Saturday, August 30, 2014

you must be crazy

you must be crazy
and go on -- self-portrait of
a graffiti artist

Vancouver, home to Van Arts, a world-class media institute, is also home to some creative graffiti artists. Maybe not yet as famous as Jean-Michel Basquiat or Shepard Fairey, but who knows?

Any flat surface becomes a canvas.

There's another class of wall painters, mural artists, like the ones who painted a mural on a wall that stretches for an entire city block near the YMCA where we're staying. The mural, which depicts the history of Vancouver, is old. Rust stains caused by rain have damaged the paint, bird droppings and ivy vines cover many of the images. But there's a kind of beauty in this aging process. Fauvist colors and curvaceous shapes, worthy of Matisse.

A First Nations man, his face unmarred, looms taller than the totem pole.

Vines covering the turban of a Sikh, one of the many immigrants to Vancouver, seem to bind him to his adopted country.

A black athlete peers through a net of vines.

Eerily, this soldier looks like he's been shot in the head.

Vancouver is also notable for its artistic architecture, like BC Place, the world's largest air-supported domed stadium with its crown of steel cables.

And of course the landmark Canada Place with its white cloth roofs.

No, it's not a structure created by Antonio Gaudi, but a fun house reflection of an apartment building studded with balconies

Skyscraper reflections in the curved windows of an office building.

Surrealist reflections.

Flowering shrubs and pigeons lined up on wires contrast with the Cubist buildings in the background.

And always, the cloud-capped mountains rise above the Tinkertoy works of man.

taking a coffee break

taking a coffee break, 
leaning against a wall, head bowed
over his cell phone

During our walking excursions around Metro Vancouver, we turn off of West Cordova Street, climb a flight of stairs and enter a plaza that leads to the Burrard Inlet waterfront and cruise ship terminal. A woman sits on a large circular fountain, gazing at what looks like a double row of five sailboats lined up at the pier, each one casting a shadow on the adjoining sail. This prominent landmark is the Canada Place, a building whose roof is actually made of white fabric.
          The building next to the Canada Place looks like a cruise ship itself with many decks. I follow the winding walkway around the building and spot a cook taking a break, one foot propped against the wall, head bowed as he texts on his cell phone. He doesn't notice me taking photos, but someone inside the office building does. Pretty soon a security man comes out and tells me I can't take photos of this building. He says the whole plaza area is private. I can't believe they're afraid of someone with a camera when tourists are as thick as fleas. Anyway, I'm certainly not interested in taking photos of people sitting at desks inside a sterile office. But I just smile and walk away.

What I am interested in is people and signs of people. Fast food in Vancouver comes in a red Dim Sum Express truck.

A girl sipping a strawberry smoothie. From the names on her bag of cities around the world, I imagine that she's a world traveler who takes the advice of the signs on the restaurant behind her: Eat well, Live well, Enjoy life.

A man with lots of arm tattoos on a souped up bike with a mysterious flag.

Two ladies on a street corner.

A man sitting on the rim of a circular building smoking a cigarette.

A girl with thigh-high black stockings. 

A girl with headphones leans against a wall covered with graffiti art.

Don't ask, don't tell.

A street performer with an electric guitar.

"I'm homeless. Am a goin' crazy. Need money 4 food & beer." Also, cigarettes, soft drinks & rabbit food for his white bunny.

Have money, crazy about french fries.

Like grandfather, like grandson.

Wheelchair woman, bundled for the rain, waiting for the crosswalk light to change.

That's a woman in a bulky street worker's uniform.

Happiness is walking your dog.

And making a happy face with food at the Spaghetti Factory.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Chinatown restaurant

Chinatown restaurant --
a cook stands in the kitchen
gazing out the window

Hayin is from Beijing and she wants to go to a real Chinese restaurant in Vancouver's Chinatown. From the YMCA Hotel, we walk a few blocks to the SkyTrain and Gabe purchases our tickets.

Then we climb the stairs to the elevated platform.

A lot of Asians on the train, including a woman from India who seems to be meditating.

A Chinese man wearing a "36th Elderly Gathering" key neck strap. 

And a beaming Hayin.

When we exit, we have a great view of the Vancouver skyline, with high rises and blue mountains on the horizon. 

Hayin leads us to a shopping mall, where a produce market is just closing up for the night. Everything in Chinatown shuts down after 6:30 pm. All the retail stores in the mall are closed, like this one with packages of dried mushrooms and some vegetable I don't recognize, imported from China.

But the restaurant we're looking for is open and we're soon seated at a big round table. 

Hayin happily translates from the menu and suggests her favorite dishes.

Lots of different delicious dishes, which we all sample.

On the way back we pass through a plaza with a mysterious green head peeking around the corner.

It's a copper statue of a nude woman with outstretched arms balanced on a pedestal above a pool of water.

From a different angle I notice an amusing juxtaposition. Her hand appears to be patting the head of a kitchen worker taking a break on a bench outside another Chinese restaurant. Reality depends on your perspective!

When we return to the YMCA hotel, a group of Chinese children with their chaperones are just checking in. What are those strange orange caps they're wearing, with wings, animal ears and eye glasses?

On March 28, 2014, just a couple of weeks before our trip, the Vancouver Sun reported that 43% of the residents of Metro Vancouver have an Asian heritage, making it the most "Asian" city outside of Asia. And they ask, what are the ramifications? 
          In August 2014, the South China Morning Post World ran an article that addressed that issue. In a 2013 report to the Canadian Immigration Department, Daniel Hiebert, a geographer at the University of British Columbia, concluded that Vancouver is "likely to have a social geography that is entirely new to Canadian society . . . with a degree of racial segregation that would approach that between blacks and whites in the America." However, he noted that "it is hard to think that ethnocultural enclaves would have a negative impact on society." 
          Let us hope that ethnocultural differences will actually have a positive impact on society.