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Fountain at Broadway Tech Centre

Broadway Tech Centre Fountain

Yesterday I received an email from the company housed in the Broadway Tech Centre campus. I didn’t get the job. Since I really need to land some sort of steady employment soon, this outcome was very disappointing.

In the email, the HR person stated that “At this time, we have decided to move forward with another candidate that we felt was more suitable for the role.” I’m trying to be good and avoid crying “ageism!” According to a Forbes article, this is one of the top three reason companies cite for why a candidate didn’t get the job. Still, it’s another closed door I have to deal with.

I feel conflicted – half of me was very disappointed, but the other half was relieved that I won’t have to deal with 12-hour shifts starting at 8:30 p.m. – but the 3 days on/3 days off would have been nice. If I’m being honest with myself, we were probably not a good fit for one another.

I’m focussing on the positives and getting myself back on track in terms of the types of jobs I’m applying for. And it was worth it (well, almost) to discover the Broadway Tech Centre with its amazing landscaping.

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Spring Tulips

Tulips in the West End

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.

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Stone Wall

King Edward School Wall

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.

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Visiting PoCo

Port Coquitlam Veterans Park

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.

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Life After Mad Men

House with red door.

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.

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Vancouver as Seen from North Van

Cargo ship North Vancouver

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.

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Peacock Chair Demise

Pre-unraveling peacock chairs

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?

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Chalk Drawing

Chalk drawing East Vancouver

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.

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Passel of Pigeons

Burrard Skytrain Station

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!

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Escape to Echo Cafe

Art Wall Echo Cafe

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.

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Juliet and Her Balcony

 

Juliet Balcony Victorian Hotel

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.

Victorian Hotel

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W.A.C Bennett Library at SFU

Library at SFU

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.

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Leg in Boot Square

Leg in Boot Square

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.

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Spider Web

Spider Web

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.

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Buskers

Robson and Granville

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.

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Samson V at New Westminster Quay

Samson V

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.

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Granville Social Downtown Vancouver

On Granville Street

1970s Ambulance at The Granville Social

Last Saturday I wandered around downtown Vancouver looking for a place to write and read while having a cup of coffee. Never got there. Instead, I stumbled on The Granville Social, a two-day affair featuring a variety of entertainment. There was dancing in the street, art installations, other types of performers and lots of vendors. And of course food! But what do I take a picture of? I just had to capture a figment of my late 1960s, early 1970s years. There was no one around to ask, so I don’t know the exact year this beastie stalked the streets of Vancouver, but I do remember its cousins roaming the streets of my youth in Winnipeg.

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New Westminster Quay

Westminster Quay tugboatsOne 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.

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Lunch in Alexandra Park

Alexandra Park Haywood Bandstand

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.

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I Voted No

TransLink Referendum

Back in March, my ballot package for 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…

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Arbutus Corridor Controversy

CP Rail Arbutus Corridor

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.

Sources:

1. http://www.theprovince.com/lawyers+rail+cars+Arbutus+corridor+pose+major+safety+risks/10660623/story.html
2. http://www.insidevancouver.ca/2014/07/26/saving-vancouvers-secret-railway-the-arbutus-corridor-controversy/
3. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/british-columbia/robertson-open-to-talks-with-cp-rail-to-buy-arbutus-corridor/article23414293/

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People Watching is More Interesting than TV Sitcoms

People watching in Gas Town

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.

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Carnegie Library Romance

Carnegie Library Vancouver

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.

Carnegie Community Centre

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.

Big Three of English Lit

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.

 

Sources:

1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carnegie_library
2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Carnegie_libraries_in_the_United_States
3. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Carnegie_libraries_in_Canada
4. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carnegie_Community_Centre
5. http://www.carnegie-libraries.org/styles.html

 

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Vancouver City Hall

West 12st Avenue Vancouver

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.

City of Vancouver

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Peacock Chair with Moon

Moon from Balcony

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.

