Notes from the Dock

5 August 2017 – Pen & paper notes, yes, how old-fashioned, how satisfying (how functional)… but other notes as well.

You’ll see.

The forecast is 30C, the heat wave is due to last at least a week. I decide to head for the water right after breakfast & just hang out. It’s a favourite stretch of water, and close to hand.

So I walk north on Cambie, walk right on under the looming bridge, cross some bike paths, jog slightly west then north again, now beside the bridge not under it …

and I’m almost there!

You’d guessed. You know my love affair with Spyglass Place. I will sink into one of those Muskoka chairs, and let False Creek life unfold around me. There will be cyclist traffic, and foot traffic, and ferry traffic, and distant car traffic on the bridge.

And there will also be, there already is, music. Because — look again — there’s that “Jazz Cats + Mice” public piano ‘way down in the curve of the landing, and an old fellow is playing it, and the air itself dances to the strains of “If you were the only girl in the world, and I were the only boy…”

He segues into a succession of rags, played very stride-piano style.

His legs may need that Zimmer frame to get around (parked next to the bench), but by golly, his fingers fly all by themselves.

So I sink into a chair, adjust my hat, pull out my notepad, look around, & settle in.

To the west, long curves of the False Creek seawall, with cyclists and walkers on the path, a mum cuddling her toddler on the balustrade (his chubby little legs barely visible), and anchored boats bobbing in the water below.

Ferry boats bustle back & forth, linking Spyglass Dock with all the other stops both sides of False Creek. Passengers stream up & down the gangway.

For just a moment, a dragon boat hangs motionless in the water, the coach bellowing his critique of team efforts so far.  Then it’s up-paddles and away they go again.

Much more peacefully, a double kayak glides beneath the bridge, passing between striped pillars of the A False Creek art installation, the top stripe depicting a 5-metre rise in sea level.

There is a butterfly at my feet …

and crows up there on the railing, their peculiar rolling-pebbles chuckle filling my ears.

I exaggerate. What really fills my ears, keeps filling my ears and the ears of everyone else here at Spyglass Dock, is music. Provided by one musician after another.

Blue T-Shirt man plays a few scales, slowly, carefully, accurately.

Black T -Shirt man (the logo advertises beach volleyball somewhere) at first runs more to School-of-Sondheim. But then, before picking up his bike and riding off, he gets all bouncy with stride. (What is it about public pianos, and stride? The two seem to go together.)

Red Cap Guy plays quite a long time. It’s pretty darn E-Z listening, is what it is. He does it well, he is happy, people applaud; I tell myself not to be so snotty, and relax into it.

Then — reversal. Grey-Hair Man, who was listening so intently to Red Cap, is now at the keyboard. I pick out “Qué sera, sera, whatever will be, will be…” before he starts to doodle around, very at ease at the keyboard.

So at ease, he invites some children not just to come listen, but to imagine that they too — really! — could learn to play the piano

The kids linger, quite fascinated.

Grey-Hair moves on, Red Cap plays again, this time with classical riffs thrown in. (Debussy’s “La Mer” for example.) He stands up, steps back; Black Cap arrives, sits down, and disappears into his music.

He’s more bravura than his predecessors, with more chords, more emphasis, & more experimenting — it seems to me — with modulations and progressions for their own fabulous sake. Red Cap hangs in, listens, really listens. When Black Cap finally gets up to leave, they bump fists in mutual appreciation, chat a moment, exchange contact info.

Red Cap plays again, also doodling with chords for a while, but then drifts through some Bach and a flourish of Hungarian czarda. His fingers are up to it all.

A passing cyclist leans over just long enough to plonk a few keys …

but another cyclist throws down his bike, and gets serious.

Followed by a young boy, who with slight hesitations but not bad technique works away at his piano lessons while his family consults the near-by pillar map.

Dad sticks with the map-reading; mum and baby sister join the boy at the piano. The little girl becomes very busy exploring sound; the boy cheerfully yields the keyboard to her chubby fingers while mum praises them both.

Almost all male pianists, have you noticed?

Now a young woman sits down, settles in, props her smart phone in front of her, and begins to play and sing. I think she’s recording herself, I’m not sure.

I finally leave, her voice floating me away from the dock.

I was there a good four & a half hours; the piano was silent for perhaps 20 minutes, total.

 

By Land, by Sea, by Foot, by Ferry…

4 July 2017 – It’s the Canada Day weekend, I’m off to Granville Island to enjoy the celebrations with family, and I consider modes of transport.

