dreaminghope: (Zoey)
What follows are some of my reflections on the post-Stanley Cup riots in downtown Vancouver. The Facebook and Twitter posts are uncredited because I don't know what's locked under privacy locks and what isn't. If you see something you wrote and want credit, let me know. All spelling and punctuation are from the originals.

We're about a ten minute drive from the heart of downtown, where about 100,000 people had gathered to watch the big game on Wednesday night. We aren't hockey fans, but we flipped over to the game a couple of times during the course of the evening. When we saw that the home team had lost, Russ looked out our living room window, up and down the street: "It looks quiet out there."

I went on Facebook and read the following updates over the next couple of hours:

All I can hope at this point is that all of the people downtown are behaving and continue to behave like civilised folks.

oh come on Vancouver! don't trash the city! street fires and vehicle vandalism?

Car fire at Hamilton and Georgia

Its apprantly getting bad. Police cars getting flipped now..

So... The first can of tear gas has been fired. I'm downtown.

Ug.. now the cop cars are on fire...

Vancouver, this is why we can't have nice things.

St. Pauls hospital is apparently at Code Orange and locked down. :(


Russ slept in until about 6:15 on Thursday morning. He would have slept longer, but I let the cats into the bedroom to keep him from going fully back to sleep after his 6 wake-up call. That was wake-up number two; the first, to the alarm at 4:50, was rough for him and he stayed in bed. He hadn't slept well: couldn't fall asleep, couldn't stay asleep, and between, had nightmares about the riots. Russ wants so badly for this city - his city - to be a place where we can celebrate or mourn together without it becoming a police event.

And it goes on. )

This isn't a holligan town. It's OUR town! Peace & Love. (one of many messages written on the plywood over one of the broken windows at Chapters)

There's a lot of plywood up as businesses wait for new windows to be delivered. All over the city core, the plywood is scrawled with hundreds of messages: people expressing their shame in the rioters, their anger in what's been done in the name of hockey, their hope that it will never happen again, and their faith that our city is better than this. Mostly, the messages were reclaiming this city as being a beautiful and peaceful one, and not what was seen on the international news on Wednesday and Thursday.

Maybe we're a little less apathetic today. Maybe we're taking our city a little less for granted. As I ran errands all over downtown today, I saw a lot of people adding their messages of hope to the plywood, a lot of people taking photos, and people adding thank you notes to the police car. I also noticed that everyone looked at the plywood as they walked past it, even if they were obviously in a hurry.

Last night was not what Vancouver stand for. I am still proud to be a Vancouverite. (one of many messages written on the plywood over one of the broken windows at The Bay)

Fridge fun

Feb. 9th, 2011 09:18 pm
dreaminghope: (Giggle)
Russ is putting the rice on to cook for dinner and I'm ranting about my gym.

I interrupt myself: "Toby, Pete, Stephanie?" I point at the names written on the white board we usually use for a grocery list.

"Oh, those are the kids next door; I finally got the other two's names. I put Toby's name on there so I'd remember why the other two names are there. That other guy moved out and Pete replaced him. He has big glasses and like, hair. And Stephanie's the girl... and I'm glad to finally have her name, 'cause I never wanted to say 'hey, I know we've lived next to each other for years, but what's your name?', you know?"

"Now we just need to get the names of the couple on the other side of the garden again. I feel so bad that I keep forgetting."

"I think one of them is Dave. Probably the guy."

"Probably."

Russ starts pulling vegetables out of the fridge for the stirfry. He turns to me holding a paper bag.

"These are mushrooms," he declares with great certainty and authority.

Of course, by that he meant: "I found these delicious mushrooms in the crisper, but before I add them to the stirfry, I feel that I should inquire as to whether or not you have another meal planned for this week that would require these particular fungi."

All I could do was laugh and keep saying "these are mushrooms", "these are mushrooms", "these are mushrooms".

And my gym-related anger was nicely disrupted. But I'm still probably going to change gyms.
dreaminghope: (Bee Faerie)
Back when I was first considering buying a weaving loom, I took to randomly checking Craig's List. One day I found an ad that was about a week old for a simple loom in my price range and in my area of town. When I emailed her to see if it was still available, I found out that she actually lives only about three blocks away. The loom was still available, and she was home right then if I wanted to come over.

It turns out that my loom-selling neighbour works in fibre arts and has her home and studio in an old church. I'd often passed the church – a humble one-story white stucco building peeking over a bamboo fence – on my walks, but had never been inside. The couple had redone the floors in glowing light wood and had left the main floor as a single bright room with some translucent hanging curtains dividing off areas here and there and small carpets and throw pillows. They had only recently completed their renovations, so there were also boxes everywhere, but that just added to the cool bohemian artist look.

