Category Archives: Travel

Comedian Lynn Ruth Miller walks round Shanghai and leaps out of a taxi

So far, on her Far Eastern tour, 85-year-old Jewish-American comic Lynn Ruth Miller, based in London, has blogged about her recent visits to Manila and Jakarta.

On her last day in Jakarta, she was suddenly told that her gigs in Shanghai had been cancelled because the Chinese authorities had closed down the comedy club. But her flights and her accommodation there were already booked…


I was not happy about my trip to Shanghai because I thought I had two nights performing comedy and now I was just visiting the largest city in the world to see sights I really did not care that much about.  

Promoter Andy Curtain and his sidekick Mohammed were lovely and caring about the cancellation and had not only promised to guide me through the visit but to change plans so I went on to Beijing a bit earlier.  

It took an hour to get from Shanghai Airport to the hotel, but I was immediately struck by the lack of congestion on the roads compared with Jakarta. There were lots and lots of high-rise apartment and office buildings all along the route. Everything looked clean and very modern compared to Indonesia.  

The hotel was called Xiangyang Fandian. When we arrived the woman at the front desk took an instant dislike to me. Or seemed to. But she did not speak much English, so, really, we could not communicate.

The language was a mystery, not that many people speak English and I am not a good sightseer so I was very uncomfortable in the city.

However, Shanghai is interesting. There are lots of green spaces and, although it is huge, it does not feel crowded or congested. There are a lot of military around which is unsettling, but the police do not seem to bother anyone (or could it be they just didn’t bother ME?).

Andy helped me get on the Internet. China has blocked Google and Facebook and you have to pay for VPN to access these sites.

I got some work done on the computer and had lunch at a breakfast place called Egg, founded by woman from New Jersey who is very active in the restaurant scene in Shanghai.

Then I walked over to the park. Evidently people dance in the park all day but sadly, by the time I got there, there was only one man doing Tai Chi. I was amused to seeing so many men bring their babies to the park. I never think of men as doing that kind of thing, but – hey! – it’s a new world and a new way of thinking about life… or so I am told.

As I did not do a show, I felt very plain. I prefer to feel shimmery and amazing. I just don’t know how you ordinary people do it.

That night I took a walk to find an Italian restaurant and, on the way, I stumbled on a gorgeous and very expensive French bistro, Saleya on Changle Road. I ate in a vine-protected porch-like area with lots of rattan furniture. It was peaceful, relaxing meal: there was no piped-in music!!! The place was relatively empty but, over in corner, were two men with their very small elaborately coiffed  poodles. Evidently dogs are fine in restaurants in China. And there is a gay scene in Shanghai.

Andy recommended a tour of the Jewish section of Shanghai that his friend Dvir Bar-Gal offers and I signed up for it.

I am aware of the migration of Jews to China when Hitler began his purge of the Jews and I know they lived in abject poverty crammed together like sardines in unheated, inadequate shelters with one toilet for many and often no toilet at all, but this tour really brought it all to life. It was a long tour, 4 hours, but not tiring. What I noticed most was the smell. There is a close gamey odour to the streets, particularly in the poor area where the Jewish ghetto was.  

The people on the tour were aged 50 or more and one 73-year-old woman from Toronto, Katherine, befriended me which was nice. It was not a very friendly crowd other than Katherine and I am certain Dvir was a bit offended by my smart remarks. He asked us all what the motivator to the success of all Jews was and I said: “A Jewish Mother”. Silence.

It turns out that business is the foundation of all Jewish enterprise. Who knew?

When the tour was over, Katherine suggested I join Adrian, Shirley and her for dinner at M on the Bund a very fancy 7th floor restaurant.  

The Bund is an area of modern skyscrapers along the western riverfront in the city and is filled with flowers and lots and lots of people. The dinner was really wonderful because of the conversation. It turned out that Adrian is a psychiatrist and Shirley collects exotic perfume bottles. Katherine is an investment guru. Katherine talked about how she had had four husbands and someone accused her of serial monogamy. I had only two husbands and no real childhood hardship. My biggest conflict was which cashmere sweater to wear with which skirt (and I always picked the wrong one, according to my mother).

