I lived smack dab in the middle of downtown Vancouver for a good handful of years and though I have no intention of ever living there again, I do often miss it. My flower vendor guy on Davie, my all night coffee house just up from Broadway, the cherry blossoms staining the street in front of my old apartment, or watching the 2 homeless guys fight in the ally outside of my 3rd story kitchen window every night. Yeah, living downtown means that you have to step over the occasional needle, but have you ever had a bucket of clams at the Atlantic or the 3am “special Chinese tea” “dark or light” which is of course whiskey & coke or beer, cleverly disguised in a tea pot? Where else can you stumble home at 5am and see a homeless guy sharing a cheeseburger with 2 Canadian Geese on those big old stone steps of the church on Nelson and Burrard? A glass of wine at the Bin, a little jazz at Capone’s or the seedy but irresistible Fairview. Live bands in dark clubs, fresh curried muscles on a sunny patio that smells of the sea and the endless towers of antique books at McLeod’s. The delicious spiciness of the air in little India or the mountains of unidentifiable foods in Chinatown. That little Buddhist cafe next to the fish guy, or the cheese guy on Granville Island. Bartending in Yaletown, walking the seawall with a hot coffee in hand and Fathe at Habibi’s. Lazy long boozy nights sitting at the bar at Carnagies with Yannick- chain smoking and talking for hours.
Yeah, there are bits and pieces of that city that I miss dearly.
Now, after nearly 5 years away, Steve and I are going down for a quick over-nighter. We will stay in the west end at the crumbling old, ivy covered Sylvia and I will take him to Chinatown so that I can buy cheap water colours and the herbal patches that I use for my screwed up hips. We will wander my first old hood of Granville from 9th to 14th and I will love every second. I will show him my first apartment at 10th & Birch. I know that things will be different, even before I left all those years ago some random guy bought Carnagies and painted all of that sexy, old school, deep stained wood, fucking purple. Purple. (Being “home” for Lise & Yanni & I, we were devastated.)
Yes. I know that things will be different but this is about feeling familiar. Feeling like being home after being away for a long time. It’s my old stomping ground. The places that I knew once, the places that felt right. They wouldn’t now- I wouldn’t start a morning work shift with Yanni’s “milkshake” which was 1/3 espresso & 2/3 booze, but still… there is something about that city for me. I discovered a lot about myself there, and I met people that I will love my whole life through. I lived in that city. I truly did.
As a kid, we moved around a lot. I think I went to 11 or 12 different schools. I was a kid in Kelowna- a flashy tourist city where I spent a good portion of my youth- and people that I love still live there. I like that place but Vancouver is something different. As an adult, I grew up in Vancouver. I figured out who I was, and understood all that was me. I remember crashing on Richard’s couch after traveling Europe for a year, I remember crashing on Brian’s couch after I returned from living on a random ranch in the interior for a while. I always came “home” to Vancouver. It holds a weird magic for me. I won’t live there again, but I will always love that city.
Steve doesn’t know Vancouver, and for that I am glad. I get to show him MY Vancouver.
PS- If you randomly happen to be in the area, My old friend Richard is having a cd listening party for his latest release. Check them all out here.