Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Vancouver Notes

In a sense, this blog is a continuation of the last one. but, before I continue, I will add a few photos taken around English Bay and Stanley Park in 2002 as well as some taken by my friend, Michael.

               English Bay with Stanley Park to the right and some of the Coast Mountains to the north

      From Third Beach past Second Beach to English Bay with West End towers in the background.

Many mountains dominate the Vancouver area and - when it comes to the City - the prime peaks are the Lions. Actually, they are behind the suburbs of North and West Vancouver. The foliage in the foreground is on the trees in Stanley Park. Once more I am thanking Michael W. for his generosity in allowing me to use some of his photos.

For many many years the West End of Vancouver (the isthmus that extends from downtown Vancouver to Stanley Park and the Lions Gate Bridge to the North Store) has been a forest of residential towers and, more or less, an affluent residential area. Yet it also became home to a hooker/hustler 'stroll' much to the annoyance of most of the residents.

                                                   Some of the Totem Poles in the Park

                                              Psst! Watch out for that scavenger!

One evening a battle between residents and strollers erupted into a full scale riot. An outcome of that was the formation of a committee in order to address the issues that were the root cause. Once the committee was formed, the Vancouver Police Department agreed to have regular meetings with gay men (why Lesbians, Bi and Trans people were not included, I have no idea). The purpose of this committee was to give a part of the Gay Community a forum in which to air problems between themselves and the Police Department.

The Rev. Bob Wolfe was a founding member of that committee and, when he left, Dave Gunton and then myself were also a part of it. We met with a senior officer of the Vancouver Police Department once a month and in a room at Headquarters.

The location of the Police Headquarters is on Main Street between East Hastings and the waterfront. In other words - the Downtown East Side. When the meeting ended we civilians would retire to a nearby cafe (usually in Chinatown which is a block away). However, one afternoon the unofficial 'leader' of our group suggested that we go to another place for a change. He mentioned the name of our destination but it did not ring a bell with me.

Whenever I was out on official church business, always I wore a clerical shirt and collar. It was when we were inside the new establishment that I realized that it was a 'strip joint'. I was embarrassed - but not nearly as embarrassed as the waitress who came to take our order!

The issues that we dealt with most frequently were problems of men looking for sexual encounters in inappropriate places. One of those was a men's washroom situated beside a kiddie's playground in Stanley Park. Our response was that, in all likelihood, these men were 'straight' men from the north shore suburbs who were on their way to or from work. We told the Police that they would never read our publications so the only way to deal with that problem was to arrest a few.

A hotel on Robson Street - which had a shopping mall beneath the building - also complained of inappropriate activity in their washroom. Our response to that case was for them to redesign the washroom to make it an inhospitable place for sexual activity to happen.

One day I received a telephone call from a distraught man. He was bisexual, was married and he worked for the local transit company. He had been arrested in a washroom of a Hudson Bay store in a suburban shopping mall. He was terrified that his wife would find out and sue for a divorce and that the Transit Authority would fire him.

I could not address the former but I told him that one of the men in my congregation was an executive with his union, therefore he had no fear from that source.

Shortly after I received that call I was asked to come out and address a Human Sexuality class at Trinity University which is located in the outer suburb of Langley. A visit to the department store in that shopping center was a short detour from my route to the university so I left early enough to be able to make a short stop at the mall.

I found the washroom, went in. and was appalled by the design of the room. The next morning I called the store, asked for the manager and made an appointment for myself and another member of our committee to drop by to see him.

As it so happened, the store manager was appalled by what was happening and really wanted to find a solution to the problem that did not involve arresting people. At that meeting was the head of Store Security. I, and my friend, strongly suggested that the washrooms in the store be completely remodeled to become a place unfriendly to sexual activity. The manager also shared that the arrests included a wide range of men - including a clerk from a neighboring store, a local clergyman - and a member of the Hell's Angels biker gang!

I should add that, being the 'Guest Speaker' at the Human Sexuality Class at Trinity - a fundamentalist backed university - made me a "Daniel in the Lion's Den". I was welcomed but not really appreciated.

A few sunset shots courtesy of a friend who now lives in a condominium tower on English Bay

Ahh, Vancouver - how I love my home city!

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