People of the Cart

My hand, chapped from protective washing, holds my wife’s hand on our journey down Bernard to the theatre.  It’s her birthday, and she wants to see a romantic comedy.  Our hoods are tucked neatly around our heads, and the street leads us through the cutting wind to the ticket queue.

Before eating popcorn, I again wash my hands; the movie begins, and twenty minutes later my wife and I look at each other with disappointment.  The actors cuss, simulate sex and display values that we do not share.  The manager is affable, he offers complimentary tickets and we emerge back into the wind.

We are in a huddled hurry to get to our car when a young man in a parka, pulling a shopping cart asks, “Hey, can you guys give me a quarter?”  He solicits our favour through a cigarette which blooms between his lips.  When we reply that we have only plastic, he expels a rill of smoke and asks, “Can you spare a dime?”

Ahead I see another buggy parked around the corner of a coffee shop.  The cart is filled with plastic, odds and ends, and a pillow stashed beneath an upraised parasol in battered white.  I capture this unusual juxtaposition of poverty and genteel society with my cell camera.  But it feels like I am taking from the poor.  My wife notices that this cart displays what seems to be a license plate; number 42 on a white background.  She adds that the previous cart sported one too; number 35.  And we bemusedly wonder if Bylaw has issued them.

Shopping Cart @ Starbucks

Cold flails our pace to a car that welcomes us with streams of hot air.  Driving upstreet I see pictures of Santa, the patron saint of shoppers, calling his disciples to the temple mall for worship.  I satirically wonder what gifts Saint Nick has for owners of carts who do not possess credit cards.  But from the steering wheel my dry-dry hands accuse me of complicity.

Next day we go for a cold afternoon walk in the neighbourhood.  We meet a man who says that his spaniel, whom we pet with affection, is timid. It has sad eyes and long melancholy ears but he is friendly and accepts our attentions with restrained delight.  The man has a departing conversation with us when my wife says, “For being timid, your dog is sure friendly.”

“He’s not my dog,” The man replies over his shoulder, “I’m just taking care of him.  I don’t like dogs…or cats…………….or people.”  His honesty forces me to consider that in my hurry to bypass the street-person I wash my hands of what is more important than objecting to carnal movies.  Later I telephone Bylaw but they know nothing about license plates on shopping buggies.  I wonder where people of the cart will sleep tonight.

Block Party! 2of2

There were a ton of people at the Block Party!  Of course, I didn’t weigh them all; but, had I done so they would have weighed much more than a ton – with some contributing to the measure more than others.  There were people of all sorts, types and stripes – and this is what made the party enjoyable.  We are a motley crew, we Kelownans.  And this is what I particularly enjoy about summer events like Block Party – we all show up and display our distinctive shapes, sizes and styles.  We frankly don’t care what other people think of us at this fun-loving party of ours – we’re here to enjoy one another and the sometimes exotic delights we display for all to see.

And here are the people…

Block Party! 1of2

I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the musicians who gave professional performances throughout the day.  Buskers were also present, sharing their styles of music and their freewheeling ways.  I was particularly impressed by Cod Gone Wild.  They sang East Coast ballads and ditties that made the feet want to shuffle and tap.  It was hot!  But the blistering sun did not stop people from pausing to hear the bands and applaud.  The Block Party carried the atmosphere of a kitchen party where everyone gathers together to sing, dance, play and generally have a lot of fun.

Here are the musicians!

On the Street

Bernard & Water at Night

It is hot downtown. And with camcorder on tripod I search for a homeless person to interview.  I am waiting for the traffic light at Water and Bernard, ready to end my search when a grey-haired woman glides in beside me and asks, “D’you have a twonie you can give me?”

Her puffy face looks tired, and she is beyond the careful attention that women with money often give to their appearance.  Standing there in a grey melody of wrinkled cloth, her eyes seem to ask me again, “D’you have a townie you can give me?”

“How about I buy you a meal,” I reply, sharing information about my project.  “Sure,” she says to both.  So I motion to a spot around the corner, set up my camera and begin.

Terse, monosyllabic answers punctuate the interview. And when questions about her life on the street are asked, she says, “Can you just take the picture!” She is hungry, and intimidated by the camera.  So I cease recording, and invite her to a restaurant nearby.

