Downtown

13 March 2019 – All very urban. I come reeling out of Ruben Brandt, Collector, a VIFF mid-day showing, and decide I need to walk it off. The visuals of this animated feature film are brilliant — and hallucinatory.

So there I am, walking into the downtown east end, my eye sharpened to see things   slightly beyond reality.

And I am rewarded.

A man dancing with a respectable office tower wall …

ferns fluttering coy eyelashes on an unrespectable (but very tactile) parking lot wall …

and a serpent winding his tail around defenceless street-corner chairs in Chinatown.

I am even rewarded with a passing snippet of Did-I-Really-Hear-That sidewalk conversation.

Young man: “So some domestic ones escaped, and they’re gettin’ together with wild ones, and now they’re progenating like crazy.” Impressed girl-friend: “Oh, wow!”

Progenating? I begin an automatic tut-tut and then stop myself. Slightly to my horror, I realize I like it. Maybe I’m just admiring that he knows the word “progeny” and feels free to lay hands on it.

Just like that serpent having its way with those street-corner chairs.

Loop to Labyrinth

27 January 2019 – “Yes,” I said to myself, “a loop. Down to the very end-curve of False Creek, west along the north side of the Creek to the Cambie Street bridge, over the bridge, back east on the south side of the Creek, and home.”

You are not where it says you are. You are with me — in the magic of the historic present tense — in the end-curve next to World of Science (aka “The Golf Ball,” thank you Frances).

Looking west down the Creek, with the Cambie bridge arching one side to the other.

I head past the reeds and rushes in the parkland next to World of Science, hear the Redwing Blackbirds and read the warning, but without alarm.

None swoop down. Children swoop, on the other hand, exuberant with the park’s activity stations, their parents laughing and trotting along beside them.

I round the Creek’s north-east curve, then pass & briefly cut through the new Concord Community Park.

It is reminiscent — in its bright colours, high design and high functionality — of the new breed of urban parks I’d come to love in Toronto as well. Urbane, yet at one with nature. The perfect city combination.

The seawall scoops me by BC Place Stadium and the adjacent Casino, its metallic tawny walls the perfect foil for sunrise, sunset and — at the moment — dark reflections of its angular neighbours.

I’m barely past the canine off-leash area in Coopers’ Park when I come to its logical conclusion — dog benches!

First I see, and start laughing at, the dog faces. Only later do I notice the water bowl beneath each muzzle.

Up the long switch-back ramp onto the Cambie bridge. Even here, carefully distinct lanes for pedestrians and for bicycles. (The baby carriage may be on wheels, but mum wisely opts for the pedestrian lane.)

Approaching the south side of the Creek, I look east to the rest of my loop …

and then, just before starting down the spiral pedestrian staircase, I look west.

The Granville Street bridge is out there somewhere, but here in the foreground is Spyglass Dock, “my” dock it used to be, and still my favourite. Oh, how those colours punch through the day’s flat light.

And down the spiral ramp.

More colour punch on the bridge pillar, this time with an environmental message. The blue bands of “A False Creek” rise 5 metres above sea level, showing us mid-point of the predicted 4-6 metre rise we can expect through melting ice caps.

Eastward-ho, with great, grating swirls of crows on a line-up of trees between the bridge and Hinge Park. I remember seeing them here before, it must be a favourite roost.

Past the noisy crows, on to the peace of public lounge chairs and a cyclist peacefully lounging, bike propped to one side, tuque’d head barely visible, and an Aquabus chugging by in the Creek.

The City has tucked a small artificial island into the Creek just opposite Hinge Park, engineered to mimic nature’s own wisdom and provide additional rich habitat for wildlife. It creates a side-channel in the Creek, with the island to one side and the seawall path to the other.

After Hinge Park comes Olympic Village, with its shops, condos and big open square. I’m already anticipating the latte I will order in one of the cafés.

I am not anticipating the city’s latest labyrinth!

Oh yes, we are becoming a city of labyrinths, and look how engaged we are with this one before it is even complete.

See? A woman to the right guides her child along a path; mid-distance on the left, Turquoise Jacket cantilevers herself along another path, with Red Jacket not far behind.

And farther back — straight back from the “a” in the foreground word “Vancouver,” yes, that crouched dark figure — the artist.

Meet Himy (as in, he tells me, “Hey, It’s My Yogurt”) Syed, heart & soul & artist of the Toronto + Vancouver City of Labyrinths project.

I have to wait my turn to speak with him: one after another, passers-by stop to ask about his work, and thank him for it. I discover he’s another Toronto expat, so we swap a few Rob Ford horror stories before chattering about street art and artists in both cities.

Then he returns to his chalk, and I go find my latte.

Where I find myself still smiling about Himy’s project, and all the joy he creates for the rest of us.