The artist explained that she had been planning on adding handwoven fabrics to her art, so she'd bought the loom and put it all together, but had never gotten around to using it. The loom had been carefully assembled and sanded, and she had books and weaving accessories for me as well.

"Send me a picture of something you make with it," she said as I left.

I walked home with the loom frame on one shoulder and a plastic grocery bag stuffed with everything else in my hand and made my first scarf that afternoon. I forgot to email her a picture, but her studio was open during the next East Side Cultural Crawl and I wore one of my handwoven scarves when I visited.

***

A very elderly Chinese couple owns the house next door to us. Other neighbours have told us that they used to have a beautiful vegetable garden with lots of produce to share around, but a couple of years before we moved in, the wife had a stroke and was no longer able to maintain the yard. By the time we bought our house, their large yard was a jungle. Last year, Russ got bored of just using the little strip of unpaved dirt on our side of the fence and approached the couple's grown son about growing things in their yard. The son spoke to his parents (who speak no English at all) and they agreed to let Russ take over their garden. Russ rented a rotor tiller and spent several days getting the deeply entrenched weeds out and started planning what to grow and where to put it.

The couple doesn't get out much, so Russ really had the space to himself for the most part. One day, he is out doing some light maintenance weeding and checking on the progress of his beans, and he sees the husband sitting on the house's back steps watching him with a curious expression on his face. Russ smiles and waves and worries that the gentleman has forgotten why Russ is there or something hasn't been communicated to him. When the son comes along, Russ asks him if everything's alright. The son chats with his father in Mandarin, then turns back to Russ with a laugh: "He is just wondering why you are doing the gardening, as that is a woman's job."

***

I was walking home from an evening event. There was a man on the other side of the street, standing on the corner, and he called out something to me. It was definitely a question, but I couldn't hear him over the traffic. The light happened to change, so I crossed over to him. He was holding something I took at first to be a cigar, but when I got close enough to hear him ask if I had a light, I could see that it was a candle in his hand.

"I'm sorry; I don't have a lighter."

"Do you live nearby?" he asked, then hastily followed up: "I live just over there. See, I'm Orthodox Jewish and today's the Jewish New Year. We're not allowed to create our own fire today, but we are supposed to celebrate with many candles. Usually we would just light a candle in advance to light our other candles off of, but we all work, so we can’t leave something burning all day. You aren't Jewish, are you?"

"No, I'm not."

"Oh good, because I wouldn't want to cause another Jew to create fire today."

"Well, I think I can help you out. I live right over there, and it looks like my partner's home. He'll have a lighter."

We walked back across the street to my house. He stayed at the bottom of the front porch steps despite my welcoming gesture, so I brought Russ out to him. I just told Russ to bring a lighter and I let our neighbour explain the details.

"Oh, your house had the big electric menorah on the fence last December!" Russ exclaimed, "We loved that!"

"My name's Alexander," the neighbour stuck his hand out and Russ shook it and introduced himself. I chuckled to myself for not introducing myself sooner and stuck out my own hand. Alexander clasped his hands together and nodded to me.

"I'm sorry, but I can't shake your hand. We believe that we shouldn't touch the opposite sex. If you meet my wife, it will be the same: she will shake your hand, but not his. But I will shake Russ' hand for you too." They shook hands a second time as we all chuckled. I clasped my hands behind my back, suddenly concerned that I would feel compelled to touch him, though I am not usually inclined to casually touch strangers.

Russ pulled out his lighter, but before Alexander would light his candle, he checked that Russ isn't Jewish either. As Russ tried to get the candle burning well enough to endure the trip back across the street, Alexander told us about the previous new year: "I found another neighbour out for a walk. He didn't speak English very well, so I had to kind of mime what I needed. I don't think he really understood why I needed his help, but he lit my candle," he shrugged, "It's getting to know the neighbours."

"OK, I think we've got it going here," Russ said, "but if it goes out, just come on back. We'll be up for another hour or two at least."

"Thank you so much!" Alexander shook Russ' hand, gave me a friendly nod and shook Russ' hand again, and then we all returned to our homes. He didn't return that night, so I assume the candle stayed lit for him.
dreaminghope: (Zoey)
I was at a bus stop and it wasn't quite raining, which is the best you can get some days in Vancouver in October. He trotted across the street; jaywalking, but at least he waited for a red light at the nearest intersection. He stopped in front of me. He's wearing jeans and a flannel plaid shirt, untucked, over a t-shirt.

