Bees & Bears

22 July 2017 – The title is not inspired by A.A. Milne, but Pooh’s lament does come to mind. Remember? He is at the foot of a tree, the bee hive (surely dripping honey) is high overhead. If he wants that honey, he will have to climb.

It’s a very funny thought [he observes] that if bears were bees,

They’d build their nests at the bottom of trees,

And that being so, if the bees were bears,

We shouldn’t have to climb up all these stairs!

I am not thinking about bees or bears or stairs, as I weave my way home last Monday evening, I am thinking about the fun we just had doing an outdoor Taoist Tai Chi demonstration next to False Creek. I turn at random on a nearby street, pause to admire a series of raised planters, and wonder — very vaguely — what the little raised wooden structures are all about.

 

See? One per planter.

Then I see the signs on the wall. Big Rock Urban Brewery is not maintaining these planters for human enjoyment; they are bee habitats.

I like this. I like that they care for bees, and educate humans as well. I learn things about prudent behaviour around bees. I resolve not to “act like a bear.”

And that’s that, for a couple of days. I do not think about bees.

Until I am again wandering home in the early evening, this time from an Iceland presentation out in Kitsilano (“Kits” to its friends). Again a random turn, on a random street, in that golden pre-dusk light.

And look what pops up.

“Pop up” being the right phrase: I have stumbled upon the City of Vancouver’s 5th and Pine Pop-Up Park. Created in late 2016, it offers community meeting space with a large wildflower garden designed to attract bees & other pollinators.

Just look at all those bees.

And not just on the walls!

Those black specks among the wildflowers are, oh yes, real live bees. I remember the rules on that Big Rock poster. I keep calm, step back, and strive not to act like a bear.

It works. I walk through the park and around the next corner, unstung, and very impressed.

Only to be even more impressed. Now I’ve landed in the Pine Street Community Gardens. I stand there and laugh. How can you just turn a downtown corner, and, boom, fall into this kind of magic?

It’s older than the pop-up park, I later learn: founded in 2006, running parallel to disused railway tracks, with an Orchard Side (apples, pears, plums, etc.), a Garden Side (more than 40 plots), modest yearly fees and, not surprisingly, a waiting list of would-be gardeners.

There are vegetable plots …

and flower plots …

and a brightly painted storage shed.

With bee hives.

I again act not-like-a-bear. It again keeps me safe.

There’s a sign, up on that storage shed. I always read signs.

Yet more serendipity.

See that reference to the Arbutus Greenway? It’s very much a work in progress, early days for a trail that will repurpose the old CPR tracks to provide a walking/cycling/rolling corridor from False Creek to the Fraser River.

Temporary pathways are already open. One starting point is right here, in yet another pop-up park at the eastern end of the Community Gardens, at West 6th & Fir.

Frances & I have already decided to explore the Greenway in next Tuesday’s walk. I plonk my bag on the bench, and send her this photo:

“Bag marks the spot,” I say. “See you there!”

Consider this your Sneak Preview…

 

 

 

 

“Everything talks…”

16 July 2017 – Apparently mum used to waltz toddler-me around the place, crying “Everything talks, in our house!” and inventing dialogue among assorted inanimate objects to prove her point. It surely amused me, seems to have imprinted me: I have a vaguely animist view of the world, and now amuse myself with multi-stream messages as I go about my day.

A row of Muskoka chairs at Spyglass Dock on False Creek, for example.

Happy messages, starting with the visual — bright & cheery on a bright, cheerful day. A slew of memory-messages as well: Muskoka chairs by lakes in Muskoka itself; more of them in Toronto parks bordering Lake Ontario; now here by tidal False Creek in Vancouver; all of them an invitation to relax & enjoy. And so an emotional message of gratitude: how lucky I am, to live where public space offers such enjoyment, and it may safely be enjoyed.

Walk-walk eastward along False Creek — my Tuesday walking ritual appears reborn, here on the Left Coast — and eventually we run out of water, continue along East 1st Av. into a once-grungy part of town being reborn with art galleries, studios, housing & (surely the magnet) relocated Emily Carr University of Art + Design.

Another message, a wall mural, talks to us. Or, perhaps, at us. We are befuddled.

