Encore!

12 August 2017 – Well, it’s been Music City around here, and my ears are grateful.

All those hours on Spyglass Dock, bathed in one musician after another, and then immersion in the Bach Festival. I’m walking back through downtown after one of the afternoon performances, not exactly humming Bach, but certainly still somewhere in that universe, when I hear — alive-alive-o — very happy music, of quite another mood.

Not the call of the crow. But related.

Sort of.

I’m passing City Square, and here’s another of the Pianos on the Street. Complete with musician and audience, as they usually are. The website blurb is amazingly true to what I’ve been seeing, around town.

Pianos On the Street is about more than just placing a piano in a location and giving people an creative outlet to express themselves in public. Every step of the way, we focus on how we can deliver the best musical experience possible while also doing our part to support and have a positive impact on the local communities.

… We spend anywhere from 10-15 hours on each piano, carefully tuning it and ensuring that it’s maintained to the highest performance standards.

…  Every year, each piano is hand-painted by non-profit groups such as Canuck Place Children’s Hospice and Cascadia Society. We work together to ensure that they have the supplies they need and help them to brainstorm designs.

Beyond the painting, we also love it when pianists get creative in their performances.

And this pianist is creative, yes he is, having a good time and giving the rest of us a good time as well.

By now I’m seated on a bench. The young man next to me gathers his backpack, prepares to leave, we exchange glances & smile, the way strangers do when they discover they are enjoying the same thing.

“I live around Olympic Village,” he says. “I’m around these pianos a lot. The other day? I watched this kid sit down — not here, one of the other locations — anyway, he sits down, he’s maybe 8 years old. And he plays Rachmaninoff! Rachmaninoff! Cross-hands and all!”

We shake heads at each other, admiring, agreeing.

“See you,” he says, and off he goes.

I settle back, and listen a little longer.

 

 

 

Chinatown-Plus-Plus

28 May 2017 – I’m toured around this bright, sunny weekend by a friend who loves to walk fairly slowly, look around carefully, take time to see, and perhaps take some thoughtful, judicious photos along the way. I am more indiscriminate, lolloping along like a puppy-dog, all big eyes & enthusiasm.

We both have a good time.

I’m in my city-as-art-installation mode: just look at all the components that, together, make up cityscape! Chinatown buildings as a study in colour blocking, for example:

A big punch of red, against the background cream. Colour blocks, and chunky architectural blocks as well.

The old Chinatown, I am told, is disappearing; here as elsewhere, gentrification is at the expense of pungent specificity. All the more reason to enjoy what is still here.

But no reason not to enjoy, as well, an endearing new-style shop sign.

The food markets are bustling, wide open to the street this sunny, warm day. Each one with its foodstuffs wide open as well — offering a whole world of textures, colours, odours.

We stop to stare at a particular example of a building style I’m seeing a lot, here in Chinatown. I’m privately calling it “tall-skinny” simply because of the shape, but that’s pure ignorance on my part. There is surely a proper name?

In a way, this is an unfair example: many of the tall-skinnies are beautifully maintained, or restored, this one is not typical. But its shabbiness is, to me, fascinating. The faded colours, the texture of the peeling surfaces — and the adjacent alley doubling as a hydro corridor, which is as Vancouver-distinctive as the building itself.

I tilt my head, study the top floor, the windows on the top floor, how each serves as a frame for a still-life within.

I’m now paying attention to windows, to the scenes they frame.

Farther along the same street, a woman leans out to water her window-ledge plants: counterpoint to the plants diagonally above, contrast to the nearly blank windows in cross-diagonal.

And again.

This time the wall cross-hatched with shadows, the window offering a composition worthy of Mondrian at his blocky-est.

Now we’re in Strathcona, on cottage-y residential streets. I see what my eye wants to call gingerbread, except it bears no resemblance to the Victorian gingerbread I know so well in Toronto’s Cabbagetown.

A kind of Arts & Crafts gingerbread, perhaps? Sort of? I like it.

I’m shown, and stupidly don’t photograph, a Vancouver Special — an example of a utilitarian, cookie-cutter style that spread through Vancouver in the 1960s, designed to minimize costs & maximize floor space. In atonement, I pass on to you two links (thank you, Rolf). One gives the history and human story; the other a more purely architectural study, but on a heritage site that presents it as one of the city’s chronology of housing styles.

