Sizzling in the

Sizzling in the city

My wife Pat had decided not to take on any piano adjudicating trips this summer and stay put at Sproat Lake. That idea took a quick U-Turn with the Toronto Conservatory of Music needing emergency coverage on a Vancouver contract that an examiner from Ontario couldn’t fulfill. Need I say more? Being the dedicated musician she is, Pat agreed to cover the contract. As I so as often do, I went along to play tourist. After all, living in a 1st-class hotel in downtown Vancouver is not an onerous task. With stunning summer weather and the annual Vancouver MusicFest still going on I knew there’d be plenty to keep me occupied.  
Whenever Pat does an adjudication gig on the lower mainland I usually take along my bike. The last time I biked the streets around Vancouver it wasn’t for the faint of heart. There were times I felt like a piece of meat about to be sandwiched between a bus on one side of me and a heavy delivery truck on the other. Automobile drivers who would unexpectedly change lanes without signaling were another hazard.

The cruise ship Radiance of the Seas readying for its weekly summer departure from Vancouver to Alaska. A few years ago when the vessel made a stopover in Victoria our son Brock gave us a tour through the ship. He was working aboard as a musician.


The Hornby Street bike corridor is part of Mayor Gregor Robertson’s new network of separated bicycle lanes in downtown Vancouver. This photo shows bicyclists crossing at Hornby and Georgia Streets.

However, that’s all changed with the construction of a network of separated bike lanes in downtown Vancouver, an initiative by the city’s Mayor Gregor Robertson. I understand he’s taken a fair amount of heat over the multi-million dollar project from everyone from downtown business owners, who’ve lost some parking capacity in front of their stores, through to commuting car drivers who don’t like bicycles sharing their lane space to begin with. From my perspective as a visitor I think the separated bike lanes are fantastic. The Hornby Street bike path went right by the front door of our hotel and I could get to anywhere in the downtown core in just minutes. Connecting to the waterfront bike route, it only took me 15 minutes to reach the seawall path around Stanley Park. 

The cycling path around the perimeter of Stanley park presents a kaleidoscope of unsurpassed scenery.

Mayor Robertson’s bike path initiative is about to be expanded even further. The program will involve rental bikes which can be used for short trips around the downtown as an extension of the transit system. The plan is to have 1,500 bikes at 125 stations around the city. However, unlike other jurisdictions around the world that already have the program, Vancouver will need to have helmets available to satisfy our provincial laws. This complicates the plan. Many Vancouverites habitually walk aboard Sky Train without paying, although that’s about to change with turnstiles now being installed. However, how the city will get some of these same dishonest types to return their helmets to an unsupervised bike-rental station is beyond me. Additionally, who wants to stick a sweaty helmet on their head when they are returned.

The False Creek bike path passes through the Olympic Village.

Traveling in Switzerland with my brother Terry in the spring I was struck by the large numbers of people who use bicycles to get to work. Thanks to Mayor Robertson cycling is definitely on a roll in Vancouver. As The Province newspaper columnist Jon Ferry recently wrote – “It’s goodbye, dour-faced Rain City. And hello happy Vancouverhagen -- with a nod to the chic Danish capital of Copenhagen where more than a third of all citizens reportedly commute to work by bike.”

Two photos above show dolphins leaping in unison and two children entranced by fish on display at the Vancouver Aquarium.
Cruising through Stanley Park by bike last week I was stopped and approached by two German tourists who wanted to know where the Vancouver Aquarium was located. After giving them directions I realized I hadn’t visited the facility since our children were very young and decided on the spot it was time I did. The upgrades that have come about through some major funding from the federal and provincial governments during the last several years are certainly impressive. I particularly enjoyed the Canadian Arctic gallery. Anyone who believes that global warming is some sort of hoax only need to view the aquarium’s prominently displayed satellite photos taken of the arctic over the past 10 to 15 years. It’s quite shocking to see how far the summer sea ice has retreated within that time frame. The Northwest Passage north of Canada and Alaska and the European and Siberian Northern Sea Route are becoming more easily navigated each year. Satellite images of the drastic surface thaw of Greenland’s permafrost, show icebergs “twice the size of Manhattan” disconnecting from Greenland’s Petermann Glacier. The way things are going we’ll be growing oranges in the Fraser Valley in the not too distant future.

Jazz pianist Mark Eisenman shows young musicians how to “groove in time” at an adjudication lecture held before a large crowd at Christ Church Cathedral in downtown Vancouver.