It is large, in clear text, and in English. What’s our problem?

I am still befuddled about the word-message, but I like the Look-At-Me message. Something well-executed, provoking (best sense of the word) and in public space? All good.

Into a gallery, where there are some painting-paintings, and then there is … well… another example of a message delivered large, in clear text, and in English.

We are not befuddled. But we do break our museum-cool sufficiently long enough to giggle.

Don’t answer that.

Jump forward a day. This time I’m on my own. I’d planned to walk back up to the VanDusen Botanical Garden (worth many visits), but get diverted. As I often do.

I find myself in Shaughnessy Park, a small and simple lozenge of tree-hung space on a height of land near Granville Street. No amenities except benches, under the trees.

I lean back on a bench, relax into the bench, look overhead.

What talks here? Eye and ear messages, both. Sun shimmering through the trees, dancing green air, occasional background rattles of crow or squirrel. Occasional car-whooshes, too, but dialled ‘way down to insignificance by my calmed & peaceful brain.

A different sound claims my ear, when, eventually, I pick myself up to head home.

Do-mi-la.

Not a human whistle, definitely mechanical, but still sweet not harsh. (And so much more interesting than do-mi-so would have been!) Again. Do-mi-la. And again …

My eyes follow my ears to a young City Maintenance worker at an open sewer grating. The three tones die away yet again as she reads the instrument in her hand & calls out, “Got it.”

I follow her to her truck. “?????” I ask.

One worker sends the tone from one open grating, she explains; the other waits to receive it at the next. If, when and how the tone arrives tells them if there is any blockage in the water line, where, and how much. No need to drop cameras into the system any more. (Let alone small children with goggles & fins, as my Dickensian imagination would have it.)

Music is the message. It talks. I love it.

I am in a seriously up-market residential neighbourhood, I suddenly realize. All subdued anglo-elegance. Complete with a sense of civic responsibility.

I admire, as I am surely meant to do.

Next sign? Not so friendly. But delivering an equally clear message.

Right. Got it.

The rare gate (locked, of course) that doesn’t have a dog-warning sign to go with its intercom system has this kind of sign instead:

Right. Got that, too.

It is a relief, some blocks later, to find myself in less-elevated — all senses of the word — terrain. Where a sidewalk offers me quite a different message.

I hop my way through it. Of course I do. Thank you, chalk-on-sidewalk! Good humour is restored.

And then, ooooo, another dog-related message. Except this time it is to the dogs, not about them.

As I get up from my photo-taking crouch, I see an approaching woman sink to her own crouch at a companion sign at the other end of the garden. I wait for her to read it. She gets up. We grin at each other. Nice.

I turn left at the playhouse at the corner (itself a kid-happy message) …

and think: “That’s it.”

I put away the camera, lengthen my stride.

And stop short for one more message.

‘Cause any time someone wants to love the whole world, I’m happy to help them spread the message.

I Dally with Dance

7 July 2017 – But first,  I Dalí with dance.

As in Salvador; as in Dance of Time I.

I’m not even a Salvador Dalí enthusiast, and have seen more soft-clock iterations over the decades than I care to think about … but, still … there is something arresting about this whopping (390 kg, 213 cm high) bronze sculpture smack downtown near Howe & West Pender.

And I am quite charmed when I read the plaque. First, it’s the real thing, not a knock-off: one of an edition of eight (+ six proofs) first cast in 1984. Second, it is well-travelled: it has already been exhibited in such cities as Paris, Shanghai, Singapore, Mexico City, Venice & Taipei. Third, the Chali-Rosso Art Gallery here in Vancouver has arranged for it to be on display in this city for 150 days, to celebrate Canada’s 150 years of nationhood.

So that’s all good, and anyway (fourth…), I’m always in favour of public art.

Which explains my delight just a day later, when I’m again scurrying through downtown, this time to dally with dance.

It’s opening night of the 29th annual Dancing on the Edge festival, a performance by the Beijing Modern Dance Company of their work, Oath-Midnight Rain.

I cut through the alley just south of West Hastings off Granville … and look! It’s public art! Even better: alley art!

Vancouver-style.

