PR, Right & Wrong

4 September 2019 – I’ll start with Wrong, and work up.

Wrong PR

Prince Rupert is the wrong PR. When I described and showed you my 2 km walk along the Salish Sea (previous post), I took great pains to sort out Malaspina Strait / Georgia Strait / Salish Sea … and then calmly located it all in Prince Rupert.

When, of course, I meant Powell River. That PR. I really did know where I was, I promise you, and I was not floating on any interesting substances at the time.

I put it down to “a fit of absence of mind.” If this explanation is good enough for John Robert Seeley, when describing how England came to conquer half the world (The Expansion of England, 1883), it is surely good enough for me.

Right PR

PR now in the sense of follow-up publicity for Silver Donald Cameron’s book, The Living Beach.  He wrote it after a conversation with a Canadian coastal geologist about beach behaviour caused him first to exclaim, “You talk as though the damn thing were alive!” — and then go learn a whole lot more about beaches, and share it all with us.

Never mind those other online sources: go to Silver Donald Cameron‘s own website, check out the book, buy it if you wish, and start exploring what else is on offer.

A long-time author and activist, Cameron is currently the first Farley Mowat Chair in the Environment at Cape Breton University, and host and executive producer of The Green Interview — the online home for conversations with “thinkers, writers and activists whose ideas and work are leading the way to a new era of sustainability.”

David Suzuki on the west coast, Silver Donald Cameron on the east: lucky Canada, to have the country bracketed by such a lively, thoughtful and enjoyable pair of environmental thinkers and communicators.

How about one last Powell River beach photograph? Seems only appropriate. Here we are,  overlooking Willingdon Beach, a-glow with the setting sun.

 

I am now back in Vancouver. (And, I think, my mind is back as well.)

 

 

2 Km Along the Salish Sea

2 September 2019 – But let us be more precise.

(Deep breath.) The Powell River Sea Walk Trail runs for 2 km south from Westview Wharf along the intertidal areas of the adjacent Malaspina Strait, which lies between Texada Island and this mainland coast and is a subset of the Strait of Georgia, which (another deep breath) in turn and in combination with the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Puget Sound, comprise the Salish Sea.

One more bit of commentary and then, I promise you, I’ll get on with the walk. I never thought about intertidal zones or what truly constitutes a “beach” until I read Silver Donald Cameron‘s remarkable book, The Living Beach. First published in 1998, it’s still available (check the usual online sources) and if you’d like to know why you should try to seek it out, read this review in Quill & Quire. Whatever the date of the review (not given, tsk tsk), the analysis is not dated.

On with the walk!

I very slightly already know Westview Wharf. I stood here several evenings ago, transfixed like other strollers by the late-day sun as it began its descent to the ocean below.

But now it is today, and noon-ish, and the blazing sun is having a high old laugh at the weather forecast that promised clouds.

There has been habitat amelioration along the first part of this Trail, notably to enhance the eelgrass beds and the salt marshes. Shore grasses and wildflowers have that late-summer, exhausted look about them…

The Trail pamphlet urges me to watch for Harlequin ducks, Great Blue Heron and Harbour seals, but makes no mention of vigilant pussycats.

I do later see one GBH, but no seals and only generic (to my ignorant eyes) duck-ducks, no identifiable Harlequins. Mind you, I get to watch a black & white stand-off, gulls vs crows, much squawking and flapping as they argue some choice bit of carrion.

There’s another wharf mid-way south, a marina offering more private docking. I see, overhear & chat with some of the visiting mariners, some strolling the Trail and others briskly returning to their boats with provisions.

The beach becomes rockier, gradations from sand to boulders, no more marshland.

Many benches along the way, most strictly utilitarian (wood on metal frames, sturdy & comfortable), but with a few stand-outs, including a trio by First Nations carvers (Tla’amin or Shishálh, I don’t know which).

One is brightly coloured …

and the other two incised but unpainted, giving the design itself that much more impact.

I look north again across the trio, my eye shooting past the heart of town, right up to the mill at the far end, with its plume of smoke rising to join those cloud-puffs on the right. (And we know, don’t we, that The Hulks are up there as well, a necklace of protection for the mill and its activities.)

Rocky beaches always mean inukshuks.