I could be part of the by-foot brigade, walking west along the False Creek seawall and curving myself onto the island: I’ve done it a few times already since moving here, and it’s mightily tempting.

But I’m even more tempted by the ferry!

So I bounce down to Spyglass Dock instead, admire yet again that piano with its “Jazz Cats + Mice” motif, and jump onto an Aquabus, just about to push off from the dock.

The ferries are not only frequent, inexpensive & efficient, they make you smile. They’re right up there with helium balloons, they just make you smile.

That’s the cartoon drawing on the captain’s T-shirt, but it’s true to life.

Fifteen minutes later (with one stop in between), I’m on Granville Island.

Me and many others; people are gathering. We — and a sky full of sunshine — are celebrating Canada’s 150th birthday. Official maple leaf flags and insignia all over the place, but my favourite is this very wonky chalk rendition on a sidewalk.

Granville Island isn’t really an island at all, it is a sandspit on the south shore of False Creek, home to factories & sawmills in the early 1900s but now entirely transformed, a magnet for Vancouverites & tourists as well: a huge indoor public market, home to theatres, artisan workshops & studios, retail outlets, a sake maker (Canada’s first), 2 breweries & a distillery, a community centre, and the Emily Carr University of Art + Design.

We weave among the crowds, buskers & music on all sides. Perhaps because my niece drove & I came by ferry, I start ticking off modes of transport.

Cars, of course, tucked up in mural-bright car parks …

bicycles, up-ended in their own lock-up along one wall …

a kayak!

Well, no, not the mode of transport, but on display, and what could be more fitting? There are scads of them in False Creek, along with dragon boats & canoes.

Down by the Emily Carr buildings, I see a transportation triple threat, bing-bang-bong, all in a row: a boat awaiting its launching, a school bus, and (left of the bright yellow school bus) a white chartered bus.

One more means of transport: magic carpet.

And “magic” is the word. It is quite magic to walk that carpet-strewn entrance: once inside the shop, you could be in a souk, the textures & colours delighting the eye, the complex aromas of all those carpets quivering the nose.

Part of the holiday fun is, adults get to be 4 years old again.

We take turns playing on the swings …

and we are as breathless as the children, all jammed together to watch a latter-day Houdini (the sunlit head under the awning word “organic”) step free from his shackles.

Time to go.

I move slowly past the various outdoor solo performers, here a dapper francophone improvising on “La Mer,” there a Cape Breton fiddler, and ‘way down there, the far end of this quay, a young woman crooning jazz to her keyboard.

I find the Aquabus dock; I hand in my return ticket; I watch a little girl — her eyes large & serious — carefully hand in the tickets for her entire family, and then relax happily once aboard, giggling, responsibility discharged.

A tip of my Tilley to “Jazz Cats + Mice” back at Spyglass Dock, and home I go.

 

More Quotes, Some Keys, a Ferry, & a Dragonfly

28 June 2017 – Isn’t it always the way? You’ve never heard of something, and then you do, and then it jumps on you from all sides.

I’d never heard of John Muir, Scottish-born poet & naturalist (1838-1914), until Sally sent me the quote that opened a recent (Art of Quote-Unquote) post. A couple of days later, I’m entering the VanDusen Botanical Garden with my friend Louise, and there, beautifully incised into the glass doorway, is another Muir quote: “When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.”

(Checking it later online, I discover another I like a lot: “Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt.” The dirt-path strategy for happiness?)

We’re not in this stunning botanical garden for doorway quotes. We have come to walk the grounds, to enjoy all the collections, all the “rooms,” from the serenely austere Stone Garden to the Meditation Garden, the Sino-Himalayan collections, the Elizabethan Maze and more.

And we do. Oh, we certainly do. But we also admire the works of art in the grounds.

Including a piano.

It’s not much of a functioning piano by now, just look at those keys. But with seagulls like that swooping around (the work of Ilya Viryachev), you don’t mind.

Louise explains that the city has had several years of placing pianos in public — a CityStudio project called “Keys to the Streets” — and I realize I have seen a few about.

With more to come!

The next day I’m walking again — and again in brilliant sunshine, take that soggy Toronto, these two cities seem to have swapped weather patterns. This time in a loop around False Creek. Frances & I head west along the south side, then north across the Burrard St. bridge, its elegant Art Deco lines signalling its 1930s construction.

I stop to admire the view, and pound a few more geographic factoids into my brain.

False Creek flows into English Bay, into Burrard Inlet, into the Strait of Georgia … That’s Bowen Island, beyond that Vancouver Island, beyond that the Pacific Ocean …

We head back east on the north side. At David Lam Park, we hop around the stepping stones that encircle Don Vaughan’s temple-like sculpture, “Marking High Tide and Waiting for Low Tide,” reading the inscription as we go.

