Tag Archives: Vancouver

What life is like overlooking an alleyway near a Batman set in Vancouver, Canada

Today I got an email from Anna Smith, this blog’s occasional Canadian correspondent. The houseboat she lived on sank in Vancouver around Christmas/New Year and she was made homeless. Now she has an update:


After a few small adventures, including nearly being expelled from a church shelter, I have now found a small apartment in ‘Railtown’, right beside the Port of Vancouver, where I hear seagulls and huge cranes.

After finding the place, I went for a walk around the area at night and I was surprised to learn that I had been transported to Gotham because, as I walked up a bridge over the railway line and looked down, the first thing I saw was a big sign reading:

GOTHAM CITY SHIPYARD

Below the towering cranes, people were standing about casting long shadows. 

Clouds of fog obscured some of the port buildings and then three cars side-by-side, one of then a Mustang, revved-up their engines and then took off, drove at high speed and then circled back to precisely where they had started. They waited there, with their lights on. Then a much larger black car followed the same route, but totally silently.  

They were filming a Batman series or movie.

I have not quite moved in to my new apartment yet: it requires a bit of cleaning and – horrors – FURNITURE !

That was one of the things I loved about living on my boat: whenever I passed by a furniture shop I had no covetous thoughts whatsoever…

However, there were a few OK pieces of furniture left behind at my new apartment and my new neighbour – a kind, curmudgeonly sort of guy – has loaned me a couple of fine wooden armchairs. He said that I would be doing him a favour by keeping the chairs for now and that he generally likes to keep to himself. 

I told him: “That’s perfect. That’s just how I am too!”

Although it’s just a few blocks down from notorious Hastings Street, the apartment is remarkably quiet. It is set back from the street, at the intersection of two alleyways.

There is no end of people using substances out there, usually crouched beside dumpsters or slumped in a doorway.

One sunny morning I saw an increasing number of young men sprawled out, with their knapsacks and foil and pipes, lolling peacefully enjoying their meth, as if at a bucolic picnic. Suddenly a large courier van turned into the alley and stopped. The men were oblivious and made no attempt to get up and I imagined the frustrated driver, probably wondering what to do next.

The apartment below has recently been renovated and all its contents dumped in front of the building – old shower curtains, rotting regular curtains, a queen size mattress and even a toilet, perched precariously near the front door.

One time I saw a man standing up on the queen size mattress, bouncing up and down enthusiastically like a small child. 

I don’t have all day to look out the window but, when I checked twenty minutes later, he was still bouncing. Then a black SUV pulled up and he ran to the passenger side. Then they both left. Drugs ?

One day the mattress just disappeared.

Later, two jolly-looking derelict men, wearing good but battered hats, both using canes, came tottering past.

One cried out with surprise: “Look, John! Your bed is gone! “

A few days later, some ragged-looking people moved the toilet off the front stoop and covered it with a soiled curtain. Some of the other rubbish had been organised somewhat. A pillow was placed neatly on a pallet and so on. 

I thought: “Good. At least we don’t have to look at the toilet.” 

Another day, a friend who was in the apartment taking-in the ever-changing cast of characters reported: “There’s a man in a kilt now”.  

I imagined some scrawny punk guy covered in tattoos but, when I looked, it was a beefy older man in full blue and white tartan regalia right down to his socks, marching along as if on his way to an event. 

Then the toilet had its blanket removed and two chubby drunks – a man and a woman – were hauling it away.

But it turned out they had just left it in the alleyway, behind the building.

The rubbish pile keeps shifting with orange needle caps, random socks and discarded clothing appearing and disappearing.

A tall wonky cedar tree and a Queen Elizabeth rose and a depleted strand of bamboo somehow rise up from the garbage pile. I read that the rose enjoys mulch, but it didn’t say anything about whether it likes shower curtains or socks.

Songbirds perch on the bamboo and flit in and out of the cedar tree.

In the daytime, crows stand at intervals atop the blue fence, waiting for an older Chinese lady who empties out a huge bag of peanuts for them every day. They noisily grab a peanut and fly back up on the fence or into the space inside it, which has big signs above it saying: FILM CREW AND SPECIAL EVENTS and NO DUMPING. 

Once in a while, the vacant space fills up with film crew cars, but I don’t think there have been any special events of late.

There is a constant din of dockside cranes loading and unloading container ships, mixed with the cries of seagulls, but there is little car traffic near the place and no crowds of people, as there are just a few blocks away at Main and Hastings.

I walked through there last week and it is as chaotic and raucous as ever, like a demented fairground, people selling anything and everything. There are a lot of dogs too and poo on the ground, clouds of dust and more and more people jammed together smoking methamphetamine or shooting up. 

In the middle of all this, they are also sitting on the pavement furiously crayoning in colouring books, which is supposed to be therapeutic, but to me it looks sad.

