July 2006



#10 Hastings

Originally uploaded by elmada.

So I lied. A couple of days ago I said I knew nothing about Vancouver before Jerry and John decided to move out here. In truth, I knew that 21 Jump Street was filmed here.

For those of you who’ve forgotten or are unaware for whatever reason, 21 Jump Street was a tv show on Fox about undercover cops in high schools. Johnny Depp starred as Officer Tom Hanson. It was Depp’s first break-out hit, and, in retrospect, Depp was my first crush. He was cute, caring, and compassionate. He had amazing hair.

Awe… memories…

Any how, during the opening title sequences on sees a bus marked “Hastings” going down the street. It was a snippet from one of the best episodes—but I cannot tell you which one right now. For whatever reason, the image of the bus going down the street has stuck in my head like nothing else—that and the camera swinging around Officer Hanson as he’s climbing stairs chasing after a shooter.

So I brought up Hastings when talking to Jerry and John before my trip. It seems that East Hastings is a bit of a run-down area within the city—and after taking a bus through it, I decided to walk down part of it – I didn’t actually make it that far, and I missed seeing any active heroin addicts up close (although I did see a few).

Nobody paid any attention to me as I wandered down the street. People were on every block, standing around, sitting around, or wandering slowly around The street reminded me of Denver’s Colfax Avenue, although a bit rougher around the edges and with wider sidewalks.

There were a number of grimy restaurants serving the population—the kind of restaurants with dirty barred windows, wobbly chairs, and an uncertain odor emanating from the kitchen. Sometimes so good that I wanted to march right in, other times encouraging me to walk faster.

United We Can

I noticed, as I was walking, signs worrying that the city was about to close down a number of neighborhood hotels—presumably the long term flop houses that the people in the area rely upon. There were also posters advocating participation in an “Anti-Canada Day” protest, reminding people of past injustices toward the First Peoples and protesting the use of First People’s lands for profit.

Clearly Vancouver has a problem in this area – it is a trick cleaning up a city in a way that doesn’t hurt the incumbent residents. Part of Vancouver’s vibrancy comes from East Hastings, but it is also the weakest zone I’ve found in Vancouver. There is no greater challenge than helping those who need it the most, without displacing them.

Which brings me to last night. After dinner, Jerry, John, and I were invited to join their downstairs neighbors, Barry and David, to watch Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life—a movie I haven’t seen in years. We never actually finished the movie, and at 11, David wanted to go for a walk. I was the only person willing, and we headed out, making our way to the Pump Jack, a leather bar on Davie Street, where I had a beer.

After we left, we headed down the street, aiming at one of the other neighborhood gay bars, when a woman walking the other way asked us if we could buy her a chicken.

We declined.

But two minutes later, we changed our mind and caught up with her, heading down to one of the local supermarkets where we bought her a chicken and a bag of potatoes. What had changed our mind (well, actually David’s, as I usually avoid interacting with panhandlers when I’m not on my home turf) was the fact that she had a grocery list with her, and that she had asked specifically for a chicken, not money.

As David was buying my drinks, and has been incredibly generous, I opted to pick up the Chicken and potatoes for the woman, who had told us a well put together story about how she had ended up on Davie Street at midnight asking people to buy her groceries.

It left me feeling all warm and cozy.

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