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Friday, August 10, 2012

Copley Street: 1959 and 2012

Today, I dug up some old photos of our old house on Copley Street—which we briefly visited last Thursday. I've set up three "comparison photo pairs." Here's a straight-on shot of the house from about 1959—and then from last week.

The only significant change that I can detect is the porch/entry stairs, 
which originally started from the side of the house. Has the large window at top left shifted to the right?

Here's a shot that includes the next house up the street. 
It appears that that house hasn't changed much.

A similar shot taken last week.

Annie and I, playing on the "porch."

The front door appears to be the same. (Consider the shape of the knocker.)

Other shots:

With the handsome pup Prince.

Two old shots of the backyard. I wasn't able to get a decent shot of 
the backyard last week (a garage now blocks the view).

A shot, taken last week, of the neighbors' back yards.

I did manage to sneak up the side of the house (from the front) and take this pic of the back yard. But we have no old pics from this angle.

See Copley Community Orchard: Vancouver’s Urban Orchard– “Connection to food, each other, and the land.” A photo from that website.
That's our old house at left. Evidently, the Copley family left the vacant land in front of our house—their old ranch—to the city, and it has been made into a park. The project is still under way:
Copley Community Orchard is an urban orchard located in Vancouver, British Columbia. It is a place to celebrate the benefits of growing fruit trees, berry bushes and other perennial plants, educating people on their cultivation, and creating a beautiful and productive space accessible to all. In 2011, the Environmental Youth Alliance (EYA) and community members came together to create Copley Community Orchard on the former grounds of Richard and Marie Copley’s orchard and ranch. With the support the City of Vancouver, Vancouver Parks and Recreation, TD Green Streets, Trees Canada and the Vancouver Foundation, this dream became a reality as we broke ground in 2012. The site is shared between Copley Community Orchard’s members, the EYA’s youth programming and a common area for everyone. Community Studio has assisted us in designing our exciting plans which include an apple orchard, cherry trees, espaliered apple and pear trees, rare or unique fruit trees, berry bushes and fruiting shrubs. We also have an accessible bed area which will be open to all members of the community.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Vancouver report

Looking northwest, from Stanley Park
     Got back from Vancouver on Monday. I've pretty much recovered from the trip.
     My family left the Province of British Columbia fifty-two years ago (1960), when I was about five and Annie was six. But my folks' good friends Hermann and Marianne, who moved to Southern California not long after we did but who moved back to B.C. ten or twenty years later (they worried about health care), kept inviting my folks to come north to visit them, first on Vancouver Island (Victoria) and then later in White Rock, just south of Vancouver. But it was always a no-go somehow.
     H&M would occasionally travel south, though, which is good, cuz these people are seriously close. My mom (Edith) first met Marianne near Münster, Germany, in 1945, when mom was a 12-year-old refugee, and the two have been the best of friends ever since. They’ve been pals as a foursome going back to the mid-fifties.
     My parents and H&M are getting old—they’re all about 80—and my dad, Manny, and Hermann are definitely in decline, healthwise, and so I figured we’d better make this thing—the northern sojourn—finally happen. Besides, friend and ex-wife Kathie and I always wanted to visit BC, which is my birthplace (eh), and so I bought the plane tickets for a non-stop to Vancouver, August 1. I got rooms at the Pan Pacific, which is way fancy, man.

The ceiling of the lobby of the Pan Pacific
     The trip went well, though, predictably, it was necessary to spend money like a drunken Canadian sailor. My little group is pretty generous, though, and so I didn’t have to shell out all the dough—on restaurants, tours, whatnot. I always insisted on paying but somebody always insisted harder, and so, there you go. It all sorta works out. 
     People seem to eat well in Vancouver, I’m glad to say. Never encountered a lousy restaurant. Plus the town is an attractive mix of various ethnicities—lots of Chinese, Sikhs—and it all sort of works. French is spoken, here and there.
     Dining is a big thing when you travel. One time, we got the notion of going to a Chinese restaurant, and so we asked the concierge for advice, got a luke-warm recommendation, and then headed just down the street to the "Imperial Palace." I think that was the name. (Update: nope. "Imperial Chinese Seafood")
     The place seemed nice, despite the exterior's construction scaffolding, so we entered. Inside, it still looked promising, I guess, but the aural atmosphere at that moment was awful. We had the bad luck of arriving right when the bottom floor was being used by some organization, which held a pretty wild party—one that featured, anyway, at least one spectacularly loud screaming kid plus a noisy slide show. The din was amazing. My mom kept looking at me as though to say, “Good Lord, that can’t be right, can it?”
     For reasons that don’t matter now, we were all hoping to avoid seeking out yet another restaurant, and so we were trying to make this work. The waiter brought us upstairs to a sort of balcony zone, which comprised maybe four or five tables, including the one next to us, which was occupied by the Family From Hell (actually, from Whistler, north of Vancouver). When I took my seat, I looked over there, and the four kids were beating each other with chopsticks. The dad corrected them ineffectually (he was the sort who yelled his parental efforts for all to hear—all except his brat kids, who were irrecoverably wild and who knew better than to worry about dopey old dad). At one point, one kid yelled to the waiter, “Hey, is my chicken ready yet!” I think Kathie wanted to throttle him. We were all relieved when we detected (by reading one kid's shirt) that they were not Americans.