"Hello!" He has a jack-o-lantern smile - huge, and missing more than a few teeth.

"Hi..."

"I was working way up high on a building, you know, way up there and I said to my boss, I said 'are we going to die today?' and he said 'I don't know.'! I said 'don't say that'! We're way up there, like thirty floors up and I'm like, 'woah, we're really high' and my boss says 'did you pee your pants?' and I said 'a little'."

"That would be embarrassing."

"Yeah. But we were so high up, you know. And my boss said 'don't look down' but I couldn't help it and I looked down. And I said to my boss 'are we going to die today?'. He said 'I don't know.' I was like 'oh, you bastard!' but I didn't say that, you know."

"Well, that's not something you can say to your boss."

"Yeah! We're way up there and I reach for a tool and I'm like 'woah!' and my boss says 'don't look down' and I say 'too late'. And he's working and I start going 'blah-ba-bo-blah' and he's like 'what are you doing?' and I said I'm singing."

He breaks into air guitar and starts singing to the tune of the chorus of Barbara Ann: "Bad, bad, bad, bad-bad, bad-bad. Bad, bad, bad, bad-bad, bad-bad."

I laugh, as his strange enthusiasm is infectious.

"The next time you hear that song, you think of me, OK?" he said earnestly, "You think of me when you hear it... bad, bad, bad, bad-bad, bad-bad..."

"I will."

He air-guitars off down the sidewalk. As my bus pulls up, he is talking to someone else. I can't tell if it's the same story or not. I wonder if he likes to tell stories, or if he just needs to be heard, to be remembered.
dreaminghope: (Apple Picking)
We had one of those blessed sunny autumn days in Vancouver today. It was a day to love fall: bright, but cool enough to wear a hat and sweater, and the smell of crushed dried leaves was in the wind.

I needed vacuum bags. After failing to find them at The Bay earlier this week, I found them on a website for a local vacuum service store and headed there this morning after the gym and farmers’ market.

It was like stepping back in time. Most of the stock was behind the counter, so rather than being on your own to find what you need and take it to the register, we stand in line and the man bustles about and brings everything to us. He was packing up someone's new vacuum when I arrived. The next person in line had a bag of parts with him and the man checked each one and let him know whether or not they needed to be replaced. He also explained to the customer how he could check to see whether or not his vacuum’s belt needs to be replaced – apparently a common problem for that type of vacuum. When it was my turn, the man brought me two options: the brand name bags and the aftermarket versions, which were half the price. He also told me about the most common repair needed for my type of vacuum and that I should make sure no one charges me more than a dollar for the part required to fix it. And he gave me a sticker with his shop information on it to put on my vacuum at home. I did it.

I went to the grand opening of a new location of a huge chain craft store. I have a lot of craft supplies (I am probably pretty close to S.A.B.L.E.: stash amassed beyond life expectancy), but there's always something else I need, for some definition of "need". Right now, I need a couple of tapestry needles. I have some already, but I can't find them. The store was chaotic. The whole time I was there, someone was ringing a big brass bell – the kind an old school marm would ring to call students in to start the day – which had something to do with a wheel people were spinning to win discounts and stickers. By the time I found my tapestry needles – a two dollar item – the ringing and the crowds were getting a bit much and I was done. I moved towards the front of the store but found that the line for the registers wound all the way to the back of the store. I didn't want to waste that much more of the beautiful autumn sun. I'll go back for the needles another day. I wonder if the vacuum guy would consider opening a craft store.

The Girl Guides were out selling cookies. Today was also Apple Day – the day Scouts sell apples as a fundraiser. There were adorable kids in uniforms on almost every corner. The Scouts were supposed to say "apples by donation", but the ones outside the SkyTrain station were enthusiastically yelling "apples for donation". I gave some little boys a couple of dollars but declined the apple. As I dug out my wallet, I told them that my husband used to be a Scout when he was a little boy and loved it. I doubt they cared, but they nodded and smiled politely. I remember doing the nod and thank-you when people used to reminisce about their days in the blue uniform while buying Girl Guide cookies.

I found Ivan E. Coyote's new book – Missed Her – in a bookstore even though I thought it wasn't coming out for another month yet. I immediately went to one of the ubiquitous coffee shops and read half the book over a pumpkin spice latté, while trying not laugh out loud or cry while sitting in the front window on a busy corner.

