City Math

14 July 2018 – Given my severely modest school grades in math, it is very odd that I am so fascinated by lines & shapes, as I wander around town. You’ve met this fascination at least twice before — in Recti/Curvi-Linear and in Geometry at Work & Play — and here it is again.

I’m downtown on Burrard and, as I eye a group of towers reflected in another tower …

I think: “Vertical!” More precisely, Jagged-Vertical, as tends to be the case with reflections.

Somewhat later, I’m on a bench in Emery Barnes Park, enjoying the sound & sight of the fountain at one end of the long watercourse that runs the length of the park to a waterfall at the other end.

I don’t know why it makes me remember the reflected office towers, but it does. That in turn makes me think about verticals and horizontals, and the other lines and shapes of the built city. And the way each category has its variations.

More than one kind of vertical, for example. A fountain, I realize, is Arching-Vertical.

Now that I’m looking for lines & shapes, I see the connecting watercourse with a different eye.

Never mind the sparkle of the water, the colourful mosaics in the canal bed. I’m alert to shape, and this is Horizontal. No, wait a minute: it’s Downtown-Horizontal with Pigeons and Park-Bench Feet.

I sit on my bench, watch park life for a while. Despite signage that this is not a wading pond, small children & indulgent parents think it is a wading pond, and behave accordingly.

Which brings us to the next category of Horizontal:

Horizontal with Small Damp Vertical Humanoid. (Plus rock-arch, footbridge-arch, water-jet arching-vertical.)

I begin to walk along the watercourse, and realize it offers even more geometry than that.

It is also Cruciform! And, ‘way down at the end, it leads into yellow Triangular cranes above the Verticals of the waterfall.

Close to the waterfall, I see that, at this particular moment, it is Downtown Vertical with Pigeons.

Eventually I wander on, following the very Horizontal guidelines on the sidewalk …

down through Yaletown and its many shops.

Which expose me first to …

Retail-Vertical, Foodstuffs Division; and, a little farther along, to …

well! Let’s just call it, Retail-Geometry, Rental Bicycle Division.

My eye first reads those horizontal handlebars, then registers the vertical bike frames, then adds in the circular tires and, up above, the  horizontal rack of curved baskets.

Plus, on one of those handlebars, an off-kilter vertical. (Tower of Pisa Division?)

It’s relief to hit Yaletown Dock, with a simple clear example of Horizontal (Passenger-Direction Division) …

and, a short ferry ride later, to arrive at Spyglass Dock, with its distinctive Woolly Vertical.

I sink into a Muskoka chair for a bit, and listen to a teenage girl improvise some jazz on the dock piano while I admire the Verticals (all that real estate across the water) and Horizontals (the waters of False Creek) shining in the mid-afternoon sunshine.

I catch myself trying to calculate the angle of the ferry dock ramp, and how to capture the vegetation in a suitably geometric description. I start to laugh.

Quite enough math for one day! I go home.


When Bears Go Bad…

14 February 2018


Loose Behaviour

29 October 2017 – No no, not that kind of loose behaviour.

This kind.

Frances & I are also “on the loose,” no door between us and our freedom to zigzag our way from Commercial Drive (“The Drive”)  & E. Broadway all the way north through East Van up to CRAB Park on Burrard Inlet.

One tempting shop after another, on The Drive. Greengrocers for example, their goods piled high in sidewalk bins.

Another puppy, a different puppy, & not on the loose. He sits politely in his owner’s bike basket, eyeing the plum tomatoes…

while construction workers juggle coffee mugs, consider the acorn squash. Verdict still out.

Grouchy Guy doesn’t like cauliflower…

and the café next door hopes to fatten the tip jar with a seasonal pun.

You do see strange things, along with the more or less expected. But, yes, upon reflection, the back end of a car is a perfectly reasonable shape for an awning…

though perhaps it’d do better if not so tattered.

And look, a giraffe!

No explanation on the billboard. He’s just there. But he does remind us that we’ll see more giraffes later on. (As indeed we do.)

