Ode To East Van

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I am going to diverge from my usual format of talking about film related subjects to one that is also close to my heart. I live in East Vancouver, if you are reading this from another part of the world or did not already know this can carry a stigma. Like New York’s “Hell’s Kitchen” in the 1970’s or Jack The ripper’s White Chapel in the 1880’s. It is sometimes viewed upon as the wrong side of the tracks. For many years Main and Hastings and its surrounding area in East Vancouver has been synonymous with alcoholism, drug addiction, prostitution, untreated mental illness, violence and incredible poverty. But like anything in this world there is more than one side to a story. I have lived in East Van after being raised in The West End of Vancouver, for 10 years now. I have found that If I have been short at the grocery store till, because I didn’t have my purse on me, or whatever someone always insists on paying, saying “just pay it forward” If someone is hurt or in visible distress, people stop to find out whats going on. I have often wondered if this is because the people in this neighbourhood are more likely to have been exposed to drama and trauma? Therefore, they are more willing to get involved and get their hands dirty and help someone else? Pick them up off the ground or protect them from being attacked. I have seen this time and again. I know all my neighbours, some are tall, some are short, most of them have tattoos, some of them don’t but all of them watch out for me, my family and my property, one cannot get a better security system than that. We protect each other and it reminded me a little bit of that episode of “The Walking Dead” (spoilers) where Glenn is kidnapped by so-called “Vatos” who are actually just regular people with a tough exterior which has enabled them to survive during a Zombie Apocalypse. And not only survive but it turns out they are actually harbouring and protecting the vulnerable people of their community, things are not always as they appear. I would also take my chances with them in the same circumstances, because I know that even though they have experienced massive barriers in life, most of them have genuinely good hearts. They may look a little rougher and hell, they may be a little rougher, and tougher, but that doesn’t necessarily make them someone to avoid or be afraid of. Many feel there is a kind of transcendence happening in East Vancouver. And it is my hope that there is always room for change and growth. Anyone who knows someone who has reformed from bad to good knows how powerful that can be and the kind of change it can impress upon society. The art community has also made its presence known here, and nothing symbolizes this more than The East Van Sign by Ken Lum that rises up out of the ground and into the sky, visible from almost any angle, it is a sign of the past, present, and the future of East Van. The symbol itself has been around since the 1950’s, and was associated with everything from the large Catholic population to greaser gangs in the 1960’s and more recently The East Van Saints street gang. I see it as a badge of honour, a symbol of the strength and perseverance of the people who make their lives here. I am proud to live here, to be a part of this community and nothing quite compares to the feeling one gets, when they take a ride, in the summer, on Commercial Drive, with half of the city’s other riders.

 

2 thoughts on “Ode To East Van

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