Also T.O.

30 March 2017 – Oh yes, street art is so Toronto … but the beaches & parks along Lake Ontario are also Toronto. Phyllis & I take the Tuesday Walking Society (all two of us) out to the Beaches boardwalk, and start stomping around.

After a five-week absence, I am freshly appreciative. A dull day, grey water exchanging pixels with a grey sky, your eye could fall over the horizon.

Well, no it couldn’t.

Because it bumps up against those happily garish Muskoka chairs, and that happily prancing dog, who knows his owner is about to throw the stick. Again! (And she does, and the dog shoots off in full chase, throwing up little spurts of sand with each footfall.)

This year’s Winter Stations has just ended, Phyllis tells me, who visited the art installation, now in its third year, soon after it opened in late February. More than 350 design entries this year, worldwide, with eight winners.

The pieces are already being dismantled. Which somehow makes them even more intriguing. No signboards to tell you what is supposed to be what, just you & your reactions.

I like the reflections. I like the way the luminous silver panels fold into the luminous grey day, reflecting sky and water and each other. (Later I look it up online: This is Aurora, the work of Hunber College students, and, I discover, meant to dissolve visually into its surroundings.)

We’re walking west, close to the water. It brings us to the Leuty Lifeguard Station, one of two vintage ones (the other on Cherry Beach) still in use, and the symbol of the Beach neighbourhood. This is real life, not a winning design for Winter Stations — but it is just as powerful: the tender mother, the entranced child playing with sand, the lapping waves, the grey waters flowing out to meet the grey sky at the horizon.

Phyllis pulls me over to the next Winter Stations design. Collective Memory, says the battered signboard, now propped askew in the sand: the work of Spaniard Mario Garcia and Italian Andrea Govi, it offers two walls shimmering with 6,000 clear bottles, each one inviting visitors to insert a card with the story of how they came to live in Canada.

“The day I was here,” says Phyllis,”people were writing out their comments, and then telling each other their stories as they inserted the slips into the bottles.”

Eventually, we turn back east, farther from the water now, up on the wooden boardwalk.

More wood over there in the mid-distance: the 8-metre Beacon (by Portuguese team of Joao Araujo Sousa & Joanna Correia Silva). Later online reading confirms what my eye assumes at the time — yes, it is inspired by the silhouette of a lighthouse. It was also, when active, a drop-off point for charitable donations of food and clothing.

But my eye is drawn as much by the lake as by the art, by that horizontal line ‘way out there, slicing water from sky — or, perhaps, seaming them together.

And I think again, as I do every time I am here on the Beaches boardwalk, I think about Rita Letendre’s acrylic on canvas, Aforim.

When I stare at it in the Art Gallery of Ontario, I think about this stretch of beach. When I am on the beach, I think about the painting.

You see?

Good news for all admirers of this great Quebec artist: the AGO will mount a retrospective of her work, Rita Letendre: Fire & Light, from 19 June to 17 September.

Moss & 13th (East & West)

14 March 2017 – The sky is exceedingly grey, & the air oozes moisture. The trees are grey-brown-black, sombre camouflage for a sombre day.

Only the moss stands out.

How happy it is! I stop thinking about the air, the mist, & focus on the moss.

I am besotted. I lurch along 13th Avenue, East 13th morphing to West as I go, following the moss, tree to tree. Admiring the branches’ furry sleeves, stretching out from the trunk …

Admiring swirls of colour, texture, pattern …

moving in close …

then refreshing my eye with the restraint of this narrow trunk, just one tree farther down the line.

Then a big guy, big fat trunk.

I step in to enjoy the sheen of the day’s moisture upon the bark …

which brings me close enough to see how the buds are just starting to swell.

Another block, and I start to laugh. No need to get close.

Nature’s very own Wretched Excess, flaunting herself out there in front of God & everybody, totally shameless.

I’m attracting attention; people turn, try to see what fascinates me so. They can’t find anything. Small dismissive shakes of the head, & they walk on.

