Monday, August 4, 2014

street life staples

street life staples --
cardboard (sign, sleeping mat),
small donation cup,
backpack, blanket, towel,
umbrella, shopping cart,
one pink tulip

Coming from a small town to the big city of Vancouver, the first thing I notice, which everyone else does not seem to notice, are the homeless people. Sleeping on the sidewalk in the middle of the day or huddled under an umbrella by the bus stop in the rain. But no one is holding out a hand, just the cardboard sign and the cup on the pavement.

One evening after a generous meal, as we are walking back to our rooms in the YMCA, we spot a woman sleeping in an alley. Our teacher, Gabe, who hails from Mexico, walks up quietly and leaves his carryout container by her feet. This becomes our modus operandi while we're in Vancouver. On our last day, we eat at a Thai restaurant before driving down to Seattle. A man is sitting outside our cafe beside his two dogs, carefully covered with a blanket, reading a dogeared copy of Crossroads of Twilight by Robert Jordan, one of my favorite authors. When I hand him my extra rice, the dogs get to their feet, sniffing, but he says, "That's not for you." I'm wondering how he feeds those two big dogs, but I don't ask. Instead, I dump all of my remaining Canadian coins in his cup and say, "That's for your dogs."

Then there are the street performers. A young man with long hair playing his banjo, case open to collect donations. I like to support people like this who actually provide a service. However, I pass up the guy sporting a blue Mohawk and holding a white rabbit (better than a cardboard sign) because he doesn't look needy and he doesn't even pull the rabbit out of a hat.

I get drawn in by the man in an orange street maintenance worker's jacket. He doesn't look like an actor, but he's soon commanding an audience as he dramatically recounts an incident where a truck nearly collided with the steam-operated clock in Gastown. I'm happy to give him a tip for his storytelling. Ironically, I find out later, one of the reasons the clock was built in 1977 was to cover a steam grate so that homeless people wouldn't be able to sleep on the spot warmed by steam from the underground pipes which heat most of the downtown area.

I love the street artists, but because we're on a Van Arts Institute tour, we don't have time to stop and shop.

Some painters are happy, some are serious.

We take note of a little group of cheerful wood carvers, promising to come back when we're free.

I'm of course intrigued by this highly focused (ha, ha) photographer and models (girl and dog). Not sure who is paying whom here!

And I do take the time to purchase one flower from a smiling street vendor.

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