A Girl and her Hair

For a while now, since I’m not working and no longer have to conform to “work appropriate” hair, I’ve wanted to experiment with colors and cuts that would have shocked and offended my parents (were they still alive).

Back in Georgia (in March), I’d started the transformation from my old self to my current one, but as my hair when I first walked into the salon back then was still in it’s virgin state (aka, utterly natural, and gray), the colorist, who had only just met me and didn’t seem to quite trust that I could really wanted what I’d asked for — she knows me MUCH better now. (To her credit, let’s face it, I’m odd, and hair stylists have been sued by unhappy customers before.) At the time, I tried to explain to her how my inner soul really was not reflected by my current appearance; that I had needed to appear professional in my old jobs, but that now I was free of that and I could return to being more myself — and that I wanted my hair to reflect a truer version of me… the former art student me more so than the business school professor me.

I remember her saying things like, “if I do what your asking for you won’t be happy with the result,” and instead of what I had initially asked for she produced something that was radical by local standards (from what I’ve seen, middle aged, upper class, well educated women in Dalton, GA just don’t do this sort of thing with their hair) — driving around Dalton I found most women to have almost identical dye jobs and hair cuts, that were usually of the sort that required bi-weekly hair appointments to maintain. And while I’ll grant you that what she created was VERY pretty, it was not quite as ‘fearless’ as I was ready to go … however, that said, I really did like the end result as it was a bit like having a head of full of firey embers still burning in blackened ash — and I have a personal connection to that sort of energetic. Also, it could be argued that this dye job flattered me more than the one I ended up getting in Victoria.

Now… it was a few months later and the hair had to be redone. While walking around Victoria I spotted this dress in a shop window, and knew THIS was the color pallet I wanted to go for — only with more of the orange and red, and less of the yellow — so I snapped a shot of it, posted it to Facebook and asked the friends to chime in on what they thought about it. I decided, based on the comment of my friend who authors the blog, rover@home.com to describe it to whomever my colorist turned out to be as a “Caribbean sunset.”

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Now granted, between the Georgia hair coloring and when I finally went in to a salon again (almost five months) my hair had grown out (about two inches) and faded out almost completely, from dark hair with fiery highlights, to something which was now brown with the fire faded to mostly orange… although you can still see some red in there.

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As I discussed in a later post, on the distinct nature of homelessness in Canada, I had actually gotten the referral to the Aveda Beauty School from a homeless chick I ran into who had wildly colored hair. I’d been wanting to get creative with my hair for a while, and based on my experiences in Georgia, realized I’d have to find a salon that regularly did this sort of thing, or at least do it in a town where it was far more ‘normal’ to request it. The first day I drove around Victoria I knew I was finally in the right place, so it was a question of finding the best salon for it, at the cheapest price. And the Aveda Beauty School turned out to the be the right place.

I will say however, that at first they rejected my request. “We don’t do that sort of thing here” but… let’s just say I when I’ve set my mind to something I rarely take no as an answer. After a while they of negotiating they gave in, and assigned me to Jessica (the girl in the pictures) who was just a few salon hours short of graduating, and who had exhibited a real flair during her training in the use of color. She was both excited, and a bit intimidated, but we talked about it, and there was a full week between my initial consultation and when she would start the job… and she said she had gotten increasingly excited about it as she had time to mull it over in her brain. “I’ve always wanted to do a job like this one but the customers who come into aveda aren’t asking for it.”

With regard to the gray left at my sides, that was my choice. When I had the last coloring done, in Georgia, I had asked the colorist NOT to color over grey at my temples… which she did, but not as MUCH as I had wanted her to, so with Jessica I was much fiercer about it, but it turned out that again what I was asking for wasn’t as radical a notion in Victoria as in Georgia … it is in fact from what I saw it is beginning to be a THING now for older women to NOT completely cover our gray… or even try to. All over Victoria I was elderly women who had embraced their silver and only added dark highlights in creative ways to to compliment their appearance. I saw this one woman who had short curly hair, where her first two inches were kept completely gray, and only had the tips of her curls made dark… it looked amazing, emphasized her curls, and her face… think of it as older women reclaiming pride in their age.

