Friday, July 30, 2010

Beautiful Oddities

Many say there isn't much beauty in a city. Especially if you are in an industrial area. I say it depends on how you look at it.

I was walking along Clark Drive and happened to see these discarded on the side. I snapped a photo and started wondering about these boots. Where have they been and what have they have seen? Were these boots worn by a hard working person who toiled for hours? Or were they more of a fashion item for someone who wanted to project a certain look? And what will happen to them now? Will they be thrown in the garbage and deposited at the city dump? Or will some needy person happen upon them and take the boots - giving them another chance to be useful? The stories a person could come up with about a pair of well worn boots.

Today I am feeling a bit fanciful and I am looking at things around me in a different way. The other day when I went to Trout Lake I took a photo of something. I wasn't sure how I was going to use it but I took it anyway.

Amid the hardy, green rushes that dominate the foliage of the area around Trout Lake, a small blue flower blooms. It looks frail and delicate and one wonders how it can survive without being strangled by the reeds. But it does. And it is all the more beautiful because it is different and seems to be beating the odds.

I have heard country loving people state that what they don't like about the city is the lack of nature and the abundance of asphalt. Well the asphalt observation may be true - and I am not knocking asphalt, it makes some things in life a whole lot easier - the city does have its green sides.

What do you see here? Some would say a vacant lot filled with weeds but that isn't what I see. I see lots of green life adorned with little yellow flowers. I also see a feast of wild blackberries for anyone who is brave enough to risk getting pricked by the thorns.

And further along Clark Drive there are more edible delights.

This is true beauty because these are all oddities. These are things that have been discarded, forgotten, left to survive or perish. And they survive and in some cases flourish. These are all survivors that, if left alone, will continue on. Except maybe the boots. Only time will tell what will happen to them.

Until the next time I hope you see the beauty around you.

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Thursday, July 29, 2010

Hastings Street, Tattoos and Boots

Today I did the second part of my month end shopping along Hastings Street. For those who do not reside here and who have paid attention to certain news items, Hastings Street can seem very scary. It brings to mind skid row and prostitutes and drug dealers and assorted crime. And although that is a part of Hastings Street that is only a small area, less than 2 kilometres. Hastings Street itself runs from downtown Vancouver and through part of Burnaby - about twelve kilometres.

The Hastings Street I know runs from about Victoria Drive to Renfrew and is a vibrant area filled with shops and businesses that make the customer feel welcome.

Today I had to get my hair cut and decided to try somewhere new.
I walked into the Kim Loan Beauty Salon and was served immediately. The hair cut was exactly what I wanted and at a good price. I'm happy.

After my haircut I walked further east along Hastings Street. I have to admit that I have always taken it for granted, never really thought about the name or history of this street. It has always just been the east-west route that many people travel on.

So it was interesting when I found out that Hastings Street is named for Vice-Admiral George Fowler Hastings, a former officer of the Royal Navy and had once served as commander in chief of the Pacific Station in Esquimalt. (My mother grew up in that area so I feel a special kinship to it.)

More interesting though are the photos I saw of what Hastings street used to look like. Lots of changes.
This is one of my favourite places on Hastings to shop. And not only for the fresh fruit and vegies.

Of which you can see there are many! I like the unique, hard to find items here - today I bought blueberry, vanilla goat cheese as a special treat - and the people are fantastic. Everyone is so warm and friendly.

Finding friendly people along here is not too difficult. Take Thomas Lockhart.

He is the talented genius behind West Coast Tattoos. And he is a fairly nice guy too. He did my tattoo and not only was the price reasonable he was so patient with me and all my stupid questions. (I had never got a tattoo before) I think he did an excellent job, don't you?

I feel for Thomas though. I am soft spoken and he can never hear me. I try to raise my voice but I don't do that well enough. Perhaps next time I will bring a chalk board to write on.

I can't finish this without mentioning a shop that doesn't appear to be much but has a history that is remarkable.

During the winter of 1946 Charlie Wohlford was a man with a history in the logging industry and who managed the Lumberman's Social Club. He had also learned in earlier life the craft of shoemaking and would repair the boots for the loggers. One evening the loggers, helped a little by a case of whiskey (or so they say), convinced Wohlford to start designing quality logging boots. Who knew that all these years later Dayton Boots would be known and appreciated world wide. And just think, it all started in my city on Canada's west coast.

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,,,,Dayton Boots,

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Hub of Activity

Today was the first of my monthly grocery shopping trips. To do this I walk a mile and half south on Commercial Drive to Safeway located at Broadway and Commercial.

