Street Talk

13 May 2019 – I feel not the least bit artsy-precious as I insist that, yes, the street does talk to you, and in your reaction you talk back to the street, and on and on the conversation goes.

How fitting, given my theme, that here on the edge of Chinatown there’s a fresh reminder of an old linguistic factoid, blazoned beneath the rotting window frames of a derelict building.

Padlocked doorway, rubbish-strewn …

with an exhortation to spiritual renewal, bright against old posters …

and nature’s own renewal, bright against the sky.

Nature’s renewal farther east in Strathcona neighbourhood as well.

The herringbone weave of rhodo buds yet to unfurl, for example …

a vivid blossom tucked into someone’s front staircase …

and wildflowers down an alley, perfectly at home against that garage door.

Still in Strathcona, another alley, this time with a workshop. It spills soft jazz into our ears, the music flowing out over the bike gears & chain pressed into the doorstep design.

More bike art, this time for bikes, this time out west in Kitsilano.

Who wouldn’t want to chain their bikes right here? We can’t, we’re on foot, visiting various stops in the west-of-Main art crawl, but we pause long enough to admire the bike rack before going inside.

Lots to notice on Kits residential streets, they’re like that.

Solo again, post-crawl, I read a curb-side warning …

but, being dog-free, I move on, and eye a sequinned flamingo instead. I briefly — oh, so very briefly — eye that Kawasaki Ninja 500R as well, but resist the opportunity to make it mine.

Walk on. Chitter-chatter, me & the neighbourhood, feet moving me eastward again.

At Fir and West 5th, I discover the Fir Street Rectifier Station. Fortunately I don’t have to know what a “rectifier station” is, to enjoy the harlequin utility box right next to it. (I looked it up later. It’s an electrical substation. Doing whatever substations do.)

The temporary path for the under-design Arbutus Greenway is right opposite, bordered here by the Pine Street Community Gardens.

I have walked chunks of the Greenway (once, with a vigorous visiting friend, right to the Fraser River south end), and I will surely explore it again — but not today.

Today, I sink down on that Community Gardens bench instead.

And I do not smoke. Just as well. The bench plaque says: “No smoking SVP.”

I love it. Street talk at its pithy, bi-bi best.




Handlebar, Handlebar… and Handlebar

1 March 2019 – Count ’em.

Bikes, Box, Building & Progress

15 August 2016 — Not quite as hot today, not quite as humid, so I’m out marching around town, getting some things done, frisky as a colt I tell you.

Cast an appreciative eye on this decorated bike basket — a common enough sight, but no reason not to enjoy each one.

decorated bike basket, College St. nr Bay

An equally appreciative eye for this traffic signal box at College & Elizabeth streets — again, fairly common, these murals on utility boxes, but always a pleasure.

College & Elizabeth streets

Then I look again, first noticing that here on the north side of College St., Elizabeth St. has turned into Dr. Emily Stowe Way. “Suffragette,” I think, somewhat vaguely; “pioneer in female medical education and care.”

Next I step closer, read the banner on one of the mural figures …

detail, utility box College & Elizabeth


Dr. Stowe (1831-1905), denied university entrance here because of her gender, studied & qualified in New York City. She then came back home to open a private practice in Toronto in 1867 — the first in Canada to be run by a female doctor.

She then spearheaded the drive for female medical education that led to the creation of the Women’s Medical College in 1883, a facility that also offered outpatient medical care for women by female practitioners. It was another first, and the beginnings of what eventually became today’s Women’s College Hospital — a major research & teaching facility that still places core emphasis on women’s issues.

I turn north on Dr. Emily Stowe Way, expecting the ageing red brick pile that houses the hospital.

Except it’s no longer there. A soaring new complex has replaced it, complete with open courtyard and sleek welcoming signage.

courtyard at Women's College Hospital

They honour their past, I see: three decorative arches from the old red brick pile are now feature sculptures in the courtyard.

old arch, in hospital courtyard

But they honour their past in more ways than that.

Dr. Stowe would be proud of the building’s elevator doors. This one, for example …

elevator door, Women's College Hospital

and this one as well.

elevator door, Women's College Hospital

I am quite elated, as I leave the building to continue my morning rounds.

Hurray for Dr. Emily, I think, and for the hospital’s fidelity to its founding principles.

Down on Dundas St., closing in on Yonge, I’m back to the earlier bicycle theme. This time a whole row of them, tidily locked up in a Bike Share platform. More bike “art,” too. And another marker of social progress.

Bike Share stand on Dundas west of Yonge


See? Take your pride for a spin.

Then I’m off to market to buy parsnips & wheat germ & stuff & stuff. All very mundane. But I’ve seen delightful things this morning, so even parsnip-buying takes on a bit of sparkle.



    "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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