Oh, but look …

is this not totally loopy-delightful?

I move even closer to the trunk, crane my neck backwards …

study the black & white of fern silhouette against bare branches & sky.

On westward, another tree, and I’m laughing again.

 

Visions of a mad orchestra conductor, resplendent in green velvet, raising his arms for the downbeat. “Our tempo,” he intones, “is 30.”

Out to Cambie Street & north to 12th. Time for some visual contrast.

No furry-fuzzy textures here.

Just the strong, clean lines of Vancouver City Hall — built & opened in 1936, a make-work & civic-pride project that tempered the architectural exuberance of 1920s Art Deco with the sobriety of 1930s Moderne. The only colour all those flags, and the neon-circled clock.

I giggle again, thinking of the old joke: “What’s black & white & read [red] all over?” A joke that only works when spoken. Because then you can triumphantly reference the other spelling, and contradict either correct answer.

(I debate not giving you the answers. I relent. Answer # 1: “A newspaper.” Answer #2: “A blushing zebra.”)

Sun City

27 February 2017 – Vancouver knows how to get even. I twice label it “Wet City” and what does it do? Next time I go out the door, it pummels me with sunshine.

But my initial thought is not for the sun, as I stand on the Main St.-Science World Station platform; I am thinking about the mountains. About how they pop up, at the turn of your head, at the flick of an eye, where you don’t expect them at all.

Through the Skytrain station’s north-facing window, for example.

looking north from Main St.=Science World Skytrain station

Right there, apparently at the north end of Main St., but more precisely across False Creek and across downtown Vancouver and across Burrard Inlet and behind North Van. Right there. I allow myself a small, tourist-y wriggle of delight. In my Calgary days, the mountains were always leaping into view — but even then, I loved every flash. Never got tired of it.

What fun to be playing peek-a-boo with mountains again!

I decide to ride the train right to its Burrard Inlet terminus, Waterfront Station, and then walk back south through the city.

A choo-choo train station when it opened in 1914, now — to use the jargon — an “intermodal transit link” and beautifully restored to boot. People stream in, for various Skytrain lines; or out, into the city; or onward, connecting with SeaBus for the ride across Burrard Inlet to North Vancouver.

Whichever, they stream through a glorious lobby, in all its Neo-Classic splendour.

"The Station" - Waterfront Station, Skytrain

I stream out, first to play tourist on Granville Square facing the Inlet and the iconic sails of Canada Place. And the mountains …

Canada Place on Burrard Inlet, facing north

I don’t have a very firm plan of action, but I do have the Official Walking Map of Downtown Vancouver. And I have my own two eyes, showing me inviting pathways southward through green space.

Which lead me to the dolphins. Well, I think dolphins. Something heraldic & fanciful & marine, in any event. Very elegant.

window ornamentation, Sinclair Centre

They adorn the lower ledge of elegant windows in an elegant, restored building. The Sinclair Centre, I read: now a shopping mall, but very upscale, and brought into being by connecting four heritage buildings via an atrium. I don’t go in; I just smile at the dolphins. I’m pretty sure they are smirking, not smiling, but the sun is shining and I don’t mind.

Onto Grenville Street proper for a while, I pass an alley and — of course! — turn into it. I’m up for some alley art, that’s my Toronto training.

No alley art.

But who could resist a pink-&-gold playground? With a hopscotch painted in at this end, and dotted arcs for basketball (or perhaps ball hockey) farther down?

off Granville, between W. Pender & W. Hastings

Something leads me sideways, don’t remember, but here I am on Howe St.and — boom! look! I recognize that! (I’m still at the stage where I can’t anticipate what will come next, geographically; I can only enjoy whatever appears, awarding myself modest extra points if I recognize it.)

