I just finished sending an email to a friend who now lives in Europe, and it reminded me of a picture I had taken in the spring of this year.
In May, she and her husband, now living in Europe, came to Vancouver for a visit. The week before she arrived, I passed by this beautiful bed of spring tulips on my way back from the grocery store. Because Amsterdam was the first city she lived in after moving from Canada, the flowers made me think of her.
I hadn’t seen her for many years. When we met in a tea shop, we chatted for the better part of an afternoon, getting all caught up on each other’s news.
This morning I had an interview at the Jim Pattison Pavillion for a library technician position. It was for 11 a.m. and I arrived at 10:19 a.m. I was just a little bit early. I left the house much earlier than I needed to because I wasn’t familiar with that part of Vancouver General Hospital and I didn’t know how far I’d have to walk once I arrived.
In my travels to where I needed to be, I discovered this low stone wall. This preserved section is from King Edward High School. Built in 1905, the same year as the original Vancouver General Hospital, it was the first secondary school south of False Creek.
Since I had time to spare and it was Friday, I took a picture of it. If you’re curious, here’s how it looked in situ.
On Saturday, this past Labour Day weekend, I took a little trip to Port Coquitlam. I wandered around for a while before discovering the delightful park near PoCo’s City Hall. In 2005, to honour the Year of the Veteran, it was renamed Veterans Park.
It’s been just over a year since the last episode of Mad Men aired. To be honest, I really haven’t watched a TV series on AMC since. Although I loved Shawshank Redemption (I own a copy; even replay the commentary every now and then), I can’t really get enthusiastic about walking dead people no matter who directs the show. I did watch the adaptation of John le Carré’s The Night Manager, but it was a mini series, only six episodes. And really good, but not on equal footing with Matt Weiner’s show.
Mad Men was something special. It was more than the fact it was the era in which I was a child. I was three when we are first introduced to Don sitting in a bar in March of 1960 writing ad copy on a napkin. But by Season 5 (May 1966 to March 1967), the landscape became more familiar – in fact, in one episode from this season Betty wore a cocktail dress in a similar style to one I remember my mother wearing. I always maintained, after seeing the “Smoke gets in Your Eyes” (S01, E01), that each episode wasn’t part of a TV series at all but rather a well-crafted film.
In honour of Mad Men’s first anniversary of its demise I wandered around one of the Vancouver neighbourhoods searching for Don and Betty Draper look-alike-house. This one with a red door will have to do.
Another get-out-of-the-house-before-the-walls-talk-back excursion earlier this week took me back to North Vancouver. I like how the cargo ship appears to be perfectly centered between the Vancouver and North Vancouver shorelines.
My beautiful peacock chair (shown here in happier times), is now unraveling on the top left side arc. The wind plays havoc with the exposed twigs. I have no idea how to repair it. Duct tape?
I was taking a walk in East Vancouver last week, wandering with no particular destination in mind, when a mermaid swam up to me. In a whimsical, watery, wavering voice she declared, “I love you.” The complacent, conniving, circumspect feline warned, “She says that to everyone who passes by.”
This is a true story.
It’s errand day – I try to be out of the house before I can change my mind. I bribe myself with breakfast at Mac’s before my errand run and then a trip to the library after I’ve finished everything on the list. After brekky, I passed by Burrard Skytrain Station and caught a passel of pigeons having brunch.
When I looked up the collective noun for a group of pigeons, there were several – flock (plain vanilla), flight (too fanciful), and kit (what a baby fox is called). So, I picked my favourite of the bunch.
I hope you didn’t get too pranked. Happy Friday!
I discovered Echo Cafe in North Vancouver a couple of years ago when I met with a potential client regarding freelance work for his company’s website. It was a business meeting, so I only had a latte. But there was something about the place; an atmosphere that, while welcoming, it was also appealing in a way I couldn’t name. Ever since, I have been meaning to return.
My first solo visit for no other reason than the tactile and taste experience of something sweet accompanied by a 12 oz latte was February 1st. I have returned several times since then, including two weeks ago for a birthday lunch. It was during this particular Echo Cafe session that I discovered their sandwiches were as good as their desserts.
It was also around my birthday that my self-perception got a bop on the head – my friend certainly had a valid point. But her incident coincided with a job interview for another position I really wanted. In light of my track record with job interviews, (and I ended up not landing this one either), I began suspecting that the impression I think I make on people might not be in sync with what’s really happening.
