We spent Friday with Janae and Kelly and came to the conclusion again: Vancouver is just really a unique place.
As we strolled down Gas Town's cobblestone streets, we notice some very sharp contrasts. A huge cruise ship is pulled up to the dock at Canada Place. Tourists are milling through the shops. Quite often a raggedly beggar weaves his/her way through the people, seemingly unaware of others. Some are mumbling, some are humming, but mostly they are staring vacantly at nothing. The tourists too seem unaware of them. It's just "the way it is". We head down an alley called "Blood Alley". Now I'm not real excited about this. Janae said it has history. Hmmm, I'm guessing what that could be. There is graffitti on both sides of the wide alley. Then as I look on down this alley-- another incongruity, the back side of very nice condos, winding little sidewalks and arbors of wisteria. ..more grafitti. I see some rough looking characters talking in hushed tones on some stairs nearby. I'm thinking, I think I've seen enough of "Blood Alley".
We have coffee at a cozy, trendy coffee shop, LaLuna. I think their orange mocha beats Starbucks. Did I say that? And Terry said his "pumpkin spice latte" was more distinct in flavor. So-- good thing we don't live next door to LaLuna!
Janae and Kelly take us to an Ethiopian restaurant in the evening. It is very different but very good. A big flat bread and lots of spicy foods to fold in it..all with the hands. I don't mind being a piglet. But the lady behind us (who hadn't been there before) is advising the waitress that it sure would help business if they provided warm bowls of water(more sanitary). We are thinking she should stay away from "ethnic"--head back to Black Angus and her pitchfork. Janae serves yummy homemade apple crisp at their condo before we head out.
Back to incongruity on our way out of town..we drive past Hastings Street, the street of the homeless. It is about 10:00 p.m. and drizzling, but many are milling on the sidewalks, a few under umbrellas but mostly not worried about the rain. No one seems too worried about anything and certainly not in a hurry. On the next block, a stretch limo is parked by the corner and elegant people exit into the restaurant for dinner. I think they are in a hurry :o)
I guess getting that close and rubbing shoulders with the down and out, you realize as Janae has been telling us, that they are pretty harmless. They may be trading drugs but the only thing being shot here is a few veins. The violence seems to happen out in the suburbs. Of course, you don't walk around these streets by yourself after dark. But walking them in the daylight helps this suburbanite realize that homeless people aren't scary people. They are what you see, down and out, hungry and tired, maybe mentally ill, maybe fried on drugs but surely someone's brother, sister, son, or daughter. And someone connected is heartbroken.