The Dinosaur & You

19 April 2018 – Let’s suppose.

Let’s just suppose that you suddenly discover a dinosaur has taken up residence in your front yard.

Stay calm. Show him who’s boss.

Make him mow the grass.

(You will not — of course not! — be fooled by pathetic attempts at disguise. He is not Santa Claus, taking a well-deserved, off-season break. Or, for that matter, a garden gnome with Santa tied to his leg. He’s just a great big pre-historic mooch artist.)

 

 

Haiku to Japadog

16 April 2018 – Sunshine & relative warmth in a soggy week, perfect for our visit to Sakura (“flowering cherry tree”) Days at the VanDusen Botanical Garden. This two-day event is the annual contribution of an astounding all-volunteer committee to the larger Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival that takes place month-long throughout the city.

We’re on for all of it, high culture to low.

We start high, following a trail of posted haiku — all cherry-blossom pink, of course — to the haiku tent.

The poems are all part of an international, invitational project. That one from the USA; another, for example, from Russia.

And another, pointed political commentary, from right here in Canada.

We take part in a haiku workshop in the tent, learn something of their key characteristics as well as variations on the form, read and discuss examples culled from The Haiku Anthology (ed. Cor van den Heuvel, W.W. Norton, 1999).

A haiku walk follows the workshop but we peel off, decide to take in — literally — another mainstay of local Japanese culture.

The Japadog!

Stop snickering. The Japadog is as much a cultural phenomenon as haiku, invented right here in Vancouver by a young immigrant couple in 2005, now a truck/trailer/cart mainstay of our cityscape, and boasting two outposts in California (LA and Santa Monica).

We choose the Terimayo – a best-seller featuring kurobuta pork, fried onions, teriyaki sauce, mayo & seaweed. Yum. (Washed down later with lattes, because the matcha tea line-up is just too long.)

We take our happy tummies up the hill to join others enjoying a bird’s-eye view of succeeding acts on the Cherry Stage below.

We arrive in time for almost the entire presentation by Kohei Honda and Keita Kanazashi, brought in from Japan to perform on the 3-stringed Shamisen and the Japanese drum respectively.

Many in the audience are in traditional Japanese dress …

others, from other cultures, express their own sense of cultural identity.

Then there’s the rest of us!

Later we scamper downhill, crowd in close to the stage, want to take in every moment of the closing act, the Vancouver Okinawa Taiko ensemble. Formed in 2004 by Masami Hanashiro, they serve as local ambassadors of an Okinawa grassroots folk art — a distinctive marriage of drumming and dancing, performed to both traditional and contemporary Okinawa music.

We watch to the end, entranced.

Then we walk toward the exits, passing the Cherry Grove. It is the perfect backdrop for visitors in traditional garb, striking a traditional pose beneath the many trees and their great drifts of blossoms.

At home, I write my first haiku.

Of course I’m not going to show it to you. Don’t be silly.

 

 

 

 

 

Beaks, Boasts, & Bums

13 April 2018 – Out there on Commercial Drive near East 4th, I’m tempted to step under the Canterbury Tales awning to check out the new & used books crowding the window display.

Zadie Smith’s Swing Time, perhaps? Or the Vegetarian Flavour Bible? Or milk and honey? Or — by contrast — a peek into White House Fire and Fury?

Ummmmm, maybe step into the store instead.

I brave the awning no-go zone, protective hat firmly on head, and look up.

Roosting pigeon, all right.

And it’s not the beak-end you need to worry about.

Never mind!  on to a no-worries boast!

Is that Vancouver coffee, or what?

(I’d credit the café if I’d been attentive enough to note its name. So prowl W. Hastings just east of Cambie, and find it for yourself. Sorry.)

I discovered that yoga-loving coffee enroute the SFU Goldcorp Centre for the Arts.

Inside, heading for the staircase to the jazz/tap discussion I mentioned last post, I pause to watch people starting to set up a student art exhibit.

Materials piled up all over the place. Including right here, immediately through the glass in this primary display window.