Hop, hop …

Hop, hop …

It’s just one of numerous pieces of public art around False Creek, and I like it a lot.

Now for something else I like a lot: a trip on one of the cheerful little ferry boats that shuttle back & forth! I jump aboard at the Yaletown Dock, for a quick crossing to Spyglass Place, back on my side of the Creek.

Spyglass Place Dock is a whole art installation all by itself: comfy bear-chairs for contemplating the view, artwork underfoot and all around … and, look, a piano.

This one is working just fine, thank you, its keys highly responsive, the pianist enthusiastic, and the rest of us charmed.

I contemplate a dragonfly.

I remember another piano in my recent past — this one plain blue, but startling for all that.

It was attached to a bicycle, though nicely stationary at the time in Woodward’s Atrium, part of the Hard Rubber Orchestra‘s open rehearsal for its first summer-time “Spacious Music at the Atrium” concert.

The music was good, the acoustics terrific, I made note of future concert dates.

So, pianos firmly in mind, it’s no wonder I see another as I make my way back south on Cambie. This one is in a much less appealing environment — a shopping mall food court — but it’s also part of the City’s public pianos initiative.

And it is also being played. Where the toddler in Spyglass Place ran to, shall we say, personal random expression, this guy is definitely into stride.

I hum my way home.

Where, via email, I collect one more quote!

Cake-Quotable

Thank you, Phyllis.  She was out Dundas St. West, in Toronto’s Junction area, and came across this bakery sidewalk signboard.

All right, everybody. Eat up.

 

 

Sun City

27 February 2017 – Vancouver knows how to get even. I twice label it “Wet City” and what does it do? Next time I go out the door, it pummels me with sunshine.

But my initial thought is not for the sun, as I stand on the Main St.-Science World Station platform; I am thinking about the mountains. About how they pop up, at the turn of your head, at the flick of an eye, where you don’t expect them at all.

Through the Skytrain station’s north-facing window, for example.

looking north from Main St.=Science World Skytrain station

Right there, apparently at the north end of Main St., but more precisely across False Creek and across downtown Vancouver and across Burrard Inlet and behind North Van. Right there. I allow myself a small, tourist-y wriggle of delight. In my Calgary days, the mountains were always leaping into view — but even then, I loved every flash. Never got tired of it.

What fun to be playing peek-a-boo with mountains again!

I decide to ride the train right to its Burrard Inlet terminus, Waterfront Station, and then walk back south through the city.

A choo-choo train station when it opened in 1914, now — to use the jargon — an “intermodal transit link” and beautifully restored to boot. People stream in, for various Skytrain lines; or out, into the city; or onward, connecting with SeaBus for the ride across Burrard Inlet to North Vancouver.

Whichever, they stream through a glorious lobby, in all its Neo-Classic splendour.

"The Station" - Waterfront Station, Skytrain

I stream out, first to play tourist on Granville Square facing the Inlet and the iconic sails of Canada Place. And the mountains …

Canada Place on Burrard Inlet, facing north

I don’t have a very firm plan of action, but I do have the Official Walking Map of Downtown Vancouver. And I have my own two eyes, showing me inviting pathways southward through green space.

Which lead me to the dolphins. Well, I think dolphins. Something heraldic & fanciful & marine, in any event. Very elegant.

window ornamentation, Sinclair Centre

They adorn the lower ledge of elegant windows in an elegant, restored building. The Sinclair Centre, I read: now a shopping mall, but very upscale, and brought into being by connecting four heritage buildings via an atrium. I don’t go in; I just smile at the dolphins. I’m pretty sure they are smirking, not smiling, but the sun is shining and I don’t mind.

Onto Grenville Street proper for a while, I pass an alley and — of course! — turn into it. I’m up for some alley art, that’s my Toronto training.

No alley art.

But who could resist a pink-&-gold playground? With a hopscotch painted in at this end, and dotted arcs for basketball (or perhaps ball hockey) farther down?

off Granville, between W. Pender & W. Hastings

Something leads me sideways, don’t remember, but here I am on Howe St.and — boom! look! I recognize that! (I’m still at the stage where I can’t anticipate what will come next, geographically; I can only enjoy whatever appears, awarding myself modest extra points if I recognize it.)