No surprise there should be one right here, along with the driftwood “gate” …

at the end of the Trail.

 

 

 

 

PR Fauna (Visible & Invisible) and a Candle

1 September 2019 – This was not the plan. I meant to be up in Lund today, truly end of the road, soaking up sights & thoughts to share with you in a post to be so-cutely entitled, “197 Km from Home.”

Turns out Info-Centre Lady was wrong. She had assured me I was just in time: today would be the last run this summer of the seasonal Sunday bus service to Lund. No. My unrewarded vigil at the bus stop proved that when the Transit authority said it was a July-August service, they meant literally that. And today is September, isn’t it?

So (in my very best mature/philosophic traveller way) I thought to myself, Never mind… let’s just see what Powell River wants to offer me today instead.

It offered me fauna, visible & invisible, and a candle.

By “fauna” I do mostly mean animals, and I bet you’re waiting for at least a bear. Maybe no cougar, no elk, not here in town, but at least a bear.

I will show you an invisible bear.

You can’t see him, and neither did I.

But while I was taking this photo at the Log Dump the other day, a couple stopped their car long enough to tell that that I was standing exactly — exactly — where they had seen a bear just the day before. I thanked them politely, and later wondered whether they’d been hoping for a more excited reaction than that.

On to the invisible wasps.

A practically invisible warning, too, thanks to the day’s intermittent showers. Still, I appreciate the City’s efforts to prevent any collision between human skin and wasp stingers.

Enough invisibles, on to the visibles.

Polecrows! (If we can have Polecats, why not polecrows?)

Speaking of cats, a cat named Spot …

and a dog named No! …

and a … ummmm … an owlcat.

Beak of owl, ears of pussycat, all we lack is the pea-green boat. But, look, owlcat is pea-green. So Edward Lear would approve, after all.

On to the candle.

To my delight, the Powell River Forestry Museum is open today, down there on Willingdon Beach.  I go in, not just to see what they have, but also to tell them how much I enjoyed the trail through the forest (another project of the Powell River Forestry Heritage Society) and all that it taught me about the history of the industry and the equipment that has been part of it.

So here I am, walking around, and I meet a candle. The Swedish Candle, sometimes aka The Finnish Candle, or even, The Canadian Candle.

You will suspect me of showing you an invisible candle, out there somewhere with the bear and the wasps, but no … that log is the candle.

Lund would have been a whole different day. But this one was just fine.

 

 

170 Km from Home…

30 August 2019 – It’s the start of a holiday weekend, so I join the exodus from town.

I’m on a B.C. Ferry run from Horseshoe Bay to Langdale — first hop in a ferry/bus/ferry/bus trip that will take me those 170 km up the Sunshine Coast to Powell River.

Powell River was all about forestry, is imprinted by forestry, and still produces newsprint and other specialty papers. The Powell River Company began building a pulp and paper mill here in 1909, started production in 1912, and at one point was the largest pulp mill in the world. The mill was built on the unceded lands of Tla’amin First Nation, whose people were summarily relocated without compensation. Logging practices were equally cavalier, and equally accepted, in the spirit of the day.

The day has changed, old practices and arrangements have changed, are changing, but — here as elsewhere — aboriginal/logging/environmental cross-currents still swirl. I am aware of what I don’t know and choose to step aside from judgment, and simply see what I see.

First full day in town, down to Willingdon Beach Park, heading for the forest trail that will launch my walk to the Historic District. I’m clipping through the park at speed — I have places to go! — and I stop in my tracks. Just look what young Eli Hueston has done.

Clever-boots Eli, and clever the team that turned his design for an octopus bike rack into the real thing. (Well, no, not a real octopus…)

And onto the Trail — a nature trail since the 1920s, when the logging railway ties and rails were removed.

It’s a little over a kilometre in length, and I don’t expect it to take up much time, or occupy much mind-space. La-la, great tall trees and cedar path and glimpses through the trees over the gravelly beach to Malaspina Srait. A joy, all of it, but I’m moving right along.

Ah but, you see, there are signs all along the way and I am a sucker for signs. (Ask Phyllis or Frances, bless their patient souls.) So I am impressed to learn that the gravel mixed into the ground beneath my feet, up here at a higher level, is Pleistocene-era, originally deposited at sea level but stranded when the glaciers melted (some 10,000 years ago) and the land rebounded.

