Friday, March 30, 2012

The Drive

Today my sister and I took advantage of a sunny morning 
to saunter down Commercial Drive 
and admire the many beautiful murals. 
The Drive used to be an Italian neighbourhood 
but has transformed into an eclectic mix of ethnic diversity, 
reflected in the markets, cafes, restaurants and shops.

Today I was looking not only for images of murals but also for interesting doorways 
and entries into businesses and residences along the way.

During our walk, we celebrated the many artists who have brought these buildings to life.

What a gift to the merchants and residents of this area.
As a treat, we dropped into the oldest Italian coffee shop on the Drive.
I have never tasted a more delicious cup of coffee.
Of course, it was enhanced by the proximity 
to Michelangelo's sculpture of David 
with his "junk" resting on my left shoulder!

This was the last one on our tour
and the signage was a little confusing!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Hair in Vancouver

While in Puerto Vallarta, I had the good fortune to meet Sidney, an accomplished hairstylist who had just moved to PV from San Francisco. She came to the house twice with her scissors, sat me down outside, wrapped me in her hairdressing cape and gave me two amazing haircuts. The bill for her services was approximately $17.00 each time.

Two and a half months later, I was desperately in need of a haircut but didn't know where to go in Vancouver. Caramel Hair Salon, just around the corner on Granville, has won major awards. When I looked online, the prices seemed out of my range. Deciding to look online, I typed in "cheap haircuts in Vancouver". Several places came up but one caught my eye..."Beehive Hair Salon", originally on Main Street in the Riley Park area and recently relocated to 23rd and Fraser. The comments from clients were very positive so I called and made an appointment with Sarah Jane. Judging by the location, I assumed that the price would be reasonable, so I didn't ask!!

The salon was long enough to be a bowling lane, the walls lined with local artwork and a chain of leftover paper sculptures from the weekend Craft Fair that takes place on several Sundays throughout the year. The chairs are moved out and a juried show takes place. At other times, there are workshops and other cultural events held in this funky Salon.

Sarah Jane greeted me and led me to her chair for a preliminary discussion/ analysis of my hair. From there we proceeded to the hair washing station where she carefully scrubbed my hair and spent five delicious minutes massaging my scalp.

The haircut itself evolved over the course of the next hour while I listened and learned about the young woman who was treating each hair on my head like a national treasure. Small sections were snipped and adjusted as I heard about her parents, boyfriend, cats, friends, travels, schooling, piercings. It was an educational experience that I thoroughly enjoyed.

At the end of a 70 minute visit with this talented stylist, as I was preparing to pay, Sarah Jane informed me that the bill was $60 plus tax(plus tip?). Trying not to show my shock at the price, I took one last look in the mirror and extended my credit card. I had the appearance of a "wannabe Jamie Lee Curtis" without the fine features that enhance her style!

"We give a complimentary revisit with this price" Sarah Jane explained. "It's called a bang-trim so you can come back anytime in the next few weeks to be trimmed at no charge". Whew...what a relief!!
Another Vancouver experience!!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Tea on the patio!

Spring is here...we hope!
Tea on the patio!

Observations from Wicked Cafe

Observations from Wicked Cafe where they serve Intelligensia coffee...or... Life in the Disconnect.

A mother and her two year old walk past us. 
The child starts running while Mum texts on her Blackberry.
 The child is stopped at the next intersection by another pedestrian. 
His mother finally catches up with him after finishing her text.

Two young women walk by.  
They are obviously together. 
Each one is talking on a cell phone.

Two young people sit in the cafe. 
They are obviously together. 
Each one is busy on a laptop.

At least twenty cyclists ride by at intervals 
during our sit in the sun, outside the Cafe. 
None have helmets, 
but all have earpods 
that relay tunes
and ensure that any urgent signals or sirens 
will go undetected.

Many joggers pass by. 
All have earpods 
that drown out irritating birdsong.

She sits and waits for him. 
When he finally arrives,
 after a brief kiss, 
his cell phone signals a text message. 
After responding to the text, 
he asks how she is. 
While she's answering, 
he receives another text. 
"I have to take this" he says. 
She finally goes inside to order a coffee. 
She asks for it "to go", 
leaves the cafe and walks down the street. 
His eyes are still reading the important message. 
It takes many more messages and many more minutes 
for him to realize that she is nowhere in sight!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Rocks on the rooftop

Analyzing rocks on the rooftop!

