Sticks & Stones & Bees & Crows — and a Unicorn, a Shady Cat & Destination Fish (& 24,000 Km)

26 March 2022 – And even more than all that. The fish is indeed my destination — the Go Fish! seafood shack just off Granville Island that (dammit) owes me a salmon burger — but, as always, once you choose a direction, all sorts of other discoveries pile on.

Errands bring me to Burrard & West 6th, close enough to False Creek to make Go Fish! my walk magnet for the day. But first I detour west, because here I am crossing the Arbutus Greenway, and why would I resist?

There’s a whole long tangled history about the Greenway, involving land from False Creek to the Fraser River, which the City bought from the CPR in 2016. Final green space development yet to be determined let alone implemented, community garden rights unclear — but meanwhile, let’s enjoy the approx. 9 km of asphalt pathway, the community gardens (including Cypress, where I join the Greenway), the benches, the sheer delight of this green ribbon running right through the city.

I pass Mason Bee hotels …

and City-provided “benchlets”…

and, along with hikers & joggers & walkers, scavenging crows. Of course.

I cross Cypress Street, with this hydro-pole reminder that some epidemics are to be encouraged, not fought.

Garden plots are still at the tidy-up stage, making even more apparent their underlying hardscape. Jean (doyenne of Jean’s Garden), like her allotment colleagues, favours lots of natural elements — sticks & stones, of varying sizes and shaped either for art or functionality. Here a small bowl containing pretty pebbles sits beside the sweep of a driftwood bench. I love benches in general; I love this bench in very particular.

Other side of the pathway, a garden with beehives. This doesn’t look like one of the community-based allotments, it may instead belong to a home just to the north — a reminder of how narrow the Greenway ribbon is, in this part of town.

And then there’s City Farmer.

This archway of repurposed metal implements leads into their quarter-acre site, where they demonstrate the mandate that has guided their work since 1978: to show people how to grow food in the city, compost waste & care for their home landscape.

The gate’s vines and flowers are still barely visible this early in the season, making it all the easier to spot the folk-art jokes in the metalwork.

Like this unicorn.

Enough detour, I decide: time to leave the Greenway, head north and zig-zag my way to Fisherman’s Wharf just west of Granville Island. It is home to the public fish market — and the Go Fish! metal shack.

I may already be thinking salmon burger but first, as I turn onto Maple Street, I discover a shady cat.

Talk about security: this home has it three-deep. A dog, a shady cat, and even — check that Orca Security signage in the lawn behind — a “killer whale.”

Please note those quote marks. Because when I search the phrase, I discover the Orca is something else entirely. Not even a whale, let alone a killer whale. It is instead a dolphin, and a whale killer. The descriptive phrase somehow got turned around over the centuries, and the Orca family should sue. (I bet lots of you already knew all that Orca lore, but I didn’t.)

Another block or so down Maple, and I meet a ghost barber. The saga of a ghost barber.

Or something like that. I have no idea. I shake my head and let my mind return to thoughts of salmon burgers.

Another 10 minutes or so, and here I am. About to join the line-up for Go Fish! — which today is open for business, unlike the day I brought a trusting friend here in an act of pilgrimage, our mouths already gently salivating.

Founded in 2004 by local chef Gord Martin, devoted to local & sustainably harvested seafood, all of it freshly prepared, Go Fish! is a Vancouver landmark with an international reputation. You are guaranteed really good food. After a really long wait.

So I have time, while in line, to empathize with the little boy killing time, peering over the wharf rail.

And I have time, while waiting for my order, to notice and wonder about the Spanish slogan on each staff T-shirt. (Later I discover that Martin was, maybe still is, exec chef & cofounder of a restaurant in Carmen del Playa, Mexico.)

Full of salmon (plus shrimp mayo & Japanese style pickled cucumber), I walk the perimeter of Granville Island — a kind of bonus loop, before continuing east along the Seawall toward home. The loop takes me past floating homes & busy ferries & busy shops & kiddies on swings & even the sight of two large seals repeatedly arching out of the water to grab scraps thrown their way by the fisherman gutting his catch overhead.

And then, just where Sutcliffe Park is about to lead me back over to the Seawall, I see a Trans Canada Trail pavilion on the point of land. I step within its embrace.

More than 24,000 km of trail, the signage tells me; “the world’s largest network of multi-use recreational trails,” the website later tells me. I think, with pleasure, of bits of Trail that I have walked here & there in the country. I can imagine sections of the Trail; I cannot imagine all 24,000 km.

The map does it for me:

So I look at that for a moment, and then turn east, to add a few more klicks to my very own, my cumulative, my life-long “Penny Trail.” Seriously??? I laugh at the sheer pretentiousness of the concept, but then decide to forgive myself. If birders can have their Life Lists, why can’t we walkers?

