Friday, 21 July 2017

Orca strait


I had heard about this Victoria Foundation project months ago while I was still in Ottawa, but to be confronted by it in person, where it's displayed outside the main branch of the Greater Victoria Public Library, was a whole other kettle of orcas.

This is the work of Victoria-based Kwagiulth artist, and Victoria Foundation board member, Carey Newman, who had scores, well, maybe hundreds of prominent and not-so-prominent Victorians come to workshops to create individual tiles, then pieced them together into a trio of killer whales - we call them orcas in this part of the world.

If you click on the picture, you may be able to make out the individual tiles, which include Queen Victoria, and Emily Carr. This was, of course, all in honour of the 150th anniversary of Confederation.

Yowza.

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Sky boy (write of passage number forty-five)

He's tiny and excited, taking his seat next to his young blond mum in the top of the double-decker. He's wearing some sort of headband, and his sandy hair sticks up like a cone behind it.

His mum tells him, "I used to ride on the Sky Train when I was a little girl; it's really high up too!"

"Well, this is the Sky Bus," he informs her.

"You can call it that if you like."

"'Cuz it touches the sky."

I look out at the blue expanse, and imagine the top of the bus is brushing against it.

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Hat trick

The Resident Fan Boy and younger daughter returned to Hades yesterday, leaving me here, for only the third time in seventeen summers, alone to savour rather more solitude than I'm used to.

In a way, it's intoxicating. Despite devoting a section of each day to Demeter, I am largely free to go where I will.

In a way, I'm rather forlorn. I enjoy my unfettered state, yet I find myself looking longingly at families wandering together through the streets of Victoria, aware as I am of the griping about fatigue and hunger that is the inevitable byproduct.

So I find myself remembering a snippet of sweet memory from about sixteen years ago. Elder daughter, who was about nine or ten at the time, needed a summer hat, but was now old enough to resist. I grabbed a moment in a shop to have her try on a few, the time being limited by how much her younger sister could stand to wait.

I think it was the third hat, a simple beige affair with an artfully shredded brim. It touched her crown, and I saw the sun rise in her face.

Long after she abandoned it in favour of pre-adolescent hatlessness - she refuses to wear a sunhat to this day - I kept it safe and treasured the memory of that brightening smile.


Tuesday, 18 July 2017

From bag to verse (write of passage number forty-four)

He's all in black, wearing a jacket on a warm day, and seated at the bus stop,loaded down with a suitcase on wheels and a couple of shopping bags. When he asks me for the time, I can't place his accent.

He says he's on his way to the Paint-in at Moss Street and offers to read me a poem.

Oh heck,why not? I think, so he pulls sheaves of vellum from a sort of large wallet, and unfolds a large sheet which, fortunately, bears large handwriting.

Unfortunately, he spends a little too much time on the preamble, and the bus pulls up before he can begin reading.

This never happens in Ottawa.

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Wasn't expecting this one



A woman? Sure! Jodie Whittaker? That was a well-kept surprise, wasn't it? (I gather she suddenly zoomed into the list of contenders in the final hours of the countdown. Mind you, I wasn't paying close enough attention.)

I can almost hear the fanboys bellowing. The Resident Fan Boy seems okay with it.

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Learning you were wrong

Little time today, so I'm cheating again. Aubrey Logan is another Postmodern Jukebox performer I would love to see live. (We did see the bassist.)

Friday, 14 July 2017

How much will you pay to live in the attic?

Events of the past few weeks leave me with this song on my mind. I heard it first as a child, when it seemed spooky and largely incomprehensible. Later, it sounded to me like a man making doomed overtures to a woman.

As it turns out, Paul Stookey,who wrote it, can explain precisely what it means, but before you click on the link, I should warn you that there's a reason that so many poets and songwriters suggest that readers and listeners seek out their own interpretations.

Thursday, 13 July 2017

The poets and the saints

I studied Our Town in Grade Nine English (maybe Grade Ten - it was a long time ago).

It was the practice - and probably still is - to take turns reading the roles. Our teacher, an intense Australian, took the part of the Stage Manager who narrates, and I spoke Emily Gibbs nee Webb for the third, devastating act of the play, and so had one of the final lines: "Mother Gibbs? . . . . They really don't understand, do they?"

I was also branded for life by the exchange between Emily and the Stage Manager, after the realization of the nature of life and living has collapsed in on her. She asks (and I'm paraphrasing because I'm relying on memory): "Are any human beings ever truly aware of life as they're living it -- ev'ry ev'ry minute?" The Stage Managers replies: "No. The saints and the poets, they do, some."

We had a young curmudgeon in the class who took the role of the depressed and disappointed choirmaster. I don't ever recall him saying much at any other time, but he read the part of Simon Stimson to perfection -- a slight, curly-hair boy in a mustard-coloured shirt and black-framed eye-glasses sounding like a cynical and dispirited middle-aged man. I wonder if he grew into it.