Bums, glorious bums!

Please tell me it’s not just a pile of materials. I so want this to be an art installation, exactly as is.

Negative

11 April 2018 – As in, space.  Negative space. Defined by the edges of the positive-space objects you are actively looking at.

I really don’t spend time in an artistic swoon, thinking I must go out and pay attention to negative space. But, sometimes, it is just right there in front of me, and I notice it.

For example, while waiting for the doors of Christ Church Cathedral to open for an Early Music Vancouver performance.

My eyes slide upward, between the cathedral wall on my right and bank & hotel towers on my left …

and are funnelled into this jagged slice of sky.

Rather the shape of False Creek, I think frivolously to myself, spun 90 degrees clockwise. Except for that pointy bit at the bottom.

Then they open the doors, and I leave frivolous thoughts — and negative space — outside. Inside, there is Bach & Hayden.

A few days later, over at Commercial Drive and East Broadway on a very different outing indeed, I look upward between two Sky Train tracks.

Smooth-curving tracks carve smoothly curved negative space.

That same evening, back in the east end but this time farther downtown, I’m leaving the SFU Goldcorp Centre for the Arts after a DanceHouse sponsored talk about tap dance and jazz.

It is the “blue hour” of early dusk, and the negative space of sky is richly, warmly dramatic.

All the more so for the “W” revolving at its heart — the recreation of the iconic Woodward’s “W” that for so long marked the department store and now stands guard over the redevelopment of that site.

I walk back through Gastown to my bus stop. Lights twinkle and buildings straight to my eye curve magically inward in my camera’s eye …

tenderly embracing one final offering of negative space.

I get on my bus, and go home.

Snagged

7 April 2018 – No thematic unity to these images, except that they are all part of the Vancouver cityscape, and they have all recently snagged my eye.

Sometimes from amusement, as here at an entrance to Mountain View Cemetery — not a location one traditionally associates with amusement.

Got that? Rover-on-a-leash, yes. Rover-no-leash has to stay home with your pet elephant and pet camel.

(Amusement mixed with admiration, I should add. What a gentle way to remind people how to behave.)

More amusement and admiration across the street from the cemetery. A very handsome, beautifully maintained yellow home — that’s the admiration part.

Amusement comes with the family’s Little Free Library box, there in the foreground, built and painted to copy the home.

Even more amusement when we come close. Lovely details on all sides, including two tiny figures on the balcony.

Speaking of homes … Here’s one to snag the eye!

We’re bundled up for a fitful grey day, but all this blue & orange blazes through.

The house is special for more than its colour scheme.

It is a surviving, and prettied-up, example of the Vancouver Special — the city’s one indigenous house form, says the Vancouver Heritage Foundation.

Built 1965-85, sometimes described as a “two-storey rancher turned at right angles to the street,” the Vancouver Special was a response to setback by-laws and the need for economic housing. Almost all the Specials quickly became multi-generational housing, reconfigured for a ground-level suite. Today, each survivor is a history lesson, reflecting both that civic moment in time, and its own succession of owners.

So my delight has a whole vernacular-architecture streak to it.

Another Vancouver “special” – i.e., something else that is Very Vancouver.

Bicycles.

Clusters of bicycles, whole art-installations of bicycles.

I’m passing the Tandem Bike Café (which fixes bikes and feeds people), with its distinctive, of-course, form of advertising out there at the street corner.

It’s what’s behind that snags my eye, makes me pause on yet another misty day.

First I see that red trike, touched to see it carefully fastened to the bicycle stand. Then I notice the very-Vancouver adaptations of those other bicycles, each with a front carrier, each prepared for rain. (Also the burgeoning Grape Hyacinth, thriving in the showers.)

Rain City!

As I type this, my chimes sing in the breeze, and we have just had the season’s first flash of lightning, first clap of thunder.

