One Way Street: Alberni St. (Burrard to Thurlow)

after Walter Benjamin, sui generis of the poetic city

Hermes (755 Burrard St)

Regarding the virtue of lightness, Calvino says, “At certain moments I felt that the entire world was turning into stone: a slow petrification.” The stare of the Medusa, seemingly inescapable, escapes Perseus, who wears winged sandals. “To cut off Medusa’s head without being turned to stone, Perseus supports himself on the very lightest of things, the winds and the clouds, and fixes his gaze upon what can be revealed only by indirect vision, an image caught in the mirror.” Victoria Beckham once boasted of owning the most number of the most expensive handbags in the world: the Birkin bag. It was named after Jane Birkin, who, in 1983, was seated next to Hermes chief executive Jean-Louis Dumas. “Birkin had placed her straw bag in the overhead compartment of her seat, but the contents fell to the floor.” Dumas made her a black satchel, the first Birkin, to help with the weight of her belongings. Here there are no traces of Hermes, his movement or his lightness. Kim Kardashian, patron saint of shameless consumption, once made headlines for using a $50,000 Hermes Birkin as a diaper bag. “My Birkin carries all of my essentials,” she says. So the Medusa comes alive again.

 

Tiffany & Co. (723 Burrard St)

I once read that the mere sight of the colour “Tiffany blue” was enough to invoke feelings of affection, endearment, and tenderness in women who saw it. It was from a magazine of pop psychology, which despite its normative assumptions, made sense to a ten year old at the time. Tiffany blue, also known as robin’s egg blue and forget-me-not blue, was shortly patented through the Pantone institute, with the number 1837, the same number as the year the company was founded. Now it’s praised as a landmark in marketing, branding, design. When I was 13, I bought three colours of acrylic paint to mix for my reproduction of Tiffany blue: sea foam green, cobalt blue, and white. I painted a ring-sized cardboard box, stuffed a Hershey’s kiss in it, and gave it to my big sister, who still wouldn’t stop crying.

 

Jaeger-LeCoultre (1012 Alberni St)

An ordinary part of horology is the expectation of complications. Complications take a technical connotation here – it not only pertains to the difficulty that confronts horologists, but rather the intricacies of timepieces that desire to show features beyond mere date and time. The second most complicated wristwatch movement in the world belongs to a watch designed by Jaeger LeCoultre. The Hybris Mechanica Grande Sonnerie with 182 movements, 27 complications, and over 1300 parts. My mother once stepped on a less complicated watch as a punishment. It was a light pink Baby G one, and it belonged to me. After that it was clear to me that she valued time above watches.

 

Michael’s (1022 Alberni St)

Any one who pays full price for anything is a fool. Those were wise words from my old nanny, who made her living out of loving me. She would dust off the coloured chalk from my hands after I drew hopscotch boxes on the pavement. I want to find her, and tell her that in this street, they sell bundles of Chalk Markers at half price. In the city, there would be no need to hose down the pavement because the rain would do it for us.

 

Kobe Japanese Steakhouse (1042 Alberni St)

Where was the California roll created? The historical dispute between Vancouver and Los Angeles still remains. What is more interesting to me is that Tokyo doesn’t care.

 

Coast (1054 Alberni St)

The imperial ruins of fresh oysters: Kusshi (stellar bay) $3.75, Royal Miyaki (baynes sounds) $2.75, Gems (read island) $2.75, Okeover (okeover inlet) $2.75, Malpeque (pei) $3.95, Joyce Point (sawmill bay) $2.75.

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