Monday, January 30, 2012

Vancouver - my birthplace

I was born here almost 68 years ago. The streets are all familiar although the faces of the people and the businesses have changed dramatically.  On a walk along both sides of Granville Street yesterday(Sunday) from 7th Avenue to 16th Avenue, I was surprised to see that every small business was open. The street was full of shoppers, many clinging to their cell phones, connected to unseen friends and family. Only one person(without a cell phone) made eye contact.

Today I visited my family doctor from 32 years ago. We have both aged. He assured me that I had been one of his favourite patients. I laughed, positive that he could not recognize the young dark haired woman from 1980 in the old woman sitting in front of him. His hair had disappeared and a slight paunch had developed. His office had occupied the same space in the same building at 41st and Cambie for 35 years. A search online indicated that his annual earnings were between $500,000-1 million. 

His receptionist, Mariah, had straight black hair to her waist. She could be anywhere from 45-55 years of age and didn't hesitate to offer advice and laughter to the patients while they were waiting. She stapled, photocopied, answered the phone and shuffled patients to examination rooms while singing along to the piped-in music.

The reason for my visit was to obtain a referral to an Opthalmologist. My left eye had been seeing flashes while we were in Mexico. I was examined by a specialist in Puerto Vallarta but his facility was quite antiquated and I wanted a second opinion about possible tears or retinal detachment. Mariah was instructed to test my vision at the end of the hall so I read out the letters while she pointed at the chart. This specialized skill was obviously added to her job description.

The rest of the afternoon was spent sharing unusual encounters with various salespeople. The weary guy at BCAA who kept sneezing on my policy papers while explaining that he was unable to give me a rebate on our travel medical insurance. The clerk at Save-on who didn't know how to validate my underground parking ticket. She finally remembered that she had to take $2.00 off my grocery purchase and then I had to put $2.00 in the parking meter!! What an interesting arrangement! Then there was the salesperson at a cellular phone kiosk who refused to reimburse me for a $10 Telus phonecard. I had inadvertantly peeled instead of scratched the back so the validation number was removed. "Why should we be responsible for your mistake?" he asked.

I finally returned to our borrowed 10th floor penthouse for a cup of tea and some quiet reflection about this city where I was born...this city that is now ranked with Hong Kong as the most expensive city in the world to own a home! 

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Vancouver - a cold return!

What a transition! Sleet and snow! The brave daffodils that poked their heads above ground in an attempt to promote an early spring in Vancouver were killed by last night's temperatures. Arriving from the warmth of Puerto Vallarta, this cold is a shock to our systems. Fortunately I discovered a pair of gloves in the pockets of my jacket when I ventured outside for a walk this morning. Even the seagulls and pigeons are huddled on the rooftop next door, unwilling to leave their roost.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Mexico - a land of colour

On our last morning in PV, I finally made it to Zumba. Our hosts got out of bed early enough to drive down with me, resting comfortably in a nearby coffee shop while I joined thirty other sweaty bodies! Everything was going fine until the instructor's young male assistant started to lead the group about halfway through the one hour session. He chose slower music with seductive movements, not Zumba style dance at all. Unimpressed, I finally joined the guys for a coffee.

Before returning home we detoured to the market for a few photos. 

All of the fish vendors vied for our business with offers of reduced prices.

On the way home we spotted a truckload of watermelons.

Mexico is a land of colour!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


A cube of ice in a glass provided hours of entertainment!
That was yesterday. 
Today they are banished from the house. Being curious and relentlessly hungry, they decided to explore the kitchen counters while we were sitting outside with our breakfast. They made the mistake of being discovered as they licked everything clean. One enjoyed the remains of a mushroom omelette while the other showed a preference for yogurt! Their cleanup assistance was not appreciated by our host. Two furry creatures were sent flying out of the house and doors were slammed behind them as they sat and nonchalantly licked their paws.

