More on Holiday Shopping

The other day, I went on a little rant about the proposal to open stores in Glebe on statutory holidays. As I said, I’m open to the idea of, basically, eliminating statutory holidays, but I’m opposed to this piecemeal approach. Let’s either do it, or not. Let’s have a proper debate about it.

But here’s the problem I have with the debate we’re having: This will be decided by 24 upper-middle class people, each making close to six figures (or more). This was brought to council by a bunch of business owners, and the idea was sewn by the actions of a multi-national corporation.

Jim Watson won’t be manning the express checkout at Whole Foods on Christmas Day.

The people who will bear the brunt of this decision will be front-line retail workers. They’re not a part of the BIA. They’re not given official lobbying and taxation powers. They don’t have the power to put forward a proposal like this.

This debate, if we’re to have it, needs to include and rely upon input from retail and service industry workers. It can’t just be the bourgeoisie telling the working class that they’ll be serving the rest of us when we have holidays.

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Holiday Shopping/Holiday Driving/Holiday Parking

So city officials have recommended that stores in the Glebe be allowed to open on statutory holidays. This all comes on the heels of Whole Foods opening on Good Friday, last year. It sparked some chatter about opening up stores on stat holidays. A worthy debate, no doubt, but this isn’t what we’re talking about with the current proposal. We’re talking about exempting businesses in one neighbourhood.

(And they’re claiming that it’ll help tourism, because the Glebe is such a tourism hotspot.)

I’m not going to dig into the greater discussion about stat holidays. I’m sympathetic to arguments on both sides. I’m going to stick to the particular proposal, and I’m going to go on a bit of a rant.

And, you know what, I’m going to pull a bit of a NIMBY on this, because fuck special rules for different neighbourhoods.*

Lansdowne has created a giant mess in the Glebe. Sure, the park is near-dead during the week, but ever since it opened, traffic on Saturdays and Sundays along Bank Street have been horrible. On holidays, it’s often nice to have a bit of a break from all that traffic (even if I don’t really care that much about car traffic). But if there’s a demand for holiday shopping, and if there are few locations that are allowed to open, then those that do open will be quite the draw. It’s a bit unfair to focus all that traffic in one or two neighbourhoods

You know what can be nice about holidays? Getting together with loved ones, sharing a visit, sharing a meal. And you know what is often needed to facilitate such things? Transportation. Personally, I’m happy to rely on walking, biking and busing for my transportation needs (for instance, I biked my kids 12 km to my niece’s birthday party in mid-December), but we’ve built up a car-centric city, and some people rely on them.

In the Glebe, the city, rightly, limits free parking and has a lot of paid parking (I’d say they need to restrict it a little more and jack up the parking rates, but I digress). With less traffic on holidays, there’s less of a demand for parking and so parking restrictions are relaxed. There’s no way they’ll do this if there’s shopping going on. In fact, if this new policy is “successful”, I’ll bet the city steps up parking enforcement.

Now I get that this is selfish, and, to an extent, I’m willing to cop to that. (But since this is a rule that will apply to my neighbourhood and not others, I’m ok with being a bit selfish.) And it would be completely fair to argue that people could either pay for parking or find other methods to travel. That would definitely be fair, except for the level of transit service the Glebe receives on holidays.

It’s bad enough on Sundays, when a 3-year-old can walk along Bank Street from Sparks Street to Fifth Avenue without a #1 or #7 passing her. It’s worse on holidays.

And it’s not just about the bus routes that run through the Glebe, it’s about all the other routes that connect other neighbourhoods to those routes. If the city isn’t going to up the level of bus service, then it is irresponsible for them to increase traffic, potentially greatly, in the neighbourhood.

So let’s talk about opening stores on holidays, but let’s not limit it to the Glebe. If we’re opening stores here, then let’s do it in South Keys and Hintonburg, Orleans and Kanata. If there’s no reason to have stat holidays, then let’s just do away with them across the city.

*Yes, I know that there are different zoning regulations for different areas, but those rules should be specifically tailored to the area and should apply the same principles everywhere. For example: we should work on intensification everywhere, but that’s going to mean different things in different areas. 

