Midnight Sun Art and Film Festival, Sun Peaks, BC

Rollin’, rollin’, rollin’ … into Kamloops, BC, then up into the mountains, destination Sun Peaks for the Midnight Sun Art and Film Festival August 7 – 9, for the outdoor screening of my video The Fire Ceremony II: Metamorphosis, an experimental short which opened the festival.

After arrival, the first order of business, as usual, was a beer on a patio, this one at the Cahilty Lodge, overlooking the Sun Peaks Grand Hotel, where we could keep an eye on our loaded Modo car while we waited for our room at the Grand to become ready.

Sun Peaks Alpine Resort, formerly Tod Mountain, is designed to mimic a Swiss ski village, with the gingerbread-like architecture of the buildings. Our Hotel was refurbished in the 1990s and was indeed a grand old dame; our room, on the second floor, had a commanding view of the parking lot … not exactly what I had imagined, visions of sweeping mountain vistas dancing in my head.

Joining us for the weekend were the two amigas, Barb and Christine, seen here ready to go for a whirl through the village.

Saturday morning, after a bit of a lie-in – very unusual for me since I am usually up with the birds before dawn – we were off up the mountain for a hike through alpine meadows.

In the summer season Tod Mountain’s ski runs become a hiking and biking paradise and the chair lift is well set up to carry everyone and their gear up the hill, with special chairs just for the mountain bikes heading up to the trails.

As we cruised up the hill, we could see some of the downhill bike trails below which an employee was grooming for the afternoon. It wasn’t possible to tell from below how high this mountain is; the chair ride was about 15 minutes long – so quite high!

I was going to walk right past a garbage can of hiking poles, but then Ty mentioned their utility for hitting any bears on the nose and each of us selected one.

We had asked for advice at Guest Services and had been told to follow trails 5 and 7 to the top and back for nice views out over the valley.

The first part of trail 5 zig-zagged across the mountain side that fronts the resort; we could see the village sparkling far below us. As far as the eye could see across the valleys and mountain tops of the BC interior, there was no snow anywhere. I saw a patch of korek, those plants with which I made art installations in Turkey when I was an artist-in-residence there. Not sure what these are called here.

The first part of our hike took us up to and just short of the summit of Tod Mountain which we then skirted around in a quest for Tod Lake.

Surprisingly, as we walked deeper into the alpine area, a herd of cows was there, grazing on the mountainside. Ty greeted them with several moos, causing them to pop their heads up inquiringly. One large beast started to head in our direction so we kept on moving away from them.

Although many of the flowers in the alpine meadows were already finished, we did see some beautiful small blooms of lupins, fireweed, aster, and bright red Indian Paint Brush on the hills.

After walking for a few hours, we zigged when we should had zagged and had to backtrack to find trail 7 to the lake.

After a few teasers that turned out to be puddles not lakes, we did make it in to Tod Lake, where we, along with a few other intrepid souls, ate the packed lunch that Cafe de Soleil had prepared for us that morning. One small chipmunk joined us at the table, seemingly quite interested in our food.

The weather was perfect for hiking, sunny with beautiful cumulus clouds floating by, and not too hot. Trail 7 from the lake back down the mountain gave us a different view of the valley from the other side of the mountain and the trail itself was rougher, leading through brush and bush.

After five hours of fantastic hiking on the hill, I was tired and happy to head back down, glad that the only wildlife we had seen was the tiny chipmunk. There are bears in them thar hills and I admit that I did think about them as I was walking …

Our reward for finishing the hike was gigantic orange bellinis at Bottoms patio at the base of the chair.

Another fun summer activity on the hills is go-karting; a Tbar-like lift takes the cars up the hill and gravity brings them back down again. We will maybe check that out another time.

The Midnight Sun Art & Film Festival, organised by Dasha Novak, began with a wine tasting and live music event at Mantles Restaurant in the Sun Peaks Grand, where we listened to young local musicians play and sing. I had a very nice chat with one, the pianist Polina, from Russia, who is in Kamloops to study at Thompson Rivers University.