No sign for this uprooted giant tree, but I stop to gawk anyway. My attitude about this Trail has definitely shifted.

Mind, there are lots of signs about the trees and plant life: Western Redwood Cedar (B.C.’s official tree), Sitka Spruce, Douglas Fir, Western Hemlock, the Grand Fir, Sword Ferns (which always make me expect a dinosaur around the next bend), Salal, Oregon Grape…

I read all this, but what really stops me, again and again, are all the pieces of old logging machinery, now on open-air display here in the forest. (And where better?)

A boomboat, for example (used in the booming ground to sort logs into booms) …

and a 1940s Track Logging Arch (towed behind bulldozers to elevate one end of a turn of logs being skidded to a loading area or a dump).

Like huge mechanical children, playing hide-&-seek in the forest.

Here’s another — a 1941 steam shovel that had been converted to a log loader.

I move in close to this example of a Spliced Eye. Sounds gruesome, but we’re talking about logging cables …

their wires interwoven to shape and secure an eye.

And here, oh look, the wonderfully named Steam Donkey, creating the steam to power the winches to spool the cables.

I reach the other end of the Trail, marked by this High Frame Hammer. I don’t know what it did, when it was active, they don’t tell me, and I don’t care. I’m charmed because it looks like a puppy-dog, paws up and begging for a treat.

End of the Trail, and polite, law-abiding citizens are supposed to peel off to a designated road. Because, if you go straight ahead, you are on a private industrial road, in active use, and You. Are. Trespassing.

I trespass! Somewhere back there on the Trail, I met Bruce R.V. (as I dub him), Bruce-who-lives-in-an-R.V. and comes here a lot. He tells me how much more interesting it is to carry on down the private road — “Just watch for trucks” — and visit the Log Dump, and on from there, for a first glimpse of The Hulks, and eventually turn right and wiggle up into the Historic District.

So I do.

I reach the Log Dump, look out into the Strait where busy little boats take the dumped logs and shape them into booms. (Oh! They must be boomboats! A word I just learned minutes ago springs to life!)

While here I fall into conversation with Raven Lady — well, I muscle in on her conversation with friends, and they don’t object. She’s telling them about the raven duo that stay around her home, and how much she enjoys them. Suddenly she points into the water: “Baby seal!” Yes, she can tell that little head is a baby, not an adult — partly by comparative size (practice has given her that skill), and partly because babies only partially raise their heads, while adults lift them clear of the water.

Raven Lady suggests that, once I hit the Historic District, I head for Townsite Brewery. “And if you don’t care for beer, order a kombucha. They have that on tap as well.” I promise.

I carry on. Passing crows on this side …

and a whole wall of murals on the other side …

as I leave the Log Dump. Imagine that, I walk right past a whole wall of street art.

And I walk and I walk. And then I stop, because, ohhhh, it’s my first glimpse of The Hulks.

See? Floating concrete boats, forming a breakwater for the mill. (I don’t know it, but I’ll see them again, much later in my walk.)

Finally I hit the edge of the Historic District, and I am tired. I still plan to follow my self-guiding tour (pamphlet in hand) around the District, but… oh… I am so relieved to see the Veterans’ Memorial Park, with its welcome benches and fountain ringed by spitting lions.

I long for that kombucha.

I wonder where Townsite Brewery might be. It’s not on my little map. I spin 360-degrees at the next intersection — and there it is! I march in, plonk myself at the bar, order my drink, and am delighted to overhear the cheerful barmaid chatter with the couple next to me and their little girl. Barmaid: “And which beer do you want, miss?” Little girl, in fits of giggles: “I don’t drink beer! I want … mummy, what’s it called?” Mummy supplies the magic word, and little girl gets her very own kombucha.

Such a family-friendly bar, and surely this explains the door frame.

Yup. Children’s heights, one after another, each with the child’s name and date he/she grew that tall.

I do a really truncated self-guiding tour, because Self is getting tired. I keep the Patricia Theatre on my hit list — founded in 1913, it is now the province’s oldest continuously active theatre — but I stop to read this Garage Sale sign before I cross the street to visit it.

