Friday, May 31, 2013

Friday: A Break!

The sun came out at noon, so I was out like a shadow, but without much time to think about anything, I headed for the 70th and South West Marine subway station so that I could get a ride back and be rested for my dinner with Kelly. I had a great time! The weather was perfect being cooler, because I was thoroughly comfortable—neither warm nor cool. The temperature was ideal for walking.

And after a lot of walking earlier in the month, then a wet week, I found walking today to be sublime. I am in good shape now, so I got to Oakridge in an hour and with two stops, to the subway station in another hour—two hours total. That is good timing.

 This is the east end of my street (Davie; I live at Hornby and Davie). The other end is English Bay beach, so my street has water and a public park at each end.

 This nice new flat sidewalk goes forever and is one reason I love walking Cambie.

This unused corner lot is now a vegetable garden; it is right beside a bus stop.

 At SW Marine and Cambie, the Canada Line subway (now 3 years old) is driving redevelopment of the entire route. I passed 14 houses slated for demolition that will become condos.

There was a man with an intellectual challenge on the Canada Line. He was wearing a t-shirt and an enormous hernia was hanging down and attracting the attention of everyone in the car. People were speaking in glances instead of words.

Thursday: Cabin Fever

Today (Friday) is breaking very cloudy. I have been up since 4:00 am.

Yesterday brought dreadful news from a dear friend whom I have known for decades:
"I got bad news today, Andy.  Hate doing this by email but I'll just start crying on the phone.  I've been given a few weeks, possibly a few months.  I'll meet next week with home-care nurses to discuss palliative care/hospice options.  I knew this day would come but just not ready for it.  I'm pretty much in shock."
I wanted to walk and walk and walk and not talk at all but I only got an hour in before the rain came.
The nice thing about walking in iffy weather is that the sidewalks are almost empty.
I have been worrying about my tendency to judge. While in South Africa last winter I had an immediate and powerfully negative response to two people: one was a loud, tattooed macho type-A American and the other was a loud South African grandma whose family invaded the tranquility of the eco reserve I was in, in Namibia. The American was Dave; the South African, Meryl.

Well, right after my immediate distaste response to Dave, he came over and made the most impressive self introduction I have ever experienced and over the course of my stay at Ukutula, he provided me with experiences with the lions there that were truly highlights of my life. And Meryl and every single member of her family charmed me completely and showed me a kindness I will never ever forget.

But what was I going to do about my judgemental nature? I had/have no hope of changing that, but yesterday I discovered something wonderful—I also have immediate positive responses to strangers—it's just that there are fewer of them and they do not stick in my memory like the negative impressions. 

So I no longer worry about my negative impressions—everyone does it, I realize. But I have succeeded in making a change—now I, a comparative introvert—act on my positive impulses. For example:
  • There is a tall stunning woman who I often see in my building. She is young, very tall and thin, and when she smiles, I melt. She is model gorgeous and she positively reeks of sweetness so I told her I found her "stunningly beautiful" and I told her I always found it euphoric to encounter her (and her cute bulldog puppy) in the elevator. PS: I opened by saying I was gay to be clear that I was not a dirty old man inappropriately hitting on her, and she was clearly flattered.
  • A woman of a certain age passed me on Granville Island. She looked absolutely fabulous—smart and stylish, but in a way appropriate to her age and her shoes were FAB-U-LOUS, so I told her how knock-out great her shoes were (and she was grateful for it).
  • I saw a young man get on the bus and start to read his book when he was approached by a man who I would guess is a high-functioning autistic person with a significant extroverted personality. The guy I assumed was autistic was trying to engage people without success—everyone just ignored him and that hurt. I tried to catch his eye because I wanted to talk to him but before I could, he befriended the young reader who closed his book and very comfortably engaged with the man. And when I found myself getting off at the same stop as the young reader, I thanked him for being so kind to the man and we had a very nice short exchange. It left me feeling great.
I doubt I can stop the judging, but I have value in "bitch-offsets."

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Wednesday May 29

The rain continues, but I will get in a short walk in today. But it seems good times are ahead.

About Wednesday:

  1. I sold 30 books, which was nice.
  2. I got a great tax refund!
  3. One section of my course is confirmed for this summer term.
  4. I spent 2.5 hours in my dentist's chair!

Whenever I think about "new technologies," I always think about my Apple devices but yesterday's visit to the dentist reminded me that there is no greater love than "new technologies" that take away pain. I haven't had dental work done for years—I am an avid tooth brusher—so I was not looking forward to three needles and the drilling that goes into making crowns and I chose to have two crowns done on the same day.