I love all the exuberant colour on these wooden houses — wine-red (I always think of it as CPR Red), mustard yellow, paddy green, bright purple, bright blue. The colours pulse, the houses jump & dance.

Though maybe this isn’t the best example! It’s a cheerful bright green, all right, but you can hardly see it for all those flowering shrubs & trees. Nature just flinging herself around, what a hussy.

And if sometimes Nature gets flung into a couple of antique wringer-washing machines, and left to brighten the sidewalk … why not?

No lattes today; we stop for ice cream at The Wilder Snail corner store in Strathcona. Then we start looping back to our starting point, the City Centre SkyTrain station at Granville & West Georgia.

Our route takes us past the gloriously named …

Ovaltine Cafe.

I later read it has been in continuous operation since 1942; I nowhere read whether or not it serves Ovaltine.

Clearly, more research is required.

 

 

Signs of Fall

28 October 2016 – As established readers know, & the rest of you are about to learn, I am shameless about puns. Even when they are dead-obvious groaners. Case in point: the title & content of this post.

The Tuesday Walking Society is out in force, all two of us, starting south on Roncy (Roncesvalles, when it is trying to be dignified) & planning eventually to turn east on Queen St. West and then … just keep going.

I stop almost immediately to gurgle endearments at this cat. The surrounding parking-lot signs just add to his raffish charm.

Roncesvalles parking lot, s. of Dundas West

Stomp-stomp for a bit, and then Phyllis nudges me, chortling, “A huge pumpkin — on Garden Avenue!” I agree it is terrific, a true sign of fall, and on exactly the right street corner.

fake pumpkin, real fruit & veggies

Upon inspecting it up close, we realize it is fake!

We decide to roll with the punch. Just a bit of Hallowe’en decoration, we agree, and look — everything else this greengrocer has on display is absolutely real.

First sidewalk sign of the day.

in front of a Roncy bakery

We admire the word — it doesn’t exist, but ought to — yet resist the temptation. Too early in the walk for treats.

Next up, more fall fakery, but come on, admit that you love it.

bike on Queen West nr Roncy

An old geezer watches me take the photo, squints at the bike, rocks on his heels for a moment, and rasps, “Now, that’s really pretty.”

Striding down Queen St. West by now.  A coffee shop catches our attention, but not our patronage.

on Queen West

Still, if you happen to be addicted to both offerings … what bliss.

Bliss comes in many forms. Some have a hole in the centre.

more temptation

I stop mid-stride for this doorway alcove.

Why am I so enchanted? I think I’m still imprinted by that walk on Sherbourne (previous post), where I saw bird (etc.) forms everywhere. Here, I see a moose. Phyllis is not convinced.

moose, sort of

“Look,” I argue, waving my arms. “Left antler turquoise, right antler blue-striped, and he’s hugging Claret Guy With One Sad Eye.”

I’m still thinking about compassionate moose when I am again stopped mid-stride. By now we are in the heart of one of Toronto’s Little Tibets, and therefore awash in various meditative offerings …

Plus this.

in the Queen West Little Tibet

I love it. Take that, Tibet-stereotype!!

Now a Mysterious Gap in this account of our walk. Next post will fill it in, I promise.

Meanwhile, hop-hop, and on to Queen West & Dufferin, and the railway underpass that when constructed in the late 1890s was known as the “Queen St. Subway.” We know the date & the original name — plus the name of the mayor and city engineer — because all this information is chiselled in stone to commemorate what must have been, at the time, an epic next step in technology, transportation, city expansion and Progress in general.

underpass, Queen West & Dufferin

That’s not what I notice first, as we walk through the underpass. First I see that saucy 21st-c. mouse, only afterwards the stately civic pride of the 19th-c. stone signage below.

(You squint. You ask yourself if I intend this blur as an artistic effect. Don’t be silly. I was merely incompetent at taking the shot. But I do like the mouse, and his culture-contrast with the stonework below.)

Next, just a big old fun mural, complete with happy guy in cherry-red shades.

Until you read the tribute line above.

a Queen-West RIP tribute

Notice one RIP, and you start noticing more of them. Too many.

More Queen West kilometres under our heels, & more signs. Like this admonition …

Queen West nr Ossington

 

and then this riff (sort of) on an old Beatles song.

Queen West east of Ossington

Who could argue?

