Saturday, August 31, 2013

Some Powell River Houses

Pictured above is a street that runs just west of Marine Avenue and just south of the town centre. Below this street is another street. After that, a bushy slope. Then the beach and the Strait of Georgia.

At the north end of the block stand two houses.

The house at the corner

and the house just south of it.

The first house has a well-planned shrub border, comprised of heather and juniper. Behind it, a rhoddodendron that looks to have been planted in the early 1980s. Like the border, the lawn is well-maintained.

Apart from the sunflowers, nasturtium and lavender, the second house does not have an established garden feature. Nor a lawn that has been watered beyond seasonal rainfalls.

Something these houses have in common, though, is that both have on their property signs that provide information on who lives in them and why their gardens look the way they do.

In the driveway of the first house is a car with veteran license plates. These plates indicate that whoever lives inside is likely retired and  has more time for gardening than those with young children.

Leaning against the second house is a child's bicycle.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Powell River Modern

Powell River has some very attractive houses. Most are of the Arts & Crafts variety, and were likely built in the first half of the 20th century.

The house above sits to the right of Marine Avenue as you approach the town centre. As far as I could tell, it was built using standardized wood formats, but it is the scale and siting of these materials that make it an instance of local modern architecture.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Powell Lake Marina

On August 20 I posted a picture of Powell Lake. The picture above was taken while visiting the lake's marina -- home of the Shingle Mill Pub & Bistro (where they serve an excellent seafood risotto) and, just west of it, a company that makes cedar float homes. On both my visits the sound of dirt bikes and dune buggies echoed from the surrounding hills.

The more conventional route to the lake has you driving north of the "Historic District", where you come to this sign:

And these to the right of it:

From there you turn right and, about a half mile up the road, you cross a bridge over what is one of the shortest rivers in North America: the Powell River. On the other side of the bridge, to the right, is the entrance to Powell Lake.

Before European contact, the lake drained into the ocean. But with the construction of the mill, the lake was damned, its fresh water administered by the company, as it is in most company towns.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013


Powell River began as a pulp and paper company town. Though the mill remains the region's largest employer (400 workers), new economies are emerging. Tourism is one, retirement is another.

Directly south of the breakwater that protects the mill's logging pond are two beaches. The first beach is known as Second or Third Beach by some, First Beach by others. Those who know the first beach as Second or Third Beach recognize the first beach as Waddington Beach, the tourist beach (see my August 22 post). Those older see Waddington Beach as Third Beach, with First Beach (or Second or Third Beach) the first beach you see just south of the mill.

On Sunday, while watching the sunset at First Beach (or Second or Third Beach), I noticed a seal circling a swimmer. Eventually the swimmer came ashore and, after changing behind his motorcycle, introduced himself as a native son. He told me the gravel road behind us bypasses the town and meets up with Powell Lake; that most of its dirt bike and dune buggy traffic consists of those coming down from the lake to buy off-sales at the Rodmay.

Of course the real reason for this road is not to service beer runs but to bring logs to the logging pond, where they are sorted and sent to the mill. That this road bypasses the town is common to places that like to keep work at a remove. That it is used for play makes towns like Powell River a joy.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Three Interiors: Lobby, Studio, Room

Like the pre-Waldorf Productions-era Waldorf Hotel, the Rodmay's major source of revenue is a beer and wine store, with its diner, pub and rentals a distant second. Among the more noticeable adaptations is an artist studio on the ground floor to the right of the hotel's main entrance.

Room 40 (above, and to the left of the entrance) also looks onto the Catalyst mill.

Monday, August 26, 2013

The Rodmay Hotel

Opened in 1911, the Rodmay Heritage Hotel in Powell River's "Historic Townsite" district (a mile north of "downtown") was built with financial backing from the mill over which it looks. As you can see from the picture (not the official picture the hotel uses to sell itself), the Rodmay has undergone a number of add-ons and adaptations over the years.

Friday, August 23, 2013


Early in The Eden Express, author Mark Vonnegut (above, with friends) describes a sign he saw while waiting to receive his undergraduate degree from Swathmore College in 1969. It read: "Commence what?" Contrast this to the "why" his father asks four posts ago.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Squatters Rights

This silent 8mm concert film was shot at Powell River. The clothes, the dance moves and the musical equipment suggest the summer of 1968. One imagines the songs to be closer to surf music than psychedelia.

A 3:51 minute film running at 24 frames-per-second is roughly the length of a super-8 film cartridge. As such, I would guess that this film was shot on super-8, if not for the double exposures at the beginning, which suggests a double-8 format, where the film is flipped halfway through shooting.

The singer in the last band is identified as "Brian Eccles". I search-engineered "Brian Eccles Powell River" and found that between 1965-1968 Brian Eccles was a member of a band called The Squatters Rights. Further engineering returned him to this blog. Turns out I visited Brian's studio three years ago, as a guest of the Queen Charlotte City Arts Council.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Eden Express (1975)

In the spring of 1969 Mark Vonnegut graduated from Pennsylvania's Swarthmore College and, with a group of friends, drove west in a VW bus to Powell Lake, B.C., to build a commune.

