Livable Laneways Paths to Plazas Event

A few weeks ago, Australia Bureau Chief Jilly Charlwood contributed a fantastic article about Laneway Learning – below is some information about what Vancouver is doing to showcase some unique, behind-the-scenes communities – and potential – of its re-imagined and hyper-creative laneways. Enjoy!

- John Horn

For the second year, Vancouver City laneways are being re-imagined, and public events are taking place in the bustling lane at Broadway and Main bringing musicians, local business operators, artists, urban farmers and producers, residents, and visitors to the Mount Pleasant neighborhood. Livable Laneways Night Markets is a VIVA Vancouver initiative supported by the City of Vancouver. Coordinated by Livable Laneways, a non-profit organization, Paths to Plazas is an example of how they are dedicated to transforming the overlooked laneways and alleys of Vancouver into pedestrianfriendly zones. It is a collaboration that includes Blim, The Beaumont Studios the Mount Pleasant Business Improvement Area, as well as special guests, Mount Pleasant Victory Market, StudioCAMP and Vancouver Public Space Network (VPSN).

The events take place on July 21st, 28th and August 4th from 5-10pm.

For more information on the vendors and participants, please see the list below
for website details:

Masthead photo from ecstaticist’s photostream on Flickr

Main Street’s Coffee Block

In Vancouver it isn’t uncommon to see a coffee shop juxtaposed to a coffee shop juxtaposed to a coffee shop across the street from a coffee shop, especially in my neighbourhood, Mount Pleasant.

And yesterday things in my community just got a bit darker, frothier and sweeter, as Forty Ninth Parallel Coffee Roasters opened their newest location at the corner of 13th – wait… Thirteenth – and Main. Now, this wouldn’t be a big deal under regularly caffeinated circumstances; however, at the other end of the block sits perennial coffee powerhouse, Starbucks, and across the street from the Seattle-based coffee company’s 423rd most popular location beams JJ Bean, which is the unofficial epicenter of Hipsterism in Vancouver.

Ladies and gentlemen, we may or may not have a coffee market share death match on our hands.

Here are some observations and semi-judgments I’ve made of these three fine businesses that might help you choose which one to visit.

JJ Bean

Coffee and Food: Their food is made every day at their Railtown location and their baked goods (I prefer the cheddar chive scone) are made fresh every day in their cafes. They have Single Origin Coffees and Blends. I like dark roast coffee – black, no sugar – and there brew is of fine quality.

People and Service: The nicest pierced and tattooed hipsters you’ll ever meet. Though I can’t determine if, when things come quickly, the staff is just being ironic…

Interesting Advantage: A Viva Vancouver project has transformed a space (parking spots) into a people place right in front of JJ Bean, which has tripled their outdoor patio space. Now, I’m no conspiracy theorist, but it’s a bit weird how the Viva project perfectly matches JJ Bean’s colour scheme.


Coffee and Food: Their food not only “tastes better” but it “is better”, says Starbucks. They even make it with real ingredients. I’m not a huge fan of their coffee, as it’s bitter and not always Fair Trade – my awesome colleague, Aleasha, however, loves their lattes and I trust her judgment. And, thanks to fantastic training processes, you can get the same venti low fat soy double foam cinnamon latte at Main & 14th, in New York City, Seattle, Paris, or Buenos Aires (I have no idea if Starbucks has locations in any of these cities).

People and Service: Well trained, uniformed, but a bit alienating for people who don’t speak American Interpretation of The Italian Coffee House – luckily, the well trained staff at Starbucks understand “medium” and “pointing to the cup you want”.

Interesting Advantage: Vancouver Police Officers love to begin/end their shift at this Starbucks. They also have free WIFI.

Forty Ninth Parallel

Coffee and Food: Delicious. This morning I had a nice, rich dark roast coffee and a tasty doughnut – no, this is not a highly recommended way to start one’s day, but I needed to do some sampling before signing off on the deliciousness of Forty Ninth’s creatively roasted coffee and Lucky’s homemade doughnuts.

People and Service: While it’s too early to make a full-on judgment, I can safely say that Forty Ninth blends Main Street Hipsterism with Vancouver’s style of Businessified Caffeinery (e.g. everything in the shop is branded and for sale) with pretty great results.

Interesting Advantage: See above comment about Lucky’s doughnut shop. Also, the motif makes me feel like I’m in at the intersection of Hipsterism and cowboys … in the future. Truly, this winning combination of seemingly incongruent things/ideas achieves what Stephen King couldn’t with his The Gunslinger experiment.

