Posts Tagged ‘walking’

Laid Back Or Just Casual?

February 7, 2008

Vancouver has a reputation for being laid back.  People like to walk around the seawall, jog or cycle in Stanley Park, sit on the beach, and get stoned.  I disagree that they are laid back, though.  They may dress casually, but they can be as uptight as anyone else.

When I wore a tie for a passport photo the other day, I made a point of covering it with my scarf when I was outside.  Believe it or not, there are people here who will give you a hard time or dirty looks if you wear a suit and/or tie.

I have actually been confronted and threatened on one occasion.  Another time, a flip-flop wearing woman passing in the opposite direction looked me up and down and gave me an incredulous look, like she’d never seen a suit before.  Well, excuse me for having a job interview and making an effort.  It seems the laid back Vancouverite is often actually a reverse snob who thinks he or she is a better person than the suit wearer.

I’m as casual as anybody else.  I sit around my home in sweats or jeans with stubble on my face if I don’t have to be anywhere or face the world.  I where my day hikers for walking around town day to day.  I’ve got hoodies like anyone else.

I don’t dress any more formally than necessary.  But, there are some occasions when it is appropriate to where a tie, or even a suit.  I actually have suits and ties for those occasions and I don’t apologize for it.  And, I expect to not be given any hassle over it.

Sometimes laid back Vancouverites make me feel less than relaxed.

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Death of the Cool

February 2, 2008

A few nights ago I was walking through the cold, wet streets in the area of downtown that straddles the shiny business district to the west and the grotty downtown eastside.  This is the area around Cambie Street.

A guy started following me and called after me.  I knew I didn’t want to know.  I kept walking.  He kept calling and following.  I kept walking. When he called for the fourth time, I finally turned and said, “What?”  He asked if I wanted to buy any weed.  “No!”, I snapped.

He’d followed me for two blocks.  Two blocks!  What kind of asshole follows someone at night for two blocks trying to sell him drugs he hasn’t expressed any interest in?  Remember when grass used to be ‘cool’?  We’ve come a long way since Kerouac.

This is nothing compared to what you’ll encounter just a few blocks to the east.  After walking past people shooting up in the street, when you reach the corner the twenty or so humanoids standing there ask you in series if you want rock.  You say, “No” to the first then the next one asks, despite being only three feet away.  They couldn’t have not heard you say “no”.  Then the next one, another two or three feet away,  asks.  All this happens in broad daylight, even in plain view of the police station.

Returning to the dealer over on Cambie, even if I had been looking, what should I think about his product if he has to chase me through the streets to push it?  Be cool, crusty, be cool.  I know it’s a lot to ask…

The area attracts a certain type due to the presence of various organizations and businesses promoting the legality and use of marijuana.  One of them is the aptly named Amsterdam Cafe, just around the corner from where Crusty McDusty finally realized I wasn’t shopping; an oasis of indulgence where customers smoke joints and pipes despite a smoking ban in public places.  Cigarette smokers in bars have to step outside, but an aromatic cloud hovers over Amsterdam.

Is there a connection between the intrepid bush pusher and the ‘cool’ people at the cafe?  He didn’t seem smart enough to be in business for himself.  Then again, how smart do you have to be to figure out that if the crack and scag dealers can get away with selling under the cops’ noses, a grass mover is probably safe enough?

Meanwhile, the gangsters fighting over the BC bud industry are shooting each other in restaurants, cars, and homes.  Innocent people have been killed in the crossfire.  Connect the dots.

God’s Free Gift

January 27, 2008

A couple of years ago, on my way to the supermarket one Sunday, I was walking along East Broadway and passed a church.  There was a man standing just inside the church’s property line facing a couple of young girls, who were probably about twelve or thirteen years old, standing on the sidewalk just outside the property line.  As I approached, I heard one of the girls say something like, “So, if we come in, do we get to keep the presents?”

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.  Had the religious really stooped to such new lows?  Luring unaccompanied children – without parental consent – into their churches with presents?  I glanced at the man.  Incredibly, HE shot ME a dirty look.  I guess I offended him by catching him doing what he must have known was wrong.  If he didn’t know it was wrong, he would have carried on nonchalantly and wouldn’t have noticed me passing.  Couldn’t he hear his own conscience?

Imagine there wasn’t a church behind the man.  You see a man offering young girls presents to come inside.  What would you think?  Utterly abhorrent, predatory behaviour.  For some reason, religions get away with things we would otherwise find offensive, or even criminal.