I was happy to see Darlene, a printmaking colleague from Thompson Rivers University, with whom I stayed the last time I was in Kamloops twenty years ago – we had a nice chinwag and catch-up. Unfortunately, the weather had changed and right up until the time the films were due to start we weren’t sure whether the show would go ahead. But the rain did stop and die-hard film enthusiasts did congregate at the gigantic outdoor screen, with their chairs and blankets in tow.

Not being too clued in to the realities of mountainside living, we had neglected to bring warm clothes, blankets, or chairs … so the viewing conditions were less than optimum. But I was happy to suffer for art to see my film The Fire Ceremony II; Metamorphosis projected on the enormous screen, and the sound system was fantastic.

In addition to my short film. two other feature length productions were screened, Reaching Blue, a documentary about the Salish Sea and Yakona, a poetic look at the life of a Texan river.

Sunday morning saw us enjoying coffee at the Mountain Cafe and taking in the Sun Peaks Farmer’s Market.

The village was busy on Saturday and Sunday morning, with three wedding parties and the Art Festival.

We decided to spend the afternoon on a guided voyageur canoe trip on MacGillivray Lake led by Campbell, a lively young man dressed for the part who drove us to the lake in a huge old rattling school bus.

Of course, Ty, in typical fashion, sat right at the back of the bus and coached me on disaster scenarios and how to survive if the bus should lose its brakes on the hill.

The first order of business was for Campbell to bail out the canoe and then the six of us were off paddling around the lake in a replica of the kind of canoes used by the early Canadian explorers.

Large fires had gone through this area several times over the years and many stands of trees had been killed; we could see their dry burnt skeletons lining the lake.

We were also lucky enough to see a Canadian loon lunching on a trout.

Sunday night the weather was better for the screening of All the Time in the World, a documentary featuring a family of five who spent nine months in the Yukon bush without electricity, and Queen of the Sun, about the catastrophic disappearance of bees and the mysterious world of the beehive. Barb managed to get us some blankets and foldable chairs, making this viewing experience more comfortable than the other.

It was a fantastic weekend, thoroughly enjoyable. See the Festival program Midnight Sun Art & Film Festival and my photos here. More info about Sun Peaks is available here.

Back home again …

Here is a photo with our lovely hosts in Cancun, Gabby and Aldo, plus Frida the dog (named after artist Frida Kahlo), standing in front of their Cancun home.

We’ve been back in Vancouver for a week and a half now; in that time, it’s gone from a Junuary winter-summer of 13 degree temperatures to a full-on July Vancouver summer, with blue skies, sun, and 19 degrees (still cool for this old body used to the mid 30s of Mexico!). We’re renting an apartment downtown, just around the corner from our own place, back to which we move the beginning of August. It is nice to be back in the neighbourhood.

From our balcony, we can see the Emery Barnes dog park below.

Here’s the view looking north to the mountains of the North Shore.

Brubin is happy that summer’s here, too.

Now that the sun’s out, everyone who has been huddled in the darkness and rain for the last few months is out and about (although not as early as me – Brubin is up at 5 am these days).

One of the things that I noticed right away when we returned is that all the trees and bushes have grown tremendously. This seawall garden was pretty sparse when we left a year ago; now it is huge and luxuriant. The huge sculpture “A Brush with Illumination” is still a favoured resting spot for the cormorants around the Creek.

It’s lovely to see the Great Blue Herons fishing along the False Creek shoreline.

This huge sculpture on the seawall across from Granville Island really captures the beauty of these birds.

As usual, there are lots of big freighters in the harbour.

I love the red of this one against the blue background of the North Shore mountains and our frigid ocean. Barb and I went for a skate around the seawall yesterday, one of the joys of living here (although my sore feet weren’t so joyous).

We stopped at the Brockton Point lighthouse in Stanley Park, with several other passersby, to watch the beginning of a wedding service against the backdrop of the harbour and Lions Gate bridge.

This couple was very lucky with their choice of day – it was beautiful.

Near Lumbermen’s Arch, this ship’s Chinese figurehead has finally been restored.

I love seeing all the sea birds here; here’s a cormorant giving the snorkeller sculpture the hairy eyeball.