A lady in the coffee shop was trying to give away apples because she'd bought one apple from every Scout she saw, but she'd also already bought a bunch of apples at the grocery store. The staff took some off her hands and got themselves a nice fall snack. I went back out into the sun and started walking home.
dreaminghope: (Bee Faerie)
On the #10 Hastings-Downtown bus through the heart of the infamous Downtown Eastside* of Vancouver on Friday, a couple of under-housed** people are chatting eagerly about that night's hockey game. They don't care about our local team and their playoff chances; they care that this was a home game, so there would be crowds downtown. Crowds downtown mean bottles and cans discarded on the streets. One of them speculates that he might make $90 that night in returns.

An elderly woman gets on the bus and sits down between them. She has come out from her assisted living facility home in Surrey for an appointment. She'd promised a fellow resident ("Poor man. He's pretty much housebound, and no one visits him.") that she'd buy him some cheap cigarettes while she was downtown.

"Cigarettes are his only comfort. No friends; no family; nothing. So sad, really."

The two DTES residents advised her on where to find the cheap cigarettes:

"OK, you'll get off at the next bus stop and then just talk to people back along Hastings here to see who has cigarettes. People will have packs for $5 each."

"But if you talk to the Chinese people, they'll have 'em for $4. The Chinese people sell the packs for $4 each, and everyone else buys from them and then will sell the same pack to you for $5."

As we pull up to a red light, he points out the window at a middle-aged Chinese woman who seems to be just strolling past the pawn shop: "That woman right there, in the blue hat. Talk to her."

"Do you think I can catch her?" the elderly woman leans forward, trying to figure out where the next bus stop is.

"She'll just walk back and forth on that block. You'll catch her, no problem."

"She just carries them in her purse?"

"Yeah. She'll have $4 cigarettes."

I didn't know that about Vancouver.

* AKA, the DTES.

** Possibly homeless, but more likely residents of some of the many single room occupancy hotels.
dreaminghope: (Starry Starry Night)
There are two new lights in the skyline of East Vancouver. From the edge of downtown, there's a slowly turning red W. From up on the hill, shining down, is a light blue cross. They face each other; if you could stand on either, you'd probably be able to see the other, though you might need binoculars.

My house is about half way between them.



The W is a new reproduction of an old sign. Russ remembers the W on top of the Woodward's building from his trips from his parent's place in Coquitlam to his Grandma's in West Vancouver; it was the sign of Vancouver for him. At that time, the W was the sign for the Woodward's department store. The store has long since closed, and the building was abandoned. The building's fate was debated and fought over, and was recently renovated to be stores, cafes, and a bank on the ground floor, topped with condos. The block has been named the Woodward's District and the W was re-installed to watch over it all.

The W turns above the border between the Downtown East Side's greatest poverty and the downtown business men who think they are laid back because they don't wear ties while slowly working themselves into ulcers and heart attacks. Its history is one of consumer culture and capitalism as a definer of our urban skylines.



The East Vancouver Cross is a new version of an old sign too. The light installation by East Vancouver artist Ken Lum is based on a popular spray-paint tag.

I've been fascinated by Ken Lum's work since before I knew who he was, thanks to a very random installation in the industrial park behind my house ("A Tale of Two Children").

The new cross is packed with history and meaning: the Catholic history of Little Italy and the Irish immigrants, East Vancouver pride, and skateboarding culture. It isn't universally popular: Some view it as a gang symbol (it apparently was... in the 1950s). Some resent what they perceive as a religious symbol because our community is no longer, as a whole, very religious, and certainly isn't very Christian. Others sent resent the cross because they see it as sacrilegious. I like that people are actually talking about art.

Ken Lum says: "I don't see the intention of the piece as trying to be therapeutic in any way. I think it shows: we're East Side, we're strong, we have challenges and we have strengths. I don't necessarily see it as a pom-pom structure."

The W and the cross are facing each other: two different East Vancouver histories, and maybe two different futures.
dreaminghope: (Zoey)
I wake at about four in the morning. The wind is pushing against the city. It voices its wildness in the shake of windows, in the screech of tree branches across glass, in the rumble of recycling boxes tumbling against fences. My house groans under the assault; its old bones creak.

Part of me wishes that the power would fail. Nature could win, just for a little while, and the constant lights of the city would go out. Part of me wants to go out into the storm: to stand barefoot in the empty street, let the rain soak my skin, and howl back to the wind. Be a wild thing in the wild dark.