Edward Jones and Eugene Melnyk

Who doesn’t love Merlin Olsen? It really didn’t matter what he did, he was eminently-likeable. Whether he was acting as a calm, competent broadcaster; doing the Good Cop-Good Cop routine with Michael Landon on Little House on the Prairie; or pitching flowers for FTD, who could be won over by this lovable giant?

Okay, so now you’re probably wondering why I’m writing about Merlin Olsen on a blog about Ottawa. Well, before he did all those other things, he was a star defensive linemen for the Los Angeles Rams, part of the Fearsome Foursome.

Fine, fine. That doesn’t really answer the question.

About twenty years ago, the Rams fled Los Angeles for St. Louis (who had lost the Cardinals when they moved to Phoenix a couple of years earlier). The Rams were playing in an old stadium, and could get a new one out of the city. St. Louis promised them a new stadium, the Edward Jones Dome, and the St. Louis Rams were born.

…and died about a week ago when the Rams left St. Louis for Los Angeles. They’ll have a new state-or-the-art stadium in Carson City and St. Louis will have the Edward Jones Dome, which will be emptier now that they don’t have a regular tenant.

When the Rams moved to St. Louis, they signed a thirty-year lease. Now, with ten years left on the lease, St. Louis is left an empty dome and $100 million in debt.

This is why I’m very wary of building an NHL arena at Lebreton. Let’s put aside the idea of gifting this land to a billionaire Barbados resident, or letting it be a pawn in an aggressive bid to buy the Senators. We have no certainty that a professional sports team will be sticking around.

The Senators have had some financial problems in the past. They desperately wanted to build a casino in order to make their business viable. And they got all huffy when the city didn’t bow to the whining.

This doesn’t mean that we can’t have an arena at Lebreton. It just means that this massive focus on building an arena is very very bad. If an arena fits in with a solid, overall development plan, so be it. But the developers need to make the case for the arena’s longevity and demonstrate that it’s good for the Flats, rather than just good for a hockey team’s owner.

Here’s how we need to re-build Lebreton Flats: Focus on people

At the risk of sounding boring, I’m getting tired of discussions about municipal greatness. Concerns about status, prestige and grandeur may make suitable fodder for over-analysis in whatever passes for a civic salon these days, but such debates, for all their wonderful wordsmithing, ignore something pretty basic: a great city is a livable city.

And so we turn our eyes to the next bit of monumental city-building in the capital, Lebreton Flats. The federal government, via the NCC, is finally going to do something about the gaping hole in our city they created when they razed a working class neighbourhood (in an attempt to make a world-class capital, it should be noted).

The bidding process to develop this land clearly failed–eliciting only two bids. And we’re told both bids include a hockey arena as a central feature…and maybe a new library. Alongside the established War Museum, these would give the neighbourhood three large anchors, more than enough to sink it.

We need to get our minds divorced of the idea that the primary feature must be a monument or large marquee edifice. If the NCC wants to really make Lebreton Flats great, there can be only one primary feature: people. Architecture, design, tourist traps, these can come later. Establish a community where people can live, work and play. Get people on the streets, moving through the neighbourhood and engaging with it. People are the thread to be woven through the tapestry of every great city community. People make them beautiful and desirable.

It sounds too easy, I know, but there are a number of basic lessons we should have learned by now. First, we need a multitude of users, so we need homes, shops, restaurants, cultural institutions and offices. Different uses bring different people out at different times. There needs to be weekday life, weekend life and night life.

Further, these uses need to be intermixed. Do not segregate them, or each corner of the area will go to sleep at different times. We need to draw people along the street, through the neighbourhood. This means that people have to have reasons to keep going through the area.

Next, make it walkable: short blocks and narrow streets with lots of pedestrian crossings. There won’t be space for lots of parking, so people will need to be able to walk, bike and bus there (which will support the NCC’s mandate to create a sustainable capital). This means the NCC is going to have to break off its antiquated love affair with the car and not build anymore freeways in the city.

 

The area will need to be built to a human scale. The buildings must be constructed for the street life. We need a community that is beautiful when you’re walking through it, not just one that looks majestic from a sweeping, elevated panoramic shot. This doesn’t mean things will be small or short (in fact, big, dense buildings are the way to go). It just means that monuments and “anchors” have to be built so they engage the pedestrian and not just the helicopter pilot.

Because there will be monuments and cultural institutions, no doubt. We just have to make them subordinate to the concepts of livability.

