That 70s House: Finding Vancouver's new attitude in the past

In East Van, dolphin shorts are back in.

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A quick perusal of the American Apparel racks shows how hard it is to define "period costume", though: what's old is new again. Still, that decade's colours and textures cannot quite be reproduced in modern factories.

The record keeps spinning: we come to "Don't Go to Strangers", which is sort of funny.

"We're getting new speakers. Not such good news for the couple living downstairs," confides David with a grin.

David Beattie: That '70s House
David Beattie: Vancouver's enfant terrible of being nice

Our Generation is open to the public from 10am to 10pm daily: if one of the residents isn't around, a friendly volunteer will be. More people show up in the evenings than during the day, which is not surprising. Beattie says that you should spend several hours hanging out in The '70s House: "It needs that sort of time for the mood of the place to work on you."

Getting you talking

The '70s House dovetails with Beattie's work on Just Say Hello: getting Vancouverites to break down their walls. Beattie wants you to talk to strangers almost as much as Katy Perry wants to empower you. So, a lot.

This particular tactic, stripping away the digital trappings by harking back to our cultural youth, grabbed my attention by popping onto my radar at just the right time: after a week of existing off the grid in the Selkirks. Ski touring instead of Skype, ptarmigans instead of Twitter. The '70s House, even now only a few weeks old, was one of the first things I saw.

The theme itself makes social-media interaction impossible, barring a visit from the aforementioned Great Gazoo.

The Great Gazoo

All together now

Lots of ink has been spilled on why we're so closed off, though Beattie offers one explanation in particular: the difficulty of getting through modern university. As a uni student in South Africa, Beattie "was inebriated most of the time, with a great deal of social interaction."

He "sailed through school," but today your mileage may vary. Apparently SFU is one of the four toughest schools in the West for those seeking straight A's. So you can't Dubya your way through Simon Frasier University, and that could be a factor in the social shutdown of our city.

On March 8, Our Generation will be screening the decade-appropriate segment from the Time-Life "History of Rock 'n Roll" series, after which visitors "can then have a pretentious discussion about it."

"If that is not enough to lure you from your bluefacing," said Beattie, "from 8pm to 9pm there will be live entertainment, featuring skit comedy and other stuff yet to be determined. Oh yes, and open mic if any of you want to expose your inner performer. No nudity please."

Tom Petty
Don't do me like that.

("Bluefacing is, of course, the phenomenon of your smartphone illuminating your downturned face as you move zombielike across –– and sometimes suddenly up against –– the landscape.)

It's really that easy. If you go to 5123 Aberdeen Street between 10am and 10pm and just knock, someone will invite you in. Once you step through the door, you'll have to navigate through a few decades towards a perhaps-unfamiliar attitude.

Coffee and tea are available for a donation, otherwise it's BYOB (but no drugs, there, Wooderson).

Beattie adds, "One concession to modernity: don't smoke inside."

Knock loudly at The '70s House

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