Posts tagged with “Downtown Eastside”
Do it you guys. I just did.
I just sat in Pigeon Park for an hour.
Pigeon Park is made up of a few homeless, some addicts, and in general the more underprivileged citizens of Vancouver. It’s not so much a park as it is a concrete patio on a street corner. It’s a place where people gather, give each other cigarettes, joints, a couple bucks, maybe a shoulder to lean on.
Then there’s me. Sitting there by myself on a bench with my camera and my book. I get odd stares from them, mostly out of distrust. They see me as a stranger, an outsider and they wonder what I want from them. The moment I lifted my camera, to take a photo of the beautiful heritage building on that corner, I got yelled at by a bunch of them whom I didn’t even know were looking at me. I’m fairly certain they all thought I was a cop.
Following my getting reprimanded, one of the women got to talking about how she was from Jamaica, how she owns land down there that she inherited from her grandmother, that she wasn’t really planning on going back, that she liked Vancouver despite the cold. She told me about the guy next to her whose face was swollen like a bowling ball and how he’d gotten kicked in the face by a steel-toed boot just the night before. He got angry. She trusted me.
I see these people everyday and often times it’s as I’m rushing off to work. But I want to connect with them. They have stories to tell. And I like stories. But I really need to earn their trust. Sometimes I can’t believe the remarkable rift that exists between human beings that live amongst each other.
I met Courtney about 45 minutes ago. He kindly stopped me, as it so happens quite frequently in my neighborhood, and proceeded to tell me his story. He’s HIV-positive. I’m fairly certain he’s a heroin addict. I didn’t do much but listen. I knew he would ask me for money, and he did. I knew where the money would go. He didn’t make any excuses for it. But his profound smile and his demeanor had an incredible effect on me. He told me about the riff-raff, and the people in the neighborhood (Hastings and Columbia is one of the most troubled intersections in Canada). He said they were human. That they made mistakes. But that they were human. And that this was real. And for these reasons, it was okay to love it.
He insisted I snap some photos of him as he went about his flamboyant tirade, and they’re some of the best photos I’ve ever taken. But most importantly, I made a new friend today. I look forward to seeing him again.
I had quite the interesting afternoon.