 

Bike & Hike

7 February 2016 – The bike comes early in my hike, neatly hooked high against the staircase in an alley near Sherbourne & Bloor St. East. Does it await spring? Or just the owner’s next outing, perhaps later today?

bike up staircase nr Bloor E & Sherbourne

Either way, a vivid punch of red against all that black.

I cross busy Bloor East & drop down a staircase to the pedestrian bridge over Rosedale Valley Rd. Why did I cross at street level? I could have cut behind the Sherbourne subway station on the south side & used the little tunnel instead.

But I didn’t, so all the tunnel offers me this time around is a view of its non-stop street art — some planned, some definitely unofficial.

I particularly like the Blue Jay atop the entrance.

murals in tunnel under Bloor E at Sherbourne

Then I walk across the bridge, and take in a very different setting from its north, up-market Rosedale side. North & south sides of Rosedale Valley may belong to the same election ridings but, I promise you, they live in different demographic worlds entirely.

No graffiti this end, but something very human nonetheless. The plaque tells us that author Morley Callaghan lived nearby from 1951 until his death in 1990, and was a frequent user of the bridge — at first with wife and dog, then with dog Nikki as his faithful companion to the end.

Rosedale Valley pedestrian bridge from n. side

I square my shoulders, brace myself to find my way through Deepest, Darkest Rosedale. My target is Milkman’s Lane, which will lead me down into the ravine and to Evergreen Brick Works. Feeling slightly sheepish, I sneak a look at my map.

Yes! Up here, dog-leg to there, follow that curve, and sharp right into Milkman’s Lane.

It’s a steep drop down the gravel lane into the ravine. I cantilever my weight slightly backwards, and admire the father who is coaching his little boy in the mysteries of riding his bike down the lane without losing control. The child (securely helmeted) is triumphant: he’s controlling speed beautifully and deliberately wobbles his voice in sympathy with the gravel beneath his wheels as he calls out to his father — “I’m doing it!”

Into the Evergreen Brick Works complex, once literally a brick works, now repurposed for community & the environment. I thread my way past the open-air skating rink in Koerner Gardens, with a pause to admire the jaunty sunflower-cum-windmill on the edge of the adjacent Kilns.

EBW art, this on edge of The Kilns

Into The Kilns — once really kilns, now left with enough old machinery for atmosphere, but sufficiently cleared to provide room for exhibits and assorted festivals. It’s Winter Village at the moment, with fire pits and food and other stalls, the structure open to its Koerner Gardens side.

fire pits, stalls, people in The Kilns enjoying Winter Village

Skaters come & go, especially helmeted small children, shepherded by parents.

Fun for big kids too, such as this great big bunch of wooden rectangles.

I arrive too late for the stacking thereof, but just in time to see Boyfriend photograph triumphant Girlfriend with the resulting tower. She heads off to find  them some coffee; he pushes his bike helmet to one side & steps in to fiddle with the tower.

big-boy playtime in Winter Village

Then he gives the tower a mighty BOOT!!! All those rectangles come clattering to the ground. Girlfriend, by now back with coffee, gives a yip & dances around on one leg. Seems her other ankle got in the way of flying pieces of wood.

I grab a savoury scone (“Warm it for you?” “Yes, please!”) and make my way to the pedestrian path along the  edge of Bayview Ave. My goal is the Lower Don Trail along the Don River, which I can join at the Pottery Rd. access point.

And I do. I am immediately rewarded, as I head north on the Trail, by salmon leaping in the waves. Great dancing salmon, leaping in curling waves and bubbling froth.

All this on the Trail itself, you understand.

trail art just n. of Pottery Rd access

Every now & then, there’s a word to trigger your own exuberance in life. Squint at the above photo, you’ll see “Cycle.”

The art does just fine on its own, mind you …

detail, Trail art

but I start word-hunting as well. “Power” for example …

detail, Trail art

and “Joy” …

detail, Trail art

and “Life.”

detail, Trail art

I wonder a moment about”Power.” It seems a bit aggressive, don’t you think, for this sort of list? Then I decide it means positive power, the power of energy and commitment and contribution, and I’m happy again.

Finally I turn south again, south across Pottery Rd., on south & south, with eventually a glance back at the Bloor St. Viaduct, its freshly painted arches gleaming in the late-afternoon sun.

Bloor St. Viaduct

And still south & south, to the not-gleaming — in fact, very scruffy — staircase from this Trail up to the pedestrian bridge across the Don Valley Parkway that links the East & West sections of  Riverdale Park.

stairs from Lower Don Trail to Riverdale Park pedestrian bridge

Ooof. It’s a lot of steps. And ooof some more steps, up the ravine edge of Riverdale Park West.

I check my pedometer when I reach home, prepared to be Very Annoyed. On Tuesday, Phyllis & I walked for 3 hours, only to have my eccentric pedometer tell us we had covered 0.39 km.

Today, I am offered a reading of 11.67 km.

 

  • 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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