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Category Archives: vancouver

Walk Score: bringing math to walking


Janelle’s visit was a great opportunity to get out and explore my new neighbourhood — when I’m by myself, I have a tendency to sit on the sofa surrounded by my laptop, DVDs, books, guitar, Atari 2600, and other amusements. As, for instance, right now. But can you blame me? Those 900-page Nixon exegeses and compilation volumes of Y: The Last Man aren’t going to read themselves, you know. And who will listen to all those Spaced commentary tracks if I don’t? You? My neighbour, who’s name may be Frodo or something that sounds like Frodo? Don’t make me laugh. And yes, I know I’ve plugged Spaced a lot lately. That’s because it’s awesome and I want you to go out and buy or rent or borrow it already, so you can thank me for turning you onto it.

Hmmm… I got a little off-track. What I wanted to say was that even a boring homebody like myself needs to get out of the house and do stuff every once in a while, which was going to lead into a clever segue about this web site: Walk Score. Which is, itself, pretty clever. You give it an address, and it generates a “walkability” score that tries to give an idea of how easy it is to get around the area on foot. It’s based on research that having lots of nearby amenities is the strongest predictor of how much people will walk. Using Google Maps, it computes the distance from the location to each of a checklist of amenities like grocery stores and movie theatres and sums up the score to get a walkability rating from 0-100. Most of Manhattan scores in the high 90s. Sprawls like Charlotte and Jacksonville average in the 30s.

It’s not perfect — of the 12 amenities it checks, I actually have 10 within the “perfect score” distance of 400 meters (everything but a cinema and a bookstore), but it only finds 6 of them. And it ignores things like transit and climate. You can walk 400 meters through January snowdrifts in Regina (and I have, many, many times), but it isn’t really “walkable” in the sense that you feel like you’re enjoying any particular positive quality of life. Which is why most people don’t walks if they can help it. Which is probably why Regina is mostly low-density housing and big box stores. (Well, one of the reasons.)

But this is still a pretty cool tool for someone like me who makes a point — and self-righteously at times, I might add — of not having a car. When I was looking for an apartment back in May, I really started to appreciate just how important it was to me to be somewhere walkable. So important, in fact, that I confined my search to places I knew had everything I needed nearby. It worked out, but to be honest, I still feel like I totally lucked out to land an apartment I like in such a plum location. With this tool, I might have been able to expand my search, instead of just rejecting the entire East Side out of hand.


main street, originally uploaded by Mister Wind-Up Bird.

This is actually a picture I took a couple of years ago — I really have not had time for photography lately, so I went to flickr and did a search of my photos, looking for my previous impressions of Main Street. My new home looks nothing at all like this, and is, in fact, the ground floor of a nice house on a leafy old street. This is a building several blocks away. And, as I said, this is a picture of the past. In fact, I barely remember taking it.

However, yes! I moved. Tyson, Gillian, Meghan and Gregor were good enough to help me move exactly 37 blocks east. Meghan even drove the van, which was pretty handy, because while I can drive, my license expired years ago. (In other news, it’s a long damn bus ride up to the U-Haul in North Vancouver.) In an uncharacteristic bout of optimism, I thought we’d be able to move all my stuff in a single trip. Ultimately, it took two trips, and my bike is still at the Kommune.

But everything else is moved. It seems a bit weird to be surrounded by all the same furniture and things I had before. Wrong, somehow. I’ve moved before, of course, but I’ve actually never moved a lot of furniture and just… stuff. Until now, I’d always been travelling light, or unloading most of my possessions to move to a new city. However, even all my worldly goods assembled don’t really fill a smallish apartment, so I’ll be getting new things soon enough and replacing others.

Modulo a few little annoyances, I really like my new apartment, and I love my new neighbourhood. Within about a four block radius, there are multiple coffee shops, bakeries, butchers, Asian produce markets, greasy-spoon diners, burger joints, Vietnamese pho shops, sushi bars and regular bars. I am going to eat so much bad food.

On Sunday morning, after my first night in my new place, I headed out about 8 o’clock for coffee, walking past bleary-eyed scenesters heading home, and elderly Chinese immigrants hobbling along on their morning constitutionals. I passed signs in half a dozen languages and posters for bands I’ve never heard of and never will again. I felt… I felt like I would like it here.

Anyway, I’ll be going to Tofino on Wednesday to meet up with the family. My parents are looking for retirement property on The Island and my brother and his wife and my other brother and his girlfriend are going up there, too. So I probably won’t be updating until next week, and God only knows when I’ll get around to posting pictures of my new place, but I promised, and I will deliver. Eventually, I will deliver.

moving day

moving day, originally uploaded by Mister Wind-Up Bird.

Leaving behind my red, red room.

I’m moving!


Yes, after living at my beloved die Kommune for six years, on June 1st, I’m finally moving out on my own. I would also like to report that looking for an apartment in Vancouver? Not much fun. Trying to get an apartment you like in your first-choice of neighbourhood in Vancouver? Also less than entertaining.

But I did it! Kind of, almost! At least, as well as could be expected. My new pad is a ground-floor two-bedroom in a house just off Main and 23rd, an easy bus, bike or walk to work. The neighbourhood is one of Vancouver’s oldest, which really isn’t all that old, given that the town was a few saw mills and a train station a hundred years ago. The area has gone from working-class immigrant neighbourhood, to middle-class homeowner neighbourhood, to somewhat-trendy but mostly-inexpensive student/artist/designer neighbourhood of coffee shops and vintage clothing, while keeping characteristics of all of them. It’s the kind of place where you can have a trendy faux-grunge fusion restaurant across the street from a real-grunge circa-1972 Greek-Canadian diner, or have a bustling Vietnamese pho shop across from a DIY art space, and not notice the disconnect. In other words, it’s “Vancouver’s hip strip.” And hipster d-bag that I am, I’m quite happy to be relocating there, though I will surely miss living at the kommune.

a parade of lost souls

parade of lost souls, originally uploaded by Mister Wind-Up Bird.

Happy Halloween! I’m already sugar-sick and out of costume!

In Vancouver, the Saturday before Halloween is the Parade of Lost Souls, a procession of weirdness and costumes and lots of fire. Anything that makes life a little more morbidly surreal is okay by me.