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The whole job had to be done in two steps, in large part because it was going to take 8 hours and the students only work in four hour shifts. Fist they needed to cut my hair to remove damage from the previous dye job, and because they refused to do what I wanted on very long hair (to expensive). Historian type that I am, I told her to think 1920’s inverted bob, long in the front (enough so that I can still pin it back on bad hair days, but short and layered in on the back… and then they did a base dye of a an ashy brown in order to obfuscate the transition between new natural hair and the rest of the head.

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Nice, but oh so mundane…. I think I look a bit like pictures of my grandmother taken in the late 1920’s. This was done on the Tuesday.

Two days later, Thursday, I came in again, and the first step was to bleach may hair light enough to allow for the other colors…

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The result was a sort of bright orange with some red highlights left in it… To be honest, I always wonder why they can’t just leave hair THIS color — which is what happens when you strip brown out of hair, because I think it’s cool, but they won’t. No colorist has ever explained to me the reason why. That and, as I was not used to seeing myself this way it was kind of a shock… still can’t decide if it’s a good color for me.

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The 2nd girl is a friend of Jessica’s who came in to help. Jessica applied all the color, but this girl functioned as a 2nd set of hands, holding bits of hair out of the way, and handing Jessica things as she needed them.

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Then we entered the coloring stage. Three colors were used, a purple, and orange, and yellow… and rather then applying the colors in vertical stripes, as is normally done, these were applied horizontally, in a technique now known as decoupage.

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And this was the final result…

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This is my hair blown out and curled with a curling iron

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This is what it looks like when it’s just wash and wear

I’m sad to say that the colors only lasted a few weeks, with the purple disappearing almost immediately, so that two months later (when I’m finally writing this) the hair is mostly orange (close to the color of the hair when initially striped) and a yellow that turns almost neon in the sun… So it will soon be time to try something else.

I’ve sort of been considering the Miley Cyrus inspired haircut (Miley had it when she was in the TVshow, Two and a 1/2 men) that Jessica was sporting… but it actually requires MORE upkeep to get the hair to stay up like that, not less…. and I would need to loose a more weight, as right now my face is too fat

T&O: Happy Homeless People in Canada

Let me preface this by saying that I categorically know diddlysquat about the specific realities of homelessness in Canada, and I take it as a given that the situation is far from perfect; what follows therefore are simply my PERCEPTIONS as a well traveled individual who has had the “privilege” if you can call it that of having seen poverty in many countries over the course of my 51 years.

So let me give an example. A few years ago I was driving around Shanghai China with my dad and his girlfriend. …
Well, let me back up: At that time I had been working as a professor of Marketing in South Korea for about two years, at Kyung Hee University’s Seoul campus. (Yes my PhD was in anthropology, how I got from that to marketing is a long story.) My dad, who had been a professor at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University (he passed away just over two years ago now) had been invited to China in order to give some lectures at Zhejiang University in Hangzhou, and he had arranged for his girlfriend (a once upon a time professor of Hebrew Literature at Tel Aviv University — who had been working as a successful therapist for many years since) to also give a lecture, so that she could come along with him on the trip. This was right around the Jewish High Holidays, so my father decided that I should fly from Seoul to Shanghai so that we could all attend prayer services together.
….. After we’d been there a few days, we were driving around the town and my dad’s girlfriend started to talk about how impressed she was with the affluence of Shanghai. How all the apartments we had visited (both she and my dad had contacts in town) were so fancy, and our hotel (4 star) was so plush, and how everyone was wearing the latest styles of expensive designer clothing, and the expensive jewelry everyone wore (the Chinese love their bling).

To this I responded… “well that’s interesting, because I’m seeing something entirely different than you are. I see all of what you saw, but I also seem to be seeing things you are not.” She of course took offense, and asked me to explain, so I went on… “What I see are fancy apartment buildings that are surrounded not just by gates, but with 12 ft concrete walls that have barbed wire at the top with limited entrances and exits where there are guards that ‘actually guard’ (not just for show), which tells me not only is crime a major concern, but possibly even riots. And while I see people wearing bling and the latest in designer fashions, what I also see are jobs like garbage collection which in western countries would be done with garbage trucks, but here I see people doing them by hand, many of them elderly with hunched backs dragging behind them carts heavy with trash to the dumps, or recycling plants. What I see is a really horrible discrepancy between the rich and the poor, with many homeless, dirty, and miserable looking people sitting around looking unhappy. So while I saw everything you did, I also saw it not as this wonderful amazing thing, but as a problem … and those concrete walls with barbed wire? What they tell me is that the rich elites of this town are very much aware that they are sitting on a potential powder keg that could, if they are not very very careful, explode at any time.”