The sale has items you probably wouldn’t see in an urban setting, a cement mixer being one of them.

Almost out of the District, with a detour to look at St. David and St. Paul’s Anglican Church — but I’m stopped first by this bus-shelter bench in front of the church.

Shaped from mud adobe-style, as you can see, and with a wooden hatch door. I open it. It’s a Little Free Library.

Is this not wonderful? No signage, so I can’t give appropriate credit.

The church sponsors a community permaculture project called Sycamore Common, which also includes a labyrinth.

I am delighted that the sign for the labyrinth quotes the same Antonio Machado reference I use on my blog home page (“Paths are made by walking”).

Finally onto Marine Avenue — parallel to the waterfront, but above it — to start the walk back to my part of town. Pure highway at this point, and not that appealing, except that it’s leading me home, which begins to seem awfully attractive.

Then I am rewarded: a lookout point for The Hulks.

One last look …

And on down Marine Avenue I go, tromp-tromp.

I’m startled to discover that I’m not allowed to cross the street …

while deer are allowed to leap all over the place. (See that yellow sign with the black symbol, farther down?)

I have so had enough! Tromp-tromp.

Eventually, of course, I hit my stretch of Marine Avenue — where I fall into the first café in sight. Time for a reviving latte. Through the window I notice a wall mural opposite, featuring a very large blue crow.

Nicely re-caffeinated, I check out the wall before the final sprint home.

Very nice blue crow. But I like the cat even more.

(He’s there. Keep looking.)

 

Into the Sunshine

23 May 2019 – Let me sort out my prepositions. Not into, but up. Up the Sunshine Coast.

Out of Vancouver, and up the 180-km stretch of mainland that — thanks to those convoluted mountain ranges — is only accessible by air or water.

I choose water.

Love those BC Ferries  Away we go from Horseshoe Bay, starting the 40-minute ride that will weave around some intervening islands in Howe Sound and deposit us all at the Langdale Ferry Terminal.

Then it’s pavement again and a local bus. I’m off at the next community along the route, Gibsons, a town of some 4,600 people just 6 km down the road. My plan? To mooch about.

And I do.

And I have a good time.

I hear great snippets of conversation. “Had a bear in my back yard yesterday,” says one woman to another as she buys some stamps. “Three hundred pounds. Totally destroyed my bird feeder.”

I see delightful things. Places to park while charging your e-vehicle …

and places where you better not park at all. Unless your name is Ribbet.

Mostly, I head for the waterfront, walking the pathway that borders crowded marinas, with pleasure and working boats both, and a long, busy public wharf.

Over here, a float plane …

and, over there, a couple of houseboats, gloriously smothered in plants.

I see tiny shells, carefully arranged on a weathered log …

and an old boat, its hull still bright, the interior bleached and collapsing.

Kiddies hurl stones at a convenient jetty …

kayakers diverge, as gulls converge …

a jaded fish swims into a parking lot …

while much happier fish swim across the community centre wall.

Of course they’re happy! These are rockfish with a purpose. On June 7, Gibsons’ inaugural World Oceans Day Festival, they will be auctioned off to raise funds for the local Marine Education Centre.

Locally created, with local resonance, for local benefit.

I’m happy too.

 

Lake. Klezmer. Ghost Lake. And a Bunny-Rabbit

24 October 2018 – Not calendar-Tuesday, but honorary-Tuesday. So says the founding Tuesday Walking Society, reunited and out in full twosome force.

We jump on the southbound Spadina LRT and bail at Queen’s Quay,  just where the train does its dog-leg to the left and starts its run eastward along Lake Ontario.

Once, decades ago, Toronto parks encouraged visitor use by pegging little “Please walk on the grass” signs into the turf. Now, in all the lakefront parks and many others, the welcome is even brighter and more functional.

We walk right past those Muskoka chairs, though. We pay only the briefest attention to the Spadina Quay Wetlands — once mini-carpark, now home to a whole ecosystem of frogs, fish, birds and butterflies — and to the Toronto Music Garden, its layout co-created by cellist Yo-Yo Ma.

We skirt a bike path intersection …

and follow the waterfront west & then south to just below the old Canada Malting silos. Our goal is the tiny, deeply moving park tucked between silos and lake.