Who cares about giraffes? Here’s Jimi Hendrix.

“He used to live here,” says native Vancouverite Frances. She’s right, and her comment reminds me that our mutual great friend Sally was high school best-friends with Jimi’s cousin Diane.

They were teens when he returned one last time in 1968, for the only live performance by the Jimi Hendrix Experience in this city. Sally was one of the group of friends and family who went back to his Aunt Pearl’s place afterwards for a long night of talking and visiting.

(I search online later, of course I do, and discover there is a Jimi Hendrix and Bob Marley Shrine, yes with a capital “S”, at 432 Homer St. There is also an account of that 1968 performance, including an — shall we say, unofficial? — recording.)

On we go.

Languid eyes on this storage yard mural turn northward toward the mountains …

while more eyes on another mural follow street traffic instead. They don’t notice — or perhaps just aren’t impressed by — the  very odd shape poking out at the far right end of their building.

But we notice. And discover a Beetle-beetle.

Then a bumper-sticker catches my eye, mostly because I have yet to visit this city, and really want to get there some day.

I invite all Portlanders, or anyone with an opinion, to provide editorial comment.

And then, here we are at Burrard Inlet. And here are the giraffes. Long orange necks stretched over shipping containers in the marine terminal right next to CRAB Park.

We swivel our heads from giraffes (on the right) to the sweeping curve of CRAB Park (on the left). One man basks in the warm sunshine, happy on his rock…

Another, equally happy, choses to bask on a log closer to the water, while his dog narrows his eyes and calculates the molecular structure of sand crystals.

We watch one more ‘copter descend to the busy helipad …

and split up to head for home.


Stone Another Crow!

Some of you commented on my fascination with crows (see previous post); Guernseyman Chris went you all one better, sending me — all the way from Guernsey, mind — this image of the island’s very own contribution to the lore.

I did ask, is “Croze” island slang for somebody/something? Nope. Just the sheer fun of phonetic spelling.

Eight Virtues of Underpass Art

27 April 2017 – T.E. Lawrence had his Seven Pillars of Wisdom; you & me, we have Eight Virtues of Underpass Art, courtesy of the railway underpass on Dufferin, just north of Dupont.

I am buoyant, as I approach Dupont. I have just spent a happy hour with my friend Sarah in the Sovereign Espresso Bar on Davenport, lingering over our lattes. There is the pain of my imminent departure from Toronto, but it is far outweighed by the warmth of all the friends wishing me well, promising to visit.

Now Sarah is off on her bicycle and I am off on foot. In an hour or so, I’ll be sitting down with other friends in Yorkville — but meanwhile, here I am in the warm, bright sunshine, prowling along, absorbing Toronto streetscape through every pore.

The underpass is shabby, the artwork peeling and visually incoherent: it has no apparent theme.

Until I see the neatly printed word “love,” block-printed red letters tucked around a curve of yellow paint.

Peeling paint; eternal virtue.

I walk even more slowly … and discover “truth.” Bold, as truth should be, despite its uncongenial background.

We have a theme after all.

Virtue by virtue, I work my way south through the underpass.

Sometimes the virtue is printed over a decorative border …

sometimes it is given visual dynamic by workmen one level above …

sometimes it is tucked between swirls of colour …

sometimes it borrows a parrot’s head …

or a human head, for that matter.

And, sometimes, it swells & diminishes, obeying its own secret rhythm.

The day carries on from there, better & better, serving up all the virtues of friendship as it goes.

And it ends, after a brief evening thunderstorm, with a glowing rainbow in the eastern sky.

Walk. Look. Taste. (Repeat)

10 August 2014 — There’s always a reason to point a walk in a particular direction, even if other distractions pile on as you go & sometimes take over.

Saturday’s plan is to explore Taste of the Danforth — a yearly weekend fiesta that has a western chunk of the artery closed to traffic and filled instead with food & other kiosks, many bands,  and lots & lots of people to sample everything going. Plus wander the shops, almost all of which are running special sales.