Comforted, reassured, and vastly amused, I walk on.

Rain. Drops.

22 March 2022 – It is raining.

And raining, and raining.

But the rain drops pose so very prettily, for anyone who cares to look.

Trafalgar!

12 March 2022 – No, no, not Battle of — that event sits several centuries and various oceans distant from my Trafalgar. I’m on a street in the Kitsilano district of Vancouver, not floating around just off Cape Trafalgar, Spain. Mind you, there is water a kilometre or so to the north of us, and by carrying on down Trafalgar, we’ll hit it.

Which is the plan.

We already have a nautical reference point.

Not particularly well made, but so very cheerful. Intriguing, too. Why is this little boat perched on the roof of that front yard lean-to? Surely too high for any resident toddler to see… Ah well, it’s fun for passing adult pedestrians.

More gratuitous fun (always the best kind), another block or so to the north.

Why? But again, why ask? Just enjoy it.

Each little peak shelters its own ornament. In this case, a truck…

but others display everything from shells to toy animals to pretty pebbles to a plastic leprechaun, perhaps specially installed for St. Patrick’s Day.

Sedate good taste comes next: this fine balcony banner with its leaping salmon.

And right after that — side yard of the same Good Taste home, I think — comes another hit of nonsense.

Not that you’d be seriously tempted to ride it, but the draped fairy lights do emphasize that this bicycle is decorative, not functional.

Right at the next intersection, prayer flags and a plaque.

Well-worn flags — just imagine how many thousands of prayers they have fluttered into the breeze by now! And an equally weathered plaque, erected (it says here) in 2013 by “Friends of Siri” — their tribute to long-time resident Siri Kidder Halberg, who “loved to trade books.”

Thus, the little community book exchange these friends have created, right next to the bench.

This resonates for me, in many ways. First, I admire and support take-one/leave-one street libraries. Second, I am a huge fan of author Colin Cotterill‘s novels about the 1970s adventures of another Siri — Dr. Siri Paiboun, “the national and only coroner of the People’s Democratic Republic of Laos” — and indeed I am reading one of them right now (The Merry Misogynist). And, third, when I dive into this little library, I discover an unread novel (This Poison Will Remain) by another of my favourite authors, Fred Vargas. I snap it up.

A few more blocks and we’ve walked as far north as we can go, right into Point Grey Park. Trafalgar finally meets the water — in this case, English Bay.

‘Way out there, some freighters waiting their turn to carry on down Burrard Inlet and unload at the port (yay! supply chain at work!); in close, dozens of Barrow’s goldeneye ducks, obeying no schedule but their own.

Like the ducks, we’re on our own schedule. We turn east, curve with the land mass onto Kitsilano Beach, backed by Kits Park. My favourite swimmer is up there, flutter-kicking like mad.

I do mean up there:

Meet Wind Swimmer, and could she be better named? I see basic credits on the plaque — by sculptor Douglas R. Taylor, installed 1996 — but that’s not the half of it. Ohhh, the adventures she has known.

The prototype created in 1993 and installed in Stanley Park, but smashed by a log; the current version created in a collaboration between the sculptor, the Parks Board and donors (the Auerbachs) and installed on Kits Beach in 1996. Then came the wind storms of August 2015. The swimmer literally took a dive, and was again badly damaged and removed.

Three years go by… Repair work (largely by the Parks Board), and safety upgrades. In 2018, she is re-installed, finally back home and swimming again.

I like her even better, for knowing all this.

Both/And (Again)

8 March 2022 – I’m walking along West 8th, not a single philosophic thought in mind — in fact my mind pretty well free of any thought, truth be told, perfectly willing to let my feet have all the fun.

And then the street takes me in hand. “Pay attention!” it scolds. “The old both/and of life, right here in front of you, yet again.”

Both the loving beauty of this ornament, tied to a shrub next to the sidewalk …

and the weary decrepitude of the building behind it.

Both a tinder-dry Christmas tree still littering someone’s side yard …

and first daffodils, bursting through the soil right beside it.

And then, one more block down the street, a whole both/and tableau entwined on a single tree branch:

both winter’s lichen & moss, and spring’s urgent new buds.

(Plus, bonus, the constant pleasure of that colour-wrapped building behind, a veteran of the very first Vancouver Mural Festival, in 2016.)

Quote-Unquote

1 March 2022 – Words published in 2011, and so very 2022.

Context: The novel’s protagonist, a Nigerian-German psychiatrist in training, walks the streets of New York City and muses about what he sees and experiences. Here, an unseasonably warm fall day triggers a riff on the growing tendency in society to jump to conclusions based on anecdotal evidence.