I’d seen this alley once before, during my winter visit, but had forgotten where it was located. Now, in summer warmth, I can linger comfortably.

I’m not the only one lingering, or the only one with a camera, either — but the rest are more into selfies & each-other shots.

Are you following the dynamics here? Yellow Shirt Guy is taking a picture of White Shirt Guy … who is too busy watching those young women to mug for the camera.

But the young women are oblivious to his interest …

because they are too busy checking their own photos.

This is good! It shows that Alley Oop is doing what it is supposed to do: turn an ugly, strictly utilitarian, unpleasant alley into a place that welcomes people, and encourages them to use it, and have fun in the process.

Thank the DVBIA (Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association) for the idea & the funding; thank HCMA Architecture + Design for the transformation.

This one opened in September 2016, apparently two more are planned.

Before the project, this alley averaged 30 people per hour; now, 73. Before, 6 vehicles; now, down to three. Before, mostly men walked through here; now, the gender split is pretty well even.

Not the kind of alley art I’m used to, and that’s just fine, too. What’s the point of going somewhere else, if you want it to be exactly like the place you left?

I check my watch, realize I better copy this fast-moving couple …

and get on with my own Dance of Time.

Time to meet Sally, have a quick pub supper, and head for the Firehall.

As in, the Firehall Arts Centre, which was Vancouver’s first firehall when it opened in 1906 and stayed in use until the mid-1970s, but has been repurposed as an arts centre since 1982.

We dally on the patio for a moment, with its bright picnic tables and end-wall mural …

and then move inside for the performance.

Oath-Midnight Rain is really, really good. (Photo from Dancing on the Edge website.)

To keep something like this going for 29 years? And to have this level of quality?

Bravo, Donna Spencer and team.

 

 

By Land, by Sea, by Foot, by Ferry…

4 July 2017 – It’s the Canada Day weekend, I’m off to Granville Island to enjoy the celebrations with family, and I consider modes of transport.

I could be part of the by-foot brigade, walking west along the False Creek seawall and curving myself onto the island: I’ve done it a few times already since moving here, and it’s mightily tempting.

But I’m even more tempted by the ferry!

So I bounce down to Spyglass Dock instead, admire yet again that piano with its “Jazz Cats + Mice” motif, and jump onto an Aquabus, just about to push off from the dock.

The ferries are not only frequent, inexpensive & efficient, they make you smile. They’re right up there with helium balloons, they just make you smile.

That’s the cartoon drawing on the captain’s T-shirt, but it’s true to life.

Fifteen minutes later (with one stop in between), I’m on Granville Island.

Me and many others; people are gathering. We — and a sky full of sunshine — are celebrating Canada’s 150th birthday. Official maple leaf flags and insignia all over the place, but my favourite is this very wonky chalk rendition on a sidewalk.

Granville Island isn’t really an island at all, it is a sandspit on the south shore of False Creek, home to factories & sawmills in the early 1900s but now entirely transformed, a magnet for Vancouverites & tourists as well: a huge indoor public market, home to theatres, artisan workshops & studios, retail outlets, a sake maker (Canada’s first), 2 breweries & a distillery, a community centre, and the Emily Carr University of Art + Design.

We weave among the crowds, buskers & music on all sides. Perhaps because my niece drove & I came by ferry, I start ticking off modes of transport.

Cars, of course, tucked up in mural-bright car parks …

bicycles, up-ended in their own lock-up along one wall …

a kayak!

Well, no, not the mode of transport, but on display, and what could be more fitting? There are scads of them in False Creek, along with dragon boats & canoes.

Down by the Emily Carr buildings, I see a transportation triple threat, bing-bang-bong, all in a row: a boat awaiting its launching, a school bus, and (left of the bright yellow school bus) a white chartered bus.

One more means of transport: magic carpet.

And “magic” is the word. It is quite magic to walk that carpet-strewn entrance: once inside the shop, you could be in a souk, the textures & colours delighting the eye, the complex aromas of all those carpets quivering the nose.

Part of the holiday fun is, adults get to be 4 years old again.

We take turns playing on the swings …

and we are as breathless as the children, all jammed together to watch a latter-day Houdini (the sunlit head under the awning word “organic”) step free from his shackles.