Silver Falls. Indian Arm of Burrard Inlet
     Immediately before me, I noticed a quiet middle-aged couple. The lady was obviously seriously peeved about that Whistler family. She kept glancing back at ‘em with dagger eyes. Her hubby had plainly been instructed to hurry up and finish and get the goddam check. He resisted. She glared a knife through his forehead and so he was briefly boggled, then recovered and relented, dithering over his colorful Canadian money as wifey seethed and hissed. As they walked out, she nearly spun around to say, “You are the most appalling family on Earth; you sicken me!” But no. She had remembered that she was Canadian.
     All of this, of course, is amusing enough, but there was one further element in the scene: the waiter seemed to find it necessary to yell at us. “You want food!? What food!?” he roared. Having inspected the menu, Mom asked for a "number 48." He glared back at her with apparent consternation. He grabbed her menu and looked up 48, saying, “My memory is not so good!” But Kathie and I detected self-deprecation in that remark. Humor maybe? We thought of the Chinese waiter on Seinfeld.
     But that unfortunate experience was the exception to otherwise universal good-to-greatness, restaurantwise. Plus they seem to like their waitresses sexy in that part of the world. (Kathie was not amused.) I guess they're not completely "correct" in the land of beers, bears, and botanical gardens.
     It’s seriously beautiful, Vancouver is. And, as it happens, we visited during an extremely rare stretch of good weather: it was clear and sunny and warm the whole time we were up there. Nobody has ever encountered anything quite like it, apparently. But, I’m told, it’s been a very wet summer otherwise. 
     Vancouver is about water, man. The downtown area is on a smallish peninsula—much like San Francisco, and so you can’t go far before running into the harbor. The city is the second densest in North America, they say, and so there are lots—lots and lots—of high-rises full of people. Most of the city is very neat, very tidy, though there’s a visible homeless contingent—residue, they say, of the ravages of the drug trade. Not sure how or why or when that happened. 
     About half of the population looks more or less like me, and they speak mostly like Canadians; that is, they speak slowly, earnestly, pleasantly, yet somewhat reservedly. Sometimes their yammering would make me laugh, as when we took the boat tour up the Frazer River and then up Indian Arm (a fjord), and Captain Stubing would do the tour guide thing over the intercom. “That yellow stuff is sulfur on that barge at starboard, don’t you know,” he’d intone. Well, yeah.
     Kathie kept waiting for the corny jokes, but they never came. There was no exaggeration, no hoopla, no patriotic self-promotion. Very Canadian. Not very American.
     Some of the Canadian and American border officials were kind of prickly. One time, some official gal asked my dad, “Any declarations?”, and he heard, “Any decorations?” He muttered something about “Mickey Mouse.” (Don’t ask.) Well, that got the gal interested in my dad as a terrorism suspect. (I get it: Mickey Mouse—> terrorism.) They took him away and checked him all out with a fine toothed radar-comb. Earlier, I had made the mistake of taking somebody’s pic near one of the many stations involved in homeland security, and, immediately, an official told me that there can be no photos! So I walked right up to her and showed her as I deleted that photo. I must’ve done it right (or wrong?), cuz they just spun me out the door after that. Later, at Vancouver airport, I asked a uniformed lady—playfully, I thought—if I’d get arrested if I took her picture. She looked at me levelly. She said: "It’s not illegal, but I wouldn’t appreciate it." Good grief.