After the meal, the three of them put me in a cab and this was the only really horrid experience I had while there.  

The cab driver (like most of them) could not speak English.  

He agreed to take me home for 60 yuan and I gave him my hotel key envelope with the address on it. But, when we got to the hotel, he wanted 80 yuan. I didn’t want to argue, but wanted the address ticket I had shown him because that was how I could show people who cannot speak English where I am staying. I simply couldn’t make myself understood, so he just grabbed the money and sped away AS I got out of the moving car.

I am convinced that I handled it badly, however.

He really did not know what I was asking him. I could have asked a passer-by to translate but you always think of these sensible solutions after the fact don’t you?

I finished off my computer stuff after that fiasco and went to bed, setting the alarm for 8:30am. Sadly my clock was having the same problem as my circadian rhythm and I overslept until 9:25am. But I managed to pack and get dressed in 10 minutes, found the driver Andy had scheduled, and off I went to the airport.

Next stop Beijing.

… CONTINUED HERE

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Comedian Lynn Ruth Miller in Jakarta on lovely audiences and anti-Semitism

Lynn Ruth went on stage unusually “terrified” in Jakarta

In the last few months, London-based American comic Lynn Ruth Miller (who recently turned 85) has been gigging in Prague, Dublin, Berlin, Paris, Edinburgh, San Francisco and Manila. Coming up are gigs in Shanghai, Beijing, Singapore, Hong Kong, Hanoi, Bangkok and, she says, “possibly somewhere in Cambodia”.

But last weekend, betwixt Manila and Shanghai, she writes…


I was in Jakarta, Indonesia. It was hot and wet. A characteristic I gave up when I hit sixty. I arrived at 11.00am their time and the first thing that struck me was how really lovely the airport was. It was amazing how easy it was to navigate compared to Manila, which was a nightmare.

Indonesians like old ladies and I was swept through Immigration so easily I thought I missed a window and someone would make me turn around and start all over again.  

David, the pastor for youth I met while waiting for the plane, was there at baggage collection to help me with my bag and used his phone to contact Eamonn Sadler, who books comedy at The American Club in Jakarta.  

I had had approximately two hours sleep on the plane and was not at my best as I staggered out of Immigration and tried to find Eamonn. But there he was towering above everyone else in that airport looking down at the top of my head.  

I just about reached his kneecap and I knew he was thinking: ”I hired a comedian, not a pygmy.”  

But he is British so he just nodded politely (at least I think he did. I couldn’t see that far up), asked me if I was all right (at least I think he did; my hearing aids were in my bag), took my case and I toddled after him taking fourteen steps to his one.  

As soon as we walked outside I was smacked in the face with hot, wet air.  

Lynn Ruth performed her show Not Dead Yet!

Even Manila is cool compared to Jakarta. But, indoors, the air conditioning is very efficient and for some reason you don’t feel that blast of cold air when you are inside.

The ride from Jakarta Airport took about two and a half hours. Obviously no-one in the place uses his or her feet and everyone has large, cumbersome, air-conditioned automobiles with which they enjoy trying to get as close to one another without actually denting a fender. Bicycles and motorbikes weave in and out between the cars making everyone hate them.  

The traffic department decided to build brick barriers in the middle of the street so no-one can make a right turn. So you have to do a U-turn at intersections if you can. But the roads are like parking lots and nothing moves.

When we pulled up to the entrance of the Liberta hotel, Eamonn stopped the car and I got out thinking we had arrived at our destination. But this was only for a routine inspection. There was a wave of terrorist attacks in Surabaya (Indonesia’s second largest city) last May and there is heightened security in Jakarta because of that and because they hosted the Asian Games. 

Foreigners are often targets, which is why most expats have a night watchman to guard their property and all public buildings conduct routine inspections on every car that enters their premises.  

