Category Archives: Canada

“I went for supper at the drop-in center for street girls… Always entertaining…”

I have received a new missive from Anna Smith, this blog’s occasional Canadian correspondent, based in Vancouver.

I post it in its entirety with no explanation.

Because I have no explanation.


I wanted to send you an article about the family-run sex club in Nashville masquerading as a church but I see the Daily Mail has got it covered.

I was just roaming the corridors of St. Paul’s Hospital for two days getting more examinations… then I went for supper at the drop-in center for street girls… always entertaining… They found a small furry toy alien in the clothing donations box and a skinny girl who plays ‘crack whores’ on television (who said her father is a high school principal) was flying the beeping toy alien which resembled a miniature Teletubby around the common room to the amusement of all.

Last week, transgender women in the toilets were chastising the cleaning lady for wearing a flowery apron, telling her: “If you’re gonna clean up after US, you’d better start dressing like a French maid!”

Today I am working on costume and later rehearsing a strip show I am doing on Sunday at The Penthouse Nightclub here… We will be allowed into the club on Saturday afternoon so, surely to God, I will finally get a photo there. They forbid photos of the show but I am hoping to get pictures of rehearsal and backstage.

I am doing my Nurse Annie act and, on stage with me, my patient The Mallacan Pirate Queen will be playing electric bass after I revive her.


No, I don’t know what that last bit means either.

But my life here in Borehamwood seems comparatively dull.

Perhaps I should move to Vancouver.

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Don’t take hallucinogenic drugs on the beach until wolf population diminishes.

I have received another missive from this blog’s occasional Canadian correspondent, Anna Smith. She lives on a boat on a river in Vancouver. This is what she says:

A psychiatrist from Imperial College in London named Dr Nutt was on the CBC radio today, extolling the therapeutic benefits of LSD, psilocybin, Ayahuasca and ketamine (not all at once though) to treat depression and to combat suicidal thoughts.

I agree with him that it’s tragic that doctors are not allowed to prescribe these drugs (except for experimental use) when they could be used to prevent suicide.

They were outlawed because they were the only drugs to have a political effect (like making people not feel like engaging in war).

There are some contraindications against hallucinogens – for example in young people and in people predisposed to schizophrenia.

On Vancouver Island, some beaches had to be closed because wolves were attacking dogs.

On a different beach there were guns fired in a dispute over clam licences.

I don’t recommend taking drugs on the beach until the wolf population diminishes and the shootouts die down.

In fact it’s never a good idea to take drugs on a beach. Better to take them on stage in a busy strip club or somewhere near a hospital.

One of my neighbours, the sturgeon fisherman, became concerned because he noticed I was filling up bleach bottles with water from a hose. He thought I was going to drink it. He wanted to give me some plastic jugs of store-bought water and I had a job to convince him that I prefer the water from the hose. My hose is attached to a spigot that is attached to a pipe that is attached to the water main that delivers fresh water from the nearby glaciers on Mount Seymour. It’s probably the best water in the world other than drinking straight from a stream.

Hoses are an important subject of discussion out here.

I don’t mind that.

One of my best friends was called The Hose Guy.

Last night I discovered a Mongolian man singing at the bus stop. After I asked him if he was singing Mongolian songs (as he seemed to be doing) he asked, in surprise, in halting English, whether I was going to Mongolia.

I said: “No. I’m going to Montreal.”

I asked him if there were lots of redheads in Mongolia and he said no. They have lots of grass and lots of sheep. He put his hands on his head to mimic a sheep’s ears because it was hard for me to understand his accent.

Here is a hip hop Smoke Dance which I thought you might like to see.

 

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The late singer Leonard Cohen and the philanthropist Donald Trump and some strange things happening at the marina.

 

In the early hours of this morning, a missive arrived from Anna Smith, this blog’s occasional Canadian correspondent. She lives on a boat in Vancouver.


Strange things are happening at the marina.

An old man on the dock, whom I’ve never met before, just greeted me with a cheerful “You’re back,” even though I have been nowhere for a month.

A friend of my extended family is an exotically dressed elderly socialite from Brazil named Benita. I feel imaginarily glamorous when I run into her. She thinks we are related. She tells me that I remind her of her aunt, the model Georgia Quental.

“She had red hair,” she tells me. “She was a free spirit like you…”

I don’t know Benita well but she is very fond of me and often wants to go out for tea. Sometimes I run into her as I am leaving the library. The last time I saw her, she greeted me, full of enthusiasm: “Anna, my darling! How was Brazil?”