Our ancestors hid in caves from storms and animals and the dangers of the wild; I feel the tug of blood and instinct to build a fort of pillows, a cave of blankets with a flashlight campfire to hold back the unknown. I pull my blankets over my ears and sleep fitfully, between freedom and fear.
dreaminghope: (Zoey)
If you glance in someone's window as you walk by and find someone looking back at you...

If you look up and happen to meet someone's eyes across the gym...

If you are gazing out the bus window and make eye contact with someone in the car in the next lane...

Do you ask yourself: "Were they staring at me?" or "Do they think I was staring at them?"
dreaminghope: (Starry Starry Night)
I participated in Earth Hour last night. Russ was working at a trade show (selling corsets), so I was on my own. At 8:30, I shut down my computer, turn off the TV, and turn out all my lights. It seems very dark for a moment, and then my eyes adjust and find the light: street lights out front, porch lights from across the alley out back, the neighbour’s bathroom light straight through my bedroom window...

I go for a walk. I pass one house that seems to be participating; candles flicker in their windows and laughter pours out into the night. Other houses are dark, but it feels like no one is home. Most houses are lit as normal for a Saturday night. I thought that in my neighbourhood of young artists, more people would be participating.

I walk to Strathcona Park, one of the darkest places in my area because it's a large city block park with a soccer field and a baseball diamond and no street lamps in the centre. Well, it seems very dark unless you are hoping for – searching for – dark quiet.

I start to walk the perimeter, but no matter which way I go, I'm heading toward lights. On one side, Prior Street is roaring with cars. At the far end of the park, the industrial park is glaringly lit and rattling away.

As I walk to the centre of the park, I pass a bench and someone is sitting there. I don't see them until they move; it's dark enough for that. I can't see if it's a man or a woman, only that they are just sitting there; perhaps a fellow seeker of dark quiet. I nod and walk on.

I love the city. I sleep to the sound of traffic. I love that I can walk to almost anything I want or need. But I do wish that it could've been different for an hour.

I get to the ring of boulders in the middle of the park and sit on one of the rocks. Every time a car pulls up the side street to turn on to Prior, their headlights sweep right through the park and seem to be spotlighting me from a block away.

The clouds are thin and reflect back the light pollution. I can pick out four stars that are just determined enough to be visible, and the crescent moon is watching us bustle in our bright night.

I see one other candle-lit house on my walk home.

Then the hour is over.
dreaminghope: (Faerie Wings)
It's not raining anymore. And, for the first time in a week, it isn't dark as I leave work.

Deep breath. Clean fall air. The smell of damp decay.

The trees and the sunset are painted with the same fiery watercolour palette.

Deep breath. Wood smoke. Someone's got their fireplace lit. Cozy.

Deep breath. Pot smoke. Ah, East Vancouver.

Layers of leaves squish beneath my boots.

I hate leaf blowers. I'm sure there are times when they are genuinely useful, but I assure you that right after the rain stops is not one of those times. The leaves aren't moving because they are soggy. They are glued to the sidewalk. They are not going to move. Get a rake. Or a broom.

I'm two blocks past the noisy beast, and I can still hear it. Three blocks, and the whine continues in the background. It's more annoying than when the upstairs faucet breaks and I can hear it squealing in the bedroom wall when I'm trying to sleep and I have to ball my blanket up over my ears to try to block it out and all I can think is I just want it to be quiet again and though it's been quiet for a couple of weeks now, it's only a matter of time before Russ' latest fix fails and the squealing starts again and I wish I knew when Bath Fitters is going to come and fix it once and for all...

Five blocks, and I can't hear it anymore.

Deep breath. Onion, garlic, curry; someone's making dinner.

Deep breath. My mittens smell like wet wool.

Deep breath.

Witnessed

Nov. 3rd, 2008 08:06 am
dreaminghope: (Quiet Gargoyle)
It's a wet, wet morning in Vancouver. My boots leak.

I walk past a senior's semi-independent living facility every morning. This morning, two ambulances were pulling out of their driveway. No flashing lights; no sirens.
dreaminghope: (Cave Gargoyle)
It's that Vancouver Autumn rain. Even though my jacket is very waterproof, the chill creeps under my collar and I feel soggy. The man in front of me is smoking a cigar that smells like blueberry flowers, serving to make the day seem heavier and grayer compared to the summer scent.

There's a funeral home near the SkyTrain station at Broadway and Commercial. It's been closed and empty for awhile now, collecting graffiti tags while it waits for rezoning. The long awning over the front walk is still intact.

Today, someone is under the awning. He has a little room set up: a sleeping bag with a pillow and extra blanket, a box as a side table with a clock on it, even a little battery-operated lamp. He is sitting in the sleeping bag, cuddled down a bit, eating something hot out of a Styrofoam container.