By the time I got to my hotel room, I was in a coma of fatigue. I crawled into bed and slept until 7.00pm, when we drove to The American Club.

Since The American Club is part of the American Embassy complex in Jakarta, the security is even more intense there.

The thing I liked about the show, which had about seven acts, was that Eamonn established immediately that comedy is meant to be fun, not politically correct and everyone on the bill deserved to be listened to without interruption.

Even so, I was terrified that I would say something that offended someone or would go on for hours without that laugh all of us in this profession lap up like manna from heaven. Or that the local audience would not get the jokes. But they did. They laughed and they clapped and they all joined in the song that ended my set.

Another country; another cake. Lynn Ruth & Eamonn Sadler

At the end of my performance, Eamonn came on stage with… yes… ANOTHER BIRTHDAY CAKE and flowers. This birthday celebration of mine seems to go on and on and on.  If I keep getting all those cakes, I will probably explode before I am 86 or won’t fit into the coffin.

After the show, Naomi and Eric welcomed me on behalf of Jakarta’s Jewish community.

It turns out that there are about 20 Jewish families in Jakarta in this predominately Muslim country. It is estimated that there are about another 20,000 descendants of Jews who have assimilated and are part of greater Indonesia.

Indonesians must carry an identity card that states their religion and, since Judaism is not one of the seven they recognize, most Jews say they are Christian.  

Those who practice Judaism keep a very low profile. It is not easy to be Jewish in the world’s largest Muslim-majority country and it is even harder this year, as anti-Semitic sentiment has grown since Donald Trump moved the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a holy place to both Jews and Muslims as well as Christians. Every time there is a Palestinian/Israeli conflict, anti-Semitism flares up in Indonesia.

When I realized how dangerous it is to be Jewish in so many countries, I began to understand why the synagogues in Stamford Hill, London, where I now live, are so hidden that I have lived there for two years and only now have begun to discover where they are located. All of them are set far back from the street,  heavily gated and even more heavily guarded.  

In 2013, The Times of Israel reported that Indonesia’s last synagogue – the Beith Shalom synagogue in Surabaya, Java – had been destroyed to its foundations by unknown persons.

I personally have never encountered overt anti-Semitism and so I have never taken it very seriously but, when I met these lovely people in Jakarta who dare not openly practice their faith, I realized how deeply imbedded hatred of the Jews actually is, not just in Indonesia but worldwide.

The next afternoon, Joe and Rheysa took me to Jakarta’s version of an Italian restaurant: Mama Rosy’s.

It turned out that Rheysa once worked for L’Oreal and now she puts on a great deal of make up to look like she has no make up on at all. She explained the procedure for the ‘Natural Look’ that begins with ironing her hair and continues with darkeners and lighteners, blushers and intensifiers to make her look like the natural beauty she is in the first place.  

It occurred to me that I should follow her advice but iron my face instead of my hair. However, I gave up that idea before we got to our coffee. I have not so much as ironed a napkin in sixty years.

After lunch, we drove through the city and I was struck by how crowded the streets are, how dense the concentration of people and how little actual green space. The houses seem to be packed tightly next to one another and the streets are narrow, lined with tiny shops and street food vendors. It was a very different feel from Manila with its very tall streamlined buildings and wide highways. It reminded me a lot of Bangkok.

Jakarta – partly houses packed tightly together – partly not.

That night I had arranged to go to Naomi and Eric’s home for dinner to meet their three children and have dinner. When I got into Eric’s car, I entered a totally different world. He and Naomi have lived in Jakarta for 17 years.

His home is modern and spacious and they have seven servants, as do most of the well-to-do in Jakarta. They have drivers for the children, plus cooks, cleaners and gardeners. They are a part of an ex-pat community that does so well in this part of the world. Both are originally from the United States and after they married lived in Singapore for a while and loved it.

In fact, Naomi still works in Singapore several days a week and both of them do a great deal of travel. That is why they need so much domestic help.  

