Friday, March 18, 2011
The Legend of the Doghouse
Have I ever mentioned how much I don’t like Vancouver, BC? And yet I’ve lived here for almost a decade now.
Sure, there are definitely bright spots, irreplaceable places that I would miss were they not readily available.
Butter Baked Goods for instance where an all female staff of flour dusted beauties create things that make me want to weep with the wonder, no baked goods have a right to be so good, so delicious I almost circumvent the circumference of emotional elation to end up simply angrily demanding more. Au Petit Chavignol for their . Kreation Artisan Cakes that created a Lego-rific cupcake tower for our wedding. Les Faux Bourgeois, the French bistro place up on 15th and Kingsway. Vij’s with the free appetizers often served by the owner himself while you wait for a table whereupon you can order the very finest lamb popsicles in Canada, shanks down.
Mink’s for their bacon chocolate. Stanley’s where my wife & I tied the knot. The Kaboodles Toy Store in Point Grey on 10th for their Lego mini-figure basket where you can trade your duplicates for ones left by other people, the Granville Island Toy Company for their unending array of life sized Playmobile figurines. Baker's Dozen Antiques on Main Street for having an endless assortment of ways to spark anyone's imagination and for hooking me up with a 12 inch old school Inhumanoids figure on the cheap. The Aquarium with the most Romulan looking Dolphins I’ve ever seen and home to a juvenile Red Devil Octopus, the breed that lives over 25 years and grows larger than most eight legged giants in the world’s oceans. The Science World for using me as a model in their tattoo exhibit. Brewery Creek for educating me about so many amazing beers and breweries. The Wallflower for hosting all those wonderful Dr. Sketchy events. Shoko for putting ink into my skin and creating art I’m proud to wear as a part of me.
So there are many bright spots, however they are the pinhead crown on the Weeble-Wobble that is Vancouver, while far too many things swell the base end into something that will eventually prevent any movement in the city at all, except maybe from that massive earthquake we’re supposedly five years overdue for. Population density versus inadequate civil services or infrastructure, governmental blind eye to junkie infested ghetto, welfare hotels, ballooned and unsustainable housing market, Olympic debt & real estate scandals, inadequate traffic systems versus safe and convenient public transit and bike paths. School closings, ballooning class sizes, cut funding for humanities and extracurricular activities, throttled internet access by companies too greedy to upgrade their networks or use the “dark” fiber network already installed in Vancouver by the very company they squeeze out of existence.
Lackluster homogeneous mass market chain restaurants and high lease prices squeezing out bistro and locally owned restaurant operators. Somewhat underwhelming comic book stores charging Canadian mark up prices on comics actually printed in Canada and toys imported directly into Canada through Hong Kong via Diamond.
Limit of 5 Lego Minifigs per customer at all the little toy shops on Granville Island.
OK, that last one doesn’t really count.
But the one bright spot that’s gone now, a loss to construction workers and game designers alike, is the place once called The Doghouse.
Doghouse, also known as Dog House, Dog Haus, and eventually simply as The Pound, was a great, dirty floor venue that in NYC would’ve probably be playing the Stones or IRA anthems 24/7 and have nightly shot specials. One of the only places left in all of downtown to still have a parking lot out front, remarkable all the more because it sat on the corner of Beatty and Robson, right in front of the stadiums.
Not those stadiums.
This venue was a strange hybrid kit-bash of speakeasy, construction worker after bar, sports bar, tavern, and pub. Big main room, outdoor patio, live music some weekends, full to the gills when a good game or concert was happening that evening.
On the restroom door for the spacious ladies parlor there was a female soccer player, something you just don’t see every day, and something I’ve had a weak spot for since high school, female footie players, not bathroom doors, though I do seem to photograph a lot of washroom doors and signage for some reason.
Not sure which of my compatriots discovered the place, but most of Scarface: The World is Yours was designed there. I believe “offsite” is the official business term. I’d call it pint fuelled necessity.
Meta-games for multiple projects were hatched and harried there, sometimes inside, but more often than not well into the evening on one of the big wooden picnic tables on the patio.
And once Scarface was well into production, as the hours went long and stress turned us all into steam-punks, the Dog saw us far too often looking to unwind, bitch a bit, and conjure up a laugh or three. Hard on the liver for sure, however I can’t help but feel we owe the core staff of the place some gratitude for always remembering our names and going out of their way to help us feel right at home as though we were just meeting up in someone’s garage rather than dropping into some old venue on the corner of tourist street and stadium avenue.
Other than with work buddies I would sometimes roll into the Dog with my satchel of art supplies to work on drawings and whatnot for various personal projects, or for friends, particularly my counterpart Jedicus in NYC. Really wish he and I lived closer…
Sadly, over the years the place began to flounder, staff faded off to more lucrative paychecks for more stable owners, pretty much the same way my compatriots and I moved on and drifted apart, some going to other projects, some to other companies, or countries, or careers entirely. I stopped stopping by as often, neglecting the place like an elderly relative, drawn back though on occasion out of some sense of nostalgia, or loyalty, or just for the peace and quiet in a place where people knew my name and also felt fine with leaving me be.
The physical place is still there, bought out by a company called Tap & Gill or something like that, however the soul, what there was, is gone.
Still, out of respect for a strange tradition borne with the Scarface crew, some of Captain America: Super Soldier’s level design and meta-game were designed on that patio, too. Sadly, Tap & Gill’s chicken pot pie is no substitute for the pizzas and steak quesadilla the Dog’s kitchen used to belch out.