Yes, the Vancouver Art Gallery, which I visited just days ago with my friend Sally to see the Susan Point exhibit. Now I walk on down into Robson Square, and half-climb steps back up, to just right here, to position Abraham Etungat’s “Bird of Spring” just so against the VAG façade.

looking north to the VAG from Robson Square

And on down through Robson Square, very uncompromising concrete at its lowest level, then climbing up, literally up, into more greenery, and up again on narrow pathways, and I’m not sure where I’m headed, or if it is public property. But no gates, and it is appealing, so I keep climbing.

landscaping on upper level, The Law Courts

Terraced shrubbery & plants around me, but I become fascinated by that tower, and the reflections mirrored onto it. The influence of where I am, surely, but … don’t they remind you of totems? Twenty-first century urban totems?

tower detail

No exit up here, it turns out, all doors locked. I rewind my steps, down onto the sidewalk, see I’ve been up in The Law Courts landscaping.

I turn onto Smithe St., no particular reason except that eventually it will feed me onto the Cambie Bridge.

And then, at Homer, I have another of those “boom! I recognize that!” moments.

This time thanks to a walk last fall with my friend Louise, who pointed out The Homer. An apartment building with ground-level retail when first built in 1909, and that same combination today. Except that tenants undoubtedly now pay a lot more rent, and the ground-floor sequence of a dye works, a steam cleaner, an ice delivery service & a corner store has yielded to a very elegant café & bar.

Fair enough, The Homer has been restored to elegance as well.

bay windows of The Homer, at Homer& Smithe

Happy with my discoveries, my rediscoveries, I let Smithe St. guide me onto Cambie Bridge. Where I hang over the edge to gaze lovingly at False Creek (inconveniencing the cyclist who, rightly, thought that side of the shared track belonged to him). And flick my eyes upwards at those mountains again.

view eastward into False Creek, along the north side

I think I’m done with them, as I hit ground on the other side and walk east into Mount Pleasant.

But of course I’m not.

I stop to admire the painted building at Ontario & East 8th, and there, above it all …

view north past Ontario& E. 8th

dancing with the sky & clouds … the mountains.

Post-Script

Yes, the sun shone all day like crazy & at one point I was carrying my jacket, not wearing it.

This morning I stepped out into a snow flurry.

2017

31 December 2016

May we all fully, joyously, courageously, engage with the life we have right now.

And may we also keep the door always open …

Templo Purísima Concepción, Lari, Colca Valley, Peru

for future possibilities, as yet unknown.

 

 

 

Adelante! The Adventure Begins

4 December 2016 – I ended my last post with a tease, a street mural in Toronto by Shalak Attack. The tease is this: the mother & child are in the traditional dress of the Peruvian altiplano — and here I now am, in the Peruvian altiplano.

In Cusco, to be exact, with this Jesuit church anchoring one corner of Plaza de Armas …

Jesuit church, Plaza de Armas, Cusco

and this view of serried, tiled rooftops climbing into the hills serving as a Plaza backdrop.

view from Plaza de Armas, Cusco

But I am not here for Cusco, or Machu Picchu, my destination is the small city of Ayaviri, located between Cusco & Puno. It is not at all on the tourist track, but it is special to me, because it is the focus of an art restoration project with which my friend Michaela (a formerAGO volunteer colleague) is closely involved.

She & her partner rent a small apartment here in Cusco, to which she typically returns most weekends. It is in a 17th-c. building in the old quarter, once a private home, now in the same family for three generations and restored & maintained. Like all homes of that era, it presents a wall to the outside world, and has tranquil patios within.

Here, the main courtyard …

main courtyard

and here, a view from a window overlooking a small rear courtyard.

view over back patio

If things go as planned (cross-fingers time), tomorrow I’ll hop on the back of Michaela’s motorcycle for the 3 1/2 trip down the road to Ayaviri. They’re equipping me with serious biking gear for the trip — I’ll not recognize myself!

The work in Ayaviri centres around the cathedral, which dates from 1580. “It all began almost 3 years ago,” says Michaela, “when Padre Miguel decided he wanted to restore the cathedral — water was leaking in, grass growing on the roof, all that Colonial Baroque artwork was deteriorating. He began with some parish funds, then obtained some support from the Church & the municipality. Now there is a little art restoration workshop, and we are running our first training course in art restoration as well. We’ll see where it can go from here.”