Time to go.

I move slowly past the various outdoor solo performers, here a dapper francophone improvising on “La Mer,” there a Cape Breton fiddler, and ‘way down there, the far end of this quay, a young woman crooning jazz to her keyboard.

I find the Aquabus dock; I hand in my return ticket; I watch a little girl — her eyes large & serious — carefully hand in the tickets for her entire family, and then relax happily once aboard, giggling, responsibility discharged.

A tip of my Tilley to “Jazz Cats + Mice” back at Spyglass Dock, and home I go.

 

More Quotes, Some Keys, a Ferry, & a Dragonfly

28 June 2017 – Isn’t it always the way? You’ve never heard of something, and then you do, and then it jumps on you from all sides.

I’d never heard of John Muir, Scottish-born poet & naturalist (1838-1914), until Sally sent me the quote that opened a recent (Art of Quote-Unquote) post. A couple of days later, I’m entering the VanDusen Botanical Garden with my friend Louise, and there, beautifully incised into the glass doorway, is another Muir quote: “When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.”

(Checking it later online, I discover another I like a lot: “Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt.” The dirt-path strategy for happiness?)

We’re not in this stunning botanical garden for doorway quotes. We have come to walk the grounds, to enjoy all the collections, all the “rooms,” from the serenely austere Stone Garden to the Meditation Garden, the Sino-Himalayan collections, the Elizabethan Maze and more.

And we do. Oh, we certainly do. But we also admire the works of art in the grounds.

Including a piano.

It’s not much of a functioning piano by now, just look at those keys. But with seagulls like that swooping around (the work of Ilya Viryachev), you don’t mind.

Louise explains that the city has had several years of placing pianos in public — a CityStudio project called “Keys to the Streets” — and I realize I have seen a few about.

With more to come!

The next day I’m walking again — and again in brilliant sunshine, take that soggy Toronto, these two cities seem to have swapped weather patterns. This time in a loop around False Creek. Frances & I head west along the south side, then north across the Burrard St. bridge, its elegant Art Deco lines signalling its 1930s construction.

I stop to admire the view, and pound a few more geographic factoids into my brain.

False Creek flows into English Bay, into Burrard Inlet, into the Strait of Georgia … That’s Bowen Island, beyond that Vancouver Island, beyond that the Pacific Ocean …

We head back east on the north side. At David Lam Park, we hop around the stepping stones that encircle Don Vaughan’s temple-like sculpture, “Marking High Tide and Waiting for Low Tide,” reading the inscription as we go.

Hop, hop …

Hop, hop …

It’s just one of numerous pieces of public art around False Creek, and I like it a lot.

Now for something else I like a lot: a trip on one of the cheerful little ferry boats that shuttle back & forth! I jump aboard at the Yaletown Dock, for a quick crossing to Spyglass Place, back on my side of the Creek.

Spyglass Place Dock is a whole art installation all by itself: comfy bear-chairs for contemplating the view, artwork underfoot and all around … and, look, a piano.

This one is working just fine, thank you, its keys highly responsive, the pianist enthusiastic, and the rest of us charmed.

I contemplate a dragonfly.

I remember another piano in my recent past — this one plain blue, but startling for all that.

It was attached to a bicycle, though nicely stationary at the time in Woodward’s Atrium, part of the Hard Rubber Orchestra‘s open rehearsal for its first summer-time “Spacious Music at the Atrium” concert.

The music was good, the acoustics terrific, I made note of future concert dates.

So, pianos firmly in mind, it’s no wonder I see another as I make my way back south on Cambie. This one is in a much less appealing environment — a shopping mall food court — but it’s also part of the City’s public pianos initiative.

And it is also being played. Where the toddler in Spyglass Place ran to, shall we say, personal random expression, this guy is definitely into stride.

I hum my way home.

Where, via email, I collect one more quote!

Cake-Quotable

Thank you, Phyllis.  She was out Dundas St. West, in Toronto’s Junction area, and came across this bakery sidewalk signboard.

All right, everybody. Eat up.

