March 07, 2018

What's the deal with Niagara Falls?

Niagara Falls. In February. "Kind of cold don't ya think?" said G.G. Blynn as they refused to leave the hotel room for the group's nightly walkabout. "It's minus twenty-five out there!" as they wheeled themselves away from the window.

In the daytime, things are only moderately warmer. The wind feels like Portage and Main, and it's damn hard to find a good coffee shop. Oh, there is a Starbucks in every hotel lobby along the tourist cluster that has attached itself to the actual falls, but that hardly a good cup of coffee.

Niagara Falls, the city, was incorporated in 1903, about 35 years after the work on the falls began. It's known as the "honeymoon capital of the world" though it's much too cold for any of that in February.

We stayed in the tourist district, near the falls, but a world away from it's natural beauty. Neon billboards, high-rise hotels, casinos, museums of dubious intent,  souvenir shops of the everything-seems-to-be-made-in-a-prison-in-China sort, and all-the-steak-you-can-eat kind of restaurants are everywhere in this small stretch of high-rises and parking lots.

Like all great cities, Niagara Falls has a lock bridge too, a small unattractive thing, with locks being available for sale from the nearby hotel. Or was it The Keg?

Niagara Falls is actually the collective name for three waterfalls that straddle the border between Canada and the Excited States. Horseshoe Falls is claimed by both nations, while American Falls  and Bridal Veil Falls, fall on the American side of things, though the view if always much better from Canada.

Constructed at the same time as the building of the Canadian Pacific Railway, the falls are an engineering marvel. The vertical drop is more than 50 metres and the flow rate, during peak daytime hours is about 168,000 cubic metres per minute, generating hydro power for both nations since the latter part of the 19th century.

Interestingly, the water flow is controlled by a bilateral commission and there's more water going over the falls in the peak tourist times, and far less during the night and the winter.

And all in all, the whole thing is underwhelming. Maybe February isn't the right time of year to visit Niagara Falls, and if we hadn't been here for the Blynn's wheelchair conference thing....

"What's the deal with Niagara Falls anyway?" wheezed B.T. Mendlebaum as she opened the hotel room window to blow out the smoke from her cigarette. "It was a hell of a lot warmer when we went to Iguazu."

Photos by Jeem. Copyright 2018 by Jim Murray.

March 05, 2018

Jeem plows snow at VanDusen Garden

Freshly cleaned walkway - by Jeem.

In a cost-saving move the Park Board, and VanDusen Garden, decided to let volunteers help with snow removal during the recent winter storm. Typically volunteers are somewhat qualified, though limited training was provided.

Here comes Jeem now!

In Jeem's case, and against the better judgment of his lawyer B.T. Mendlebaum (disbarred), this was a great opportunity: to operate moderately heavy machinery at a high rate of speed, in a slightly reckless fashion, and ... to have fun while doing a great service to the community.


Great work Jeem!

Racing around clearing snow off the walkways was easy enough, and Jeem was cheered on by an adoring VanDusen staff. Plowing through flower beds, and creating an entirely new path through the fern garden, was greeted by a chorus of "No Jeem!"

For reasons unclear, Jeem persisted his folly.

In the end, after some confusion and an incident involving the new "bird garden", the police were called. A few days later Jeem appeared before a judge. Thanks to fine representation from his lawyer and friend, B.T. Mendlebaum (disbarred), Jeem was given a sentence of twenty-one hours of community service, which, if the stars align, might even include snow removal for the Park Board!

This post is dedicated to the memory of our dear friend Valerie who passed away last summer. Valerie always believed in Jeem, no matter the problems he created for himself.  For that, and so much more, we miss her.

Photos by Jeem, except for "Here comes Jeem now!" by Sherry MacDonald.  Copyright 2018 by Jim Murray.

March 04, 2018

The Winter Storm of 2018

It came one day in late February: a west coast winter storm.

Transit was stuck, commutes were snarled, and the city awoke the next day to 25 centimetres of fresh, clean snow.

The storm came so quickly this great blue heron was frozen into this small patch of water, waiting for the ice to thaw.

Hearing the crunch of the snow underfoot is a wonderfully Canadian feeling, and one we don't often get here on the left coast. Childhood memories of hot chocolate and cinnamon toast, of skating and tobogganing...

All too quickly the snow disappeared. Spring is coming.

Photos by Jeem. Copyright 2018 by Jim Murray. 

December 03, 2017

Festival of Lights at VanDusen Garden

Another year has gone and again we find ourselves the day before the official opening of the Festival of Lights at VanDusen Garden.

The light show really begins on December 1st but we come just before closing on November 30th to see the lights come on for a "dress rehearsal."

After a record setting month of rain, our time was spent under only a gentle mist.

At one time pink was for boys, and water bottles were just that.

Photos by Jeem. Copyright 2017 by Jim Murray.

November 08, 2017

Earle Peach receives Mayor's Arts Award

It was a gala October evening to celebrate Vancouver's artists who enrich the city's culture through creativity and dialogue. It was the annual Mayor's Arts Awards, and a highlight was celebrating Sherry's friend and colleague, and new honouree, Earle Peach.

Earle received the award in the Community Engaged Art category. He leads four choirs: the Solidarity Notes Labour Choir; the Highs and Lows Choir; the Gathering Place choir; and InChoiring Minds. Earle also heads the delightful Illiteratty, and he is one half of Songtree with Barbara Jackson.

When the mayor and Earle were posing for the official photograph, the photographer asked the two men to turn into each other. Earle looked at the Mayor and said, "Frankly, I'd rather you turn into me."

Earle's acceptance speech was gentle and without ego. It spoke to the need to repair the world, to reconcile, to be accountable, and to raise up voices rarely heard, like those in the Highs and Lows.

Among a number of other projects, Earle is currently working with playwright Sherry MacDonald on a musical about the Battle of Ballantyne Pier.

Earle Peach is a gifted composer and songwriter, a dedicated political activist, and highly deserving of a Mayor's Art Award in 2017.

Now, if only our mayor could turn into someone more like Earle.

Photos by Jeem. Copyright 2017 by Jim Murray.