Yet they are trying to keep up the Jewish traditions we all learned growing up. I too observed those holidays and, of course, loved the special foods: the challah, the gefilte fish, the bagels and the chicken soup. Those things are as much part of being Jewish as observing the Sabbath.

China is next!!!! Not the dinnerware; the country.

But I got a message this morning from Andy Curtain who runs the Kung Fu Comedy Cub in Shanghai that the government had closed down the club.  

In China, there are all kinds of intricacies with licensing and permits that are only occasionally enforced. So it seems I am going to Shanghai with nothing much to do but explore the city…

… CONTINUED HERE

Lynn Ruth with the Jakarta show folk

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Filed under anti-semitism, Indonesia, Jewish, Religion, Travel

The Miller in Manila: comic Lynn Ruth discovers the benefits of now being 85

On her last appearance in this blog, London-based American stand-up storytelling comic and late-blooming burlesque dancer Lynn Ruth Miller was telling tales of her six – count ‘em, six – 85th birthday parties in London and Brighton and was on her way to Cannes. 

Now she is in the Far East.


It started in the tube train going to London Airport. I wondered how on earth I was going to get my heavy, heavy case up stairs and escalators when I got to Terminal 3.

But a lovely man said he too was getting off at my terminal and WITHOUT MY ASKING dragged the case up escalators, down escalators through swinging doors right to my check-in desk. Then he hugged me and hurried off to his job. He is the one who replaces the floor tiles in the terminal when disgusting clods like me tramp on them and dislodge them.  

I make my living telling naughty jokes that emasculate men and I am properly ashamed. This man represents Britain at its Best even though he was a Bulgarian immigrant who could barely speak English and sends his whole paycheck home to his starving mother and over-privileged cat.

I flew Philippine Airlines and it felt like I was going first class instead of steerage. Their planes are immaculate and roomy. 

I had been told everyone has a helluva time in Immigration at Manila Airport, but Filipinos love little old ladies. At least the ones in Immigration do. Despite the fact that I couldn’t remember the day I was leaving and forgot the name of the hotel I was in, I was whooshed through the line and literally given my bag as it sailed around the carousel by two eager young men who were afraid I would fall apart and my bones would scatter all over their luggage.   

Two policemen called me “Darling” and showed me the reception area at the airport. That was when magic happened.  

The warm reception for Lynn Ruth at Manila Airport

Dilip Budhrani was there with his wife Saira, and his two children Mika (8 going on 21) and Vedant (11 going on 40). Both children hugged me and handed me a spectacular bouquet of flowers. I felt like Cinderella before midnight.  

I was taken to The Picasso Boutique Hotel in Salcedo Village in Makati City. The walls are filled with Picassos from his cubist period. I went up to my room expecting a ROOM.

Instead I was in a three room suite that is bigger than my entire Stamford Hill flat. It had an electric range, a refrigerator, the usual tea kettle and with teas and coffees and a sunken bathtub.

I felt like I should have had my hair and nails done and got a complete overhaul before entering the place. 

Naturally I had no idea how to turn on the recessed lights, open the refrigerator or find the closet, but 8 year old Mika knew. Then all of us went out for dinner at a Spanish restaurant down the street. Guess what was waiting for me when I came back after an amazing dinner at Terry’s? ANOTHER birthday cake.

I was beginning to think I could never live up to what these people expect of me. I am far too ordinary.

However I was wrong. 

I went to the Relik Bar and performed my show This Is Your Future to THE most appreciative audience ever.  

The guy in the front table was David Charlton from Sunderland who owns a chain of beauty salons. He took one look at me and insisted I go to one of his salons to get made over before the show tomorrow night – in Manila, not Sunderland. 

Sunderland is very North in England, which explains why he understood the underlying filth in my performance. No-one else in the place knew what dogging was… and he probably invented it. He has a glamorous Filipino partner who was conservatively dressed, which must puzzle him. Girls up north in England go out on the town with a fur wrap and band-aids over their bits.

