It took quite a long time to get to writing this post; most of Saturday was spent recovering from the walking required in the adventures undertaken. I was exhausted; I slept more than I can ever remember having slept in a day.
I haven't really done anything alone in years; between my need for assistance and those around who wish to help, I have always had a companion, to assist and walk with me, to keep an eye on me, and save my broken ass when I get it in the muck deeper than I can manage. Friday was different, however; with preparations and money and plans in mind, I stepped out into the wild unknown, on my own, for the first time in longer than I know.
It wasn't without my limitations, or my cane, so it wasn't an easy undertaking; the mass transit employees, though, were especially helpful on the hour-long trip to Downtown. According to all my plans, I was going to get off the train at Waterfront Station, but I couldn't contain myself or my whimsy when I had passed the Main Street/Science World station -- I had to see the Stadium I had ignored just a few days prior.
I got off the train at Stadium/Chinatown station and, instead of heading straight down to places with which I was familiar, I followed a narrow and cement-guarded sidewalk alongside the top of the Skytrain station, hoping to get a better view of the Vancouver Canucks posters hanging from Rogers Arena, that I had noticed from the train. Emblazoned on them were the words, "We Are All Canucks;" even I felt like a Canuck, seeing this.
With the pictures taken, I reversed my walk and gazed around, in curiosity and hope, following the route I learned with my host on my second night in Vancouver. It certainly flt like it took less time to travel from where I stay in the metro area, and then from Rogers Arena to Victory Square; however, I was far less taxed, by taking more level roads and paths. When I reached the top of the park in Victory Square, I overlooked the beauty of a deep heart of Vancouver. I was captivated, but I was also out of breath. Taking a seat on a bench, I took a (rather poor-quality) picture of what I began calling the Marc Emery building; the location of Marc Emery's Cannabis Culture Headquarters and the New Amsterdam Cafe. In the windows above the storefronts you can see signs spelling out, "FREE MARC."
In taking the photograph, I captured not only the Marc Emery building, but something that captures my heart and eye with much more strength; the monument in Victory Square.
The memorial was built between 1918 and 1924 in commemoration of fallen soldiers in the Great War and previous combat operations where Canadian soldiers had courageously fallen in the name of other nations. I've been learning a lot about Canadian military history and it is a proud history, one deserving of such beautiful monuments and memorials across this fair metropolis.
I learned a little bit of history of Victory Square from a plaque I found off to the side; it depicts the history of Commonwealth control over the area through a Courthouse that was eventually replaced; a period of time existed when it was called, "No Man's Land." It was designated as the location for a war memorial and later, a park. I took a few photos of the monument, but only the first one came out beautiful enough to post, I thought. A lot of time was spent just sitting at the park, on Friday; mostly sitting and socializing with the locals and homeless.
I had every intention of recording the audio of conversations I had with people, on the streets but, like a fool, I forgot or otherwise kept matters off-the-record when I was having them. I met a homeless man who could draw military and civilian ships from memory, who was drawing the Titanic in ballpoint pen. I sat with him for a while, just discussing why he thought the people of Vancouver were the soul of the city. A young man from Saskatchewan was standing in a doorway, seemingly idle, between the Cannabis Culture HQ and New Amsterdam Cafe; he had been kicked out of his home. I rolled him a cigarette and he explained, in a rather thick accent, how vastly different Vancouver is, from Prince Edward, Saskatchewan. He kept using the words, "back in my province," and his accent was thicker than most of those I had heard in British Columbia.
I had to do a little more traveling around and this led me to wandering and seeing places I hadn't noticed my first time in this part of Downtown. I was caught off-guard when I found the graffiti, and the next two hours of the day were dedicated to wandering between buildings and finding these art pieces so scattered across the city.
The first piece I noticed was a beautiful waitress serving tea, on the wall of a building containing a tattoo and piercing parlour, and a BDSM shop. Very fitting, appropriate. I nearly ran across the street, limping and pumping my cane to get into a position to take photos of this, even if the light wasn't perfect; I had to capture it for my memory's sake. A little Japanese girl I nearly ran down looked so scared and surprised; I apologised and explained that I am an American writer. She was calmed by this, and went back about her way, to wait for the bus nearby. I couldn't stop, I had to keep shifting and shutterbugging.