What a busy intersection! There are two commuter stations, numerous small coffee shops, a couple of clinics, banks, drug stores and, of course, fast food establishments. Not only can a person catch a commuter train to other parts of the city and the outskirts but there are also connections to different bus routes. This is one busy corner of the city.

As I was walking along Commercial Drive I came across another one of those plaques I was telling you of that speak of the history of the area. This person was remembering the Drive in 1948, a time when it wouldn't be strange to hear the clip clop of horses' hooves on the cobblestone streets as the animals pulled milk trucks for daily milk deliveries or the rag man's wagon.

Perhaps it was a scene somewhat like this one?

This person also remembered going to the movies at the Grandview Theatre near First Street and Commercial Drive. That is now the location of The El Sureno Market and I didn't find much information about the theatre.

I did manage to find out a little on the Rio Theatre on Broadway, just up from the hub of Broadway and Commercial.

This theatre was originally opened in 1938 and has, of course, gone through many changes and updates since then. Not only does the RIO hold midnight screenings of cult films and show current releases- the majestic theatre also holds special events such as CD release parties, live theatre and even hosted the Canadian Porn Awards. I think I have even seen a mother's event. There were a lot of ladies with strollers lined up to get in. Through the magic of Facebook and other social media the RIO theatre is once again making a name for itself.

After I did my shopping I started to walk home along Victoria Drive, my mind still thinking about the plaque about Commercial Drive in 1948. I started to pass one of my favorite homes in this area:

I couldn't find any information on this house although the gentleman sitting on the stoop informed me that an elderly neighbour of theirs had told him that it was once a home for the elderly. The Rosealee Manor?It is now a family home and this man and his father are working on fixing it up. It is divided into eight suites but if it were once a single family home I wonder what the inside would have looked like then. I'll have to keep my ears open and see if anything turns up in my further research.

Isn't it just gorgeous?

That's all for now. Tomorrow is the second part of my end of the month ritual. I'll see you then and I hope you find the beauty around you.

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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Our Trout Lake

Most people who live in the city and want to go to the lake have to take time off work, or plan it for a weekend, load up the car, drive where ever, unload the car, spend the day then either drive home or stay overnight. Not me.

I walk a half hour along Victoria Drive and when just south east of East 12th Street, I am on the shores of Trout Lake. In the 1800s this body of water was a peat bog that supplied water to the Hastings Sawmill, owned by John Hendry. (It is or maybe was stocked with Rainbow and Cutthroat Trout hence the name.) During the time the mill was operating a flume was built to run the water from the blog to the mill. A person had to be hired full time to prevent the beavers from building dams that blocked the flow and to remove the trout that would occassionally clog the flume.

In 1926 John Hendry's daughter, Mrs. Eric Hamber, donated the land to the Park Board on the grounds that it would used as a park named after her father. That is how one of Vancouver's first lumbering operations became a place of beauty and relaxation.

Today it is a popular swimming area and nesting spot for a variety of birds.It is also a great place to take your dog.

Personally I enjoy walking around the lake and veering off along one of the short pier like structures.

It is a big area -27.4 hectares- with more than just the lake and beach.

There is a picnic area, outdoor showers, a concession booth and of course lots of people.

This is Bud the Oracle and I will be writing more on him in another post. I ran into him today and he graciously allowed me to take pictures of him and his hat while he recorded me for a youtube feature he is doing. An interesting man to be sure.

All in all it was a great day. I got to go to the lake, pet a few dogs, talk to numerous people and take some great pictures.

Here's to finding the beauty around you.

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Monday, July 26, 2010

Pearls of a Different Hue

In 1981 something happened in Vancouver that was to become legendary. The Pink Pearl Chinese  Restaurant opened on East Hastings Street.

This place soon became known for its excellent food, especially the Dim Sum and won many awards for best Chinese restaurant in the 1990s. Asian as well as Caucasian eaters enjoyed the fare regularly. Doing a search on the restaurant I found a lot of complimentary reviews and sites that listed this as a place to go for those visiting Vancouver.

I remember going there with my parents and business associates of theirs back in the late 1980s. So much of the food seemed foreign to me but boy was it good! I really enjoyed it.

In September of 2009 tragedy struck. An overnight blaze which at one point required eight fire trucks closed down the Pink Pearl Chinese Restaurant. Only temporarily though. The sign outside says that they will reopen once renovations are complete and to watch the Georgia Strait for the announcement. I will just continue to walk by it and watch for it.

Here's to you finding the beauty around you.

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Sunday, July 25, 2010

Little Pieces of History

When a person walks around Vancouver they will see these little plaques attached to poles and such. Written on these are memories and factual accountings of events in Vancouver's history. This one tells about another, less known incident at the British Empire Games in 1954.