What we need to avoid desperately is making the “Center Monumental”. In The Death and Life of Great American Cities, Jane Jacobs demonstrated the flaw with such planning:

We shall look briefly at on other, less important, in of ancestry in orthodox planning. This one begins more or less with the great Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893…The Chicago fair snubbed the exciting modern architecture which had begun to emerge in Chicago and instead dramatized a retrogressive imitation Renaissance style. One heavy, grandiose monument after another was arrayed in the exposition park, like frosted pastries on a tray, in a soft of squat, decorated forecast of Le Corbusier’s later repetitive ranks of towers in a park. This orgiastic assemblage of the rich and monumental captured the imagination of both planners and public. It gave impetus to a movement called the City Beautiful, and indeed the planning of the exposition was dominated by the man who became the leading City Beautiful planner, Daniel Burnham of Chicago.

The aim of the City Beautiful was the City Monumental. Great schemes were drawn up for systems of baroque boulevards, which mainly came to nothing. What did come out of the movement was the Center Monumental, modeled on the fair. City after city built its civic center or its cultural center. These buildings were arranged along a boulevard as at Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia, or along a mall like the Government Center in Cleveland, or were bordered by park, like the Civic Center at St. Lous, or were interspersed with park, like the Civic Center at San Fransisco. However they were arranged, the important point was that they monuments had been sorted out from the rest of the city, the whole being treated as a complete unit, in a separate and well-defined way.

People were proud of them, but the centers were not a success. For one thing, invariably the ordinary city around them ran down instead of being uplifted, and they always acquired an incongruous rim of ratty tattoo parlours and second-hand-clothing stores, or else just nondescript, dispirited decay. For another, people stayed away from them to a remarkable degree. Somehow, when the fair became part of the city, it did not work like the fair.

This last result is what I most fear for Lebreton Flats. It’ll be big. It’ll be monumental. And people wills stay away. If we build the Center Monumental, we will be building failure.

The NCC is charged with making a great capital for all of Canada, not just Ottawa, but the capital can’t be great if the city isn’t. Life, vibrancy, interaction and engagement, there are the factors that will improve the capital. This is what we need to build–a city of people and for people.

What’s with the crates on Bank Street

IMG_2322I first noticed these on Sunday. A large… structure was erected at Bank and Fifth. On an initial glance, it looked like some sort of billboard–what you’d see when new site plans are being introduced–which sort of made sense since it was on a vacant lot.

But throughout the week, I noticed these sorts of things up and down along Bank Street. Mostly, they’re smaller, but they’ve been put up at Lansdowne, outside the ScotiaBank, the Beer Store, and a number of other places. Curious.

At about the same time, I noticed that a lot of Winterlude signage had gone up…which only makes sense, since we’re just a week or two away from the festivites. So maybe this has something to do with Winterlude. Interstingly, a number of the crates have “Top” spray-painted at (presumably) the top.

IMG_2323What would be neat would be if these are going to be locations for ice or snow sculptures. When I was a kid, the sculptures were always the defining aspect of Winterlude (aside from the Ice Hogs), so it’s only natural that sculptures would be used to promote this defining event in the capital. Also, it also looks like they’re filled with snow (there’s definitely snow piled up at the top of some of them, and more snow than has fallen recently), so I’m really leaning towards sculptures.

If it turns out to just be public urinals or something, I’ll be quite disappointed.

Gettin’ around in the snow

We’ve all made mistakes. It’s easy to do. We’ve set priorities only to realize they were a tad out-of-whack, or completely inappropriate for the situation. When that happens, there’s no shame in admitting and rectifying it. The city has made just such a mistake, and it needs fixing. Ottawa is a winter city; we can no longer plan our snow clearing—not to mention our transportation system—around prioritizing cars.

When that first blast of snow hits, as it did a couple of weeks ago, we need a transportation network dedicated to moving people quickly, economically and as safely as possible. This means that in much of Ottawa, especially central areas, a focus on clearing sidewalks, bike lanes and bus routes.

Right now, we don’t have that. The city has a charming little infographic telling us that after major streets are cleared, they’ll start working on sidewalks. But intentions and actions are not always aligned, and so it was in that last week of December. City councillors will extoll the successes of the city’s snow removal activities, and to their credit, city crews worked diligently to keep many streets clear, but you only had to walk around our central neighbourhoods to see how the sidewalks were neglected. Or just follow Kitchississippi councillor Jeff Leiper on twitter to see the sad and dangerous state of sidewalks in one of our inner wards.

