The Kokanee Chronicles

The first rule of freelance writing is never turn down a gig.  The second rule of freelance writing is also never turn down a gig. Chuck Palahniuk would no doubt agree. It may be a cliche but it’s still good advice since you never know when the next one will come along. So when the editor of The Growler asked if I’d be interested in writing a comic strip about an anthropomorphic can of mediocre beer, I said sure.

Why not?

It sure beats drinking the stuff.






(© Copyright (c) The Growler)


A Cubicle with a View


It’s not easy being an office worker in Vancouver.

For starters, the average salary doesn’t come close to reflecting the insanely high cost of living here, which is mostly due to the B.C. government having allowed the city’s housing stock to be used as a vast money laundering scheme for wealthy Mainland Chinese in exchange for juicy kickbacks donations from real estate developers.

Slaving away in front of a computer doesn’t seem so bad in other Canadian cities because it’s what pays the mortgage.  In Vancouver, it’s more likely to barely cover your tiny apartment’s astronomical rent until your seemingly inevitable renoviction.

But at least the city is beautiful, right?

Arguably this only makes it worse.

It’s one thing to go in to work day after day knowing you don’t have a hope in hell of ever being able to afford a home here.  Being constantly hit with stunning views of ocean sunsets and snow-capped mountains simply rubs it in.

My last job in a ground-floor, mostly windowless newsroom was perfect. Unfortunately, the owners decided to renovate a derelict building several blocks away and move us there instead, and my new desk came with a view of the North Shore’s Crown Mountain peeking above the building next door.

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The view didn’t distract for long, however, as I was laid off a few months later, quite possibly because the owners went way over their renovation budget and chose to sacrifice some minions. (It could also be because I spent too much time staring out the window at mountains.) After several months of unemployment living in North America’s least affordable city, I finally found myself a new gig, and my cubicle comes complete with a terrific view of the city’s iconic twin peaks known as the Lions.


The mountains have played a big role in the history of the city. They inspired the name of a major bridge, a pro football team and an Oscar-winning film studio. They’re the reason B.C.’s annual film and TV awards are called the Leos and, unsurprisingly given this is Vancouver, there’s also a couple of high-end condo towers named after them as well.

Members of the Squamish Nation know them as Ch’ich’iyúy Elxwíkn, which translates as “Twin Sisters,” and the mountains are considered a sacred reminder of an ancient peace treaty brokered with another tribe. The story goes the city’s original inhabitants were preparing for a huge potlatch to celebrate their Chief’s twin teenage daughters entering adulthood, and the two girls begged their father to invite the Haida, a northern tribe the Squamish were at war with, to the party. Dad was dubious about asking sworn enemies to stop by for a social visit but he reluctantly agreed. As it turned out, the party ended up being a roaring success, and the two tribes chose to bury the proverbial hatchet. Then, as indigenous author Pauline Johnson explains in her 1911 book Legends of Vancouver, things took a surprise turn when the Sagalie Tyee (Great Spirit) showed up:


And so, after several weeks of the Lions hovering beyond my computer screen, I figured it was high time I dragged my ass up there. The easiest access is via Lions Bay (natch), a mansion-filled seaside village with prohibitive parking regulations to discourage Vancouver riffraff from visiting. It’s roughly a four-hour slog up the Binkert Trail to reach the 1,600-metre plateau near the base of the West Lion, where hikers are rewarded with stunning panoramic views of Howe Sound, the Sunshine Coast, Capilano Watershed and surrounding mountains.

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Not to mention of my new office.

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The photo above is now my work computer’s desktop image and a constant reminder  that, while it may be crazy to choose to live in a city where the real estate market is a rigged game, it is even crazier to live here and not take advantage of the surrounding wilderness. Even if it’s only on weekends.

A jaywalk to remember

The scene of the crime wasn’t any busier when Google Earth drove by either.

A few months ago, Osoyoos Times editor Keith Lacey got into a poorly planned pissing match with the RCMP after he was pulled over for suspected impaired driving. Lacey vented his rage with a 1,400-word editorial describing what he called a “traumatizing experience” after being asked to submit to a breathalyzer test.

