Friday, December 30, 2011

god bless the ivanhoe

The Ivanhoe is on Main Street in Vancouver, and is right on the border of the Downtown Eastisde*. It has been full of real shit since I first moved to Vancouver in 1992. Not many places stick around like that in Vancouver. I hope they keep serving watered-down beer to people buying and selling stolen goods for many years to come.

An old man wearing a cowboy hat and rubber boots nurses a beer in the corner, mulling and mumbling to himself.

It's always been easy to start conversation in those places, and I always find the conversation gets very deep and personal very quickly. Compared to the rest of the city, which drains and saddens me, I find the patrons of downtown Eastside bars very refreshing. If you even manage to start a conversation in a pub in an affluent area, it will be a lot more superficial. Why is that?

*The Downtown Eastside is a very old area of Vancouver, and one of the poorest areas of Canada. It's well known for drug-use, poverty, slum houses, crime and violence. Main and Hastings is supposedly one of the most depraved-looking intersections in North America. Used syringes litter the alleys, as do lurching crack addicts scratching the ground, hoping to find a scrap more of something. Police cars and ambulances are a regular sight. But on the other hand, there is an incredible level of community participation and activism down there. It feels like a troubled little rural town trapped at the centre of a big rich city. I think it's a gem.

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