Here we all get to see Ayaviri’s Catedral de San Francisco de Asís through the lens of Michaela’s camera …

San Franscisco de Asisi, Ayaviri

tomorrow, I hope to see it for myself.

You’ll see it, and the rest of the activity, along with me. But not immediately, for internet connection there is unreliable.

Until later!

False Creek, True Fun

28 September 2016 – Remember the first image in my previous post? Louise & I are hanging over the railing of the Cambie Street bridge, about to cross north to downtown Vancouver, but pausing to watch dragon boats flash through the waters of False Creek below.

Now I am “below.” Where it is a whole other world than the one of pelting cars overhead. Here, immediately right here, is the John McBride Community Garden, complete with its very own … well, I’m not sure what! Not a bird house; perhaps for either bees or butterflies, as the art work suggests?

bee house,JohnMcBridge Community Garden, Wylie & W1st Av.

One gentleman is working away in the larger part of the garden stretching on to the east. He is fully occupied; I do not intrude.

view of John McBride Community Garden eastward along False Creek

On I go eastward, following the road closest to the water. I have done no research, this is a whim, I am simply determined to follow False Creek as much & as long as I can.

So here I am on West 1st Ave, with sleek new condos typically rising on the south side of the street, facing parking lots and occasional disused industrial facilities by the water’s edge to the north.

at W1st Av & Cook

Hoof, hoof, hoof-hoof-hoof — and then a happy surprise: Hinge Park.

I walk in, enchanted as we always are by unexpected delights, pause by one pond to eye what looks like a very playful submarine sculpture ahead.

on Hinge Island, W2nd Av & Columbia

I follow a path to get closer, and discover that, playful or not, this sculpture also earns its keep. It serves as a covered bridge over the stream.

And those portholes frame great views.

inside the 'covered bridge'!

A couple of fellow walkers give me a tip: back up along this path — yes, this one right here — and go see the beaver lodge. When the city rescued a formerly buried stream and created this park from old industrial grounds, assorted wildlife moved in. Including beavers. Whom the parks people didn’t want, and whose lodge the parks people promptly destroyed.

So the beavers built it again. And the parks people said, “Oh, all right.”

beaver lodge #2, Hinge Park

Another tip from the same fellow walkers: visit Habitat Island, just ahead. It’s part of Hinge Park, and accessible across the gravel. (At least at low tide, I’m not sure about high.) Off I go, here’s the gravel — and a view of the city to the east.

gravel walkway to Habitat Island

More tales of wildlife doing what it wants to do, not what the parks people plan: once Habitat Park was created, a heron arrived. And a hump-back whale. (Several people told me the whale story, so I believe it. I trust he got out again.)

Planned wildlife here, or so officialdom hopes. Then again, Purple Martins can be annoyingly picky.

Purple Matin tower, Habitat Island

No problem about wildlife acceptance here! Crows love this dead tree. One loves it enough to bully another back into the air, and away.

ravens being ravens...

Complete contrast to the raucous crows: someone meditating on a rock.

meditation on Habitat Island

By now I’m enjoying wonderful mixed-use trails along False Creek and into a succession of parks. Next up, the Millennium Olympic Village Park, legacy of 2010, when Vancouver hosted the Winter Olympics.

Two huge bird sculptures in the park, always a total draw for small children.

in Millennium Olympic Village Park

Also a handsome columnar sculpture, the Olympic Truce Installation, created by Corrine Hunt, who incorporated the artwork of the 2010 medals into her design.

in Millennium Olympic Village Park

In a while I reach Main Street, end of the trails and parks. Right across the street, a big warehouse district. It is  gritty as all get out, but also on my walking agenda, because a number of its buildings feature in the Vancouver Mural Festival.

