Archive for Vancouver

Suddenness

Yesterday in New West I had lunch with friends and got a doggy bag with half a roast beef sandwich and a bunch of fries. Walking toward the Skytrain station I saw a couple of bedraggled guys and asked them if they wanted it. They said no, and then one of them pointed to an older, intoxicated fellow a few yards away and said “he might.” That third fellow said he did and reached out for the food. Then one of the original pair jumped over and yanked the bag from my hand: “Nothing for him!”

The third fellow wailed: “You took it from me!” That angry complaint was aimed *at me*, I realized with some fear. He started after me as I hustled up the stairs to the train. The stairs must have deterred him.

I’ll feel safe when I get on the train, I told myself. But I didn’t feel safe … for the rest of the day, unable to return to the quotidian habit of forgetting the suddenness that surrounds us.

Merry Christmas!

Vancouver Christmases past.

Jamie Lee Hamilton

A champion. RIP.

The Chandelier

When I passed this last week, I had to blink a couple of times to realize that this gigantic chandelier was indeed there, beneath the Granville Street Bridge. This is a permanent installation by a B.C. artist named Rodney Graham, who was inspired by an Isaac Newton experiment. It lights up and spins.

Vancouver’s such a trip.

Election Day

Fingers crossed. We don’t want an American president.

“Good for pictures”

The Vancouver Art Gallery solo exhibition of photographs by Fred Herzog, who died a few days ago, was perhaps the biggest art event of 2007 in my city. It was a revelation, nothing less. Christopher Cheung’s retrospective essay in The Tyee is a wonderful introduction as well as memorial to Herzog’s work.

This passage struck me:

“I don’t think we can have a photographer like Fred Herzog now,” wrote photographer Jeff Wall in Vancouver Magazine. “In order to have that affection, there has to be something to have it for… those objects of his affection no longer exist. Or if they do exist, they are just vestiges of what they were in 1957 or 1961, when he captured them perfectly.”

[David] Campany [in his book Modern Color] adds that Vancouver “had been physically transformed in ways that were unconsciously cynical and dispiriting. The kinds of architecture, informal social spaces, and layer of material history to which Fred Herzog was drawn had been swept aside. In their place came a dense and homogeneous landscape determined by raw capital, and insensitive to its inhabitants.”

Herzog himself has said that the downtown is boring now, lacking the “disordered vitality” he was used to. But he admits that what might have made for good images could be bad for people. For one, Vancouver used to have a lot more smog, in part from burning garbage, that was good for pictures, but not residents.

“In order to have that affection, there has to be something to have it for… those objects of his affection no longer exist.” This sentence evokes time, so beautifully.

Photograph “Man with Bandage, 1968,” by Fred Herzog, courtesy of The Equinox Gallery.

Used with permission.

Simpleness: A Sequel

Last week before I headed off to teach back-to-back classes at my university, I stopped off at a McDonalds for a breakfast sandwich so that I wouldn’t faint in front of my students; it was gross but I was starved and I gobbled it down. I sat on a stool that faced the sidewalk on Davie Street; a bedraggled fellow was fiddling with his bike in front of me.

When I was done with my sandwich I walked to the bus stop. The fellow was on his bike riding toward me in the lowest gear. He was laughing but in a growling timbre.

As he passed by, he said this to me: “Look at how fat you are – and now look at me! Eat a salad, motherfucker!”

I had stuffed my face in front of a homeless man.