 

 

Swell, Scruffy, Swell

25 June 2017 – And all in one day, too, neatly sandwiched. No surprise about the “swell” that began & ended the day: I’m talking about yesterday, which was Doors Open Vancouver, a day designed to showcase notable city buildings for residents & visitors alike. The surprise was the “scruffy” in between — and an even more surprising (to me) correlation with the later “swell.”

I leave home with a limited Doors Open agenda, limited by the fact that I’m not free to trot around town all day; I am an afternoon DOV volunteer, and decide I can only fit in one morning visit — the very swell Orpheum Theatre. A 1927 movie theatre with the exotically luxurious details of the day, it followed the usual arc of such theatres & by 1973 was on the verge of being gutted & turned into a hive of mini-theatres. Various public & private sector heroes rode to the rescue; it is today completely refurbished, a National Historic Site, and a much-cherished, well-used theatre.

My afternoon shift is in an equally swell structure, the Scotiabank Dance Centre, which opened in 2001. This, by contrast, is an example of a 1920s building (a branch of the bank) that was gutted, save for the façade, with the footprint brilliantly reinvented by Arthur Erickson and Architectura as an 8-storey complex of dance rehearsal and performance studios.

So as I head south on Seymour St., late morning, I am still dazzled by the Orpheum and eager for the Dance Centre. My mind is in Swell Mode.

And then I see this.

Oh, my dears.

Even though I strongly suspect the whole thing is a joke, a carefully spelled-out joke, it’s a terrific joke & I laugh. The black-gloved broad is pretty terrific too…

So my humour is even better as I loop around a bit, and find myself on Granville nearing Davie — and therefore the Dance Centre as well. My mind is back in Swell Mode, I an anticipating the architectural pleasure to come.

Then I glance to the right, where there is a staircase down into a sunken sliver of parking lot. And I see this, and of course I nip right down those stairs.

We are back to scruffy! Not recently-commissioned, high-class parking lot street art by a name-brand artist. No. Definitely old, & peeling. Scruffy.

But it still has charater.

With a space ship, for example, or perhaps bumble bee, take your pick …

and some kind of critter, beckoning me on.

And he really does lead me on, because he is at the corner where this parking lot feeds into an alley.

I peer around the edge, looking toward Davie.

Perfect!

There are parrots soaring over skyscrapers …

and an inscrutable face over a dumpster …

and a bit of Alley Philosophy, to Make You Think.

I’m laughing like anything when I emerge on Davie — all the more so, given I am almost dead opposite the entrance to the Dance Centre, and I like the juxtaposition a lot. I even consider jay-walking (will I never renounce my bad Toronto habits?), but opt for a demure legal crossing at the street corner instead.

And look, virtue is rewarded.

I discover why those two parrots are fluttering around the alley.

At the time, I’m just pleased to get the reference. And admire another bit of neon art.

Later, online, I learn that the ground floor of this 1890s building was the Bank of Nova Scotia local branch from 1912 to 1929.

When it moved to the Bank’s fabulous new building, right across the street.

Which, in the 1990s, was donated by the Bank to the project that was to retain the façade, incorporate the name, and transform the footprint into the new Scotiabank Dance Centre.

Where I spend a very swell afternoon.

 

 

 

The Art of Quote-Unquote

22 June 2017 – It began with an email from my friend Sally, off kickin’ up her cowgirl heels in Alberta, sharing a quote she read on the washroom wall in the Bear Paw Café in Jasper:

Off to the woods I go

To lose my mind

And find my soul

The washroom scribbler helpfully added attribution: Scottish-American naturalist John Muir (1838-1914),  whose poetry is very findable online. As well as on washroom walls.

All of which got me thinking again about quotations, and how we use them, and respond to them, in public space.

A thought process much stimulated by the tail end of a long walk into/through/out of Stanley Park, ending in downtown Vancouver, where walking companion & friend Frances pointed out some landmark buildings, including the soaring Fairmont Pacific Rim Hotel.

It was sufficiently intriguing to pull me back downtown the next day, solo, to look more closely.

Enroute, walking north on Hamilton St., I did a head-snap at this line of text on an otherwise unremarkable little building.

Confession. I originally read the text as: “Unlimited Growth Increases the Dividend.

