Monday, March 24

my afternoon expedition to hell and back

clockwise from left:
tourists hanging around the gastown steamclock (my nemesis)
coal harbour: largely vacant investment properties of rich foreigners
no jaywalking on commercial drive. weird.

a few hours ago i decided to take a lazy sunny afternoon walk to coal harbour to pickup groceries. we live on the edge of chinatown and gastown in a part of town that's pretty awful (the poorest neighbourhood in the country in fact), but we're safely tucked away on a little oasis of a street inhabited by photographers and architects and the stars of locally filmed sci-fi television programs.

the least seedy route to coal harbour (the rich mans ghetto on the edge of stanley park) is water street, the heart of gastown. wow, i hate the heart of gastown! by the time i got to my final destination, got some nice goat cheeses and made it home i was actually twitching. my left hand is tremoring as i type. at first i thought to myself "good lord, am i showing symptoms of the early stages of MS? my pinky finger was numb earlier, wasn't it?" but then i realized i was just wound up by the following:

1. slow walking tourists. i know you have them where you live too. they're everywhere and they can't be avoided. they come to gastown for the "history" that vancouver boasts about that is really nothing to be proud of at all. they get let off in giant tour busses so they can mill around a fraud of a steam clock that's actually powered by electricity, so that they can get their camcorders out to record it tunelessly ring in the quarter-hour. i hate the damned clock, but mostly i hate that i just want to get somewhere but i can't because the sidewalks are all jammed up by gawkers wearing visors, fannypacks and gortex. when i say "excuse me" it means move.

2. quebecois street urchins. vancouver is a lot like san francisco in that we have vibrant gay communities and good seafood. but we're most alike in that our respective countries seem to have been turned on their sides and shaken until all the mentally ill and drug addicted from every state, province and territory fell loose and landed here. okay so maybe the continent wasn't literally turned on end. the marginalized are just gravitated by the mild climate and cheap heroin. vancouver is to junkies what arizona is to seniors in RVs. just to the east of gastown there's a place called commercial drive. the italian coffee shops that mark every street corner are broken up by shops selling ponchos and vibrators. this street is inhabited by a large number of obnoxiously loud and sadly homeless quebecois teenagers who look like early '80s punks, panhandling to feed their meth addictions and unneutered pit bulls. after braving the slow walking tourists of water street, i made it back to my oasis only to hear the loud drawl of joual of a group of french teens smoking crack on the sidewalk, and once again IN MY WAY. please quebecois street urchins, go back to the drive (or preferably to la belle province) and don't smoke crack in front of my building.

3. pee. being as the chinatown-gastown area is the poorest neighbourhood in all of canada, the toilet to person ratio is not very high. i hate that i can't walk anywhere without smelling urine. i hate it. but then, i have a toilet so who am i to complain?

know why i'm looking forward to the olympics? i love hockey, and skiing and yes, i even love curling... but the thing i'm hoping for a lot more than medals, is that maybe if the rest of the world sees that vancouver's not all pretty mountains and ridiculously overpriced 400 square foot condos, the city, province and country will actually be motivated to do something about the drug addiction and homelessness that's blighted this place for over 30 years. i'm sure the slow walking tourists who stumble off the beaten path will appreciate it.

i know that was a downer, but i really had to get it out. my hand has stopped twitching.

time to move, huh?


kate said...

ooohhhh erin, i feel your pain! the urine- that smell. it's hard to explain to someone, and hard to get rid of.
i used to live on railway st., so i know exactly where you're coming from!
take a deep breath, listen to seabear (just heard of them and love them) and shut your eyes.
or go to salt for a drink and some cheese and watch the rat armies duke it out. ;)
hang in there dear!

erin said...

okay. taking a deep breath, and downloading seabear through emusic on your recommendation.

have you ever noticed that the urine smell is worse in the summer after it's rained? something to look forward to!!

leslie said...

aawwww, i still miss it though... although, now that you mention it, it's probably not the greatest thing that the smell of urine on concrete makes me pine for vancouver so : )