So… returning to the issue of Canada a few people have asked me what were my major observations of the differences between Canada and the USA… and while granted there are a few… for instance I used the go-along with that statement that EVERYONE seems to say about the Canadians, namely that ‘they’re the nicest people on the planet’… but having spent three months there I have now revived that to, ‘I wouldn’t say Canadians are Nice, so much as I’ve decided that the Canadians are incredibly polite — a bit like the Japanese’… but I’m not going to go into what I mean by that here… it’s too complicated.

What I want to talk about now is the inherent differences I observed on the streets between homelessness in Canada and the way it looks in the USA.

The poor and homeless in Canada just seem… happy, they seem healthy, they even seem, dare I say it…  peppy…

American homeless rarely if ever look any of that, and if they do they usually haven’t been homeless very long. … again, just my perception.

At one point in Victoria, I saw a girl who looked to be in her early 20’s, pretty, but with the sort of ‘dirty’ look of someone who lives on the street, who was sitting on the side of the road in the center of Victoria’s tourist district (between the historic hotel and the bay), with her puppy on her lap, trying to collect funds. So I stopped to talk to her; she started of by telling me that she was actually from Vancouver and had come over as a passenger on the ferry to visit friends (for an adult non student fair it costs just under $18 Canadian, or around $13.50 US for walk on traffic, but I’m guessing her status may have qualified her for some sort of discount). She told me that after having been here (in Victoria) for a few days that she didn’t have enough money left to go back and was just trying to collect enough funds to take the return ferry.

So, like the anthropologist I am, I sat down to ‘interview’ her about being homeless in Canada. I also wanted to bounce my perceptions off of her, to see if I was right about how much happier the homeless seemed here, and my thinking that maybe in Canada dropping out and being homeless was actually a choice people sometimes made, rather than something they were forced into by adversity. She said that she thought that was probably correct, that it was something you could just choose to do and a lot of folks did. She had not been to the US side of the border, but she had heard other kids talking about how being homeless there was categorically different, and a lot scarier. She said that in Canada she gets good health care even though she has no job (and isn’t even looking for one), and that there’s no shortage of homeless shelters that feed her well, and that sleeping in those shelters feels perfectly safe to her… 

Another day when I was walking around I passed a what I’m sure was a little group of three homeless girls, one of whom had really radical colored hair. So I talked to her and I asked her who she would suggest as someplace I could go to to get my hair done. She said that she and her friends would do it for themselves, using cheap stuff they got from the pharmacy. I told her I wasn’t into doing that and really wanted someone who could do it for me, and do it well. She pointed me towards the Aveda Beauty school that is only two blocks from my apartment saying one of the girls who they hang with from time to time, who was not in fact homeless would get it done there and was happy with the results… When I think of homeless youth who are doing things like experimenting with hairstyles, I tend to think England or Germany, i.e., other countries that also have a strong social security net (as Canada does)… not the US.

Finally, one day I had an “interesting” conversation with a homeless guy (complete with a shopping cart full of his stuff) who was all pissed off because apparently the night before he had given CPR to a fellow homeless guy who was over dosing on heroin, and he said the cops, rather than thanking him for saving a fellow human being brought charges against him for having done it (I had difficulty following his logic of why that was). Then he went on to talk about how he was also a heroin addict. Now, granted, the guy struck me as being part of that small percentage of folks who are homeless because of mental issues, but for a homeless heroin addict with metal issues, I have got to say he looked to be an amazingly healthy and well fed homeless heroin addict.

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A Tent City in Victoria: in Pioneer Square, across the street from Christ Church Cathederal

Ferris’ Grill & Garden Patio, Victoria B.C.

Back when I was living in Victoria, British Columbia for a month, Ferris’ Oyster bar (upstairs Grill & downstairs Patio) became my go-to restaurant, and over the course of a month I worked myself through much of their menu. The seafood is amazingly fresh, well prepared, and very reasonably price (and if you factor in the US to Canadian dollar conversion rate, down right cheap).

