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.

 

 

  • 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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