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The treachery of tethers…

Ceci n’est pas un vacance – that could be my personal variant on Magritte‘s This is not a pipe.

I’m in Vancouver, and it’s supposed to be a break from my island exile, but digital tethers ensure that I’m plugged into all the usual concerns.

Earlier today I wrote a blog post for Johnson Street Bridge dot ORG, called Heritage value, once more. It’s about how the City of Victoria is ignoring an important heritage assessment, which states that the bridge has “significant heritage value.”

And as usual, there are plenty of other digital tethers to ensure the hiatus isn’t a complete break. But it’s still fun.

Vancouver is a riot, and I do love it. But it’s a funny town – it talks a big green game, for example. And a lot of it is green – but holy cow, is the oh-not-so-green car culture ever alive and well here. I mean in particular a car culture driven (sorry, bad pun) by young men (very young men), who – through lucky breaks (ahem) or inheritance – possess cars that are worth a small fortune (say, $80,000), and who enjoy nothing more than to parade their vehicles through downtown, parking them in front of brightly-lit shops so that those of us out for an evening stroll can admire the buff metal and languid embodiment of all that privilege.

There’s also an unbridled aggression (again, mostly coming from younger male drivers, especially if they’re driving costly cars) against the tightness of the core city: its density and its traffic congestion. Lots of aggressive driving, which is pretty comical to watch, especially if you’re familiar with driving mores in truly densely populated areas. Naturally, the young men are frustrated at every pinch point (i.e. corner, traffic light, pedestrian crossing – you name it).

Car culture in Vancouver shows how much the city is still inbetween – but what a glorious inbetween it is. It’s beautiful, fresh, energetic.

Tonight, I ambled through Holt Renfrew (we don’t have a Holt Renfrew in Victoria, sadly). The Vancouver store is quite beautiful – sort of like an Apple store for clothes: white on white decor, with jewel-colored objects of desire in stark but seductive contrast. Very tasty.
Holt Renfrew in Vancouver
I found myself drawn to one mannequin, dressed all in Fendi. I admired the tattered scarf tied around its neck, but did a double-take when I saw the price tag for the shabby-chic piece of cloth (nearly $300). The mannequin wore a woven jacket that I thought looked really sharp; I walked to the rack where 2 or 3 of the same jacket hung. The price? $3,550.

I considered licking the jacket’s lapel or sleeve, because an object basically so utilitarian (and a not especially couture one, to boot), yet so expensive, struck me as some kind of fetish. I thought, I bet there’s some kind of primitive impulse that would justify ingesting or incorporating this absurdly magical object that’s capable of commanding such a high price …but then my reason got the better of me, and I held my tongue. Literally.

But it made me wonder whether I should get out my sewing machine and run something up. Three thousand five hundred and fifty dollars is an awful lot of money for a simple little …coat.

But so is $80,000 for a car that merely travels on the same roads as everyone else.


  1. Hi Yule,

    I enjoyed your post about yvr. It reminded me of a couple of things:

    First, our trip to New York last September, and the shoe floor in Saks. Before we left a friend of mine (a native New Yorker who now lives in Victoria) recommended I visit Saks. When I told her it was a bit out of my league she replied, “But you HAVE to go — just to see the shoes!” And so I did. There were a few shoes for $350 but most were at least $500 and many were $1,000 plus! I’ve never owned a $500 pair of shoes, but glad I went.

    Second, Olgilvy’s in Montreal. It was my mom’s favourite store. And although I don’t sew much now, I used to sew quite a bit, and there were some great fabric stores in that area of St. Catherine’s street.

    Thanks for your post.

    Comment by Cindy Stephenson — September 3, 2009 #

  2. Thanks for your comment, Cindy! It’s funny, after I wrote my remarks (and hit “publish”), I thought, “hm, I hope this doesn’t make me sound like those people who say, ‘my 3-yr old could do that’,” when confronted with a Jackson Pollock painting. I sure didn’t mean to suggest that I could rival a Fendi creation with my amateur sewing skills – just that the loveliness of the garment, coupled with its price (unattainably steep), has me itching to try creating something unique and beautiful myself. I do love that about a real city (the display of wealth). In Victoria, so often, we content ourselves with the display of nature, and the achievements and products of human culture take second place. It’s practically a “sin” in many Vic circles to like ostentatious display and luxury, as though “the simple things” were always best. I like a bit of variety myself – sometimes simple, sometimes over-the-top luxe, even if I’m “just looking”!

    Comment by Yule — September 3, 2009 #

  3. Some things seen in Vancouver may be expensive, especially housing. But unlike Victoria, Vancouver has the salaries to support it. (And, you’re right, the inheritance too)

    Comment by Davin Greenwell — September 9, 2009 #

  4. Thanks Davin. Vancouver has the salaries to support it.

    Comment by estetik cerrahi — September 12, 2009 #

  5. That’s very true, re. salaries. Here’s an interesting bit of info: the daughter (now at UBC) checks work-study opportunities, which all pay around $16 p/hr. The son (at UVic) does the same and finds that UVic caps work-study pay at $10 p/hr. Ouch.

    Comment by Yule — September 13, 2009 #

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