Posies everywhere
     When we were in the airport before leaving for home, we entered some transitional zone that somehow was officially "the USA." There was some discrepancy of dollar amounts on my “declarations” form—I mean, who cares?—and this guy pointed to it and asked me to explain it. I just said, “Let’s go with the lower figure” and shrugged. He was not amused. “Go,” he said. 
     I’ve got a medical condition. It’s like a broken thermostat: it causes me to get overheated at the slightest provocation. For me, airports are the worst, cuz they’re always humid, hot, and you’ve always got to walk around lost for a while. (Last year, Frankfurt Airport just about killed me.) In such circumstances, I sweat profusely and start feeling lousier and lousier. That happened to me last December in Chicago and I thought I was having a goddam heart attack. Went to the doctor when I got back home, and he said I had to check out, first, my heart, then my blood sugar, then my lungs and such. I checked out OK for the first two and then I started feeling better, so I kind of dropped the ball. I got the chest X-rays taken, but never followed up. Not good.
     The problem came roaring back in Vancouver. I’d perspire to an absurd degree, slow down, get overheated, become useless. I’d lose my breath just walking down the street. I’d have to sit down for a while after just a few steps. There are plenty of humid and hot places in Vancouver, as it turns out. Especially on those harbor boats, which are all closed up with plexiglass cuz they’re designed for typically lousy B.C. weather. In good weather, it’s like a freakin' hothouse inside those boats.
     So, half way through the trip, I became the Amazing Wilted Man. That was my Superpower: utter and devastating wiltitude. Meanwhile, my dad, whose hearing is pretty lousy (he has a hearing aid, but he seems never to have it on right), was the Amazing Lost Man. He was generally two steps behind the rest of us, and I don't just mean geographically. He’d catch up, though, whenever we settled in one spot—say, for dinner or lunch. Then, with perfect lucidity, he’d hold forth about the old days, when Vancouver was B&W with only dirt roads and pompous, unpleasant English people who disliked immigrants. 
     Kathie, of course, was Super Enthusiasm Girl; and mom was The Amazing Anxious Woman, though she’d occasionally morph into Zany Party Girl for a while, melding with Kathie. When things settled down, like on one of those boat tours, she’d fix upon the physical beauty around her. She’d ooh and ah, though somewhat mechanically. She was distracted, I think, keeping track of her Lost Man.

Lookin' west
     So we were like wacky cartoon characters in a Super Green lost world of Milquetoastian strangers, forever bouncing into things but generally getting where we needed to go. Getting back to our hotel rooms in the evening was sometimes a relief. I often watched the Olympics on the big HDTV.
     I love to drive and, in particular, I love to drive where driving is crazy, and it’s pretty crazy in downtown Vancouver. We had rented a nice little Toyota Rav-4, which permitted zippage and spinnage and swiftulosity. Such maneuverings, however, especially when combined with one-armed guerrilla camera work, are not always appreciated by elderly parents or ex-wives. Still, I had fun. (Inside the Rav-4, the powerful AC kept me fresh ‘n’ frosty.) 
     There are no left-turn lanes on the roads in Vancouver. Nope. Once in a while, somebody would need to make a left turn, and so they’d just stop, waiting for opposing traffic to clear, bringing everyone else in their lane to a complete stop. I got pretty good at avoiding those backups. Zip, zip, zip, swoosh.
Toyota Rav4
     We had a great time visiting our old neighborhood on Copley Street. The pics tell the story. Too bad Annie wasn't there to tell us how she remembered each brick, twig and ant. "Yes, I remember that crack in the sidewalk!" And we are enjoyed our time with H&M. Kathie loves those people. They're pretty cute, both of 'em.
     For some reason, at 9:00 p.m., those Vancouverians always shoot a cannon, a very loud one, out there in the harbor. Maybe to wake people up, dunno. We first encountered this phenomenon while in the bowels of our hotel, down in the parking garage. Suddenly, there was a loud and distinct thud, like an enormous boulder landing on the roof. Earthquake? "It's the cannon," said my dad. I didn't ask him to elaborate. Such are Bauer conversations.
     The next day, we encountered the explosion while outside, near our hotel. You’d see the white smoke first, on an island in the harbor; then, two or so seconds later, you'd hear the massive report. You’d think such explosions would make these Canadians crazy, but they didn't seem to notice. We saw fireworks, too, on a Friday night, on the way home from the “sunset” harbor cruise. Very nice. That town can be like a carnival.
     Well, we went to the usual places: Stanley Park, museums, harbors, shops, odd little islands, old friends. Everybody had a great time. My folks visited with H&M for two solid days. One night, Kathie got grumpy with me and I got mad at her and so things weren’t too good for a few hours. But, otherwise, it was smooth sailing. Kathie was a huge help.
     So that’s my report.
     Very one-sided, I’m sure.

I'm writing a screenplay: "Posies on a plane." It's about Canadians.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Vancouver postcards, part 2

Took this pic yesterday, at Stanley Park.
The rest of these were taken today, mostly during a harbor cruise. 
Vancouver Island in the distance. 
A wonderful suspension bridge, opened in 1938, on the north side of the penninsula

The same bridge, as seen from below. 
A shot of Stanley Park 

In Vancouver with Hermann and Marianne

 Our old house on Copley Street. (We lived in it from about 1958-1960)
 On a pier in White Rock
 The Pan Pacific Hotel
 Near Copley St.