Tourist in my own home town I

While cat-sitting my own cat, whose temporary caretaker had left for a few days, I took advantage of the finally summery weather here on the gloomy coast to walk from Kits Beach to Jericho along the rocky foreshore. In amidst the rocks and kelp were small pockets of sand, each occupied by refugees from the city’s vastly more popular – and sandy – beaches either side of this stony strip. I was interested to see that, along the many retaining walls preventing the mansions of Vancouver’s rich and not-so-famous from tumbling into the sea, anonymous artists had painted vast canvases of colourful graffiti.

Back again in South Van I rolled my bike out along the Ontario Street bikeway running from South East Marine down to the seawall to find out what a bike commute from this area would look like. Ontario runs through several neighborhoods, from Sunset to Riley Park to Mount Pleasant to the Athletes’ Village. Along its length are roundabouts, mostly decorated with plants and flowers thanks to a Green Cities initiative in which people agree to look after said gardens. Some are still hoping to attract a gardener’s interest and consequently looking very shabby in comparison, dusty and friendless. I like this bike-route; like others in what purports to be, and maybe one day actually will be, a bike-friendly place, it has street-crossing buttons mounted on light standards at a biker rider’s height and several traffic-calming devices in place to make riding a more pleasant activity that it was back in the day when my old Dad used to get into horrible altercations with bus drivers as we rode along Kingsway or Broadway in a city that was even less bike-friendly than now.

Mount Pleasant still has some lovely old heritage buildings, the Ukrainian Church on Tenth and what used to be another church, now converted to condos across the street, as well as the Heritage Hall at 15th and Main, a former post office now used for cultural events. It also has some less attractive features, including a large fenced-off grassy area across from Queen Elizabeth Park in which soil remediation is supposed to be taking place, although it appears that no such remediation has actually taken place in a long, long time. The fenced-off trees look dusty and lonely in their sea of unkempt grass.

In addition, the ride features at least two turn of the century brick elementary schools, unfortunately to become rubble in the next great quake that’s due here any time now when the Cascadia Fault ruptures, the Sir William Van Horne and the General Wolfe, built in 1911 and 1910 by what looks to be the same architect.

Hopefully the collapse will come when the schools are not occupied! Ty and I have also been interested to note the number of empty corner lots in South Van which used to house gas stations; it’s apparent that these have been closed because no longer profitable and that, rather than take out the old gas tanks and clean the soil, instead whoever owns them is just waiting for the oil and gas remnants to drain away and become someone else’s problem. After a roll of about 30 or 40 minutes I hit the revitalising Athletes’ Village and then made my way along the wall to Granville Island. Earlier in the week I had cycled along the wall from Kits and stopped at Habitat Island where I listened to a grad student from UBC talk about her project raising Mason bees.

The area in which this talk took place has been converted into the Bulkhead Urban Garden and has been planted with flowers and veggies attractive to bees, those tiny pollinators without whom we’re screwed.

This day I stopped to have a chat with Gipsy Jack, a very dapper well-dressed homeless man with a nice bike and trailer rig who’s made the area his home.

After dropping off my tube of art work, a contribution to the 101 Prints fundraiser in the Fall, to Malaspina Printmakers on Granville Island, I headed back uphill and stopped at the Mountain View Cemetery, a vast sea of the dead occupying a large area between Main and Fraser. I was surprised to see that some new elements have been added to the grounds, a Memory Hall (which can be rented for private events) and many walls of columbaria, as well as a beautiful water feature on the east side, and a flowery stream bed garden for infants and the still born a bit farther north.

Other than myself, there were 5 other visitors this day. While not as beautiful as the European cemeteries with which I’m familiar, Mountain View is nevertheless a restful place to contemplate one’s mortality. I love cemeteries and often visit them while travelling; among the ones that I like the best are the small patch of very colourfully-painted graves on Cozumel Island in Mexico, the one in Side, Turkey, and the grand monumental gravesite for the rich behind San Miniato al Monte in Florence, Italy.

Many of the headstones in Turkish graves have Ruhuna Fatiha inscribed on them; before I realised that this meant something like rest in peace, I assumed that there were very many people so named in Turkey … The best time to visit a cemetery is sunset, when the long shadows and beautiful colours light up the graves in intriguing ways. Unfortunately, the Mountain View closes at 7; in the summer that’s way before sunset.

See more cemetery pictures here and here

Read about Mountain View Cemetery here.

See more pictures here.

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