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.

 

 

 

Goodbye / Hello

30 April 2017 – And so it is time.

Goodbye, Toronto …

and hello, Vancouver.

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

 

Eight Virtues of Underpass Art

27 April 2017 – T.E. Lawrence had his Seven Pillars of Wisdom; you & me, we have Eight Virtues of Underpass Art, courtesy of the railway underpass on Dufferin, just north of Dupont.

I am buoyant, as I approach Dupont. I have just spent a happy hour with my friend Sarah in the Sovereign Espresso Bar on Davenport, lingering over our lattes. There is the pain of my imminent departure from Toronto, but it is far outweighed by the warmth of all the friends wishing me well, promising to visit.

Now Sarah is off on her bicycle and I am off on foot. In an hour or so, I’ll be sitting down with other friends in Yorkville — but meanwhile, here I am in the warm, bright sunshine, prowling along, absorbing Toronto streetscape through every pore.

The underpass is shabby, the artwork peeling and visually incoherent: it has no apparent theme.

Until I see the neatly printed word “love,” block-printed red letters tucked around a curve of yellow paint.

Peeling paint; eternal virtue.

I walk even more slowly … and discover “truth.” Bold, as truth should be, despite its uncongenial background.

We have a theme after all.

Virtue by virtue, I work my way south through the underpass.

Sometimes the virtue is printed over a decorative border …

sometimes it is given visual dynamic by workmen one level above …

sometimes it is tucked between swirls of colour …

sometimes it borrows a parrot’s head …

or a human head, for that matter.

And, sometimes, it swells & diminishes, obeying its own secret rhythm.

The day carries on from there, better & better, serving up all the virtues of friendship as it goes.

And it ends, after a brief evening thunderstorm, with a glowing rainbow in the eastern sky.

Snap-Happy on Queen

23 April 2017 – I’m still swooning around Toronto, noticing things with a keener eye now that I shall not be living here & therefore can no longer take them for granted.

During this walk along Queen St. West, for example — nothing capital-S Significant, but all quietly significant to me.

Garage art down Cayley Lane just south of Grange Park, for example …

the garage door bright & probably fairly recently painted, but just one component in a total “urban installation” that also includes a scrawled-upon fence, some older low-level brick attached homes, & a soaring new glass condo tower as well.

Back onto Queen, over to Peter St., and yes! that funny frieze of street art still decorates one top edge of the corner brick building that, at street level, has long housed the Peter Pan Bistro.

Another bit of familiar street art in this neighbourhood, over by Soho: the dead tree stump that Elicser turned into street-sculpture years ago, and still refreshes from time to time.

I always look for the latest version — and this time literally clap my hands in delight.  Construction is underway right next to the sidewalk, and each city tree is carefully boxed, to prevent damage.

So is Elicser’s “tree”!

I love it, I love it.

Eyes up, more high-level artwork, this one new to me.

Low-level now, and why do I show it to you?

It’s vandalized, dirty, & the relic of another technological time.

Well I don’t know, but it snags my attention even so, there’s something about a phone-shape sculpture to encase a phone, even if only the smallest fragments of the physical phone still exist.

Exuberance & jollity a bit farther west, over by Spadina. Not new, but always delightful.

It’s another mad exercise in geometry & spatial relationships, courtesy of Birdo.

I veer left (south, that is) into Rush Lane, aka Graffiti Alley; also aka Rant Alley, since this is where CBC-TV’s Rick Mercer famously films his rants. (South of Queen, parallel to Queen, roughly between Portland & Spadina, if you want to visit it yourself.)

Year over year, the artwork morphs & evolves, coming & going, some images untouched, others repainted, yet others palimpsest. I’ve been here lots, it is slightly different every time. And … or … what I happen to notice is slightly different every time.

I’ve seen this doorway Poser bunny before, of course, but today I take near-curatorial delight in its “installation”: neatly tucked into its own niche, framed all around by other murals, with a final visual/spatial punch from the indigo wheelies.

Queen St. again, and sidewalk signs. This one is out of date, but it startles me into hiccupping giggles, even so.

One more sign.

Not for a café, as you will immediately appreciate. It’s for a denim shop — what’s more, for the best denim shop in the city. Says the website. (Their Vancouver website makes the same claim.)

First, I pick up on the pun.

Then I pick up on the skinny jeans [sic] walking into frame, right on cue.

Art & Art, High & Low

17 April 2017 – I’m not too sure about that “high & low” distinction, but I stand by “art & art.”

And every molecule of it breathes Toronto.

Henry Moore’s Two Forms, for example, an icon of the Art Gallery of Ontario, long resident at the AGO’s N/E corner (and due to be relocated to Grange Park).

Fine art, “high art,” that inside the Gallery would be guarded & untouchable.

Out here on the street corner, it is beloved by all, stroked by all, sat upon & slid through by many, and never vandalized — except by all that love. “It’s worn through to the rivets,” a conservator once told me ruefully. “One of these days, we’ll have to have it repatinated.”

Inside the AGO, I revisit one of my favourite rooms, a quiet little room tucked away in a corner of the 2nd floor, housing only two works by Inuk artist Jacoposie Oopakak.

