Swell, Scruffy, Swell

25 June 2017 – And all in one day, too, neatly sandwiched. No surprise about the “swell” that began & ended the day: I’m talking about yesterday, which was Doors Open Vancouver, a day designed to showcase notable city buildings for residents & visitors alike. The surprise was the “scruffy” in between — and an even more surprising (to me) correlation with the later “swell.”

I leave home with a limited Doors Open agenda, limited by the fact that I’m not free to trot around town all day; I am an afternoon DOV volunteer, and decide I can only fit in one morning visit — the very swell Orpheum Theatre. A 1927 movie theatre with the exotically luxurious details of the day, it followed the usual arc of such theatres & by 1973 was on the verge of being gutted & turned into a hive of mini-theatres. Various public & private sector heroes rode to the rescue; it is today completely refurbished, a National Historic Site, and a much-cherished, well-used theatre.

My afternoon shift is in an equally swell structure, the Scotiabank Dance Centre, which opened in 2001. This, by contrast, is an example of a 1920s building (a branch of the bank) that was gutted, save for the façade, with the footprint brilliantly reinvented by Arthur Erickson and Architectura as an 8-storey complex of dance rehearsal and performance studios.

So as I head south on Seymour St., late morning, I am still dazzled by the Orpheum and eager for the Dance Centre. My mind is in Swell Mode.

And then I see this.

Oh, my dears.

Even though I strongly suspect the whole thing is a joke, a carefully spelled-out joke, it’s a terrific joke & I laugh. The black-gloved broad is pretty terrific too…

So my humour is even better as I loop around a bit, and find myself on Granville nearing Davie — and therefore the Dance Centre as well. My mind is back in Swell Mode, I an anticipating the architectural pleasure to come.

Then I glance to the right, where there is a staircase down into a sunken sliver of parking lot. And I see this, and of course I nip right down those stairs.

We are back to scruffy! Not recently-commissioned, high-class parking lot street art by a name-brand artist. No. Definitely old, & peeling. Scruffy.

But it still has charater.

With a space ship, for example, or perhaps bumble bee, take your pick …

and some kind of critter, beckoning me on.

And he really does lead me on, because he is at the corner where this parking lot feeds into an alley.

I peer around the edge, looking toward Davie.


There are parrots soaring over skyscrapers …

and an inscrutable face over a dumpster …

and a bit of Alley Philosophy, to Make You Think.

I’m laughing like anything when I emerge on Davie — all the more so, given I am almost dead opposite the entrance to the Dance Centre, and I like the juxtaposition a lot. I even consider jay-walking (will I never renounce my bad Toronto habits?), but opt for a demure legal crossing at the street corner instead.

And look, virtue is rewarded.

I discover why those two parrots are fluttering around the alley.

At the time, I’m just pleased to get the reference. And admire another bit of neon art.

Later, online, I learn that the ground floor of this 1890s building was the Bank of Nova Scotia local branch from 1912 to 1929.

When it moved to the Bank’s fabulous new building, right across the street.

Which, in the 1990s, was donated by the Bank to the project that was to retain the façade, incorporate the name, and transform the footprint into the new Scotiabank Dance Centre.

Where I spend a very swell afternoon.




“A Punch of Colour”

11 February 2016 – I use that phrase a lot, to introduce an image with a vivid focal point. Never more accurately than right now. It greets us high on Roncesvalles, early in this week’s outing by the Tuesday Walking Society.

advertising a boxing club, high on Roncesvalles

A knockout, eh?

(It’s OK to groan.)

The joke is, I don’t take the image for the visual pun. I want to capture the anti-pigeon spikes atop the glove. And fail.

Moving right along!

As we do — south on Roncy, to where it stops short at a cliff-edge overlooking the lake and both King and Queen streets spring off to the east. We choose Queen, for no particular reason, and then rubber-neck our way past one nifty little store-front after another, many of them antique/vintage/junque shops.

We enter one of them, poke among the usual stuff, chat briefly with the agreeable owners — and are invited to meet Tom Dooley.

He is indeed hanging down his head, per the old North Carolina folk song, but not in contemplation of being executed for murder. No. TD is sound asleep, in his favourite chair.

I rustle around with my camera, and he wakes up.

"Tom Dooley" in a Queen West antiques shop

Corner of Sorauren & Queen West, and I come across a favourite mural. This happens a lot — I love them, indeed show them to you on this blog, but then forget where they are. So each rediscovery is another happy surprise.

Kwest (etc?) mural at Queen W & Sorauren

It’s the work of Kwest, and I think a few others, but his is the only name I am secure about.

I particularly like the final guy in this rather Chagall-esque line of figures, peering so quizzically at the vehicles below.

detail, mural at Queen W & Sorauren

Later on — back north/east to Dundas West near Brock St. —  we see a short alley covered in art. The work is unfamiliar, but we know the names, this trio often paints together.

We’re drawn in by these brilliant birds, the work of Fiya Bruxa …

alley s. from Dundas W e of Brock

slide on next to man & dog, by Bruno Smoky …

alley s. from Dundas W e. of Brock

and turn to the Big Cat on the opposite wall, by Shalak Attack.

alley s from Dundas W e. of Brock

One more spin of the heel, to check out the fish back on the west wall.

alley s. from Dundas W., e. of Brock

I don’t know this artist, Nick Sweetman, but obviously I should!

More walking, then the usual coffee break — with the world’s most spectacular singing bird somehow etched into the foam on my latte — and we continue east on Dundas West.

Big laugh at the brightest image in this shop window near Ossington:

a food shop, Dundas W & Ossington

Is that not the best possible image with which to close a post?


    "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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