Aha! I haven’t told you about the VMF, have I? Well, my stay near Main St. coincides very nicely with the  Festival — whose murals are almost all near Main Street as well.

So the next portion of this walk is devoted to that warehouse area — which will be part of my next post, devoted to murals.

Which in turn explains why that foray is not part of today’s narrative. Instead, we’ll jump over all that, and pick up again at East 6th & Main. I’m now homeward bound, striding along, but I’m diverted by white letters on a black wall, in the shade of a large tree. I draw close.

neatly stencilled on the wall, E6th St. & Main

I pause. I enjoy the shade. Then I walk on south, back to the East 12th latitude and my Airbnb home.

 

 

Love & Bubble Gum

16 September 2016 – Love & bubble gum? Incompatible in my books but to some, as you’ll see later, a match made in heaven.

I left you (Stalking the White Elephant) closing in on Dovercourt Road, with the elephant duly “captured” but so much more to see.

And the next hit is right here, at Dovercourt & Hallam. In Dovercourt Village. (Want proof? Read the box.)

detail, Elicser mural at Dovercourt & Hallam

It’s one detail of an engaging long-wall mural by one of the city’s higher-profile street artists, Elicser. Here’s the rest.

Elicser mural, Dovercourt & Hallam

His work is always good, always powerful, always distinctive. And the faces … always doleful. (I’d say “Lighten up,” except that would brand me such a philistine.)

Soon after, perhaps still on Hallam, some front-yard prayer flags. Well, not exactly. Typical of prayer flags in size, colouring & the way they are casually looped around the yard, but lacking the prayer calligraphy.

Instead …

front yard flags, probably on Hallam w. of Dovercourt

I don’t know what they represent. (Ideas welcome.) I like them anyway. I am a firm convert to the view that you don’t have to “understand” visuals in order to enjoy them.

We duck down another alley, Mary C. & I, off Hallam & still east of Dufferin.

It does not reward our interest in any of the usual ways. It is, in almost every respect, a candidate for World’s Most Boring Alley. But all that grey & white sterility has one unexpected, and therefore redeeming, feature:

alley off Hallam, e. of Duffferin

Solar panels!

All that eco-virtue, and a crisp zigzag against the sky as well.

We’re at Dufferin St. now, a major north-south artery, and we court death to cross it mid-block. All because of the words either side of a narrow gap between two dreary buildings.

w. side of Dufferin, nr Shanly

I know: if you follow Mary’s blog, you’ve already seen this shot. But for everyone else, it’s new. And worth a laugh. Mary & I are laughing — though I must admit that Guy In Chair, ‘way at the back, is unamused.

And on into yet another alley, this one off Wallace near Brock, and full of delights.

A cheerful, I’m pretty sure home-made, garage door, for example …

alley off Wallace nr Brock

and the world’s simplest pussycat sketch …

alley off Wallace nr Brock

and proof that rust alone can create a city skyline, if you’re willing to see it that way.

alley off Wallace nr Brock

I become quite mesmerized by this, transported to some eastern city of miranets & towers.

Then I clear my head, and stop for a more prosaic 3-storey back wall, albeit one with visuals on every level.

alley off Wallace nr Brock

We identify the next garage mural from a good distance away. No missing this artist. “Spudbomb!” we shout.

alley off Wallace nr Brock

From hand grenades (albeit happy ones) to sweet self-affirmation …

alley off Wallace nr Brock

 

even if you hail from a distant planet.

off Wallace nr Brock

And finally — and not a moment too soon, either, for fans of Love & Bubble Gum — this garage door.

alley off Wallace nr Brock

There! Wasn’t she worth the wait?

Now I leave you cooling your heels in mid-alley yet again. Next post will complete the walk, and bag the second of our two targets for the day.

 

Family Portrait

23 June 2016 – Mummy, daddy, and …

DSCN9782

little baby bike.

Gita in the Underpass

1 February 2016 – I didn’t expect to find chapter 3, verse 35 of the Bhagavad Gita in a Dupont St. underpass. Who would? Nor would I have known I had found it, but for the fact that I did my Saturday walk with my friend Gauri, just back from a month visiting family & friends in India.