“Response got me all revved up…”

The next day I did my inspirational talk Optimistic Living at The Union Jack Tavern. To my shock, the place was filled and I told my silly stories about giving it a go, no matter how bleak the prospects. They evidently loved it. They told me this was because it gave them hope that, even though they had messed up their lives, they had another chance to make things right. Their response got me all revved up to do Ageing is Amazing. Sadly I had forgotten to bring my costume for this event.

But Dilip’s wife Saira managed to get together an acceptable costume, a feather boa and some disposable diapers. Her PR friend had loads and loads of wigs. I rehearsed the songs over and over and OVER and remembered it all and sung without a mistake. I got a standing ovation for that one. Afterwards, guess what they brought up on stage?

ANOTHER birthday cake.

A word about Manila…  

It has unbelievable traffic and buildings with offices open all night. These are the call centers. More than 1 million Filipinos now work at call centers and in related outsourcing businesses, mostly serving American companies. Corporations such as Citibank, Safeway, Chevron and Aetna as well as smaller companies ranging from a Georgia medical collection agency to a New York spa operator that outsources its customer appointments. People in these centers earn as much as $700 a month (£535.50) which is double the salary of a Manila bank teller.  

Flying high – “Filipinos are uncommonly polite and caring.”

Filipinos are uncommonly polite and caring.

You never enter a door that someone doesn’t open for you (at least I didn’t) and, when I was out in a sudden rainstorm, a lovely man walked me under his umbrella to an intersection where he was turning and a young woman going the opposite direction then turned around and took me to the hotel.    

When I did the inspirational talk, a lovely woman gave me a truly exquisite scarf beautifully wrapped to welcome me to Manila. I walked by a deli just to check it out and, when I returned to grab a coffee and a scone, that doorman remembered me and welcomed me. I came back the next day for an omelette and again he greeted me as if I were his best friend.  

This kind of thing does not happen in America.

If you get caught in a rainstorm there, it is your problem and, if you walk by a store without going in and SPENDING LOTS OF MONEY, they hate you.

Such is the culture from which I sprouted. 

Donald Trump is no surprise.  

Next stop, Jakarta in Indonesia.  

… CONTINUED HERE

 

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In New Orleans, a 76-year-old mixture of James Brown, Ray Charles and Elvis

Samantha, in this shot, clearly not in New Orleans…

My chum from Lancashire, Samantha Hulme, is currently in New Orleans.

She has been staying with a friend who lives there.

She met him on a previous visit.

She sent me a video of him singing in his living room.

In a second message to me, she wrote:


I love it here.

I love to travel

When I found New Orleans and knew I wanted to make a life here.

Whenever I travel I don’t want to be a stereotypical tourist. I want to be safe, but I want to see the real country, the culture, the real people. I was lucky enough to get the offer of accommodation from Mr James Winfield – stage name The Sleeping Giant.

It was an act of kindness stereotypical of this city. In his own words, he never wants another woman again. He was just genuinely trying to help me.

I feel incredibly lucky to have been able to learn so much about music with a man who was recording records in the 1960s before I was even born. I have had the true New Orleans experience.

I couldn’t have done it better. I have laughed so much I cried with laughter on various occasions – the man’s absolute bluntness, his wry sense of humour, alongside his total inability to understand what I am saying in my northern accent most of the time, will be an experience which will keep me laughing for the next year.

It was like s mixture of living with James Brown, Ray Charles and Elvis – His voice has characteristics off all of them at times.

I am a physical & movement therapist and I can’t believe the stark difference in how we age in the UK compared to here.

James is 76 yrs old.

He works full-time as a panel beater and sprays cars. He sings a few nights a week and he goes out there blazing in all his stereotypical New Orleans fancy suits, bright shoes and I have never known a man with so many hats. He appears to have boundless energy.

I know no-one in the UK like this even a decade younger than him. 

Then I look at quite a few of the great musicians and singers here in New Orleans living into their 90s and I can see why.