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One Room Schoolhouse

Gordon Wood School

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.

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Belzberg Library

SFU Library at Harbour Centre

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.

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How Trout Lake Turned into Clark Park

This week hasn’t been going particularly well. (Yes, I know it’s only Tuesday.) I got some bad news on top of some other things happening or to be more precise, not happening. And on top of on top of all that, I was scrambling to meet two deadlines (which I did), woke up sick Friday, and when this morning rolled around, I realized I hadn’t been out of the house since Thursday. Today I was determined to get out of the apartment and breathe in some fresh air – not think about writing or how certain aspects of my life appeared to be improving and now they’re not (again).

It has been my intention for several weekends to visit Trout Lake and do some exploring. I phoned TransLink earlier this summer and got the instructions on how to get there. Of course, because I intended to go the day I phoned, I didn’t write the route down.

But I remembered the bus number I need to take. So, off I go, catching bus route 20 Victoria/Downtown. Before sitting down, I ask the bus driver which stop I need for Trout Lake. First, the driver says 12th Avenue, but as I turn away, it’s amended to 14th Avenue (maybe that should have been my first clue). I get off at Commercial Drive and East 14th, right in front of a park entrance.

There is no sign that I am aware of. But it’s hot in the sun and the cool trees are beckoning. I sit on the first bench in the shade I come to. There is a slight breeze blowing. I pull out the current book I am reading, looking up every now and then at a child and an adult playing on the climbing structure. I stay for three chapters, by which time I’m ready to find a lake.

But the pathway appears to wander further into a wooded area. I walk for a while, mostly in shade. I discover the tennis court; meander down one path for a few minutes; when it crosses another path, I change directions. All the while I am looking out for a lake. I am also looking out for a sign telling me I’m in the right place. I wander for another half hour – no sign, no lake – then catch the bus home.

The first thing I do when I walk through the door is Google the intersection Commercial Drive @ East 14th Avenue. And voila – Trout Lake turns into Clark Park. According to the info on the Vancouver Park Board’s website, Clark Park is the second oldest park in Vancouver, after Stanley Park. The first park to be donated to the Park Board, the land was gifted by Mr. E. J. Clark and named in his honour. It’s about 4.28 hectares.

The bus driver must have misheard me, but I’m glad they did – I can save Trout Lake for another day, another adventure.

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Review of Week Ending on Father’s Day

Father's Day 2018

This past week was an interesting one in terms of emotional wellness and fighting a bit of a cold. Add into the mix deadlines for two regular freelance clients, I ended up actually not setting foot outside of my apartment for five days straight. I woke up yesterday morning determined to go somewhere that involved some kind of travel, people watching, and fresh air.

If I had remembered that it was Father’s Day, I probably would have used it as an excuse to stay home and soak up some sun on my balcony. But I did forget and headed off to the SkyTrain to take advantage of TransLink’s all zones are one zone fare for the SkyTrain and SeaBus on the weekends. I had no particular destination in mind. Some time ago I did travel the Millennium Line Evergreen Extension to Coquitlam Centre, and since then have been meaning to explore other stops along this particular SkyTrain route. Once I transferred to the Millennium Line, I thought I’d ride it till the end and see where I ended up.

When I exited the station, I was drawn to a bench outside of the Evergreen Cultural Centre. It was in the shade, I had no special plans and even though I was about 100 feet away from a busy intersection, it was peaceful. I had been reading my book for about 15 minutes when two ladies approached asking, “Where is your lake?” After I explained I didn’t live in the area, they toddled off toward the main road. I went back to my book. Eventually, though, I was intrigued – if there was a lake nearby, it might be nice to sit and people watch for a while.

It turned out that the inquiring ladies went for an unnecessary walk. Lafarge Lake was actually behind the Evergreen Cultural Centre, quite near where I had been sitting. Although I too headed in the direction they went, ending up walking in a big circle. But eventually, I got there and saw more fishing poles in one Sunday afternoon than I have in my entire life – fathers and sons, fathers and daughters, fishing in the lake appeared to be the popular Sunday afternoon pastime.