People are dressed either in rags or the latest streetwear fashion, in stuff I haven’t even seen in magazines – or in their pyjamas or in rags. There are an increasing number of fashionably dressed First Nations people, wearing clothing printed with their traditional or modern Coast Salish designs. I lusted after an innovative white jacket from Bella Coola that I saw a good looking young man wearing. He was walking very quickly though, so I couldn’t ask who made it.

A few nights ago I saw somebody on the corner who specialized in selling aluminum walking canes, which lay on the sidewalk, radiating out in a circle…They are a hot item, with so many people needing them around here. I wondered where they were stolen from. Or maybe they came from a care home.

A diabetic friend from the marina ended up in a care home in New Westminster and his daughter went to great trouble to get him a nice wheelchair, so he could explore his surroundings. He explored them so well that he discovered the room where they stored all the wheelchairs of people who had died.

So, the next time she went there, he was roaring around in a motorized chair and busy with a racket he had set up in the gazebo, buying cigarettes from street people in exchange for apple juice bottles he collected from the other inhabitants of the place.

There is a huge courthouse and jail that takes up an entire block of Main Street. I’ve noticed nice vehicles parked right in front – an expensive all matt black Japanese motorcycle one day, a bright red 1969 Thunderbird car the next. I can’t figure out who they belong to. Successful criminals? Or lawyers? Or maybe just people with nice cars who think outside the courthouse is the only safe place to park.

Meanwhile, back at my apartment, glancing out the window again, I was startled to see a large young Chinese man with a box-shaped camera on a tripod, pointing right at the back of the building. I wondered what he could be taking a photo of. All that was there was a grey stucco wall, two windows covered with rusty grates and some vague, not very interesting graffiti. 

He must have been an art student I figured, or maybe a hobby photographer from one of the trendy warehouse/condos closer to the waterfront. When I left the building, I saw that the toilet was still sitting out back. 

So THAT was what he was photographing! 

One more thing… 

Just as my friend and I were exciting the building yesterday, a couple of middle class guys were taking a shortcut through the alley. One of them pointed at the building (and at us) and said loudly: “I can’t believe people actually LIVE in that building!”

It is really quite nice inside though. 

Especially the view of the alley.

Anna says: “Here is a photo of what used to be a  snowball or maybe it was a snowman. Snow it goes.”

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The unsinkable Anna Smith gets a COVID vaccine jab in Vancouver…

Anna Smith, this blog’s occasional Canadian correspondent, is currently homeless because her 33ft boat sank. (See my last blog) but yesterday she had The Jab…


COVID vaccination arrangements at the Carnegie Center

I got immunized for Covid-19 yesterday morning, at the Carnegie Center in Vancouver.

My friend and I lined up for two hours in the cold, watching fights break out, fire trucks passing by and an unending parade of physically and mentally ill people on crutches, canes or pushing each other in wheelchairs. A police car went speeding past going twice the speed limit, weaving between lanes, without its lights on.

And there was the ever-present purveying of every drug known to man… and cheese. 

Behind us in the line were two patient First Nations teenagers wearing sports jerseys. They explained: “We’re getting the vaccine so we don’t give it to our parents…”

Anna Smith with warm COVID nurse Felicia…

Ahead of us in the line were a couple, very thin and ill-looking, wearing dark hoodies. Huddled together in the cold, their figures merged together, it was almost impossible to distinguish them from each other.

They seemed like an outline of one tall, thin person.

After ascertaining my identity, which was her job, the very warm and personable Nurse Felicia from Liverpool was interested to hear that I contribute to a British blog. She asked me how to find it and scribbled down So it Goes

After the vaccination, we went upstairs to the City of Vancouver run cafeteria and picked up delicious meals: a beef dip  – thin sliced beef on toast topped with cheese and gravy, served with a side salad of iceberg lettuce and radish sprouts and crispy empanadas with spinach and feta cheese dressing. It cost the equivalent of three UK pounds. We are very fortunate in Vancouver to have three of these city-run eateries downtown, as well as several places serving good food for free. Sort of odd, though… all these well-nourished people, but still we’re so lacking in affordable housing.

Five unexplained dwarves having a bit of a rest in Vancouver

When I left, heading towards a bus, I encountered some resting dwarves outside Pacific Central Station, on Main Street.

Mad Mike’s Mushroom tent is gone for the winter, but I discovered a cafe selling psychedelics and other things – which, of course, I don’t recommend – in the Strathcona neighbourhood.

My arm became a little sore later in the day, yesterday, and today I got a little rash on the opposite arm, but might just be a spider bite.
 
That’s one thing I miss from the boat. It was like a spider sanctuary. I had different species in different parts of the boat. There were some fat yellowish-white little spiders that I would only see in the summertime. They would startle when they saw me and jump up in the air and land facing the opposite way. Like dancers.
 