There are in fact two restaurants with overlapping but distinct menus: The fancier one is up a long flight of steep stairs and the more laid back one is located on the ground floor.

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Bouillabaisse (top left), a selection of their baked oysters, steamed clams & mussels, and seared rare albacore tuna (bottom right)
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Seafood Laksa in Malaysian coconut curry broth, Fresh B.C. Halibut in miso dashi , Bouillabaisse in fennel broth w/Saffron Ailoi, Warm Cauliflower Salad,

EVERYTHING I had was tasty, but of everything my most favorite meals were firstly the bouillabaisse served at the downstairs restaurant (the version in the upper pictures, the upstairs one has too much fat for my diet), the laksa (although the coconut milk is verboten for me), the halibut and the warm cauliflower salad.

While all the food is amazing, the more I went there (and I’d been there maybe 12 to 15 times) the more I grew to dislike their downstairs wait staff. Don’t get me wrong, they’re highly efficient, and good at their jobs, but I increasingly got the impression they don’t much like their jobs and would be thrilled if they didn’t actually have to interact with customers. Also, it seems like there’s a high turnover in the downstairs staff because I rarely saw the same folks twice, even though I always sat in the same place. And no, I don’t think it’s just me. I have watched and listened to their interactions with other patrons… same deal.

By contrast the upstairs staff was MUCH friendlier, seemed happier, and did their jobs better.

That said, I will miss both restaurants.

Royal British Columbia Museum, Victoria Canada

This Royal BC Museum of natural and human history is 130 years old, and is located right off of the TransCanadian Highway at the western edge of the ‘tourist’ area of downtown Victoria, next door to the British Columbia Capitol building. It is a VERY good museum with interactive/experiential display, that make learning more exciting while still protecting the exhibits. I saw something with my actual eyes I never expected to ever see in my life, an actual mammoth.

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The museums displays extend beyond the building, to encompass the entire property, and all ingresses and egresses from the building; and this includes some of the doors themselves, which in some cases are beautifully carved; as such, it really is worth while to explore the entire property, and not just B-line it to the front entrance.
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Inside the museum (assuming you came in via the front entrance), the first thing you see is the Imax theater, and the adjoining gift shop (which has some REALLY nice stuff with much BETTER prices than I saw for similar items at the local tourist shops). This included a lot of T-shirts, hiking gear, clothing, etc. There are in fact TWO gift shops, on the ground floor, so it is worth it to check both of them out. The one in the picture below is smaller, and tends to have more ‘useful’ type stuff, while the 2nd larger one has more ‘artistic’ sort of things.
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Based on my math, if you intend to go there at least three times in a year, the one-year-pass is by far the smartest buy. And since I was going to be living for a full month only a few blocks away from the museum, and expected to see it at least that many times during my stay (rainy days, etc), and maybe even take in some of their IMAX movies, I bought the pass.

The layout of the Museum is more narrow and tall, rather than low and wide, like most museums; as such in order to enter the exhibits sections of the museum (laid out on three separate floors), you need take an escalator — at which point you will be asked to show your tickets and or pass (or the elevators, available for handicapped access). This can be a bit confusing as you can easily spend a full day on just the first exhibit floor (2nd floor of building) and spend so much time there that you end up missing the other exhibits.

On the first floor, just where you exit the escalator, they have the rotating exhibition rooms. When I went it was an excellent exhibit on mammoths that really awed, over whelmed and stunned me. The first rooms taught you all about mammoths, and was very high tech and interactive and interesting.
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But the stunner, was after that room you entered a very small and very dark room which included an ACTUAL baby woolly mammoth.. they have named Zhenya.
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When you first entered the room, your eyes actually need to adjust a bit, but I assume this is to protect this oh so priceless find… which I’m actually kind of shocked they’ve allowed to go on tour.
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Seriously, I cannot overstate my excitement, delight and awe at being able to see in the flesh, an actual woolly mammoth, even if it was a tiny baby. I was completely farklemt.

(I will note, whoever was in charge of curating the display was not particularly careful in setting it up — look carefully at the photos and see if you can pick up the major OOPS!)

In the next room (well lit) there were more interactive displays to help teach kids about the lives of these now extinct animals
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Another set of rooms was about the Natural environment of the British Colombia region, and displayed taxidermied local animals arranged into impressively ‘simulated natural’ settings — remarkably natural, some of them even included moving water.