I mentioned that Musicfest Vancouver was underway during our stay on the mainland. One afternoon I attended a lecture/adjudication held at Christ Church Cathedral by the New York born and Toronto based jazz pianist Mark Eisenman. Starting off the session, Eisenman listened to two jazz piano students from Capilano University (formerly known as Capilano College) perform while backed by a bass and drummer from the same institution. I couldn’t help but squirm in my chair, wondering if Eisenman was going to stop it all before the students embarrassed themselves further. He finally stopped them but did so as diplomatically as he could. In all fairness to the students it was a high-pressure situation before a large audience and the young players must have been sweating bricks. Eisenman touched on many points of jazz performance and finally zeroed in (very discreetly) on a weakness I also find in young rhythm section players these days, especially drummers. To my ears, today’s rhythm section players are so busy adding extra soli stuff to their accompaniments in a combo setting that “grooving time” has almost completely been eliminated from their jazz performances. 
After the adjudication session I went to Mark Eisenman’s website through my iPhone to learn more about him. I loved a quote he’d copied from a book called "Knowing the Score-Notes on Film Music" by Irwin Bazelon. The quote arms the musician with some verbal ammunition on how to answer those who think that you as a musician should perform gigs for free because “really, isn’t it just for fun?” The quote was: "The practice of music is historically linked with the idea of selling one's talent... rather than selling one's labor in its congealed form, as a commodity; and through the ages the musician, like the actor, has been regarded as closely akin to the lackey, the jester, or the prostitute. Although musical performance presupposes the most exacting labor, the fact that the artist appears in person, and the coincidence between his existence and his achievement, together can create the illusion that he does it for fun, that he earns his living without honest labor, and this very illusion is readily exploited."

The New York Singers, in their 25th year as a group, thrilled the audience at a Musicfest Vancouver concert held at VanDusen Gardens.  

The PNE opened when we were in Vancouver. I hadn’t attended the iconic summer event for many years so I took the opportunity to scoot out to the fair grounds on Opening Day Saturday. I arrived just before the gates opened. No wonder the PNE has been concerned the last few years about keeping attendance up. Not one of the hired help manning the ticket booths knew how to run the credit card machines. They were frantically being trained as hundreds of people were lining up. I tried to pay cash but this didn’t speed things up a bit as the young fellow in my line couldn’t get his computer to produce a ticket with a bar code. Finally his stubborn PC spit out a ducat that I took to the gate entrance where a scanner was refusing to recognize ticket bar codes which opened the turnstiles. Compounding the crush was the arrival of families who expected their children to be admitted free on opening day. This has been a tradition at the PNE for generations. However, for some unexplained reason, free day this year had been switched to Monday. Many parents vigorously argued the point with the gatekeeper manager to no avail. Talk about a public relations disaster.
However, going to the fair early had its advantages, as I was able to breeze through everything I wanted to see devoid of any long lineups. The Star Trek exhibition was excellent – displaying items used in the films and TV series such as props, costumes, set components and full-scale replicas of the Enterprise bridge. Other comprehensive features of the exhibit included a complete time line showing major events in the Star Trek Universe and how all of the various series and movies relate to one another chronologically.  I had my photo taken while sitting in Captain Kirk’s chair on the bridge of the Enterprise but decided not to cough up the 20 bucks they wanted for a computer made copy. 

 I enjoyed a two-hour concert by the Dal Richards Big Band. The legendary Vancouver bandleader is over 90 and his band of decidedly younger players still pumps out a great sound. I could stand corrected, but I believe Dal said this was his 73rd year performing at the PNE. Unbelievable.

Photos above of the PNE Prize Home that I plan to win this coming weekend.  The luxurious home will be located in the Alpine Village at Sun Peaks Resort near Kamloops. Time to get my skis waxed.Photos below: Returning from a bike ride to North Vancouver via the SeaBus passenger ferry across Burrard Inlet, I came across a weird costume contest outside the Vancouver Art Gallery. I have no idea  what the event represented. No one I talked to seemed to know. Perhaps the summer heat had something to do with the behavior of these outlandish cast of characters.

Above: This character thought he was Spiderman

Coming home to Sproat Lake Pat and I worked for one blazing hot day on the Alberni Pacific Railway. The following day the first rainfall seen in weeks sent us scurrying indoors from our deck Bar-B-Q. The annual Alberni Valley Salmon Festival goes this weekend so I’m hoping for a fall filled with sunshine.
Ride the Alberni Pacific Railway to one of the biggest antique truck shows in the Pacific Northwest being held this weekend at McLeans Mill. 
Reservations always recommended. Call 250-723-1376.