I sat for close to an hour watching families have fun. There was a cool breeze that kept the heat from really bothering me. I’d say my emotional wellness quotient improved by about 500%. Before I headed back to the SkyTrain and home, I explored the Art Gallery, a part of the Evergreen Cultural Centre.

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Stranger in Her Skin – Fragment #87

On this grey Thursday morning, waking up with no particular place to be, Kim supposed the world was an interesting place. But it was so noisy and busy and loud. It constantly distracted her from her thoughts, her hopes, her dreams.

She wanted to be an architect, but she never made the algebra requirement. She loved acting and was doing well until the fifth audition, after which she limped home, wounded, crawling into bed, only emerging for one three-hour shift at the local restaurant where she waitressed. Then she tried being an artist, but gave up after several years, inspired by her sister’s comment upon seeing her painting entered into a regional art show that she’d make more money as a house painter. So to spite the world, and her sister, Kim apprenticed as a painter, never expecting to be certified, but she was.

But now, here she was on this grey Thursday, the morning of her thirty-third birthday, experiencing a tiredness beyond exhaustion. She was tired of speaking, breathing, wondering, evolving, not becoming, and birthdays. But most of all, she was tired of being a stranger in her own skin.

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A Riddle Called Time

She seems to be having trouble
with time again.
Its ticking minutes steady and reliable
like water dripping
through a coffee machine,
but then randomly twisting
circuitous, serpentine,
through her heart.

She seems to be having trouble
with time again.
And closing doors.
Left behind.
Caught in the push-pull
of love and abandonment.
People flow through her life
like minutes forming an hour,
but she has no idea
how to keep them there,
keep them from escaping
from the hourglass.

She seems to be having trouble
with time again.
And closed minds.
She stops asking questions.
Life is safer that way.
She stops playing the game;
refuses to use tools of the trade.
She is a tourist
visiting a shrine.

When walls are made of doors,
anything is possible.

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Depressed Espresso?

Depresso

Since I really did run out of coffee this morning, I thought this picture would be very appropriate for Foto Friday. While “Depresso” does indeed perfectly describe that feeling upon discovering you first have to go out and buy some coffee before you can make it, I think it could easily describe how discouraged the coffee might feel, hanging around and getting cold.

As an aside, every time I hear “espresso,” I think of the online furniture store where I had been a copywriter. Anyone applying for a customer service or marketing position had to take a test – if they spelled “espresso” as “expresso” or “burgundy” as “burgandy” they didn’t advance to next steps.

Anyway, a new tin of coffee is happily ensconced on a shelf in the cupboard – all is right with the world.

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Wandering in the Desert

pexels-photo-909656.jpegI don’t talk about my faith very much. First, I think it’s personal, between me and God. Second, after attending an Evangelical-based university for four years, I have a very strong opinion about witnessing, which is essentially that actions speak louder than words – I attempt to walk the walk in such a way that the people around me will be inspired to ask what’s different about my life; only then I will tell them. As a Christian, I fall short, but I keep trying simply because my life would be much darker without Him at the centre of it.

So, I’m not going to lie –  these past three years have been a struggle, a wandering in the desert. Family is not as close as I want; friends I’ve asked for help, haven’t or haven’t been able to; I’ve had people exit my life when I’ve needed them the most. A friend claims “I’m there for you,” but as soon as I share something relating to depression, the subject is changed. Back to the desert I go.

I’ve been banished to the desert before: actually, it was the main motivation for moving to Vancouver. I was still living in Winnipeg at the time, and couldn’t seem to land a full-time job. At one point, I was waitressing in addition to holding down three other casual jobs. I remember the time fondly as a period in my life when I got out of bed in the morning and the first thing I did was to check the calendar to see where I was expected to be that day. But I kept sending out resumes; kept going through the motions of putting one foot in front of the other. Until the day arrived when I landed the job that led me to Vancouver. A new start; a fresh beginning. I was leaving the desert behind.