Which brings me to today. I am happily sitting and sipping in Echo Cafe, reading a few pages before taking a people-watching break, when the ex-potential client walks in. We look directly at one another, and just as I’m getting ready to smile and say hello using his name, his eyes slide away from me before he steps up to the counter to give his order. He ended up sitting across the aisle one table to the left. For the remainder of his visit, it became clear to me he had no idea who I was or that we had ever met.
I was fine – nothing was going to spoil my enjoyment of a double choc brownie and a latte. But all the way home, I did wonder what my future is going to look like if the impression I make on others is no impression at all.
Where is Juliet standing when she’s talking to her Romeo? On a balcony, of course! I don’t know if studying Shakespeare’s plays at university are to blame for my total obsession with Juliet balconies, but I am. They seem to add charm and whimsy to the outside of building I’d otherwise pass right by. For some odd reason, a Juliet balcony captures my imagination and transports me elsewhere. I know, I know…I suffer from incurable romantic disease.
A Juliet balcony, also known as a balconette (or balconet), is an architectural term for the decorative railing typically installed as a safety measure in front of windows that reach the floor and can be opened. In Europe, they were a popular way of creating the illusion of a real balcony when the window is open.
These beauties grace the front and side of the Victorian Hotel in downtown Vancouver.
Earlier this afternoon, I had an interview for a library position at Simon Fraser University. The place is huge, both the university grounds and the library itself. I was taken to the 7th floor for the interview. Now that’s my kind of place.
Walking through the front doors, the first thing I see is a circular glass pod housing the Loans and Reference desks. My second impression is of huge screens, several of them interactive maps of all three SFU libraries located at two other campuses. My third observation, garnered from wandering around the first floor, was that there were of a lot of people in a space delineated for specific activities, surrounded by cutting-edge technology.
If I was scouting locations for a film taking place fifty plus years in the future, I’d pick the W.A.C. Bennett Library at Simon Fraser University. I don’t know exactly why it struck me a being any more modern than other university libraries I’ve worked at or visited. I think it’s because I’ve been here several times before, but I don’t remember it looking like it did today.
Of course, my previous visits to Bennett Library occurred when I attended Trinity Western University in the early 80s. The predominant impression I had of the SFU library back then was the 10-mile trek I had to make from the card catalogue to the book stacks. Ah…the good old days.
Since today is a dreary and overcast with intermittent rain, I chose a picture from an excursion in July to Leg in Boot Square.
Occasionally, I go through my cover letter files searching for companies that might be worth contacting again now that some time has passed. I’m assuming that I didn’t land an interview or I would definitely have remembered the address. The name of the street intrigued me so much, it inspired me to go exploring.
In 1887, so the story goes, half a leg washed up on the shore of False Creek. The constabulary put the leg on display, hoping someone would claim it. Since 1887, the police station was torn down and Leg in Boot Square was designed as a pedestrian-only public space. To date, no one has claimed the leg.
A couple of weeks ago I went shopping for a birthday present at a mall in the Vancouver area. Of course I had to spend some time at my office (translation: bookstore). I couldn’t resist capturing this creative book display of The Girl in the Spider’s Web, the latest installment of Stieg Larsson’s Millennium series. According to a staff member I snagged as he was passing by, bookstore staff build these shapely book displays all the time. It takes them roughly 20 minutes.
I have mixed feelings about books written by other people after the original author has died. It’s a weird little conundrum – is it to keep beloved characters alive that the public aren’t quite ready to let go of yet or is it just a plain and simple money grab by book publishers? I totally understand the impulse when it comes to Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist. But still, even though with the mostly good reviews, I think I’ll keep my last memory of these two, Salander a free woman resigned to having Blomkvist as a friend for the rest of their lives.
I don’t usually stop and listen to street musicians because it means being jostled by people passing by and trying to enjoy the music with traffic noise in the background. Turning onto Granville St. from Robson, these guys grabbed my attention by singing songs I actually recognized. I stopped for a while, listening to tunes by Neil Young, Bob Dylan and Dire Straits. They were really good; had great rapport with the crowd. They were so good that I didn’t bother writing down their names since I was on my way home and would remember. Sorry guys.
During my explorations of New Westminster Quay in June, I toured the Samson V. The tour was by donation and the guide was very good at fielding weird (mostly mine) questions. The steam boat was in service from 1937 when it was first launched, to 1980 when the sternwheeler was retired. Approximately 115 feet in length, its functions were to fish debris out of the water that would hinder commercial activities; maintain government docks; and conduct surveys. The first Samson steam boat sailed the Fraser River in 1884. Since steel was so expensive, any salvageable parts would be used in the production of newer models, including the Samson V.