The sidewalk is only a meter from the man's bedroom; it's like seeing someone through their front window making coffee or reading the newspaper in their bathrobe. Their real life going on and I see them and they don't see me. For a moment, his set-up looks cozy and almost normal. And than I become aware of the roar of rush hour traffic over wet pavement again, and I'm past the funeral home.
dreaminghope: (Default)
In the morning, as I rinse my coffee mug, I see a chickadee on my back porch. Russ and I have seen him there before. He is almost completely round – a little feathered ball with a beak – so I'm not how he can fly at all, much less take off fast enough to escape the neighbourhood's feral cats. He pecks about, probably eating the crumbs from my breakfast. When I next go to the window, he is gone.

If I'd thought that I had any aptitude as an artist, I don't think I'd ever have become a writer. All I ever wanted to capture was moments. The trouble is, most people want narrative, so I tuck those moments away in the pages of a story. If I could draw or paint the way I see those moments in my head, I wouldn't have to write about them.*

As I walk along the street, a bald eagle soars over my head, disappearing just over the top of the two-story warehouse behind me. The cars speeding past me had no idea why I stop suddenly in the middle of the sidewalk and turn slowly to follow that eagle with eyes and wish. They may not even see me stop.

The cars also don't see the raccoon. A juvenile by his size, he looks like he has fallen out of a natural history museum display – he is frozen in position, no sign of trauma, as though he was walking along the sidewalk and then simply fell over dead. I saw him in the morning on my way to the gym. On my way home from the gym, someone had covered his face with a piece of paper.

My back deck is high and I can see over all the fences for houses around. The elderly Chinese woman next door has five items drying on plastic hangers scattered about her garden. She doesn't notice me lingering over a glass of wine when she takes them in.

Two fences over to the West, a man is building something. Something that involves a sheet of plywood as big as his porch. Something that involves frequent re-measuring and a lot of standing back and looking. He doesn't seem to have any power tools, and I don't think he is very accustomed to hand tools. The saw scriches through the wood three times, then he pauses to check that he is cutting straight. Scrich-scrich-scrich – pause. Scrich-scrich-scrich – pause. Then he moves on to hammering: bang-bang-bang – pause. Bang-bang-bang – pause. For all that he is close to twice my age, quite a bit larger than I, and male – he reminds me of myself.

Across the alley, someone seems to be rehearsing some sort of stringed instrument. The music drifts through their open window; it sounds like a higher pitched banjo. The melody wanders from song to song, pausing but never stopping.

As the sun begins to dip below the roofs, the house two yards to the East hums with an electric lawn mower – the first grass cutting of the season. I don't know how he justifies using an electric mower for his little strip of grass; it must be more work to pull out the mower and deal with the cord – he holds it high over his head most of the time – than it would be to use a little gas weedwacker or a manual mower.

At about five in the evening, the crows stop in East Van on their daily commute from Stanley Park to the suburban park where they roost at night. The electric lines are full of black wings and the air is full of their excited cries. They seem to be telling stories; I bet they know the best stories.

*Charles de Lint, "The Fields Beyond the Fields", Triskell Tales.
dreaminghope: (Sleeping Zoey)
Saturday, not yet ten, and it's another gray and sodden morning. Up and out of the house so early and heading to the gym; I feel very virtuous.

I cut through the flat city park in front of the bus station, following one of the many paved paths that cut across the open space. Someone is still sleeping under one of the trees, but most people are up. One bench in the middle of the park has two glass beer mugs and an empty cigarette package laying on it. The mugs have an inch or two of rainwater in them.


It's called "sleep restriction", which makes it sound like something done to a prisoner. My doctor at the Sleep Disorders Program prefers to call it "sleep compression", which sounds nicer.

I think the torture name is more accurate.

When you start a diet, suddenly everything is about food: food you can have, food you can't have, how much to eat, when to eat, counting calories and fat grams and fiber content.

I'm a sleep diet.

The bench is pretty far from the bar. Two people must have stepped out of the bar, mugs in hand, for a cigarette. Must have been a man and a woman; I just can't picture two men wandering that far for a private chat, and it isn't the kind of bar that gets a big enough female clientele for two women to be likely.

There are a lot of rules:

No bright lights, television, or computer for at least an hour before bed. Have some carbs and warm milk. Go to bed at midnight, and not a moment before. Stay up later if you aren't tired.