I will miss the little waterbugs too. They used to entertain me on hot summer days with how they walked on the river’s surface, in the cool shadow under my boat.I wrote a little blues verse about them, which I still like:
 
All you little water bugs
Underneath my boat
You have such great big families…
And I am all alone
 

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Stormy nights, homelessness, thievery and an orange dress in Vancouver…

Anna Smith in her orange dress in much happier times – back in 2020

Here’s an update on the disaster faced by Anna (aka Annie) Smith, this blog’s occasional Canadian correspondent, whose 33-feet long boat and home of 20 years sank in Vancouver just before Christmas… 

I last blogged about this three weeks ago. 

The sinking happened in the early hours and extremely dangerous conditions forced her to evacuate immediately, leaving almost everything – even her shoes – behind.

As a vulnerable ‘senior’, she faced serious health risks by being homeless and feared being preyed upon or becoming a victim of crime. With good reason, as it turned out…

Anna writes an update:


Things have taken a turn for the worse since your last blog. My boat was completely crushed and smashed to pieces when it was rammed up on the mud bank with extreme force. This completely destroyed almost all my belongings on board and left a trail of debris in the water.  

I also had to deal with constant theft and vandalism. All my tools were taken, along with many parts that had considerable resale value such as the twin engines, propellers and steering wheel.     

Anna searching through the mud at 4.00am in the morning…

I did my best to recover some of my belongings from the wreck, by searching through the mud-covered debris at low tide (which happens around 4.00am in the morning) but this has been especially dangerous because there are hazards such as broken glass, leaking gasoline and nails lying in the mud.

I was able to recover a few precious photos, drawings and journals and some very muddy clothing, including the beautiful long orange dress which I wore in a fashion show at The Vancouver Art Gallery last year. (Blogged about HERE.)

Ongoing donations from a crowdfunding page arranged by a friend have been extremely helpful as I continue clean up and search for long-term housing. The contributions have been keeping me and my family off the streets and allowed us to stay at a small, accessible hotel near the boat. (Anna has 3 disabled family members who depend on her for support.)

With the donated money, I also bought rubber boots, protective equipment, tarps, waterproof overalls, gloves, safety supplies, warning signage, caution tape, flashlights, large rubber totes, cleaning and other supplies necessary for the situation. But, frustratingly, even these supplies were repeatedly pilfered and vandalized.

Anna in the storage locker with her orange dress and the little left of her belongings collected during the last 20 years.

A few trusted friends have been assisting me in safely organizing, sorting, documenting, washing, transporting and moving things to a storage unit – again thanks to the crowdfunding donations.  

I am on medical leave of absence from my job as a peer support worker at WISH Drop In Center Society, (a safe space for street based sex workers on Vancouver’s Downtown East Side). The crowdfunding has really helped to put food on my table during this incredibly trying experience and I am truly grateful. It’s not just the money that helps. Knowing that so many people care is amazing and is helping us get through this tough time and gives us hope.


At the time of posting this blog, the crowdfunding page has had $3,100 donated of a $5,000 target.

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The sinking of a boat in 2020 and the lesbian attack on Miss Canada in 1975

Anna Smith, uncowed by the Fraser River

My last posting here was about Anna Smith, this blog’s occasional Canadian correspondent. 

Just before Christmas, her boat – her home for the last 20 years – and all her belongings – were destroyed on the Fraser River in British Columbia – Vancouver to you and me.

The boat was destroyed partly because of sexism (as mentioned in my Christmas Day blog) but – whatever – there is currently a crowdfunder to put Anna back on her feet again. In the meantime, she is living, thanks to friends, at the Queen’s Hotel – a former strip club which stands a few blocks away from where her boat used to float.

Yesterday, she updated me on her situation and sent me a photo of herself, holding a turkey enclosed in an infant’s snowsuit.

She wrote:


Anna holding a turkey in a snowsuit

The situation is somewhat static here. The boat is still beached at low tide. Everything is pretty much shut down until Monday, as New Year’s Day was just before the weekend. 

I am still at The Queen’s Hotel in New Westminster. I used to work here for the previous owners, in the coffee shop, when the place was more a motel, and run by a quirky Croation family. 

I used to secretly call it Fawlty Sewers. 

It is now completely renovated. There is a motorcycle in the lobby for people who want to take selfies of themselves with it.

In its glory days, they had a terrific diner-style menu, featuring fresh home made pies every morning… and their famous “Skookum burger”.

Skookum is jargon word originating from the (First Nations) Chinook Language and it is in popular use here, It is one of the few words that made it into working class English-speaking vocabulary here – possibly via fishery workers.

(Skookum means impressive, exceptional or impressively strong.)