It seems like petty complaining to grumble about a lack of sidewalk clearing when so many roads were being maintained, but unless you were driving from garage to garage, every one of us is a pedestrian at the beginning or end of a trip.

It’s not good enough to plow Bank Street if a driver has to treacherously climb over a snow bank to get to the sidewalk. It’s not good enough to plow Pinecrest and the transitway if a bus rider has no clear sidewalk whatsoever to access their bus stop.

Here’s where the city needs to go with snow clearing priorities. Major streets, specifically bus routes, should be cleared first, followed by sidewalks and bike lanes. Further, sidewalks need to be maintained as snow clearing activities continue. A sidewalk isn’t really clear if plows clearing cross streets have blocked all intersections.

At the same time, city crews need to be clearing access to bus stops. This means we can’t build huge snow banks in front of bus stops and just leave them there. Sidewalks need to be fully cleared so that people can get on and off the bus safely.

But it’s not enough to simply make buses accessible, we need to make them desirable, too. Over the last four years, OC Transpo ridership is down approximately six million trips. This coming year, we’re facing declining service, whether by construction delays or cost-cutting measures, while increasing prices 2.5%. There’s little reason to believe we can increase ridership under such circumstances.

Currently, bus fares cover 51% of OC Transpo’s costs, and the city wants that to move up to 55%. This is a policy that is crippling our transit system. As comparison, in 2014, gas taxes contributed 23% to road operating costs in the city. Bringing OC Transpo’s subsidy even slightly closer to the subsidy given to drivers would do wonders for ridership and service levels. And it would definitely help more people get around in the snow.

We need to take steps to make bussing a primary option for more residents. We can’t keep starving OC Transpo of funds. A winter city needs a reliable and robust transit system. It’s municipal malpractice to treat bus riders as second class citizens.

More Death in our Streets

A man was killed in the Market, today. Driving a scooter, he was doored, run over, apparently dragged and then pinned under a truck. By the time he was freed, he was dead. I am so very angry and so very sad.

Also today, an elderly woman was hit by an OC Transpo bus as she crossed Carling to Carlingwood mall. It’s a horrible intersection. It’s a horrible road. It’s too wide and too fast. The desire for safer streets should not feel so futile.

Currently, I’m not angry at the drivers. I don’t know exactly what happened in each crash. That anger will, no doubt, come later. I’m not angry at politicians who do their best to thwart safety measures, who choose danger over an extra three minutes on a 30-minute commute. That, too, will come, no doubt. Similarly, if the city once again decides that killing someone in the street warrants a thousand dollar fine, that anger will come later, too.

No, I’m angry at the whole damn situation. I’m angry that our city causes so much sadness. I’m angry because we have tools and resources that could limit the carnage. To be clear, I’m not angry because I think we live in a horrible city. I’m angry because I know we don’t. I’m angry because I know Ottawa’s a great city and I know it can be even safer. I’m angry because there are people who are trying, really trying, to improve our streets, and we’re just not getting there.

The city takes some safety measures on our roads. We inch towards Complete Streets, and safe walking and biking infrastructure. We talk about instituting raised intersections and zebra stripes. We test out traffic calming measures (and some of them even work), but generally when push comes to shove, we roll over.

We worry about drivers, and phantom, concern-trolling safety issues. We ignore data and decide we need our own test projects.

And we worry about money. This is why I’m so angry about the way this and the last council are running our city into deficit. This is why I’m so angry about the city holding the line on an unsustainably low tax rate, and about the city foregoing so many revenue streams.

It’s not because I want the city to spend lots of money for the sake of spending money, it’s because this is a wealthy city with tremendous resources and we have the capability to address many of the ills we face.

Sure, there are cities with bigger issues. We’re not riddled with urban decay. We’re not facing bankruptcy. We’re not suffering from massive crime or police brutality.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t make a better city. And it pisses me off to no end when it is suggested that we don’t deserve a better a city.

I fucking love Ottawa, and that’s why I want to see fewer of its residents dead under a truck.