One Saturday in late June I headed off to New Westminster Quay and wandered around River Market. I toured the Samson V steam boat moored at the quay; watched kids being kids for a while; and read for a bit until I needed to cool off. I bought some fresh ingredients for Sunday dinner inside the River Market before heading home.
By late morning, early afternoon I was hungry and done with freelancing for the day. Let the weekend begin! I threw some salad finger food veggies and rolled slices of deli black forest ham into a container, grabbed my camera and picked a book to read. I headed for Alexandra Park, essentially at the far end of my street. I settled down on a bench in the shade and ate my picnic lunch. When I got tired of reading, I people watched.
I love the Queen Anne style Haywood Bandstand, built in 1911. To me it’s the focal point; never mind the view of English Bay. The last time I came here to take pictures, it had a fence around it. On Sundays during the summer, Parks, Recreation and Culture (City of Vancouver) offer free concerts. I think I’ll check it out.
Back in March, my ballot package for the the Metro Vancouver Transportation and Transit Plebiscite arrived in the mail. The deadline for mailing it in or delivering it in person is today, at 8 p.m. Essentially, it’s asking voters to approve a 0.5% tax hike to fund the Mayors’ Transportation and Transit Fund for TransLink service improvements.
Shortly before the ballots were mailed out, a pollster representing the Yes Vote, asked if I was supporting them. I said no, and then made a comment about my restricted income paying for 2 salaries (one ex-CEO and one current). Then of course, there’s the glaring Compass Card fail. She explained that the money was not going to TransLink; it would be independently managed on behalf of the cities of Metro Vancouver for public transit improvements. And then I had to leave to go and catch a bus.
On the ride home, I was thinking, okay that makes sense. But by the time I got off the bus, I’m back to my original, knee jerk opinion. No, No and (a really loud resounding) No! Am I missing something? Isn’t providing workable public transit solutions already their job? Perhaps if TransLink had been properly managed in the past, the Mayors wouldn’t be asking now for people to dish out more money in financial times that are already challenging to the average person. Here’s my deal: stop wasting (my) money, improve on current services, overhaul upper management, and then have another referendum – I promise you I’ll vote “Yes.”
Bottom line is, I don’t really trust TransLink to use this new infusion of funds any wisely. Past behaviour dictates otherwise. Fool me once…
I first discovered the Arbutus Corridor in 2013 when I had a client in Kerrisdale. Every now and then I go back and walk down sections of it I haven’t visited before. I really like what they’ve done with the place. Along this 11-kilometre stretch of unused railway line, residents have created and maintained community gardens.
But last year, CP Rail informed the City of Vancouver they would be reactivating the railway line. They also warned they would remove any gardens and structures left standing. Recently in court, CP Rail challenged City of Vancouver’s assertion that using the Arbutus corridor to store railway cars poses a serious safety risk. By the end of August 2014, the company had cleared away about 150 metres of community gardens. But CP Rail voluntarily stopped to wait for the court’s decision.
Since the city lost its bid to stop CP Rail, the railway company has resumed the removal of gardens. They have also started to replace railway ties and clear away natural plant growth from the rail lines. City of Vancouver says that it’s open to further talks regarding the purchase of the Arbutus Corridor for Canadian Pacific Railway, but will only agree to what it considers to be a “fair market price.”
Technically, CP Rail is “in the right” – after all, it is their land. But since its deactivation as a freight line, the Arbutus Corridor has become a green space unique to Vancouver. And it would be a shame to see that disappear.
I had a drum teacher that told me he never gave half hour lessons because he felt that it was too short a time frame. His reasoning was that by the time he explained a certain concept and then demonstrated what it should sound like, there was no time left for the student to explore the pattern before the lesson ended. This is exactly the way I feel about prime time sitcoms – I just start to get interested in the story and the programme’s finished. I need to be immersed in the unfolding of the tale in order to feel that my time’s not wasted.
Now that I work from home, I’m vigilant about getting out of the house at least once a day. It doesn’t matter where – a quick trip to the nearby postal outlet for stamps or a bus ride qualifies. Often, I end up in neighbourhoods I haven’t been before: if it’s not raining, I’ll walk around; if it is, I treat myself to a latte. Lately, it seems, I’ve been doing a lot of people watching. I like to write mental bios for those people who catch my eye. Rough hands with calluses on the fingers means the person is a guitarist (never a carpenter – a particular prejudice of my mine) still playing small jazz clubs to pay their dues.