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this was followed by a very Steampunk/ Jules Verne, ‘20,000 Leagues Under the Sea type esthetic, showing off the underwater life of the area.
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Another section of the museum is devoted to the human history of Victoria, as a seaport town belonging to the British

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Their collection includes George Vancouver’s Uniform, among others

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AND — and I thought this was really cool, the “actual” dagger (or at least it’s believed to be) that was used to kill the famous explorer, James Cook.
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Alongside these displays is life size “walk through” of the dock, and of a section of a British Sailing ship, with all the appropriate sounds (and some smells) piped in.

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This is followed by a small section devoted to the Gold Rush that help make the navel base /trading post into a city, where you can try your hand at sifting gold

(What the sign says: “Wig and Case: within a year of the rush to the gold fields in 1858, British law was imposed. As head of teh law enforcement, Judge Matthew Baillie Begbie was responsible for justice … The wig was just one of the many effects used by the judiciary to impress upon the sometimes rebellious gold rushers that British justice was paramount.”)

In another section of the museum there is a reconstruction of what Victoria looked like back in time, that is again, completely lifesize. You can walk into stores, go into the movie theater and watch a black and white movie, or walk through a hotel and see the rooms.

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And then there’s a whole section of the museum devoted to the First Nations (Canadian term for their Native American Tribes, which is gaining acceptance in the USA as well), their languages and their art.

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Congregation Emanu-El, Victoria B.C.

More than 150 years old, Congregation Emanu-El is located in Victoria, British Columbia, right off of the TransCanada Highway, and is both the oldest continuously operating Jewish congregation in all of Canada (1859) and the oldest continuously used synagogue (built in 1863) along the west coast of the North American Continent.

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Historically, the development of Victoria was similar to that of San Francisco, which had grown from a Spanish garrison on the Presidio (and it’s requisite* nearby lazy mission town in 1774) with only about 500+ non Native American inhabitants, to having achieved ‘vibrant city’ status almost overnight. As we all remember from our history classes, this occurred because of the 1848-1855 California gold rush, when tens of thousands of prospectors flooded into the area. In both cases, this sudden influx of miners drew along with them a smaller flood of entrepreneurial businessmen who were less interested in something as exciting as mining, than in setting up the far more dependably profitable, albeit dull, secondary businesses necessary to support the minors’ endeavors. In fact the business people as a whole, were the ones who made financial killings, while most of the minors went home penniless. Among these shop keepers, far more so than among the miners, were a relatively large number of Jews (because, lets face it, we’re Jews), so that by 1870, San Francisco had the largest population of Jews outside of New York, comprising a full 10% of the city’s population.

*Tangent alert! I say “requisite” because the Catholic Spanish  justified their heavy handed, military, colonialist, expansionism as being the spreading of G-d’s word via his ‘true church’ (i.e., Catholic); and, keeping in mind Spain had (till 1492) been a part of the Muslim empire, they initially did it with a jihadist zeal (I will make you love G-d’s word, and if that means killing one hundred of you in order to get just one true believer, that’s good math). Granted, this Islamic influence had tempered out over time, but even in the late 1700’s, ‘ideologically‘ what ‘mattered’ for the Spanish was the church, thereby allowing them to kid themselves that the military was just their to ensure the church got the job done; and, of course, it was all for the benefit of the native peoples being converted rather than any greed on their own part (imagine me faking a sneeze while saying *bullshit!*). This is not to say that Protestant governments did not do the former (military expansionism) … granted, they did, but arguably with a bit less of a concern for the latter (spreading the word). As I studied history I often got the feeling that the military men of protestant countries (of that period) sort of suffered their missionaries as a necessary evil and encumbrance, rather than viewing them as their raison d’être; as in protecting the missionaries who insisted on being out among the ‘savages’ rather than staying close to or better yet, behind, protected walls, just made their jobs harder… rather than being their jobs.

