Friday, August 13, 2010

What Makes Vancouver Great?

No I am not talking murals. Though I, and I am sure many others, find them interesting. They aren't what makes this city so great. It's the people.

In 1886 the newly incoporated city of Vancouver was destroyed by fire. The fire burned through almost everything and took around twenty lives. It was a disaster. A quote I read online said: "It took twenty minutes to destroy the city and twelve hours to start rebuilding". The people of Vancouver were not going to let a silly little thing like a massive fire take their city away. When the first train pulled into the station in 1887 it found a thriving city. That is the work and determination of people.

Living in this area I find the atmosphere created by the people to be what makes it so welcoming. I don't get the same vibe everywhere but here I do. And these people are the reason why.

This smiling face belongs to Renee.  She works at the Hastings Liquor Store and it is such a pleasure to see her. She is always happy and always interested in the goings on of the store patrons. You feel like you are buying booze from a friend.

You've already met these two men. Thomas Lockhart, tattoo artist extraordinaire and Bud the Oracle a local activist and character.

This is Michael who reads Tarot Cards on the Drive. He sits at a table in a recessed area in front of a restaurant and a boutique. If he isn't busy reading someone's fortune he is more than happy to discuss life's events with you.

Did you know that Tarot cards have been used from the mid-15th century in Europe as playing cards. It wasn't until the late 18th century that these cards became the tools of mystics and fortune tellers.

These two fine fellows sit outside the coffee shop and talk to people that go by. A smile, a kind word, an offer of a chair - coming from a stranger these gestures can really brighten a day.

This pretty lady is Carmen who works at Donald's at the corner of Hastings and Nanaimo. I have been going there for years and she is one of the reasons why. Carmen makes the effort to remember her customers by name and seem genuinely interested in what each one is doing. At one time she was even trying to collect Terry Fox Loonies for me! That type of customer service is hard to find sometimes but it really makes a difference.

Enjoying the summer sun here is the lady who delivers my mail. When I first moved to this area in 2003, my postal delivery person was a tiny Asian fellow by the name of Shu. Actually his name is a lot longer but I only knew him as Shu. He always had a joke and a laugh and delivered the mail right on schedule most days. When I had to move do to problems with my previous apartment, Shu told me about this one. It is one street over so I kept the same mailperson. He retired this year and after a few temporary workers we are very happy to have Heather. She is a bright, shiny addition to the route.

Mail delivery started in Canada in 1693 when Pedro da Silva was paid to deliver mail from Ottawa City to Montreal. In 1775 official postal services, under the control of British Government, began and ran until 1851. Vancouver was smart. We waited for the post office to get some of the growing pains out of the way before becoming a incorporated city.

When I first moved to the Drive area I came from New Westminster. I paid rent on two places for one month and moved things over gradually. I would load up my utility cart at night then the next day take the commuter train to the Broadway Station. Because at that time there were only trolley buses on this route and I couldn't get my cart on, I would walk the mile and a half to my apartment. There I would unload whatever was in my cart, unpack a few boxes if I could and load empty boxes in the cart to take back and refill. I used to pass this guy sitting outdoors at a coffee shop. He told me his name was Bunny. One day he stood up. He is one tall bunny! He also has a heart of gold and is one of the gentlest people I have ever met.

I take my bottles in to the bottle depot on Powell Street and this is one of the workers there. He is helpful - I took an old computer down once and couldn't get it out of my cart so he came around the counter to assist - and he is always friendly. Most of the people I see taking bottles back are pretty good people but I am sure that there are some that must try his patience.

Panhandlers have a bad reputation and some of it is earned. People tend to look at panhandlers as lazy, substance addicted blights on society. But everyone has a story. This is Mike and his pal Blue. Blue is a true East Ender - born, raised and has always resided in the east end of Vancouver.

Mike is formerly a window washer and not just any window washer but one who washes the windows of high rises. Three years ago he was run over by a car and has had numerous surgeries since. He has pins and plates throughout his body and is working on healing enough so that he can get back to work. For now he sits outside the Church's Chicken and panhandles. Churchs gives him a free chicken meal once a week and the owner of nearby Donald's is grateful for Mike watching over that corner of the fresh fruits and vegetables. Mike is always smiling and seems embarrased to ask for change.

Another panhandler I know that sits outside of Safeway used to work in the caves on the island. He developed lung damage due to the bat dung in those caves. Now he panhandles and gets a little computer work when he can. I once gave him a chocolate covered granola bar that I had just purchased a box of. He acted like I had given him a million dollars. That is why he is one of the panhandlers that I will help when I can.

We all do what we have to in order to survive. These men aren't lazy, they have just been struck by unfortunate circumstances. "But for the grace of God, there go I."

This is Wayne, he's one of Mike's friends and allowed me to take his photo.

Further up Hastings passerbys were blessed to hear sweet, melodic notes that seem to float on the summer air.

Those are some of the people I see regularly. There are a lot more that make this place unique but some don't like their photo being taken - I can understand that - and others I don't see all the time. Everyone of them is a beautiful person who help to make life interesting.

TAGS:, , , ,,,,,


  1. Thanks for sharing yiur thoughts about washington art colleges.

    My site :: maquillage

    1. I am talking about Vancouver Canada and this entry doesn't have anything to do with art colleges. But thanks for commenting.