I chose Stan as my dentist because he has nitrous oxide and I always took advantage of every option when it came to drills and needles because I retained a childhood fear of dentistry and dentists. But Stan did everything and I had not a second of pain.

Stan's office is in Lynn Valley. Normally I walk at least one way; sometimes I walk there and back. I give myself three hours and I was surprised to discover that taking transit takes an hour and a half!

Why Not Walking Can Be As Rewarding As Walking

On the transit ride from the Sea Bus terminal in North Vancouver to 19th and Grand Boulevard I was one of two people over sixteen. The bus was so full of teenagers in heat that it didn't stop to pick anyone up. Transit could be a writer's greatest resource for insight into personalities far different from one's own and from those of one's friends.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Sunday, Monday and Tuesday May 26-28

I opened my eyes

And looked up at the rain,

And it dripped in my head

And flowed into my brain,

And all that I hear as I lie in my bed

Is the slishity-slosh of the rain in my head.

I step very softly,

I walk very slow,

I can't do a handstand--

I might overflow,

So pardon the wild crazy thing I just said--

I'm just not the same since there's rain in my head.
                          ~ Shel Silverstein, 1930-1999

I retired in November of 2004. At the time, I thought I would never work again; I had no idea what "retirement" meant because I had never thought about it.

In August of that year, I was laid off from the university where I worked as an administrator and I moved directly into the leadership position at a health care NGO and that lasted only three months. When I accepted the position, both the board of directors and I had the option to sever the agreement without consequence for six months. I lasted three. I quit because, after a lifetime of working in the not-for-profit sector, I could not handle another day working for a collective—a board of directors.

I consulted three financial institutions to assess whether or not I could "retire" and they all thought I could if I adopted a thrifty lifestyle so I went for a long, long walk to decide what I would do. I will never forget that walk because I had never ever looked forward and seen nothing.

I could do whatever I wanted and so the first thing I did was two almost back-to-back trips to India, a favourite country. Each trip was three-to-four months. When I came back, I started writing essays about what I had learned in my life about the visual art profession—I had organized massive public exhibitions, run a public gallery and written an artist advice column for a local visual artists for many years—and those essays turned into a book. 

That book became a BC best-seller and has earned me handsome royalties, so I wrote a second book and one outcome of writing these books is a modest teaching and workshop career for visual artists.

Then I did some fundraising for a local housing charity and that is how I became a walker. I pledged to walk 1,200 kilometres and my friends made pledges per kilometre and I raised $17,000 for them. To build on that, over the next two years, I wrote a play and produced it giving all the money ($15,000) to the same charity. And not that it is over, I am back where I was in November 2004.

Every item on my bucket list is checked off and there is nothing on the horizon. I have read all my New Yorkers. My place is spotless and nothing begs to be done. If I am awake, I have nothing to do and I have never lived like this before. It is hard, it is dull and it is boring. I am so desperate to fill time, I watch TV when it rains. 

On the weekend I bought books to read and that is saying something. I am the only writer I know who is not a reader of books (except when I am travelling or ill). Sadly, I see reading as the passive form of writing and I prefer to be active. I am not proud of thinking this way; it is  just the way it is.

I think I am going to have a bruise on my arm where a gentleman on the bus jabbed me—worse, the driver on the bus was playing contemporary country music.The lyrics made banal seem like a compliment; I plugged my ears?  

Sunday, May 26, 2013


Yesterday was wet. There was rain on my head and tears on my cheeks because the friends and family of Kay had to say goodbye. Today the tears are on my keyboard; my mind is in a cursed loop of cliches.

Happily, following the service, I walked during a window of sunshine to John and Bunny's house for dinner. And the guest of honour was their lovely niece, Kate whom I love so it was Kay and Kate day.

I passed the plaque below on the walk in a kind of memorial garden along Ambleside sports park in West Vancouver. I don't know who the hell Heidi Macrae is, but I know who George Bernard Shaw is—he is the uncredited author of the phrase.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Unexpected Great Weather

It is cool again. It gets up only to about 16° during the afternoon, but what perfect weather for walking. I took medicine to Rita, the woman I look after who lives at Brock Fahrni Pavilion at Women's Hospital. Then I walked down to Broadway for lunch with a friend, then home.

I have visitors from Whistler. They are dear friends whose visit is always welcome.

