I’m home in the Hammer. I left here mid-November for Costa Rica, left there early April for the USA, took the Walking with Wolf West Coast Tour up the wet west coast to Vancouver and finally returned to my home in Ontario. After weeks of mostly rainy, cool weather in the west I’ve arrived to summer temperatures but the dark wet clouds are still following me. Life is now about enjoying the Canadian summer and settling into my home just long enough to make it simpler to rent before I return to Costa Rica.

And then there is the World Cup. Since my first year in Costa Rica (which was their first year in the Copa Mondial de Futbol – 1990), I have been susceptible to the fever and am thankful that, like a good bout of malaria, it only hits once every four years. The added emotion this year of the beautiful game being played in free and proud South Africa has brought a rainbow of tears to the eyes of the world and it’s still only the first round. On the plane home I watched the movie Invictus and cried some more. Nkosi sikelel’ iAfrika!

In Vancouver I was staying with my friend Star Trickey at her co-op building in the east end of the city. Anyone would tell you that Commercial Drive is THE place to be watching international futbol on the west coast. With my friend Saskia, we headed out each day to catch the 11 am games, visiting a different establishment each time, sampling various menus (loved the potato latkes at Stella’s and the lattes at Joe’s Café). I have to admit that a big part of my game watching is about something I’ve engaged in since I was young (my mother used to tell me that I’ve been doing this since I was 2 years old) – which is boy-watching. They don’t call it the beautiful game for nothing. Pure unadulterated (no padding or helmets) athletic bodies of all sizes and colours, powerful leg muscles, adrenalin-tinged faces, huge smiles, great hair, cute butts…well, you get my drift.

Commercial Drive offers great medicine for futbol fever and a whole lot more – great food, great music, great shops, great sausages. On Italia Day, The Drive closed for several blocks to car traffic, the restaurants sold food on the street and musicians performed and everyone danced. A highlight was a small community chorus, the Cultural Medicine Cabinet Choir, which rehearses at Britannia Community Center, and sings music in sweet harmony representing the diverse ethnicity of its members. Star, a woman of strong glorious voice and dynamic passionate personality, is hoping to join them.

Star has spent the last year singing with the fabulous Universal Gospel Choir in Vancouver. They held their final concerts of the season while I was there. Star’s mother, my good friend Jean, as well as her sister Spirit, came to town for the occasion. I was so lucky to be there at the right time. Jean and I went to hear Star and the choir sing both nights. The first night we managed to get in to the almost sold out show, but had seats in the second to last row of the big Canadian Memorial United Church – we felt like church mice sneaking in to the party, twisting our heads this way and that to catch a glimpse of Star or any of the other performers, knowing we would surely not be seen by any of them.

The second night, friends and family in tow, we got to the church on time, early in fact, and managed to get seats in the second row from the front. What a difference about twenty rows makes! We could see the concentration in the faces of the singers, the joy and pride in their eyes, their quivering tonsils in their wide open mouths. We could watch the director, Kathryn Nicholson, in her animated conducting, and Linda Lujan playing her electric guitar like the ol’ rock ‘n roller that she is. A side note about Linda is that she runs a bi-weekly karaoke night at the Princeton Pub in Vancouver. We went there one Sunday and she opened the show with Etta James’ heart-wrenching “At last” – and had us shouting for more! A very talented, lively and friendly lady is that Linda Lujan.

 But for us, our rising star is Morning Star. I’ve known the Trickey family since the early 80s when we all lived in the bush of northeastern Ontario from where we have all wandered in many directions. I’ve spoken in blogs before about her mom, Minnie Jean Brown Trickey, one of the Little Rock Nine (first teenagers who desegregated Central High School in Little Rock Arkansas in 1957). Star was just becoming a teenager when I met the family. She and her siblings were raised in a house in the bush with no electricity and grew up with strong arms from milking cows and swatting blackflys. When Jean left her husband, she took the kids out of the bush on an adventure that hasn’t stopped. It included a time when Jean worked in Clinton’s White House and Star was living in nearby Maryland and had a horrific car accident that resulted in her leg being amputated.

Now Star lives in Vancouver, providing the maternal and spiritual heart for her co-op apartment building, raising her very cool son, Thelonius, and singing in this celebrated choir. She sang the final duet, Over My Head, with her idol, Dawn Pemberton (who also performed with the No Shit Shirleys in these concerts) and they rocked the joint, mmm, I mean the church. I have no doubt that this Star is going to keep rising until she becomes the super nova – next time I’m in Vancouver, I expect to see her singing the blues in a smoke-free barroom with a trio behind her and a crowd of worshippers in front. You are the light in the sky, Ms Star.

The rest of this family ain’t just sitting on their laurels either. Jean does workshops on tolerance, diversity and equality, and guides tours on civil rights throughout the US.  Her youngest , Leila, is in university but is also a talented cake designer, nanny, and recently addicted world traveler (who shows up in former blog posts when we hung out in Costa Rica together in 2009).

 And then there is Spirit, who lives with Jean in Little Rock and is a key figure behind the Little Rock National Historic Site museum. She just received her Master’s from the Clinton School of Public Service (U of Arkansas) and is dedicating her life to social change through the arts. She’s already produced her first play, “One Ninth”, telling the Central High story through her mother’s 15-year-old eyes. A few months ago Spirit was placed on The Grio’s 100 History Makers in the Making – I saw her featured on Good Morning America along with Newark’s mayor and Wyclef Jean – at 29 years, she’s just getting started. Stand back, cause Spirit is on a roll and I don’t think she’s gonna stop till she’s changed the world!

