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The Hill We Climb

We will rebuild, reconcile and recover
and every known nook of our nation and
every corner called our country,
our people diverse and beautiful will emerge,
battered and beautiful.
When day comes we step out of the shade,
aflame and unafraid.
The new dawn blooms as we free it.
For there is always light,
if only we’re brave enough to see it.
If only we’re brave enough to be it.
— Amanda Gorman

Through My Lens: Windward Oahu

In a parallel universe, my sister and I would be getting on a plane today, headed for two weeks of sun and surf. But alas, no winter beach time for us this year.

Because it’s 2020.

Not to worry. I will instead wallow in my memories of the last time I was in the Aloha State. I took the above photo somewhere along the Windward side of Oahu, which is where my sister and I had planned to stay.

If all goes well, maybe next year.

If all goes well.

Day 100

It’s been 104 days since the WHO declared Covid-19 a pandemic, and five months to the day since Wuhan, China, was locked down. And it’s Day 100 of my pandemic.

I didn’t really consider my own need for physical distancing until I had a routine dental exam on March 16, only to learn an hour later there was a Covid-19 outbreak associated with a dental conference that had taken place in Vancouver earlier that month. I called my dentist. They were closing down their office until further notice.

Talk about a wake-up call.

Life has become an endless cycle of Zoom calls, laundry, and pandemic baking. I find joy in mundane events like the opening of a rebuilt grocery store around the corner from me that shortened my weekly grocery trek by almost two-thirds and greatly reduced my shopping stress thanks to its extra-wide aisles.

Even my cats seem different. They follow me from room to room and seem to be sticking much more closely to me than ever before. Which is ironic given that I’m home more than ever.

This pandemic has provided some valuable lessons in how we function as a society and as a community. How we care for our elders, how our cities function, how our supply chains work, how dependent we are on temporary foreign workers for our food production.

On a personal level, I’ve mastered baking sourdough bread. I’ve also become much more aware of who calls Vancouver home now that all the tourists are gone. Previously (and sheepishly, I will admit), I thought all the people around me speaking Spanish or German or one Slavic language or another were visiting Vancouver from elsewhere. Turns out they are actually my neighbours. Which makes me happy. Diversity is our strength.

BC has done a pretty good job at flattening the curve. We hope to move into Phase 3 of our reopening within a few days. The most significant aspect of the next phase will be the lifting of the request to avoid all non-essential travel in the province, and the reopening of hotels, campgrounds, and other tourist accommodation.

Travel within Canada this summer is still rather uncertain. As our health officials (who gave their 100th briefing on Covid-19 today) keep telling us, each region of Canada is having its own pandemic.

What is becoming certain is that a return to international tourism this year is unlikely. I’ve noticed over the last week or so how our health officials note at every briefing the growing number of cases in parts of the United States where British Columbians have strong connections, such as Washington, Oregon, California, and Arizona. Two of every three Canadian residents live within 100 kilometres of the US border — the current border closure between our countries is unprecedented. But necessary.

So what about the next 100 days? Can we make summer travel plans? I realized early on in this pandemic that my travel plans for later in the year would have to be put on hold indefinitely. Instead, I’m thinking small. Really small. Thankfully, I live in a beautiful part of the world that I can enjoy in a physically distant way. I also plan to frequent as much as possible all the local businesses and attractions that rely on tourists. They are all on life support right now.

Three months ago, I found myself thinking a lot about my last visit to New York. I’m not sure why. Maybe because New York has been hit so hard by the pandemic, maybe because it’s the US city I have visited most often, or maybe because it was the last time I left the country. At any rate, here is a photo I took in Morningside Park on that week-long visit.

I can’t help but look at it and think, “We are all that turtle.”

Here’s to a safe and physically distant summer, wherever you are in the world.

At the Nat

All right. It’s high time I post something to acknowledge the game often referred to as the “national pastime.”

And no, I’m not talking about Canadian federal elections — although, given our proclivity for minority governments (yesterday we elected our third fourth in 15 years), you would not be wrong in thinking so.

I’m talking about baseball. And yes, I know it’s our neighbours to the south who consider it a national pastime much more so than we Canadians do, but we do have some fans in this country. Basically, all of Toronto during the Blue Jays’ back-to-back World Series championships in 1992 and 1993. (I was one of them.)

Here in Vancouver, we don’t have a Major League Baseball team, but I know a few people who will be tuned in to the first game of the 2019 World Series, which got underway tonight.

Some of those people I’m related to, and they like to hang at the Nat every summer. I went along one night last August, just for something different to do (and to take a few photographs).

The full name of Vancouver’s ball park is Nat Bailey Stadium, named after the founder of White Spot (a popular Vancouver restaurant chain best known for their burgers). The home team is the Vancouver Canadians, the one Canadian team in the Northwest League of Minor League Baseball. They are also the Short Season A affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays — and please don’t ask me what that means, as I have no idea. (Thanks, Wikipedia.)