I have discovered a downside to my fabulous new orthotics—walking is horrible without them. I have also discovered I have to increase my caloric intake if I do not want to lose weight from all the walking.

Tonight's sunset is one of the best so far this year.

 The canopy is retractable for free outdoor performances at The Roundhouse (a former train depot now a cultural centre).

This is a building on the grounds of the hospital complex where Rita lives. What elegant design and I LOVE the typeface.

The local palms are in bloom.

 Magnificence in natural design.

Not like Europe, but food display still always a lovely and colourful sight.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Long and Uneventful

Today there was high cloud—excellent for walking. I chose to walk to Wreck Beach (the route in blue) so that once I arrived, I could rest for a bit and then walk part way home (in red). It was cool (15°) and the haze meant the sun was warm but not hot. I rested an hour, then walked back to Broadway and Macdonald where I caught the bus.  All in all: 4 hours walking; about 18 K.

At Wreck Beach there had been a land slide.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Domestic Treadmill

I made plans for a rainy day but there was no rain all day. All my walking was in my condo. I have friends coming for dinner so there was shopping, cleaning (and I did a great job, I must say) and cooking. Tomorrow when I walk, I will be coming home to some fantastic left overs: Halibut served on a quinoa salad and with a mango, fabulous turkish bread with spicy humous and gingered strawberries for dessert. I love cooking as well as walking. 

 My fabulous kitchen. I love cooking in the light plus I have a great view of the ocean and Davie Street below.

Now all I  need is the guests.

The quinoa salad and the mango salsa. I forgot to take photos of everything else.

Yesterday (Tuesday): RAIN!

The whole week looks iffy for walking so reading and errands will fill my time. Tuesday was forced rest but it was good because at age 65 and with mild arthritis in many joints, my hips and one knee have been feeling the cumulative effect of all my walking.

A couple of decades ago, I got seriously into roller skating. I skated all my life and only quit two years ago after a fall and too many broken ribs, but there was a period in my early forties were I was regularly speed skating 20 kilometres almost every day on the campus near my home. And during that time, for the first time in my life, I felt that endorphin high on many days and recently that feeling has come to me during my walks. I feel like I could walk all day forever. I love it. I feel more at rest moving.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Burnaby Lake

Cloudy, then sunny periods and quite warm, then cloudy again. A perfect day for a 4.5-hour walk around Burnaby Lake and really, about 350 kilometres into this season's walking, I truly have my "walking legs." They give me that endorphin-like high that comes from being in great walking shape now.

Today, at times, I felt as good as it is possible to feel due to the smell of the humidity, the feeling of the lovely warm sun on my back and hearing only birdsong—and in particular, Swainson's Thrush (which you can hear here by clicking on "Song, call." I also felt superb because I had no map, was in an area I had never been in before and that made me remember, vividly, my walking in France two years ago when I was walking in the same circumstances. It was an excellent wonderful day.

My walk around the lake began in pastoral splendour...

that boasted many lovely sights.

 And the air was full of Cottonwood fluff that got caught in the cattails.

These were a new form of cattail to me... slender and thinly leafed.

 Glory be to dapples things ... I Love Gerard Manly Hopkins.

 The lake panorama. (Click to enlarge.)

Huge Skunk Cabbage grow here.


 Look at the Cottonwood fluff on the lake (and the baby geese); my asthma sometimes makes these wonderful outdoor escapades a challenge.

The fish ladder at the end of the lake.


Long stretches of the path were boardwalks.

Salmon berries. Mmmmmm!

Lots of bird houses dotted the route.

 Once I left the lake, I was on a nice gravel path, but then ...

 it led to an industrial detour that passed ....
 Jack's and then ...

got seriously industrial, but then, at the end....

... poppies!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

To a Birthday Party

Today began cloudy but I could see light on the horizon and figured it would be sunny late in the afternoon. And guess what? I was bang on, so I decided to walk to my party date in North Van. It took exactly three hours during, really, the most beautiful time of the day. The party was to celebrate the 65th birthday of my friend Karen.

 Please walk on the grass.

 A meadow of daisies.

A stunning tree of little bells.

Moss. Beautiful.

Skunk Cabbage belongs to an elite genus of plants that can produce heat.

Two cruise ships leave the harbour as I walk over the bridge.

 Broom. I love it!

Karen's daughter lives on West 22nd, in North Van. In that part of the district, there are lots of older and very small houses plus some larger older homes (above and below).