Q&A (&A)

2 February 2020 – “Oh when,” we ask ourselves plaintively as we wait for a bus at Broadway & Cambie early one evening, “when will it stop being so dark and wet?”

“Soon!” predict assorted groundhogs, shaken out of their torpor to check for shadows. “Soon! We predict an early spring.”

“Right,” says the weather-person briskly, who has just reported these furry conclusions, “and now back to science.”

She waves at the isobars on her map of the Lower Mainland, and warns of snow, rain and lower temperatures on through the week.

 

False Creek, Real Action

30 January 2020 – The afternoon break in the rain arrives as promised, and I’m out the door and down to False Creek. Where I wander along, tune in to the action — and realize action can be latent, as well as right-now.

Start with right-now. Kayakers just off Olympic Village, a pair of enthusiasts I will meet again and again in this walk as they ply this end of the Creek, though I don’t know that yet.

Then another example of right-now action — but well camouflaged.

I’m looking out over the little man-made island just off Hinge Park, when a near-by pedestrian crooks a finger to beckon me closer. He invites me to sight along his furled umbrella, and murmurs, “Otter. His head. Looks like just another rock there at water’s edge, except it’s moving. See? Just down to the right from that gull?”

I look, watch, wait for bobbing motion. And I see.

You won’t see. You’ll just see the gull, that white flash at the upper edge of the island’s tip. After that … a pile of rocks. Perfect camouflage.

No camouflage here! Crows squawking their heads off, assembling in the tree for their afternoon commute back out to Burnaby.

No camouflage here either, and definitely an example of right-now action. That’s my black-clad toe at the top of the Cambie Bridge spiral staircase. I usually do this loop the other way around and therefore walk down, but this time, I have just climbed those 80 steps up. (You bet. I counted.)

Latent-action time: dedicated dog bowl waiting for customers, in Coopers Park across the bridge on the north side.

There are real dogs in abundance in the off-leash area, all of them too busy being active to bother with the drinking bowl.

And here’s the Blue Cabin, glowing in a burst of afternoon sunshine at its Plaza of Nations mooring. As with that dog bowl, it seems that here too, action is currently latent. The residency of Tsleil Waututh artist Angela George has just ended, and the Blue Cabin Floating Artist website is inviting new applications. (Interested? Click Programs on the menu, and scroll to Current Residency Call.)

Almost opposite, down on the rocky beach, a couple of inukshuks stand in relief against the water, where the World of Science complex anchors the eastern end of the Creek.

Out there on the deck, also picked out in the late-afternoon light, the huge orange sculpture of a reclining question-mark, inviting us to ponder our responsibilities in the world’s eco-system. A repository of latent action, arguably, calling us to real action.

I pass the question-mark sculpture as I head on home …

and think that’s the end of my story.

But it isn’t.

Because there at the railing I see a woman raise her camera so stealthily that I also pause, and search for whatever it is that has caught her eye.

This is it.

A heron. Watching the waters for dinner. More latent action, wrapped up in feathers.

The woman and I discover we like to walk the same loop at this end of the Creek. “I always mean to walk briskly,” she tells me. “But there are so many reasons to stop, and look, and wait, and watch…”

 

Unintended Consequences

23 January 2020 – The Law of Unintended Consequences usually comes at us with a negative tilt: Your action will have consequences you cannot anticipate, and won’t much like.

But, sometimes, you just look around and think, Well, isn’t this fun?

As in, the moment I find myself at Venables St. & Clark Drive.

My intended action took me to an espresso machines specialty store on Clark, seeking new gaskets for the screen in my moka pot. Nice Young Man said they didn’t have the ones I needed, and softened the blow with a complimentary latte and directions to a shop over on Victoria Drive — east on Venables, on past Commercial, north on Victoria, there you are.

And so, unintended consequence, I am about to walk a route that had, until then, never even crossed my mind.