Two years later, on Valentine's Day, Vonnegut experienced a psychotic episode and was committed to Woodland's Psychiatric Hospital in New Westminster, where he was diagnosed a paranoid schizophrenic.

The Eden Express: A Memoir of Insanity (1975) is Vonnegut's account of what moved him to leave the United States, the hardships he and his friends faced in the wilds of British Columbia, and what it feels like to have a mental health issue.

The image up top is from the back cover of the book -- the mountains surrounding Powell Lake. These are the same mountains from yesterday's post, and where I am headed this weekend.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Powell Lake, British Columbia

"Here we are, trapped in the amber of the moment. There is no why."

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Terry Fox Monument (1984)

In 1984, the provincial government held a design competition to memorialize cancer-research fundraiser and athlete Terry Fox, who died shortly after abandoning his cross-country run at Thunder Bay, Ontario in 1981. The winning proposal was by Franklin Allen, who gave us not a bronze statue of the man but an informational arch through which that man effectively "completed" his run. A nice idea, one that was hailed by local architects Arthur Erickson and Abraham Rogatnick, but loathed by the general public.

While the Terry Fox Monument (1984) was eventually replaced by bronze representations of the man and his motions, no one I have spoken to seems to know what became of Allen's commission. Which is a shame, because Allen's structure, like Fox's achievement, generated a great many conversations, and I think we need to hang onto that which generates conversation, particular when, as architect Trevor Boddy has argued, the Terry Fox Monument is also the first instance of postmodern architecture in Vancouver.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

The Worst of Perth

Curious about other instances of public art, I entered "worst examples of public art" into everybody's favourite search engine and came upon a site called The Worst of Perth, which has as its cut-line: "The worst examples of architecture, design, culture and humanity in Perth, Western Australia." The example up top is explained in the link.

But is this a bad example? A good example of a bad example?

Although it is difficult to judge public art without being there to experience it (just as it is difficult to judge a painting without seeing it in the flesh), what intrigues me about this work is how it responds to the movement of the sun throughout the day. What concerns me, however, are its sharp edges in relation to the blunt force of trains zooming in and out of the station, where the work is sited.

Something that often goes wrong with public art, and sculpture in general, is an inconsideration of the work and its siting with respect to the bodies that negotiates it. A railway platform is one of waiting. Occasionally these platforms get overcrowded, and when they do, they become frightening places. I would not want to be on this particular platform in the midst of a swelling crowd.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Public Art

In my August 10th post I mentioned the gift bag I received at the launch of the current issue of Misfit Lit magazine. Among the gifts was a book called 1001 Paintings You Must See Before You Die (2007), which I have poked at this past week while digesting my dinners on the front porch.

A painting that struck my eye was Ambrogio Lorenzetti's Effects of Good Government in the City (1338-1339), part of a series of commissioned frescos by a civic group (The Council of Nine), as opposed to a religious group (The Roman Catholic Church).

Public art commissions today are largely decorative, though that is changing, particularly in Vancouver, where even the most decorative public artworks incite protest from those who expect more from them, not less.

A recent example of public art, one which I admire, is Giselle Amantea's statue of Poppy, Owen Sopotiuk's remarkable standard poodle (see below).

Why Amantea based her Main Street statue on Poppy tells me she knows the dog as many of us in the arts community know her, and sees in this dog what those who commissioned past statues saw in Lord Stanley, Terry Fox and that fallen soldier outside the SeaBus terminal.

So hats off to Gisele Amantea -- and her wonderful tribute to Poppy!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

A Clown for the Times

"The Joker" confronts the benefactors of Giuliani's Manhattan.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Pee-wee's Playhouse (1986-1990)

Every generation has their clown. Pee-ee Herman was a clown for those who grew up with clowns -- in my case, J.P. Patches, who seemed closer to the 1950s than my childhood "now" of the 1960s and 70s.

Something I learned years ago while writing a libretto for Wilhelm Busch's Max and Moritz: A Juvenile History in Seven Tricks (1865) is that a story for children could also be a satire on those who read those stories to them.

In Max and Moritz, two boys engage in seven tricks that lead to their demise -- but it is the responses of those whom they play their tricks on that allude to what Flaubert gave us in Madame Bovary (1856): the ascendency of middle-class values in mid-19th century rural Europe.

Monday, August 12, 2013

J.P. Patches (1958-1981)

Awoke this morning thinking I had to get downstairs in time for J.P. Patches, a half-hour TV show that blared through the house before my sister and I left for school. Not sure what brought on this feeling. Was it my recent decision to cancel my cable-provider's package of channels?

