Chapter 1

Jude awoke naturally this morning. It may have been on the part of his new job
schedule. There is something about waking up before your alarm clock sounds, he
thought. It was as if you were meant to be there, aware and awake, right in
that moment. Alarm clocks measured a different sort of time than what he
had been experiencing. This interruptive machinery represented a schedule of
disgruntled acquiescence that he had never become accustomed to. He had
moved past that now.

It was his fifth year in Vancouver. He was 23 years old. Raised by Scots
Presbyterians on Denman Island, he had been taught the virtues of hard work.
His was a strict upbringing. His mother had died when he was only just two
years old and his father’s role was stern and monitory. As a child he
created an elaborate fantasy life, a sort of pantheon of characters and stories
born from his Edenic island surroundings. His father strongly discouraged
these tendencies and gifted him a rifle, urging him to hunt if he longed for
solitary activity. Jude silently resented these attempts to wedge him into
his Father’s narrow ideal of masculinity.

At high school age he began to make the daily ferry trip between Denman
Island and Buckley Bay across Baynes Sound. From Buckley Bay his school bus
meandered up the highway to the town of Courtney. It was here at Courtney Senior
High School that Jude was finally able to imagine a life separate from his
island existence. His love for reading contributed to his rich fantasy life
leading him to devour as many books as possible. His favourites involved
anything to do with Travel, History, Architecture or Archeology. He loved Life
magazine and National Geographic, and the high school’s library had many of
these. His religious upbringing had brought up in him a chiliastic belief in
a better world to come. Perhaps this was how he coped with the stubborn and
unchanging discipline of his Father and his unquestioned worship of bodily
toil. In his young mind, He thought he would not be a slave to mindless
work, and a mere existential subsistence. He was becoming aware of a life
beyond this place.

So as it was, he leapt at the chance to travel to the mainland and attend
the new campus of Simon Fraser University. The institution’s namesake was
derived from a Scottish explorer and fur trapper from the North West Company
of Montreal. The University was founded upon the recommendation of a 1958
report entitled Higher Education in British Columbia and a Plan for the
Future by Dr. J.B. Macdonald, who suggested the creation of a new university in
the Lower Mainland. The idea was to create an institution that focused on
the humanities to be located on the summit of Burnaby Mountain, 365 meters
above sea level. The campus faced northwest over Burrard Inlet. Some at the
time grumbled that the location was deliberately chosen so as to round up
all of the burgeoning political radicals under one roof and relocate them on
top of a mountain well away from the city. Architects Arthur Ericksen and
Geoffrey Massey won a competition to design the university, and construction
began in the spring of 1964. Eighteen months later, on September 9, 1965,
the university began its first semester with 2,500 students.

Upon his first arrival in the summer of 1965, after a long day of
hitchhiking and asking for directions, Jude found himself on top of Burnaby
Mountain. The last bit of road had snaked upwards from the main highway through
deep forest and as he hiked up it he imagined he was going anywhere else but
in the direction of a university. But here it was. He looked at the campus,
which had just barely risen out of the muck of construction. Cleared timber
and tree stumps dotted its surroundings; in a certain way it resembled early
photographs of Vancouver he had seen. Boardwalks traversed the deeply
churned mud and rudimentary telegraph poles and their newly strung wires jutted
out of the ground wherever they were required. As in the old pioneer’s
photographs, this place was haunted by the spectre of raw nature, pushed and
slashed to the margins.

As he stood in this clearing in the wilderness he was reminded of a
childhood memory. One day, his Father had taken him to a part of Denman Island he
hadn’t visited. It was a patch of land undergoing some logging. As they
approached he heard a high-pitched whistling sound coupled with a rolling low
thunder. As they entered the clearing he saw two men working the most
magnificent machine. It bellowed white smoke and was coloured an even grey. He
later learned it was a ‘Steam Donkey’ used to pull felled logs out of the
forest and to lift them onto trucks that would transport them to the local mill.
He had never seen anything like it. It had the scale and appearance of a small
house but it moved, breathed and whistled like some large animal. He could
remember thinking of Chinese Dragons.

Student residencies had yet to be built. So he did as the early settlers did
when waiting for the town to be built up around them and pitched a tent in
the surrounding forest. His was a rough arcadia next to this brutalist
concrete Parthenon of post-secondary education. He camped there until the
winter. At first he had thought it was a bit hard sleeping so rough but over all
it had felt right. The tent was small and cold but when caught under a
certain light could be infused with an orange nylon glow. And light was rare, on
the mountain that often seemed to be perpetually smothered under an even
grey. He was not alone, as there were other campers up on the mountain as well.
Many were from the East coast, having come out to the West for a new life
like so many before. They were homesteading here in hope of gaining a
foothold in the wilderness of choice that modern life had entangled them in.

He now lay awake in a warm bed with his attention on the weather outside.
His new apartment was a far cry from that life on the mountain. Could he
today feel, for perhaps the first time, a certain joy in anticipation of the
day of work that lay ahead of him? He was ‘up with the dawn’ as his Father
used to say with a rarely seen brightness. He had worked a string of jobs
since leaving home but none had really been able to sustain any interest. In
his new job, the first week had been difficult in the beginning but he had
learned quite a bit and was deriving some joy from it by the weekend. He was
a relentless worker, but on the rare occasion he felt overworked he would
say he was ‘dropping everything and clearing out of town to the beaches up
the coast’. This need to stand out on the periphery, to stare at an unbroken
horizon reflected his almost Buddhist ambivalence towards Apollonian
endeavour. He prized order above all, but was most comfortable wanting to give
over to it from without, rather than imposing his own order upon the world
around him.