Sidewalks, Snow and Class Privilege

CBC Ottawa Morning asked the following question on Twitter today:

Would you be willing to shovel your own sidewalk if it meant quicker, more efficient snow plowing on the streets?

As municipal policy, this is clearly a horrid idea, for the many reasons mentioned in reply. Primarily, making the city less walkable is exactly the opposite of what we need to do if we want to create a vibrant city. Unless you live your life one parking garage to the next, you’re going to need to use our sidewalks. Even in winter, we need to make sure everyone can get around.

This policy would just further privilege cars over everyone else.

There are, of course, a number of other good reasons that this is bad policy. Mobility would be dependent on the compliance of your neighbours. And what if you have mobility issues? What if you’re unable to shovel snow? What if you’re away or sick? Basically, why do we think so little of our city that we would adopt a policy that would keep people from doing anything in the city? In addition, this places an added and uneven obligation on some residents, but not on others.

And, of course, sometimes a sidewalk looks like this:

IMG_2231

There’s no way that’s shovel-able.

Beyond all that, though, there is a question of class and privilege.

First, this favours those with cars over those without cars. I’m pretty confident in suggesting that the more money you have, the more likely it is that you really on driving as a primary mode of transportation. So this would disproportionately favour the wealthy.

Second, we can basically think of this as a form of taxation, except instead of paying in money, you pay in time and effort. If you have the money, the need and the ability to store a snowblower, your obligation suddenly becomes much easier and much faster. Basically, your tax burden is lowered by buying a snowblower.

If you don’t have a driveway or a car, if you don’t have a place to store a snowblower and, most importantly, if you don’t have the money , you’re not buying a snowblower. Buying a snowblower will equate to buying privilege, of buying your way out of much of your civic obligation.

(The same goes if you can just afford to hire someone to do your snow clearing.)

That’s pretty gross. This policy would be incredibly regressive. It would be the most cynical and selfish of moves. It would make us an absolute failure as a city and a community

Of course, there’s no sign that we’re heading towards this policy…even if we effectively got it last week. The city has set priorities, and sidewalks and bike lanes are not neglected. Last year, the city was pretty good at adhering to its snow clearing standards, and I tend to expect the city to do better in future storms.

Really, this was just a media organization trying to stir things up.

Business interests and city snow clearing

It’s easy to think that the city works for businesses not for residents. When you hear about a single business getting a bike corral removed, BIAs having veto power over city projects or the need to construct a business case for initiatives that would improve the lives of residents, it sure seems like the city prioritizes business interests over anything else (other than council members getting re-elected).

And so we come to snow removal.

I live adjacent to an arterial street (not a road, as the city likes to say, a street). The sidewalks of this is sort of street should be cleared to bare pavement within four hours of 2.5 cm of snowfall. This is according to the city’s service levels. As you all know, on Tuesday December 29, we received 20 cm of snow. It’s fair that the city was a little late in getting to clearing the sidewalks (though they cleared the street twice within 12 hours).

By Wedensday afternoon, nothing had happened. That’s about 36 hours, or 9 times the professed service level. At that point, I decided to notify the city. I didn’t want really want to complain. I know the crews were working hard. At the same time, how can the city know there’s a problem if we don’t report it.

After making the report on December 30, I received a confirmation email stating that my report would likely be looked at on January 6…which, if they suddenly then cleared the snow, would mean missing service levels by a factor of 53.

On Friday January 2, I decided to dig out the bike rack across the street. This was 72 hours after the bulk of the snow storm, meaning the city had missed their service level by a factor of 18.

IMG_2278I spent about an hour digging out part of the sidewalk and bike racks, and I think I did an ok job.

There’s another bike rack behind this one, and behind that, a Bell utility box. I didn’t feel like digging those out.

As I was about halfway through this job, a Bell Canada van drove up. At first, it stopped (illegally, as they tend to do) right by the box, but there was a huge snow bank there, so the driver went and parked in an open spot about three houses down.

No one got out.

The van sat there for about five minutes and then drove away. I was pretty sure I knew what just happened, but I went on with my shovelling and then went inside.

And wouldn’t you know it, within an hour of a Bell Canada employee attempting to access the utility box, a city snowblower came by and cleared the sidewalk. You can argue it’s just a coincidence, but I’m disinclined to believe that.

I am confident the city cleared the sidewalks on my street only when it inconvenienced a business. 