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Back to Victoria: Originally founded in 1843, as Fort Victoria — a military and Hudson Bay Company fur trading post (along side a naturally protected harbor), the explosive growth to city status was, again, a direct result of the Fraser Canyon Gold Rush (1857), which brought in that same influx of minors, and supporting businessmen — who were again dis-proportionally Jewish (compared to the population of most Canadian Towns); and by ‘same minors’ I mean that most of them had traveled north along the coast from the overworked gold mines of the United States, to this new opportunity in Vancouver Island. In fact, gold had been mined in the Vancouver Island for a while before that, but news of the fact hadn’t reached San Francisco until the then Governor of Victoria (population again, about 500+) had sent a shipment to SF for minting into coins; and he probably had genuinely mixed feelings when what he got back a month later were his coins AND the unexpected and unprepared for influx of 30,000 men (“a record for mass movement of mining populations on the North American frontier, even though more men in total were involved in the California and Colorado“). How he felt about a large percentage of said men being Jewish businessmen, I can’t imagine, although I’m guessing they were the least of his problems, as “The influx of prospectors included numerous European Americans and African Americans, Britons, Germans, English Canadians, Maritimers, French Canadians, Scandinavians, Italians, Belgians and French, and other European ethnicities, Hawaiians, Chinese, Mexicans, West Indians, and others” (same Wikipedia source as above).

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According to the woman who showed me around the temple, the first thing the congregation (formed in 1859) did, was to arrange for the purchase of land for a consecrated  Jewish cemetery, which they did in 1860, rather than for the Shul (the building wasn’t built till 1863) — as the former was by far the more pressing need at the time. It was ultimately established on a 1.5 acre parcel, that was purchased by one of the members, a gentleman with the unenviable name of Lewis Lewis, who bought it with his own money and donated it to the congregation. And, according to the woman, the parcel purchased was so large and the community of the Shul (which for a long time was the only one in Victoria) has remained so small… that over 150 years later it still isn’t full.

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To a Jew, the fact that they were more concerned with a cemetery than a synagogue makes total sense, but let me explain why: unlike Catholics, Jews don’t actually require priests/rabbis or ‘churches/temples’ in order to pray, just a knowledge of the prayer or a copy of the book (hence the religion of the book) — and in fact the 16th century Protestant Reformation returned this attribute to some sects of Christianity. For Jews, most praying can be done alone… although there are a large number of specific prayers — for instance the prayer for the dead, or Kaddish — that require a minyan (a quorum if you will) of 10 Jews who have all had their Bar’Mitzvah ceremony (or bat — if you’re not orthodox). In fact, if you arrive at a synagogue early enough for morning prayers, it’s not the rabbi that you will find the group waiting for, but rather the quorum of 10… with, if necessary, you see individuals running out into the hallways (or the street, if it’s a Jewish neighborhood) to drag people in so they can get started. As such, prioritizing the creation of the graveyard over the building of a synagogue (or shul), makes perfect sense from our perspective…

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I first learned about this Shul during the Canada Day festivities when my friend Gina was visiting. As we were walking around looking at the local ‘group’ displays we came across one for the local JCC (Jewish Community Center) and the woman there told us about this historic shul just a few blocks away, and invited us to attend services, if we wanted to. Apparently they only have about 200 families in their entire membership, most of whom only show up for the high holidays. And they don’t do anywhere close to the normal amount of services (technically there should be three a day), but only manage to pull together a regular minyan for Sabbath prayers, and only once a week (Most shuls in major cities do two, Friday night and Saturday morning), and they only manage to do the 2nd Sabbath prayer once a month. She also said that if I came by the office during business hours, they’d be happy to show me around, even if there were no services that day — which is what I ultimately did.

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Even though this is a conservative shul, the construction of the temple implies that it started out as orthodox, where men prayed on the fist floor and women sat above, looking down on their husbands and sons. (This is highly likely, since the Conservative Jewish movement, which among other changes allows men and women to sit together, was created about the same time as the shul was built.)

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The boards with the names (Yahrzeit Memorial Plaques) are traditional, and visible in most shuls around the world. They show the name of all former members and memorialize the date of their death in both the Jewish and Christian Calendars (they are different), with the lit lights reminding friends and family to remember that this week they need to say the prayer for their loved ones (“The Mourner’s Kaddish”).
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You have got to love the town where the parishioners feel it’s completely safe for the regulars (those who attend services regularly) to leave their Tallis bags just sitting out in the open like this. At our shul in Chicago there’s a locked closet. These bags will contain the things men need to pray, a Kippa — assuming they don’t wear them all day (orthdox will), their Tallis (or prayer shawl), and Tefillin (the little boxes attached to leather cords that are wrapped around the head and arm during prayers — “…and ye shall bind them for a sign upon your hand, and they shall be for frontlets between your eyes.” — Deuteronomy 11:18).

