Tales of the City: December 2009


For our anniversary, my husband and I celebrated at an Italian restaurant on the Drive. Sometime during dinner my wallet was stolen from my purse. When we realized it, we informed the waitress; after delivering the bill, she informed the owner. He shrugged, grimaced, and walked us out. We pressed him to take action or at least share our outrage. Instead, a round of ouzo shooters appeared, then another. Soon, awash in licorice, my husband and I wandered off happily to spend the rest of the evening looking in dumpsters. —Holly Yoos

Winter’s Tale

It was Christmas Day, and I was far from friends and family, feeling very much alone. The weather was cold and wet, one of those soggy days when it never quite manages to get light and it seems impossible to keep warm. I decided a walk might lift my mood, so I bundled up in a long wool coat and hat, scarf, and boots. As I crossed Macdonald at Broadway, a homeless man was approaching me, pulling a shopping cart. He looked haggard and soaked. I glanced up, and when his eye caught mine, I braced myself: Can you spare some change? Instead, he looked at me kindly and said, “They’re giving out free dinners up the street if you need one.” —Jennifer Van Evra

Relative Distance

Kitted out in tech gear and climbing boots, I was hiking the Chief at Squamish with a friend. I’d been training for a half-marathon, so I felt pretty good about my fitness level until, near the top, we came across a group of Japanese tourists, giggling in sky-high heels, tiny skirts, and white gloves, doing the rope climb to the peak. — Anicka Quin

What Counts

Heading for dinner on lower Main, we parked and hopped over the snowbank. Waiting for us on the sidewalk was an under-dressed, once-lovely, dentally challenged woman. “I just got here from Campbell River and I need 16 dollars to get a room in that hostel,” she said, gesturing across the street. “Just 16 bucks. For a room. Please.” My friend and I each gave her a five-dollar bill. She snatched the money, looked at it contemptuously, and glared at us: “I’m six bucks short!”—Ian Chan

With This Ring

My sister had been travelling for five months and arrived at YVR a glowing new bride. A Customs officer in a bad mood grilled her and her new husband about where they’d been. On learning that they’d recently married in Malta, the officer perked up. “Where did you buy your rings?” she asked. They’d bought them in Seattle a year earlier but had failed to pay duty on them. The officer pointed them toward the “bad people” room. Almost two hours after their plane landed, my sister came out of the terminal crying, security guard in tow. Either she had pay the duty owing plus 40 percent (a total of $1,600) or they’d seize her ring and auction it. Thank God for moms with credit cards.—Marnie Crawford

Personal Style

Determined to get into shape, I hired a personal trainer and started going to his gym four times a week. There was a bit of culture shock. He was into Def Leppard, ultimate fighting, and Maxim magazine. He had a Harley, a black belt in judo, and a tattoo on his arm that said Vlad the Impaler. One morning when I walked in he hastily left the woman whose session was ending and discreetly had a word with me. “Dude,” he said quietly. “Would you mind not tucking your T-shirt into your shorts?”— Jesse Spencer


When my wife and I moved here in 1990, we experienced the standard house-price sticker shock. We’d just sold a nice place in Saskatoon for $102,000. Replacing it with something similar would cost more like $400,000. A fellow soccer parent originally from Winnipeg helped put things in perspective. When a friend visited him, he tried to downplay the family’s real-estate good fortune by explaining that buying a home in Kerrisdale had been a stretch, but damned if the $160,000 purchase wouldn’t now fetch half a million. The Manitoban looked at him in slack-jawed wonder. “You paid $160,000 for this?”—Jim Sutherland

Shock Wave

I’m at the tail end of an invigorating walk through Stanley Park. A 60- or 70-something Asian couple is heading toward me at a brisk pace, somewhere between a power walk and a slow jog. How great, I think, to see so many people, young and old, exercising and enjoying the beautiful day.
As the woman passes, I’m knocked off balance by a sharp blow to my upper arm.
“What the hell!” I shout. “I can’t believe you did that.”
“Fuck you!” the woman shouts back. “Watch where you’re going!” And she gives me the finger. —Gayle Pastrick

The Body

Pregnant with baby #2, I used to escape my one-bedroom apartment, husband, and two-year-old to work in the library downtown. One day, just outside Stadium station, I passed someone lying on the sidewalk entirely covered by a sleeping bag. At the end of my shift, the sleeper was still there. A cruiser happened to be drifting by and I hailed it like a taxi. Pregnancy’s great for stuff like that; the cop stopped immediately. I explained about the person in the sleeping bag. I might have been crying a little. It’s all right, the cop said, I’ll make sure he’s okay. The cop headed for the sleeper; I headed for the station steps. And the sleeper must have been okay, because the next day he was still lying there, covered by a sleeping bag, in the exact same place. —Annabel Lyon