Ireland Park.

These emaciated figures are the work of Irish sculptor Rowan Gillespie; this park is the new-world companion to the famine memorial in Dublin, for which he also sculpted the figures. Together, they commemorate the Great Famine of 1845-51. I never knew the impact of this famine on Toronto until I read the stats: in the summer of 1847 alone, more than 38,500 desperate migrants landed here. At the time, the city had a population of 20,000.

We stand behind one of the five figures (two less than in Dublin, to represent deaths en-route), and follow her gaze. The scene is not as migrants saw it, obviously, this is just our attempt to imagine their relief at being still alive, and on land.

Now we head east, to walk all these enchained lakefront parks toward the heart of the city. A first goal is to decipher the name on the red tugboat — it doesn’t look like a tourist vessel, yet despite all that bright red, doesn’t seem to be on government service either.

Tug-side, we learn she is the Radium Yellowknife. What a pan-Canadian world she represents! Named for the capital city of the Northwest Territories, registered in Vancouver, tied up right here in Toronto.

And working here, too, we learn, thanks to the guy who steps aboard to unlock a door and retrieve his bicycle. Once, in some vague past, she was in the NWT; now she helps shunt barges & whatnot from hither to yon, as needed in Toronto Harbour.

On past the yellow umbrellas of  HTO Park, enjoying the punning name as always. I wonder who first saw the possibilities in Toronto’s nickname and the symbol for water?

On and more on, enjoying water and waves and strollers and dogs and still-brave plant life and the whole happy mix. Past the first quay-side Wave Deck, then the second, then a pause to salute the third and loopiest of them all: the Simcoe Wave Deck.

For Phyllis & me, all this is a reunion with sights we already knew and wanted to see again — park after park, garden after garden. Then, boom, right in front of Queen’s Quay Terminal, a tiny park we knew nothing about: the Toronto Book Garden.

The zig-zag path is studded with the names of authors, and dates.

Ondaatje, plus Dionne Brand, Anne Michaels, Timothy Findley, Margaret Atwood, Morley Callaghan, Robertson Davies … you get the idea. Each has won the Toronto Book Award in a given year. The author needn’t live here, and the book may be of any genre, but it must contain some clear Toronto content.

Still heading east and now, we agree, we’re into a boring bit, with concrete towers to both sides. As always, construction. As almost-always, a CAUTION sign. Suitably red. And, as-sometimes, one of the jokes people like to play when the City hasn’t specified what to be cautious about.

Ho-ho, we agree, and soon after that, we part ways — Phyllis off to vote in the municipal elections, me to wander a few more parks before joining another friend mid-afternoon.

Next up, the refurbished Berczy Park at Front & Wellington, just behind the city’s flat-iron building. I knew about its two-tier dog fountain — multitudes of life-sized dog sculptures, each squirting water (from the mouth, I hasten to add) back into the ever-receptive fountain. The dogs all look upward, to the bone topping the fountain. There is one cat statue slyly tucked into the mix, but he is looking sideways, eyeing a bird.

There is now another sculpture in the park, a pair of giant arms & hands thrusting skyward from the earth.

There are no “do not climb” signs, so I relax & enjoy the kids’ enjoyment.

Up to King & Church now, into the Toronto Sculpture Garden just opposite St. James Cathedral. The current installation is a cheerful steel structure called Pigro, the work of Tony Romono, its loops further be-looped with lights.

“It’s even better at night when the lights are on,” says a voice behind me, a man at peace on a bench. Signage tells me it’s meant to evoke Italian festival lights, which are strung along streets and illuminate church façades as they go. How perfect here, against the Cathedral spire.

I’m now making tracks for my friend on Church Street, deep in territory where I first worked decades ago. All is familiar.

Except for this, on Church just south of Front.

Shoreline Commemorative, by Paul Roff, reminds us that Front Street — now well inland — once deserved its name. Infill, not natural processes, have moved the shoreline farther south, and it’s good to remember where lake once touched land.

I salute the ghost lake, and go meet my friend.

And now for that bunny-rabbit

Time-jump. It’s now calendar Tuesday, the Tuesday Walking Society is again on the prowl, and I have decided to put away my camera. Let nothing stand between me and this walk through Moore Park Ravine! Let me be fully present; eyes, ears, boots, nature and dear friend are more than enough.