Apparently one of the walking tour-companies (the ones I seen where the leader has a mic and all the followers have Bluetooth earphones) offers a Jewish Victoria tour once a week that walks around looking at the various historic buildings, pointing out the ones that were originally Jewish stores… am thinking about it.

Victoria B.C.’s Fisherman’s wharf

Cute place, but you get the feeling they developed it mostly because tourists kept asking, “where is the fisherman’s wharf.” Not worth making a special trip to unless you’ve got ample time, there’s better seafood joints elsewhere.

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I’d heard that Victoria had a fisherman’s wharf, but I didn’t really bother about going there till after I had already taken two different bus tours, both or which had pointed it out as a place to go.

To put it bluntly, it was inconveniently far from a walking point of view. Looking at the map below, you can see where the wharf is relative to my Airbnb apartment, which is in Chinatown, ( or about two blocks north of the bridge). Now, considering that it takes me about 20 minutes to walk from my digs to the legislature building, that adds up to the wharf being almost a full hours walking distance, or, to far to not take some sort of transportation — which I’ve been avoiding. (Let me just note that keeping my car in the garage and relying mostly on my feet to get around, combined with a diet that in majority has consisted of steamed or grilled fish, has resulted in me going down one pants size in two weeks!) However, after my second bus tour had dropped me off in front of the Empress Hotel at about 3:45, and I was tired, and cabs line up at the Empress; I decided it was too early to go home, so I grabbed a cab and paid about $8 (Canadian = $6.96 US after the 3% foreign transaction fee) for ride over there. (Granted, from there it was a walk-able distance, but like I said I was already tuckered out.)

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As fisherman wharfs go, this one is kind of tiny. To it’s credit, is an actual fisherman’s wharf, in that fisherman still dock their boats there and locals can buy fresh catches from them, specifically Dungeness Crab, which is slightly ironic as I’ve only seen this sort of crab sold in one restaurant the whole time I’ve been here (a Chinese place).

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But to get to where these boats are you’ll have to negotiate past all the tourist trap shops, which sell food, rent canoes, and offer whale watching tours; well that, or enter the wharf from a walkway at the far end, i.e., no where near the parking lot.

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Just past all the business are a large collection of houseboats, which kind of confused me. Having lived in the San Francisco area for many years I was more than familiar with houseboats, I even have a few friends and acquaintances who live on them… and the think is that usually houseboats are not cheek to jowl with tourist areas, for obvious reasons. So on one hand while I felt kind of sorry for the folks living in these ones (practically every house was decorated with ‘PRIVATE’ and “Trespassers will be Eaten” signs, and the like) the fact is they knowingly signed up for the invasion of their privacy… which makes me wonder if the city of Victoria (or the wharf) doesn’t offer some sort of economic incentives to keep them moored there.

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Once upon a time I lived in an apartment whose living room balcony opened up to canals, so that we had a gorgeous view of sailboat from our living room, and a multi-million dollar estate just across the way (complete with a yacht that could house more people than our apartment building). So I could totally get into living on a houseboat moored next to sailboats, but I’m not sure I’d be as sanguine about being able to watch airplanes take off and land from my living room window.

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On the upside, this wharf meets my current culinary restrictions, as I can easily find seafood that is either raw, or cooked with the bare minimum of oil (I have a fatty liver and borderline diabetes, so it’s no longer about vanity dieting).

For my late lunch (4pm) I had three buck-a-shuck oysters and a cup of a cream free halibut chowder, which had an Indian curry flavor to it, which was ok but didn’t have much halibut in it and wasn’t anything to get excited about

On the way back I grabbed one of the water taxis, which actually turned out to be cheaper than a normal one, but quite a bit (as a single traveler, $4.64 US for twice the distance, but I was able to use my Discover card so no 3% hit); although, since they charge per person I can see how a normal taxi would be cheaper if I were traveling in a group. Of course it had the added advantage of seeing the harbor from a different vantage point.

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Canadian Women’s Ride Day, Cobble Hill B.C.

The ladies of “west coast roar“(a store for women’s motorcycle apparel), via their non-profit called ‘Canadian Women’s Ride day (CWRD)’, hold their 4Th annual fund raiser rally in benefit of a local women’s cooperative and shelter called “Women in Need“.