It’s a drizzly, splattery day, and the streetscape is endless low-rise clutter, so I’m not sure why I’m so good-humoured about it — except that I’ve never walked here before, an adventure all in itself, and there may even be new gaskets to reward me at the other end.

And I can’t resist those praying mantises, swaying over that building toward the right …  Then I prod myself past the dreariness of the architecture, and notice the wonderful juxtaposition of shops: Buddy Walks doggie spa, Mr. Mattress (never flip your mattress again), Kon Auto Service, and A&B Tool Rentals. Well! This is going to be fun.

And it is, look, the juxtapositions just keep coming …

A mini-cluster of transportation options: janitor carts, motorcycles, and shared bicycles.

The wonderfully named Vancouver Hack Space Community Workshop (“share ideas, tools and know-how…”) …

rainbow stripes …

and, down there at the corner, a bamboo grove.

South side of the street, a store specializing in vintage Scandinavian Modern …

and, here on my side, The Wallace — the cogs on the building’s façade honouring its former life as a machine shop.

It is now home to Alternatives Gallery and Studio, and to …

East Van Brewing Company.

There are other banners in their windows, a snarling cobra among them, but of course I choose to show you the crow.

On a bit, past a wallpaper/paint store and an auto body shop, and after that some new construction, just beyond this auto-aftermarket store with a big Junkyard Angel truck (great name!) in its parking lot.

And on some more, across Commercial Drive, past the Vancouver East Cultural Centre (aka The Cultch), into less-industrial, less collective, and more individually artistic territory.

Victoria Drive, left turn.

And this front-yard display up near East Georgia.

I find I am slightly unnerved by that declaration of love. Not too sure I’d want to be on the receiving end.

Then I forget all about it, because I see my destination food shop, a little farther north and over on the east side of the street.

YES! they have the gaskets.

 

 

Snow!

13 January 2020 – Snow.

Not just up in the mountains and out in the Valley, but right here in the heart of Vancouver itself.

Snow on the ground …

and even on the crows.

Hat Trick

10 January 2020 — Three.

Hat Trick = three.

Every hockey-loving Canadian knows this. When a player scores three goals in one game, he (or she, thank you) has pulled off a hat trick. It has nothing to do with hats.

Mind you, in the 19th-c world of English cricket, it did. The club would present a new hat (or equivalent) to a bowler taking three wickets in succession.

So let me, here in 21st-c Vancouver, bring it back to hats. A three-hat hat trick, based on weather.

You have met (Blown Off Course) my drizzle-proof winter Tilley and my wind-proof Orkney rainbow. Today we woke up to what, in downtown Vancouver, passes for snow. There is real snow at higher elevations and out in the Valley, but right here … it’s more like this.

Slush-heading-for-rain.

It’s not particularly vicious, but it’s gloomy and wet and people don’t like it.

So I round out my personal, hat-based hat trick …

and sport my Ms Scarlet version of Paddington Bear. Just look at it: rain-proof, highly visible in the gloom, and silly enough to raise spirits.

Another hat trick! A hat trick of virtues.

 

 

Blown Off Course

7 January 2020 – A cloudy/sunny day, in a run of seriously rainy days, so of course I’m out the door. And promptly back in again, to change hats.

It’s windy out there.

So windy they’re cancelling ferry sailings. So windy I switch my usual  winter Tilley (left), which would para-sail me right into next week, for my Orkney rainbow-&-runes cloche, which snugs tight about the ears.

Enroute False Creek, I exchange winks with one little star-segment of Cosmic Breeze, a 2019 Mural Festival creation by Olivia Di Liberto …

and, once Creek-side in Olympic Village Square, I admire how this sculpture — momento of the 2010 Olympics — glitters in the morning sunshine.

All this is pretty well what I have, admittedly vaguely, planned: down to False Creek, west on False Creek right to Granville Market, and then … oh … whatever.