As it turns out, I do more walking & looking than tasting. Unless we want to call it, tasting with my eyes. (And why not?)

detail, JAH's "We see right thru you"

An eye to launch me, therefore — a detail from JAH’s huge mural on the alley-side wall of Face Furniture Optical on Parliament Street.

A great day, too, warm verging on hot, but not oppressive. Nature is in full stride everywhere I look, park or garden.

Goat's Beard (I think!) in Cabbagetown

I pay attention, I love it, I notice it, because soon the cycle will turn, we will shift gears from fat summer opulence into the fall transition to winter’s minimalism.

But not yet. I walk through Cabbagetown into Riverdale Park West, looking down the ravine slope and across expressways and the Don River to Riverdale Park East — and the towering Bridgepoint Health facility — on the far side. See? Toboggans fill these slopes in winter, but for now, flower boxes & baseball rule.

looking east from Riverdale Park West

Over the connecting pedestrian bridge, up the ravine slope on the east side, more memories of snow and toboggans — today’s reality of books & sun-block (and the promise of soccer, below).

slope of Riverdale Park East

This brings me to Broadview Avenue, the western edge of Taste of the Danforth. I draw breath … and plunge in. One kiosk after another with pennants to mark their place,  tourism information & yogurt & a public-sector union & a particular branch of Christianity & more kinds of food than I thought even Danforth — a famed restaurant location — could dream up. Vegan? Halal? Organic? Beer-wine? Greasy-fatty-salty? Take your pick, and line up.

Taste of the Danforth, nr Broadview Av.

I don’t line up, I hate lining up (even though my nose twitches with temptation), instead I think about all those pennants, and idly wonder what that grey tower-looking-thing is, farther down the line, just this side of a (I think) church tower.

It is a grey tower.

climbing tower, Taste of the Danforth

I’d like to say this climbing wall is being run by some sports-minded non-profit organization like Mountain Equipment Co-op, or Outward Bound Canada … but it’s not. It’s a promo for some upcoming action movie.

Ah well, the moppets are getting some exercise. All good.

And my nose still twitches with temptation but I am still line-up averse, so instead I duck into Carrot Common. One more line-up to avoid, this  time for shiatsu massage …

shiatsu massage in Carrot Common, Danforth Av

… and I head into the defining store of the complex, The Big Carrot Natural Food Market. I buy a can of chilled coconut water, and suck it down as I rejoin the street party.

Kids & clowns & music & dogs & skateboards & food/drink line-ups & sales in the street-side shops. (Though when the 60% off price for a T-shirt is still $59, I back out the door again, right quick.)  By now I’ve had about enough of crowds and the shuffle-step needed to navigate them. I stop looking around quite as avidly, start thinking about escape.

Then I see a combination of possibilities to stop me flat. Roman Catholic church? Sure. Henna tattoos? Sure. Henna tattoo tent on the steps of Holy Name Roman Catholic Church? Oh come on, you’re joking.

kiosk on church steps, Taste of the Danforth

No, you’re not joking. Goodness, I think to myself. Glad I didn’t bail before I got to see that!

But now my mind is made up. At the next intersection, just past the mini-amusement park, I’ll escape to the south.

Danforth nr Jones Av, Taste of the Danforth

Inching toward freedom, but still enough in the spirit of things to enjoy the fact that modest amusement rides — by today’s mega-standards — can still delight an urban audience. Bouncy castle, small ferris wheel, and adults as happy as the kids.

Then I discover that this is the end of the closed-street stretch anyway! Giggling, I head south, starting my S/W zig-zag back toward home. It takes me first through some quiet residential Riverdale streets.

I see a notice pinned to a utility pole up ahead. I don’t need to be close enough to read it to know what it will say, because I know the look. Some variation of “Missing cat” is what it will say. These signs always make me so sad, you think about the frantic owners, the frantic (if not dead) cat …

But no, look!

happy ending in Riverdale

Isn’t that the best? I’m delighted to know the end of the story, and I admire the owners, who took time to say thank you to those who helped, and reassure the rest of us. As I walk on, I see more notices about Max — they’d papered the neighbourhood — each with its thank-you stapled on top.