In the list of people who have donated to the crowdfunder for my boat disaster I was surprised to see the name of one lady… She is one of my former room mates when I was 18 and living in a house full of radical lesbian feminists. 

My roomate Adrienne started a lesbian courier company to deliver Chinese food for the two biggest Chinese restaurants in downtown Toronto.

The women in the lesbian house (including me – I was the youngest) ‘invaded’ the Miss Canada Pageant in November 1975 (which the U.N. had declared International Year of the Woman).

I guess it would be considered a terrorist act today.

Terry Lynne Meyer, winner of Miss Canada 1975

About twelve of us stormed into the television studio and completely disrupted the pageant which had an audience of a couple hundred people and was being broadcast live across the nation.

We were wrestled from the stage (in front of a row of twelve screaming and sobbing beauty queens) and dragged by our legs out of there.

There were photos of our leader Adrienne, raising her fist in the air, her statuesque blonde girlfriend Helen gazing at her in ecstacy, with the row of shocked beauty queens wearing identical long gowns in the background, looking on in horror, gasping, hands to their mouths…

It was quite a radical act for the time, but most of the participants just got on with their lives after that, so it wasn’t properly recorded in history books… it was before there was ‘Women’s Studies’ in universities. 

I have tried looking for a tape of it, unsucessfully, on YouTube… I think the TV station may have excised it or destroyed it.

I did find a video of the pageant continuing  to its finale, all sign of lesbian interference edited out…

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Home of 20 years destroyed… She’s now homeless during the COVID pandemic…

“The contents of my boat are less and less as they float out of holes torn in the hull…”

On Christmas Day, I posted a blog with bad news from Vancouver… 

This blog’s occasional Canadian correspondent Anna Smith’s 33-foot boat had sunk. It had been her home for 20 years. She is now homeless.

I heard back from her today:


I need to go to sleep soon as was down at the boat watching the never-ending shitshow till 0400am as they alternately try to tow, float or ransack the contents of my boat, which are less and less as they float one-at-a-time out of holes torn in the hull. 

The first book to emerge from the wreckage, not surprisingly, was Madame Sarah, the biography of Sarah Bernhardt. She was adventurous, driven, ahead of her times and maybe one of the original ‘goths’, with a habit of sleeping in her coffin. I’m surprised that Sir Gideon Vein, or at least a photo of him, did not accompany her on her voyage towards the sea.

Then a plastic red-pronged Hallowe’en pitchfork emerged gingerly from a hole in the boat’s backside (well, transom), prongs first, and floated away in the direction of the book.

I knew I was something of a performance artist, but hadn’t realised that boat is too.


Anna’s friend and colleague Geetha Subramaniam has started a fundraiser for her at GoFundMe.

Geetha gives more details:


“She has nowhere to safely go in the midst of this pandemic…”

Anna has lost almost everything, leaving her in an extremely vulnerable position. As a high-risk senior with a serious heart condition (aortic dissection) she has nowhere to safely go in the midst of this COVID pandemic.

The sinking occurred in the early hours. Extremely dangerous conditions forced her to evacuate, leaving almost everything – even her shoes – behind. 

She lost most of her personal and sentimental belongings, household effects, supplies and boating tools on board – everything from her kitchen to her bedroom and underwater.

Devastatingly, almost all the professional and artistic equipment  that she acquired over the decades – computers, musical and photographic equipment, hand-made costumes, sewing and art supplies, artwork and even her favorite hats – are gone.

She needs to find safe housing immediately while she deals with the aftermath, salvaging and proper disposal of the wreck. Due to the extremely hazardous conditions of the site, this could require towing, cranes, heavy machinery and labor. 

She has three disabled family members who depend on her for support., which she has since been unable to give.

You might be also able to help Annie in other ways, such as temporary housing (even aboard a boat!), 

Annie is a valued front-line peer-support worker at WISH Drop In Centre , and has been actively involved in community-building and advocacy for numerous organizations and causes including LGBTQ+, feminist and human rights, environmental issues, AIDS awareness and public health education initiatives since her teenaged years in the 1970s. 

She is a first director of XXX Workers Solidarity Association, which organizes Vancouver’s annual Red Umbrella March in support of sex-workers’ rights.

She has been involved in theatre, comedy, and performance art all her life.

Anna says – “My boat after being stuck in the clay riverbank and soaked in gasoline!”

… CONTINUED HERE

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Christmas Day – and a sinking feeling

A Christmas message from Anna Smith

Over several years, I have posted messages from Anna Smith, this blog’s occasional Canadian correspondent.

She lives on a boat in Vancouver, Canada. At least…

…she USED to live on a boat in Vancouver.

Today is Christmas Day.

I received a new message from her this morning:


HAPPY CHRISTMAS JOHN (and assorted friends and family there).