Vancouver-finally a sunny spring day!

Had a great visit with friends from Salmon Arm this morning. Just what we needed!!...a real Spring day with sunny blue skies, snow capped mountains and a reminder of friendships that await us at home.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Pairs of chairs

It was a miserable, windy, cold, wet, sleety day
when we discovered this installation at Kits Beach.

Pairs of chairs
with messages
to brighten our day.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Vancouver area realtors are not hungry!

Is it my imagination? Are we really slow to get the message? Our house has been on the market for almost two years. In that time we have only received one lowball offer. Is it possible that we aren't meant to leave Salmon Arm?

During our time in Vancouver, we have watched the MLS listings for condos in White Rock. One month ago, we attempted to contact the realtor who had an interesting unit for sale. We wanted to have a look. After two days, we sent another email and finally received a phone call from an associate of the realtor. He explained that there was an offer on the condo. At no point during the conversation did he attempt to solicit our business.

Two days ago I sent an email to another realtor requesting a viewing of her listing and also of two other condos in White Rock. Today, I sent a second email, noting her lack of response and stating that we would find someone else. She replied immediately to apologize for her lack of professionalism and to explain that she was too busy to consider taking us as clients!

The universe is making the decision for us!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Vancouver - another discovery

I could live here!!

Coffee Shop Story - No. 2

This time we joined a fellow who was reading the weekend edition of the Globe & Mail. He generously shared sections of his newspaper with us. While John was in the washroom, another guy sat at our table, making it very difficult for John to reclaim his seat. Without hesitation, he took the business section of the newspaper, tucked it under his arm, and headed toward the washroom. When he returned, he said "Here is the article that you were looking for" and handed me the paper. For obvious reasons I was reluctant to handle the paper.

The article was an analysis of house prices in Vancouver with the author concluding that the current situation was unsustainable. This launched us into a half hour discussion with our new acquaintance, a realty advisor, who invests in properties around the world. He made many sound arguments for the fact that despite what the media was claiming, it is definitely foreign investment that is driving the real estate market in Vancouver. According to him, it is impossible for the local economy to push the market so high. The percentage of local investors with the financial means to drive the market is too small. It is only a matter of time before interest rates rise along with foreclosures.

When we were leaving, he gave us his card. Apparently he is available for Consulting, Appraisals, Sales & Management, Projects & Investments, Acquisitions & Financing. Who knows!...maybe one day we'll need someone to handle our multi-million dollar lottery win!!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

What a day!!

It was a full day yesterday with my sister. On a five kilometre walk through the west end of Vancouver, we stopped to share a chuckle with "The Laughing Men". These 14 bronze sculptures were on loan from a Chinese sculpture for two years and, thanks to the promise of financial support from a private donor, could remain in Vancouver at Morton Park. They bring smiles to visitors faces and delight the children.

During the afternoon we managed to find the Equinox Gallery Project Space, hidden away in a huge warehouse east of Main Street. We parked in mud among semis and trailers and cement trucks. The exhibition provided a walk down memory lane for all of the visitors. His photographs of Vancouver in the 1950's and 60's are evocative and alive. We reminisced with others and enjoyed flashbacks. Counting the red dots, we calculated that the sales totalled around $400,000, a successful event for both the photographer and the gallery.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Vancouver today

Star lights hang in the window
and rhubarb crumble sits unfinished
as I watch a crow peck at crumbs
beside a bed of crocuses.

Around the corner
a tree rejoices.

Down the street
community gardens
wait for seeds

and old corner stores still exist.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Coffee Shop Story - No. 1

He asked if he could join us, draped his jacket over the empty chair. White letters spelled SECURITY over his chest pocket. He was around sixty years of age with sparse grey hair. 

When he returned with his coffee, I asked where he "SECURITIED".

"At Tawwassen- Deltaport Container Port for the last nine years. I was a truck driver before that." he replied. "Do you remember the case two years ago when a guy killed his wife? I found her body."

This was obviously going to be an interesting morning coffee visit!