While she waits for a sandwich she sips Coca Cola, and looks at me with a tight little grin.  “I caught’m cheat’n on me…” she says, her lips now stretching like elastic bands “…after thirty years of marriage.”  I respond by listening – now understanding her reluctance on the corner.

“I fell into it…being on the street.  I was afraid he was gonna hurt me, so I left.”  I continue to listen – to the lines on her face, to the sheen of unwashed skin, to her ceiling glances where she replays bitter memories.  “But I’m going back,” she adds.  “I’m not afraid anymore.  And I’m going to get some of my money back.”  I sense that she is finished with the interview, so I do not press for more information.  I wish her well, and make my way home where I consider what has transpired.

Wrapped in the comfort of a coke and sandwich she has kept our bargain, on her terms; teaching me that the street is within you.  While she fishes for twonies, we in our cozy homes wander the avenues and alleyways of our own making, sometimes unexpectedly taking this or that exit onto Kelowna streets beside her.

Water Street Alley

The Thinker

May 30, 2012

Every age has an iconic image that represents it.  Rodin‘s sculpture of The Thinker seems to capture the zeit geist of the sculptor’s period; one in which great intellectual advances and discoveries were being made in all areas of life.  When I saw the young man in my photo, I conceived his pose and his momentary demeanor to represent the soul of postmodern man, grappling -  perhaps dejectedly – with the eternal questions that every human needs to answer: Who am I?  Where did I come from?  Where am I going?  And as he does, a nervous world swirls about him, oblivious and indifferent to the grand themes with which the young man wrestles.

Kelowna Streets 1

There is much that happens on Kelowna corners.  Sit on the metal benches one drowsy summer day and observe the comings and goings of pedestrians, traffic and animals.  There are currents of sight, sound and smell that drift and swirl from who knows where and blend together to entertain.  You won’t have to wait long; Kelowna will soon reveal itself in tableaus of beauty, tragedy and the bizarre.

Here is one shot taken on May 2011 at Lululemon corner…

May 20, 2011

…and here is another taken one year later, June 2012.

June 11, 2012

Eating Pigeons on Bernard

Met him on Bernard, trying to make his way to the coast – same place I met another fellow trying to sell nuclear weapons for spare change.  I don’t doubt that he truly ate pigeons.  Hope he made it.

Flower Child (redux)


I see her on the corner of Bernard and Pandosy Street – a flower child, as if carried there like a feather by some early breeze of spring.  With peace on her fingers and dandelions in her case, she is a portrait of 1968 in painted dress, amulet and flowing tresses. She poses for me, a gentleman in newsboy cap and receding hair who remembers a youth in faded denim at the Cache Creek junction –  peace sign outstretched to the highway on the long hitch-hike home.

I’d been mercifully rescued from a dead-zone on Highway 97, a stretch of Harvey fenced by tourist traps and the orchards dotting the sequestered terrain.  For hours I was stalled on my way to the great white north where a summer job and my mother’s home cooking awaited.

In ’68 Kelowna was a sleepy little town that didn’t believe in hitchhikers let alone the invasion of hippies in summer.  It was a town of practical farming folk shaped by cycles of bounty and loss.  They didn’t stop for long-haired youths like me.  But one of my kind drives me as far as The Creek, a bone-dry confluence of three directions where my hope for a quick passage north is disappointed.

Cars swoosh by, and I wonder whether my defiant vow to beat the bus from Nelson has been worth it.  A Volkswagen Beetle stops near my post and releases a young man with the unkempt look of the time.  The rules of the road dictate that he find a spot somewhere in back of me; and when he doesn’t, the idealism of my generation dissolves and later sheds itself in a Prince George haircut.

I snap the photo of the young woman on Bernard and hand her my card.  She is not privy to the memories that she has released within me.  And I imagine that her romance with freedom and the streets will dissolve like mine.  Meanwhile, each of us is carried, again and again, to the shore of some uncharted land where we may grieve the death of one life and be born anew.

Flower Child


Met her on Bernard – a sure sign of spring when buskers arrive.  With peace sign on her fingers and dandelions in her case, I was transported to another time.  There we were: she in painted dress, amulet and tresses – a portal to 1968; and I, in newsboy cap and grey receding hair remembering a youth with locks and bell-bottoms at the Cache Creek junction - peace sign outstretched to the highway on the long hitchhike home.