When I started freelancing about six and a half years ago, it was a struggle. Then it got better as I became more adept at writing for clients. Then in the last three years, it reverted back to a major struggle; I seemed to lose a handful of regulars in a space of a month due to downsizing and relocation. I felt discouraged having to start building a client list from scratch – again.

In The Bible, Exodus tells us the story of the Israelites and how it took them 40 years to get to the Promised Land. In real time, Egypt to Canaan is under 400 miles, an 11-day journey even with the slowest camels on earth. But it was never about arriving; it was always about the journey. God took care of the Israelites, making sure they had food (manna) and water. He didn’t want grumbling or complaining or blaming other people (basically Moses). He wants the struggle of wandering in the desert to yield precious lessons about ourselves – when we are boiled in water, do we become the carrot (mushy), the egg (hard), or the coffee bean (aromatic beverage)?

Two days ago I spoke to my oldest friend in Winnipeg. She’s been very supportive as I trek through the desert. We had been talking for about 10 minutes when she commented on how calm I was, even though everything is in flux; nothing’s certain.

And it hit me – I’ve undergone a sea change. I’m no longer angry at God. I’m done blaming him for lack of clients; failure to land a full-time job; for not being able to go on vacation or buy a new couch. He provides manna and water and a place to live. I hope that I’m not wandering the desert for too much longer. But it’s really okay if I am. I am centred where I should be.

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The Audition – Fragment #86

On her way to work she quietly hummed “It’s a little bit funny” under her breath, and all throughout the day, when she was alone or far enough away from anyone else to hear. Elton John’s “Your Song” suited her mid-range voice perfectly. She related to it instantly the very first time she heard it: she knew all about not having enough; not being able to say the right thing at the right time; it’s a little bit funny feeling inside a relationship where she was unsure how her little gifts will be received.

She met Eric at the Children’s Theatre Centre where she took acting and movement lessons. He was a long drink of cool water, with grey-blue eyes and touselled wheat coloured hair that fell across his forehead every time he laughed. Last week when they were standing in the foyer after class, he told her that his band was looking for a female singer — would she be interested? Hilary said “yes” without thinking — no butterflies, no roiling tummy, no hesitation of any kind.

They agreed to meet at the centre and from there he would drive them to the band’s practice space. She went straight from work, still humming her audition song beneath her breath like a secret. She felt strong and ready to embrace a new challenge.

When Eric hadn’t appeared after fifteen minutes, she put it down to evening traffic. After twenty-five minutes, she wondered if she had the right day. When thirty-five minutes had passed, she put on her coat in preparation to leave.

“I didn’t think you had a class today. What are you doing here, Hilary?” Paul asked, safely ensconced behind the reception desk.

“Just hanging,” she replied, reluctant for reasons unknown to share the real story with Paul, who was truly a terrible gossip. “I didn’t feel like going home right after work, so I slipped in to read the audition boards. Wait until a class got out and see who wanted to go for a bite to eat.”

“Yeah,” Paul nodded toward the largest message board, “they’re starting to post audition dates for Christmas shows.”

“That’s cool.” She turned toward the door that exited to the stairs. “Oh, by the way, Paul, was Eric here earlier this afternoon?”

He returned to his stacks of papers, searching for something on the cluttered desk. But he looked up to answer her. “No, he hasn’t been in today. Actually, come to think of it, I haven’t seen him all week.”

She had progressed as far as placing her hand on the door handle. “Oh no, my dear, not you too,” Paul chortled. “I thought you were smarter than that!”

Hilary always found the steps to the Children’s Theatre Centre a bit steep, but today she couldn’t get out of the building fast enough, his derisive laughter chasing her down two flights of stairs and out the door into the cold air.

 

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