The authorities responded by threatening to post their video of the incident, which they said shows Lacey ranting about using his editorial superpowers to get revenge, and demanded an apology for slandering them. The Mounties soon got their mea culpa, and the angry op-ed, which prompted a considerable public backlash, has since disappeared from the newspaper’s website.

He fought the law and the law won. End of story.

K&K, however, would happily trade the shame of being asked to blow into a bag for having to pay the ridiculous fine we were recently given for, of all things, crossing the street.

After a long day of labouring in the Courier’s inky trenches, we stopped by the Waldorf Hotel’s liquor store on our way home to pick up a frosty tall boy. While returning to our car parked on an otherwise empty McLean Drive, a member of Vancouver’s finest suddenly pulled up and demanded to know if we’d been drinking. To his obvious disappointment, we hadn’t — so we were instead presented with a $100 ticket for jaywalking. Turns out we were found guilty of not turning our heads enough before crossing, and the cop wasn’t buying it that our hearing and peripheral vision are outstanding.

We get it. Staking out a booze store at night in a sketchy part of town should pay easier dividends when trying to bust drunk drivers, but police really shouldn’t be able to simply make up an offence at whim. Making the whole thing even more absurd is that, only a few blocks west, wayward perambulators have so completely taken over Hastings Street that the city simply gave up and lowered the speed limit to 30 km/h.

According to the VPD’s website, its “salary and benefits package is considered one of the most generous of all Canadian police forces.” Maybe we’d be able to see the funny side of being dinged a hundred bucks if we too were making their starting salary of sixty grand a year.

(This post was first published in Kudos & Kvetches  © Copyright (c) Vancouver Courier)

Couple spend $1000 looking for lost cat

When a cat or dog goes missing, most pet owners canvass the neighbourhood, put up posters, check in with animal rescue groups and maybe put up a posting on Facebook or Craig’s List.

One local couple, however, decided to go the extra mile when their one-year-old grey female tabby, Luna, recently went AWOL from their home near the intersection of Canada Way and Imperial Street. More specifically, they went an extra 500 or so miles in order to bring in Harry Oakes, a professional tracker from Longview, Washington who uses trained search dogs, to help locate their missing kitty.

Luna the cat: Gone but not forgotten.

“He’s done search and rescue professionally for about 40 years,” said Robin Hoare, a clothier who designs custom business suits. “We brought him in maybe five days after she went missing as kind of like a last resort.”

Oakes, one of the only private search and rescue experts in North America, has a literally impressive track record and claims on his website ( to have a 95 per cent success rate when it comes to finding lost or stolen pets, with 20 per cent found during the initial search and the remainder located later after owners know where precisely to post missing pet signs.

Although Oakes and his dog team failed to turn up the cat after a five-hour search, Hoare said he and his wife, Lisa, at least now know exactly where Luna disappeared.

Oakes’ dogs were able to at least track her to a nearby park when the trail went cold.

“We were originally fearing that coyotes or something had got her, but from what he tracked, it looks like maybe a transient or someone picked her up and put her in his cart,” he said.

“Where we were looking those five days before, we were way off base, so it helps we can narrow it down. We’re hoping whoever has her will travel that route back. It’s a very specific route – it goes down to New West across the train tracks, and the person knew exactly where to go to get through a rip in the fence.”

The couple are also offering a small reward for their pet’s return, although there isn’t much left in the kitty after having to spend $1,000 US to bring in Oakes and his canine helpers.

The amount may seem like a lot, although Hoare pointed out that vet bills can easily be that high.

The couple still have Luna’s brother, Bear, and Hoare said they hope the other cat will come back.

There’s also an added sentimental reason for them to not give up hope.

“We figure they were both born on the day that I proposed to my wife,” said Hoare, “so there’s that.”

If you have any information about Luna, call 778-996-2959 or email

(This story was first published Feb. 19, 2011. © Copyright (c) Burnaby Now)