown Mtn from Goat Mtn, 11 August

On Saturday afternoon having met S at Waterfront station we took the 15 minute sea bus ride over to Lonsdale Quay and boarded a waiting 236 bus to the foot of Grouse Mountain. After a human fuel injection of coffee we took the gondola with the tourists.

Heading north in the direction of the grizzly bear enclosure we saw the two bears. It can't be right for those bears to be there. That is not their natural habitat. Of course though the bears are a guaranteed revenue stream for Grouse Mountain Inc. I think the Grouse Grind is only as popular as it is because of the outrageous $32 gondola charge. That said you can get an annual gondola pass for $90 and ride as many times as you like. GMI is not going to do anything that will eliminate the tourist trap.

Turning west in the direction of Dam Mountain we soon lost the crowds and heard only their occasional roars as they delighted at the Lumberjack show. We meanwhile delighted in the twists and turns of the trail to Goat Mountain. In less than an hour the trail offers a great view of Kennedy Lake which sits at the bottom of a perfect fruitbowl with creeks feeding it on all sides. The lake itself feeds Lynn Creek. Soon after we gained our first view of Crown. S likened it to a fortress. But our destination was Goat. We found several snow patches and the trail to be rugged in places. There were plenty of wispy clouds but no rain. Rain would have made the twisting rollercoaster trail treacherous. The air was cool and you could taste Fall but we made it to the foot of Goat and back to the gondola with only a few drops of moisture.

The fortress will be conquered but here's a pic I found online

Practising zero waste

With the ongoing civic strike it has been the perfect time to practise zero waste. How am I doing? In my opininon not too bad. I have thrown out less than two plastic shopping bags of waste.

I got caught out at the start of the strike. It was necessary to sort a bag of waste containing both organic waste and landfill waste. Just writing the words landfill waste makes me shudder. So I had to do at home what I have done more commonly at work on a construction site, separating the trash. Equipped with rubber gloves I pulled the hard stuff from the bag leaving only the organic matter. I rinsed off the landfill waste and then cleaned as I would clean the dishes.

As for that first batch of organic waste? I flushed it down the toilet. That is far from ideal. I have only flushed one piece of organic matter since. At the end of last week I opened a jar of rice to find creepy crawlies. The entire contents of the jar got flushed. I then boiled the kettle, rinsed the jar several times and also flushed this. With the jar clean it joined two recently cleaned empty fish tins, ready for the recycling bin in my building. These are the first items I have recycled since the strike's inception. My thought at that time was there would be no collection of recycling. So I thought it better to leave the stuff in bags in my apartment but this bin has been emptied. I also made a conscious decision to eat more fresh food and avoid collecting recycleable waste.

Eating more fresh food however and living in an apartment with no compost facilities provides a dilema. The answer - an empty five gallon paint bucket. Since the start of the strike all organic waste has been deposited into the bucket which is closed tight with original lid and placed in sealed and defunct fridge. The bucket is about three quarters full.

In my suite - there is one large rubbish sack containing two, almost three, plastic shopping bags of paper to be recycled. There is also one plastic shopping bag of newspapers to be recycled, two bags of cleaned landfill waste. That is it. Hazards so far - perhaps more fruit flies than normal but this could also be a result of avoiding housework for more than two weeks. Having washed kitchen floor today their numbers are already reduced. Perhaps the single biggest problem will be what to do with the organic matter when the bin is full. I can only think that a trip to a communal garden might be the answer. Failing that starting a compost on the roof but then I am impacting on my neighbours - something I have avoided thus far.

In a perfect world I could compost all the organic matter at a nearby communal garden, recycle all existing recycleables as well trash that at present is headed for the landfill. Some items that can't be recycled can be reused as plant pots for example. But there is a lot which can not be reused like batteries, used ink cartridges and faulty cameras to name just a few examples sitting idle in my apartment.

The end of oil?, painting by numbers VI

The end of oil, sounds like a grander story than it actually is. Sorry to disappoint you reader. I got a call Saturday morning from the boss man to be told that the company is slowing down and that he is going to have to let me go. Coming just four days after my refusal to cross a picket line I can't help but think there's a connection.