I love the simplicity of the caribou skull, title Family, its antlers delicately carved with images of people, a family tree.

I love, too, the painted line of caribou slanting down the wall, refracted by the case to dance with the skull as they walk and keep it company.

I’m back outside again, dog-leg into an alley just N/W of McCaul & Dundas — and look at this!

Street art featuring a high-minded quote by a brand-name thinker.

(Ignore her. She is not contemplating the art. She’s on her cell with her boyfriend, comparing their respective holiday weekends.)

I am impressed. I look up the Voltaire quote later on, back home. Many sources agree, it’s by our man Voltaire all right. One disagrees. Nah: Pierre de Beaumarchais said this in 1775, while working on the 2nd scene, 1st act, of Le Barbier de Séville. (Well, strictly speaking, no. What he said was: “Aujourd’hui ce qui ne vaut pas la peine d’être dit, on le chante.”

Really? I have no idea. Click here & decide for yourself.

Or ignore all that, and instead contemplate this next bit of alley-art philosophy, cheek-by-jowl with M. Voltaire/deBeaumarchais. No authorship dispute here: it’s the work of Blaze Wiradharma.

We are spoiled for choice. We can say something, sing something … or just spray it instead.

 

Cat Tales (& Tails)

14 April 2017 – It’s a bright afternoon.

Neighbourhood pussycats are lying in the warming earth of front yard gardens …

stretching their bodies — from toes to belly to ear-tips — to the sun.

I leave the groomed residential street, & tuck myself into a nearby scruffy commercial alley.

Unless something dire has happened, I am about to revisit one of my favourite pussycats.

And there he is.

Symbol City (T.O. Version)

11 April 2017 – I’ve given you one Symbol City already — an array of Vancouver images that, to my delighted visitor’s eye, stood for the Vancouver I was beginning to discover.

Now I’ll offer the Toronto version. A delighted, fresh eye here as well, partly because I am recently back from a 5-week absence — but much more because, in just a few weeks’ time, I shall move from Toronto to Vancouver.

So I am acutely aware of sights that are symbols of my own personal Toronto.

Here are a few.

Riverdale Park, straddling the Don River, with its 1840s Francy Barn attracting hordes of visitors this mild spring day …

William Lishman’s exuberant sculptures, cascading down the river-side face of Bridgepoint Health Care …

a random example of railway underpass street art, this bit on Logan south of Gerrard …

a silly sign!

Jimmy Chiale’s great, pulsing wall mural on Queen St. East, adding energy to the city all around it — from parked cars to streetcar stop, pedestrians, hydro poles trailing wires, vines about to bud on the brick wall …

a whole mural celebrating the city’s distinctive red streetcars …

and a real streetcar, pulled up next to yet another wall mural, this one by Elicser and proclaiming one of the city’s east-end neighbourhoods …

and of course a café!

An attraction in itself, but, really, also just one component of an entire downtown streetscape: patio, traffic sign, bicycle, parked car & all.

I go in, assuming I’ll order a latte. Don’t I always?

Except, this time, no I don’t. I am beguiled instead by an organic hot dog (I always eat a hot-dog in spring, it’s a ritual), smothered in mashed avocado & salsa. Soon my face follows suit, smothered in the generous dressings, ear to ear and nose to chin. The man next to me, knocking back his tortillas, observes the state of my face with some awe. “I’ll try that next time,” he decides.

I loop back west toward home, angle through a scruffy laneway just off Parliament & Queen.

I am here to pay homage to …

Golden Girl!

and to …

Famous Dog!

I don’t know why he is famous — but, come to think of it, he is famous with me.

I’m just happy both murals are still with us, they’ve been around for years & years, and they are part of my Toronto, yes they are.

Here’s lookin’ at you, dawg…

So T.O.

25 March 2017 – As you all know by now, many things in Vancouver make me wriggle with delight. Moss, mountains, ocean, rain, signs about rain, images of rain … you name it, I’m wriggling.

But I have to say: when it comes to wandering down a lane to see what you can see, Toronto is usually more fun.

Starting with the name.

Which of course sends me online, searching. Thanks to number 10 in the list, I learn why this little lane just S/E of Queen E. & Jarvis is called Bootlegger.

At first it looks disappointingly tidy & polite.

But then … aha …

Love the context? Traffic sign & recycling wheelie & fire escapes & all?  Me too.

I also love the flower-power mural.

So I am satisfied.

Bootlegger Lane has rewarded my detour, and I spin on my heel to walk back out.

And laugh.

One more reward!

Oh, oh, oh, I wriggle with delight … this is so T.O.

 

 

 

 

 

 

But Wait! There’s More!

18 March 2017 – At the risk of sounding entirely like an infomercial, there really is more.

More reigning to the rain than I’d noticed in my previous post.

So … stop!

And walk around the corner with me to see the rest of the parade.

There’s someone with a big purse hung straight down …

and someone with a potted plant (I think) balanced forward …

and someone with assorted gear slung backward.

Each also with a coffee cup, you’ll notice.

And an umbrella!

 

  • 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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