This is richly ironic, given that artist Kathryn Walter’s 1990 installation is meant to decry rampant capitalism, and honour Del Mar Inn owner George Riste, who refused to sell out to BC Hydro and continued to offer clean accommodation at modest prices.

A major contrast, in scale and price point, with the Fairmont Pacific Rim Hotel, at Cordova & Burrard!

But look. They have something in common.

Text.

This time in two-foot-high letters, Helvetica Bold (I love that detail), the 2010 work of British artist Liam Gillick. Repeated, again and again, between floors 5 & 22, dividing the hotel portion from the 25 additional residential floors above.

A single sentence, wrapping two sides of the structure.

lying on top of a building

the clouds looked no nearer than when I was lying on the street

I really love this, even if the unspaced letters make it hard to read.

Frances & I spent perilous long moments mid-street, puzzling it out. (Changing traffic signals & some vestigial instinct for survival caused us to scurry to the sidewalk in time.) I am more prudent on my return visit.

Safely back home again, I think about another artist who makes brilliant use of text in some of his public pieces — Toronto’s Eldon Garnet. A favourite example: his 1995 Time & A Clock installation on Queen St. East, which includes this adaptation of a Heracleitus quote on the façade of the 1911 bridge over the Don River.

Sometimes, words & images fight it out for supremacy.

Sometimes, though, the fit works perfectly.

 

 

 

Eyes on Granville

18 June 2017 – I’m out for the South Granville Art Walk, who could resist, with balloons, hoop-la, wine & cheese & what-have-you up & down the gallery-laden stretch of Granville between W. 15th & W. 6th or so, where the street pretty well becomes the bridge over False Creek.

I walk across from Cambie, virtuously resisting the pull of the Tandem Bike Café enroute, and launch my walk — my Walk! — right at West 15th.

With eyes on Granville, courtesy of the city traffic signal box at the corner. (I think that’s what these boxes house. Anyway, many feature photo-wrap artwork, and I’m all in favour.)

My own eyes equally wide, I start prowling my way north toward the water. Most of the galleries are closer to the water, so I waft in & out of some home décor shops as I go, cruise through Indigo, find everything very classy but resistible … I don’t even reach for my camera until I’m halfway north.

And then it’s for a map.

But a darn classy map.

And, for a newbie like me, darn useful as well.

There I am, I say to myself: I live above the “u” in Vancouver, close to that first short inlet of water (False Creek). At the moment, I am above the “c,” also closing in on False Creek.

Near-ish to that map, just north of West Broadway, I visit Kardosh Projects, with an exhibition of two artists I hadn’t previously known but like a lot, especially the brooding landscapes by Edward Epp.

Then I head down an alley, not expecting much, but look! what a reward.

Very loopy indeed, it’s the back-door silliness of Brian Scott Fine Art, so that’s good fun.

Then it’s on north another block, left turn on West 6th, I visit one good-taste (& very jammed) gallery and then into the building’s central courtyard, because I want to find the pousette gallery, which I know is somewhere upstairs at rooftop level.

So I’m elevator-hunting, but I get waylaid by the building’s architecture. I don’t yet know it bears the sleek name of WSix, I just know I really like the sleek lines — all concrete, copper, steel & strong angles.

 

I admire a door. They’re all identical. They are wonderful.

I tear myself away, get in the elevator — and find I’m admiring the elevator wall.

I do visit the pousette gallery, and it’s worth the visit. It is. I just find I’m more taken by the building that houses it.

Back outside, now on the fourth floor, I pay attention to the exterior catwalk that gives each unit its own direct front door. Vancouver’s relatively benign climate makes this design feature practicable, and how attractive it is.

Especially when, on the top level, you see through to the Coast Range mountains!

Then I also see the staircase. Perfect! I’ll walk down.

It takes me past a watchful dog-in-the-window.

Which reminds me of a photo I took of another dog-in-the-window — one I saw days earlier, over on Oak St. near W 13th.

Are they not unnervingly alike? (Yes, yes, there are also differences, I grant you that.)

My Art Walk began with a traffic signal box; I’m happy to see it can end with one as well.