I keep it polite, not one to burn bridges though I can't see a return to this oh so happy bunch of painters and tight wads, er ahem, Gary, cool it! I felt strangely liberated by the fact that I didn't have to think of going to work on Monday and that I had a weekend in which I could let my hair down. Five hours later I am exiting a gondola car beating out the trail with S in the direction of Goat Mtn. Life in Vancouver, forever fall of hits and highs.

Marching with Local 40

By Gary Jarvis
On Friday afternoon I joined the members of Local 40 as part of the Hotel Workers Rising campaign. As a keen supporter of the hotel workers union local I was delighted to join the march and rally as a marshall. On arriving at the Vancouver Art Gallery I quickly got to work on sorting out the Hotel Workers Rising banner with fellow activists. This done there was a quick briefing by the lead marshall.

About thirty hotel workers assembled next the Olympic countdown clock and we were joined by several NDP provincial politicians and sisters and brothers from other unions including CAW and HEU. We left the square and marched north to the first of several stops at hotels in the downtown core of Vancouver. We rallied at the hotel chanting "what do we want?" - "contract", "when do we want it?" - "now." Soon after we were joined by about fifty more workers from a nearby hotel and ten minutes after that by another fifty. Each time new workers arrived with their 'hotel workers rising' flag poles they joined their already marching comrades. It was an impressive site.

We later marched to the Hyatt on Burrard turning in the direction of the hotel front doors. We filed past noisily and went down beneath the hotel via the underground parking to make a loop of the hotel before heading back to the Art Gallery and only after making a circuit of another hotel's parking area. It must have been eerie for hotel management to see this many disgruntled employees mobilized and ready to act on their grievances.

Back at the Art Gallery, John Wilhelm, president of Unite Here's hospitality division addressed Local 40 members. Then Beth Marshall, a server at the Hyatt for more than twenty years, told us that on retirement she can expect to receive a pension of just seventy dollars a month. This was just one example. Worker after worker got up to air their anguish at the now corporate nature of the hotels, so different from years gone by, when local operators owned and ran the hotels and treated their employees more fairly. Hyatt, Renaissance et al better sit up and take note otherwise the struggle for justice will intensify.

Friday, August 10, 2007

The Gospel Train

check out the Co-op Radio show on 102.7fm, Fridays 8-9pm.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Painting by numbers V

Oil paint 0 Spinach and lettuce salad with olive oil, red vinegar, salt and pepper 1.

There's the recipe that finally put to bed the lingering effects of oil paint.

Solidarity forever II

I worked a full day today and a day without incident for me. However the boss showed up and expected my co-workers to do the work on the back of the Thunderbird community centre. I am pleased to report that one of my co-workers said no citing the strike as the reason.

It also turns out that after I left the job site yesterday one of the strikers told another of my co-workers who was prepared to do the work that he would have to stop. I am pleased to hear that.

And yes the two other lads who were working yesterday did find sufficient work to do for the rest of yesterday. That flys in the face of what I was told that there was no other work. A fact that the other principled worker mentioned in the first paragraph rubbished saying that there was plenty of things I could have done.

Lesson: Don't rely on site supervisors for instruction. Find your own work to do on site and only when that comes to an end or if given a direct instruction follow that.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Solidarity forever

Today I had the option of working on a worksite where job action was in effect or heeding my principles of solidarity with my union brothers and sisters. I chose the latter.

I work as a unionized painter and we are currently painting Thunderbird School in east Vancouver. The school is adjacent to Thunderbird Community Centre where members of CUPE Local 15 are on strike. For the first half of the day we worked on the school site. After coffee break my site supervisor informed me that we were to paint the back of the community centre. I told him that I was not comfortable with this considering the strike. I asked if there was any other work that I could do. There was not. The site supervisor suggested I contact our employer. I did. He too was not able to give me any other work and informed me that I should go home for the rest of the day.

I told my site supervisor this and also reported back to the striking workers that I was leaving the job site. They thanked me. I later contacted CUPE strike headquarters and informed them of what had happened. They also thanked me.