I am on the bus right now, on my way to deliver a frozen turkey to friends and family for Xmas.

For the moment, I am staying at the ‘historic Queens Hotel’ (a former strip club which evolved into a ’boutique hotel’) It is a few blocks from the boat.

I never wanted my obituary to read: “She died on her beloved boat”.

Instead my beloved boat has died on me.

The reason it sank is, because after I spurned the aggressive advances of the marina owner, he towed my boat to a dangerous spot above a sand bar on the river bank and moved onto harrassing the next single woman there.

The river levels get low in the winter, especially during extreme tides. At low tide, my ‘antique’ wooden boat weighing three tons was resting at a 45 degree angle and, with all that weight on the transom, propeller shafts, the most vulnerable part, it was more than the vessel could stand.

The whole boat is still rearing up at low tide. The inside looks like it was ravaged by Hurricane Katrina. 

Some people are trying to start a crowdfunder page for me, but they are having some tech glitches with it at the moment.

The curious thing is…

The day before boat sank, documentary film director Ruggero Romano took me out for coffee to discuss his next feature film. I told him a year ago that, if he wanted some interesting material, he should come out and take a look at how people live on the river.

He went to Italy last year and told me that all summer he was thinking of doing ‘the river’ film.

I tried to disuade him then, because most of the people living on the river were curmudgeonly old men who don’t want to talk to anyone, fearful of losing their moorage. But…

To be continued, with photos…

Anna

CONTINUED HERE

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Canadian eccentricities, one nurse’s fear of sewing machines and J.K.Rowling…

Premier John Horgan wants B.C. to “Live long and prosper”

Anna Smith, this blog’s occasional Canadian correspondent who, in a former incarnation, used to dress up as a nurse on stage, then disrobe, sent me an email last Friday about the fact that, when John Horgan, British Columbia’s 36th Premier was sworn into office the previous day, he had raised his hand to recite the oaths of allegiance, office and confidentiality, then his fingers separated to give the Vulcan salute used by Mr Spock on Star Trek.

Now Anna has updated me:


While the Premier of B.C. was flashing his Vulcan hand signal, I was in a police station on Main Street, Vancouver, wearing my hand-sewn Cthulhu mask for another fashion show to benefit the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre.

…It’s all happening at the Downtown Eastside Womens’ Centre in Vancouver…

This is the same women’s center that Meghan Markle visited earlier this year. I believe I was in the shower there at the time… but they didn’t tour her through the shower area.

I tend to shower in various places. I once had a shower at Vancouver City Hall.

I never showered on stage though… at least, I don’t think so. 

At the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre show (L-R) Erna, Sarah and Nurse Annie

That was a fad in the seventies. I might have done it once, but if I did, I have blocked it from my memory. More likely, I danced on a stage where I was told to shower and refused to do so. That is one good thing about dressing as a nurse.  People are less likely to tell you what to do. There’s always a suspicion in the back of their minds that you might be a real nurse.

I am always in awe of what I call ‘real nurses’. 

Last time I was at St. Paul’s, I told a male nurse that I had been a pretend nurse, and been stripping as Nurse Annie, he said that I WAS a real nurse too, adding kindly: “There’s more than one way to be a nurse!”

We had to sew our own masks for the fashion show. We were placed in a large room in the police station, with distanced trestle tables which had a sewing machine at each one. A feeling of dread came over me. I hate sewing machines and have difficulty following patterns. A volunteer fashion student tried to explain how to follow the pattern exactly. 

But I didn’t WANT a normal mask and it turned out that I had been given the WORST sewing machine. The thread kept breaking over and over. All the other ladies had nice new machines and soon they had dainty masks, which they decorated with sequins and buttons. 

I had the idea of making a more costume-y mask, with long, long ribbons that tied in a bow at the back. But, by the end of the workshop, all I had were mixed-up strips of fabric and meters of green thread tangling into massive knots, bobbins flying, cloth pieces on the floor. I looked like Lucille Ball at the end of an episode. 

Anna, post-shower, in Emma Goldman T-shirt …Anarchist Emma hated sewing machines…

I felt like I was back in high school, like my head was going to explode and I walked out after the class fuming… I had wanted to model, not use a stupid sewing machine! 

On the street, I ran into a Quebecoise stripper friend of mine and told her my woes. Surely, as a dancer, she would understand how awful sewing was? She listened a bit, before interrupting: “You do know I’m a seamstress, don’t you?”

Her entire family had been tailors for generations!

She said she could easily sew the mask for me. 

I actually hand-sewed the face part. I can sew by hand, no problem. But the long ribbons would have taken forever…

In a couple of days she had them done: meters of cloth  sewn into long neat ribbons, with nice diagonal tips, like laces.

The show went OK. It was live-streamed and raised money with the tickets and an auction. But I missed having a live audience. And we were confused because we could barely hear our music… though it was heard by the viewers.