So, when I heard that Blue Bridge Theatre was mounting a production of the play, I knew I wanted to go, having never seen a live production of it, apart from the filmed version of the 2003 Broadway revival starring Paul Newman.

And when I heard that Gary Farmer was playing the Stage Manager, I knew I had to go. Gary Farmer was "Lenny" in a stunning Blue Bridge Theatre production of Of Mice and Men which I saw in 2012. This Our Town featured three other actors from the OMaM and the same director.

I thought it was going to be good. It was.

As in Of Mice and Men, I was approaching a work first encountered in adolescence, and seeing through my older and, regrettably, not much wiser eyes.

Our Town is popular in high schools, both for studying and performing, because it has next-to-no scenery, few props, only the slightest hint of sex, and focuses on the love story of two young people.

It's only when you're older that you notice how very grown-up a play it is, that the story is as much about the elders as the youth. Things hit me in the solar plexus that simply didn't register when I was in my mid-teens, not least the bitter-sweet revelation of what has become of the elder Mrs. Gibbs'(Cyllene Richmond) legacy and her dream of visiting Paris.

Also as with Of Mice and Men, the ensemble work was universally fine, from the young lovers to their parents to the village characters. The music was fun, but a bit distracting -- more Tennessee Appalachian than New England Appalachian. And in a strange but moving moment, Simon Stimson (Jacob Richmond), the alcoholic organist, staggers on before the wedding in the middle act and sings "Ombra Mai Fu", which is better known as "Handel's Largo" and is listed, in the first act, as being among the half dozen or so things of "culture" recognized by the denizens of Grover's Corners, New Hampshire.



Frondi tenere e belle/ del mio platano amato/ per voi risplenda il fato./ Tuoni, lampi, e procelle/ nonv'oltraggino mai la cara pace/ ne giunga a profanarvi austro rapace.
Ombra mai fu/ di vegetabile/ cara ed amabile/ soave piu.


"Tender and beautiful fronds/ of my beloved plane tree/ let Fate smile upon you./ May thunder, lightning, and storms/ never disturb your dear peace,/ nor may you by blowing winds be profaned.
"Never was a shade/ of any plant/ dearer and more lovely,/ or more sweet."

Needless to say, the melody has been haunting me all week.

Our Town is,by its nature, a very WASP play, but this production featured Laurence Dean Ifill (as milkman Howie Newsome) as well as Gary Farmer who is of the Cayuga Nation. The only reference to this is if you are watching carefully as Professor Willard (Julian Cervello) is giving an anthropological history of Grover's Corners and mentions that the indigenous people are long gone. Farmer's eyes close as he listens.

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

What are little boys made of? (Part Two and write of passage number forty-three)


My heart sinks when the bus on the way back from Butchart Gardens stops near Elk Lake, where several young kids are lined up.  It's day camp season in Victoria.

I was a day-camper for my first three summers in Victoria, ages 9 to 11 -- eons ago.  In those days, there were few day camps and we were transported daily by ancient, retired city buses.

Now, the hapless and hopeful counselors must marshal their charges on to city buses, to fidget and chatter cheek by jowl with unenthusiastic passengers.

This lot look roughly in the 6 to 8 range with a couple of taller boys who are either big for their age or some kind of junior assistants.  There are about fifteen children in all, and they have been instructed by their twenty-something counselors to stand.  Most of them ignore this, being small enough to fit several to a seat.

One little boy (there's always one) is sitting by himself, inches away from me.  His name is James and he's spent the first ten minutes of the journey playing with a rubber frog he's retrieved from the sandy pails dangling from the fingers of the distracted female counselor.  She has a nose piercing and purple hair-ends; she's busy pivoting to keep an eye on everyone in her end of the bus.  Her bearded co-worker is overseeing about half a dozen kids in the back of the bus.

For the next ten minutes, little James dozes off, but as he rouses, it becomes clear he isn't happy.  His small face screws up, and tears start dripping down his summer-coloured cheeks.  I wave to catch his counselor's attention, point discreetly in James' direction and draw imaginary tears under my eye.

He looks up at her in abject misery and butts his head against her hip as she reassures him that "we're almost there".  (This is debatable -- we're still in the upper reaches of Douglas Street.)

One of the big boys slips in beside him and tries to jolly him out of it, gently poking him, and trying to draw his attention to what's out the window, finishing with a droll "Drip-drip-drip".  Female counselor tells him this isn't helpful and to cut it out.

I'm a little worried, given my proximity, that wee James is bus-sick. but it's becoming clear that his discomfort is growing; he's starting to grab a bit at his groin and cry harder.  In other words, he's really wee James.

Mercifully, the group's stop is not quite downtown, and, out on the sidewalk,  I see James at the head of the fleeing line, clutching his counselor's hand.