Monday, January 23, 2012


I have passed a Zumba group every morning on my walk. They meet at an outdoor plaza. The music is infectious and the young woman who leads the group never stops smiling. This morning I finally stopped long enough to get some details. The classes are held at 8am every weekday morning at a cost of 15 pesos(approx $1.00) per participant! Hard to believe that a similar class costs about $8.00 at home.

So, tomorrow, only two days before we leave, I will finally join the group for a sweat fest! There are always a few token men in the group and always a mix of Mexicans and gringos. Should be fun!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Stepping stones

A quiet morning at the river
Stepping stones to the other side
Should I cross over?

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Mornings on the Malecon

There is always something new to see on my morning walks along the Malecon.

Will the kayakers escape the clutches of this creature?
....or is he only interested in the deer?

Further along, a hopeful artist sets up his easels
hoping to attract a tourist eye.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Silent Sentinel

Silent sentinel

A Mismaloya lunch

Today we accepted a  lunch invitation to a friend's home in Mismaloya, about 20 minutes south of Puerto Vallarta. Arriving early for a tour, we climbed up and down many flights of stairs to view the rooms on all nine levels from the parking garage down to the pool terrace.

The property contains three casitas as well as being home to the owner and his dogs. Visitors are housed in separate quarters(casitas) with a sitting area, bedroom and private bathrooms. One of the bathrooms has water pouring into the shower from an exposed rock wall. All levels have a full 180 degree view of the Bay.

After lunch we sat with our coffees, overlooking the water as hundreds of swallows swooped through the air. They were very efficiently scooping drinks of water from the neighbour's infinity pool. What an amazing sight!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Powerful sculpture

Chained to the weight of the world
as she collapses behind him
on his path of destruction.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

You're never too old!

Soon to celebrate her 93rd birthday,
Jean joins Doug with a noodle in the pool!

Morning reflections

It is 9:30am on a Sunday morning. I am sitting outside with my coffee and toast, the only one out of bed in our household. Up early every morning, I enjoy watching the small fish boats being stalked by flocks of gulls and pelicans. Then the water taxis start their short trips south to Yalapa loaded with tourists and locals who are forced to walk into the waters of the bay to board these aging vessels. The decrepit pier, with gaping holes, was dismantled last year before PV hosted the Pan Am summer games.

Even on a Sunday morning, it is never quiet here. Traffic along the roadway below is constant, waves crash to the shore, dogs bark, birds chatter. The singular advantage to Sundays is that it is a day of rest for local construction so the condo development on the other side of the road will be quiet diesel fumes from a generator, no crashing of supplies, no drilling or pouring or sanding or yelling back and forth.

There is a half moon in a blue sky this morning. The clouds have disappeared and the forecast is for a clear, hot day. I have exhausted the supply of reading material on the shelves downstairs, at least the books of interest: Portrait of a Turkish Family by Irfan Orga, The Sisters Brothers by Patrick DeWitt(winner of the Governor General's Literary award), Burnt Shadows by Kamila Shamsie(again), The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz(winner of the Pulitzer Prize). The last one contains descriptive references to the Trujillo dictatorship in the Dominican Republic and is a brilliant read!

Guess I'll have to spend the afternoon in the pool!

Saturday, January 14, 2012


The kittens survived their ordeal yesterday, rendering them less masculine and very groggy. They returned home after having their testicles snipped and staggered around from lap to lap. Amazingly they hadn't lost their navigational skills, managing to locate their food dishes with very little effort. The water bowl was more of a challenge. It looked like they were washing their paws each time they approached the bowl. Despite the cautionary advice of the Vet to keep them quiet for a couple of days, they were attacking each other and rolling around in their usual play mode this morning.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Painting the cupola

Amidst scaffolding and ladders, John started to paint a portion of the image 
that he transferred onto the bathroom cupola ceiling.

A Page in the Sun (Una Pagina en el Sol)

Other than the dishwasher, I am the only woman in this place. It is the morning coffee gathering cafe for gay francophones, most of them are well beyond their "best before date". Even their laughter holds a hint of quebecois as they share stories.