Forget about the octogenarian who needs the sidewalks to do her grocery shopping. Forget the kids who’ll try to walk along the street. Forget the people who just want to live and enjoy their street and neighbourhood. It really appears the city only cared about snow clearing when it became a matter of commerce.

And that’s pretty disgusting.

Thanks, Eugene

[Oops. Forgot to publish this a couple of weeks ago.]

News broke recently that Eugene Haslam was selling his night club, Zaphod Beeblebrox. Apparently, he’s selling it to one of his staff members, so it’s nice to know it’s staying in the family.

“Family” might seem like a strong word, but it really seems to fit. I spent a lot–a lot–of time there during my twenties, and it will always have a special place in my heart. And, of course, Eugene was central to the club’s success.

I won’t offer any grand eulogies or long-form think pieces on Zaphod’s’s place in Ottawa, but I’ll share a few of my experiences.

Everyone Remembers Their First Time

My first time at Zaphod’s was for a concert. It was the day before my 20th birthday, reading week of first year and I went down to this club to watch Rainbow Butt Monkeys, Sunfish was opening. I had hardly any money, so my sister shoved a couple of twenties in my hand as a birthday present.

When they…evolved…from Rainbow Butt Monkeys to Finger Eleven, I lost a bit of interest, but that show was great. Sunfish was a solid, but the real show was the headliner. It was energetic and fun. They threw in a cover/medley that included, if I recall correctly, such covers as Rage Against the Machine and House of Pain. For a closer, they brought Sunfish on stage to cover Rockin’ in the Free World.

Bussing!

During my university years, OC Transpo did something fantastic; they started extending buses until 2:00 am. This meant that we didn’t have to run to the transitway at 11:00 to get home (or, at least, to get partway home…local routes still sucked). This changed everything. My buddies and I tended to head to the Dominion Tavern on Thursday nights (this became the thing after they got kicked out of The Laff one night). You’d sit and drink $8 pitchers of Upper Canada…and with the extended bus service, you could then pop over to Zaphod’s to extend the party.

Playing with The Caesars

One of the best shows I saw at Zaphod’s was The Caesars. This was just after they’d broken (sort) by having Jerk It Out appear on one of those iPod commercials where silhouettes danced (the posters even said something about the ad). Well, during Jerk It Out, someone dropped a tambourine and it rolled into the crowd. I picked it up, looked at the roadie and he just nodded at me (while swigging a bottle of vodka). So I played tambourine for The Caesars.

Shows

I’ve seen and played a lot of shows at Zaphod’s. Here are some of the cool acts I’ve seen:

Luke Doucet, Inbreds, The Weekend (no, not that one), Siobhan, The Pop Shove Its, Mystery Machine, Adam Franklin and Bolts of Melody, Sadie Hell, Clem Snide, Veal, The Dears, Gateway Drugs.

And here are some cool acts I’ve played with:

Destroyalldreamers, Winter Equinox, Chickpea, Feed, The Crash Moderns, The Red Arrows, Jennifer LFO, that’s the spirit, The Good Night Knights, A Dying Breed, Lost Inside.

Melodica-fest

I was in a number of acts that played at Zaphod’s (a punk band, a shoegaze band, supporting a singer-songwriter and a pseudo-solo act). In one of those shows I had the opportunity to play with a great ambient/electronic act from Massachusetts, Arms & Sleepers, and a local alt-country band, The Allrights. A week or so before the show, I saw on Facebook that the keyboardist for The Allrights had bought a melodica. I implored him to play it at the show. He did, and so all three acts included melodica.

I’m quite confident that never happened in Zaphod’s before.

Heath!

If you’ve lived at Zaphod’s, you probably know Heath. I got to know him quite well…at least in a customer-bartender sort of way. I’d walk in and he’d know what to get me, generally a pint of Newcastle Brown (which I’d pay for) and a shot, usually a doctor pepper (which I wouldn’t). He’d also include me in a round of shots that others were doing. It’s nice to be included.

There was one time he poured us each a shot. It didn’t go down quite as well. Turns out he’d mixed up Amaretto with Creme de Cacao Dark. Oh well.