 

 

16,901 Steps

2 April 2018 – 16,901 footsteps or 11.3 km, says my pedometer app, and I won’t argue. Though I could, instead, just call it a fairly long walk on a bright blustery day …

Either way, the outing gives me happy hours tracing a rough rectangle through a downtown-ish subsection of Vancouver.

I have a destination in mind, which sets my general direction. It is the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden, the first such scholars garden to be built outside China, meticulously accurate and created with the help of 53 master craftsmen from China, 950 crates of traditional materials and strictly 14th-c. building methods.

And so down the hill I go to False Creek, and follow its southern shore east to its stubby end by Main Street. Mostly I’m striding along, enjoying sun, fresh air, choppy water, bird song, spring blossoms — and all the other people enjoying all the same things.

But I do pause, right there where the creek proves itself a false creek, to watch a chalk artist create a great big labyrinth on the pavement.

And then I’m around the curve, doubling back to the west, now on the north side of the water. I’m watching for the exit to Carrall Street, which is unfamiliar territory for me. My preoccupation makes this cluster of inukshuk on the rocky shoreline particularly appropriate, given their traditional way-finding role.

The inukshuk (plus a large sign with a large arrow) do their job. I right-turn away from the Seawall and walk north up Carrall Street, heading into Chinatown.

Bold stripes splashed by sunshine onto an apartment building opposite the Classical Chinese Garden.

Equally powerful design inside the Garden, here created not by nature, but by careful human attention to every detail.

I linger.

And then I leave, walking north still, heading toward Burrard Inlet, out of Chinatown and into Gastown. It’s an entertainment district, a tourist district, and a magnet, this holiday weekend, for Vancouverites as well.

Laugher and music and clinking glasses on outdoor patios. But if you look sideways to the edges, to the margins, not everything is pretty-pretty.

Another alley-edge a few blocks over, and the most fully-executed street art RIP that I have ever seen.

I keep moving, now west to Cambie, where I turn south and start homeward. The streetscape evolves again. Here in the pavement at the intersection with Robson, it issues a call to bibliophiles.

The open book is a visual cross-reference to the main branch of the Vancouver Public Library, just a block away.

But you don’t have to go even that far! Crouch down, and read the terra-cotta inserts …

On south, now approaching the Cambie Bridge over False Creek.

I go right by the new Parq Vancouver entertainment complex — all very whizzy it is, with its hotels, spa, casino, and bunches of restaurants. Yawn, don’t care. I’m more taken with the rich colour and lines of its outer skin; the flags right-angle from their staffs in the brisk breeze; and the construction cranes reflected on the façade, just below that oval inset balcony.

Bridge ramps converge overhead.

I climb.

And I cross the bridge, looking east toward Main Street, remembering the chalk artist and his labyrinth, hours and hours ago.

The final climb, hoof-hoof-hoof, and I’m home.

I check my pedometer app, and learn how to translate this particular day’s adventure into a set of numbers.

But really, the point is the adventure, not the numbers.

(Even if they did give me a post title.)

Rain City Takes a Stand

24 March 2018 – It’s been raining. To be expected, here in Vancouver.

How else would that dog grow such a magnificent crop of moss on his head?

Lots of rain = lots of umbrellas = lots of umbrella stands.

Right there inside every public access door, upmarket or down, retail or public sector, frivolous or serious or medical or artsy, or whatever.

I first noticed the phenomenon last October 12, when a deluge had us all shedding more umbrellas in the Scotiabank Dance Centre than the receptacles could handle.

You may remember the shot. It was my first umbrella stand photo, and I’ve been taking them ever since.

Today’s rain is a good excuse to show you some.

Mimimalism is the rule at both The Mighty Oak grocery & coffee bar on West 18th …

and at Elysian Coffee on West 5th.

Crema, down by the West Van Seawall, is also a coffee bar, but takes a much more exuberant approach. Their umbrella stand is in fact a coat-cum-umbrella rack, but, this drizzly day, umbrellas have commandeered the whole thing.

 

Colourful brollies and yet more colour right outside the door — all those daffs happily blooming, even though it’s still early February.

