Four Celsius Degrees

21 February 2019 – Not to copy the numerical title style of each sloppybuddhist post (a blog I recommend), but

But, I have the number four on my mind.

Yes, it is a sparkly sunny day, pouring down upon us six happy degrees of almost-warmth. However the historical average is ten, not six, I want you to know, and we citizens of this temperate rainforest are feeling short-changed.

Snow (snow!!!) fringes the Charleson Park snake fence, behind which a lonely chair sits unoccupied.

Ice invades the park’s pond, a hard skin farther out, tiny shards close to land.

Snow. Ice.  No wonder we are aggrieved.

On the other hand, the Canada Geese in False Creek don’t mind, and neither does Mr. Fix-It busy on his red sailboat …

neither does Dad With Stroller (and smart phone) down near Stamp’s Landing, for that matter, nor the cyclist behind him …

and the jay-walking crow clearly doesn’t care.

A ferry glides toward Spyglass Dock, unperturbed …

a guy (far left) in Hinge Park “golfs” tennis ball after tennis ball to his eagerly waiting dog (far right) for retrieval …

and a couple of skateboarders opt for a sunbath instead, in the Seawall’s curvy embrace near Olympic Village.

So.

By the time I order my Japadog # 12 (beef ‘dog’ with avocado, Japanese mayo, cream cheese & soy sauce) from the truck in Olympic Village, and sit wolfing it down in the open plaza …

those six available degrees of Celsius warmth are just fine, thank you.

Four more would be … superfluous.

 

Bark/Smile/Bite/Kiss

14 February 2019 – Happy Valentine’s Day!

If you survive the dog…

 

From the Overpass

4 February 2019 – I’m out and about on what passes for a cold day in Vancouver. (I love living here, I do, but I still giggle a bit at this city’s idea of “cold.”) It’s fractionally sub-zero, with a tentative dusting of snow. And sunny. And breezy. So everything sparkles, and the day is magic.

My feet lead me north on Main Street, almost to Burrard Inlet, well into East Vancouver and, more specifically, into its Railtown neighbourhood.

The name fits. I am on the overpass, looking down at the railway tracks that played such a huge role in stitching us together into one country. (And created such huge fortunes for some 19th-c. buccaneer capitalists, but that’s a separate story.)

Here on the east side of the overpass, the plaque commemorating the launch-point of the 1935 “On to Ottawa Trek” by striking residents of federal unemployment relief camps in British Columbia. I peer down the track, try to imagine the long, jolting train ride east to Ottawa by those desperate, angry people, picking up other strikers from other camps as they went.

Here on the west side, no plaque. Just the gleam of the tracks, still slicing their way into the downtown heart of 21st-c. Vancouver.

With that little sprinkle of snow, to remind me that this is winter.

Speaking of transportation…

Rio-the-clown, who follows my blog just as I follow hers, explains “riding with Hitler” (see my previous post). As she points out, the poster I showed you is either an original or a repro of a wartime poster urging people to make every drop of fuel count – no unnecessary trips, and no solo trips. When you wasted fuel, you effectively helped the enemy.

I should have figured it out for myself, but didn’t. Thank you, Rio.

 

Rules of the Road

31 January 2019 – Rules learned while on foot, meandering alleys & side streets in Vancouver’s Mount Pleasant neighbourhood.

Rule # 1:

Don’t steal.

Rules # 2:

Don’t ride alone.

(I’d like to add some kind of quip, but, honestly, I am rendered speechless.)

 

Loop to Labyrinth

27 January 2019 – “Yes,” I said to myself, “a loop. Down to the very end-curve of False Creek, west along the north side of the Creek to the Cambie Street bridge, over the bridge, back east on the south side of the Creek, and home.”

You are not where it says you are. You are with me — in the magic of the historic present tense — in the end-curve next to World of Science (aka “The Golf Ball,” thank you Frances).

Looking west down the Creek, with the Cambie bridge arching one side to the other.

I head past the reeds and rushes in the parkland next to World of Science, hear the Redwing Blackbirds and read the warning, but without alarm.

None swoop down. Children swoop, on the other hand, exuberant with the park’s activity stations, their parents laughing and trotting along beside them.

I round the Creek’s north-east curve, then pass & briefly cut through the new Concord Community Park.

It is reminiscent — in its bright colours, high design and high functionality — of the new breed of urban parks I’d come to love in Toronto as well. Urbane, yet at one with nature. The perfect city combination.