But out comes that camera,  just once.

Hello, Poser-bunny.

And on we go into Evergreen Brickworks, for lunch and latte and elbows-on-table conversation.

 

X-Power

22 October 2018 – I’m not sure how to pronounce it, but I for-sure like the results when womxn street artists are invited to paint up a storm in a particular city alley.

I’m here thanks to a tip-off from Chloe, another onetime AGO colleague who has turned into a continuing good friend. She’d have cause to know about this 2018 project: apart from anything else, it’s virtually across the street from the Art Gallery of Ontario — in the alley on the north side of Dundas, between McCaul & D’Arcy streets.

So right after Anthropocene, I cross the street and left-turn into the alley from McCaul. First up, a big black blank canvas — probably not part of the project, but something Chloe told me to check, since it is regularly repainted with another quote. Current version is:

One other person is prowling the alley, camera in hand. I mean, a real camera, with attachments and everything. Backpack Guy and I dance around each other very agreeably all the way down the block.

And there’s lots to see.

Down at the end of that long shot, you’ll see the multi-coloured suggestion of this (I think) leopard, who leaps right at me once I reach that particular garage door.

He’s in high contrast with an image more often associated with women …

I particularly like the jaunty angle of the needle.

There are eyes, twice over …

and dancing cranes …

and dancing water-babies. A splashy great mix of diving styles, complete with a couple of exuberant cannonballs.

As I head back to Dundas West, one final message.

Life philosophy all wrapped up in a tongue-twister. I twist my tongue around it a time or two, as I wait for my streetcar.

Sur/real

20 October 2018 – What do you do when the real keeps crashing into the surreal? If you are Edward Burtynsky, you document it.

This Canadian photographer & artist has been doing so for a while, mostly recently with his enormous multi-media project, Anthropocene — in collaboration with Nicholas de Pencier & Jennifer Baichwal — now on view at the Art Gallery of Ontario.

I have loved Burtynsky’s large-scale, high-resolution photographs of human impact on the earth (“built landscapes”) since I first saw a show of his works at the AGO during its 2008 expansion — and as a result decided to become a Gallery volunteer.

Here he is again.

The show is epic. And it deals with an epic new stage in human history. As Burtynsky points out on his webpage devoted to this project:

The Holocene epoch started 11,700 years ago as the glaciers of the last ice age receded. Geologists and other scientists from the Anthropocene Working Group believe that we have left the Holocene and entered a new epoch: the Anthropocene. Their argument is that humans have become the single most defining force on the planet and that the evidence for this is overwhelming.

When your skills and technology allow you to view our impact at something approaching its true scale, real does indeed merge with surreal.

I walk about, disoriented once again by the way large-scale destruction can often look so beautiful.

Is this a Georgia O’Keefe flower painting?

No. It is Phosphor Tailings # 5 near Lakeland, Florida.

Is this a Renaissance tapestry?

No. It is waste at the Morenci copper mine, Clifton Arizona.

Are these snail shells?

Again, no. This is Uralkali Potash Mine #4, Berezniki, Russia.

Other confusions are also possible, and more charming.

My one-time AGO colleague and continuing good friend Cyndie joins me. She leads me to this video of coal trains coming & going.

A visitor told Cyndie about standing here with her young son, someone who had heard his parents discussing jazz giant John Coltrane. “Look!” cried the child. “Coal train!”

The technology on display, and the skills of those using that technology, are staggering. Huge scale, huge depth of field, and razor-sharp focus. Here’s another sweeping view of the land and a phosphor trailings pond near Lakeland, Florida …

 

and, look, here is a croc, sunning himself at pond-edge.

Sometimes, the team is able to document “good anthropocene.”

Take this short video sequence shot by Baichwal and de Pencier in Cathedral Grove, Vancouver Island.

Before …

and — boom! — after.

All good.

So-called “danger trees” — ones that through age and other frailties pose danger to workers and visitors — are routinely exploded. Their debris settles back to the forest floor, hastening the return of their nutrients to the soil.

More good anthropocene — a thriving coral reef lying more than 18 metres underwater in Komodo National Park, a World Heritage Site in Indonesia.