“Whatever” arrives sooner than planned. That wind! Gusts barrelling down the Creek, and me staggering with their impact. Once I make it upright to Spyglass Dock, I decide not to press my luck any longer and cut up the access road beside Cambie Bridge, heading for a bit of inland shelter.

See? Even a traffic sign is toppled.

Smart right onto Commodore Rd., leading to Moberly Rd. and a more prudent route that starts with this berm of trees and woods at the eastern end of Charleson Park.

I am now “off course,” in that I haven’t walked this route before, but surely that’s a bonus? (As Phyllis, my wonderful Tuesday Walking Society partner back in Toronto, would say: “It’s all walking…”)

Very peaceful, on Maberly Rd. — trees to the left, narrow roadway, homes to the right and just beyond them, the Creek.

More people and bicycles — and dogs — than cars. This cyclist has just stopped, yet again, to give his little dog time to catch up. All this gives me time to notice the exceedingly moss-shaggy shrub there on the right, practically under my nose.

I move in, expecting to bliss out on all that moss, and instead discover it is festooned with dangling amulets, twirly-bobs, ceramic ornaments and ribbons. And this brazen babe, lolling on the fence rail, half out of sight.

I love this stuff, I do, and I’m in high good humour — also safe from wind — as I continue down the road, then cut to the land side of the Charleson Park Community Garden, and head into the open parkland beyond.

Where I don’t even know how to take in what is happening.

A little boy next to me screams, “CROWS!!!” with the enthusiasm and leather lungs that only a six-year-old can possess. His father and I exchange round-eyed looks of amazement and mutter allusions to Alfred Hitchcock.

Indeed, CROWS.

All over the grass, lining the tree branches, swirling through the air, and filling that air with a raucous uproar that rattles my brain. Father and son have moved on, I’m now standing beside a woman thoughtfully studying the scene. “Chafer beetles,” she says. “Crows dig the larvae out of lawns. Wow.” She gives a little snort-giggle. “And they just sodded this thing, too.”

I carry on about loving crows, but I tell you, I am happy to get out of that park, and through Sutcliffe Park onto the east lobe of Granville Island. Winds have died down, and not a crow in sight. Just a pair of boaters out there in an endearingly simple wooden canoe, paddling along.

And around and around I go, looping myself onto the north side of the Island, taking the path just in behind the floating homes of Sea Village.

I walk on down the line, peering into the gaps between homes.

I’ve fantasized about living in a houseboat, who hasn’t, but not very seriously. I’ve been on a few — most dramatically in winter-time Yellowknife, on Great Slave Lake — and have realized I enjoy visiting but wouldn’t want the upkeep.

So bye-bye to the Sea Village houseboats, and inland to the main part of Granville Island.

Where I hang over the fence to enjoy, as I always do, the sight of the aptly named Giants — the concrete silo murals painted by Brazilian twin brothers under the joint name of Osgemeos for the Vancouver Biennale.

I finger some crafts in the shops, drop my jaw at the range of fresh produce in the food market, find myself a latte (you knew that), and finally catch a bus home.

Soon after, the rain returns.

 

Omens, One-Two-Three

4 January 2020 – I’m not superstitious, black cats & ladders are safe with me, so I don’t get all jumpy about a possible bad omen — but I’m quick to call something a good omen and get all gleeful about it.

So please join me in the Historical Present Tense, jump back to 1 January, and get all gleeful with me about my walk that day.

We’re having lots of rain this winter, but here in downtown Vancouver, this first morning of a brand new decade, the sun is blazing down.

First good omen: sunshine.

It bounces crisp shadows off richly warmed walls …

and highlights just a riffle of cloud in that Alberta-blue (still my criterion) sky.

Which brings us to my second good omen: feet overrule brain, and it pays off.

Brain thought that we (the whole mind/spirit/body collective it thinks it controls) would head north-then-west. Feet abruptly veered east instead, into the South Flatz.