So, when you visit Main Street between East 13th and 14th Avenue, how will you decide where to spend your coffee break?

Head to Main this Wednesday to Eat for Education

Photo courtesy of CanadaPenguin

Vancouver diners are invited to help take a bite out of the public school funding crunch at the second annual Eat for Education evening taking place this Wednesday (May 2). Launched last year with one school and nine restaurants, the event has grown to include four schools and 21 restaurants (and counting). The majority of restaurants are based on Main Street with a few also participating in North Vancouver.

Here’s how it works: Local restaurants will donate a percentage of Wednesday’s food profits directly to participating schools in their area. Each school controls how the funds are used, and so far updating technology for students has been a focus. This year, VSB schools Mount Pleasant Elementary, Florence Nightingale Elementary and Simon Fraser Elementary stand to benefit from diners.

“We are delighted that some local restaurants in this area are committed to supporting education. Their willingness to get involved is amazing,” says Sue Stevenson, Vice Principal at Mount Pleasant Elementary. “As an Inner City school we believe that it takes a village to raise a child. This fundraiser will support our school initiative to increase access to technology and provide these children with outdoor educational experiences.”

The idea for Eat for Education was born at a Mount Pleasant Elementary Parent Advisory Council meeting in 2010. The first event was held in 2011 and most of $2,100 raised was used to buy the school a SMART Board. Remaining funds helped with travel costs for outdoor educational experiences.

Organizers say they hope to raise even more money this year.

Restaurants are still being encouraged to join. The whole event is being organized by

This year’s Eat for Education restaurants in Vancouver are:

8 1/2 Restaurant and Lounge - 151 East 8 Avenue (604) 568-2703

Latitude - 3250 Main Street (604) 875-6246

Hyde - 2960 Main Street (604) 709-6215

Habit Lounge - 2610 Main St (604) 877-8582

The Cascade Room - 2616 Main Street (604) 709-8650

Elysian Coffee - 590 West Broadway (604) 874 5909

Che Baba - 603 Kingsway (604) 558 1519

Slickity Jim’s Chat n Chew - 3475 Main Street (604) 873 6760

Grub Restaurant - 4328 Main Street (604) 876-8671

The Five Point - 3124 Main Street (604) 876-5810

Locus Lounge - 4121 Main Street (604) 708 4121

Portland Craft (formerly Coppertank) – 3835 Main Street (604) 569 2494

Mavericks (in Howard Johnson Hotel) – 395 Kingsway (604) 872-5252

BierCraft - 3305 Cambie Street (604) 874-6900

Pizzeria Barbarella - 654 East Broadway (604) 210-6111

Vera’s Burger Shack - 2922 Main Street, (604) 709-8372

The Whip Restaurant - 6th and Main 604.874.4687

It’s kind of a funny story…

Last night was a weird and wonderful one. So, I arrive home – chatting on the phone – to find my lovely wife, Michelle Burtnyk-Horn, in the living room working away on her computer. I hang up, give her a kiss, and she says, “I got bread on the way home.” (We’re super-romantic, by the way). And I reply, “Oh, that’s funny, because I got bread yesterday.” Michelle chuckles and says, “Where is it?” And I said, “In the freezer.” And then all I hear is laughter.

Here’s why:

Coincidence, connection or conspiracy? You decide!

Oh, it got funnier. We also bought delicious Apple Fig Bars, too – they’re a delectable impulse purchase at the counter of Kea Foods on Main Street.

Long story short, we each bought the same thing at totally different times without talking to each other about it.


The Facts:

FACT: I bought Uprisings sourdough light rye bread and a package of apple fig bars from Kea Foods at 6:17pm on January 3, 2012.

FACT: I purchased the apple fig bars at the checkout counter because I know that Michelle likes them a lot.

FACT: I originally stopped at Kea Foods for mushrooms and I knew we also needed bread (for the weekend, though, not that night).

FACT: Michelle bought Uprisings sourdough light rye bread and a package of apple fig bars from Kea Foods at 5:58pm on January 4, 2012.

FACT: Michelle bought apple fig bars at the checkout counter because they are delicious. And she was hungry and wanted to eat one on the way home.

FACT: She ate more than one.

FACT: Michelle had no idea that I bought these items the day before. The bread went in the freezer. The apple fig bars went in the cheese-drawer. And I cooked dinner, so I was the only one in the fridge on the evening of Tuesday, January 3, 2012.

FACT: Michelle and I rarely shop at KEA Foods.