Yes, the Vancouver Art Gallery, which I visited just days ago with my friend Sally to see the Susan Point exhibit. Now I walk on down into Robson Square, and half-climb steps back up, to just right here, to position Abraham Etungat’s “Bird of Spring” just so against the VAG façade.

looking north to the VAG from Robson Square

And on down through Robson Square, very uncompromising concrete at its lowest level, then climbing up, literally up, into more greenery, and up again on narrow pathways, and I’m not sure where I’m headed, or if it is public property. But no gates, and it is appealing, so I keep climbing.

landscaping on upper level, The Law Courts

Terraced shrubbery & plants around me, but I become fascinated by that tower, and the reflections mirrored onto it. The influence of where I am, surely, but … don’t they remind you of totems? Twenty-first century urban totems?

tower detail

No exit up here, it turns out, all doors locked. I rewind my steps, down onto the sidewalk, see I’ve been up in The Law Courts landscaping.

I turn onto Smithe St., no particular reason except that eventually it will feed me onto the Cambie Bridge.

And then, at Homer, I have another of those “boom! I recognize that!” moments.

This time thanks to a walk last fall with my friend Louise, who pointed out The Homer. An apartment building with ground-level retail when first built in 1909, and that same combination today. Except that tenants undoubtedly now pay a lot more rent, and the ground-floor sequence of a dye works, a steam cleaner, an ice delivery service & a corner store has yielded to a very elegant café & bar.

Fair enough, The Homer has been restored to elegance as well.

bay windows of The Homer, at Homer& Smithe

Happy with my discoveries, my rediscoveries, I let Smithe St. guide me onto Cambie Bridge. Where I hang over the edge to gaze lovingly at False Creek (inconveniencing the cyclist who, rightly, thought that side of the shared track belonged to him). And flick my eyes upwards at those mountains again.

view eastward into False Creek, along the north side

I think I’m done with them, as I hit ground on the other side and walk east into Mount Pleasant.

But of course I’m not.

I stop to admire the painted building at Ontario & East 8th, and there, above it all …

view north past Ontario& E. 8th

dancing with the sky & clouds … the mountains.

Post-Script

Yes, the sun shone all day like crazy & at one point I was carrying my jacket, not wearing it.

This morning I stepped out into a snow flurry.

Wet City

18 February 2017 – “Wet City.” That’s a clue. Make a guess.

Oh, never mind. The answer is: Vancouver, B.C.

I’m back in Vancouver, and, currently at least, this art gallery in the Mount Pleasant neighbourhood has exactly the right name.

art gallery, Main St. nr East 6th

Moments later, in a near-by alley, I see some hot art.

alley s. of East Broadway at Quebec

Though perhaps not exactly what the gallery owners had in mind.

It’s a damp, drizzly sort of Saturday, the moisture so soft & diffuse I mostly don’t notice it & never put up the hood on my jacket. A landscape, & seascape, of gauzey grey.

But… so mild.

Cambie & West Broadway

See? Bare legs. And my jacket is half-open. (I mention all this diffidently. A pet peeve among eastern Canadians is the flood of photos this time of year from BC-coast friends, flaunting their crocuses & snowdrops & lattes out on a café patio.)

On the other hand, pooches must be pampered, even in mild weather.

down near False Creek

I this this warning unnecessary — at least, today. Surely the attraction today would be unguarded expensive umbrellas!

nr Columbia & Broadway

So far, I’ve been looping around East & West Broadway Ave. Now I head on north to the water, to False Creek. Lots of people out & about — with dogs, with kiddies, with their FitBits & serious running gear, with snazzy bicycles — drawn to the parks & the Greenwall (seawall) that define south-east False Creek.

People out on the water as well. Dragon boats skimming in all directions. From ‘way out there somewhere, I can hear a cox barking at his crew, “Just think about what you’re doing!” But that’s the cox’s job, is it not? To bark?

And here’s another dragon boat, just about to set out from Spyglass Place Dock, by the Cambie Bridge. Though that’s not why I’ve stopped. I’ve stopped to enjoy the art.

Spyglass Place Dock, False Creek

Emily Gray is the artist, and if you click, you’ll get an aerial view of this mural.

I like the details all along the edge, including this fat little bumble bee.

detail, mural at Spyglass Place Dock

I walk on east a bit along False Creek, into Hinge Park, admire yet more art. This time on wooden posts out in the water.

just off Hinge Park, looking east along False Creek

But, this time, I can’t tell you the artist. Or anything else about it. I just like it, I like it in combination with the tall towers & the spherical World of Science to the east. I’d like it with the mountains as well — if they were on offer. Which they aren’t.