The Dr. Vigari Art Gallery on Commercial Drive takes a surprisingly austere approach — where’s the artistic flair? On the other hand, it does provide clear instructions, and one handsome resident brolly to show you how it’s done.

Pfui! says Exposure Clothing over on Main Street: instructions, yes, but let’s have some fun with those demo brollies.

The stand at VIDA Eye Care on West Broadway is suitably clear …

while an oral surgeon farther west swathes his umbrella stand in a big lavender bow. (Perhaps to take your mind off the fact that you are indeed at the dentist’s?)

The Sally Ann Thrift Shop on East 12th takes a thrifty, but highly functional, approach . ..

and the Art Gallery of Ontario — I couldn’t help myself! — offers functionality as well, but probably paid more for the container.

In fact, it is so elegant that it is not an umbrella stand. It is an umbrella drop station, and don’t you forget it.

(It is also empty. That’s because the sky was heaving down snow that mid-March day, not rain.)

 

 

 

 

Knobby Knees

19 March 2018 – And hairy naked ones too, but I haven’t come to the VanDusen Botanical Garden to admire human knees.

I want these guys.

Whole great marching platoons of cypress knees!

Proof I am indeed circumnavigating (with protracted time-outs on every pond-side bench) the R. Roy Forster Cypress Pond.

The Garden as a whole is very busy, on this warm, sunny weekend day —  bursting with new blossoms, excited children, and keen photographers staggering under their telephoto lenses.

The Pond, tucked away to one side, is a quiet haven. I slide off to join it.

The approach is part of the pleasure.

First, the serene warm presence of the Confidence couple, Michael Dennis’ 2012 creation in Western red cedar …

then silver sunlight glinting off Southern Magnolia leaves (their native habitat, the south-eastern USA, proving what a benign climate I now call home).

I sink onto a first bench, its wooden planks warmed and made redolent by the springtime sun. It gives me a good view of the floating bridge that zigzags its way across the Pond.

I sit there quite a while, happy to let the day come to me, feeling my muscles expand again after their two weeks’ contraction in the Toronto chill. (For all that we are a special animal, we are animal. Our bodies tell us so.)

Then I rise, turn away from the main paved path leading to the bridge, and instead walk a bark-chip path around a far pond edge.

Cypress knees delineate shoreline, neatly encircle the mini-island opposite.

I look away from the Pond, eyes right-not-left, and admire blossoms floating in a bowl of water on the other side of the path. There are several of these bowls, each placed on an upturned log, filled with blossoms currently on offer in nearby shrubs.

What could be simpler? Or prettier?

Eyes pond-side once again, but lazily so,  my mind slightly ahead of my eyes, already anticipating the next bench.

Then a double-take. I freeze. Did I see … ? Was that … ? No, couldn’t be … !

Look again.

Silly me. Of course it’s not real.

Slightly shame-faced, I walk around the far end of the floating bridge and sink onto another bench, giving me a fine view from the far side.

Another month or two, the surface will be thick with water lilies.

Two Days Earlier …

I know. Chronology shot to pieces. And no thematic link at all. (Except that, yes, I am back in Vancouver.)

But you don’t mind, do you.

Barely back in town, greeted with sunshine and double-digit temperatures, I head for favourite places. The VanDusen, above, is one — but so is the Main Street / False Creek area, and that’s where I take myself just a day or so after returning to town.

Where I meet:

Backpack Woman, scampering for safety in the Main & E. 7th parking lot …

and Bookworm Woman, soaking up sunshine and the printed word by False Creek …

and Exercise Man, digging in that paddle as he flashes under the Cambie Street bridge.

Truth is, I’d stopped to admire the flamingoes — or whatever they are — somebody has added to the acrylic stripes on this bridge piling, one element of this art installation showing the 5-metre rise in sea levels that climate change could cause.

And then racer-guy joined the scene.

Very Vancouver.

 

Now Playing!