The seawall scoops me by BC Place Stadium and the adjacent Casino, its metallic tawny walls the perfect foil for sunrise, sunset and — at the moment — dark reflections of its angular neighbours.

I’m barely past the canine off-leash area in Coopers’ Park when I come to its logical conclusion — dog benches!

First I see, and start laughing at, the dog faces. Only later do I notice the water bowl beneath each muzzle.

Up the long switch-back ramp onto the Cambie bridge. Even here, carefully distinct lanes for pedestrians and for bicycles. (The baby carriage may be on wheels, but mum wisely opts for the pedestrian lane.)

Approaching the south side of the Creek, I look east to the rest of my loop …

and then, just before starting down the spiral pedestrian staircase, I look west.

The Granville Street bridge is out there somewhere, but here in the foreground is Spyglass Dock, “my” dock it used to be, and still my favourite. Oh, how those colours punch through the day’s flat light.

And down the spiral ramp.

More colour punch on the bridge pillar, this time with an environmental message. The blue bands of “A False Creek” rise 5 metres above sea level, showing us mid-point of the predicted 4-6 metre rise we can expect through melting ice caps.

Eastward-ho, with great, grating swirls of crows on a line-up of trees between the bridge and Hinge Park. I remember seeing them here before, it must be a favourite roost.

Past the noisy crows, on to the peace of public lounge chairs and a cyclist peacefully lounging, bike propped to one side, tuque’d head barely visible, and an Aquabus chugging by in the Creek.

The City has tucked a small artificial island into the Creek just opposite Hinge Park, engineered to mimic nature’s own wisdom and provide additional rich habitat for wildlife. It creates a side-channel in the Creek, with the island to one side and the seawall path to the other.

After Hinge Park comes Olympic Village, with its shops, condos and big open square. I’m already anticipating the latte I will order in one of the cafés.

I am not anticipating the city’s latest labyrinth!

Oh yes, we are becoming a city of labyrinths, and look how engaged we are with this one before it is even complete.

See? A woman to the right guides her child along a path; mid-distance on the left, Turquoise Jacket cantilevers herself along another path, with Red Jacket not far behind.

And farther back — straight back from the “a” in the foreground word “Vancouver,” yes, that crouched dark figure — the artist.

Meet Himy (as in, he tells me, “Hey, It’s My Yogurt”) Syed, heart & soul & artist of the Toronto + Vancouver City of Labyrinths project.

I have to wait my turn to speak with him: one after another, passers-by stop to ask about his work, and thank him for it. I discover he’s another Toronto expat, so we swap a few Rob Ford horror stories before chattering about street art and artists in both cities.

Then he returns to his chalk, and I go find my latte.

Where I find myself still smiling about Himy’s project, and all the joy he creates for the rest of us.

 

DTES

14 January 2019 – DTES. I had to see the initialism a few times before it quietly spoke its identity into my mind.

Downtown East Side.

Vancouver’s downtown east side, where it is all on display — all the contrasts that remind us what a messy business it is, being human. All those juxtapositions that chill us, warm us, frighten us, shock us, delight us, inspire us, touch our hearts. All the dimensions.

A church, with the Madonna and Child, the Stations of the Cross … and a Fentanyl poster. We are asked to remember the City’s street nurses in our prayers, along with all the other first responders.

Later, this mild late morning, I walk south on Gore Street, an historic part of town now largely identified as part of Chinatown, but resonating with layers of Japanese, Afro-Canadian and indigenous history as well.

Every now and then, the wail of an paramedic ambulance screaming by.

Life on the sidewalks, shop after shop, service after service. A barber shop, for example …

with sidewalk displays stretching south beyond it. And each sidewalk display opening into an enclosed shop as well.

The lure of shop names …

and of product samples. Ginseng! All the way from Wisconsin.

Martial arts studios …

and alley art …

sometimes with a disposal bin or two, for punctuation.

Then more art-in-the-alley — but not like the others.

This is Designer Alley Art. The demographics must be changing.

And indeed they are, indeed they do, as I turn the corner westward onto Union St.

People and pooches relaxing in the warmth, drinking their specialty coffees outdoors as they tilt their faces to the sun.

Right across the street, though, a reminder of Vancouver’s housing crisis. One of the City’s temporary modular housing projects is nearing completion.

