July 17, 2010

A Lovely Home, on the Sea...

Today, my wife and I checked out Open Houses in Vancouver's lovely (and busy) Coal Harbour. We weren't in some $400K high-rise condo though (although there are a lot of those to be found - we were down at sea level, looking at detached homes for under $200K. Real detached. In fact, they barely touch the earth. They were floating homes, or sea homes, moored down at the Coal Harbour Marina.

Living in a sea home has been a dream that's been growing in our minds for a couple of months now. It's not for everyone: you must buy the home, and then pay yearly moorage, kind of like living in a trailer park. In the Coal Harbour neighbourhood, I bet moorage runs in the neighbourhood of $900/month, which is enough to make most people run for the moorage-free hills. It amounts to almost paying two mortgage fees, so if you can't float that, you're sunk for sure.

There's definitely a novelty, "gee-whiz" factor (if you'll permit me to talk like I'm from the 50s) to living in a house that floats. Back in the 80s, when I worked as a pedi-cab driver and studied art down on Granville Island, I looked at the floating homes all the time. It seemed like a pretty sweet life if you could swing the money part: $350-$500K for the home, plus whatever the Canada Mortgage and Housing Commission decided was a fair moorage rate. Still, bobbing around on the water, watching all the ships, sea birds and an occasional seal go by, and walking 5 minutes to the local shops to stock up on goods.

Local Futurist and columnist, Frank Ogden (aka "Dr, Tomorrow"), lives in a funky sea home, that resembles the nose of a submerged 737. Sailboats and Yachts are coming and going alkl the time, so the neighbourhood is varied, to say the least.

Today, we did a tour of three extremely cozy sea homes in Coal Harbour: "Cumberland", "The Caribou" and "Sweet Pea", all seemingly built from old fishing vessels or something, and quite charming in their own way. Check them out here:

("The Caribou" reminds me of the kind of sweet, oddball place that Popeye the Sailor might retire to. It also has the largest deck of the three we saw, located on it's roof. Overall, it's a bit too small for us, but still just as charming as hell...)

In addition to Coal Harbour and False Creek, there are a few Marinas that have floating communities: Mosquito Creek, just west of Lonsdale Key on the North Shore, and there are others in Richmond, Fort Langley, and in Ladner, near the Reifel Bird Sanctuary. There's also Fisherman's Wharf Marina in Victoria, BC. Here are listings of sea homes in these other locations, most of which are a bit less expensive than Coal Harbour: http://www.floatinghomes.com/classified.htm

We're city mice who require lots of shops or at least one 7-11 and two coffee joints within walking distance of our humble abode. Victoria appeals to me very much, but North Van seems the most likely for us, Our cunning plan is to pay off our current condo mortgage over the next 10 years or so, sell it for a nice profit, and buy a sea home all-in, and then use profits from the sale to cover the first year's moorage fees, etc.

It's not a cheap prospect, but I think we can do it. Oh - what a lovely dream...

July 12, 2010

Memories of Rocking GM Place, Tibetan style...

This is kind of an update to an ancient post I made back in 2006.

On Sunday, July 11, 2010, my wife and I attended a Tibetan Fundraiser at the Van Dusen Gardens. There was a silent auction, Tibetan food, lots of jewelry and CDs on sale, and the place was place was jammed with people. Coloured flags inscribed with little messages hung from the ceiling and everywhere, and even though we were shoulder-to-shoulder, standing room only, in over 30 degrees of heat, there were a lot of smiles to be seen.

In the main meeting area, there was a stage, and on it, a variety of live performances of music and singing, mostly children or young people who appeared to be teens and pre-teens singing folk music. We watched two monks playing those looooooooooong Tibetan horns, which was pretty neat.

But, for me, the day was made by this one boy playing his three-stringed Tibetan guitar. He twanged away on his guitar-thingie in time with the beat of the song, and in time with the little boy who was enthusiastically singing the melody. Then, in a space between verses, there came a guitar solo, and something about his playing seemed familiar to me. The kid began rocking out on his Tibetan folk tune: I watched him lean way back on his hips like Jimmy Page, with the body of his instrument way down below his hips, and the neck pointed up high. There was a familiar and distinct air of confidence in his posture. He was rocking out, Tibetan style, and having a great time!

After a moment, I became convinced that I'd seen this kid play before. I am sure I saw him at GM Place, playing the same way when the Dalai Lama came to Vancouver in 2006. And boy - that time, he was on the big screen in front of tens of thousands of people, and his Jimmy Page posture really caught the attention of the crowd.

He rocked GM Place with his three-stringed Tibetan guitar solo. Right on kid.


July 04, 2010

A Visit to Klahowya Village in Stanley Park

Today, we went to Klahowya Village in Stanley Park. In place only until September 2010, this aboriginal-themed attraction is set around the Stanley Park Locomotive and the Children's Petting Zoo.

After walking along the quiet path that took us around the perimeter of the miniature train tracks - which amounted to a peaceful stroll under the leaves, looking at native symbols and carvings that had been placed among the trees - my wife and I settled down and sat in front of a small pine stage that had been built over top of a little pond, and looked freshly-cut.

Two native women sitting to my right were chatting away, getting to know each other. The one right next to me said that she was from Alert Bay and her daughter would be dancing in the group that would be on next. Soon enough, the dancing troupe was introduced by the our host, who was a Hereditary Chief of the First Nations up in Alert Bay, BC. The mother next to me was very proud of her daughter, saying how she danced all the time with a few different groups, and that she's always traveling with one group of the other.

The other woman asked where Alert Bay was, and what it was like. The mother described to her seat-mate how she'd spent a long time in the residential school up in Alert Bay, starting as a child in 1964. She said her Dad had been in the residential school too, and that it was school in the Military style. She said that you weren't supposed to be Native back in those days. School tended to end at about Grade 8, and those who continued on with their education "wouldn't be considered Indians anymore - they'd be like white".

The Hereditary Chief up on the stage said that between 1885 and the 1990s, the Federal Government of Canada mandated the Indian Act - the residential school system - and that this legislation had caused so much pain and suffering for Aboriginals. (I read later that the last residential schools, located in Saskatchewan, was closed in 1996.) The Chief said that the Government of Canada didn't realize the damage they were doing - the pain they were causing - and he went on to say how fortunate he felt to be able to demonstrate traditional dances and songs which had been passed down to him from his father to people of all races, who came from all over the place. He said he was proud to promote his culture. He said that just a few days earlier, we had celebrated Canada Day, and as he looked out at all the different colours of faces in the crowd, we should each be proud of our own unique culture. He said that when he traveled with his troupe, he was always proud to say he was First Nations and a Canadian.

After the performance was over, we clapped and said goodbye in the word that the Chief had taught us. As we walked off, he was teaching a young boy how to use a native drum. I heard his laughter halfway out to the parking lot.