Another sign, this one very summer-in-the city.

Dusk Dances poster, Riverdale

I’d never heard of a week of Dusk Dances in near-by Withrow Park, and I think it’s terrific. As I walk through the Park, I try to guess where the dancing will take place, but the park is too large and varied, so I give up on the challenge and instead just enjoy everything that’s happening right now — kiddy play area, landscaped garden areas, facilities building, trails, space for the weekly farmers’ market and all.

Still dropping south and hoofing on west, soon back to Broadview Avenue bordering Riverdale Park and the Don River. Down the eastern slope, onto the pedestrian bridge, and yes, the baseball diamonds are still busy. (Though with different teams, or so I conclude from the different colours of jerseys.)

baseball in Riverdale Park West, from pedestrian bridge

This time I don’t take the stairs on the western slope, I instead walk the trail up through the woods into Riverdale Farm. It takes me past the ponds, and a notice about the restoration project underway.

pond in Riverdale Farm

Now I’m cutting back though Cabbagetown and closely eyeing the gardens, always something to learn. And look, twined among the shrubbery, between sidewalk iron railing and the home behind …

prayer flags in Cabbagetown

Prayer flags. I’ve never seen them in Cabbagetown before.  I’m mildly surprised. They seem more likely in Parkdale, say, or Riverdale — but not out of place, even so.

One final vignette, this one not surprising at all. It’s very typically Cabbagetown.

a Cabbagetown moment

Iron rail fence, bicycle, attractive wooden box to camouflage the plastic wheelie bins, with a tiny, perfect green roof on top.


And now for a bit of

Shameless Self-Promotion

The catalyst is a comment on my previous post from the author of woman’s eye view (I’m a follower, check it out). Do I publish my walks? she asks.

Yes, as a matter of fact! Not as a straight compilation of my posts, but focused in themes. Two books, so far.

First came, Walking the Waterfront.

"Walking the Waterfront" by Penny Williams, Blurb

And then, Walking the Streets & Lanes.

"Walking the Streets & lanes," by Penny Williams, Blurb

Please click, and riffle the pages. See what you think.

Into the Multicultural Garden

3 April 2014 — Better known as Danforth Avenue, and it’s not until the Tuesday Walking Society alights at the Victoria Park subway station that we read the message and learn the phrase.

But I get ahead of myself. Before I can join Phyllis on the Bloor subway line for our ride east, I have to walk up to Bloor St., don’t I? And on the way, I’ll explore alleys, won’t I?

The first bit of amusement is pre-alley, I’m still at Gerrard E. & Seaton. Big, bold mural art echoing the music studio inside. I’ve seen it often, still get a kick out of it, so here’s a look for you.

Last post, piano keys; this time, brass.

music studio, Gerrard & Seaton

I dive into Woodward Evans Lane, no alley art, but a deft touch on the otherwise-drab protective pole where this lane joins Central Hospital Lane:

Woodward Evans & Central Hospital lanes

I pass a generously tattooed young woman walking her dog. I know the extent of the tattooing because — brave young thing that she is, or perhaps just totally fed to the teeth with winter — she is in shorts, with an open jacket over a scoop-neck T-shirt. Dog poops, she scoops; you don’t have to be middle-aged & plain-vanilla to respect the environment. Yay her.

Lots of residential life, back here in Central Hospital Lane. As I take this next photo, a young man emerges from a neighbouring doorway, carefully adjusts his bike helmet, hops aboard & pedals away.

in Central Hospital Lane

This is a bit reminiscent of an alley intersection I showed you in my previous post. I’m getting into these unadorned, back-lane streetscapes. I like the textures, the angles, the colours smudged & battered by time.

Then a laugh. I’m used to rude Rob Ford stencil art around town, here’s some Stephen Harper (our prime minister) for you.

PM Stephen Harper stencil art

Yes indeed-y, those in power will have a quieter life if the rest of us are quiet too.