I have never been to Brazil.

Benita grew up in Rio but attended an exclusive girls school on the eastern seaboard of the United States. She won an award for her artwork there. She says that one of her ancestors was a famous Scottish poet. She borrows his books from the library. I forget his name.

Sometimes she asks me: “Anna, don’t you miss South America?” as if I had left there recently

I have not been there since I was five. I missed it a lot as a child and well into adulthood. I still drink mate.

The last time I saw Benita, she told me she had just been in Greece.

“Ahhh, my darling,” she said. “You must go there. It is absolutely beautiful. I was on an island.”

“Did you go with your daughters?” I asked.

Two of her daughters live in Manhattan. They are very beautiful blondes and have worked as models. One designs jewelry and one is divorced from the heir to Budweiser. I am never sure which is which…

“Of course my dear,” Benita replied. “We were the guests of the designer, my daughter’s friend. What a gorgeous place he has, but you have to take a boat to get there. We were constantly on boats. It was beautiful. We went to Leonard Cohen’s house. He had a house on the same island. His grandchildren are living there now.”

Benita wants me to visit Rio with her. I tell her I can’t go yet, because my health is still a bit delicate. Which it is.

“You need,” she told me, “to take Palo Santo (a herb) and Ayahuasca ( a powerful hallucinogenic).”

We don’t have to go to Brazil to get Ayahuasca. There are people in North Vancouver doing it in their basements.

Two years ago I ran into Benita after I had been at a small protest against Donald Trump. There were only twelve protesters. The others were all Mexican. It was after Trump had made his comment about Mexicans being rapists.

I thought Benita would be glad I had been standing up for Latin Americans, so I told her: “I protested against Donald Trump.”

She looked a bit confused. “Why?” she asked. “What did he do?”

I told her about his comments.

“That’s strange,” she said, looking puzzled. “He is always very nice to my daughters. He always pays for their ski trips to Vermont when they go with his daughter.”

Strange things are happening.

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Wish you were here: Memories of the Canadian stripper who met a Norse God

Continuing the memories of this blog’s occasional Canadian correspondent Anna Smith…

She writes:

The Coronet Motor Hotel in its prime

A postcard from the Coronet Motor Hotel in its heyday

The only person whose tyres I ever wanted to slash was my agent Jules Rabkin, because he overbooked girls all the time. He would send eight girls to a bar in the middle of nowhere that needed only six and the last two to arrive would get bumped and be out of work for a week.

He ripped off my friend Tiffany for $300 and she did something better than slashing his tyres. She marched into his office and set his desk on fire.

“How did he react?” I asked her, full of admiration.

“He handed over my money through the flames,” she said. “After that, he never dared fuck me over again.”

But we also knew how to be discrete back then …yes we were so discrete.

I can’t  imagine why all those motels had to give us all those ridiculous lists of the rules… like we weren’t supposed to walk through the lobbies naked or tie up the switchboard phoning each other’s rooms and we weren’t supposed to lie down inside the club either. And there was a $20 fine if you got caught ‘taking a man in the ladies room’ at one club. So, obviously, it must have been a terrible problem there. And we weren’t allowed to smoke or drink on stage. One really terrible place said that ‘horseplay’ wasn’t allowed. Anyone would have thought it was a building site.

We were in motels for the same reason rock bands were in motels. Touring.

Did I mention the time I met Thor at the Coronet Motor Inn, in Ontario?

Nothing happened between me and Thor. I don’t really go for the God type. I just crossed paths with him in the hallway and felt a bit sorry for him that he had to dress like that. It seemed like even more work than dressing up as a stripper.

We were often in motels. We were often on the road. We could make more money out of town (Toronto).

The furthest north I went was Elliott Lake, a uranium mining town. I was scared travelling alone to such an isolated place. At the time, the ratio of males to females was 10 to 1, so that in itself was scary, plus I was afraid to drink the water so I only drank juice.

The bustling centre of Elliot Lake seen from the Fire Tower Lookout

The centre of Elliot Lake seen from the Fire Tower Lookout

The motel was on the outskirts of town – strip clubs usually were.

The owner was a really nice woman so I didn’t have to deal with the usual come on we always got from the male managers. And there was a nice painting over the front desk .

It was a landscape, done locally and given to the owner’s father by the artist.