Budget approval for 600 units in 2017; a budget request for another 600 in late 2018. Each unit to provide its occupants with health & social services, two meals a day, life skills training, and ways to connect with community organizations.

Back here on the north side of the street, a tidy little plaque that fits its gentrified surroundings, announcing as it does that Semi-Public will soon mount another commissioned public art installation in this fenced-off space.

But the website, like the housing units opposite, reminds us of other realities, weaving up through history into this present moment, tying each with the other.

Semi-Public’s programming is informed by the contested spatial politics of its location on traditional ancestral and Unceded Territories of the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish) and Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations, in the neighbourhood of Chinatown, adjacent to what was the largest civic concentration of African-Canadians families and businesses before their displacement for a major automobile corridor in the 1970s, and within one of the most speculative and expensive real estate markets in the world.

I look down the line-up of shops and services, here on the fortunate side of the street. (I am not mocking or reviling this world or its inhabitants; I am well aware I am one of them.)

Just beyond the bike shop, the white sign wiped blank by sunshine invites us to come in for this café’s speciality: crème brûlée.

I almost veer in, but don’t. I’m caught instead by the noodle bowls on offer right next door, in Harvest Community Foods. They not only serve good, local food right on the spot, they sell prepared bags of “urban agricultural produce” each week.

I slurp up my bowl-of-the-day (mushroom/miso broth, ramen, tofu, mixed mushrooms & greens, wakame) and shamelessly eavesdrop on the conversation one table over. They first compare favourite ginger teas, but move quickly on to the relative merits of Rocky Road vs. Hazelnut-Espresso ice cream. I make a mental note to go hunt down the latter.

Full, happy tummy. On I go, on south out of Chinatown, back into Mount Pleasant, and — by chance wandering — past another example of community food production.

A triangular lot, nicked into the streetscape. The air is spicy with evergreen mulch — maybe they’ve just been chipping some Christmas trees? Signs propped here & there tell you what is being grown. Plot “Y” for example, lists cucumber, chard, purslane, zucchini & eggplant.

I take a picture of the intersection signs, a lazy way to document location — and later discover it’s another Vancouver Moment, all on its own.

How handy, that big command to STOP! Back in Toronto, I’d seen the signs highjacked to urge us to stop assorted politicians (Rob Ford and Stephen Harper being then high on the list). But this is Vancouver, and a different priority.

Another Message, Perhaps

My thanks to my friend Linda, who points out that the lime-green hair in my previous post might not be an anti-boredom message after all. It might be an extension of the movement to wear different colour ribbons as support for people with various forms of cancer — in this case, lymphoma.

 

 

 

 

 

Daylight

1 January 2019 – I’m not thinking about “daylight” in any jargon sense, as I wander east through Mount Pleasant on 8th Avenue. I’m not thinking about daylight at all, beyond noting that today’s version is grey, and more dull than luminous.

But one thing leads to another, starting with my puzzling at this neat stencil on the sidewalk edge at an intersection.

I look around, see a traffic circle, see it has larger letters stencilled all around, move in to look.

Doesn’t get me much further. Thank you for the welcome, I think, but.. umm … to what?

I try the other side of the traffic circle.

Not as far ahead as I might have hoped… “Rainway”?

Aha, another sidewalk stencil.

Progress! All this has to do with St. George Creek — not that any creek is visible. Though, I now realize, I am at St. George Street.

There is a mud/rain-spattered sign fixed to the chainlink fence surrounding the adjacent school yard.

“Did you know a creek still flows beneath St. George Street?” it asks, and then describes the community-based project to honour the buried creek (te Statlew in the original Musqueam language) that once ran north from the Kingsway just above me right down to the False Creek Flats.

The sign invites me to notice all those salmon, painted by the schoolchildren, leaping along the fence. I do.

Later, a website dedicated to salmon in the cities tells me that more than 50 freshwater streams once ran through Vancouver, “like transit lines for wild salmon.”

The goal of this particular project, says its own Rainway website, is to use runoff from adjacent properties, laneways and the street to recreate the lost stream as part of a Rainway. It is to be an example of “daylighting” buried creeks and streams.

(You knew I’d get back to “daylight” eventually.)

The project is also meant to tie into the City’s goal of using our abundant rainwater to make us one of the world’s Greenest cities.

I’d like to be more optimistic, because everything about this project appeals to me — from community roots to public/private sector support to street art and infrastructure and environmental objectives. But it seems to have stalled somewhere around 2016. The signage is battered; none of the further steps projected on the website are visible.