It was house renovation he was working. The company he worked for
specialised in Victorian and Edwardian housing stock which was found all over
central Vancouver but it seemed like most of the renovation was taking place in
either the Kitsilano area on the West side or Strathcona area on the East
side. Most of these houses had fallen into neglect since the war as
Vancouver’s population had experienced a general push into the suburbs and many of
the older houses in the center became intensely run down, demolished or abandoned.

In the latter part of the 19th century, European settlers immigrating to
Canada brought with them their familiar building types and styles. Settlement
spread west across the country with the railroad and the first buildings
were generally simple, vernacular structures. As forests were cleared and
communities established, more elaborate structures could be erected. These were
constructed from the most readily available material; wood. Pioneer
buildings were left unpainted or were whitewashed. As building trades became more
organised oil based paint began to be used. Colour was an integral part of
the style and appearance of the building. Paint was often mixed on-site
using natural pigments and linseed oil. When these communities grew and matured,
architectural expression became more sophisticated and grand. More
pretentious structures reflected the growing prosperity of a new merchant class on
the west coast. Elaborate and finely detailed Queen Anne and Italianate
styles were used extensively for both grand villas and simple cottages. Until
the beginning of the 20th century, these homes were generally characterized
by a palette of dark and earthy hues that emphasized their strength and solidity.

Following the turn of the century, tastes changed to favour the Classical
Revival styles, which took a different approach to colour, using mid-range
to dark body colours, with lighter tones highlighting the trim elements.
This dramatic shift in the appearance of local buildings signaled a transition
from the Victorian Era to the Edwardian. Within a decade the influence of
the Arts and Crafts movement began to be felt on the west coast, and the
Craftsman bungalow rapidly became the most common form of newly built housing.

As someone interested in both History and Architecture, these houses held a
special fascination for him. He had inhabited them himself over the last few
years. Their appeal to him and other young people like him at first was
purely economical, but over time their aesthetic began to represent something
else besides affordability. Their baroque craftsmanship had stood in stark
contrast to the “new town” sensibility of Vancouver’s current crop of
speculative real-estate developers. Wood was good, concrete was bad. Ornament was
organic and therefore authentic, rebellious even, whereas stark concrete
angularity represented the stiffness of their parent’s generation who preferred
a cleansed and deodorised idea of the city and often felt the same about its
inhabitants. Their generation was more than happy to abandon the dirty city
and its growing immigrant class. Many seemed to have forgotten they had
been immigrants themselves only a generation before. The brown rot of these
Victorian houses only represented poverty and exclusion now.

Suddenly his alarm clock rang. He stopped the bell and rose to his elbows.
He dressed methodically and exited into the small kitchen of his Point Grey
apartment. He rented the attic of a large half-timbered house, long ago
divested of its original family owners and divided into separate apartments.
After a simple breakfast of beans, toast and an egg, he searched for his
rucksack. The bag carried the meager collection of tools he had collected over
the first week of his new job. At first he had arrived on site with nothing
except a bagged lunch and some brushes. On the first day he was handed some
rags and a bucket and told to clean and prepare the wooden exterior of a
clapboard coach house in the back alley of a Strathcona lot. Along with his
lunch, he laid out the cheap set of brushes and his coat on the back garden
patio. The brushes were purchased from a hardware store in Chinatown and his
foreman and colleagues had laughed at them saying they would make good dust
brushes but don’t even think about touching paint with them. In addition, he
was told he wouldn’t be using paint or brushes for at least a few months.
The Vancouver climate was primarily wet. Years upon years of mold spores,
moss and lichen coloured from green, to brown, orange and black had
flourished on this wood in the wet months and then hardened under the hot sun of
many summers. The original paint job had suffered severely and after a
thorough cleaning would be sanded back to the grain in preparation for priming.

He shouldered his rucksack, grabbed his bicycle and began to slowly push it
out of the backyard and into the morning alleyway. The alley was rough and
unpaved so he continued to walk the bike out to the newly paved road. Once
he was out on the street he swung a leg over his bike and coasted down the
hill. He loved his bicycle. He had purchased it from a pawnshop down on
Hastings Street near Gastown. It was a 1954 CCM Prolite Flyer. Metallic green in
colour, it was capable of 5 speeds from its Benelux rear derailleur. A
great find and garage kept after being ridden one season back in 1955. He was
reminded again of his camping stint on Burnaby Mountain. There was only one
road to the campus and no bus service up the mountain. Kids were hitchhiking
from all over town to get to school. It had been a much longer trip into
the city in those days. The ride down in the morning was exhilarating but it
was the evening climb back to his campsite that stung most in his memory.

The bike had become indispensible, as he had tired of the last few years of
buses, bummed rides and hitchhiking. The hitchhiking bag was far too social
for his liking as he valued his independence. Often, as soon as he hopped in
the vehicle, the driver would ask whether Jude had ‘something to smoke’.
After hearing Jude’s negative response the driver would set about looking
for another passenger and the planned itinerary would regress and dissolve
into something else entirely. Jude was always asking to be let out, making
it difficult to go anywhere directly. He was well aware this was not the
most efficient form of transportation. It seemed to be more of a social thing
for people more interested in ‘hanging out’ rather than actually getting
somewhere or doing something specific. This had not been his experience growing
up on Denman Island where hitching a ride was ubiquitous and simply a
practical way to get from one point to another. It seemed a lot of people his age
had nowhere specific to be or that most of their decisions about what to do
with their days needed consensus. As Jude had grown up in relative
isolation in a fantasy world of his own, what better vehicle than the bicycle to
make his eremitic way through the world?