There was another dancer working there the same week as me: a friendly young Jewish guitarist and songwriter from Ottawa. So we spent time in each other’s rooms, watching television in bed, sharing our plans for the future. She wanted to be a famous singer and I wanted to be a famous comedienne in movies. This was in about 1980.

We went for meals together. I remember she was the first person to introduce me to Caesar salad, prepared by the chef at our table in the traditional manner.

The audience was made up of uranium miners who were very rowdy, enthusiastic but not obnoxious. I had so much fun doing my show that I flew off the stage and landed in the audience and broke my foot – luckily it was a Saturday so I only missed one show. I think I was spinning around semi-blindfolded when I went off the stage… I used to often break my feet in those days, but that was the first time I did it while performing.

I met one of the uranium miners years later. He was a little guy from Chile known as ‘Loco Misissauga’. I was surprised he would be in Elliott Lake which is such a remote place, but then he had been a miner in Chile.

Missisauga today

Missisauga today – once a godforsaken suburb of Toronto.

Missisauga was a godforsaken suburb of Toronto. It was one of the places I went to for work. It was where Jules Rabkin, my agent, would send us. I worked there in 1977 when I was just starting out. As I became more experienced I worked in better, more central clubs

The bars in Missisauga were awful, usually run by Greeks. I remember one club called The Oasis which was anything but an Oasis. The small stage was covered in orange shag carpet, with the ceiling done the same. Can you imagine trying to dance in stilettos on that?  Another club out there used to ask the dancers for a $50 deposit to rent a locker for the week. There was no dressing room, just a narrow hallway. So most of the dancers went to sit with the customers between shows and the waitress would take their keys off the table so they would lose their key deposit. Eventually the owner was shot dead, which was hardly surprising.

I don’t have any photos of that time, though I was one of the first adapters of the selfie with my Olympus OM 10 which I bought from a hunky Italian boy stripper I met in a Belgian porno cinema. We had to do a show together because his girlfriend was ill. I became quite close to them and bought the camera and we stayed in touch.

Anna Smith impersonates an Englishwoman in London in 1984. She borrowed the cat

Anna Smith impersonates an Englishwoman in London in 1984. She borrowed the cat

The last time I ever saw them was in about 1985. They were doing a sex show in Soho, London. They invited me upstairs. They were living above a sex shop, with its lights flashing LIVE SHOW. I went upstairs, and was surprised to see the mother of the Italian boy was up there too.

She was tiny and dressed like a stereotypical Sicilian old lady: all in black, with the headscarf and the gold earings.

I asked the boy: “But your mother? Doesn’t she mind that you are doing a sex show?”

He introduced us and the mother was all smiles.

“She doesn’t have a clue,” he told me. “She never leaves the flat. She’s actually a complete moron.”

The mother kept nodding, smiling away cheerfully, thrilled to meet me, but I must have looked worried, because her son then reassured me: “Don’t worry, she doesn’t speak English.”

I thought about my mother. I didn’t tell her everything I did but no way could I have deposited her above a sex shop in Soho for a couple of weeks.

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More drug news on deaths in Vancouver

Another busy day outside the Balmoral Hotel on Hastings Street

Another busy trading day outside the Balmoral Hotel on Hastings Street in Vancouver

Last weekend, I posted a piece from Anna Smith, this blog’s occasional Canadian correspondent, about the increasing drug deaths in Vancouver, especially from “the latest drug to hit the scene” – carfentanyl.

Today, Anna has sent me an update:


A man signing a sympathy card for another fentanyl overdose victim

A man signing a sympathy card for another fentanyl overdose victim

When I arrived at my music class on Monday, there was a small memorial out on the pavement in front of the community centre for a man who had died that morning from an overdose, while in the public toilets below.

There were candles, a teddy bear, several cards that people were signing and lots of cigarettes. Tobacco is a traditional offering for indigenous people.

Nearby a tall man, who said he was a friend of the deceased, was selling Tylenol 3s.

“T3s,” he was calling out quietly. “T3s,.. T3s…”

Other people walked past calling out a chorus of other drug names:

“Oxy, Oxy, Oxy,..”

“Methadone… Methadone…”

Empty prescription bottles at the entrance of the community center

Empty prescription bottles at the entrance of the community center

A pile of empty pill bottles stood at the bottom of a column of the community centre, the names scratched out.

The soaring overdose deaths have been declared a public health crisis in British Columbia. Even though the Downtown Eastside is saturated with ambulances, the rates that people are overdosing keeps climbing.

And it is now happening not just among the regular addicts but among casual users of cocaine and heroin. A dead teenager was found in a suburban Starbucks washroom.

