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Saturday, May 9, 2015

Strolling Around in Kitsilano; Past and Present

Following through with my practice of going out early mornings to walk, I explored the neighbourhood streets and avenues of Kitsilano for at least a mile every morning, simply choosing routes at random.

Kitsilano has changed much over the past four decades, but in a strange sort of way some things I can't quite put my finger on seem unchanged; maybe it's Kitsilano's vibrancy. Joggers, dog-walkers, panhandlers and people just out walking abounds. Sidewalks were refreshingly busy at all times of the day. I say refreshingly because very much unlike at home, people were actually outside and about on foot.

One thing we tend do as we become older is look back at the past more often, take in what we see going on in the world around us now and then try to place both past and present into a context that makes some semblance of sense. At least I hope it makes sense.

April 16, 2015, the heart of Kitsilano at the busy intersection of West 4th Avenue and Macdonald. Many more shops, coffee houses and restaurants abound today but only Safeway and bank names are familiar, more people than ever outside walking, running, rushing and simply outside; far more cars on the road either parked or moving, perhaps the moving vehicles are searching for non-existent parking spots. These are immediate noticeable changes after 40 years. This having been said, bus 4 and bus 22 still cross routes here.

An April 1974 Vignette

At the intersection of West Fourth Avenue and Arbutus Street I exited the bus. I waited a moment to listen to the fading whistling sound the poles made as they travelled along the overhead electric wires while the bus disappeared along West Fourth. I recalled hearing the expression "singing wires" and wondered if it referred to electric trolley buses on the move.

2723 West 5th Avenue and our home for 5 days. Located less than a block from Macdonald this was a very quiet and convenient place to stay.

April 16, 2015. Return visit to Kitsilano Beach.

A 1974 Vignette

"What did I truly want? 

Finally I knew! 

I wanted someone to share my life with but not with any half-hearted insincere measures. I wanted a complete and genuine commitment like a carefully calculated high stakes risking of everything for winning an even greater reward. My commitment to love would have to be all or nothing at all and she would have to want and demand the same from me. 

But who was she? 

Where was she? 

So far, all I had was the nothing at all nowhere at all. 

After several hours of silent reflective thinking in the post-midnight darkness at Kitsilano Beach, the rock had become too uncomfortable for me to endure any more sitting. I accepted this signal as my time to leave and head home. I picked up one more stone and hurled it out over the water. 

Instead of the expected splash, I heard an unexpected clunk as the stone bounced off a floating log. As large as the ocean was, I had managed to miss it. Defiantly, I faced the ocean, raised my right arm with a clenched fist and then looked skyward. With a momentary new found determination and a defiant refusal to give up, I vowed out loud, half shouting, "Okay God. If I have to cross the Pacific Ocean to find her, I’ll do it!"

Post script:
Six years later in January 1980, I crossed the Pacific Ocean and found her.

April 07, 1980. The day after Kie first arrived in Canada. The first place I wanted to visit was Kitsilano Beach and that is where we went.

35 years later... she really did stay.

April 16, 2015. Grass was green, leaves were out and fruit trees and flowers of every kind were in bloom in Kitsilano. Somewhere on the north sidewalk of West 6th Avenue between Stephens and Balsam.

April 16, 2015. Some things stay the same over the years - such as Molson and the Molson clock near south end of the Burrard Street Bridge. In 1974-75, when the weather was good (meaning not raining) I would often walk home from work via the Burrard Bridge.

A Summer 1974 Vignette

After saying good night to my work colleague I resumed my sojourn homeward via the Burrard Street Bridge. Pausing on the center span for a few moments to watch a large yacht proceeding inward from English Bay to False Creek, I could hear music and a woman's laughter coming from inside the luxury vessel as slowly it passed beneath the bridge.

"It must be nice to be able to afford such luxuries." I thought slightly enviously, but wealth I could live without and I had a lifetime of experience to prove it. 

All I truly wanted was to find the right person to share the rest of my life with.