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Held annually on the third Sunday in July, the Canadian Women’s Ride Day is a women only event that brings together local women who love riding motorcycles to share their passion, make new friends, and promote safe driving… as well as raise some money for local women’s charities.

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As part of the fundraiser there was a blind auction for donated prizes, such as this guitar which was signed by Jann Arden who Louise said is a well known Canadian musician (her biggest hit “Insensitive” was released in 1994, and sounded vaguely familiar).

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While men weren’t allowed on the ride, there were a large number of them who had come along with, and were just hanging around, listening to the live music and eating the free food.

One of the cutest participants was this little dog.

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World’s cutest motorcycle riding dog (who seems to understand posing for pictures)… She even has her own helmet and goggles

Maybe it was just me, but even the clouds seemed to be participating in the event… is it just me or does this cloud pattern look decidedly feminine

(see the breasts at the top, then the belly button and the backside… before I got my camera out the clouds had shifted a bit… before this shot they looked more like a labia )

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The reason I was here (since I don’t ride): My friend Louise, contacted me a few days ago to tell me about this event that she was going to be volunteering for, as well as hosting a woman who was riding in it. Louise and I share an office in Seoul, South Korea, two years ago when we were both professors at Kyung Hee University’s Business school. Coming to visit her and her home town (that she used to tell me about) is what drew me to Vancouver Island.

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Louise, helping to serve free food to the hungry riders, and their boyfriends and husbands

There was also a guest speaker, the Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia, who is the first woman to serve in the post.

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Here she is talking to my friend Louise.

Malahat Chalet, Malahat B.C.

A tasty seafood restaurant with an AMAZING view located alongside TransCanadian Highway Route 1.

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I drove by this place on a semi regular basis during my one month stay in Schwanigan Lake, and never tried it (stupid me) until I had moved on to Victoria. The main reason is, you really do NEED to know it’s there, and have it as a set in your mind as your destination — and if your not local, preferably set your GPS to it so that you have ample warning of when to slow down and turn; this is necessary because it sits alongside a severely graded, winding highway with cars wizzing along it at dangerous speeds… so you can’t suddenly realize you’re there and throw on the breaks without the very strong possibility of creating a multi-car pileup.

When I finally did set my GPS to this location I was very happy with my meal and amazed by the view.

Firstly, I have a severely restricted diet due to all sorts of medical conditions I’m trying to simultaneously control with diet. As it turned out this place has ACTUAL chefs who, to quote the waitress, actually relish the opportunity of being forced to get a bit creative, rather than the sort who cook on remote control and get upset if you ask them to veer away from their programing.

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I require low fat & low carb and nothing on their menu met my needs, so after a brief description of what I could eat, they made me a stir fry with almost no oil of shrimp, scallops, and low glycemic veggies that was spiced so as to bring out the flavors… wonderful!

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That said… THE VIEW….

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SO granted, I didn’t eat off the menu, and only ate here once, but what I can say is they have chefs who know how to cook, do wonderful customer service, and have an amazing view and fresh seafood.

The Sydney, B.C., to Friday Harbor WA Ferry

The ferry that runs from Sydney to Friday Harbor only runs once a day, and at odd times (5:45pm  heading to the Island, and 9:45am returning). It’s a small ferry and lacks the facilities of the far more regular (almost every 2 hours) ferry from Vancouver to Vancouver Island.

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It being the 5th of July, the ferry was fully booked. I arrived at 8:45 am (an hour before sailing) to get into the standby queue, and luckily was the first person in line … which was still no guarantee of sailing. The ferry actually starts in the town of Anacortes in Washington State, US (on the mainland) and pitstops at the island (at Friday Harbor) on it’s way to Vancouver Island, so what I was banking on was someone oversleeping after the 4th of the July festivities. Luckily, that’s exactly what happened. 

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IMG_3243Where the larger Canadian Ferry has a full topside to hang out on, that includes chairs, tables, etc., on this ferry your only viewing option is these two little areas on the top deck for standing, or standing on the lower deck where the cars load on and then egress.

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Basically, I wouldn’t suggest this as a way to get from Vancouver to the mainland, but if you want to get to Friday harbor from Victoria by ferry, this is the only option.