Living up to his reputation, here’s a geagull consuming whatever’s around, in this case an unfortunate purple starfish. With all the rain in the last little while, the foreshore is green with moss and mold and the kelp fields are thick and rich with food.

Ty and I have really noticed how incredibly green it is here compared with where we’ve been. Also, how few people there are; some days, especially when the weather is bad, the streets here are virutally deserted. We almost never experienced that while away. It’s no wonder that visitors to this city, especially those from South East Asia, would wonder where everyone is … While every morning we awoke to the sound of song birds, I have not heard a single one here. The only birds we’ve seen are seabirds – cormorants, seagulls – and, of course, crows. But where have all the song birds gone?

See more pics here.


Tourist in my own home town II

Having sold the red Echo, Ty and I are travelling transit until we leave. Yesterday we headed out via the Skytrain to grab Ty’s bike from our locker downtown and then made our way to Third Beach through the urban forest. While there, I had a quick chat with Mick, one of the park’s regulars who makes his home in the trees there: “Well, I have the beach for my front yard and the trees for my back – who wouldn’t like that?”.

A 60 year old, wiry, brown and lean from days and nights living rough, and with a ripped tendon from pushing his loaded cart all over town, Mick looked more beaten down than his contemporary Gipsy Jack (who, with the same long grey hair in a ponytail, could have been his more prosperous brother). “It is what it is”, he said resignedly when I asked about his daily treks collecting anything useable to sell.

This day we decided to take the 49th bus out to UBC to check out the action pre-back-to-school at our old Alma Mater. The campus was quiet and dusty; we were surprised to see the amount of landscaping construction going on, with route detour signs and orange fencing everywhere. Hopefully this will be completed within the next three weeks, otherwise, with the rains that are sure to come, the whole place will be a gigantic mud pit. We were also surprised to see how unkempt everything – the buildings and gardens – looked; I suppose the current austerity climate has even affected this place.

We visited the Beaty Biodiversity Museum, a new version of what would have been called a Natural History Museum back in the day. Upon entering a visitor is greeted with a gigantic Blue Whale skeleton suspended from the ceiling; down a ramp is the collection itself, a series of black cabinets and drawers that hold specimens from every period of historic life.

We were fortunate enough to hook onto a tour that was just starting; the guide Tanis was great and explained some of the highlights of the collection, including replicas of 19th century curiosity cabinets, a dangerous tropical cone snail shell with beautiful patterned markings which can paralyze prey (including humans if the animal is large enough) (note to self: avoid while travelling), a species of fish, two branches of which are quickly evolving in separate directions because of changing habitat, and fossils from the Burgess Shale. The displays themselves are really gorgeous, with the specimens beautifully displayed in glass containers and wooden boxes.

The display setup here is much more modern and sleek than the older style of museum epitomised by, say, La Specola in Florence. That place, built in the 18th century, contains row after row of glass cases of dusty specimens unenlivened by any narrative material that could contextualise the exhibits for a non-scientific visitor. For me, the best part of La Specola is instead its collection of wax anatomical teaching models, 1800 or so wax body parts and several full-scale human bodies sculpted in the 18th century and posed free-standing (the men) and reclining (the women), their positions indicating the gender conventions formerly adhered to … manly rigidity for males and languid, made-up receptivity for females.

After finishing our perusal of natural history, Ty and I headed off down to the Nitobe Gardens, with a stop at Rodney Graham’s Millennial Time Machine on the way, an old turn of the century motor car containing a camera obscura housed within a glass and cement structure.

The Nitobe Garden is an oasis of quiet varieties of green, bonsai trees, cherry trees, which are unfortunately afflicted by the same blight affecting their brothers lining the streets of Vancouver (meaning they’re all going to have to be cut down eventually – a real shame), bridges, small pagoda sculptures and ponds (although the $18 entry fee is a bit much).