Get up at 6:30, and not a moment after, even on the weekends. Thirty minutes of daylight every morning. No napping. No laying down during the day. Thirty minutes of exercise in the late afternoon or early evening.

If you are awake for more than twenty minutes in the middle of the night, get up. No television or computer, and no novels; do something boring, like folding laundry.

I'm not good at boring myself; I end up telling myself stories when I try. I think about empty mugs sitting on a park bench.

A man and a woman happen to go out the bar's back door at the same time for a smoke. He grumbles about not being to smoke inside anymore. She has a lovely smile. To keep talking, he lies that he left his cigarettes at home and bums one off of her. She listens while he talks about the weather, the crows, and the library strike. She watches his mouth and his hands. He listens while she talks about the transit system, the squirrels, and the punk show. He watches her eyes and her mouth, and her breasts, when she isn't looking.

He buys her a beer – to repay the cigarette – and smuggles the thick glass mugs out of the bar under his jacket. She giggles as they sneak into the shadows of the park, away from the crowd and the street lamps. They take a bench and drink their beers and smoke the rest of her cigarettes.


Two nights of sleep restriction and my body decides to stop fighting the virus that's been threatening for the past week. I've got a cold, and all I've wanted to do all day is curl up in a blanket and sleep. But I don't, because I am far too stubborn. I've drunk a gallon of peppermint tea and taken Advil for the sinus pain. I have to pee every half-hour. I do anything but sleep.

It starts to rain. His apartment is nearby. They leave their drained mugs and an empty cigarette package on the bench.

It's almost time for my hour of screen-free time. I've got a magazine at the kitchen table, where hopefully I'll be too uncomfortable to fall asleep while reading. I did manage to stay awake on the bus this afternoon.

Get through the next five days, and it'll all be better. So the doctor says.

Did she walk through this park this morning and see the empty mugs and the damp cigarette box?

It's no wonder I don't sleep.
dreaminghope: (Giggle)
I was at Granville Island today for another International Writers and Readers Festival event, so I took advantage of the opportunity to do some special grocery shopping at the market. Russ checked out a website and gave me a list of sausages (2 andouille, 6 duck and port, 6 Turkish lamb, and 6 wild boar chorizo) he wanted from a particular vender, so I line up at the counter. When one of the clerks offers to help me, I just handed over Russ' list.

"Having a party?" asks the stocky white-haired man beside me at the counter.

"No, just stocking up. I think most of these are going into the freezer."

"We don't have any of the wild boar today," the man behind the counter tells me.

"Just skip that one, then. Thanks."

"You shouldn't freeze them. You should never freeze anything. Buy it all fresh and eat it right away," the white-haired man sounds stern.

I shrug: "Well, we don't get out here very often, and my partner really likes these fancy sausages. We don't have anything like this in our neighbourhood."

"Ma'am, we only have two of the Turkish sausages," says the man behind the counter.

"Oh, no problem. Um, I'll take the two Turkish and four of those other lamb sausages, the spicy ones."

"You should move closer," the white-haired man continues.

I laugh a little and respond: "I don't think I'm going to move just to be closer to the sausages."

"Right now I'm building a house in France because that's the lifestyle I want to live near. France has the best food. You should live close to the lifestyle you want."

Ignoring the fact that the occasional desire for fancy sausages has now become a lifestyle, I try again to just blow him off with an easy answer: "I don't think we can afford to live down here anyway."

"Then make more money," he isn't kidding.

"Anything else for you?" the man behind the counter asks me.

"No, thank you," I hand over my credit card, "I think I've gotten more than I needed here today."
dreaminghope: (Quiet Gargoyle)
We're having a perfect autumn day. I walked to Main Street and went to an organic and fair trade café where the man behind the counter taste-tested the almond syrup before making my drink. He made my latté backwards – pulled the shots before steaming the milk – but it still tasted lovely. And he poured the milk so that the foam made a swirled heart on top. I drank the heart before putting my travel mug's lid on.

I sit outside of the café at a little ironwork table. I want to write – there's a certain mysticism to The Café as a place to write (or program) – but I end up just reading in the sun.

When I resume my walk, I pull my paisley hat down firmly against the fall breeze. When I get to the corner, I don't start walking at the light but wait until the bus comes to a complete stop. Buses in Vancouver often run red lights, and there'd be something just too silly about someone as bohemian-looking as I – paisley hat, tie-died dress, hemp shoes, naturally worn (out) jean jacket – being killed by public transportation.

There's no one out behind the Ivanhoe yet. I guess anyone drinking at noon on a Friday doesn't want to be out in the golden sun, even for a smoke. It isn't a place for business lunches.

