Controlled CirculationSunday, May 18, 2014
We live in Kerrisdale. When Rosemary dragged us from our little townhouse (we did not owe any money) in Burnaby I was instantly in love with the neighbourhood which only needed a gingerbread house nearby to make the whole street, Athlone Street, look like a fairytale. The homes were mostly mock Tudor like ours and all had rhododendrons and nicely kept gardens. There were no fences except a few low laurel hedge ones.
We had a summer party every year. We would block the streets and the Vancouver Police would give police dog demonstrations and firemen would show us their talents. While nobody seemed to own a Dalmatian I almost felt we lived on a Saturday Evening Post cover.
But it was not all that it seemed to be. A gentleman who walked past our house with bible in hand had molested a student in school. A tall, refined UBC professor we all called the widower was not. His wife lived with him but they lived separate lives until she finally divorced him. We had a loose murderer running around in our backyards and the police had cordoned off our area without telling us to stay inside. I saw a man running with a gun.
Our garden was kept in shape by the neighbourhood Japanese gardener, Harry Nomura. But soon we figured we could not pay our mortgage and Nomura’s fees so we started gardening.
It was on Athlone that I first experienced that curious Canadian custom called “controlled circulation” magazines. We received at out door Vancouver Magazine, Western Living and a couple more.
Then in the early 90s it began to change as immigrants from the East purchased houses on Athlone and tore them down. This was great, so I thought. Rosemary would tell me, “They have cut the hydro wires. They will probably demolish the house tomorrow." With spades in hand and with a big empty wheelbarrow we would “liberate” plants, bushes and even trees. When trees were cut down, usually on Friday afternoons when City Hall was closed, my wife was considered the neighbourhood tree hugger.
I felt that justice was being done, historical justice I may call it. It was nice to see Scottish laborers building stone walls for the new immigrants. Many years before the situation had been reversed.
Then Vancouver Magazine and Western Living stopped appearing at our door. Then the Vancouver Courier was not delivered either. Rosemary has had to call through the years to the circulation department to complain. Our Vancouver Courier is delivered.
For many years our Audi A-4 blended in with the cars of the neighbourhood. There were Jaguars, Bentleys, Porsches, one Lotus and many Mercedes and BMWs. But four years ago when we purchased our used Chevrolet Malibu this worried Rosemary until I placated her by telling her that our car was unique to the area.
There have been many break-ins around. One of our neighbours (he has since moved), an ophthalmologist, had a collection of Rolexes. He wore a different one every day. They were stolen. We have our house alarmed but nobody who knows their stuff would break in as they would know we don’t have huge flat-screen TVs or anything else electronic that would make quick money at the fence.
I have noticed through the years that the older couples (their children were adults and gone) like the one we now are, were persuaded to sell and move out to a small condo. “Dad the place is much too big for you and mom.” These people would move and soon after they would die or be diagnosed with dementia.
And so the neighbourhood has changed and our little house stands out like a sore thumb in contrast to the contemporary houses (21st century contemporary). The garages are four-car garages and yet some families own more, so that the once empty street, and narrow it is, is now occupied by SUVs.
But while I am sad that the heyday of our street (a heyday in my memory as our house was built in 1936 so the street must have had many heydays) is gone there are some advantages that compensate for the constant spring noise of houses being pressure-washed or that Christmas lights and their variation are one for four months. One of the advantages can be had at my local Oakridge Branch of the Vancouver Public Library.
The demographic has changed but I am sure that the library has not kept pace. I made my mind to stop buying books three years ago. I have too many books and my pocket book is much smaller now. But I buy books anyway. I buy books at my Oakridge Branch. They charge $1.00 for fiction hardcovers and $1.50 for non-fiction. The last book I purchased a few days ago was Frank Langella’s highly rated Dropped Names – Famous Men and Women as I Knew Them. I was able to take out Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch as a one week fast read when I knew that there were over 500 holds elsewhere on 43 or 44 copies. Today when I returned to the library (Life after Life by Kate Atkinson, a fast read) I noticed that my returned The Goldfinch was still up for grabs. The books that are being sold are in some cases only a year old (I purchased a 2013 John Le Carré for $1.00). They are not being taken out because the new demographic does not read those books.
Not too many days ago it finally came to me. I stopped getting Vancouver Magazine and Western Living because those that distributed them thought I was a new immigrant.
Now I get this magazine at my door for the same reason.