A final bit of back-alley streetscape (in a different alley) before I rejoin Sherbourne and enter the subway station at Bloor. Big contrast with the look & mood of those earlier alleys.

Out on Sherbourne, the boarded up front façades at least have bright product & performance posters all over them to give the appearance of life and cheer. Here, behind the scenes, the buildings are literally falling apart as they await demolition.

behind Sherbourne nr Bloor E

Then into the subway station, where by luck I position myself in exactly the right spot on the platform. A train pulls in, Phyllis jumps off, grabs my elbow and we — zip! — hop aboard again before the doors can close.

We dismount ‘way east at Victoria Park, where we’ll hit the street and start walking back west.

This station is where we meet the “multicultural garden.” These are the final words in a long message above the tiled artwork of a huge tree, its roots, trunk and branches filling one entire stairwell, bottom to top, side to side.

Toronto, a city where those with diverse roots can grow and intermingle into a complex and exciting multicultural garden.

I’m not totally wowed by the phrasing & syntax, but I love the message.

It reflects the circular tile artwork on platform walls, where the word “welcome” appears in more languages than I can count, let alone recognize, and again in the “roots” artwork just outside the station door by the bike racks.

multicultural tree, Vic Park subway station

And so we head west, into the multicultural garden. All the way back, street signs support the promise of that message. (I would not have been so acutely aware of the mix, but for the message.)

First up…

Danforth shop nr Vic Park

Heavily Bangladeshi here, but not uniquely. Soon, this…

carpet shop, with hookahs, Danforth

Such a rotten photo! Please enjoy the content and forgive the presentation. This is just one of a whole multitude of carpet stores along the Danforth, this one — for reasons best known to the shop-keeper — featuring hookah pipes as well.

We pass Gerry’s Newfoundland Corner, are disillusioned to see nothing particularly Newfie about the handwritten menu in the window, and I take no photo.

Then this plaque.

maple tree plaque, Danforth Av

It’s on the wall of a clothing/accessories store, where we’ve just admired some very handsome purses hand-stitched in India.

There’s no sign of a maple tree along the street. We peer down the narrow slice of alley between this building and its neighbour. Ummm…. there’s a big, raggedly pruned tree at the back, but deciduous, so no leaves to help us decide if this is the maple that the community managed to save, 15 years ago.

Some blocks on, we dive into a baking-accessories store, with all the types of pans you could imagine and every other tool and gadget. Phyllis is an amazing baker, she knows what she’s looking at and strokes some of the items very appreciatively indeed. I am charmed by the variety and quantity, and the dedication of the store-owner to this one specialized category of the cooking arts.

She’s a lively young Oriental woman, but there’s nothing particularly oriental about the store, except this, next to the cash register…

in a bakery accessory shop, Danforth Av

I take a moment to read the card on the cash register If you want to use a credit card, you have to spend at least $20. A debit card? Easy-peasy, anything north of 10 cents.

Farther west again, ick-yikes, all the creepy-crawlies that can attack you and your home. An exterminator has samples of their destruction (e.g. a wooden beam, post-termite) in his window, plus images of the critters themselves. For example…

an exterminator's window, Danforth Av

Enough of all that, one last shudder & we move on, back to the varied delights of the multicultural garden.

on Danforth Av

This reminds me of a TV documentary I saw about the yearly championships, held of course in Ireland, but featuring troupes from all over the world. I was intent on the music and dance, but learned a lot as well, on the way through.

I’m still telling Phyllis about the doc when we almost trip over this invitation…

on Danforth Av

… but we don’t succumb. We walk on, walk on, and finally reward ourselves with sensational coffee & treats at Leonidas, corner of Pape.

Then, warmed & treated, we head onward & home.

Speaking of Coffee

The F’Coffee photo last time, even with my arch reference to “final pronounced vowels,” managed to remain a mystery for some of my readers — all with as many brains as I have, but obviously with fewer rude words in their vocabularies. So. Delete the “ee” and pronounce what’s left. There.



    "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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