You may remember a few posts back I wrote about John Landy and Roger Bannister breaking the four minute mile at those games. That moment made history but this person remembers a less known fact about those games.

A man, Jim Peters, who ran the marathon that day. When the exhausted Peters entered the stadium he was careening from side to side and sank to the ground a few times as he struggled to make it to the finishing line. Finally he collapsed into the arms of his teammates and was taken away in an ambulance. There was a problem though. The finish line was actually a hundred yards farther on and Peters was disqualified.

How sad. This man showed what true determination is all about by pushing his body to the limits so that he could finish what he started. He left the arena that day thinking he had finished the race. I wonder how he felt when he was informed that he hadn't completed his goal.

These plaques supply visitors and residents alike with a glimpse into the history that has formed Vancouver and of the people who are responsible for creating memories. I enjoy reading them so that I can learn more.

Here's to finding the beauty around you.

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Friday, July 23, 2010

Just to Heat Things Up

It is hot enough here that heating things up is not needed. However there are times when heat can do so much for a person. Like at the Hasting Steam and Sauna.

Since 1926 this establishment has been at 766 Hastings Street and has offered a steam and sauna experience based on the Finnish tradition which is over 1000 years old. Some say this is the way to purify mind and body, to aid in a better life.

I went in one day and was talking a gentleman behind the counter. He even took the time to show me one of private rooms. There are six - half with a gas fired wet heat and the others with a drier electric heat. The basement sauna has two brick-fired gas saunas and the original mosaic-tiled floors. However I am not allowed to see that because it is a men's only area.

This isn't a steam room of decadent and illicit goings on. This is a place where respectable people go to relax. It is clean and bright and a pleasure to walk into. It made the idea of getting a sauna attractive. Unfortunately my disease won't let me but if you aren't heat intolerant then go for it.

Here's to finding the beauty around you.

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Thursday, July 22, 2010

East Side Culture

At the corner of Adanac and Victoria is a building that may appear plain to some but attracts the interest of many. WISE Hall was established in the late 1950s as a gathering place for immigrants from the United Kingdom. It became a place to unite where the newly arrived could meet, discuss, probably argue and/or enjoy a good sports event. Some of that still goes on but there is so much more to the Wise Hall than just the lounge.

Nowadays you can enjoy a variety of shows, including burlesque revues which is what I have been there for. Sundays there is a gospel meeting, praise the Lord in style. And just take a look at their calendar for other events. It is great to see a part of Vancouver history still going strong.

Up the road, at Venables and Victoria, is a newer building. Although the Vancouver East Side Culture Centre has been around for thirty six years, the building we now see from the outside is a year old, maybe a little more.

The Cultch is another venue with quite the history. Or at least the site has history. In 1909 it was site of the Grandview Methodist Church.Unfortunately in post war times the congregation numbers dwindled and the church was turned over to Inner City Services in 1968. For a time the building shared space with lawyers. Vancouver notables such as former Mayor Mike Harcourt have fond memories of the place.

In 1973 the Cultch opened with a two week run of the Anna Wyman Dance Theatre and it hasn't stopped, for long, since. Artists have shown their works here, classes for youth, live theatre and music and a multitude of other programs that both enhance and entertain are still part of the structure.

So if anyone ever tells you that there isn't any culture on the Vancouver's East side tell them to look closer. It is all around us.

Here's to find the beauty around you.
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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Look at Where it is Now!

In 1908 Vancouver's second secondary school was built. Today Britannia Community Secondary School is the oldest secondary school in Vancouver. In 1975 an elementary school was added to the area. In 1976 the Britannia Community Services Centre opened and the complex was changed forever.

To walk the area now a visitor sees a variety of social and physical services offered such as an indoor swimming pool, skating rink, fitness centre, seniors, youth and adult learning centres. Some of the events for the 2010 Winter Olympic Games was even held here.

Children from preschool age to Grade twelve are taught here, there is after school daycare, a library, a community bulletin board and classes in a variety of topics.

It is a beautiful place to learn, get fit, socialize or just sit. You can even enjoy some artwork on the wall:

Isn't that beautiful? And so well done. And, just in case you're wondering, Drive Organics is a great store to get healthier foods. I shop there whenever I can.

I hope you find the beauty and wonder around you. And if you have any area in Vancouver that you would like me to visit, let me know. I'll try to visit.