"By Sea, Land & Air, We Prosper," is found sprawled across a banner carried by two birds above a stylized graffiti anchor, not far from our beautiful waitress, in the first of the two grand street-art galleries I found. This gallery continued to pass between buildings with pieces connecting into and wrapping around other works of art, shaping this beautiful world separate from the slightly weathered and time-strained buildings on which they were painted.
I found a dragon above a doorway, whose smoke rises out of expansive mountains. It is painted atop a door, and I stood for several moments just staring up at it. I snapped several pictures, before growing content with one to post here, on the blog. There was a motif of portraying beauty and strength in the more detailed and heart-felt works; beauty through the images of women, and birds, and nature; strength was portrayed through pictures of infamous men, fire, mountains, and militaristic and naval greatness. I was absolutely stunned, with each piece I found.
Tucked in a tiny alcove I found a different type of beauty in graffiti art; the ability to make the words jump off the walls and defy the shape of the canvas. I wish I knew what this one piece said, but in that partially-shadowed lighting it screamed out at me, begged me to see it. So I paid it all the attention it desired. If you follow the wall to the left, you'll find there is also a painting of a Frankenstein's monster with cans of paint in a backpack, spraying the rest of this large piece of art into place. The photo I took of the Frankenstein's monster came out horribly; the lighting cut it in half.
It was from here that the artwork really began to take me away from the current and simple realities of Vancouver into a world, hidden only ever-so-slightly from view. There was a soulful and artistic underground, bursting at the seams, begging to be viewed anywhere the artists could get away with their free marketing and exhibitions. Some of the works grew more beautiful as I branched out past the first 'gallery' and found a second on in an alley across the street. Sucked into the imageries, I began snapping pictures like mad to get the best of them.
Beautiful trees and mountains under a massive moon rising, tinted purple and blue by the comfort of night, the word Freedom is given image like I've never been presented before. Decorated eggs lie beneath trees' roots and leaves grow over all things; there is a quiet and simple serenity, a softness to the spray and brush and stencil techniques used here that it takes you into the artist's freedoms. Escher's reflecting sphere is given such expert detail and focus on the medium of brick, capturing the beauty and essence of the famous artist and geometric mathematician's most vivid observations; it even appears to be being lifted, protected from the dumpster beneath it. Faces and names I don't know but I am positive others do, and stencils of all different varieties, and the women, the beautiful women, painted in great variance and without number.But all of my exploring of the arts of this city had taken too much out of me; I could barely bring myself to walk. It dragged myself and carried myself with the aid of my cane, and walls, and surfaces, pushing my way onward to a location I knew better; Waterfront Station.
I found a little hot dog stand, outside the station; one with a lot of pomp and circumstance happening around it. An Amateur sign depicted famous celebrities such as Kevin Costner, who have enjoyed one of these Japadogs, as they were called; lines and circles formed around the little street cart. I think my favourite part was that they were located across the sidewalk from an A&W Burger joint. I had to find a bank and make a currency exchange to have the money to buy one, but I settled on their recommended all-pork hot dog and it was absolutely, positively, delicious.
It was called the Kurobuta Terimayo. Kurobuta is apparently the name of the 'Japanese Black Hog,' a prized swine for its savoury and sweet meats. It came with a slightly spicy Japanese mayonnaise, teriyaki sauce, fried sweet onions and topped with seaweed. Let me tell you, it was amazing. I was in quite a lot of pain, I didn't think I would get down more than half of it; I intended to eat the rest of it on the way home. But my stomach had other plans; I just kept diving forward and biting more off it with little regard. The flavour combinations were utterly amazing, the choice of pork was simply stunning, and if I could spent $7.25/day on hot dogs, this would be my dachshund of choice.
Other events happened through the day and there was far more art found, but it is very late, now, and I could use a cigarette and some sleep. Attached, in addition, are the photos I did not include in the weave of this post's layout.
(Editor's Note: The photos that used to be here are now available in the gallery at this blog's Picasaweb.)