I danced to JJ Cale’s song Call Me The Breeze, because his music is so relaxing…

Of course, people asked if I was really a nurse…

Afterwards, I met two more real nurses. One was at a clinic, where I had a COVID-19 test. 

COVID is now spreading rapidly through the Downtown East Side, after a slow start there.

The second nurse was a surprise… I walked into what I thought was a storefront cannabis shop (it used to be), looking for some rolling papers for a neighbour.

I was very surprised to learn that I was in Vancouver’s first psychedelic mushroom shop. Now people don’t have to go down to ‘Mad Mike’s Mushroom Tent’ in front of Pacific Central Station all the time. 

Well, in fact, I don’t  think Mad Mike’s is open in the winter time.

The new mushroom shop on Granville Street is called Zoomers, and there is a registered nurse named Rachelle on staff there. Clients have to have a brief consultation in Rachelle’s office, fill out a form and promise not to drive whilst on mushrooms.

Micro-dosing is recommended…

That was yesterday. This morning, at the very busy intersection of Granville and Georgia, I saw some odd sights:

A middle aged man with a flushed face wearing a Santa hat and also wearing two signs. One sign said:

“I (heart) J.K. Rowling.”

…In eccentric Vancouver, close to the giant statue of Satan…

I take it he was the same man who paid for a billboard saying the same thing in East Vancouver (close to where the giant statue of Satan was erected). The City of Vancouver had the billboard message removed for being an expression of transphobia.  

The other sign the man was wearing said something ridiculous like “Children have the right to experience PUBERTY”.

Another unhinged-seeming man nearby had an ominous sign on his bicycle warning those who do not love Jesus that they are DOOMED for eternity. He was staggering about and holding a stretched-out white coat hanger, for no apparent reason.

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Books, films, songs, big toes and Trump – John Fleming’s Weekly Diary No 37

… CONTINUED FROM DIARY No 36

SUNDAY 27th SEPTEMBER

Until my illness in May, I never really remembered my dreams. Maybe once every six or nine months, I might wake up and remember what I was dreaming.

But now, because I wake up maybe six to twelve times during the night, dehydrated, I remember – or, at least, I am aware of – some dreams and I am amazed by the detail, though reality can be more surreal.

Today, Kunt AKA Kunt and The Gang said he was about to release two new limited edition Bumface Poohands books: Bumface Poohands – A Day At The Park and Bumface Poohands and the Coronavirus Pandemic Lockdown.

With reality like this, who needs dreams?

MONDAY 28th SEPTEMBER

I have a low heart rate. Adults normally have a resting heart rate of 60-100. Mine is usually around the low 50s, sometimes the high 40s.

As I write this, it is 53. But my cousin Muriel also has a low heart-rate, so it must be a hereditary thing.

My medical problems in May (still continuing) were caused by a still-unexplained high calcium level resulting in a sudden drop in kidney function from 62 to 19.

My cousin Muriel says that, years ago, she was told she would get kidney problems as she got older because of very poor circulation in the base of her spine, bottom and back thighs. This has not happened.

My sticking-up big toes are not at all sock-friendly

And, fortunately, the circulation of my nether regions is, as far as I know, fine.

But, if memory serves me correctly (which it seldom does), Muriel and I both have a funny quick in our middle fingers, where it goes higher in the middle making it less easy/more sensitive to cut the nails.

We can both be easily and literally cut to the quick.

And we both have big toes that stick up.

Yes, I think it’s a bit odd too.

She tells me: “Finding comfy walking boots has been a problem through all my walking years.”

TUESDAY 29th SEPTEMBER

Ariane Sherine‘s latest serious-but-with-a-lot-of-humour-added-in book How to Live to 100 is published on Thursday and she has found that she is already selling well in unexpected quarters. The book is already, two days before publication, at No 174 in the Cheese & Dairy section of Amazon UK.

Mind you, for several years, Amazon UK listed comedian Malcolm Hardee’s autobiography I Stole Freddie Mercury’s Birthday Cake as an academic textbook and could not be persuaded otherwise. Amazon UK is currently listing it as being published on 1st January 1638 and as being available at the bargain price of £45.60 (used) or ‘new’ at £995.36.

In other shocking news, my eternally-un-named friend lost her silver ring in the street in Borehamwood tonight. A search by iPhone torch and proper torch failed to find it.

WEDNESDAY 30th SEPTEMBER

Always be wary of what you say to plumbers. A good one is hard to find.

This afternoon, a plumber told me he had been doing the job for over 20 years. I told him:

“Wow! You know your shit, then.”

He heard it as: “You know you’re shit, then.”

Who knew the power of a single apostrophe?