"Yup...I finished my shift and was feeling a little bleary eyed so I pulled over to rest and noticed something in the ditch. I thought at first that it was a mannequin. When I got closer, I realized that it was a woman's body, in very bad shape. I found out later that her husband and her brother tortured her for five hours and tried to cut out the fetus before setting her on fire. Apparently she was pregnant with a baby girl and had refused to have an abortion."

"Did you have to appear in court during the trial?" I asked.

"Oh yeah! Many times and they wanted detailed descriptions of the body."

I felt like a therapist, asking leading questions in the hope that he could exorcise some of the imagery from that horrid discovery. Maybe sensing that he had given us enough details, he  decided to fill in another half hour with descriptions of his job. Tons of coal dust leave the port every day on cargo ships crewed by guys from around the world. Most of the ships are destined for China and Japan. He described how he would often be invited to share meals onboard and how he had convinced a crewman from Russia that he shouldn't jump ship.

When we finally got ready to leave, I thanked him for sharing with us and wished him a good day. His response was "With a smile like that, you deserve a good day too!"


It had been seven years since we visited with them, another branch of my mullti-faceted family. So we arranged to meet at a restaurant in Coquitlam to catch up on the events of our lives. My two half sisters and their mother were waiting for us when we arrived, a little late due to miscalculations about the distance from Vancouver.

It was great to see them after so long and there were many stories to share. By the time we parted, the restaurant was setting up for the dinner crowd.

Tracey had brought along an album with photos from our father's past and I was curious about the house where he grew up. Was it still there? She had a photo of the house, taken many years ago. I had vague memories of walking up the street between my grandparents' homes.  The following week, we drove down the narrow East Vancouver street to discover that it was still standing, squeezed between two newer homes and a little tattered from years of habitation.

According to stories that I was told, my grandparents made it through the Great Depression better than  many others by keeping a garden in the backyard as well as a few chicken. This little house holds many stories.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Vancouver - a city of contrasts

As I walk around this city, I am repeatedly struck by the contrasts. Cafes filling orders for double soy lattes while outside a homeless person begs for a dime, a nickel, even a penny. Skies full of condos priced over the heads of most residents. Harbours afloat with multi-thousand dollar vessels while thousands of residents are sinking below the poverty line. Roadways clogged with Lexus, BMW's, Mercedes and other high-end speed machines. Boutique shops that cater to patrons who happily gobble up sale priced garments in the $500+ price range while my kids shop at Value Village.

According to a recent survey of Vancouver neighbourhoods and average annual household incomes, there are only two areas where we could afford to live...Strathcona($25,744) and the Downtown Eastside ($15,647). Even Mount Pleasant, where I grew up, has a higher annual average($41,467) than our pension income. Apparently the average household income in Vancouver is $68,000 and the average priced home is 11.2 times higher than that! The average price of a detached bungalow rose to $1.02 million last year.

We have been considering a move to the coast, closer to family as we age. There are still affordable possibilities to explore in outlying areas like White Rock, Coquitlam and Langley. The winter months would be easier and we could spend more time with our grandson. The challenge is finding a condo without leaky roofs, noisy neighbours and discordant strata councils. 

Over coffee with a friend, we learned about another potential risk of living with others. One of her many part time occupations is to inspect rental apartments, searching for illegal operations such as meth labs, grow-ops and brothels! Many of the newer condo developments offer better soundproofing but allow the owners to rent, often to nefarious characters! A recent meth lab discovery in an eighth floor apartment led to extensive replacement of plumbing on all floors below. Hmmmh!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Vancouver School Board sculpture

He looks much happier than the teacher
who was standing nearby with a picket sign!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Vancouver murals

Signs of spring are evident everywhere, and not just crocuses in the garden and buds on the branches.

I discovered this mural on today's walk.

There are so many exquisite murals around the city. 
Some are hidden on side streets and easily missed by passing motorists. 
Some are in alleyways and on dumpsters.

This one is on East 13th Avenue at Commercial. 
I spotted it while running through the rain to a Chinese food restaurant on Saturday night. 
It was so amazing that I had to go back in the daylight for a photo.

This gaggle of guys appears to be serenading the bricks.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

A visit to IKEA

My sisters discovered the unsupervised play area in IKEA just before we lost each other in the vast maze of merchandise. In hindsight, we should have followed the directional arrows that are painted on the floor but it's more fun to wander than to be directed. The biggest bargain is on the other side of the cashiers...$1.50 for a hotdog and drink!!