I sit inside and look out at them as they sit clustered around small cafe tables on the sidewalk. Beside me, a forty foot length of wall is lined with used pocket novels for sale at special prices. The books are stacked in alphabetical order by authors' names on seven layers of shelving.

Small cafe style tables are scattered inside, mixed with an odd assortment of easy chairs and couches. There are more books piled at the back, waiting to be shelved.

I enjoy a small Americano and a banana-chocolate chip muffin for 36 pesos($2.70) with the hope that it will energize me for the steep uphill hike back to the Quinta! By the time I am ready to leave at 9:30am, the entire outdoor section is empty. They have all headed for their favourite spots at the beach.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Day 5 at Hacienda Mosaico

Thank God for Day 5! Jesse was called away just before his morning demo and we were on our own for three hours. I think it was this extended, uninterrupted period of time that allowed me to totally submerge. I came up for air just before he returned. Not only were we all feeling good about our progress but also we had an opportunity to connect. Work on the "messterpieces" continued after his return but the major breakthroughs happened during that three hour submersion!

"Diversity" (30"x39") emerged from nothing. 
I had splattered and spread paint by hand 
over the canvas on Day 1.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Day 4 at Hacienda Mosaico

After a restless night, I decided to approach Day 4 of the workshop with no preconceived ideas of where the painting might go. With determination I allowed one piece to evolve in an undetermined direction. It was easier to work without too many pauses and without too much thought. 

The image that I started with at 10am

The same image 4 hours later at 2pm

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Day 3 at Hacienda Mosaico

One of the mosaic settings at Hacienda Mosaico

Day 3 was frustrating for me as I listened to Jesse and attempted to translate his style of painting onto one of the three canvases that I have started. Am image started to emerge on one canvas just before we transitioned to practicing some techniques on paper. Following that I couldn't refocus, felt lost and decided to wait until Day 4 to take a fresh look at everything. 

I am probably making excuses, but the challenge for me is keeping my momentum and energy going through his monologues, demos and exercises as well as combining hand painting with brushes & oil pastels. Whew!...and all of this on an unstretched 30" x 39" canvas. That's a lot of space to fill!! John finally gave in to an urge and planted a big foot print on one of his canvases. Not sure if that was an expression of his frustration or if he was just having fun!!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The tough life of a cat!

Day 2 at Hacienda Mosaico

The swimming pool at Hacienda Mosaico is surrounded by gardens, mosaic sculptures and objets d'art.

Mosaic balls float alongside bathers.

The decor inside is even more interesting than outside!

Meanwhile our group of five students continued to layer acrylic paint with our hands. I managed another hour before the skin on my fingers started to open and peel. The texture of the canvas was too much for my sensitive thin skin! Fortunately the instructor decided that it was time to transition to brushes and oil pastels. By the end of the day something was beginning to emerge from our "messterpieces". That's when one of the students who had attended Jess's classes before told us what to expect tomorrow. On Day 3 we would be expected to "devolve" what we had started to envision!! What kind of sadism is this?!



How will tomorrow's "devolution" affect these two?!

Monday, January 2, 2012

Hacienda Mosaico

Today was the beginning of a five day workshop at Hacienda Mosaico with Jesse Reno. This walled compound is identified by brilliant mosaic displays on the outside and even more amazing creations in the tropical garden courtyard.

We spent the better part of four hours applying acrylic paint onto large pieces of gessoed canvas....with our hands! It is not an easy transition from brush to hand application! It feels like a total loss of control, which is Jesse's goal with his process of applying layer over layer of colour and texture.

I am hopeful that these three preliminary "messterpieces" will evolve into something!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

New Year's eve in PV

A delicious dinner at our neighbour's followed by a brilliant display of fireworks. Cisco, the tabby kitten, provided a moment of drama by attempting to swim in the neighbour's infinity pool! Leaping out, spewing chlorinated water, he was quickly swaddled and dried in a towel! My guess is that he won't be trying that again soon!