A block down, at the next corner, there's a slick faux-brick condo building, six floors high. The top floor has a larger balcony with a wide cement wall for a railing. Someone has placed a gargoyle on the corner of the rail, overlooking the corner of Main and Prior. He is very easy to spot, but only if you look up; most people don't.

I sit on a short cement wall across the street, where the gargoyle can see me, and that's where I write.

I think about what the gargoyle can see. He can see the daily parade of buses and cars up and down Main Street. He can see the old Italian immigrants heading into the European Deli Warehouse – the import business and warehouse that almost burned down in the rash of arsons in the summer of 2006 – and leaving with their fancy cheeses and French sodas. He can see the sign that says "Welcome to Historic Chinatown" and the graffiti that offers the cryptic comment "I have never been out of love with the mall".

And the gargoyle can see the people who shoot up and who sleep under the underpass across the street. It must be frustrating to be a gargoyle – see it all, and never be able to do anything. It isn't demons we need protecting from anymore, but that's all he knows how to do.

I think about going into the deli warehouse, but entering a dark maze of rooms doesn't appeal, and we have a lot of cheese at home already.

I go home and read science fiction in the sun on my back porch while drinking a glass of red wine, and feel so decadent that it's like there could never be any despair in this beautiful city.
dreaminghope: (Quiet Gargoyle)
1
The SkyTrain's pulling into the station, and it is packed. She'd wait for the next one, but it's rush hour; the next one will be just as bad. Or worse. Her heart is pounding and her palms get moist.

She starts counting – one, two, three, four; one, two, three, four – trying to turn all her thoughts to the numbers and away from her oncoming panic.
2
Picture a red number one. Picture an orange number two. Picture a yellow number three. Picture a green number four. Repeat.

It takes a lot of layers of thought to distract.
3
Touch index finger while picturing a red one... touch middle finger with orange two... touch ring finger with yellow three... and touch pinkie with green four... repeat.

The physical action, the recitation, and the detailed visualization still leaves room for an underlying mantra: "Just keep counting. Just keep counting. Just keep counting."
4
There's a lot going on in her mind, but the panic is still there, simmering quietly. It is amazing how much her mind can hold all at once. That thought takes its place too: Red one – keep counting – orange two – how much can be thought at once – yellow three – keep counting – green four – thinking so much – red one... repeat. Get on the crowded SkyTrain car.
dreaminghope: (Cave Gargoyle)
Not too hot; not too cold. A pretty perfect Vancouver day, really. But it's a Monday; seeing the sun through an office window or warehouse door does put a damper on its beauty. The mood seems drab even if the weather isn't.

"Do you have any fruit?" comes a call from the gate across the front of our warehouse. It's a pretty routine request. The neighbourhood women know that if they come by in the morning, while the warehouse manager still has all the produce out, they'll get an apple or banana.

There are a number of different women who come by; they are all addict-thin and tottering on heels. They all walk the same way: like a poorly-controlled marionette, with arms and legs that move as if they aren't quite connected to the body.

The woman at the gate holds on by one hand and swings, loose-limbed. She is so thin that she looks pre-pubescent; her hip bones are visible above her skirt's low waist and her ribs are visible below her midriff shirt. Her face ages her.

The warehouse manager, The Brit, grabs an apple and heads to the gate.

"How are you doing?" he asks her.

"Can't complain," she says cheerily, "Thanks!"

He watches her trot away, munching her apple, back to her corner.

"'Can't complain'," he shakes his head.
dreaminghope: (Cave Gargoyle)
My workplace couldn't receive any deliveries yesterday afternoon because our whole block was cordoned off.

Vancouver has recorded its fourth homicide of the year after a 64-year-old man was found shot Tuesday in an illegal booze den he operated in the [xxx]-block of [street name].

Inspector Tom McCluskie said friends found Richard Bezanson lying in a 600-square foot basement suite at about 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday, February 27th.

There was no indication when the shooting occurred as no one reported hearing shots fired.

The premises contained a number of tables which police believed were used for after-hours drinking.


That murder took place directly across from where I work.

The Boss used to fight with Bezanson over parking spaces.

A couple of cops came to talk to us today to see if we'd seen or heard anything. We hadn't. Just as we didn't see anything when someone burned down the suspected crack house down the street this past summer.

"Sometimes, with all the crap we deal with, we forget that there are legitimate businesses down here," one of the cops said to The Boss as he left.

Well, as The Brit said: "On the plus side, between the arsons and the murders, this neighbourhood will be empty pretty soon."

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