Time With Grit & Grime

15 September 2018 – Grab it all, drink it all in, right? Revel in eco-sculptures one day, but go prowl alleys & street corners the next …

And so here I am, back in Mount Pleasant neighbourhood, back on Main Street. Where I discover another click-clack-fall-is-back:

This street piano is still on the street, but locked up tight. (Only later, looking at my photos, do I see that piano keys are painted on the padlock.)

A silenced piano, but fair enough. There are not many people still patio-lingering to enjoy it, even had it been open for use.

I’ve been pretty sketchy about discovering this year’s Mural Festival contributions to the neighbourhood, so I double back onto Watson — looks like an alley, but it’s a legit street with its very own name — to go see what might be there.

If there is a new mural nearby, I don’t see it. I’m struck instead by this hopeful message — I interpret it as hopeful — on a dumpster.

Bit farther north, and I get to pay tribute to one of my all-time favourite Mural Festival offerings, this one a veteran from 2016.

Oh, I love this wolf. (And the companion wolf, out of frame.) It’s more than aesthetic appreciation, I realize: I stumbled on the 2016 crop of murals by accident, while visiting that year, not even knowing that a Mural Festival took place. So there’s a whole serendipity-lucky-charm current of warmth I feel, every time I see him again.

More wandering, and eventually I’m on E. Broadway (aka 9th Ave.), just west of Main. I side-slip into the alley & bend myself back-back-back, peering up-up-up, to pay proper attention to this glorious fire escape, with its entirely improbable cross-stitch of artwork, top to bottom.

All that, and one of those big boxy Vancouver hydro poles to complete the image.

I straighten up, and discover a Millennial right next to me, busy taking the same shot. “I saw you & wondered what you were looking at,” she confesses once she too is again vertical. “It’s cool.”

Farther west on Broadway, and a tattered poster I don’t understand, but the devil-baby graphics suck me in. Then I decide I like the larger composition even better: Manhattan Project + devil-baby + “Faro” +  the battered, barricaded windows + assorted scribbles.

The city — any city — just keeps throwing up these random art installations, the elements assembled by chance and disparate hands & intentions. Some cohere, some don’t. (Oooo, aren’t I playing the Deep Thinker! I’ll stop now.)

I don’t have any of these Deep thoughts at the time. I am immediately distracted by a bright red poster next to the devil-baby ensemble, and move in to read the fine print.

Later I find Expressions of Belonging online, and discover these events are being organized by a local Master’s student, not as part of her studies, just as a way to encourage human connections within the urban web. Coming up 23 September, so you still have time to mark your calendar if you’re local– but note the venue has moved to the Kitsilano Community Centre.

One last citizen of the urban web who demands our attention — a creature of many roles but, at this exact moment, playing parking vigilante.

There is always a crow.

 

“This Is Toronto”

9 March 2018 – I borrow the title and, in a bit, will show you the source.

What a good time I am having, in this visit to my old home town! Above all, for beloved friends. But also for the sheer pleasure of once again prowling the city’s alleys & streetscapes.

Enjoyment comes naturally. I don’t need this command to STOP and enjoy.

I enjoy …

Mural cat, with balloons …

and porch cat, with Jesus and a pair of cardinals …

and a pair of dogs …

a pair of caterpillars …

and a whole birdo animal fantasia.

I enjoy the long-view impact of one exuberant garage …

and the up-close impact of a love letter to Pete …

and a tribute to Baxter.

There is life guidance on offer.

Lower-right, tucked into this alley-corner mural, for example:

Here I must stop shooting photos at you and add a few more words.

The quote is beautifully lettered, and attributed to Group of Seven artist Lawren Harris. I carefully say “attributed,” because I cannot find it online. Which doesn’t disprove the attribution and, either way, I am charmed. Charmed to see the loving reference to Lawren Harris on a downtown alley corner.

Also charmed by the quote itself, which includes the lines: “It is blasphemy / to be merely moral … / to succumb to second-hand living”

Let us never succumb to second-hand living.

Less elegant, just as urgent, the guidance offered in the upper-right corner of this cinder block wall, over there in black, above the black grill and the black car.

