Monday, November 24, 2014

Town Fool

Do you remember your history lessons and learning about the town fool in Elizabethan England? You know who I mean. The court jester - dressed in 'fool's motley', a tricornered hat, red-and-blue outfit, and bauble - whose purpose in life was to remind the king he was not God. Vancouver had its very own town fool.

It was April 1, 1968 when 35-year-old Joachim Foikis received a $3,500 grant from the Canada Council for the Arts in order to finance Foakis' mission of being the town fool.

Joachim was an educated man. He held two university degrees - one in economics received from the University of Berlin and one in literature from UBC. However, his goal in life was “to spread joy and confusion”, while at the same time to “mock the four pillars of society: money, status, respectability, and conformity.”

Foikis spent his days in the courthouse square. There he would talk to anyone who was willing to talk with him. He petitioned the city council to establish a fool's tax - one cent for every ordinary citizen and two cents for every politician. He held street parties for residents of Vancouver's down town east side - the poorest postal code in Canada. He went to the annual general meeting of the Architectural Institute of B.C. with a group of mimes and a loaf of bread. He had a wagon drawn by donkeys and would drive it along Cambie Street during rush hour. Foikis was dedicated to playing the fool, angering some and delighting others while promoting discussion. And he would disappear as suddenly as he had appeared.

Our town fool first appeared at the city's 1967 Canadian Centennial celebrations. There he was threatened with a knife by a sailor who thought he was a communist.

“Vancouver’s Town Fool disturbs you,” a 1969 editorial in The Vancouver Sun stated. “He is warm and friendly, easy to talk to, almost always cheerful. Yet he challenges. Not only in what he says but by being who he is, he insults your rat race – the business of working for a living or for a reputation or to acquire things. Joachim Foikis has opted out with style. What he’s saying is that we’re caught up in the things of this world more than we want to admit to.”

Joe's Continental Cafe has been on The Drive since 1974.

Joachim Foikis was a father of two and a husband. He had a few careers such as social worker, labourer and was partway through training to be a librarian when, in early 1967, he decided to become the Town Fool. He announced his decision to his wife and the two rushed off to get material to make his costume.

“Our needs are slight, so I can work for a year at a good salary, then take a year off to read,” Foikis explained, in a 1968 interview with Weekend Magazine. “It is foolishness that man should be the servant of money. Money should be the servant of man.”

“The trouble with many people is that they can never reach a threshold for what they think are their needs,” Foikis said in an interview with the Vancouver Sun. “They keep escalating their needs up and up, and they can’t keep up with them. I don’t want to spend more time than necessary making money. I want the freedom to study and philosophize.”

Wednesday, I will tell you more about Vancouver's Town Fool. I am getting my information from The Dependent Magazine.

I hope you find the beauty around you.

Friday, November 21, 2014

The High Drive

In 2002, there were by-law officers who ticketed any establishments that hosted dancing to live music - they were called the 'dancing police' and the merchants whose patrons to the music were understandably upset.

I don't know the reasoning for this but perhaps it has something to do with the noise by-law. I do know that the theme music to 'Footloose' is running through my head right now and I am seeing Kevin Bacon dancing on the drive!

The Drive gained national attention in late 2004 when the media complained several cafes were openly selling marijuana.

On  September 9, 2004,  one such cafe - Da Kine - was raided. The owner, Carol Gwilt, was arrested and sent to jail.

Da Kine Cafe opened in May of 2004, selling cannabis and hash to anyone who signed a form to join. (I read one report that said Gwilt only sold a small amount of pot to those over 19.) Carol ran her business with the help of volunteers and other activists. It was a public shop, reputable and neighbouring business claimed the Da Kine Cafe was an asset to them.

However, the B.C. Solicitor General was known to be opposed to cannabis and anti-prohibition demonstrations. It is surmised that, in an effort to please American law enforcement agencies, the Solicitor General called for unnecessary force to raid the cafe.

Gwilt was sentenced to 15 months in prison but was released on parole after six.

I think that Carol Gwilt may have just been a bit ahead of her time. Now there are medical marijuana clinics open on The Drive and I read one report in which a former solicitor general states that pot will probably be legal in the next five years.

In the past, I have covered a few of the festivals held on The Drive. Events like Car-Free Days, Italian Day and other activities bring the rest of the city - and many others - to our little neck of the woods.  Sometimes The Drive can be a lot of fun.

When I first moved here, I was told by someone a person could have a meal from every continent in one block on the Drive. I don't know if it is that easy but close!

Thanks to Wikipedia for the information on The Drive and to Cannabis Culture Marijuana Magazine for the information on Carol Gwilt.

I hope you find the beauty around you.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Neighbourhood Watch - The Drive

To some, Commercial Drive starts at Venables. And that is where you start to see the shops and restaurants. 

Commercial Drive was a different place before the 1950s. The area consisted of market gardens, sash and door factories, light industrial, rooming houses, dairies, orchards and open fields. Due to the urban sprawl, that was all filled in during the fifties.

This area is also known as Little Italy, due to the large influx of Italians after World War II. A sizeable Portuguese population came here as well. The European influence was diluted somewhat by the arrival of Asians in the 1960s and in the eighties, Latinos started to make their home in the Drive area. Today, every nationality and heritage is reflected in the faces of the Drive denizens.

 This is a neat store. Full of furniture and items from decades past. Makes me feel old sometimes when I remember using some of the items!

The Drive attracted a large anti-culture population during the 1980s. Political activists, lesbians, gays, hippies, punks and artists are all drawn to this district. (Notice I say are because some things don't change.) This is still a gathering place for those interested in fighting the system.

In December of 1985, the Skytrain opened the Broadway Station. This brought more people to the area and not always for the better. Pan-handling increased as did the use of drugs, drunks, prostitution and the other 'benefits' of living in a city.

There has also been a cosmetic change to The Drive and neighbouring streets. Gentrification means Grandview Park got a facelift, new condominiums and townhouses are popping up in the area and new storefronts are replacing the old woodframe stores. The downside of that is that Vancouver is also losing its history with the demolishing of old buildings.

I don't usually do this but my friends at MasterKoda are having a big sale from Black Friday through Cyber Monday. This group of people have been a really big help to me with my writing career and it is an honour to tell you about their sale.

Join more than 35 great authors in this holiday celebration. The biggest book event on Facebook. Games, prizes, fun. Enter drawing for $100 gift card, $25 gift card, huge ebook bundle, swag, more. So if you are on Facebook, join the event here.

I would like to thank Wikipedia for the information.

I hope you find the beauty around you.