“We just laughed and laughed and laughed. And then we hugged and jumped around a bit, you know, because we’re huge nerds. I mean, in our lives, this is pretty exciting stuff! It’s weird how it all came together, though, because neither of us said anything about it to the other – not an ‘I’m gonna get bread’ or anything. Like I said, weird. I guess it’s just our loving superconnection!”

- John Horn

“Despite the fact that neither of us routinely shop at KEA foods or purchase those items, it – oddly enough – didn’t seem that odd that we had purchased the exact same items. I mean, as John said, we do have a super awesome love superconnection! That being said, this occurance definitely warranted jumping, laughing, and examination on a world-renowned blog*”

- Michelle Burtnyk-Horn


  • The Great Minds, Deep Love Theory:
    • Everything is connected. We all consist of protons and electrons and stuff.
    • Michelle and I have an uncanny mental connection.
    • Our minds, like our connected hearts and souls, work as one.
    • Each of our brains simultaneously informs the other of our intentions, thus, periodically, creating “double-up” anomolies wherein each person carries out the same thought independently of the other person.
  • The Boring Routine Theory:
    • We do the same thing so friggin’ often that our stale routine (unlike the delicious sourdough light rye) has trapped us in an inescapable rut.
    • Saying we need to “shake things up” is an understatement.
  • The “Big Sourdough” Conspiracy Theory:
    • It’s simple. The Sourdough Industrialists are controlling our minds with their delicious, delicious product. They have a plan. And it involves enslaving the world.
    • Bakers are merely the minions of this unstoppable doughy juggernaut of a world domination scheme.
  • The Total Coincidence Theory:
    • The universe is random and cruel hilarious and bestows wonderful surprises of bread and figs upon its inhabitants!
  • The Hidden Meaning Theory:
    • There’s something more to this than we know…like Michelle and I are going to have twins…or two sets of twins.

So, what’s your theory?

Whatever the case, this is just another story that shows how important it is for people to appreciate the little things in life. After all, such a silly moment of joy was a marvelous muse for the evening!

*This claim refers, of course, to The Daily Gumboot. “World-renowned” claim according to John Horn, Kurt Heinrich, and their parents


Neighbourhood Ducks Stereotype

To make up for my first contribution to the Daily Gumboot (see Douchebags Series), I thought I would class it up a bit with some flashy phrases and ostensibly deep thoughts.  Let’s talk like neighbours.

I recently moved from one neighbourhood to another.  Neighbourhoods are sometimes places where communities take form.  Sometimes neighbourhoods have nothing to do with community.  One thing I did observe was the identity that came with the neighbourhood, not necessarily the community.

I’ll explain: many cities are made of very clearly defined and strongly defended neighbourhoods.  These borders may be fuzzy at the lines, but make no mistake – there is identity lodged within those drawn social or political lines.  It may be more than whom your Member of Parliament may be, more than when your garbage is taken from your curb, maybe even more than a collection of favourite shops and cafés.  Yes, friends, your neighbourhood can be an emblem of your very soul.

Or not.

Vancouver is a city of neighbourhoods.  If Vancouver were the high school prom, Yaletown would arrive in the limousine, Point Grey would be sitting (sober) poised together as far from the dance floor as possible, the West End would be the dance floor, Main Street would stay outside jeering at the crinoline and suede (or wearing it, depending on irony), Commercial would wear their homemade threads, and my new neighbourhood, Kits, would be the shiny ones with the crowns and parent’s beamers.

Okay, so maybe it’s easy to throw clichés at neighbourhoods, especially when they’re as clearly demarcated as Vancouver.

But what if you don’t fit into your neighbourhood?  What if you community looks and acts differently than your neighbours?  Do you cease to be part of that community?

And what about your identity?  Some might say that you are your neighbourhood, that the two are indivisible because of some ancient law that you choose your home and it forms you.  Some might be dead wrong.  Just like the jocks and drama geeks in high school, there are elements of each in the other.  Occupying more than one group encourages cross-pollination; having more than one identity, though potentially confusing, can create stronger and more dynamic community.  Think about it: you have a flock of birds of a certain feather and then all of a sudden you sink a duck in the middle – eventually those birds could start walking and talking differently.

So among the small dogs, lattes, early runs and BMWs (John and I once counted no less than 54 at the corner of Yew and 4th in less than an hour), there is a community within the neighbourhood within the city.  And we could all do with a bit more cross-pollination if you ask me.  Perhaps it shouldn’t be to each their own.  Leave the ducking out of community for the birds.