“This was part of my suspicion that there was a mood in the society that pushed people more toward snap judgments and unexamined opinions, an antiscientific mood; to the old problem of mass innumeracy, it seemed to me, was being added a more general inability to assess evidence. This made brisk business for those whose specialty was in the promising of immediate solutions: politicians, or priests of the various religions. It worked particularly well for those who wished to rally people around a cause. The cause itself, whatever it was, hardly mattered. Partisanship was all.”

Open City, by Teju Cole, Random House, 2011

To Beat the Deadline

27 February 2022 – It turns out to be a false deadline — but who knew, at the time?

The morning weather mavens are all serious faces and urgent voices: Merely cloudy now, they tell us, but by 1 p.m., it’s atmospheric river time! Snow, rain, high winds, ugly-ugly — and set to last for 3-4 days.

Suitably motivated, I zip out the door. If I want to say hello to False Creek, right now is the time.

No lingering to admire Animalitoland’s winsome lady (VMF 2020) as I zigzag north-west.

On to the Creek! Where I find everybody full speed with their morning agendas.

Paddlers getting organized, down on their dock just east of Olympic Village Square …

jogger jogging over the inlet, far side of the Square …

ferry boat bustling eastward to the Village Dock …

and an improbable bird house out on Habitat Island, just off Hinge Park, glowing gold against the surrounding grey.

No real live bird would give that creation a moment’s thought, but it’s not there for the birds, is it? Some human being built and hung it there to amuse and charm the rest of us. And since it harms no-one, I am charmed.

As I am by my next discovery, looped into the chain link fence just west of Habitat Island.

“Draw someone you love,” says that glossy red sign — and look at the display.

Most of the drawings are of humans …

but not all.

On I go and on I go, and out there past Spyglass Place, closing in on Leg-in-Boot Square, I see another drawing of love. This one.

I know. It’s just another, yet another, yet another generic old boring old smiley face. Please.

Except… it’s wearing a mask. So this is a drawing of love in action: love for each other, for our community as a whole.

I’m still cheered by that thought as I turn back east — and further cheered by the fact that the dread 1 p.m. deadline draws close, but there is no sign yet of snow/rain/wind/general mayhem.

Anyway, what’s wrong with rain?

I will not argue with Thrive Art Studio and their alley wisdom (VMF 2018).

Alley Art 1-2-3

25 February 2022 – There’s art, and there’s art. And there’s art.

1 – Window art

Jennifer Chernecki

… with a baleful stare.

2 – Wall art

Makoto, VMF 2016

… with a pointed beak.

3 – Objet d’art

Time, just… time

… with accessories.

First, standing there, I saw the rust. Now I see the tire. The perfectly placed tire!

Optimism

21 February 2022 – I look at this front yard ensemble, everything still so bedraggled …

and I think: Ohhhhh, it’s not spring yet.

But spring is coming — less than a month away. (Less by only 1 day, but I’ll take it.)

And signs of vernal optimism are everywhere.

New plantings are being dug into this sidewalk wheelbarrow on West 10th …

crocuses & snowdrops have jumped up among the ferns, just opposite …

and Whole Foods has refreshed the panels of its living wall just off Cambie Street.

Even this faery-tree tableau lives up to the optimism theme …

though I have to lean in close & read the fine print, to notice it.

Now, that is optimism.

Snow‼️

26 December 2021 – Snow in Canada in late December? Hardly worth comment. Let alone even one exclamation mark, not to mention two of them, and in punch-your-eyeball-red at that…

True, but. This is Vancouver’s first snowy Christmas since 2008, and only the fourth in the last 25 years. I know the stats thanks to a news report, but I only have to look out my window for confirmation.

No need to climb 300 metres up the Coast Range mountains today, to catch some snow! It’s right here at sea level. So I go play snow-tourist around False Creek.

Icicles. A given, in my Toronto winter days, but a rarity here, so I pay attention.

The Chai Wagon is open for business as usual, just off Science World, but the chai-wallah is more bundled up than usual …

and the nearby palm trees have their own winter adornment.

The little footbridge at Olympic Village was upgraded this summer, with — they promised — an improved anti-slip texture underfoot. Hmmm. The sign doesn’t know about that promise. Or doesn’t trust it.

Or perhaps is just a neurotic worrywart by nature.

These women are not worrywarts. They stride onto the bridge full-tilt, and cross without incident.

The welcoming chairs at Spyglass Dock are embracing snow at the moment, not Creek-side flâneurs …

but someone has cleared one of the blossoms in the artwork by Emily Gray that makes this dock so appealing.

I double back under the Cambie bridge ramps, here on the south side. This location — like Toronto’s innovative Underpass Park — is an encouraging example of what we can do with places that are more typically written off as wastelands.

Butterflies on the ramp supports, picnic and table-tennis tables on the ground below — a bright, inviting space where you feel it’s safe to linger.

At my back, the False Creek Energy Centre , hub for the Neighbourhood Energy Utility.