I hope I’m wrong — and even if I’m right, the idea deserves new mention. It could rise again.

But oh dear, all this makes an unfortunate juxtaposition with the last scene I want to show you!

Doubling back toward home, I pass a couple of boarded-up bungalows, all fenced off, clearly soon to be razed for some higher-density infill. And, right there twined into the turquoise plastic fencing, are these words:

“Let it go.”

I don’t want the community to let go of their creek daylighting project, yet I do agree that, sometimes, letting go is exactly what we should be doing.

Perhaps especially right now, the start of a new year. Let go of everything toxic that has been hobbling us, just put it down, breathe freely, step forward more freely.

Maybe the trick, as always, is to know what to hold on to — a community creek project, for example — and what to let go. (Fill in the blanks for yourself.)

And that’s as philosophic as I’m going to get, late on this new year’s day.

So let’s let that go… and have ourselves a happy moment of fibre-art appreciation. Remember the flower next to the words “Let it go”? Like those words, it is crochet.

Aren’t you glad you know that?

Here Kitty! (and Friends)

20 December 2018 – There she is, smirking at me with those clever-cat eyes …

and an elegant curl to her tail.

I’m pelting along Howe, crossing West Georgia, but I stop to admire Âstam minôs: Here kitty, one of the City’s bright photo-wraps on utility boxes, this one designed by Adele Arseneau with background by youth artist Krystal, Creativelife East Van.

Kitty, it turns out, is just the start of a day dominated by urban wildlife — a few of the creatures real, most of them art, and almost all of those out-on-the-street-for-free.

The next one, though, is indoors-for-a-fee.

I’m up on the top floor of the Vancouver Art Gallery with a friend, enjoying a show of works from the VAG’s permanent collection, selected by Senior Curator Ian M. Thom.

I’m particularly taken by unknown (to me) works by some artists I do know and and already love — Paterson Ewen, Pudlo Pudlat, Jack Shadbolt, Joyce Wieland, Michael Snow, Paul-Emile Borduas — and then I see ten neat inkjet printings on paperboard by an artist I know nothing about, Kim Kennedy Austin.

Including this rumination …

I laugh out loud. My friend looks, also breaks up, and soon we’re reminiscing about geckos and our gratitude that their clever little suction pads really do work and the geckos really do not fall on our heads.

Enough high-class art on a gallery wall! Back to the street!

Where, in my Mount Pleasant neighbourhood, I find a lion delicately sniffing a flower …

and his companion in full roar …

about to be tickled by a set of brave (or stupid) female fingers.

They are elements in an enormous mural stretching down East 10th just off Kingsway …

with the lion end by Gaidasheva Oksana, the octopus end by Emily Gray, and the whole painted during the 2017 Vancouver Mural Festival.

I turn around, and see I am not the only onlooker.

There is a shop called Birds on a Wire just a few blocks away,  selling regional artwork. It knows its neighbourhood.

I turn down Sophia, and meet more birds.

This time on a ventilator shaft (or something).

A whole menagerie fills the rest of the parking lot wall  …

with Antler Man declaiming, Ghost Triplets perhaps listening, and an audience of eavesdroppers & kibitzers stretching off to the left. This mural is a legacy of the 2018 Mural Festival, curated by Roxanne Charles and signed by Ahziyelli Gaia, Cayley Carlson and Andres SLZ.

One last touch of reality, as I loop around the library branch toward home.

I’ve always liked birds’ nests in winter, the sense of discovering something that lies so well hidden all summer long, and then, come winter, adds another sculptural element to all those bare branches.

Speaking of urban wildlife…

That Springbok I showed you, in my post of 26 November?

He isn’t.

“Definitely not a Springbok,” says a friend who knows his African wildlife, “but probably a Gemsbok or Oryx. The question is, what inspired someone to paint this on a Vancouver wall?”

My guess is, all these artists inspire each other, and that’s reason enough. Whatever the inspiration, I’m grateful.

 

No King. But a Springbok & Some Dragons. And Assorted Birds

26 November 2018 – I never need a reason to go walk False Creek, it’s reason enough all by itself, but today, I do have an objective. I want to see the King Tide in action.

King tides (local media explain) occur when the moon is closest to the earth, the gravitational pull of sun & moon reinforce each other, and tides rise to their highest levels. Vancouver has just begun a run of king tide: November 23-30.