I also got a handwritten postcard shoved through my letterbox today from the Jehovah’s Witnesses. It is a bit worrying when they do not put their trust in the Lord enough to knock on doors and try their sales pitch face-to-face.

This follows the incident earlier in the year when the healing waters of Lourdes were closed because of the risk of visitors catching coronavirus.

It is all somewhat counterproductive for the sales pitch.

THURSDAY 1st OCTOBER

I’m honoured to be mentioned disparagingly…

I got a copy of Ariane Sherine’s much-anticipated book How to Live to 100.

It turns out I am mentioned in it halfway through, somewhat disparagingly – I had been asked before publication if the reference was OK and had, of course, forgotten.

Fortunately, I am not in the index, so you will have to buy it and read it to find where my image is wantonly crushed. Which you should do anyway.

I mean you should read it, not wantonly crush me.

Charlie Brooker says: “This book will probably save your life… Unfortunately“ and it includes interviews with Clive Anderson, Derren Brown, Bec Hill, Konnie Huq, Robin Ince, Stewart Lee, Josie Long, Richard Osman, Lou Sanders, Arthur Smith, Jeremy Vine sans Uncle Tom Cobley et al.

FRIDAY 2nd OCTOBER

I slept from 7.15pm last night to 7.30am this morning and woke to the unsurprising news that Donald Trump has developed coronavirus: but he should be OK as he has long said it either doesn’t exist – it’s a hoax – or it is simply like a mild flu.

More interestingly, I got an email from Anna Smith, this blog’s occasional Canadian correspondent, who lives in Vancouver. She had seen a Facebook post of mine: showing the Academic Song and Dance Ensemble of the National Guard of the Russian Federation singing “Sex Bomb”.

Anna wrote:


I REALLY enjoyed the Russian military police choir video (If only all the military could concentrate on music).

I have been having a somewhat difficult time here with the combo of COVID measures and inhaling wildfire smoke from the California forest fires (it was really bad here in Vancouver – worst air quality in the world for a bit – for ten days mid-September), then an enormous local pier caught fire… They couldn’t put that out for ten days. I was inhaling burning creosote… lovely…

Burnt California tastes way worse, though possibly we are also inhaling dead bodies too… it tastes metallic… maybe its all their cars and appliances.

The smoke has returned but it’s not as bad as it was…


SATURDAY 3rd OCTOBER

This afternoon, in a near miracle, my eternally-un-named friend was walking along the pavement in Borehamwood and saw, lying on the ground, the silver ring she had lost on Tuesday. It was about 15 or 20 feet away from the spot where she thinks she must have dropped it.

Spot the ring…

Let’s hope the luck of the British continues…

Tonight, a fascinating documentary about musical comic Robert White is being screened (and is up for an Audience Award) at the Awareness Film Festival in Los Angeles – It’s an online virtual event this year because of COVID-19.

I think I am pretty safe in saying that Robert is the only Aspergic, dyslexic, web-toed, cross-lateral, gay, quarter-Welsh, gluten-intolerant professional musical comedian in the world who made it to the final of Britain’s Got Talent and came runner-up AND won the highly-prestigious Malcolm Hardee Award for Comic Originality at the Edinburgh Fringe.

The Autistic Comedian gives an extraordinary insight – warts and all – into what it’s like for a hyper-sensitive performer to grow up, undiagnosed, in the 1980s and 1990s, then feel his life spiralling out of control but then learn to deal with the challenges totally on his own.

It gains from the fact that director Joe Bor is also a comedy performer and Robert’s friend – so there is a unique access and insight. It reminded me of the 1997 Elton John documentary Tantrums and Tiaras, directed by David Furnish.

Both films manage to be an emotional rollercoaster with unique psychological insights.

 

… CONTINUED HERE

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Anna Smith’s Vag show; drugs kill more than COVID-19 in British Columbia

In the last blog, my occasional Canadian correspondent Anna Smith explained she felt awkward at having accidentally appeared in a surprisingly Christian YouTube video titled Strippers, Prostitutes and JESUS.

So, obviously, I asked her what else she had been doing… intentionally.

She replied:


In January this year, I was tottering around in an annual charity fashion show – Herstory in History – at the Vancouver Art Gallery (known popularly as The Vag). There were 13 models on the Vag runway and one grass dancer. Here I am…

(VIDEO by Candy ; MUSIC by The Outbursts)

The Vag is about as high profile a venue as I have done here in Vancouver – and for an important cause, so I had to try really hard not to strip.

Highly spirited Anna Smith with Two-Spirited Little Dancing Bear

Luckily I had to take my bra off before I went on because I had forgotten that the dress was a bit small on me and I couldn’t zip it up and it looked terrible with the bra showing. But I left my underpants on for security in case I fell over… and the undies were a bit baggy so if I did go flying and they showed it could be comical rather than tragic…

It was for a very good cause – to raise money for the Downtown Eastside Women’s Center. I often drop by there to get a delicious lunch after work.

