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.
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.
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.
It is the colour
of a prairie winter sun–
palest of yellows,
sleeveless, it’s bodice
with small, dark blue
and dusky rose flowers,
train trailing serpentine
like a question mark,
in the shop window.
She sees a life
together with him
shimmering like a mirage
in the desert sun of his absence.
What if he performs
(for the third time)
his magician’s trick
and make her disappear;
turn her dreams and desires
into the yellowing pages
of a mage’s book?
burns theses words
like a brand
into her heart.
As Canada’s head of state, Queen Elizabeth appears on our country’s twenty-dollar note and has done so since 1952, the year she became queen.
Her Royal Highness first appeared as Princess Elizabeth, when she was eight years old, on the $20 bill issued in 1935, as the granddaughter of the king, George V. Over years, Queen Elizabeth appeared on Canada’s $1 and $2 bills until they became coins.
I’ll skip doing a rehash biography, choosing instead to highlight random aspects of an iconic figure that has been so much a part of my own life for as long as I can remember.
In no particular order here are some surprising facts I’ve discovered about Queen Elizabeth II:
- she is credited with creating a new dog breed called the “dorgi,” a cross between a dachshund and a corgi
- the first football match the Queen attended was the 1953 FA Cup Final
- one of her many hobbies is photography
- another favourite pastime is Scottish country dancing
- she speaks French so fluently, she doesn’t need an interpreter
Born on April 21, 1926, she is the longest reigning British monarch.
She is determined
to dance gracefully;
while her skirt billows
drifting on soft
currents of air,
she has been here before,
but she is not sure.
Familiarity confuses her.
She hears voices
from the past–
voices of people
who have already
from her world.
daring to chasse
She is about to sit down at the kitchen table with the mug of coffee she just poured, when Colleen appears in the doorway, bed-headed and subtly hostile, waving a toothbrush in her right hand, a tube of toothpaste in her left. Audrey wonders what she has done now to annoy her roommate; she seems to rub Colleen the wrong way no matter what she says or does.
“Can I pour you a cup of coffee, Colleen, since you don’t seem to have a free hand,” Audrey remarks neutrally, hoping the amusement she feels about the apparition standing before her doesn’t bubble up into her voice.
Audrey wonders again why she decided to take her post-graduate degree in the States – who knew you could be so homesick in your mid-twenties. It didn’t help that she isn’t getting along with her roommate.
“No, you most certainly cannot. But maybe you can tell me why my toothpaste tube has French written on it.”
She nods her head at Colleen, after swallowing a large mouthful of coffee. “It’s because it’s my toothpaste, not yours.”
Now the woman’s hostile expression segues into anger mixed with a soupcon of puzzlement. “I’m Canadian,” Audrey tries to explain. “Any text is written in both English and French, our two national languages.”
It is too much for Colleen, Ph.D. candidate extraordinaire, to handle first thing in the morning. She makes this strange growling noise deep in her throat before leaving the room, and shouting over her shoulder, “Don’t let it happen again!”
Apparently, I’m not alone in my ignorance of those iconic faces on Canada’s bank notes. According to an Ipsos Reid poll, one in four Canadians doesn’t recognize the person on the 10-dollar bill as Sir John A. Macdonald, Canada’s first prime minister.
John A. Facts
John Alexander Macdonald was originally from Scotland but grew up in Kingston, Ontario. His personal life was plagued by several tragedies, including the loss of his wife and a terminally ill daughter.
- born January 11, 1815, in Glasgow, Scotland; died June 6, 1891, in Ottawa, Ontario
- opened his own law office at the age of 19, two years before being officially called to the bar
- a member of the Conservative Party and second-longest non-consecutive serving prime minister, over 18 years 359 days – 1867 to 1873 and 1878 to 1891
- originally against federalism but came to understand that unifying Canada and implementing constitutional change was the only way to accommodate the strong racial, religious, and regional differences of the times
- noted for his transcontinental railway plans; the role he played in Confederation; maintaining Canada’s connection to Britain; and a number of controversial policies including the one responsible for the implementation of residential schools
Ten-Dollar Bill Facts
Sir John A. Macdonald first appeared on Canada’s $10 bill in 1971. He will be replaced in 2018 by a new regularly circulating ten-dollar bill featuring Viola Desmond, civil rights activist and business woman from Nova Scotia.But John A. won’t be disappearing from Canadian money – he’s being moved to a higher denomination in future new releases. Macdonald also appears on the commemorative $10 banknote to mark the 150th anniversary of Confederation along with three other influential Canadians.
Hugh John Macdonald, lawyer, Member of Parliament, and Premier of Manitoba, was the son of the prime minister. He moved to Winnipeg in 1882 after the death of his first wife. Hugh John built Dalnavert in 1895, where he died in 1929.
In honour of our country turning 150 this year, I decided to post 150 blogs about Canada. Between procrastination and putting out some fires, my Canada 150 blog posts took a little nap.
When the idea first came to me, I thought I’d start with the paper money. Queen Elizabeth is on our $20 bill because she is the country’s official head of state; John A. appears on the $10 note presumably because he was our first PM; but why the other three? Just for fun, during the months of February and March, every time I went to the bank, I’d ask the tellers if they knew who was on the obverse side of Canada’s bills. No one I asked knew, so I felt better about my oblivious state.
However, I am not so oblivious now. Sir Wilfrid Laurier was born in 1841 in Saint-Lin, Quebec, on Nov. 20th. Essentially an introvert and plagued by various illnesses and health issues for most of his life, he didn’t let obstacles get in his way. Called to the bar 1n 1864, his political career spanned over 45 years.
Reasons Sir Wilfrid appears on the five-dollar bill since 1969 include:
- Canada’s seventh prime minister, 11 July 1896 to 6 October 1911
- first bilingual political leader
- only prime minister to serve a consecutive 15-year term
- first prime minister to be born to parents who had been born in Lower Canada (now Quebec)
- knighted in 1897 when attending Queen Victoria’s diamond jubilee
Other interesting (to me) tidbits about Laurier are: he married Zoe Lafontaine in 1868; elected to the National Assembly as a member of the Liberal Party; and was the leader of the Liberal Party for thirty-nine years, from 1887 until his death. He died in Ottawa on February 17, 1919, at the age of 77.
He is someone
like a secret
that should not be told,
but she sees his smile
as a gauntlet dropped.
Reason has no place
in her heart.
With every word,
with each glance,
her resolve melts
like butter in a pan.
She knows nothing about him,
except one look,
one small smile
known and unknown.