Staff at downtown hotels are overwhelmed by the deaths of their residents and emergency services are training because pure fentanyl is fatal to the touch.

At the weekend, I saw my nephew who works at a hotel downtown. I asked him how he has been affected and he said he has had to deal with three deaths recently. The latest was a 23 year woman old whom he injected with the antidote… but she was already dead and could not be revived.

Amazingly, the people on the streets have not lost their sense of humour.

Hotel lobby on Hastings Street

A hotel lobby on Hastings Street

You see people having a laugh, making jokes about their friends. On cheque day – the day when people get their benefit cheques – many are especially cheerful.

I heard a ragged couple – a man and woman about my age – walking nearby. They may have had a drink.

“Look at that guy,” said the man. “Do you think when I get old I’ll look like him?”

“You ALREADY look like him,” his wife replied immediately.

They are dicussing fentanyl on the radio now. A documentary film maker is talking about a film he shot about a fentanyl maker: a character called Beeker.

Beeker shows on film how he can procure fentanyl online from Asia in five minutes.

The film by Robert Osborne airs on CBC television tonight: Unstoppable: The Fentanyl Epidemic.

I should add that the people here are not just roaming the streets looking to buy elephant tranquilizer (and fentanyl).

Heroin, cocaine and amphetamines are being adulterated with carfentanyl and fentanyl so people don’t know they are ingesting it.

Ambulances waiting for overdose patients on Hastings Street

Ambulances waiting hopefully for overdose patients on Hastings Street

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A new drug crisis and old memories

A couple of days ago, I posted a blog about dodgy Black Friday discounts at UK department store chain Debenhams.

It triggered a response from this blog’s occasional Canadian correspondent Anna Smith.

She lives in Vancouver.

She wrote:


Anna Smith in Toronto

Anna was too young and not crazy enough then

You should come to Canada and get a Shoppers Drug Mart (chemist shop) card. You get to accumulate points each time you shop, which can eventually be redeemed for discounts. There are special days when you get double or triple the points, called Redemption Days!

They also hold monthly Seniors’ Days, when seniors get everything for 20% off plus free coffee and the chance to socialise with other seniors picking up their medications. You only have to be 55 years old to be a senior.

Not on the infamous Downtown Eastside, though, where I go to music class, shop, but have never lived or worked.

CBC News reports the problem

CBC News reports the problem

On the Downtown Eastside, you get to be a senior when you are 40 years old because the life expectancy there is only about 45. They might have to lower the age even further because of the fentanyl crisis.

600 people have died from overdoses in Vancouver this year and pop-up supervised injection tents have opened in the alleyways downtown. They don’t have a discount card for those but you get free Narcan (antidote) if you overdose. Emergency services have been very busy, sometimes reviving the same person three times a week or more.

The latest drug to hit the scene there is the elephant tranquilizer carfentanyl.

Accident in Vancouver

After a woman had just driven her scooter into a flat bed lorry

I recently saw an unusual road accident on the Downtown Eastside when I stepped off the bus on the way to my music class.

A woman had driven her scooter into a flat bed lorry (or whatever you call them there). I took a photo just after the woman had been lifted into an ambulance. She was alert, talkative and appeared to be uninjured, even though it seemed she had been dragged along on her scooter some distance by the truck.  Maybe she used to work in rodeo.

The junction of Main and Hastings in Vancouver

Main and Hastings is now ground zero for dugs in Vancouver

Main and Hastings is ‘ground zero’ for drug addiction in Vancouver. There is a lot of sales activity (of drugs and everything else) outside The Carnegie Center (community center) where I take my music class.

It is a bit annoying to use the toilets inside because so many addicts are inside and drug addicts have a different perspective of time. Sometimes they shout from inside the stall: “I won’t be long! I’ll be done in fifteen minutes!”

The Old Continental Hotel in Vancouver

The Old Continental Hotel in Vancouver in 2000 – demolished

One time, about 20 ago, I had nowhere to live so I went to a large hotel called The Old Continental at the north end of the Granville Bridge. The building was locked but then I saw a man, one of the residents, just leaving.

“Are there any rooms for rent in there?” I asked him.

“There are,” he told me, “but if you want to live here you have to be over 45 or crazy“.

So I was too young and not crazy enough to get a room… then.

Now the Old Continental has been demolished. Everything changes.