I see a doorway tribute by someone who follows that advice, who explicitly promises never to give up on love …

and an implicit, and unexpected, message of respect.

Yes! Respect. The mural covers the wall and touches upon the parking sign, but — deliberately and carefully — does not obliterate it.

I usually curl my lip at stencil work. I make an exception for this statement, and I am delighted to run into it twice, in two days.

Later, I stand mesmerized on a street-corner, dancing my eyes around this big, bright, multi-coloured, multi-imaged proclamation of joy.

Can you read the inscription? Small letters, above the artwork, just to the left of the wooden hydro pole.

It says: “This is Toronto.”

And so it is.

Just Listen

22 November 2017 – I don’t often obey a wall, but this one is unusually authoritative.

I am walking along E 8th Avenue, approaching Ontario Street, minding my own business … and, there it is. A very busy wall.

Very busy, and very bossy as well.

Jeez, okay, I’m listening.

And reading. Lots to read.

Including one rather dire poem/prediction …

along with lots of upbeat proclamations as well.

In a scientific/metaphysical sort of way.

(Though perhaps not expanding for people who want to park their cars on this congested street…)

Enough about the universe. What about Precious Me?

And not only with each other. My cells are also in agreement with your cells and those of some unknown, but presumably welcome, third party.

But wait! We are more than a bunch of cells in agreement!

Goodness. The only suitable response would seem to be …

I walk on, thinking I have perhaps been underestimating the inventiveness & sheer fun of Vancouver street art.

 

 

What the Leopard Spotted

6 February 2017 – Leopard. Spotted. Get it, get it? (Painful nudge in the ribs.) Painful play on words, too, but as seasoned readers know, I am linguistically shameless.

And he is one terrific leopard.

detail of mural, n. side Gerrard just e. of Broadview

I’m walking east on Gerrard, just east of Broadview, mildly surprised to find myself here since I’d meant to get off the streetcar at Danforth but … um … for some dozy reason bailed several stops too soon.

And I am rewarded with this leopard! Detail of a larger mural, the rest of it depicting Chichén Itza, but all I want is the leopard.

So now let’s pretend that he is our guide, our spotter, for the rest of the walk.

A whole flurry of words comes next, as many words as a leopard has spots, you might say.

n. side of Gerrard, e. of Broadview

I confess I still haven’t read every last syllable. So you don’t have to, either. We can still enjoy the conviction, the exuberance, not to mention the steady hand, that transferred all that verbiage from someone’s whirlygig brain to a convenient wall.

And now the leopard & I pad our way softly north to Danforth, and eastward again.

Where we meet more words — but only a chosen few. By a master of words. And curated by an institution devoted to words.

in front of Re:Reading, 548 Danforth

We pause at Greenwood now, leopard & I, just north of Danforth, edge of an alley, and spot another mural. Lots of activity in this one, all of it advertising Lucsculpture School and Studios (“relief through creativity” says the home page).

I like this detail best. Luc himself, I assume.

on alley wall side of Lucsculpture, Greenwood just n. of Danforth

Into the alley.

For a hit of pure alleyscape. A not-very-accomplished red face (or something) on a scruffy doorway, framed by other graffiti scrawls & a chipped black grill locked around a rear staircase. Plus a demure, nicely polished, good-taste, late-model automobile.

alley e. fro Greenwood n. of Danforth

I can’t justify it. I just like it. Sometimes — for me anyway — it’s the juxtaposition of independent elements that creates the art.

Farther down the alley, for a couple of moments of cliché that transcend cliché.

The first cliché is the image, a scrawled face that I have seen on oh-so-many alley walls by now. It’s the gate that rescues it. I dance back & forth, hurriedly adjusting — oops — for the ice beneath my feet, and find the spot that amuses me.

same alley, farther east

Peek-a-boo!

The second cliché is the phrase uttered by a man passing by, who, having called out “Hullo!” then urges me to “Have a nice day.” And he is so cheerful, so meaning the words, that he rescues the phrase. I find myself saying it right back to him.

Then we both smile, and walk on.

 

  • 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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