Back on the bus, we made our way down to English Bay, realising as we looked out the window, that we were heading into zombie territory as more and more made-up figures roamed the roadway the further into the west end we travelled. Remembering that today was the fourth annual Zombie Walk, we took some time to investigate the varieties of ghouls on display, enjoying the theatricality of the spectacle taking place in and around the Amazing Laughter sculpture, ranging from the munching of (fake) bloody limbs and heads, to gigantic axe and pistol fighting, to sleep-walking, to carnivorous dead-devouring.

Later, we enjoyed the company of friends on the rooftop deck of a classic 60s west end apartment building as the sun set, another fabulous day here on the west coast.

Read about the Beaty Biodiversity Museum here.

Read about La Specola Natural History Museum here. See pictures of the displays here. Read about my anatomical art work here. More information about my La Specola art work here.

Read about the Nitobe Garden at UBC here.

See more pictures here.

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.

Touring Steveston

Since we’re now living so close to the Fraser River, it only makes sense to check out the action along its banks; last weekend, this meant a trip out to Richmond, to Finn Slough and Steveston.

The village of Finn Slough can be found at the foot of No 4 Road, although if one didn’t know it was there, I’m not sure whether you’d find it or not since much of it is overgrown by brush and blackberry brambles.

Founded in the 1890s (old for this part of the world) by – wait for it – Finnish immigrants, the village consists of wooden houses and shacks built along Woodward Slough, an opening to the south arm of the Fraser that is flooded at high tide and mud flats at low.

Many of the houses were built on wooden stilts; small motor and fishing boats rest on the muddy bottom when the tide recedes. On this day the scene was quiet and peaceful, no-one about but two very skinny cats meowing piteously.

Having explored all there was to see of Finn Slough, we headed off through the farm fields to Steveston, another waterfront community which I had not visited in probably 30 years. Has it ever expanded since then – acres of new townhouse developments now fill the space that used to be part of the agricultural reserve. The town mostly seems to consist of seafood restaurants specialising in fish n’ chips and T-shirt shops; Ty and I sampled the goods at the Sockeye City – not bad but pretty small portions.

At the end of the boardwalk is the Gulf of Georgia Cannery Historical Site; as part of the Salmon Stomp admission to the Cannery was free and we enjoyed following the process of salmon canning from the catch to the can.

The displays are very well done and the building itself is fabulous, with much of the old equipment still intact. Ty knows quite a bit about fishing and was able to give me the rundown on what the various pieces of machinery were used for.

Read more about Finn Slough here.

Read more about the Gulf of Georgia Cannery here.

See more pictures here.

Culture Shock in South Vancouver

From the penthouse to the basement … since we’ve rented our own place out for a year, and we’re on the road for ten months, we needed a place to stay before and after the Grand Tour. It’s a bit of a culture shock to move from the urban core, where everything we like to do is within walking distance and we hardly ever fire up the car, to the burbs of south Vancouver, our home for the next 26 days, where there’s nothing we like to do within walking distance and everything requires firing up the car. Living downtown has spoiled us, I’m afraid.

The suite itself is quite nice, newly made with new all-Ikea furniture and appliances and, oh joy for Ty, a large flat-screen TV. We haven’t had a TV for 10 years so for the first couple of days we watched it and discovered that, no, nothing has changed, it’s still 500 channels and nothing on … back to the computer screens and the kindles. I had a bit of a meltdown the other day when, for some unknown reason, our internet was down – I really am an addict.

One nice aspect of living in a house is the back yard; we have a grassy area with several beautiful flowers and a gigantic leafy tree for shade, as well as access to the recently constructed deck and BBQ while the house’s owners are away.

This morning, wanting to explore the area on bike, I headed off down towards the Fraser River. Along the way I saw many houses in what appears to be the new Vancouver Special style, a very ornate design, and large house, on the usual 33 foot lot. Each of these houses has the same kind of stone/brick fence and inscribed granite address number plate – whoever is making these is making a fortune. Once having crossed over the very busy, and bike-unfriendly, SE Marine Drive, I followed a guy on a bike onto the Kent Avenue bikeway along the river (I had no idea this bike path existed).

