This is Hastings St, Vancouver, BC.
It’s my favourite street. Today it’s raining and we’re walking to my bus stop. We see this sign:
Hastings is upset that Marc Emory, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marc_Emery, a pot advocate, is in jail in the US.
Now we’re waiting at the bus stop. It’s changed a lot since I started working here; only a few months ago the buildings around it were run down with the odd store selling cast off fabrics or empty. An artist had painted a sign to look exactly like a City of Vancouver planning permit sign, and nailed it to the brick wall of one of the abandoned buildings. It railed against the seeping gentrification. I kept thinking I should take a photo of it, I kept thinking it wouldn’t last. The developers got it. Now it’s covered by this:
Another sign of change: the Yoga people have arrived. I now see hipsters holding yoga mats, where once there were the homeless and the mentally ill. They go to the studio right over the Fabric Liquidator store that’s always been there.
But the artists are still there.
They’ve just moved further down.
The next important stop is Main & Hastings. It’s the epicentre of an area, of which Hastings is the main artery, called the Downtown Eastside (but locals just call it the DTES). In the ten years I’ve lived in Van it’s always the area I’ve felt most at home – perhaps because I grew up with mental illness all around me so the unpredictability of the people seems familiar. It’s absolutely lacking in pretention, of which the rest of the city has too much, and almost everything else as well. Homes. Enough food. Hope. But the gentrification is heading that way too, they say…
It’s changing fast. One of my favourite signs on my commute to work in the morning was the rip off of an old skool Coke sign, in classic red and white, except it said “Coast Salish” instead of Coca Cola. Coast Salish is a First Nations band that used to live in this area, before the settlers came. Then it disappeared. I think I know what happened to it.
Just the tattered shell of the building remains.
This cafe (see below) was used in the movie “I, Robot”. A lot of Vancouver has been in a lot of movies. What looks like smearings on the lens of my camera? That’s just rain on the bus window. I took all these with my phone.
One we pass Gore Ave we’re entering a new phase of Hastings. It’s industrial and commercial. It’s like any industrial/commerical area on any street. To the north are the cranes and buildings of Vancouver port, to the south just buildings. But things start to shift at Nanaimo. Suddenly the word “family” starts appearing on shops.
Then at Boundary Road, Hastings St becomes part of a different city: Burnaby. And a very different part of that city: wealthy. It finally feels cared for. The architecture is heavily influenced by the surrounding Italian community, and it’s expensive and well built. Some of the buildings have Italian-influenced names, too.
But even here change is coming. The city is growing fast, they say…
And empty lots and old commercial buildings are being torn down and turned into condos. This neighbourhood calls itself the Heights, and they have a motto for the way life is lived on this part of Hastings St:
Life as it should be? Maybe.
Life as it is? …Yes.