As we walk out, I tug Cyndie over to the huge work hanging by the exhibition entrance, one I have always loved in the AGO’s permanent collection.

With that coral reef still dancing in my mind, I suddenly know why this glorious work by Québécois master Jean-Paul Riopelle …

is such an appropriate visual introduction to the show.

 

 

 

A Secret Handshake on Pape (with cheese)

18 October 2018 – I’m walking north on Pape and stop at the corner of Wroxeter for a fond smile at The Schmooz, where I enjoyed many a fine coffee during my Toronto stay last winter.

Click!

(There’s only one of me. Something about that reflecting glass doubles me up.)

But that’s not the best. The best is the café’s sidewalk sign, both sides of it.

A “secret handshake!” I chortle.

And now we digress.

The term is the invention of Douglas Coupland, who first burned his way into the global mind by inventing another term back in 1991 and writing a novel about it: Generation X.

By 2014 he had long since added other media to his initial reputation as a novelist. That year, he had an exhibition at the Vancouver Art Gallery in his sort-of home town, called everywhere is anywhere is anything is everything. (Though not born in Vancouver nor always resident there, he is very much claimed by the city.)

One of its sections was The Secret Handshake.

Said the VAG:

Through a wide range of media Coupland has persistently investigated Canadian cultural identity, both benign and menacing.  Using imagery and objects latent with symbolic meaning for Canadians, he delineates what it means to be Canadian, offering a “secret handshake” not easily understood by others.

In April 2015, The Secret Handshake was one section of a Douglas Coupland exhibition in Toronto, and I blogged about it. With no pretence at originality, I called that post The Secret Handshake.

End of digression.

We’re back on Pape, with The Schmooz’ addition to the canon of secret handshakes.

North side of sign:

South side of sign:

If you’re not Canadian, but you get the references, then welcome! You are an honorary Canadian, and entitled to say “double-double” with the rest of us.

 

HOME and Democracy

15 October 2018 – I tilt backward, slide my eyes up those skyscrapers, know I won’t see any for the next few days.

I’m heading out of town, north to join friends who live by Lake Simcoe, in a community just outside Barrie.

They pick me up at the GO (= Government of Ontario) bus station, explain we have one important stop to make on the way home.

This is the first voting day in the municipal elections being held throughout the province. First voting day? Times have changed. It used to be, one official voting day plus several advance-poll days. Now, with the switch to electronic voting, people may vote across a range of days — or from home.

My friends will do it the (relatively) old-fashioned way: we’ll stop at the Innisfil town services building, where they will make their electronic mark in person.

The building is festive. Voting has become a family-friendly event. There’s a (I swear to you) Batmobile parked nearby, to amuse the kiddies, and balloons galore.

Balloons plus a list of relevant stats and fun factoids …

balloons plus pumpkins plus local band (plus Batman watching) along one side of the building …

and a Batman-meets-shy-fan moment when said hero finally walks away from the band.

We go in. Assorted smiling helpers on all sides, both town staff and volunteers, and welcoming signage right inside the door.

My friends head off to find voting kiosks. I spy all these rosettes clustered on a far wall …

and go investigate.

Turns out to be the results of a local ideaLAB & Library project, which invited people to paint a pair of donated shoes to symbolize what “HOME” means to them. Participants also stated what they were portraying, and their comments were neatly printed up and put on display as well.

I start checking out the many meanings of HOME.

Dogs!

Forest & lake — though with a nearby sign talking about a “very fat cat,” which I found confusing …

until I looked to the right instead of the left.

Certainly a very black cat and, I am happy to assume, the beloved Chubby-chubbs in question.

Someone loves his solo life …

someone else loves Toronto …

and someone else creates delicately intricate waves.

Someone reminds us that all Canada is HOME.

And what could be more appropriate than that, as, all around, citizens are gathering to care for their home with this fundamental act of good stewardship?

Much later that day, in failing light, I sit on a rock on the beach, and think about voting, think about HOME, think about that final shoe.

Yes. Lucky us. All Canada is home.

Meanwhile, back in Digbeth …

Click right here: This is what happens when a whole chunk of Birmingham decides to woo street artists.

Thanks, Rick!

  • 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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