In 1974, ‘women’s music’ or ‘wimmin’s music’ had not yet been invented, so young lesbians had to dance to Herman’s Hermits and Bob Marley (mainly No Woman No Cry).

More on this in a later blog HERE.

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Elton John, 29 Canadian sex workers, $75,000, a Toronto hotel, stag parties

Logs_FraserRiver_Vancouver

I have received another email from Anna Smith, this blog’s occasional Canadian correspondent.

She lives in a boat near Vancouver.

She says:


We are in the middle of a series of three huge storms; the next one is the tail end of a typhoon. Last night a tugboat ran aground off a remote section of the coast and it is leaking fifty thousand of litres of diesel, threatening the clam beds at Bella Bella.

We were promised last year that there would be a moratorium on tanker traffic by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (known locally as Donny Osmond), but the local Bella Bella  M.P. says he is still waiting for some legislation that is not filled with loopholes..

I am limbering up to visit Toronto on Tuesday with a delegation of eight hookers from the west coast. We are flying them in from the east coast also. I like saying ‘hookers’ but properly we are called ‘sex worker organizations’. It looks better than Elton John pays out thousands of dollars to 29 Canadian hookers.

Anna Smith with Andrew Sorflee, president of the Triple-X Workers’ Solidarity Association of British Columbia (Photo by William Pritchard)

Anna Smith with Andrew Sorfleet, president of the Triple-X Workers’ Solidarity Association of British Columbia (Photograph by William Pritchard)

An HIV researcher has been given a $75,000 grant from the Elton John AIDS Foundation in support of his work to prevent HIV infection among Canadian sex workers.

The money is going to facilitate the consultation (and possibly record a pop video of it). We are getting our airfare and hotel paid but not receiving a salary.

We are going to stay in a regular downtown hotel on Yonge Street and having the consultation at the University of Toronto but, when I was there in the 1980s, I lived in the Selby Hotel, so I am the missing link between Ernest Hemingway and Elton John because Hemingway also lived in the Selby 60 years earlier.

I don’t know which room he was in. Maybe I shared the same bathtub as him. I did drink a lot while living there and ate mostly salad as there was no stove. I also learned how to cure ham, as there was no refrigerator either. The bathtub was fantastic though: a huge clawed thing in its own room. It was a great place to sleep, drink and bathe in.

Plus, if I wanted drugs, all I had to do was go to the basement, because it was a gay bar and you could easily buy any drug there. The bar was called BOOTS.

Also it was handy when I danced at Italian stag parties. The Italian stags (they travelled in groups) would eagerly drive me home from the suburbs in their comfortable new Cadillacs. I would instruct them to drive into the parking lot and they would say in surprise: “You live here?”

Outside the bar would be guys in leather, groping each other or passionately kissing.

I would say: “Yup! Thanks for driving me all the way home.” Then I would jump out of the car and go into the bar, quickly buy some hash and go upstairs to my room and make another salad.

The Fillmores Club in Toronto

The Filmores Club in Toronto – stag parties, art and poetry

When I was living at the Selby, I mostly was dancing at a club called Filmores. When I walked home at 3.00am, I sometimes found interesting things on the street.

Once I found a huge painting that I liked – an abstract patterned with zigzag lines and bright geometric shapes. It reminded me of a Rousseau – it had the feeling of a jungle with layers of bright yellow and green painted in vivid 80’s style. So I dragged it home to my room and kept it for ages. It felt like a stage scrim and made every room it was in seem larger.

Another time, I spotted a poem glinting from a rainy dark puddle in the street. It was in the handwriting of a young child and was addressed: TO DAD.

I picked up the poem, which was written on a rectangular piece of coloured paper, and carried it home like a treasure.

It was a very beautiful and lonely poem which gave me a sad feeling. I thought it might be a Father’s Day present that the child had tragically dropped on the way home.

TO DAD

All day I hear the noise of waters
Making moan,
Sad as the sea-bird is when, going
Forth alone,
He hears the winds cry to the water’s
Monotone.

What a great poem, I thought. It showed how brilliant children are before they get boxed in and made to conform. I’ve always loved the art that children make.

After having that poignant fragment in my mind for many years I then discovered that the poem had actually been written by James Joyce.

I have been sleeping a bit fitfully. Ferries are being cancelled due to storm. I will now try to wake up, make a coffee and look out to see if the river is flowing onto the road yet.

CONTINUED HERE

A slightly out-of-focus map of Toronto which Anna painted in around 1978.

A slightly out-of-focus map of Toronto which Anna painted in around 1978.

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