Really-Rain

16 November 2017 – Sometimes, there is no “almost” about the rain. It is really rain.

But if you’re out in it anyway — which, I am learning, is the appropriate response — it delivers its own kind of nifty moments.

There is Red on Grey, for example …

and Water on Water …

and finally, from the Cambie Bridge in the gathering dusk, Lights Through Water on Water.

After that, it’s all about Umbrella Choreography, through which we, its many creators, constantly adapt the Dance of the Crowded Sidewalk to our collective numbers, skills, and patience.

Rusty Submarine

22 August 2017 – “We all live in a yellow submarine,” carolled The Beatles back in 1969, but nowadays, here in Hinge Park, the palette runs more to rust than to sunshine.

And it is equally magical.

I love walking around False Creek, as you will have noticed by now, and I always wander through Hinge Park as I go. Repurposed land made beautiful for the community to enjoy, how could you not love it, rejoice in it?

The “submarine,” of course, isn’t one, but the whimsical structure is part of the park’s magic. Why just throw serviceable planks across the watercourse, when you can offer up some come-play-with-me sculpture instead?

Two periscopes, count ’em, and lots of portholes — places for humans to look out, and for the sunshine to peek in, throwing spotlights among the shadows.

I’m entering from the south, I’ll climb those steps at the north end up to a knoll where yet another channel of water starts tumbling down the hill.

That channel is narrow, contained, and sparkling clear. The water in the waterway beneath me is also clear, but right around here, it is carpeted in vivid pond weed, emerald contrast to the tawny bullrushes along the shore.

Peer the other way, see more of the Olympic Village condo towers in the background.

Soon I’m on the north-end stone steps, regaining footing having been nearly run down by these kiddies who charge on through, whooping with delight, their feet & their voices echoing the length of the chamber.

And then, whoop-wh0op, they reverse gears & come charging back. I’m in the grass by now, out of harm’s way, delighted with their delight, watching them dance hippety-hop from one sun-spotlight to the next.

See the little girl, still halfway through the tube? Hippety-hop.

On I wander, heading east, thoughts of a latte in Olympic Village Park beginning to form in my mind …

But I am distracted enroute by one of the City’s glorious flowing chaise-longues along the edge of False Creek. They fit the body beautifully, they stand up to the weather wonderfully, and I want one. For my body. Right now.

I hasten my steps, realize I’m on a collision course with a Nice Young Man & his Well-Behaved Dog. He has the leg-length & youthful speed to beat me to the chair. But — aha — I have the Old Lady card to play! And, shameless creature that I am, I play it. Nice Young Man steps back, courteously. I thank him, courteously. And sink into the chair, snuggle my bottom into position, wiggle my toes.

Me & the sunshine & a breeze & my wiggling toes, plus the passing cavalcade: assorted ferries (here one of the Aquabus line), dragon boat teams, kayaks, small pleasure boats …

Eventually thoughts of latte overpower all this beauty, and I move on.

I collect my latte, yes I do. I seat myself on the café’s shady patio, and discover the newest, not-yet-official Olympic Sport.

Climb the Giant Sparrow.

No sparrows — or young boys, for that matter — were harmed in the development of this sport.

 

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.

 

Feet-First

23 July 2015 – Summertime, and my feet just want to head for the water. I am not inclined to argue. Neither is Phyllis, so this week the Tuesday Walking Society followed its four feet down Bay Street to the ferry terminal, and hopped aboard the Ongiara. Destination: Toronto Island (really, a whole complex of islands).

 

aboard the Ongiara, heading for Hanlan's Point

His is not the only bike helmet on deck. This particular run is to Hanlan’s Point, which is the most western of the three island docks. It is also the most remote from either visitor or residential infrastructure and consequently a big favourite with cyclists who plan to explore all the islands, bays and trails.

I’m delighted to see this statue of Ned Hanlan right at the dock.

statue of Edward Hanlan, at Hanlan's Point ferry dock

The eponymous Hanlan (oh, I do love a chance to use that word…), born in 1855,  took up rowing as a small child when living right here and went on, in 1880, to win the world single sculls championship in England. He held the title until 1884, during his career had a run of 300 successive racing victories, and — this is a complete non-sequitur — went on to become a city alderman.

The statue is quite new, taking over pride of place from the plaque telling us that Babe Ruth hit his first professional home run right here as well. His only minor-league home run, they add: he was promoted to the majors, lickety-split. (The Babe’s plaque is still there, just remounted in a less prominent position.)

The boat has now disgorged its passengers: a couple of maintenance vehicles (only official vehicles allowed on the island), numerous cyclists, one young fisherman busy assembling his rod as cyclists start streaming on ahead, and us.

We putter along the edge of Block House Bay, leaving the hopeful fisherman behind.

Block House Bay, near Hanlan's Point

By nipping over to the lake side, we see the west end of the city itself across the water. We pick out the Humber River pedestrian bridge — an arc of white at water’s edge, about midway along — and use it to orient ourselves on the waterfront, connecting the view from here with what we see when we’re walking on that shoreline instead.

looking to Humber Bay, city-side, from Hanlan's Point

We follow the curve of land, pass by the fingerboard to the Clothing Optional beach, but follow the one to Gibraltar Point Lighthouse. It sits among trees and shrubs, nowhere near the water. Why would anybody put a lighthouse here? you ask.

Gibraltar Point Lighthouse

Because when it was built, in 1808-09, it was only eight metres from the lake’s edge. The shoreline has shifted a lot since then, but the lighthouse endures —  the oldest still standing on the Great Lakes, and the second-oldest in all Canada.

It may no longer be on the water, but there’s plenty of water to be had, and beaches to go with it. Mantiou Beach, for example, nearing Centre Island …

Manitou Beach, Centre Island

Centre Island is the focus for visitor entertainment, everything from spacious gardens & fountains, to bike & quadracycle rentals, to fast food, to a petting zoo … to the absolutely delightful Franklin’s Children’s Garden. It is named for the Canadian classic Franklin the Turtle books & TV series, it has seven different activity areas for kids — all wildly busy today with day-campers — and little sculptures reminiscent of characters from the books.

Such as this beaver, by the Turtle Pond.

beaver sculpture, Franklin Children's Garden

We admire the butterfly chair, and climb the Snail Trail behind it to weave our way up a wonderfully shaggy mound, all its vegetation chosen for its appeal to butterflies.

Franklin Children's Garden

This visit, we don’t wander all over Algonquin Island, my long-ago home — I’d done that when I came out for the concert in the church earlier in spring — we head for the other residential island, Ward’s Island. Another city view across the harbour, this time to the east.

the city, from Ward's Island

We pick out Sugar Beach, and the tree-lined walk to Sherbourne Common, and then head into Ward’s narrow little streets.

Of course there is a tree house …

tree house on Ward's Island

and a wheelie-bin container with a green roof …

green roof for a wheelie-bin container, Ward's Island

and a home with a green roof. A deliberate green roof, too, not one inadvertently born of too much moss on shingles!

Ward's Island home with green roof

Finally, it is time to head back to our own homes.

We make our way to the Ward’s Island dock, and take the next ferry back to the city.

ferry approaching Ward's Island dock

Then we walk up through the city-core bustle, and feel a distinct little jolt of culture shock. It really is a different world, over there …

  • 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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