So I go looking, but obviously I’ve arrived at the wrong point in the cycle. Things look darn normal.

No king.

I don’t care. I’ve already had a springbok!

Maybe a springbok? This guy’s horns don’t have that lovely springbok heart-curve, so perhaps he is something else. The text above his head says “Sea Power” and by his hooves says “the natural law”, so that’s no help. Oh well. He’s lovely, whatever he is.

I’m angling down to the water just west of Main Street, a route that zigs & zags me into “Main Alley” — something I had thought just a pretentious name for an alley, but which I now know marks the block where an entire new tech campus will arise.

It already sports the Main Alley Urban Park.

So says the pink sign beyond this shaggy greenery, all that’s left now that summer’s planters have been tidied away for winter. and the café tables &  benches neatly stored.

And “shaggy” is the word, isn’t it, for late fall? Even here in mild Vancouver, summer’s botanical opulence by now is on the weary side …

But.

Farewell summer, yeah-yeah, so what. Look! Hello winter, first snow on the mountains.

I saw the peaks glistening from my own windows early this morning, and felt quite exhilarated by it all. New season, new energy.

Winter up there; here on the water, ferries as usual. And a dragon boat team, also as usual. (OK, you’ve got me. No dragons. Just dragon boaters…)

I’m approaching Hinge Park, but I am distracted by a labyrinth. It glistens quite eerily, as if floating on its own skin of water.

Am amateur job, surely. Masking tape is my bet — and by now in no better shape than the leaves that have landed on it.

But I like it a lot. I like that it’s wonky, and disheveled. I even forgive the fact that you can’t navigate it without cheating a bit, here & there …  (Yes, I walk it. Of course I do.)

Out of the labyrinth, past Hinge Park, & here’s Habitat Island — the man-made island designed to follow nature’s own recipe and provide additional wildlife habitat within False Creek. Two great dead trees anchor the island, spear the sky, and are topped, as always, with live birds.

I go read the plaque, and discover those dead trees are a deliberate part of the plan.

“Raptor Perch” indeed. No raptors at the moment, just gulls & crows — but perched. Definitely perched.

Starting to loop back east takes me along the little creek through Hinge Park that feeds into False Creek. At the moment it’s full of Mallard ducks, bright against the soft grey light.

Heading back up Main Street, one last tribute to birds, at the corner of East 6th.

The leaves have fallen, no shade here until next spring. But I do pause. A moment of appreciation is always in season.

 

 

“We remember them”

 

10 November 2018 – I am in a hurry, pressed for time, just striding down the Cambie Street hill: “Out of my way! I have things to do!”

And I stop flat at City Hall, not for the architecture I love so much, but for this:

Almost Remembrance Day, and isn’t this cascade of poppies a touching & wonderful sight? How could I power on by, oblivious?

I step into the installation, begin to read its signs.

I keep reading. There is history.

I nod, like these children, to the Tower of London project — but, above all, I nod to Lieut.-Col. John McCrae, the Canadian surgeon, poet, author and artist who enlisted at the outset of the War, in August 1914, despite being 41 years of age. He served as Medical Officer with the 1st Brigade of the Canadian Field Artillery.

In April-May 1915, he tended the wounded at the Second Battle of Ypres, the first battle in which poison gas was used. During that prolonged battle, he wrote the poem that has made poppies a world symbol for remembrance.

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow…

All of it is powerful, but I am most touched by this very human stanza part-way through:

We are the dead. Short days ago

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

Loved and were loved, and now we lie

In Flanders Fields.

The poem has been recorded by Leonard Cohen, another author/poet/global Canadian.

Here at one precise intersection in one city in one province in one country in a whole world of remembrance, I read the words of the children who created this installation, this year.

Stepping gingerly around poppies, careful not to step on a single one, I keep reading.

They should feel good, about their own craftsmanship, along with everything else.

And so history lives within us, and through us, generation to generation, and we interpret present meaning from past events.

John McCrae survived the Second Battle of Ypres, but not the war. His asthmatic lungs further weakened by the poison gas, he died of pneumonia in 1918, in Boulongne-sur-Mer, France.

He lies in the nearby Wimereux Communal Cemetery, one of 2,847 Commonwealth soldiers to share that final resting place. If you’re ever in Guelph, Ontario, visit his childhood home, now museum.

 

  • 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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