Love and Marriage

Funny thing happened in my late twenties; I needed to find a new place to live and my best friend’s girlfriend had a an empty room in the house she shared with three other people, so I moved in. This was a semi-detached and on the other side lived my landlord, Eugene…well, actually it was partner who was the landlord, but he was still my neighbour.

I sort of knew Eugene. I’d spent years going to his club and often seeing him there. So he sort of recognized me…but not totally, even when I was at his club one night and sharing a front porch the next morning.

This was around the time my mother was sick. I was living there when she died, and shortly after I decided to move back home so my Dad wouldn’t be alone. I hated the idea with a passion, but I knew he need company, so two months later, I was back home. (And he was always out with friends, so I hardly ever saw him and really didn’t need to move home.)

At the time, my fiancee’s lease was coming up. The timing worked out, so she moved in shortly after I left. We’d still see Eugene from time-to-time at home and at the club. He seemed to remember Darlene more than me (which was cray-cary).

Darlene and I had our respective bachelor/bachelorette parties on different nights, but we both wound up at Zaphod’s. I ran into Heath again and he gave me shots (of course). Darlene ran into Eugene and she congratulated her told her to warn me that if I screwed her over, I’d have to answer to him.

P.S. I haven’t screwed her over.

(Sadly, Darlene is allergic to almonds, so no Dr. Peppers for her.)

Children

Here are three stories about children at Zaphod’s:

  1. A friend in university had her 17-year-old sister visiting during March Break. We were able to get her into the Dominion no problem…but we knew that Zaphod’s was more strict about carding. So we had a plan. We were all around 21 or 22 and went to Zaphod’s multiple times a week, so we didn’t get carded. But, we had one friend who was 39, and didn’t get carded anywhere, so we had him walk in with his arm around li’l sis like she was with her. The bouncer didn’t even flinch.
  2. Jump forward ten years or something. I have a wife and child. Darlene and I are backing up local folkie Mike Munnik during his CD release party. We bring our one-year-old and have her sit in the back with the mother-in-law. Usually, it would have been fine (she always stayed up late), but not this time. We would hear the crying until my mother-in-law just took her outside during the set. Luckily, they have a speaker out there so she could still listen.This also means that Glynis may be the youngest person to go to show there.
  3. I had gig at Zaphod’s, and we now had two kids. The toddler was at home (I think), but Darlene was there with our new(ish) baby…but we had learned our lesson. She was there during soundcheck, only, then went home. I was playing a show with the local band, The Allrights. The drummer asked me if that was my kid, and noted that it was great that we’d actually bring our kid out to soundcheck at a club.Little did he know…

Zaphods II

For a little while, Eugene opened a second club, Zaphods II, on Bank Street. He’d been a part owner in Barrymore’s, and it was generally understood that this new club was to stick it to his former partners, as they’d kept Barrymore’s and Eugene kept Zaphod’s.

(I don’t know if this is true…it’s just what people said.)

I quickly took a shine to Zaphod’s II. It wasn’t going to replace Zaphod’s, and at the time, I was much more about the Market than the Bank Street scene, but still, I had some good times. I hit it for Hallowe’en party one year, and I saw some decent bands: The Dandy Warhols, Creeper Lagoon, Fiftymen, Zuckerbaby and Limblifter. Before the Zuckerbaby/Limblifter show, my friend and I were sitting at the bar when My Name is Jonas came on the sound system. We commented on it–enjoying it, as we hadn’t listened to Weezer’s blue album in quite a while. The bartender proceeded to play the whole album.

I like to think he did that for us.

Swervedriver

I mentioned earlier that I saw Adam Franklin at Zaphod’s…the lead singer of Swervedriver. I was always a big fan, and, as mentioned, used to be in a shoegaze band. We actually had a song called Adam Franklin. It was the very last song we’d ever played…at our final show…at…well..you can probably guess.

Back in June, Swervedrive was back on tour after having re-united. My friends and I just had to go. It was incredible. I reclaimed my youth and spent the entire show at the front of the stage. It was incredibly loud, but incredibly good.

I’m absolutely certain I did (more) damage to my hearing. My ears were screwed up for days afterwards, I could barely hear out of one ear for two days. It was worth it.

The End

So thanks, Eugene. I was only there for the last 15 or 20 years of your run, but you made an indelible mark on Ottawa’s night life, and your club was a key part of my young adulthood.

Enjoy your retirement. You’ve earned it.