Meanwhile, Back on Sherbourne Street …

I have such helpful readers! Back yourselves up to my previous post (The Show on Sherbourne) and revisit the mural at Sherbourne & Queen St. East. Where I originally confessed I couldn’t decipher the artist credits, you will now see the three names nicely filled in. That bit of editing is thanks to reader filo21, whose comment on the post supplied the missing information.

My second thank-you is to Rick H., who commented quite perceptively on my breezy but lazy “certified Whatever” tag for the west end of the Birdo Tenso mural. Rick sees it as “a close relative of the Hornbill-esque bird” at the mural’s east end, and I think he is absolutely right.

 

 

Race

17 July 2016 – Finally!

My kind of racism …

Carlton & Parliament, Toronto

 

I saw this, didn’t have my camera with me, went home, got the camera, doubled back, got the photo.

So I hope you are amused.

The Charm of a Sunny Day

24 January 2016 – Nippy, but brilliantly sunny, that was Saturday. The kind of day to reward an inquisitive eye, and pop even our muted winter palette into high relief.

I’d had a preview the day before, as I prowled some neighbourhood streets & alleys.

in a Cabbagtown front yard

See? All that colour & texture, doing its Happy Dance under our winter sun.

So I set out lake-ward on Saturday, full of optimism. The first amusement is just one block from home.

cat prints in replacement sidewalk pavers

Not exactly a dance of colour, I’ll agree, but certainly a dance of cat paws. Prancing across those sidewalk pavers, complete with their very feline message: “I’ll go where I please. Even if it’s gooey.”

I have no particular reason to head for Lake Ontario, just the belief, confirmed by experience, that there’s almost always lots to see and enjoy.

I cut through Sherbourne Common, the recreational park cum water-treatment facility immediately north of the waterfront.

Kiddie play equipment, so busy with children all summer, sits still and silent in the winter chill. This spinning disc, for example, a blur of motion in July …

in Sherbourne Common

is now transformed into pure, sculptural art.

Big contrast with the southern (lakeside) portion of the Common. It is home to the Paul Quarrington Ice Rink & Splash Pad. No prize for guessing which activity is currently in season!

Paul Quarrington Ice Rink & Splash Pad, in southern portion, Sherbourne Common

Right.

I follow the lake edge west to Sugar Beach, named for the Redpath Sugar Refinery on its western boundary. Sugar Beach is one of a string of high-concept, very urban parks developed in the central portion of the city’s lakefront over the last decade or so.

At first I laughed at the mid-winter sight of its oversize Muskoka chairs and bright, rigid beach umbrellas. Fine in summer, I thought, but couldn’t they have come up with a décor that worked in all four seasons?

I take that back.

I have not only seen visitors lolling in those chairs mid-winter, as of this Saturday I have done it myself. In the sun; out of the wind; looking out over Toronto Harbour and Toronto Island; listening to gulls & geese & ducks & the occasional airplane on its final approach to the island airport.

I pass a lean, young cyclist as I enter Sugar Beach. We nod, he strips off his helmet as we agree it is a major-fine day to be out & about, and we each sink into a chair, mine somewhat farther down the beach than his.

cyclist doing his stretching routine on Sugar Beach

You’d be excused for thinking I’d stumbled on a sun-worship cult, but no — while I am content just to sit back and breathe gently, he is soon on his feet again, working through his stretching routine.

When I finally walk on, I’m amused to see more footprints — different species & ephemeral not permanent, but they still make me remember those busy little cat prints I saw earlier.

footprints in Sugar Beach sand & snow

The shifting sun brings out stronger shadows. I cock my head at the foot of Yonge St., admiring the way the railing plays against the sidewalk.

Ground zero - foot of Yonge St. at Lake Ontario

Also admiring, as always, the litany of names of all the major communities along Yonge St. and their distance from the lake. Its purpose: to demonstrate that Yonge is the world’s longest street. (Assuming you allow it to change name as it goes, that is.)

From Toronto at 0 km, to Rainy River at 1896 km. With North York – Richmond Hill – Aurora – Newmarket – Barrie – Orillia – Gravenhurst – Bracebridge – Huntsville – North Bay – Iroquois Falls – Cochrane – Kapuskasing – Hearst – and Thunder Bay in between.

My ambition is more modest. I just walk on west for a bit, past Bay St. and the ferry terminal, into Harbour Square and HarbourFront Park.