This not-so-scenic route took me past a cement plant, the City of Vancouver recycling depot, and a bunch of small industrial buildings on the river’s edge. Past these the view became better as I was able to turn onto a gravel path that ran right along the river, from which I could watch the tugs towing barges and log booms up towards New Westminster.

Cycling further out along this route I came to some new upscale townhouses and condos in an area that has been christened the “River District”. As with all things related to housing in this town, once someone has a good idea – homes on the river – everyone wants to get in on the action and the area is now in the process of redevelopment all along the river as far as Burnaby.

In certain sections wooden piers and viewing platforms have been erected, from which one can observe the many ducks and herons enjoying the water. Lots of folks take advantage of these to fish, although I’m pretty sure that I’d not eat anything that came from the Fraser River, given its muddy brown colour at the moment and the signs warning of water treatment plant outflow …

Crossing over the city boundary into Burnaby, the river-side area becomes the Burnaby Fraser Foreshore Park, in which apparently bicycles are not allowed on the trails. Bah humbug!

Since riding along the roads here is not at all enjoyable, since they travel through industrial areas and are busy with gigantic trucks and many other speeding vehicles, I ignored the no-cycling signs and rode gently and quietly along the gravel path through the forest, a much more pleasant and scenic — and safe — route. Most of the pedestrians I saw were also ignoring the posted signs with respect to unleashed dogs so I did not feel too bad about my small transgression.

Read more about the River District here.

Read more about the Kent Street bike path here.

Read more about the Burnaby Fraser Foreshore Park here.

See more pictures here.

Cruising the Downtown Streets

Only a few more days for downtown Vancouver living and then we move to our temporary digs at 47th and Main for August. Since the day was beautiful, and I managed to get my chores done early, I decided to head out on my bike and document the changing downtown scene. Every couple of months or so I like to photograph the metamorphosis of graffiti and architecture in my neighborhood – it’s always interesting to see what the street philosophers have been commenting on …

I was surprised to see that what had been a vacant parking lot just one month earlier when we rolled through here on our Friday night bike/skate was now an inner city urban garden run by Sole Food Garden. Right next to the Astoria Hotel at Hastings and Hawks, the urban garden looked fabulous and is growing food to feed the Downtown Eastside. What a great idea!

From the VanCity website, here’s more information on this project:

“The former parking lot next to the Astoria Hotel on East Hastings Street in Vancouver is attracting a lot of attention. That’s probably because it’s filled with raised garden beds, plants and hard-working Downtown Eastside gardeners. This is the central location of SOLEfood (Save our Living Environment), an outstanding enterprise making a difference in the lives of many people.

SOLEfood farm is a not-for-profit social enterprise providing urban agriculture employment and training opportunities for Vancouver’s inner-city residents. They produce and sell an organically grown selection of healthy, delicious produce including spinach, kale, peppers and tomatoes. It is the brainchild of the people involved in United We Can, whose most familiar enterprise is The United We Can Bottle Depot.”

Read more about the Sole Food Farm here and here.

Strathcona, Vancouver’s oldest neighborhood, is undergoing a process of gentrification; every time we ride through here more of the older houses are being renovated for upscale urbanites, displacing the artists and lower income folk who made this place the great community it is. Most of the houses here were built at the turn of the century and housed the large families of that day. Many are being broken up into smaller units to house today’s homeowners.

One of my artist friends Torrie, recently come back to Vancouver from San Francisco, purchased an old church on Prior Street and is now fixing it up as a live/work studio space for herself and her family. It’s a beautiful building and will make a wonderful artist’s space.

Read information about Torrie’s work here and here.

Each section of the neighborhood has its own corner store/coffee shop; one of the best is the Union Street on the bikeway from downtown to the East Side. I stopped here for a cappuccino briefy then rolled past a labyrinth and back around through the downtown core alleyways.

The graffiti wall paintings have changed once again since I last photographed them a couple of months ago. Here’s a sample:

On my way back to the ranch I stopped in at the Contemporary Gallery at Nelson and Richards to see the Shary Boyle show – great stuff! Porcelain sculptures and peculiar 2D works – surrealism with a fairy-tale edge.

Read more about Shary Boyle’s work here and here.