I love New Orleans.

The video clip I sent you before of James singing in his house was a wonderful spontaneous moment of seeing my new friend jamming with his grandson and what I really saw was his huge love of music that afternoon. When the man talks he sounds like his singing.

But I don’t think it fair to show him only singing to a piece of bread in the afternoon.

So here is a video of him singing at a club as well.

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Lynn Ruth Miller goes home to join The Dinosaurs of Comedy in San Francisco

In recent blogs, sharp-tongued, globe-trotting 84-year-old American comedian and belated burlesque star Lynn Ruth Miller, now based in London, has shared her experiences while doing gigs in PragueDublinBerlin, Paris and Edinburgh.

She is currently gigging back in the USA for three weeks and this is the first in a series of her thoughts about being back ‘home’…


The flight landed in San Francisco an hour late and I was greeted by cool wet California fog as I exited the airport to wait for my beloved dog sitter to collect me in his Ford pickup truck.

When he did, he informed me that the mist was not fog, but smoke from the California fires that are sweeping the northern part of the state. 

I first met Leo the Dog Sitter when I was in my late 50s and he was a young buck of 48. He came to fix my toilet and fell in love with my dogs. And that was the beginning of a friendship that has lasted almost thirty years.

It has been four years since I have been in the Bay Area and, in that time, I have diminished from 5’2” to 4’10” and Leo has contracted diabetes, arthritis, irritable bowel syndrome, replaced knees and hearing that is worse than mine. We scream at one another when we both think we are whispering. 

I am staying in his Burlingame home and, after four years in London flats, I am struck with how large this house is for two people. The bedroom I am in is as large as my living room, kitchen and bathroom in London and the kitchen-sitting room area here is larger than my entire flat in London. 

Everything is on one floor. I have not climbed so much as a stair since I arrived. I am certain my leg muscles have atrophied.

On the drive home, we spoke about the homeless problem here in the Bay Area and the increasing amounts of theft. The problem is that no-one can afford to live in this area but they are so strapped for cash they cannot afford to move either. And so they struggle on. It amazes me how many people pay astronomical rents but eat food reduced for quick sale to reduce the huge credit card debt that is the elephant in everyone’s room here.

There is no middle class here. You are either rich or poor.

To make matters worse, San Francisco is a ‘sanctuary city‘ which, on the surface, seems marvellous. But what it has done is encourage homeless people to remain homeless because they are paid a substantial sum to live on the street. And the city – instead of encouraging decent sanitation habits – has employed a huge cleaning force to hose the streets of human waste each morning. Toilets are evidently passé in the city by the bay.  

Tonight I was in a show called The Dinosaurs of Comedy, at The Punchline, the place where I got my real start as a professional comedian. It is not part of their regular programming.

The Dinosaurs of Comedy was started by Michael Meehan – comedian, artist, filmmaker and general creative human being – because The Punchline refused to book him and all men his age as they were considered to old to attract an audience.  

The theory was that, if they were not TV stars or had not gained national recognition by the time they were approaching 50 or older, they were has-beens.

The comedians tonight were Johnny Steele who is one of the cleverest, most original comedians I have seen on both sides of the ocean, Larry ‘Bubbles’ Brown who has been on David Letterman’s TV show, (but not as a regular) and, of course, Michael Meehan who is a comic genius.  

I was the MC which, in the US, is the bottom of the pecking order in a line-up. However, I was unbelievably honored to be in this sharp and very clever show filled with talented yet unrecognized men who should be top of their field. 

It was far better and far more fun than I dared dream it could be.

For me, one joy was that so many people recognized me.

After all, I have been gone for four years.  

The best part though, of course, was that I opened which is the hardest job any comedian faces.

And they laughed at every joke.

Or did they just laugh at me?

Who knew? Who cares?

But home I went filled with the adrenalin of success and with money in my pocket.