We don’t start the walk on Dupont, we’re up on St. Clair West near Dufferin. I have food slightly on the mind. Before we set off, Gauri shows me some photos from her trip, including a close-up of a succulent dish traditionally prepared for Marathi weddings, but — because she loves it so — prepared in her honour during her visit.

Perhaps that’s why I interpret the central image in this street-corner montage as a jar of jam.

Lauder Av at St. Clair West

It seems singularly drab, compared to the Marathi feast. Still, the two heads are lively enough …

We walk, we talk, we laugh, we stop for coffee a bit farther west & finally head south, angling across Davenport to Lansdowne. More laughter as we go, being with Gauri involves lots of laughter, but we fall silent at the intersection.

Davenport at Lansdowne

We contemplate the “ghost bike,”  a white bike marking the spot where a cyclist has died. This young man died in November 2012; the bicycle has been here for years, but these are new floral tributes.

Down Lansdowne, more public art, yet another mood. These graphics swoop along the underpass that guides us all beneath railway tracks. It’s another StART (Street Art Toronto) project, perhaps a commentary on the construction above?

Lansdowne n of Dupont

We defy death — death, I tell you — to scamper across Lansdowne in order to see that graphic as a whole. “I’m just back from India,” boasts Gauri. “This is nothing!” I scuttle along in her wake.

Barely through the underpass, and we see another image, this one small enough that we consider recrossing the street to see it up close. Then we assess the increased traffic, plus the jump involved in getting ourselves down to street level — and chicken out.

So here is Green Lady. From afar. In the gloom. (Sorry.)

Lansdowne n of Dupont

Now we’re at Dupont, and I drag Gauri westward. There’s a small gallery along here I like to check out — and another much-decorated underpass along the way.

I know this underpass, I’ve seen these images before, but … wait a minute … is this something new?

Right here next to an EGR face … is that an Anser tease? Just a few elements of his distinctive flowing face-graphic, woven into somebody else’s design?

Dupont w of Lansdowne, n side

Not sure, but what do you think? Here, for comparison, is a full-blown, for-sure Anser (photographed a year ago in the Distillery District).

Anser face, Distillery District

I’m still squinting at the maybe-Anser on Dupont. Gauri has moved on, very slightly. I join her. She reads a dramatic triangular panel, and says: “Gita!”

Pardon?

Bhagavad Gita,” she says.

Dupont underpass w. of Lansdowne

It’s a translation of a verse, she explains, and then quotes the Sanskrit. (“My grade 10 Sanskrit!”)

I demand a transliteration, which she supplies right there on the spot — and later supplements with the bhagavad-gita.org link for this verse online, complete with quotation, transliteration, anvaya and translation, all four.

Gauri’s transliteration is very good indeed. Let’s hear it for grade 10 Sanskrit classes (and her excellent memory).

The online translation is rather more fulsome than the Dupont St. version.

Performing one’s natural prescribed duty tinged with faults is far better than performing another’s prescribed duty perfectly; even death in performing one’s natural prescribed duty is better; for performing prescribed duties of others is fraught with danger.

An advantage of the online version: it completes the final thought, blanked out by someone’s aluminum paint on the Dupont St. version.

After this, the gallery show is an anticlimax.

 

 

 

 

 

Confessions of a Wimp

28 January 2016 – No two ways about it, this week the Tuesday Walking Society wimped out.

Falling temperatures, said the weather forecast, with rising wind and likelihood of rain. We consulted by phone early in the morning, and gave each other permission to cancel.

Later in the day, embarrassed by the lack of rain, I felt I had to get out there and do something. Even a very small something.

So I walked a westward loop that took me past our City Hall.

skaters at City Hall, Queen E & Bay

A reminder that, no matter how dull the day, somewhere there is colour, energy, and laughter.

 

  • WALKING… & SEEING

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

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    "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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