I used to think that people watching was the purview of the creative process. Writers, visual artists, actors – anyone who wants to reflect some aspect of humanity back to the world – need grist for the mill, so to speak. How people walk, talk, sit still, sit fidgeting, could be useful to me when I’m creating characters that I hope will “live” on the page. But it’s not just the artist that benefits. People watching provides insight into and valuable information about the way we interact with others, which comes in handy for most everyone in any walk of life.
Yes, I people watch for all the above reasons. But my main motivation is that it’s fun.
It might seem like an inconsequential thing to add to a bucket list, but it’s on mine for a reason. I always get the same reverent feeling walking into a library as I do entering a church, but there’s something about a Carnegie library that intensifies the experience. When I finally made my way to the Carnegie Community Centre, I wasn’t disappointed, even though the library itself is quite small and the actual structure has been re-purposed.
I was first introduced to Carnegie libraries in one of library technician courses, and I’ve been fascinated and inspired by them ever since. Through his foundation, Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919), an American industrialist, awarded to those who applied and agreed to meet certain conditions, construction grants for the express purpose of building a library. His intent was to foster lifelong learning.
In doing so, he introduced the concept of the public lending library with which we are familiar today. Previously, most libraries were academic or privately operated, and largely inaccessible to the general public unless they were willing to pay for the privilege.
I originally had the impression that he funded the building of public libraries only in North America. He started small – building them in places to which he had a personal connection (Scotland, Pennsylvania). But by 1929, a total of 2,509 libraries had been built. And yes, while the majority were in the United States, Carnegie grant money funded the construction of library buildings world-wide including the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand. Talk about giving back.
While each Carnegie library is unique, they do share some similar architectural features. Back when Carnegie first started funding the construction of community libraries, the designs were innovative, devised to impress yet welcome everyone (there were, for example, no separate reading rooms for women). Features that characterize a Carnegie library include, classical colonnades supporting triangular pediments and then crowned by a dome.
Since reading City Making in Paradise, I have become more aware of why and how a city looks and functions in the way it does. In this spirit of pilgrimage, I visited Vancouver City Hall earlier this week, where many important decisions regarding Vancouver’s infrastructure, services, etc. are made.
This “new” Vancouver City Hall, in the Art Deco architectural style, was built in 1936, on West 12th Ave. The old city hall on Main St. near the Carnegie Library was in active use from 1897 to 1929, until it was moved into an existing building on Main St. In 1934, Mary Gerry McGeer struck a committee to find a new location for a building that would celebrate the city’s history and future while impressing its visitors.
Even though I’ve had my little camera for a couple of years, we’re still getting used to one another. Taken in mid-May of this year from my balcony, I tried to capture the full moon. I think I missed getting the setting right for a night sky picture, but I liked how it captured the peacock chair unraveling a little against the backdrop of the moon.
Earlier today I took the bus to Broadway and MacDonald to do errands. On the way back, because it was such a beautiful, sunny day, I randomly got off the bus and walked around. I ended up at MacDonald and West 7th Ave. This part of the street dead-ends into a park behind General Gordon Elementary School. Walking down the street toward the fence, I could only see a park bench. I decided to sit for a bit and read; it wasn’t until I entered the grassy area that I discovered the one room schoolhouse.
I don’t know what it is , but there’s something about abandoned buildings that inspires me; I ditched the book and did some journal writing instead. When I got home, a Google search turned up some interesting facts about this old wood school:
- the schoolhouse was built in 1913-1914
- at one time, the Vancouver School Board (VSB) originally planned to retain and restore the old wood schoolhouse
- since then, there has been talk that the VSB has slated it for demolition
- various public groups, including Heritage Vancouver, have petitioned to save it
Blissfully unaware of its unknown future, I enjoyed journaling out in the fresh air, in its charming presence.
One of my clients used to rent office space in a building directly across from SFU Harbour Centre. Simon Fraser University has several campuses and buildings downtown. But ever since I caught a glimpse of a library through the large, front windows, I’ve wanted to check it out. So one day in May, I strode purposely toward a study space by the window and sat down on one of the stools. Using my pink psychedelic patterned Acme pen, writing by hand in a bound notebook, in amongst the laptops and computer stations made me feel a little like a Flickr Throwback Thursday picture. But I liked working in the Belzberg Library. It is on two levels. The second level houses non-circulating reference materials. Since my first visit in May when I took this photo, I’ve been back several times to work on one of personal writing projects.
I walk on strange territory
when I think of you.
I feel Stonehenge
in your arms,
and fear the circle of power
that surrounds me
after a simple touch.