The official upper-case-W Walk now over, I lower-case-w walk myself south/east toward home.

With a latte stop in the Tandem Bike Café! You knew I would.

B-Words

14 June 2017 – We’ll start with two B-words.

Beer … and Bacteria.

Make that three B-words! Add Ben Franklin to the list. Who knew he’d get rude about water?

No, my friends — make that four. As in, deBunking false quotes.

According to the Beer PHXation blog, to say BF uttered those words is a bunch of … well … BS. (I know. We’re now up to five.) No primary sources for the quote, says the blog. Plus the little detail that “bacteria” was not introduced as a scientific term until 1838, and BF died in 1790. (Anyway, I will crossly add, all on my own: Benjamin Franklin was an educated man of his time, who knew his Latin. Who would therefore have known that “bacteria” was plural, not singular. Who would therefore have written — had he written it — “in water there are Bacteria.” So there.)

Do we care? No, I thought not. Shall we move on? Oh, let’s.

I am still busy exploring new terrain, and find myself on The Drive.

See? “The Drive.”

As in, Commercial Drive. As in, a whole great stretch of every type of shop & studio & hang-out, out the east end of town. I can find no explanation for that drama-mask-creature, but none is necessary, so all is well.

There is even a street festival going on, not that I knew it before I hopped busses to this end of town. Italian Day, it is — though I’m seeing as much Asian, South Asian, tourist, & white-kid-from-the-suburbs as Italian.

It is all extremely cheerful. Blocks & blocks of closed street, tents & kiosks filling the street, music & vendors & PA announcements, street sales & clowns.

And a whole line-up of Vespas. Well … it is Italian Day, after all!

I like the koi decal. This is Vancouver, after all!

I keep peering down alleys. A left-over twitch from Toronto, and there are still rewards, though not the same kind.

I like the colours, the way the barrier colours are picked up in the smear on the van and then in the laundry farther down the alley; the brightly painted wooden house; the whole peaceful at-home look of the place.

But … I wouldn’t say no to a hit of street art!

And then, bang, right on command, as I double back from the alley on E. 5th Av. to Commercial Drive …

The work of Milan Basic Art — “former film industry artist making street art” says his Instagram page. There are drama-mask references in the art, so I’m expecting this to be a studio or grassroots theatre of some kind, but no, it is the office of a medical doctor. There you go.

I stop in a café called Prado for a latte, sit in the window thinking for a moment about Phyllis, my dear Tuesday Walking Society co-member. For a good five years we have walked together on Tuesdays, stopping for a latte (me) & a decaf Americano (her) enroute. I am again walking on Tuesday, I have again stopped for a latte — but Phyllis is 3,364 km. away, back in Toronto.

And my phone rings. And it is Phyllis. So there we are once again, talking over a latte during a Tuesday walk…

Still warmed by her voice, I stare smiling out the plate glass window and then scrunch my face. Another mural, across the street? A cloud mural on that building opposite?

No, silly girl. It’s reflection.

But I like it. Even after I figure it out (which really does only take a nano-second, I am not terminally slow), I still like it, play with it as an art installation: cloud mural on the building, ghost tree in front of the building.

And then I fling myself back into the real outside, back into the whole happy mix: Belgian Fries advertised here, grilled asparagus at the Masi tent there, Ethiopian & Jamaican & French-Tunisian & Persian (“el mercado persa”) on all sides.

And Karl Marx.

One of the City’s information pillars has been appropriated! I wonder about that bullet-hole in the middle of Marx’s forehead. That’s not how he died, is it? And no, it’s not. I double-check later: a peaceful death, comparatively speaking, felled by pleurisy in London, age 64.

So I don’t know what that bit of poster-art-commentary is all about.

But who cares, when there are handmade popsicles on offer?

And — this is my final B-word, you knew I’d get back to my theme eventually — and Balloons.

Not to mention cozy apartments.

 

 

 

 

Smoochers & Strange Dogs

7 June 2017 – You’ll have to imagine the smoochers, but I’ll give you Smoochers Corner.  My gift to you, courtesy of a cheerful young man named Aaron, whom I met at the foot of the steps down from Jean Beaty Park to Burrard Inlet a couple of days ago.