Soon I’ll pass the outdoor skating rink, positively heaving with people & the hiss of skate blades. First I pass some ducks, most of them swimming about but a few tucked up on their very own patch of ice. Complete with their own trademark hiss!

ducks in Toronto Harbour

Farther west & farther west, and then finally I head north into the downtown core, beginning my loop eastward toward home.

The sinking sun still flashes fire. It highlights a group of buildings and throws their reflection against this office tower at Simcoe & Wellington.

S/E corner, Simcoe & Wellington

I have a knee-jerk objection to these glass towers, typically thinking only of all the energy they must consume winter & summer, to maintain comfortable temperatures.

But, sometimes, I just enjoy the view.

Year Five!

I’ve just realized: this is my anniversary month for blogging. My first full month was January 2012, when I began training for my Iceland trek and needed a way to engage with my donors. Back from Iceland later that year — and I just kept going.

All 2012, and 2013, and 2014, and now 2015 as well. Walking, and sharing my walks. Encouraged by your response to keep walking, and keep sharing.

Thank you for joining me. May we all continue in good health, doing what we love to do and sharing it with each other.

 

Signs & Portents

3 January 2016 – We seek portents early in the new year — tea leaves, tarot cards, chicken entrails.

Or in the city streetscape, on a short neighbourhood stroll.

This tiny shopping bag, for example, so neatly displayed on a neighbour’s wrought-iron fence.

A new year’s resolution, aimed at the male gender?

on a fence near Parliament St.

Or, perhaps, an admonition of overly-fastidious women?

Later, a cryptic command …

Richmond St. nr Parliament

which I obey, since it might reveal wise guidance for the coming year.

other side!

Then again, it might just reveal a Big Joke.

But perhaps that is the guidance. Laugh a lot.

Speaking of guidance, how about Lovebot‘s message? This example stands sentinel over a modest apartment building doorway …

near Parlaiment

but has the same meaning as its fellow images all over town. Each one, the work of founder Matthew Del Degan & fellow volunteers, has the same purpose: to inspire love & kindness, by reminding us that there is love in our cities & kindness around every corner.

Now that we’re speaking of love & kindness around every corner, how about this side-alley wall-woof?

alley off Parliament n. of Adelaide

A young man strides down the alley, heads for the door, then pauses, eyeing me & my camera with polite — but querying — neutrality. “Love the dog,” I say, nodding at the image. “Did you do that? Is he your dog?”

Young Man flashes a grin. “Yeh.” Slants his eyes at the wall & back at me, his face still warm with thoughts of his dog. It’s not the most accomplished art-work you’ll ever see, but it shines with love.

“Go ahead. Take a picture.”

So I do.

 

 

Alley Eyes

14 November 2015 – City alleys, and my eyes.

Which I use to admire:

Alley Cat (Craven Rd. Veteran Division) …

Alley Cat

Alley Girls (Buck Teeth Division) …

Buck-Tooth Girls

Alley Blues (With Plastic) …

Alley Blues

Alley Guitar (With a Chorus of Sax) …

Alley Guitar

Alley Eyes! (Eyelash Division) …

Alley Eyes!

Alley Code (Aztec God Division) …

Alley Code

Alley Cat (Mountain Lion Birthday Division) …

Alley Cat (Mountain Lion...)

Alley Cop (Croc Division) …

Alley Cop (Croc)

Alley Cop (‘Roo Division) …

Alley Cop ('Roo)

and finally …

Alley Skyline (Drunken Hydro Pole Division)

Alley Skyline

Okay, city skyline not alley — but (I plead), but, I saw it from the corner of an alley. And I really like the swaying hydro pole, so wonderfully giddy against that severely upright crane to the south.

 

Small Pleasures

20 September 2015 — The first pleasure isn’t so small: it’s the day itself — a big, bright, fresh come-play-with-me September morning. So I do. Even though it’s not one of my “official” Walking Days.

I am rewarded with the sight of more pleasures along the way. Small things, all of them, but proof that small can be big.

Tai chi under a shady tree in Riverdale Park East, for example …

morning tai chi, in Riverdale Park East

or imbibing liquids of choice, in a pleasant location.

Can be humans, savouring coffee on the Rooster café patio …

Rooster patio, on Boadview

or sparrows, beak-deep in bubbling water in a midtown garden fountain.

a mid-town front yard

And then — speaking of water, as we are — a fish out of.

alley w. of Parliament, s. of Carleton

Or so it says!

 

  • 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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