It was not a difficult decision to ask for alternative work or phone my employer. I am however disappointed in my employer and co-worker that they would consider it okay to do this work where job action is in effect.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Save Insite and Pride Parade

In just two days I have gone from an Englishman abroad to a Canadian. No I am still not a citizen and have a few months to go before that process can begin but having participated in the Vancouver Pride Parade yesterday and volunteered at the launch of the campaign to save Insite on Saturday afternoon I now feel firmly at home here in Canada.

I am essentially riding a wave. A wave that has lifted me to a high on life that shows no sign of abating. To my great surprise last Thursday I discovered that not only did we have Monday off work (BC Day) but also an optional holiday on Friday thanks to our union agreement. Unable to make a decision to work or not I decided at 4.40am Friday morning with the sound of my first wake up alarm that I would take the holiday. It wasn't a difficult decision to make considering I'd been upto past midnight having dined with S in English Bay.

I took advantage of the surprise holiday to do the mundane - laundry and housework. A clear 36 hours with no responsibilities enabled me to get renergised and so when an organizer with the Campaign to save Insite asked if I could volunteer on Saturday afternoon I jumped at the chance. Shortly after noon I was to be found standing on the corner of Cordova and Carrall streets handing out flyers inviting pedestrian traffic to the free BBQ featuring legendary Vancouver punk band D.O.A. Insite is a safe injection site for heroin addicts. It has medical staff on hand to deal with any emergencies and is funded by the federal government. That funding is at risk of being pulled by the minority Conservative government. Should that happen hundreds of people each year could die on the streets of Vancouver.

As smoke filled the air and the warm up music blared at the corner West Hastings and Carrall, more commonly known as Pigeon Park, I and other volunteers walked the line up of hungry punters requesting they write a letter saying why they want to keep Insite open. With dozens and dozens of letters collected a dynamic of the Downtown Eastside that I had never before noticed became startingly apparent. That is, that here in the poorest neighbourhood in Canada there is real community solidarity. It is easy to say that a neighbourhood has a community but what does that mean and does it have a community that will support each other in the face of adversity? Of course it is also easy to get carried away with the euphoria of the moment; the sun was shining, hungry people were being fed and watered, there was dancing and Joey Shithead of D.O.A sang songs of resilience.

Here in this ever shrinking geographical district thanks to Olympics development and gentrification people can still give you something and expect nothing in return even if they themselves have no home or even two pennies to rub together. I experienced that on Saturday. Feeling the heat of the day I had decided to take a break and walk the few short blocks to my home. En route I tripped on a knee high metal chain, a trademark feature of the Gastown area. I fell hard and slightly cut my elbow. Retelling this story to a woman in the line up for BBQ meal tickets she took an antisceptic wipe from her pocket and gave it to me. It was a simple and innocent gesture on her part but to me it was an example of this community's collective strength. Speaking from the stage Joey Shithead said the great thing about this country is that we are prepared to give people a second chance. His words formed a segue to the next three minute wonder echoing that sentiment, and in that moment I was convinced that I was standing in the surely the best place in the whole of Canada.

On Sunday I joined with our bride of Bush statue and Stephen Harper wedding cake on the Pride Parade. In front of us on the back of a flatbed truck a dozen men dressed only in their underpants and suntan lotion cavorted to techno. Each man with his own coloured briefs but collectively forming the colours of the rainbow. We followed behind carrying the stop war banner shimmying and shaking all the way from Robson via Denman to Beach Avenue. In a few short hours we gave out 15,000 Tell Parliament to get Canadian Troops out of Afghanistan stickers. The Pride Parade is a must on the Vancouver calendar, an opportunity to defend and strengthen the rights of the gay and lesbian communities of Canada and beyond. And beyond was one of the key messages of this year's parade. In seventy five countries around the world homosexuality can mean persecution or even execution by hateful authorities.

With love and peace firmly in my heart I later met S at the Inukshuk and strolled to Stanley Park where we balanced stones and paddled in the sea. I went for a swim in my underpants and on changing my beautiful assistant while holding my shirt was bitten on the foot by a crab. She screamed, the shirt slipped and passers by whooped at my nakedness. Our energy levels sinking we walked back to Davie and ate at Vera's burger joint with the Pride revellers. Waking for my third BC Day today I had the curious feeling that I was now Canadian.