Although this was the first time I’d ever seen such blatant and crass religious marketing, I later found out it was by no means an isolated incident.  A Korean student told me last summer that it’s common in Korea.  Christian churches routinely offer children presents to come in and join a mass.  Korea and Asia are ‘growth markets’ for Christianity.  Make no mistake, they’re in the god ‘business’.

Looking back, the guy standing just inside the property reminds me of the legal fine line the girls standing in the doorways of the ‘hostess’ bars in London’s Soho district tread.  Now there’s a comparison to be proud of!

I feel a little ashamed that I didn’t do anything about this guy.  I wish I’d called a cop.  But, being the nice, tolerant Canadian that I am, I didn’t.  We have to respect religion, after all.

Why?

Crisis? What Crisis?

January 23, 2008

So, the world is in crisis.  A global market meltdown has stocks tumbling on exchanges all around the world, like dominoes.  Obscene amounts of money have simply evaporated.  There is talk of recession in the U.S.  So what?

The sun was out in Vancouver in the middle of winter, yesterday.  In this, the week including what is supposedly the most depressing day of the year, it shone gloriously and gregariously on us, permeating everything, penetrating even the most sullen eyes in an orgy of retinal stimulation.  It had to be enjoyed.

Coming out of a seminar, I had a couple of hours to kill.  Under a cloudless sky, I walked through downtown.  I decided to walk past the construction site of the new tallest building in the city, to take a look.  Did I need to?  Had I never seen a highrise under construction?  Of course not.  Vancouver is a forest of construction cranes.

Then I decided to look for a coffee and wandered a bit, before remembering I had no cash.  That required a detour to the bank and it’s cash machine.  A direction to go in for a while.  Sights and sounds.  Girl in extremely short skirt and high boots.  Those legs must be cold.

Cashed up, I casually meandered in the direction of a coffee shop, looking in some shop windows and bars along the way.  When I reached the coffee shop, I looked in the window and found all the comfortable chairs were taken.  An excuse to keep walking.

At the corner of Granville and Drake, facing the open space over the bridge, the sun was blinding.  I had to avert my eyes, it was so good.  Crossing Granville Bridge, I could see Mount Baker, in Washington state.  Another country!  Miles and miles away!  Visibility was fantastic.  I looked down at the boats below, over at Bowen Island and the mountains on the far side of Howe Sound.  A decadent feast for the eyes.

Cold?  What cold?  I didn’t want to be anywhere but outside, in the sun.  The crisis would either solve itself or still be there tomorrow.

Tomorrow’s here, now, and there’s frost on the roof outside.  The puddle off to the right is frozen.   Cold, by local standards, but there’s not a cloud in the sky over the north shore mountains.  I might just take another walk today.  The crisis will still be there tomorrow.

The Nuts Are Out

January 10, 2008

As convenient as online banking is, there is still the odd occasion when you have to go to the actual bricks-and-mortar bank and deal with an actual person.  One such occasion occurred the other day.  I set out, cheque in pocket.

Walking along Broadway, I heard a car horn and shouting.  I looked up the street and saw a drunk, stoned, or maybe just crazy guy in the middle of the road, in front of a stationary pickup or SUV that was blocking the intersection.  As I approached, I got a better look at the guy in the road.  He was wearing an old light blue parka style coat.  As I passed them, I got a better look at him than I wanted.  The moon was out early that afternoon…  Beneath the coat, his pants were hanging below his ass.  Apparently, he doesn’t dress in layers for the winter.  A siren blasted and an unmarked police car appeared out of nowhere.  I guess that’s why they’re unmarked, no?

Continuing along Broadway, I heard another siren blast.  I turned to see two women getting out of the unmarked police car and another unmarked car pulling up from the opposite direction, followed by a police cruiser.  A pretty impressive display of force for a guy whose pants were falling down.  I felt safer already.

After doing a good deed at the bank that caused me to wait far longer than necessary and, therefore, to begin to regret my own niceness, I headed back the same way.  One of those square police vans for prisoners – a modern version of the old paddy wagon, I guess – had joined the other three vehicles.  The guy was surrounded by cops.  I thought they were searching or cuffing him but, as I passed, I saw they were trying to keep his pants up.  One of the women grinned good humouredly as she put some kind of belt on him and told him that should hold them up.  She must have thought, “This isn’t what I signed up for”, before the pants were up.  I wonder who drew the short straw.

And not a taser in sight.