The segment above is typical of what "J.P." and "Gertrude" got up to weekday mornings, only this time we have a robot who looks like a Julian Opie. Something else that occurred to me: that the show was improvised, with the actor who played "Gertrude" often losing it, while "J.P." always kept it together.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Gift Bag Economy

Last September I took part in Kwantlen Polytechnic University's Undercity: Writing the Suburban World symposium, where I met the students behind Misfit Lit magazine, who, some months later, asked me for a submission and, upon accepting my poems, asked if I would read at their next launch. That launch was last Wednesday night at Cafe Deux Soleils on Commercial Drive.

For my reading I prepared a selection of work that fell into the categories of something old (a long poem I wrote in 1995, about a bar at 1st and Commercial), something new (poems from my latest manuscript, 9x11), something borrowed (a translation of Henri Michaux's "Poem 39") and something "blue" (the poems I submitted to Misfit Lit, written after reading Michaux's poem).

But there was, as it turned out, an even newer poem, one that I wrote at 4:30PM that day; a suite of four poems that presented themselves while entering a succession of forward slashes (/, then //, then ///, then ////) into Google's search engine.

Here it is:



/ emoticon



//plugins chrome
/// emoticon



/// emoticon
/// summary c#
/// emoticon meaning
/// c#



//// emoticon

Like I said, the poem sequence was composed through successive entries of the forward slash into a search engine, with each entry "completing" itself in the form of a discrete poem. Why the poems end after four forward slashes is the result of a search engine that has exhausted its options. There was no longer anything to "complete".

After my reading the editors (Marlow Gunterman, Taryn Pearcy and Connor Doyle) presented me with a gift bag, inside of which were Misfit Lit stickers, a copy of the magazine, a book called 1001 Paintings You Must See Before You Die (2007) and a bottle of Finca's latest batch of Malbec.

The following day I rode my bike down to the Cultural Harmony Grove, a small park just east of the Burrard Street Bridge, to visit with the artist Arvo Leo, who has, for the past couple months, set himself up as a portrait painter for hire. The deal is this: you give him a bottle of wine (red), and he will paint your portrait, using some of that wine as the field behind you. Because I was just given wine for my services, I thought I would recirculate that wine through a similar economy.

Here is the wine:

Here is Arvo Leo:

And here is my portrait:

Friday, August 9, 2013

"The pain/ of the work/ of wrecking the world"

The U.S. poet Gary Snyder likens poetry to "the wild side of the fence."

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Interviews with Poets

Charles Bernstein has taken to postcard-sized interviews with poets about place. No matter where he conducts these interviews, the camera is always moving, rocking back and forth, as if at sea.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Florence & Normandie

The possessive is gone, but the shop remains.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Sandpoint, Idaho

As we heard at the opening of yesterday's post, "She had to leave Los Angeles." And leave she did, for whatever reason, eventually finding herself in Sandpoint, Idaho, with her husband, with whom she had a child, before moving back to L.A., where she lives today.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Friday, August 2, 2013

MacArthur Park

Northwest of the Morrison Hotel is MacArthur Park, a former drinking water reservoir and the inspiration for Jimmy Webb's song of the same name, made famous by Richard Harris in 1968, and then by Donna Summer ten years later.

((Jimmy Webb)

Spring was never waiting for us, girl
It ran one step ahead
As we followed in the dance
Between the parted pages and were pressed,
In love's hot, fevered iron
Like a striped pair of pants

MacArthur Park is melting in the dark
All the sweet, green icing flowing down...
Someone left the cake out in the rain
and I don't think that I can take it
'cause it took so long to bake it
and I'll never have that recipe again
Oh, no!

I recall the yellow cotton dress
foaming like a wave
on the ground around your knees
The birds, like tender babies in your hands
and the old men playing checkers by the trees

MacArthur Park is melting in the dark
All the sweet, green icing flowing down...
Someone left the cake out in the rain
and I don't think that I can take it
'cause it took so long to bake it
and I'll never have that recipe again
Oh, no!

There will be another song for me
For I will sing it
There will be another dream for me
Someone will bring it
I will drink the wine while it is warm
and never let you catch me looking at the sun
And after all the loves of my life
after all the loves of my life
You'll still be the one.

I will take my life into my hands
and I will use it
I will win the worship in their eyes
and I will lose it
I will have the things that I desire
and my passion flow like rivers through the sky.
And after all the loves of my life
After all the loves of my life
I'll be thinking of you
and wondering why.

MacArthur Park is melting in the dark
All the sweet, green icing flowing down...
Someone left the cake out in the rain
and I don't think that I can take it
'cause it took so long to bake it
and I'll never have that recipe again
Oh, no!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

"Land Ho!" (1970)

Pictures taken of the Doors on 1246 South Hope Street (Morrison Hotel) and 300 East 5th Street (Hard Rock Café) in Los Angeles, shortly before the release of their fifth studio album, Morrison Hotel, in February, 1970.