I love living in downtown Vancouver and will miss it while we’re on the road.

See more pictures here.

Chubba: Life on the Streets

While driving around the west side looking for objects and junk to use for sculpture, I happened upon two guys in the park at Fourth and Blenheim. With them were three bike-and-trailer rigs, loaded to the gills with all sorts of trashy treasures. I figured if anyone knew where to find the good stuff, it would be these guys. The older one didn’t want to talk to me, but the younger – Chubba – “It’s Hungarian”, he told me – was fairly voluble about life on the streets. He said that Kits was pretty good for junk collecting, because “all these people are rich”, but that it was not as good as in the old days (he’s been in the area since 1997) when folks threw away way more stuff. These days, even on blue box days, there’s not as much stuff and more competition for the stuff there is. Even so, he asserted, the laneways of Kits were still pretty good. “Sometimes I get so much stuff that I just have to give some of it away because I can’t carry it all”.

I asked him about food and he said that when they hang out at Jericho Beach, they get lots – “One day, two guys offered us hot dogs but we couldn’t take them because we were already so stuffed”. I mentioned that the Granville Island dumpsters have lots of disgarded food but Chubba said he doesn’t go down there since it’s not “his territory”; his territory runs from Mcdonald Street all the way out to UBC and up to 16th Avenue. Winters they sleep in the park and summer sees them down at Jericho Beach. To a question about whether they get hassled much, he replied “No. We’ve been here a long time and I guess people are just used to us”. The only thing he spends money on is beer, a can of which he and his friend were drinking as we chatted. Of the monkey attached to his rig, he said, “Be sure to get the monkey in your picture – it’s my signature”.

I didn’t find much in the laneways but did come away with some wooden bookcase parts that may prove interesting parts of a large sculptural construction.

My encounter with Chubba made me think about the differing views of family responsibility and individual independence here in North America and in Asia. In Turkey, for example, the friends I made were astonished to hear of homelessness and the mentally ill wandering the streets unloved and unlooked after. “But where are their families?”, one friend asked, astounded at what he percieved to be such callousness towards other human beings. That people here should choose to live on their own apart from family and indeed to celebrate such independence and see it as a core value was incomprehensible. And, that those who really can’t look after themselves wouldn’t be looked after by family brought a snort of derision. There, such people would be cared for in the bosom of the family. In my travels through Turkey I only saw one street person, that a woman whose solitary wanderings on the beaches and byways of the southern Mediterranean town of Side, one hour east of Antalya, caused surprise and consternation to those who noticed her. You can see her slowly making her way down the beach, laden with bags, in the picture below, ignored by the visiting sun-worshippers.

She was only there for two days, then gone – perhaps her family came for her.

See more pictures of Side here and here.

Jellyfish invasion – eek!

Update: read this jellyfish plague story.

The headline jumped out at me: “Warming oceans cause largest movement of marine species in two million years: Swarms of venomous jelly fish and poisonous algae are migrating into British waters due to changes in the ocean temperatures, a major new study has revealed.”

(Image credit: Ankale flikr)

This is the Pelagia Noctiluca, a poisonous warm water jellyfish which has closed beaches and become increasingly common in British waters – yuk! If they’re migrating into British waters, we can be sure they’re migrating into our waters, too. I was really surprised two years ago, while beach combing at Blue Heron Park near Nanaimo (the beach you see in the photo below), to see a large brown jellyfish quivering on the sand.

It reminded me of our trip to Thailand in January and February of 2009 when, on a long tail boat trip to see the Emerald Cave on Koh Muk in the Andaman Sea, I swam unknowingly through a school of tiny stinging jellyfish – ouch!

Almost immediately, while I couldn’t see the creatures in the dark of the cave, I could certainly feel them stinging me all over my body. Luckily, those tiny beasts were not poisonous. When we arrived later on Koh Lanta, we were surprised and disappointed to see all the beaches along the west coast of the island infested with jellyfish, gigantic jellyfish carcasses on the beach and live jellyfish drifting lazily in the waters, all bereft of swimmers.

Read the newspaper report on warming oceans here.