Love That Dude

8 September 2019 – This is a love story …

about this Dude.

In 1991, the Vancouver Parks Board installed a handsome new cedar sculpture, Reclining Figure, in Guelph Park — a not particularly large or widely known park in the Mount Pleasant neighbourhood, bordered on its east side by Guelph Street.

By 2017, as you can see in that Georgia Straight photo above, the wood was busy repurposing itself. Just fine for the planet as a whole; not so fine for lovers of the sculpture. The Parks Board paid to have it returned to the artist, Michael Dennis, on Denman Island.

And then… what to do, what to do?

Because, you see, this wasn’t really about Reclining Figure at all.

It was about The Dude. And Dude Chilling Park. And a community icon.

A little back-story:

  • November 2012, local artist Viktor Briestensky, in tribute to the sculpture, puts up a hand-lettered sign renaming the park, “Dude Chilling Park.” The Parks Board removes it.
  • February 2014, after an online petition gains some 1,800 signatures, the Parks Board thinks, Why not?, and puts up a Dude Chilling Park sign next to the Guelph Park sign. The park is still legally Guelph, but has dual-sign status.
  • The park’s alternate name gains international media attention; the “Dude” sign keeps being stolen as a souvenir; lots of people visit the park; and on we go.

And then it’s 2017, and the Parks Board finally removes decomposing Cedar Dude from the park, and reunites it with its creator. Guelph/Dude Chilling Park has lost its soul.

What happens next is a grassroots campaign to “Save the Dude.” ┬áThe Mount Pleasant Community Centre is a driving force in the campaign, local media get behind it, people and various societies chip in, Michael Dennis adds support — and, finally, there is money to back the public will to save The Dude by casting it in bronze.

Mid-August this year, Bronze Dude is triumphantly installed. (But I only catch up with it today…)

We love our Dude!

Fibre-art on the park’s tennis court fence proclaims it.

More fibre-art, twined around nearby tree forks, illustrates several more reasons why people love this park.

One reason, the park’s large community garden, visible behind that tree.

Spin about, sight along one of those two wrappings for another reason.

See? There to the left? People laughing and story-telling around one of the park’s many benches.

Just chilling with The Dude.

 

Daylight

1 January 2019 – I’m not thinking about “daylight” in any jargon sense, as I wander east through Mount Pleasant on 8th Avenue. I’m not thinking about daylight at all, beyond noting that today’s version is grey, and more dull than luminous.

But one thing leads to another, starting with my puzzling at this neat stencil on the sidewalk edge at an intersection.

I look around, see a traffic circle, see it has larger letters stencilled all around, move in to look.

Doesn’t get me much further. Thank you for the welcome, I think, but.. umm … to what?

I try the other side of the traffic circle.

Not as far ahead as I might have hoped… “Rainway”?

Aha, another sidewalk stencil.

Progress! All this has to do with St. George Creek — not that any creek is visible. Though, I now realize, I am at St. George Street.

There is a mud/rain-spattered sign fixed to the chainlink fence surrounding the adjacent school yard.

“Did you know a creek still flows beneath St. George Street?” it asks, and then describes the community-based project to honour the buried creek (te Statlew in the original Musqueam language) that once ran north from the Kingsway just above me right down to the False Creek Flats.

The sign invites me to notice all those salmon, painted by the schoolchildren, leaping along the fence. I do.

Later, a website dedicated to salmon in the cities tells me that more than 50 freshwater streams once ran through Vancouver, “like transit lines for wild salmon.”

The goal of this particular project, says its own Rainway website, is to use runoff from adjacent properties, laneways and the street to recreate the lost stream as part of a Rainway. It is to be an example of “daylighting” buried creeks and streams.

(You knew I’d get back to “daylight” eventually.)

The project is also meant to tie into the City’s goal of using our abundant rainwater to make us one of the world’s Greenest cities.

I’d like to be more optimistic, because everything about this project appeals to me — from community roots to public/private sector support to street art and infrastructure and environmental objectives. But it seems to have stalled somewhere around 2016. The signage is battered; none of the further steps projected on the website are visible.

I hope I’m wrong — and even if I’m right, the idea deserves new mention. It could rise again.

But oh dear, all this makes an unfortunate juxtaposition with the last scene I want to show you!

Doubling back toward home, I pass a couple of boarded-up bungalows, all fenced off, clearly soon to be razed for some higher-density infill. And, right there twined into the turquoise plastic fencing, are these words:

“Let it go.”

I don’t want the community to let go of their creek daylighting project, yet I do agree that, sometimes, letting go is exactly what we should be doing.

Perhaps especially right now, the start of a new year. Let go of everything toxic that has been hobbling us, just put it down, breathe freely, step forward more freely.

Maybe the trick, as always, is to know what to hold on to — a community creek project, for example — and what to let go. (Fill in the blanks for yourself.)

And that’s as philosophic as I’m going to get, late on this new year’s day.

So let’s let that go… and have ourselves a happy moment of fibre-art appreciation. Remember the flower next to the words “Let it go”? Like those words, it is crochet.

Aren’t you glad you know that?

  • 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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