Turns out he occasionally leads tours around the neighbourhood, here in Point Grey, and when he learns how much I love to walk & explore, he tells me about Smoochers Corner. Just down the road, he says, at the top of the Dunbar Steps.

He jumps this-way, that-way, to demonstrate what I’ll see.

And I do.

See? This-way for Him; that-way for Her; and smooch-smooch.

I giggle. And I remember the Vancouver Biennale Open Air Museum art installation I saw enroute, and giggle again.

This particular installation, Vancouver Novel by Brazilian artist João Loureiro, consists of a rotating cycle of 23 LED-light sentences. The sentence I happen to catch seems tailor-made for smoochers.

I’m on a roll, wandering daily around town, beginning to sniff out some haunts. Still with the wide eyes of the new-comer.

So I tilt my head in wonder as I emerge from a VAG (Vancouver Art Gallery) lecture yesterday evening, beguiled by the soft air & golden light of mid-evening. It’s not so much the buildings, which neatly frame Hornby Street, it’s the great plummeting arrow of sky-space in-between.

I play my positive-space/negative-space game, blinking my attention back & forth.

Less esoteric today, out revisiting the pathways here on the south side of False Creek. This green space was a haunt of mine while visiting town last winter, how much more agreeable in warm spring sunshine!

I’m in Hinge Park, I go hip-hop across the big stones to the little island just off-shore, I follow the path, I peer between the trees.

Tree art! Woodpecker Dead Tree art! No woodpeckers in sight, mind you, just the evidence they leave behind.

And then, farther east, I’m prowling public waterfront space in Olympic Village … and this time the birds are visible. Bird on bird.

I know that’s a pigeon up top. The big guy underneath? Let’s call him a sparrow.

A latte stop by the water, and I start heading inland. Up to West 1st Av. and Manitoba, where once again I admire one of the City’s attractive sewer lids. Except this one has a tiny companion.

I look closely at the mini-version: “Tread Lightly,” it says; “Ship Yard.” I’d like to know more. I am mildly, but pleasurably, frustrated. These things can be learned…

Right there, too: an art installation. No plaque that I can find, no artist ID, no explanation. But it looks to me like mounds of salt.

And I’m right, I must be right. The building, now a restaurant & bar, also bears its historic name, “Vancouver Salt Co. Ltd.” The little street next to the building is — of course — Salt St.

On up Manitoba, up to West 3rd. I glance casually eastward as I wait for the light to change.

Look!

Oh, if only the doors had been closed. Oh, never mind. It is quite wonderful. I don’t know why Greenworks Building Supply wanted street-art murals, but thank you, I am all in favour.

I remember Rolf’s dictum: “When you see something interesting in front of you, there will be something equally interesting right behind you.” I spin on my heel.

Right behind me is Eddie’s Hang-Up Display Ltd. I’ve been doing my little jig of street-art delight under the cool gaze of Eddie’s Ladies.

That belly tag reads, “Wigs sold separately.” (Just FYI.)

And I zig, and I zag, and in the course of events (after a long, tempting riffle through Mountain Equipment Co-op on West Broadway) I find myself climbing on up Columbia St., just north of West 10th.

I am admiring the fine old wooden homes, one obligingly with a heritage plaque. It explains that, in 1895, it was the Bloomfield Studio, home to Henry Bloomfield and two sons, the city’s foremost stained glass artisans — responsible, among other accomplishments, for the windows of the provincial Parliament Buildings in Victoria.

Coming close enough to read the plaque brings me close enough to read another tidy little sign. This one very much of our own day.

Well??? What? Three ears? Two tails? Amazing skill with a mouth organ? Armed with a sling-shot? Alas, he is nowhere in sight, and we’ll never know.

So we can each imagine our own favourite Strange Dog, and be happy.

 

 

 

  • WALKING… & SEEING

    "Traveller, there is no path. Paths are made by walking" -- Antonio Machado (1875-1939)

    "The voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes" -- Marcel Proust (1871-1922)

    "A city is a language, a repository of possibilities, and walking is the act of speaking that language, of selecting from those possibilities" -- Rebecca Solnit, "Wanderlust: A History of Walking"

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