The man who drove me home is a would-be comedian who has wanted to take to the stage ever since I met him at least eight years ago. He has still not absorbed the cruelty and lack of integrity of the profession here in California and he said: ”Do you think they didn’t give me a chance to go on stage at Cobbs Comedy Club because I am funnier than the MC?”  

I assured him that that was not so.  

He asked another comedian to help him write jokes and is convinced that the reason that helper has not been available is because he is afraid my friend will steal HIS jokes.  

I assured him this was not so. 

He told me he needs help writing his jokes but is afraid someone might take his ideas.  

I assured him this was not so. 

His ideas, sadly enough, are just not funny.  

… CONTINUED HERE

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The nightmare effect of travelling on too many Thameslink trains – beetroot

I very rarely remember my dreams but I woke up during one this morning.

I was working, freelance, for a TV company and, during the lunch hour, I had to go to hospital where one of the treatments was to put beetroot on my stomach.

Next, I was scheduled to see the oncologist, but I could not remember the name of the person I was working for to phone and tell them I would not be back after lunch and someone had, as a joke, tattooed the bottom half of both my legs while I was asleep during the beetroot treatment.

This is what happens when you have to travel four times on a Sunday during a Bank Holiday weekend on the anarchic rail service Govia Thameslink – as I did yesterday – it turns your head into a gooey mess.

The beetroot was not even edible.

It was a nightmare.

The journeys not the dream.

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‪Happy Thameslink passengers enjoying the relaxed holiday atmosphere on one of the tranquil platforms at St Pancras station in London, untroubled by trains.‬

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Other people’s lives – Boat-based Anna Smith’s bus stops in Vancouver, Canada

Anna Smith, this blog’s occasional Canadian correspondent, lives on a boat in Vancouver. I have just received this missive from her…


Aquatic dweller Anna Smith travels on buses

I have finally arrived home just now and my boat is bouncing and rocking in a stormlet.

Yesterday, I was on a downtown bus. An insane young man was in conversation with a dog barking in the street.

I stepped off the bus at Main and Hastings, to go to music practice at The Carnegie Center.

Outside The Carnegie Center, individuals sell ‘hard’ drugs like heroin, fentanyl, cocaine etc.

Across the street, against a building, the pavement was lined with lawnchairs (some with umbrellas) and native people, mostly selling ‘Indian Cigarettes’ which are in similar packets to regular cigarettes, but they are a third of the price.

They sell other stuff too, like cannabis, but not so much as there is a ‘compassion club’ (free cannabis distribution center) in the same block.

Whenever I get off at that stop, I have to walk past the crowd and say “No” to the various vendors shouting “Smokes! Smokes!” or saying a bit more quietly “Weed” or almost inaudibly – by nondescript men walking quickly – “Cheese… Cheese”. 

Then I walk to the corner and, while waiting for the lights to change, I scan the lamp post which is always blanketed in posters of missing young people and memorial notices for locals who have died suddenly.

Yesterday, as I stepped off the bus, a large native guy seated amongst the tobacco sellers called out to me: “Are you from Bountiful?”

Only people in British Columbia would get the meaning.

It has to do with a perverted Mormon cult who lived in a secret mountain enclave near the small town of Creston, B.C.

The name of their community is Bountiful.

B.C’s slogan is ‘Beautiful British Columbia‘ but maybe it ought to be Bountiful British Columbia.

For years, Bountiful has been in the headlines here, because the residents practised polygamy. The ‘wives’ of the religious leaders were usually young teenage girls – underage girls. It went on for decades and somehow the police investigators were not able to make arrests, due to the isolated location and claims that marrying underage girls was part of the cult’s religious practice.

Polygamous Mormons in British Columbia shock

Finally the head of the cult was arrested, on charges of transporting the girls across the US/Canada border, in co-operation with similar cults in the United States.

So a stranger asking me, as I stepped off a city bus, whether I was from Bountiful was completely preposterous.

Do I look like a Mormon?