It uses waste thermal energy captured from sewage to provide space heating and hot water to a surprisingly large local area: Southeast False Creek, plus parts of Mount Pleasant, False Creek Flats and Northeast False Creek. “This recycled energy eliminates more than 60% of the greenhouse gas pollution associated with heating buildings,” says a City website. It adds: “The utility is self-funded.”

To the east, on my left, the John McBride Community Garden.

It is low on garden activity at the moment but still a magnet for this mother and child, heads bent in mutual fascination with something they see either before them or in the mind’s eye.

Straight ahead, directly beneath the Cambie Bridge, the Voxel Bridge — a Vancouver Biennale installation this past summer. Not just physical reality, but blockchain-based augmented reality.

Still dazzling on the side pillars and overhead, but surprisingly scuffed and worn underfoot.

This new sign may explain why.

I have to read up about bicycle drifting later, to appreciate the power that goes into the technique, and the problem it could therefore create for artwork.

Fortunately, human feet can safely drift all they want! Mine lead me eastward along West 5th Avenue.

Where, approaching Alberta Street, I pause at this mini-installation along the side wall of Beaumont Studios (“a supportive environment for a wide variety of creative professionals”). She’s your basic Noble Lady in Flowing Robes, isn’t she? But enlivened with colour up & down her body, and very bright turquoise sneakers by her sandalled feet.

Catty-corner at Alberta, a gleaming new facility devoted to butchering beans.

Oh. Got it. Vegan “meat.” I’m amused by the cheeky reassurance of the wall slogan (“Don’t worry, Mount Pleasant…”) …

and, while not about to order any product myself, impressed by the reach of this BC success story.

In just a few years, The Very Good Butchers has gone from Denman Island farmers’ markets, to a Victoria plant-based butchery, to this gleaming new facility and major online activity. Plus a presence in co-ops and markets north/south/east/west Canada and the USA.

Meanwhile, back here in Vancouver, physical me walks on. On east to Manitoba (street, not province — though that would also work). South on Manitoba with a pause at the alley entrance that houses one of my favourite murals.

But it’s not just the mural. Not just William Lam’s skill. It’s the context. Street art, in street context.

After that, I drift on home.

(No artwork is damaged in the drift.)

Ostensible (1 & 2)

12 December 2021 – It is not what I anticipated, as I set out for a misty walk to False Creek, but here I am in an alley just west of Main & north of East 4th, pondering the meaning of the word “ostensible.”

Don’t you love an erudite alley dumpster? Grubby, battered & odiferous it may be, but by the Lord Harry, it is determined to improve our minds and build our vocabularies. All the way to polysyllabic adjectives.

Nothing “ostensible” about this dumpster, per definition no. 1: it is exactly what it appears to be. And if definition no. 2 seems (to my mind) to better fit “ostentatious” than “ostensible,” never mind! It defines the scene here on the alley’s east side.

It is indeed “open to view.” Indeed, “conspicuous.”

From barbed wire and ominous signage …

to the jumble of piled-up rubbish, punctuated by dumpsters.

Behind the rubbish, Nick Gregson‘s peacock mural still rides high.

It’s a 2016 veteran, one of the collection painted (largely in this neighbourhood) in that very first year of the Vancouver Mural Festival.

And here it is again, reflected in a doorway of the new construction on the west side of the alley — construction that undoubtedly explains the pile of rubbish.

Murals used to line both sides of this alley. Not now! Old structures disappear, new builds arrive.

Ahh, but. I have no right to sound that doleful; it is misleading. We have a net gain of murals every year, and I like a lot of the new construction, fresh & clean-lined & none of it high-rise.

And there are still murals in the alley, including Chairman Ting‘s 2017 bunny-rabbits, just north of East 3rd.

Partnered with — I hope you noticed — one of my beloved H-frame hydro poles, doing its party trick: a 45-degree pivot to accommodate alley intersections.

So that’s it, I decide: enough photos, enough to think about, should anybody be inclined to do so; I shall now just walk on on down to False Creek, and have myself an eyes-only walk.

That resolution lasts all the way to the Village Dock, the last ferry dock right at Science World. Where the pedestrian pathway leads me past this garbage bin. With this contribution neatly piled on top.

I dissolve in giggles and pull out my camera. Two passing 20-Somethings pause, and raise quizzical eyebrows.

“Look!” I say. And point, and giggle some more.

They flash bright nervous smiles, and scoot on past me as fast as their alarmed little legs can carry them.

  • 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"

  • Recent Posts

  • Walk, Talk, Rock… B.C.-style

  • Post Categories

  • Archives

  • Blog Stats

    • 111,769 hits
  • Since 14 August 2014

    Flag Counter
  • Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 1,957 other followers

%d bloggers like this: