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6th Annual
Secrets of The City
by Shawn Blore
illustrations by Tomio Nitto

(First published in Vancouver, November 1998)

Infamous Visitors

Moving Violations

Bad Addresses


Tunnel Visions

Screen Gems

Quiz: Welcome to Genericville

Moving Violations
Rush-hour shortcuts that actually work, a ferry in need and the back way up Grouse.

Okay, so you've just been torn from a restless sleep by a tremendous thunderclap only to find a dead man slumped over a chaise longue on your hotel-room balcony. You didn't kill him, but the police'll never believe it, because you've only just narrowly escaped being hanged in your native North Carolina for a similar suspicious death, this one involving your husband. You've got to get out of town.

Far-fetched? This was exactly the premise of Raymond Chandler's 1948 set-in-Vancouver screenplay Playback. Chandler's heroine had to stay and face the music, because the authorities sealed off the regular road and rail links, and she didn't know about this method of exiting the city. The M.V. Britannia (Harbour Ferries, 604-687-9558) departs daily during summer at 9:30 a.m. from the foot of Denman Street, then heads up Howe Sound to connect with the Royal Hudson steam train. If you have second thoughts, you can take the steam train back to justice. Otherwise, carry on to Whistler.

Okay, so you want your sweetie to catch the sunset from the top of Grouse Mountain, but the $36 skyride fare (for two, return) seems a bit steep, and the Grind is a tad difficult in high heels. So drive. Just because it's a mountain peak doesn't mean you can't get there by auto. Take the hidden service road, accessed from the top of the Mountain Highway in Upper Lynn Creek. The grade isn't so bad, and the few potholes offer no real obstruction. The barrier at the beginning is a bit of a snag, of course, as is the likely fine for unauthorized entry when you reach the top.

Okay, so you're at Robson and Burrard when the phone rings. It's the crazed maniac who kidnapped your pet rabbit and he wants you at the corner of Main and Hastings in three minutes or the rabbit gets it. Then the traffic report comes on: major blockages throughout downtown. What to do? Blast down to the foot of Burrard, turn left just past the Marine Building, swoop down the ramp past the float planes, and you're onto Coal Harbour Road, a little-used stretch of blacktop running along the waterfront. Scream underneath the Waterfront Hotel and alongside the railway track to the foot of Main. Head up and over the tracks in time to save little Fluffy.

Okay, so you're stuck behind a bunch of Japanese tour buses in a horrendous jam on Water Street, fretting because in 10 minutes you're supposed to be live on the air with your CBC show, "Festival '96!" (You didn't really expect to see Japanese tour buses in 1998, did you?) Nothing simpler. Turn right at Carrall, then left at the alley. Bomb down it a few blocks and then - here's the fun part - scoot under the tower at 100 Granville, through the parking lot, and up and out the parking garage ramp beneath the Gateway to Gastown sign. You're now on Cordova, heading east, just seconds away from the Ceeb.