If it is not you,
in this room where I feel safe,
I am the lone tree, bent
struggling against the winds,
waiting for the knight
who is waiting,
his craggy tors of heart
exposed to love.
I feel like I am in England.
when twilight drifts across the horizon
like fog lurking
in the bend of a Chelsea road.
I have been bruised
by too many shadows,
and if it is not you,
when you do leave,
I will be left
with stones for
was supposed to be about you.
(about how you twist
strands of meanings
in cat’s cradle;
about your eyes
like crystal balls
marred by too many fingerprints)
I have secrets,
you tell me.
(as if I didn’t know;
as if I’ve never
heard them rumble
along their hidden tracks)
I beside you
lie in the dark,
(long after you are asleep;
long after each breath
in Morse code
are thought you will say)
A car drive
beams of light
across the canvas
about my head.
I paint the ceiling
only I can see.
Thinking about posts for my Canada 150 series, it occurred to me that, at least to my knowledge, I never had maple syrup before. My mother always bought pancake syrup, and when I moved away from home, I purchased table syrup simply because it was much cheaper. If I ever encountered it in a restaurant, I wasn’t aware of it.
But in honour of Canada’s 150th birthday, a couple of weeks ago I brought home a bottle of Uncle Luke’s Maple Syrup. Feeling a bit under the weather for the past two weekends, breakfasts consisted of lightly buttered toast with a cup of coffee. Today, though, was the day.
For such an important taste test, I decided to give the maple syrup a worthy canvas. I made breakfast crepes stuffed with a banana-sour cream combo. I added a light sprinkling of powdered sugar, a drizzle of maple syrup and voila! They looked very pretty on the plate. (You’ll have to take my word for it – I was so hungry, I couldn’t wait long enough to take a picture).
Since I have never had it before, I had no idea what it’s supposed to taste like. To me, the maple syrup was more smoky than sweet. Here are some interesting facts I discovered about this sweet treat:
- It’s 3 to 5 times more expensive than table syrup because it takes 40 gallons of sap to produce one gallon of maple syrup.
- Just to really confuse your taste buds, some brands of pancake syrup contain a percentage of maple, e.g. 2% maple syrup content.
- There are different grades of maple syrup, affecting its taste, tecture, and colour.
- Pancake syrup is made from the starch of corn while maple syrup is manufactured from the sap of maple trees.
- While 100% maple syrup could never be considered a health food, it does actually contain nutrient levels high enough for daily doses.
My maple syrup choice was an amber grade, thin, and not too sweet. But I liked it so much that I vow never to return to the land of table syrup. A good way to start off a lazy Sunday morning, banana crepes with sour cream, topped with maple syrup – I highly recommend it!
hear you look
and I disappear
through the keyhole
of your eyes.
putting away the milk jug,
in amongst the cheese
and the leftovers.
When I worked at Chancery Software (now defunct if you were wondering why I actually named a place I previously worked for), over 80% of our customer base was in the US. Year three into application support and chatting with people while data did its thing, after being asked many times why Canadian Thanksgiving was on a different day than American Thanksgiving, I became curious myself.
The short answer is the 49th parallel. Canada is above it (colder) and the United States is below it (warmer), which makes our growing season shorter than theirs.
However, it wasn’t until this year, Canada’s 150th birthday, that I began to wonder what Canadian Thanksgiving was all about since I was pretty sure it didn’t have anything to do with the Mayflower. Here are some interesting things I discovered about the differences between celebrating Thanksgiving in our two countries.
- Falls on the second Monday in October
- Legislated as a statutory (national) holiday in 1957 – optional holiday in Atlantic Canada
- While Black Friday has gained some momentum in the past few years, traditionally our biggest shopping day is Boxing Day or Christmas Eve or Dec. 23, depending on which study you read
- While people do travel home for the holiday, it doesn’t seem to be as “important” as it is in the States
- Historically speaking, the first Thanksgiving celebration occured in 1578, honouring Martin Frobisher’s successful crossing of the Northwest Passage
- Falls on the fourth Thursday of November
- Legislated as a federal holiday in 1941 – many Americans take the Friday off as well, but it’s a state holiday and not a public one
- The Monday and Friday after Thanksgiving, affectionately known as Black Friday and Cyber Monday are the biggest retail days
- People tend to make a point of travelling home for the Thanksgiving long weekend
- Historically speaking, the Thanksgiving feast held in 1621 celebrated the Plymouth Colony’s survival with the help of Native Americans the first year the pilgrims arrived in North America
However, the one thing both countries have in common is that both holidays create the opportunity to give thanks for food, family and the other positive things that add to our quality of life.