tent city tune-age
you’ve passed the spot many times as you rode the 135 along e.hastings to and from school. you’ve been hanging around down the street at the w2 building lately, feeling the strong vibe of democrazy at work through the fingers of saavy bloggers and video editors. you’ve heard a little bit about the olympic tent village across the street from the neon glow of the save-on-meats sign, but it wasn’t until last night that you finally checked it out.
a young girl at the entrance, cozied up in a black toque and coat, requests you leave cameras in your pocket, for sake of potential police intervention.. something or other. you go to lock your bike up outside and some grizzly bearded guy wearing a large peace sign and picking up garbage around the site suggests you just wheel it inside with you. you follow his lead and head in to the illegal tent village for a real taste of the dtes community.
it’s dark. the ground is bumpy. a mess of torn concrete and gravel and clay-like city earth. with the lack of lighting, the mingling characters carry with them a certain grim appeal. a group is gathered in a circle over yonder, you’re supposed to know a few people down here, there’s supposed to be a band playing, and you begin to wonder if you’re in the right place, although there’s no possible way you could mistake this for another tent city. you realize the circle of people are gathered around a warm glowing firepit, and the ‘bands’ are a mix of talented musicians and homeless guys with banjos singing in harmony (… well, guitars really, but banjos sounds more the part, dontcha think?).
it was like… you know that image of brooklyn that’s always in the back of your mind even though you may never have been there? the one with the old guys at christmas with their fingerless wooly mittens full of holes, and their toques resting on top of their head, all standing around a fire barrel, fingers clenching fingers, feet shuffling… that’s what it felt like. but maybe better, because i don’t actually know what it feels like to be part of a homeless community in brooklyn.
“excuse me, miss, may i interview you?” a friendly face appeared from the crowd. my friend jay peachy from cjsf radio is co-coordinating a homelessness marathon at w2 on the 23rd and was scouting some homeless musicians. low and behold i would recognize quite a few other faces in the crowd.. cjsf radio folk.. a fabulous duet by aunts and uncles.. some fellow cmns students.. one of my professors.. “people always think i’m an undercover cop.. i noticed people in the crowd giving me the one-over.. i just have that innocent looking face..” and an old friend who’s been helping to organize the tent city. “i feel more at home here than i do at my own home, i’ve been here so much over the last few days.” tent city is running 24hr volunteer shifts to maintain security of the residents, and ensure they don’t succumb to police intimidation. and before you jump to the conclusion that homeless people need to be ‘guarded’, let me enlighten you of the one dude milling about who double checked to make sure i knew there was free food, before he aided the piece of hair in the middle of my face by sweeping it behind my ear with a big chip-toothed grin. thanks bud! ha.
Food Not Bombs, “cook for peace”, was there in full swing. they’ve had tons of food donations and the friendly ladies were dishing out veggie chili, cobs spinach loaves, bite-size brownies, hot tea… “there’s no shortage of food in this city!” one exclaimed.
if you thought Vancouver lacked culture. think again.
“did you know i only had to pay a $50 charge to get a seat in here?” a friend joked and we laughed about comparisons of tent city to the cultural olympiad.
if there’s any one thing that Vancouver residents are gaining from the olympic spotlight, it’s opportunity to be seen and heard. i only hope we maintain this passion after the end of the month. it’s extremely empowering to see the streets so lively with citizens. another of last evening’s ideas (or was it an underway campaign?) was to have an option on the ballot box that said “none of the above”. Despite such a low voter turn-out which had me feeling down last election, it would be difficult to say right now, judging from the action in the streets, that we’re an apathetic nation. the people behind tent-city, at least for the stunning show last night, win my vote for stars of the show, folks!
well, either them or the ska band playing at sa’ska’tchewan (!) house the other night. i haven’t danced so hard in ages.
star-struck? here’s my running list so far…
1. stephen colbert at his live filming of the colbert report yesterday to thousands of people standing on the muddy hills outside of science world.
2. michael buble. stephen’s live interviewee who belted out the canadian anthem to the american anthem beat alongside colbert.
3. dan mangan chillin at the bar last night.
4. jian gomesshheeee (too lazy to look up spelling). i did the whole ‘fan’ thing and got a picture with him, it is unpostable because i look like a big nerd. he told me he has another friend in Toronto named Gala. thanks, jian.
5. ujjal dosanjh being interviewed by stephen quinn after his interview with colbert earlier in the day. apparently our former premier has the record for the longest interview of a politician with colbert, ever!
6. the vice prez of the USA, good ol’ joe.
7. hey ocean, sloan, elliot brood (had a surface level chat with all of them!)
8. all your fave cbc radio programmers… mark, stephen, rick, lana, grant, anna-maria, (OH! and peter mansbridge is in town tonight! and the rest of the week!)
anyway. these midterms won’t write themselves, folks! but after an astonishing # of people reading and complementing my last blog, i figured i’d try my luck at another one today.
peace n polar bears, y’all.