There are also three male siblings in this family – Ethan, who made a cameo appearance in Van, Sol and Isaiah – but their stories will have to wait till another time. The female Trickeys are enough for one blog.

There was a colourful cast of characters who constantly accompanied the Trickeys, including Mook, a talented chef from New Zealand who happily fed us a fantastic lamb dinner and much more (and I constantly apologized to for messing up his name); Craig, a kindly soul who seems to step in to take care of anything Star needs; Jeremy, an animated father and friend; Nelia and Mike, Dan and Jackie, the kiddies-Mason, Nathan and Taylor – well I couldn’t keep up to the people and relationships, but was very aware that the co-op is more than just an apartment building – as Star says, it’s Melrose Place without the money or the pool (although I decided that Jackie could fill in for Heather Locklear in a pinch). It’s a large kinda quirky family who shares in fun, childcare, and dog care. Which brings me to Miso.

Star’s dog Miso became my latest animal buddy. She’s of the pointer variety, rescued by Star before she was put down. She’s a sweet thang, mostly well-behaved, unbarkable, a little whiney sometimes. We went for daily walks to the local schoolyard where she could chase the ball endlessly. I got to know the local dogs and their people, and, as always, now miss the pup as much as I miss the people. I’m a dog person, and a cat person, but because of my erratic life-style, I can’t keep them. So I have to have affairs whenever possible. So Star let me share in loving Miso while I was there.

The other folks I spent a lot of time with while in the city were an old friend, Michael, who I hadn’t seen in many years; Saskia, a good friend since years ago in Monteverde who I manage to hook up with now and then; and a more recent friend I met in Monteverde, the divine Ms Holly Burke. She’s a flautist, a piano player, a songstress and a great performer. In the short time we had together, I managed to catch her playing in a few different capacities.

She played flute one cold wet day for a garden tour on the North Shore. She was accompanied by a very talented bassist and drummer and though it wasn’t a great day for garden viewing, it was perfect for sambas, bossa novas and jazz played in a dry comfortable room.

 Another night she sat in for a couple numbers with a hot band, Brown Paper Bag, at the Libra Room on Commercial. I got some dancing in that night and apparently inspired this very fine man to get up and boogie, something that, according to the band, they hadn’t seen this regular patron do before. He knew how, so I guess he just needed me, the K-atalyst, on the dancefloor!

Saskia and I went with Holly to a party where she also picked up her pretty blue ukulele and accompanied her good friend Donna Newsom, another talented lady. I am convinced that in a world where just about everything we do and create takes precious resources from the earth – even producing art and books uses materials that aren’t necessarily healthy or renewable – it’s the making of music, the singing of songs and the movement of dance that gives the most bang for your buck. They provide precious soul medicine, health benefits and communal healing without demanding much in the way of fossil fuel or mineral consumption (I’m not talking about the Rolling Stones world tour here folks) Kinda like soccer, in its simplest form. All ya need is the ball.  

Besides spending time together in her beautiful apartment hovering over Stanley Park, wandering around that same precious green space one rainy day, and cruising Denman Street’s buffet of fine foods and wares, Holly also arranged for me to be interviewed on Co-op Radio in Vancouver by Charles Boylan, a well-known writer, teacher and socialist broadcaster. It was for the Wake Up with Co-op program – you can imagine with a name like that how early the interview was at. I made the effort to wake up and talk clearly, as I appreciate whatever publicity I can get for Walking with Wolf.

I also spoke one Sunday at the Vancouver Friends Meeting and managed to sell the last of the books that I had with me. It was a very attentive friendly crowd and a lovely ending to the Walking with Wolf takes the West Coast Tour. I thank my new friend Gail Harwood not only for arranging the day and providing the projector, but also meeting up for spirited conversation over breakfast and a soccer game.

You can imagine in a city like Vancouver how many terrific restaurants there are. I had some wonderful foods caress my taste buds but want to give a recommendation for two special places (besides the little sausage shop on Commercial at about 3rd that isn’t always open but has a line-up when it is). One is an Ethiopian restaurant on Commercial – the Harambe – where the service is friendly, the food divine and the atmosphere exquisite.

The other is the eclectic Latin-tapas restaurant in Gastown called Cobre. It belongs to a good friend of the Trickey’s, Jason Kelly, and his partners. In a very modern coppery setting, they serve new world Latin-fusion cuisine based on old world traditional ingredients. Our last night out was spent lingering over fine wine and a parade of beautifully presented tapas, including maple glazed wild boar belly as well as a blue corn bread with sweet chili butter to die for. It was a grand finale of a feast to remember Vancouver by, enjoyed with this special gathering of the Trickeys and friends.

A few days before I left, Star added a little kitten to her family who became known as Velcro. Both Miso and Velcro are gentle animals and are bound to be good company for each other. In this season of the World Cup, even they succumbed to futbol fever – it was all fun up until the dog ate the little soccer ball…but that’s another story. I send out my love, respect, and appreciation to Star, T, Leila, Spirit and Jean (and the co-op family), for including me in their days of merriment and mirth – see you in July! Also to Holly and Saskia for the great times we had here, there, and everywhere. I miss you all and enjoyed every moment – hasta la proxima, amorcitas! 

Jean, K, T, Andre, Spirit, Leila, Jason & Star @ Cobre