Above: April 07, 1980, Kie in Kitsilano

April 16, 2015. A bit of Stanley Park, a bit of the West End's skyline and a bigger bit of the mountains as seen from Hadden Park. Vancouver is truly the most beautiful city in Canada... except when it rains from November through April and maybe a bit more than that.

A September 1974 Vignette

The Kitsilano waterfront had become my favourite retreat at any time. Going there did not solve my problems but walking and thinking would put me in a better frame of mind to deal with them. Upon reaching the highest bluffs along the point I stood and gazed out toward the farthest limit of the horizon. Across English Bay the coastal mountains slowly but constantly changed in appearance as the sun moved and shadows shifted. Even from quite a distance I noticed a lot of smoke rising from one of the treed slopes. Soon an aircraft began circling and shortly afterward it dropped a load of what appeared to be water. The aircraft made several more trips and the smoke began to slowly dissipate. I later heard on the radio news about a small forest fire and what I had witnessed was the airborne part of the fight against the flames. 

Far out in the bay ocean freighters were anchored waiting to be berthed to load or unload their cargo. Some days English Bay looked like a parking lot for ships. Later in the afternoon a small powered white boat resembling a lifeboat slowly made its way shoreward. As the vessel passed near the shoreline on its way into the False Creek channel beneath Burrard Bridge I could see that boat was filled with people. Not to be outdone by the drone of the motor, shouts of men talking to each other could be heard. I did not know what language they were speaking but it definitely was not English. The passengers were probably from one of the freighters, crewmembers going ashore for a visit in Vancouver. The small vessel continued inward and slowly disappeared from sight.

Water began to cover the lower rocks on the point as the tide moved in. Compared to the Atlantic tides of eastern Canada Vancouver does not have much of a tide, but the rising and receding is noticeable when one takes time to watch and observe. Small pieces of wood that had been driven ashore by the waves were bouncing against the rocks. Seeing this made me recall having read somewhere, that centuries ago off the northwestern island coast of Scotland, my ancestors were shipwrecked and saved from drowning by clinging to pieces of wood and drifting ashore.

Perhaps an innate inherited trait of highland ancestry from the Hebrides attracted me to the edge of the sea in this mountainous province. I loved walking along the beach and shoreline at any hour in all seasons and any type of weather, the windier, the better, the stormier, all the more alluring. Finding one of my favourite spots vacant that calm day, I rested upon a large boulder near the shoreline intent upon staying for a long visit.

The evening air remained unusually warm even after the sun had disappeared and the horizons made their eye soothing transitions from pale yellow, to fiery orange, to burning red, to dark purple, and finally to black. This was Labour Day weekend and the first weekend of September. I had always regarded the first weekend of September as the last weekend of summer because school always unfailingly resumed after Labour Day. The weather always seemed different after this particular weekend. Maybe the reason was the promise of cooler autumn temperatures that September’s first weekend heralded. September had always been my favourite month and with a trace of respect, I silently greeted, "Aye, this is September and here's to it!"

April 16, 2015. English Bay as seen from Kitsilano Beach. Maybe not September 1974 but the scene has changed little since then.

Only one many front lawn gardens that are prevalent in Kitsilano. Walk along any street or avenue; you don't have to go far.

This is a wooden crate on legs that I had noticed a few times while out walking. I wondered what it was and why it was there. Anyway, on my last morning neighbourhood tour the door was open, revealing the small library inside. I still wonder what the purpose of this is... but that book looks interesting, "The Courage to Heal Workbook" One can only wonder: why would healing a workbook require courage? I know... I better move along.

McLeod Estate. Friends Welcome. So says the sign beside the front entrance of this rather large attractive well maintained building. I stopped on the sidewalk at front gate to quickly grab this image and was startled by a resident when he opened the door. I think he was just as startled when he interrupted what I was doing.

West 6th Avenue and an unusual place to hang a swing. Need to rest while out for a walk? Or simply want to do something different?

These ramblings have barely scratched the surface and I know only too well that much about Kitsilano remains to be discovered, remembered, re-discovered; perhaps a valid reason to plan for another visit.

The Oddblock Station Agent

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