Vancouver is such a great city, day one was near perfect, room service in bed for breakfast, local food truck Feastro for lunch, and fresh local oysters at Joe Fortes for dinner. Combine that with lots of sunshine and a 10k sea wall jaunt pretty darn perfect.
Day two I meet an old friend. My old friend and I go back to Ancaster High School as with most of my besties today. In the early 90’s my friend and I hopped a greyhound at the old Hammer bus terminal down on King William to Vancouver, along with the lead singer and bass player of the Hamilton RockaBilly band “The Crawl Daddies”. After a night of music and everyone crashing at my apt at 33 Hess Street, (back in the day when the Gown was still the Gown, and everyone in the village knew everyone in the village) we decided that we would all spontaneously move to Vancouver to make a new life. In a drunken stupor we cooked up all the food in the apt, called our next of kin, and for me left a key to my apt and car with my other still bestie (thank you Nona), and literally got on the bus the next day still hungover.
We were sober when we arrived in Vancouver 3 days later, un showered, tired and hungry, and rented a hotel room above a classic seedy strip bar with a big neon sign called Hotel Niagara.
There we stayed until we got an apt in the west end near Bute and Harwood. Me, bestie and bass player found jobs reasonably quickly them styling hair, me selling leather clothes and singer dude busking on Granville, and often he had more cash than us, and in the beginning we lived off the busking, we were sure he was going to be the next Stomping Tom. We eventually had a small steady income and our food supply was bologna lettuce, white bread, pasta and tomato sauce. We really had to make 10$ go as far as it could, and often that meant eating at MacDonalds, Triple pizza’s were about the best deal and served for breakfast as well. Stubby beers, nights at the historic Railway Club, Grapes of Wrath, and backstage at White Snake.
We had no furniture, no beds, we all slept on the floor, and we were poor. Eventually the
excitement wore off and the reality of our existence sunk in. I found a bachelor apt, and was now the Assistant Manager at Danier in the Pacific Center, so I bought a futon and some plastic patio furniture and called it home. I lived like that for 6 months, when I realized, I missed the Hammer, I gave my meagre possessions to my still furniture-less ex roommates, and caught a plane home. My bestie at home had amazingly and thankfully relocated my life on 33 Hess to her apt on Markland Street and I was grateful and still am. I moved into a shared house on Market Street, one of my roomies being the left us too soon amazing guitar player ageless Brain Griffith. My friend stayed in Vancouver and remains there to this day, and she is happy now I think.
6 months of poverty was a life changing experience. I learnt a lot during that period of time. Mostly I learnt that being poor sucked and it affected my health.
During that 6 months of eating junk and drinking beer, I acquired an extra 20 lbs and towards the end of the 6 months I had developed a rash that covered a good portion of my upper body that the doctor told me was viral and untreatable. I came back to the Hammer, tired sick and with a dreadful set of hair extensions, it was the 90’s after all.
Danier gave me a job as manager in the Hammer square, and within days of returning home my rash was gone, I had started running again and was well on my way back to healthy mind body and soul.
Poverty is a terrible thing, in my case it was a self induced choice, one that I vowed never to make again.
I recently took part in the Peoples Platform, a grass roots initiative in Hamilton, that really tried hard to get people engaged in Municipal politics. I attended round tables in the down town and Dundas. I was one of a few that participated from Ancaster in the first rounds. I was interested in attending to try to create dialogue around the new emerging policy on Farmers Markets.
It's easy to live in a bubble, work, kids, mortgage payments, the never ending perpetual cycle of the rat race. And while the Peoples Platform did not rock the vote as hard as it had hoped only a pitiful 34% voter turnout from the complacent Hamilton public. It did raise awareness of some of the social issues facing many Hamiltonians, poverty especially among children and the elderly, lack of public transportation and family doctors, with each pocket of our community having similar but different concerns. It is a good initiative and needs to continue. I was disappointed that our Ancaster Councillor elect did not bother to address the questions of the Peoples Platform.
I took away a broader perspective on my first world Ancaster issues, and my week in Vancouver was a grounding reminder on how poverty can be buried in wealthy neighbourhoods. Luckily for me my trip was business, and room service in bed overlooking the harbour in my super lush robe, propped up by awesomely plump pillows, was an easy choice, and it is even easier to forget that my 26$ breakfast delivered hot to my bed, would feed a small family multiple meals if shopped right.
For many of us it is a choice but when do we have enough? If you can afford to choose, when do we start making the right choices? Amassing wealth so you can die with millions in the bank seems so completely pointless. We should all be encouraged to use what we amass, and leave a zero foot print. When will the average person value the item that costs a little more and supports a local mom and pop business over the cheapest comparable item on the shelf. Buying on price alone creates poverty, and we are all guilty of it.
Each of us could change the world tomorrow simply by saying no to companies like Walmart that source on price point and keep employees in working poverty. The lines at the cash register are thick with people cash in hand buying junk, creating poverty. We choose every day at the cash register. Consumers have so much power and yet we choose not to use it. Just don't buy crap and then it won't get made. Simple supply and demand.
My Vancouver dinner at Joe Fortes, my favourite dinner place in Van, fresh oysters bottles of wine, and friendly dinner companions they were subject to my rant on choosing to save the world thru just saying no to junk. Easier said than done, but maybe one person at a time, put down the preservative laden mass produced junk. Let's all cook a little more and be thoughtful of how we spend, support your local farmers and stop putting people on pedestals that hoard wealth. If you cannot possibly use it in your life time why do you need it?
So my trip is over, Manitoba is below me, it's a red eye and I have the most leg room on the plane, I am feeling blessed and inspired to open up the ojo kitchen tomorrow and save the world with local ketchup.