Friday, July 16, 2010

lunch in the downtown eastside

(more photos here)

Today I walked along East Hastings St., in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside (DTES). The last time I was here I helped secure a small patch of vacant (and stolen) land (we all live on stolen native land) for a tent city. The land is owned by a condominium developer and has been vacant for a very long time. It’s fenced, and I see they’ve added some extra height to the fence to keep everyone out. Across the street, a man is napping on the sidewalk, surrounded by his friends outside the United We Can recycling centre. He’s all wrapped up, inside his sleeping bag.

I find Sean, a couple of volunteers, and one of the Megaphone’s vendors at their small distribution office near Pigeon Park. We walked the couple of blocks to the Carnegie Centre for lunch, and chatted about street newspaper business, the upcoming conference in Chicago, the National and International Street Newspaper associations we’re members of.

We pass InSite, Vancouver’s legal injection site where users can find a bit of privacy, cleanliness, and support if that day they decide they want to talk to someone about their addiction, and I ask Sean what’s the status there (knowing the on-going difficulties advocates have keeping the place open). Sean tells me that two judges in a BC Supreme Court hearing ruled in favour of allowing InSite to remain, but the Federal Government doesn’t like that decision so they’re spending our taxpayer money to take it to the Supreme Court. Stephen Harper's Canada will not tolerate compassion of any kind.

I think these the same lunatics, the ones who think that it's okay to punish people who have fallen into the gaping wounds of capitalism, they're the same ones who believe that the world is really going to end in 2012 (just because someone said it will), and they’re helping facilitate the apocalypse. (Did you hear about the dolphin, the otter, and the sea bird who walked into an oil slick?)

Speaking of lunatics, I witnessed several police officers alongside an obviously intoxicated street man as I wandered through Gastown. A tourist looking woman was having her photo taken with one of the officers, while the other two were standing near the drunk guy, each with blue gloves on. A Downtown Ambassador security type guy was standing nearby, so I asked him what was going on. “That man has a mental illness,” he told me. “He’s drunk and was yelling and punching people so they’re going to arrest him.” It seemed a bit harsh, arresting him, when obviously he had calmed down. “Society has the mental illness,” I replied to the security guard man, thinking about how Goldman Sachs made more off the increase in their stock prices than the amount they announced they’re going to reimburse people they ripped off, thinking about the migrant workers I heard about on Wake Up With Coop this morning – BP won’t let them wear gasmasks in the cleanup zone because it wouldn’t make for good publicity. I watched, until I felt he was safe, the situation with the intoxicated man who probably needed, more than anything, somewhere to just sleep it off.

Along the next block I noticed Carole James in a side alley, and stopped to say hello and see what was happening. They were creating a video announcement about the HST. We all love the HST. Who knows if Carole, and/or the NDP, have the ability or the gumption to make big changes even if they get a chance in the power seat. I sent her a card with Che Guevara on it recently, thanking her for her Street Newz subscription, and hoping she might be inspired to ponder the significant structural changes we need to ensure people are housed, fed, educated, and able to live in healthy bodies in a healthy environment.

(There’s a story on the APTN news, as I write this, about a native man who died at the hands of RCMP today in Prophet River BC. Hmmmm …. And another about the re-claiming and re-naming of the Salish Sea....)

On my way back to my weekend home I stopped at MacFalafel – definitely one of the best kept secrets in this international city – and picked up some dinner and food items I can take to the festival later. Countdown to a little time in the closest thing to paradise this crazy planet has to offer ……