Sure, I was wearing a fake tweed hat, my black military surplus coat, a short skirt and grey leggings…

Most women in that area near the bus stop are a bit more garish, their hair streaked in vivid primary colours, wearing tight bodices, flashing earings, rings on every finger and tattoos abundant; in lace pantyhose and sexy-looking flat black boots. And many have Narcan kits attached to their belts. (Narcan blocks the brain receptors that heroin activates, instantly reversing an overdose.)

Sometimes they just wander around in pyjamas and sandals, with their wigs falling off, even in this blustery storm…

So maybe, at a stretch, I do look like a Mormon in comparison to the locals.

Still I was a bit thrown, being asked that.

I ignored the comment and ploughed ahead and began crossing at the intersection. But, as I crossed the street, I began to laugh, because it was so ridiculous. I looked over at the man who had said it. Who would say such a thing? He was laughing his head off and, when he saw that I was laughing too, he gave me the thumbs up.

The man who had been going around uttering “Cheese… Cheese” was nothing exceptional.

Other people there call out “Steak!… Steak!”

One time, I saw a lady sitting on the sidewalk with an enormous amount of pickled olives for sale, spread out on a piece a plastic.

Surprisingly, the men around there are often well dressed in the latest brand name sportswear because, being freshly stolen, it is sold for next to nothing on the street.

Because I have a new phone and forgot to switch off my location, Google has now asked me to write a review of my bus stop, which is called ‘Highway 91 Offramp’. 

It really is nothing exceptional and it strains the imagination to think why it needs to be reviewed.

The Highway 91 Offramp bus stop has nothing exceptional and it strains Anna Smith’s imagination

Bus drivers often ask me: ”Are you sure you want to get off HERE?”

How would I describe Highway 91 Offramp? 

It is a forlorn stretch of highway where much of the traffic is composed of lorries roaring past.

The bus stop didn’t even have a bench until very recently. One time, some builders working nearby built a bench out of stones and boards.

The people who use it are mainly Chinese workers, (ladies from a nearby orange juice factory) and me and the occasional worker at the shipyard whose vehicle is under repair. There is rubbish strewn about – beer cans, candy wrappers and things that fall from garbage trucks.

One day, a chain link fence was put up. The orange juice workers cut a hole in it so we could still use the path to the Highway 91 Offramp bus stop.

A few years ago somebody, most likely a lorry driver, threw a large milk jug with an unknown yellow liquid in it from the offramp and it landed and balanced on top of the chainlink fence near, but not quite on top of, the hole we walk through.

Everybody felt a bit uneasy, walking under the perilously-positioned jug.

For several months it languished there and the yellow liquid changed colour gradually to green and brown. After six months, somebody wrote on it with black marker: JUG O’ PISS.

I told my neighbours about and some of them walked down to see it and take photos. 

One lady, whose husband drives a lorry, marvelled: “Holy shit! That piss could have come all the way from Alabama!”

Nearby, along the path, are a few boulders and some pine trees.

A few weeks ago, a couple of guys set up a tent and were camping there. Within days, piles of junk started appearing around the tent. It was annoying because then I was afraid to use that path at night and I thought it must also be worrisome for the orange juice people.

Accommodation near Highway 91 Offramp: “I thought it must be worrisome for orange juice people”

Public art by Patrick Wong at Anna’s Aberdeen bus stop

I thought I could add that to my review of Highway 91 Offramp… Camping available, sandy soil easily hollowed into sleeping area, near two bus routes, shade, river view, no toilets.

One morning when I was on my way to the Highway 91 Offramp I saw a man standing near the tent. He called out: “Are you looking for Mike?”

What the fuck, I thought, and I answered crossly: “NO. I am NOT looking for Mike. I am going to the bus stop.” 

My other bus stop is called Aberdeen. It is in central Richmond and has two benches, a bus shelter, a pizza parlour and community art. The current art is by Patrick Wong and I like it. It is about migration and the migrants seem to be depicted as aliens.

Rain drops transform the view from the Aberdeen bus stop in Richmond into something glamorous.

 

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