Time for Grit

25 November 2020 – This time, my feet walk me right past the waterscape of False Creek, on north into the cityscape of Yaletown.

Time for some city grit.

I am standing at the corner of Mainland and Davie, just behind the skytrain station. I’m about to wander this downtown enclave with its mixture of upscale boutiques (everything proudly “artisan”) for the influx of upscale residents, plus services for and reminders of the population they displace.

So I do smile at this image, as requested — including at the sassy “Take requests?” someone has added — but I know I’ll have cause during this walk to sigh as well as to smile.

Oh look — a skeleton! With a mic for its chest. And why not, entertainment is one of the neighbourhood offerings.

Still on Mainland, now at Helmcken, where I contemplate the guy quickly, and surely illegally, slapping a poster on that utility pole. A ribbon of street mural weaves around his bicycle, on its way up this block of Helmcken.

Steps right opposite Poster Guy bear a message now blurry with time, but still warm in intent.

Can you make it out? “We shape/each other/and fit/together.”

My zig-zags take me along Helmcken. At Seymour I’m drawn to this bright ceramic tile plaque on a building wall:

Only then do I notice the building itself. This is the City-run Gathering Place Community Centre, a social centre for the Downtown South community. “We primarily serve vulnerable populations…” says its website, and this is obviously true.

For one thing, individual tiles in the plaque often commemorate lives cut short.

For another, the website lists practical support for the homeless, such as showers and laundry service, along with meals and other programs less specifically focused.

And for yet another, one of the windows displays this poster:

In the midst of pandemic, more addicts are using alone, and more are dying.

Walk around with open eyes, and you are reminded how many worlds co-exist in the same geographic space.

Back among the boutique shops of Helmcken, I see another poster — this one on the sidewalk, adapting Dr. Bonnie Henry’s mantra to a best practices code for considerate shoppers.

While over in Emery Barnes Park, on the fence of the off-leash area, there is another best-practices code on display.

This one is for considerate dogs.

(I am enchanted at the thought of all those up-market, downtown dogs: both literate and considerate!)

I walk and I walk and eventually my feet have me back south of False Creek, home once again in Mount Pleasant.

An alley off Broadway reveals the devastation of a recent three-alarm fire among shops on Main Street …

while a front view, on Main itself, shows that our local Yarn Artist has joined others in expressing sympathy and support.

All these realities, all at the same time.

  • 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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