25 February 2018 – And then … it snowed again. A big old wet-sloppy storm whumping in off the Pacific.

Media weatherpersons put on serious faces.

Black Dog Video chalked up a signboard.

“Bad drivers” and “slush puddles” are universal phenomena. “Translink” = public transit.

Not my problem, that day. I didn’t have to go out, so I didn’t. Instead, I could take a disinterested view of the storm, and admire frosted trees from the warmth of my own living room.

But today I was out. Out there in the slush puddles. My reward was this canoe & bedsprings arrangement in an alley just off Quebec St.

The bedsprings, I assume, are for the toss. But surely the canoe is a keeper?

Why else would you plant tulips in it?

The Incongruity of Snow

22 February 2018 – There! That’s what I mean. Not “Silly in Snow” or “Surprised in Snow” — though both titles appealed to my sophomoric love of alliteration — no, it’s the sheer incongruity of snow in Vancouver that I’m struggling to express.

I’m used to snow in cities (says the native Montrealer), but in cities that are themselves used to snow. Snow scenes that look entirely normal in that context are bemusing — to me, anyway — when viewed in a city whose ecology and architecture prove that snow is a rare phenomenon.

In this context, it is… incongruous.

And for precisely that reason, I am alive to it here in a way I no longer respond to it in more snow-normal contexts.

Even paw prints delight me.

As does the sight of a snow-silly dog himself, leaping at snowballs thrown by his owners, getting his ears scratched and whirling snow from his tail as he waits for the next toss.

See the pale green chair, in the lower left? We’re down on the Arbutus Greenway again, and there are chairs and other warm-weather, garden-related objects all around.

A week or so ago, in the green glow of seasonal warmth, they looked quite normal. Now everything reads differently, in juxtaposition with the white of snow and the sparkle of ice.

Icicles trace frozen vines in the foreground; a blue chair waits out the snow beyond.

As does this hibiscus!

And these primula — part of the exuberant display of plants & garden-implement art on the gates of the Vancouver Compost Demonstration Garden.

Around the corner now, away from the Greenway and heading into Kitsilano.

Tree buds furry with the promise of blossoms are, at least for the moment, also bright with the hard glint of ice.

The homeowner has just shovelled his sidewalk and is now sprinkling a bit of salt. We tell him he is Our Hero. He grins, says it’s nothing much really, we don’t get snow all that often. “Not like back east! Those guys, it’s a life sentence.”

By now it has become our game, as we walk, to spot objects/plants that seem particularly incongruous in the snow. This yellow ducky, for example?

Definitely!

Soon after, down on the Kits main shopping street, we burst out laughing at a street corner decal. Nothing to do with snow. Just plain incongruous, all on its own.

Right. Back to snow sights.

This little woollen stuffed animal, tied to a bench in Vanier Park. Why is it that can we just laugh at the sight of the yellow duck, but somehow wish we could protect this little creature from the elements?

I think we would have been touched anyway. But more so, because the bench has a plaque on it, commemorating a young woman who was, say her grieving family and friends, both “beautiful and fierce.” We pause for a moment, honouring the loss to the universe of this bright spark.

I’m almost used to the next sight — palms wearing snow berets. (Am I acclimatizing?)

And I can at least decipher the sight after that — this, thanks to many walks along Lake Ontario in Toronto’s Beaches neighbourhood. There as here, poles wait for the volleyball nets of summer. But here, unlike there, laden freighters sit in the water and mountain peaks line the horizon.

Next day we’re up at the VanDusen Botanical Garden. Again the contrast to my visit a week or so ago: everything now snow-covered, silent, still.

Even this pond, temporarily frozen.

“Snow bomb!” shouts my friend. A ski veteran of the Lizard Range near Fernie, B.C., she knows what she’s looking at.

Meanwhile, Down South…

Go read Lori Greer‘s recent posts about snow in Portland, our nearish neighbour across the border. They, too, find snow a bit bemusing. (If you don’t know her blog, this may be a happy discovery.)

 

 

 

  • 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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