It turns out that the Nat is a really fun place to hang out on a summer’s evening — with all the emphasis on fun. Several of each season’s home games are followed by a fireworks display and one is designated Dog Day of Summer — you get to take your four-legged best friend with you to the Nat. If you’re thirsty, there is craft beer; if you’re hungry, there are three-foot long hot dogs. And for entertainment (in addition to the game, of course), there are the Sushi Mascot races — Ms. BC Roll, Mr. Kappa Maki, and Chef Wasabi race around the diamond. A winner is always declared, but if your appetite is whetted, be assured you can also get sushi at the concession stands.

As it happens, the game I went to last August was a close one, finishing off with a walk-off single. But even if the Canadians hadn’t won, the night was winner.

Walking and Drinking Our Way Through San Francisco

San Francisco …
Bridges, fog, food …
It’s crunchy granola, but it’s also double martinis and thick slabs of beef.
A city of towns, neighbourhoods …
A tough town for a stick shift. — Anthony Bourdain

So. What to do when you don’t know what to say about a new-to-you city?

Me? I turn to Anthony Bourdain. And as I did so, I had to laugh.

I laughed because he seemed particularly fixated on martinis while he was filming his San Francisco episode.

And I laughed because as my friend and I spent our week climbing the hills of San Francisco (hence, “a tough town for a stick shift”), we finished each day with an adult beverage. Or two.

Double martinis indeed.

This was my first one, which I sipped as we listened to jazz in a bar that time forgot at Haight and Ashbury.

Haight and Ashbury, of course, was the epicentre for the Summer of Love. With a little imagination, it seems like the entire strip is one that time forgot.

See what I mean?

We spent a morning strolling through Chinatown — one of the largest in North America, and certainly the oldest.

Then we hit the Castro, San Francisco’s gay village.

We finished our day in the Mission, enjoying cold beers in another bar that time forgot.

The Mission got its name from Mission San Francisco de Asis, one of the 21 Catholic missions established in California to convert Indigenous peoples. From Dolores Park, in the heart of the Mission, you have a great view of the entire city.

We also spent time in the Embarcadero, which is where my home exchange condo was located.

We bought fresh produce at the Ferry Building Farmers Market. (Being a ferry building, this is also where you catch any one of several ferries to get across the bay.)

And we ate sushi overlooking Alcatraz in the middle of San Francisco Bay.

We finished up our last day in North Beach, the Little Italy of San Francisco and home to the Beat Movement. We rested our aching feet at Francis Ford Coppola’s bar in the Sentinel Building (the green building) …

… and imbibed in yet another late afternoon cocktail.

San Francisco is known to be a foodie town (be sure to try the tacos), but during our short week, it was definitely the adult beverages that sustained us.

City by the Bay

A few weeks ago, I wrote about my visit to San Francisco last summer, intending that post to be an introduction to a handful of posts about my summer vacation. And … a month later, here I am.

Huh.

Part of my delay in writing about San Francisco has been, well, the things that keep me hopping from day to day and week to week. Like other trips. Also, work. Spending time with family and friends. Chores.

You know, the usual.

A more truthful reason, though, might be that I just don’t know what I think of San Francisco.

One thing I did figure out while I was there is that when I travel I much prefer to spend a much longer period of time in a place. Long stays in a city, like my winter in Paris or my summer in Amsterdam, let you really dig into the rhythm of a place and figure out what makes it tick.

Not so easy in a week.

At any rate, I’m going to do my best to share a few posts with you about this City by the Bay.

This photo was the view we had from our too-cold-to-sit-out-for-long balcony on the night of our arrival. It would prove to be the most spectacular night of our stay — every night afterwards, the fog rolled in.

But at least we had this.

San Francisco in July

It’s the last day of February and Canadians are getting a little cranky.

Winter is going on … and on … and on.

Those of us who can have fled south to warmer climes like Arizona and Hawaii. Or Florida.

Sigh.

And people like me — who have little to complain about with respect to cold and snow and ice — tend to just wait it out.

I went south last July instead. Which, I learned, was a mistake.

San Francisco in July, it turns out, is much cooler than Vancouver in July. In fact, I have since learned that it’s entirely possible for San Francisco to remain enshrouded in fog for the entire summer. They call it June Gloom, No Sky July, and Fogust.

When I was there, we saw lots of the sun, but without fail the fog rolled in every evening. Despite my lovely home exchange condo with a lovely view over the Bay, it was far too chilly for this Canadian to sit outside on the balcony for any length of time to enjoy that lovely view.

So. Lesson learned. Go to San Francisco in the spring or fall. Or here’s an idea … in the middle of a Canadian winter!

Here’s a photo of the iconic bridge that San Francisco is known for: the Golden Gate Bridge. This is the best view I had of it the entire week.

Because fog.

Epiphany at the Met

Here are some last photos from the Neapolitan Crèche at the Met. I don’t think I need to tell you who these fellows are. I’m posting these photos today to commemorate the Feast of the Epiphany.

Merry Christmas!

Neapolitan Crèche, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Goatherder at the Met

It’s less than a week until Christmas.

Already.

To mark the ever-accelerating passage of time, here’s another photo from the Neapolitan Crèche at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. I’m calling this fellow the Goatherder.