With a zed. Because this once-grotty stretch of reclaimed lowland — from the current artificial end of False Creek on east to its former natural end near Clark Drive — is becoming an artistic and intellectual magnet, thanks to the relocation here of Emily Carr University of Art + Design.

But the train tracks still run along the north side of all this redevelopment, and graffiti, murals and boxcars are as much part of the scene as the snazzy newcomers.

I peer through chainlink fence, using boxcar ribs to frame images on the walls beyond. I smirk at this neatly lettered graffito: “art is pain.”

I have visions of an Emily Carr student bursting out of that handsome building right behind me …

to leap the fence and take out his/her frustrations on that wall beyond the tracks.

Next door, another handsome building, this one the Centre for Digital Media, a post-grad collaboration among various universities. More art, but this time 3-D, official and not at all painful.

No need for that umbrella today!

The work brings to mind the Love In The Rain sculptures by Bruce Voyce in Queen Elizabeth Park, but I can’t find confirmation.

I’m up by Great Northern Way by now, once train tracks and now home to cars, bikes, pedestrians, and even a Little Free Library box. Of course I peer in.

Oh, New Year’s is so ten hours ago!

Across the broad street, an imposing & equally broad staircase. Lined with statuary.

I’m glad it’s there, but I don’t quite know what I’m looking at.

Over at Clark Drive, though, I know exactly what I’m looking at.

As in: “I’ll see your padlock and raise you a pair of clippers.”

I follow my feet north on Clark for a bunch of boring blocks, be grateful I’m skipping this bit in the re-telling. Just south of Prior, I head west again, with no particular plan in mind except to escape Clark, and wander willy-nilly through industrial park territory — everything from tool manufacturers to “integrated media solutions” studios to something called Flüff (with the umlaut) and the Vancouver International Marathon Society.

Some okay murals, plus this imaginative use of (I think) a glue gun to create a runic cameo on one corner of a nondescript wall.

I wander on, feet doing the work, mind along for the ride. Then eyes see three spur-line train tracks, and brain & feet agree we should all turn left and follow the tracks.

Which brings us to my third good omen: serendipity. Sometimes you rediscover by accident a place you could never find again on purpose.

I am so pleased. I recognize this mishmash of brick and wood and out-buildings, covered in murals. Complete with alley-ways (dungarees optional) …

and plant growth as much part of the total effect as the artwork.

By sheer, happy, welcome-to-2020 good luck, I have once again found myself at 1000 Parker Street. I am behind the Parker Street Studios, which houses some 200 artists in its four sprawling floors of space.

Every alcove and doorway an explosion.

Its spirit? Look closer, up above the top-left corner of the door.

“People are having too much fun,” it says.

I laugh.

The guy standing nearby, having himself a smoke, turns at the sound and nods. We talk. He is one of the building managers. “Oh, it’s a great place. Lot of really good artists here, you know — all kinds.” I say yes, I know; I came here once on an art tour. “Come back any time,” he says.

We beam at each other, wish each other happy new year, and go our separate ways.

2020

30 December 2019 – Oh 2020, you are almost here.

We know you want to treat us right, so here are some suggestions.

Please be the kind of year in which, for example, a functional utility box is also a bright-eyed owl …

an equally functional bike stand becomes a work of wool art …

a derelict houseboat is transformed into a floating artists’ haven …

and grubby old car tires turn into safe, bright playground pads.

Put your mind to it, 2020.

Be a year in which padlocks denote love …

tent cities are full of joy and magic …

and the downtown core offers us abundant public benches …

recycling locations …

and bike rental stands.

C’mon, 2020! Accept the challenge.

Be a year in which the graffito underfoot is a coffee cup, not an F-bomb …

even a 93-year-old monarch tries to stay current …

crows feel free to offer editorial opinion …

and the humble little sparrow dares to dream big, and succeeds.

Happy new year, everyone.