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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Joe's Cafe

On Commercial Drive there is a coffee shop right on a corner of Commercial Drive and one of the side streets. This cafe isn't like the large coffee shops where the interior is always changing, trying to appease the tastes of an evolving clientele. No, Joe's has linoleum floors, formica tables and cafeteria style lighting this place isn't designed to impress. But there are always people hanging around, either inside or at tables on the sidewalk so something good is there.

From 1989 to 1995 a show called Neon Rider was filmed in the lower mainland. It starred Winston Rekert as Dr. Michael Terry - a psychiatrist with an alcohol problem who bought a ranch for troubled teens. Each episode would focus on Terry's struggles to get through to these kids and break the cycle of crime they were in.

I was watching a rerun of the opening show not long after I had moved into this area seven years ago. Suddenly I sat up straight. Dr. Terry ran from a house in this area:

and was chasing a character who emerged from a pool hall here:

(In 1974 this was a small corner shop known as Continental Billiards. It later evolved into Joe's Cafe) Then Dr. Terry and this other character ran into the park here:

The funny thing is that the area hasn't changed much in twenty one years either!

Doing research on Joe's Cafe was really quite interesting. To read about the people who have been there, how Joe is still there (I think I talked with him today) and to realize what those walls must have seen or heard. That is what makes Vancouver and Commercial Drive so unique. So special.

Here's to finding the beauty and uniqueness around you.

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Monday, July 19, 2010

Hastings Park

Hastings Park, formerly known as New Brighton, was formed as a resort, a watering hole for the area. The Hastings Park racetrack has been there sinice 1889.

In 1968 the Pacific Coliseum was completed and this is the building that has a few fond memories for me.

It was here that I went to my first concert in 1978 or 1979 I think. It was Shaun Cassidy. I remember sitting in my seat way above the stage and gazing down at this figure in white dancing around the stage. I was in heaven! Especially when the woman beside me loaned me her binoculars so I could actually see that it was Shaun!

I was on cloud nine for days afterwards. Although a review in the next paper the next day angered me. The reviewer said that at least the attendess had gotten the value of their parents' money. My parents hadn't paid for my ticket. They drove me into Vancouver and went to the PNE while I went to the concert but I paid for the ticket with my babysitting money and from whatever other monies I could earn.

Years later a couple of friends and I went to see Shaun in Romance Romance at the Stagewest Dinner Theatre in Calgary, Alberta. Even though I was now in my twenties I still got the same thrill from seeing him onstage. One of the friends that was in the group worked for a florist so we brought Shaun flowers along with a note from each of us telling him what he had meant to us growing up. His manager brought out autographed playbills after the show. Unfortunately I was in the washroom so I missed him. But I had that playbill for many years after.

I may now be in my forties but I would probably feel the same excitement if I were to go to a live show featuring Shaun Cassidy. Some things just don't go away.

I like walking through this park for the peace and stillness it has. Even if Playland with all the rides and screams is a short distance away the noise doesn't seem to disrupt the serenity at Hastings.

Whenever I meditate and have to envision a safe, peaceful area I go here:

I mentally walk across the bridge and sit on the benches, watching the ducks swim. I feel the calmness wash over me in my mind, just as it does when I'm there.

There is so much to see and write about when looking at Hastings Park but I only have limited room. So I will write more about this area another day. However I can't leave without one more feature.

In front of one of the entries to the park is this monument. On August 7, 1954 at the British Empire Games John Landy and Roger Bannister became the first two men to ever break four minute mile in the same race. The statue shows Landy looking over his left shoulder and Bannister passed him on the right and won the race.

To me that says not to look behind you in life. I try to bring some of the history of Vancouver alive with this blog but I am not living in the past. I am not looking behind me and wishing I had done things differently. It's done, it's over with. Take what I can from that and forge forward.

That's all for today. Here's to finding the beauty around you.

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Sunday, July 18, 2010

Artwork in the City

Today I went on a mission. I decided that it was time to show all my readers the building artwork in this city.

Some murals are there to educate. Such as this one:

This side of the building shows some of the history of the North Strathcona area with the painting and facts. I made sure to copy down some information. Of course my little digital camera wasn't able to get the entire wall.

These three were in a panel in Chinatown. To me it represents a bit of their culture. Actually when I saw someone working on it yesterday it gave me the idea to do a blog entry on murals around the city.

It was hot out today and I was getting quite tired so I headed back to my stomping grounds -Commercial Drive -and there is wealth of artwork. Just take a look.

And then there is the one that really makes you stop and look. It is located at Venables and Commercial Drive.

These murals are a great way to brighten buildings, make a business unique and give local artists an outlet for their talent. There are also paintings on the sidewalk of the Drive. I marvel at the talent and patience that goes into creating each one of these.

Hope your weekend was great and you find the beauty around you.

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