“Dream So Big …”

10 April 2019 – I only notice the slogan later on. “Dream so big…” it says, “people laugh in your face.”

I’m not dreaming anything, big or small, as I head-swivel my way past endless independent retail shops and cafés, out here in Vancouver’s Point Grey neighbourhood.

And if I had to name something in particular that I am not dreaming, at this very moment, I might nominate … oh … a lion.

Maybe especially a lion on a canoe.

Perhaps most especially a lion on a canoe on a van.

But here he is.

I move in closer. I admire the crossed paws.

The van driver is grinning at me through his windshield. He rolls down the passenger window, leans across to urge me to check out the lion from the street. “He’s dark on that side,” he explains. “Half light, half dark. Go look!”

So, with a cautious eye for cars, bicycles, motorcycles and city busses, I step onto the street.

Half & half, just like the man said.

Now his driver’s-side window is also open, and I can see that his hat is just like his lion.

There’s no commercial application to all this, he tells me — though he thinks he might try some busking this summer — and he has no webpage, no business card.

He’s just a cheerful man with a lion on-his-canoe-on-his-van.

I don’t get to ask about the “dream so big” slogan, because I only notice it on the van side panel as I start to walk away, and before I can turn back, he is pulling out into traffic.

Doesn’t matter. We did laugh in each other’s face, didn’t we, and I’m still giggling a bit as I walk on down the street.

 

 

Doin’ the Details

1 April 2019 – It’s a day for details all right, out here in the Strathcona neighbourhood of east Vancouver, first solo and then with Frances.

A black bird (crow?), for example, riding high above a doorway, with an artist’s brush in his beak.

Riding high above other doors as well, including the one on the white house on this cheerful line-up of homes along Keefer St. approaching Hawks.

But, cheeky/charming as crows are, there are many other ways to express yourself.

With a toboggan above the door, for example …

or a great wave of metal and glass in the doorway itself.

Or, instead, you can throw yourself into repurposing mode, and plonk a bathtub in the sidewalk verge, just waiting for spring plantings.

Why stop at a bathtub? There must be an old wringer-style washing machine lying around somewhere … or, if you’re lucky, two of them.

Behind the tubs, the red awning marks the home of The Wilder Snail Neighbourhood Grocery and Coffee, right at Keefer & Hawks.

Frances & I meet here for lunch before heading off to the day’s one planned event: a visit to the Catriona Jeffries Gallery, farther south and a bit farther east, on East Cordova.

We’re looking forward to visiting the Gallery, not least for the opportunity to see how Patkau Architects (the same Vancouver firm that designed the Polygon Gallery in North Vancouver) has repurposed the old Pilkington Metal Marine workshop.

The patio entrance to the Gallery has a severe, calm beauty, tucked behind a tall black wall that shields it from the sidewalk, and echoing other corrugated metal claddings all around.

After that, it’s back out to fun on the streets.

Lookit this trompe l’oeil mural, for example! Those apparently structural yellow beams and pink alcoves frame blue paint, not blue sky; that is all solid wall.

Later, we play Spot-the-Special — after my walk up Sophia Street, my eye is in for Vancouver Specials. We see a number of them, all somewhat modified over time and well maintained.

This one on Union shows how the street cuts across a slope — the houses on this side are below sidewalk level, but on the north side rise well above it.

And now … and now I offer you an exceptionally boring grey bird house, on a politely pin-striped tree.

Hmmmm, you say.

I’d’ve passed it without a second thought, but for the plaque beneath. (Ever since the years of marching around Toronto with Phyllis, my Tuesday Walking Society colleague, I’ve been a great reader of plaques.)

This isn’t any old pin-striped tree, it is a Snake Bark Maple.

And it isn’t any old Snake Bark Maple — it is in the Collection of the Vancouver Art Gallery, though cared for by the City’s Parks and Recreation Department.

Why?

Because it is part of the Palas Por Pistolas project of Mexican artist Pedro Reyes. In 2007 he began trading food vouchers for firearms, which are then melted down and turned into shovels, which are then used to plant trees. Ours, planted in 2008, was the first installation outside Mexico.

Speaking of installations-on-the-street … One last example, back at Main Street, under the Georgia Viaduct.

“Blank walls invite graf. Let us put nice art instead,” says the tidy block lettering — and, after thanking the city for this “fresh new canvas,” that’s exactly what the artist does.

A very satisfying last detail, to crown a very satisfying day.

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.

Bark/Smile/Bite/Kiss

14 February 2019 – Happy Valentine’s Day!

If you survive the dog…

 

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.

  • 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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