Because, even though we’re having a moment of watery sunshine, the atmospheric theme du jour is, pervasively, droplets of rain.

pedestrian walkway in Hinge Park

When I reach Olympic Village, I make another stop. This one you can guess…

Of course. For a latte. (Some rituals travel so easily!) Then I walk on east & a bit south, angling to Main Street and my temporary home just beyond.

With a passing glance, on Main near East Broadway, at an editorial comment on life in Wet City.

shop window, Main nr East Broadway

Should I go back & buy it?

 

 

False Creek, True Fun

28 September 2016 – Remember the first image in my previous post? Louise & I are hanging over the railing of the Cambie Street bridge, about to cross north to downtown Vancouver, but pausing to watch dragon boats flash through the waters of False Creek below.

Now I am “below.” Where it is a whole other world than the one of pelting cars overhead. Here, immediately right here, is the John McBride Community Garden, complete with its very own … well, I’m not sure what! Not a bird house; perhaps for either bees or butterflies, as the art work suggests?

bee house,JohnMcBridge Community Garden, Wylie & W1st Av.

One gentleman is working away in the larger part of the garden stretching on to the east. He is fully occupied; I do not intrude.

view of John McBride Community Garden eastward along False Creek

On I go eastward, following the road closest to the water. I have done no research, this is a whim, I am simply determined to follow False Creek as much & as long as I can.

So here I am on West 1st Ave, with sleek new condos typically rising on the south side of the street, facing parking lots and occasional disused industrial facilities by the water’s edge to the north.

at W1st Av & Cook

Hoof, hoof, hoof-hoof-hoof — and then a happy surprise: Hinge Park.

I walk in, enchanted as we always are by unexpected delights, pause by one pond to eye what looks like a very playful submarine sculpture ahead.

on Hinge Island, W2nd Av & Columbia

I follow a path to get closer, and discover that, playful or not, this sculpture also earns its keep. It serves as a covered bridge over the stream.

And those portholes frame great views.

inside the 'covered bridge'!

A couple of fellow walkers give me a tip: back up along this path — yes, this one right here — and go see the beaver lodge. When the city rescued a formerly buried stream and created this park from old industrial grounds, assorted wildlife moved in. Including beavers. Whom the parks people didn’t want, and whose lodge the parks people promptly destroyed.

So the beavers built it again. And the parks people said, “Oh, all right.”

beaver lodge #2, Hinge Park

Another tip from the same fellow walkers: visit Habitat Island, just ahead. It’s part of Hinge Park, and accessible across the gravel. (At least at low tide, I’m not sure about high.) Off I go, here’s the gravel — and a view of the city to the east.

gravel walkway to Habitat Island

More tales of wildlife doing what it wants to do, not what the parks people plan: once Habitat Park was created, a heron arrived. And a hump-back whale. (Several people told me the whale story, so I believe it. I trust he got out again.)

Planned wildlife here, or so officialdom hopes. Then again, Purple Martins can be annoyingly picky.

Purple Matin tower, Habitat Island

No problem about wildlife acceptance here! Crows love this dead tree. One loves it enough to bully another back into the air, and away.

ravens being ravens...

Complete contrast to the raucous crows: someone meditating on a rock.

meditation on Habitat Island

By now I’m enjoying wonderful mixed-use trails along False Creek and into a succession of parks. Next up, the Millennium Olympic Village Park, legacy of 2010, when Vancouver hosted the Winter Olympics.

Two huge bird sculptures in the park, always a total draw for small children.

in Millennium Olympic Village Park

Also a handsome columnar sculpture, the Olympic Truce Installation, created by Corrine Hunt, who incorporated the artwork of the 2010 medals into her design.

in Millennium Olympic Village Park

In a while I reach Main Street, end of the trails and parks. Right across the street, a big warehouse district. It is  gritty as all get out, but also on my walking agenda, because a number of its buildings feature in the Vancouver Mural Festival.

Aha! I haven’t told you about the VMF, have I? Well, my stay near Main St. coincides very nicely with the  Festival — whose murals are almost all near Main Street as well.

So the next portion of this walk is devoted to that warehouse area — which will be part of my next post, devoted to murals.

Which in turn explains why that foray is not part of today’s narrative. Instead, we’ll jump over all that, and pick up again at East 6th & Main. I’m now homeward bound, striding along, but I’m diverted by white letters on a black wall, in the shade of a large tree. I draw close.

neatly stencilled on the wall, E6th St. & Main

I pause. I enjoy the shade. Then I walk on south, back to the East 12th latitude and my Airbnb home.

 

 

  • 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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