May we all have a year in which we dare to dream big, and succeed.

(I feel I must add: I do know this is just the pretty stuff, and there is much that is dark, dangerous and disgraceful. But I believe we must also recognize and celebrate everything that is wonderful. It restores balance to our vision, and it gives us the energy and motivation to get out there and help make things better.)

Off-Main

24 December 2019 – I’m weaving around that Main St. axis, mostly not on it but orienting with it even so…

“Palimpsest!” I think as I pause at this E. Pender alley corner, always happy to use the word (it’s such a wonderfully crunchy mouthful).

Look closer, and no, it’s not some one-time iconic brand. It is, well it says here, “Good Company Lager.” It also says, “What’s Up Fool,” but let’s ignore that.

just below it, a graffito correction for the old-fashioned washroom signs also painted on the wall. “Non binary” it scolds, the lettering faded but the 21st-c. message clear.

Right, shame on you, there are more gender options than male & female.

(My personal “WTF?” is all about the signage convention that men get to be men, while women have to be ladies, but each to their own obsession.)

Another message, this time full of beauty and spirituality, at E. Hastings and Gore — no. 21 of the 31 mosaics embedded in downtown sidewalks, especially here in the Downtown East Side.

I love this series, love discovering the squares at random. I’m always amazed that people can walk right over them unheeding, but stubbornly confident that many other people do notice, do enjoy, do feel energized by the civic display of beauty.

I especially like this particular mosaic, of course, for the raven…

 

… and for that message of survival, still defiantly there despite the beating inflicted on this explanatory sign by time and vandals.

From underfoot to overhead, as I veer back along E. Hastings to Main.

Vintage neon! There since this café opened its doors in 1942.  (Brings to mind “The Goof” in Toronto’s Beach neighbourhood…)

More neon in the doorway, a cup presumably brimming with Ovaltine.

I waver, I do, I confess to a long-standing fondness for chocolate Ovaltine … but… naaah.

I go home for coffee.

 

 

Grand Chain

18 December 2019 – All those decades ago, and only for a while, I was pretty nifty at square dancing. Practically every step has now left memory, but I still recall a few basics. Including “Grand Chain” — a sequence in which you leave your original position, weave your way among other participants, and end up back where you began.

I think of this, the other day, on a very crowded bus. Not for the first tine, either, because a Grand Chain often takes place on Vancouver public transit.

It is set off by a combination of (a), official signage …

and, (b), human kindness. (Though not always the full square-dance choreography: there’s no guarantee, not even the likelihood, that people will end up where they began.)

Signage reminds us that Vancouver busses are not only fully accessible, they reserve front-of-bus priority for certain categories of passenger.

Which means that I, all these decades later and all by myself, can be enough to trigger a Grand Chain of seat redistribution.

And so it is, this very crowded day.

  • I, visibly a Senior, pay my fare & slalom my way into the knot of youthful standees immediately past the driver.
  • Middle-Aged Lady smiles and stands up; I smile and sit down.
  • MIddle-Aged Lady in turn slaloms into the congested aisle.
  • Young Man smiles and stands up; she smiles and sits down.

Driver, next stop, calls out: “Stroller coming on!”

  • People vacate the side-facing front seats.
  • Stroller Mother smiles and locks in the stroller.

  • Now-Standing-People slalom along the aisle.
  • Middle-Aged Lady spots someone Now-Standing whom she judges older than she is; she once again smiles and stands up.
  • Somewhat-Older-Person smiles and sits down.

My stop!

  • I get up, smile at Middle-Aged Lady, and wave at my seat.
  • She smiles and sits down.

Grand Chain.

  • 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"

  • Recent Posts

  • Walk, Talk, Rock… B.C.-style

  • Post Categories

  • Archives

  • Blog Stats

    • 97,564 hits
  • Since 14 August 2014

    Flag Counter
  • Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 1,785 other followers

%d bloggers like this: