Poorest Postal Code
Well, it’s snowing in Vancouver, just as their brown icky water was finally safe to drink. However whenever I call friends out there, these concerns are barely a footnote. Maybe because Vancouverites are expected to complain about the rain so much that when there’s something else to complain about it seems awkward.
I will always miss the beauty of Vancouver.
And I will always remember the ugliness.
For the last year there I lived in Strathcona, about six blocks from Main and Hastings, the epicentre of poverty, drug addiction, sex trade, one room occupancy, etc etc etc. I’ve yet to see another skid row so dramatic. It was safe to walk around there if you knew the rules, the number one rule being don’t look a stranger in the eye. If you do it means either you’re looking for a john, you’re looking for drugs, or you’re looking for a fight. But aside from that, it was a nice neighborhood to live in, if you like drama. I had a friend who would point out the really scary people, like the neighborhood pedophile, or the neo nazi’s. People really looked out for each other though, ESPECIALLY the Hastings crowd. Watching them from afar over such a long period of time made me notice this whole network going on. Yeah, poor, dysfunctional, painful, but they noticed when one of their kin went missing. They kept track if someone had a hot shot. And they were so active in creating community resources, like the safe injection site. In some ways it makes me feel bad for marginalized addicted poor who live in smaller centres with less visibility to push for services. People in Saskatoon are living just as on the edge as Main and Hastings.
There were fun things about that neighborhood too, like the Prickhouse, which always had a nice laid back vibe to it and where we met Wendy 13 and talked about the withdrawal effects of paxil and those damned electric zaps. There was the Cobalt, where I saw Kill Allen Wrench take a beer bottle smash to the forehead mere feet away. (Allen Wrench supposedly killed Kurt Cobain, though I also heard a rumour it was his cult suicide programming kicking in.) Allen Wrench and his bloody face were so close my friend caught a flyer for the event soaked in blood. I was a little suspicious of her carrying away a biohazardous souvenier.
Once I waited at the bus stop to go visit friends and a boy with blood oozing out of him ran up to me and yelled CANADA while sprinkling my clothes with his blood. Bleh. Thanks a bunch.
One corner always had lethal car accidents for some reason.
I won’t tell you how many propositions I got, and none of them were for marriage!
Once it was dark and someone who didn’t know I was me started yelling at me that I was a sick pedophile who molested her children and then she got embarrassed when she found out I wasn’t Mr. Sick, but told me his apartment number.
Once in my apartment I got so drunk I puked on the floor and fell asleep.
Once in my apartment building a guy took a hot shot and his body wasn’t found for two weeks when, you know, the smell was annoying.
It wasn’t far to walk to the lesbian bar, where girls would give me suspicious looks. Being in a lesbian bar is not unlike being in high school.
Once a neighbor who was a john fleeced some poor sex worker out of her fee and she was outside his door screaming at him and his “dirty scaley dick.” The next day someone wrote on the mirror “Would all tenants please donate 25cents to _______ so he can pay crack whores to suck his dirty scaley dick?” I laughed and threw a quarter down.
Another time at New Years my friend and I were on our way out and noticed a puddle of blood on the floor under the pay phone.
Strangely enough, all of those things weren’t the true ugliness of Vancouver. The ugliness was the dysfunction, and how little people were genuinely compassionate. There are good people in Vancouver, but there’s a lot of mean people too.