The Downtown Eastside is known for being the ‘poorest postal code in Canada’. Researchers from all over the planet come to study the area. 

About half the population of the DTES are of First Nations heritage. The rest could be from anywhere in the world. In Ruggero Romano’s terrific documentary about homeless people, V6A, (available online), one of the characters is a Rastafarian-looking guitarist who concludes his interview with a gentle “Fuck you! I’m from London!“.

Crack cocaine use in a Downtown Eastside alley, Vancouver (Photograph from Wikipedia))

There is a remarkable sense of community in the DTES and, considering the extreme poverty, the level of violence is isolated and not as frequent as you’d expect.

The open use of drug injection is staggering though, with needles and paraphernalia littering the pavements. The sidewalk is lined with people sitting side by side shooting up or passed out. Almost nobody is wearing masks.

Everyone (including me) thought COVID-19 would have already decimated the populace there by now but, for some reason, it hasn’t. The only cases I heard of were of two men, staying at a Salvation Army hostel, who had recently been released from prison.

In fact, many more people have died of drug overdoses than from COVID-19. In June, 175 people in British Columbia died from illicit drug overdose, surpassing the previous high of 171 in May. For four consecutive months now, there have been more than 100 illicit drug toxicity deaths.

COVID-19 has made the drug overdoses increase because more people are ‘using’ alone, mostly young men. The cheap hotels and hostels where most people live no longer allow guests.

‘April’ going through drug withdrawal, on Hastings Street… (Photograph approved for publication on Wikipedia by ‘April’)

The streets are teeming with thousands of homeless people residing in tent cities, in downtown parks and alleyways. Tragically, a high proportion of the homeless and drug addicted are ‘aged out’ youth, formerly in government ‘care’, which ends abruptly at the age of eighteen when they are thrust into one of the world’s most expensive cities and expected to survive on a pittance which doesn’t even cover a quarter of the average rent, let alone food or clothing.

The Downtown Eastside Women’s Center is an amazing resource for all self-identified women who live or work in that neighbourhood, providing free food, clothing, hygiene services and advocacy.

Another interesting thing I did for a Downtown Eastside women’s organization was ear modelling.

I was an ear model in a YouTube made-for-charity fundraiser at WISH, the drop-in center for street sex workers where I work. 

It didn’t start out as an ear modelling video.

They got some of us in the Supportive Employment Programme to say what it meant to us to work at WISH. 

Since we were all current or former sex workers, we were filmed from behind or from the side to protect our privacy and some women chose to have their voices altered but it looked a little funny, because it looked sort of like those televised interviews with criminals and the part most in focus was our ears.

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Anna Smith with Strippers, Prostitutes, JESUS but no Zombies in Vancouver

I asked Anna Smith, this blog’s occasional Canadian correspondent, how she had been getting on during the coronavirus pandemic. She lives in Vancouver.

She replied:


COVID-19 has me off work for now, sadly.

No, I’ve not had the coronavirus, unless asymptomatically. I probably should get tested though… I worked until the end of March and then four different doctors told me not to go to work cause I’m too high risk and I was doing stuff like cleaning vomit from the sink and consoling suicide attempters with hugs etc.

I’m fine, more or less. Just a bit annoyed at having involuntarily appeared on  YouTube in something called Strippers, Prostitutes and JESUS. 

My entire life I’ve tried so hard to avoid being in porn and now, all of a sudden, with no warning at all, I’m in Strippers, Prostitutes and JESUS! 

All I was doing was trying to catch a bus at Main and Hastings!

Why is it every time I go to a bus stop these things happen?

You can see me crossing the street, at 5’17” in, just as the preacher is shouting about Trials and Tribulations. How appropriate.

I even have a speaking part… 

All I say is, “Oh, hi,” to a lady I know… and now ten thousand people all over the world have liked the video and are saying “God Bless” and worse…

Can’t they see I am holding my hand over my ear to protect myself from the Gospel? 

Because the preacher had a powerful amplifier, it was really disturbing the peace and he was shouting about all kinds of drugs and his mother and prostitution.

Eventually, he was arrested – a few days later at English Bay, near the Davie Street gay village – for causing a disturbance by insulting lesbians.

I find it a bit odd that a man who seems to have such hatred for homosexuals (and Muslims and trans people) has chosen a theme song which starts with the lyrics “Falling in Lo-o-o-ve with Jesus…”

I am thinking of making a sequel called Strippers, Prostitutes and Zombies. Or maybe Strippers, Zombies and JESUS. We have already found a dog at our marina to play Jesus. I could be the stripper and almost anyone here could easily pass as a zombie.

… CONTINUED HERE

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Filed under Canada, Christianity, Humor, Humour, Religion