Tales of the City: October 2009

Mother Goose

I visited Vancouver for the first time in the mid 1980s and took some time to just walk around downtown. On a shabby/genteel residential street, I happened upon an elderly lady, in a sky-blue dress with a matching bow in her hair. She was pushing an old-fashioned baby carriage, in which sat a goose, with its own sky-blue bow around its neck. The lady seemed to be out for a routine walk, and the goose was prattling quietly as they passed me. —Moira Farr

The Guardian

My boss at the Sylvia Hotel told me I wasn’t fast enough to be a busser, but I was just so sunny and lovable she wanted to keep me around. “Our dishwasher just quit. How does that position work for you?” she asked. “Um, great.” But as I walked away, I fell into a verge-of-tears funk. I ended up on Hastings, and as I waited for the light to turn at Homer, someone said, “Excuse me.” I assumed he was going to ask for money. “I can tell you’re a very nice person,” he said. “You’re probably around 16.” I was shocked: most people took me for about 12. I replied that, yes, I was 16. “Don’t ever hate,” he said. “Always forgive and never hate. I hope you have a great day.” —Bonnie Nicol

Cashed Out

When a major bank closed at Main and Broadway, two heavily armed security guards stood watch as a system of pulleys hoisted a giant safe onto a truck. Once the guys with the guns left, a crew arrived to apply fresh coats of black paint over the bank’s once-prominent logo, so it seemed the now-empty store was selling something ominous. Soon after the closure, an artist placed large professional-quality white stickers onto the blacked-out sign that read NO INTEREST on one side and AUTOMATIC WITHDRAWAL on the other. —Billeh Nickerson

A Couple of Stoners 

At 3 a.m. I was telling a skeptical admitting nurse at St. Paul’s, through bouts of incoherence, that I thought I was passing a kidney stone. By the time I was actually in a bed it was all over, but the examining physician confirmed my self-diagnosis and demanded I rest for a few hours. Beside my bed was a teenager in the throes of a high-volume drug trip. “Oh my god, I’m being born! I can see the blood! Oh god! I can see the placenta!” After a half-hour of this, an archetypal bull dyke cop lumbered to his bedside. “You!” she boomed. “Shut up!” “Yes, ma’am,” the kid whimpered. “Good answer!” she said, winking at me as she strode away. —Russell Wodell


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The Crate

I bumped into Don—literally—on Dunsmuir, backing into him as I was admiring a redhead’s rear motion. Hadn’t seen Don in decades. Over a beer at Caesar’s, we reminisced about how, 30 years previously, we had drunk highballs, three for $1, at the New Westminster Armory.
       After many drinks, Don drove Eric (asleep in the back seat) and me home to the West End in his beat-up orange VW Bug—The Crate, we called it. I could see the road passing beneath us. Only the spare tire was keeping me from sliding into the back seat.
       We were crossing Edmunds when I shouted “Stop!” It was 4 in the morning. “There’s a cop!”
       Sure enough, we got pulled over. “Licence and registration, sir.”
       “Why, certainly, constable,” slurred Don, as he stepped out of The Crate.
       “Hmm,” said the cop. He put his foot on the rear bumper, which promptly fell off because the chicken wire wouldn’t hold anymore. Then the VW started to roll backward. Don and I feverishly tried to keep it from sliding any further.       
       The cop went to the front of the car and checked the headlights. One was out. Don thumped his fist on the right fender and the light came on.
       I had visions of bailing him out of jail. But the cop found it all so funny he could barely contain himself. He gave Don 48 hours to get things fixed, then said, “Have a safe drive home, sir.” —Henry Huber

Sardine Love

Shoehorning myself onto a packed SkyTrain every day at rush hour is a bit like doing hot yoga in a business suit. One morning the trains were so full they weren’t even stopping. Looking for someone to share my exasperation, I turned to a woman nearby who, like me, was dressed for an office job. I said, “Can you believe this?” Her eyes darted over me in quick assessment. “I don’t have any money,” she said, then resumed staring down the tracks. “Well,” I said. “I’m not going to give you any.” —Lara Carter

Think Local

Back in the ’70s, when I worked for CBC Radio, I’d take a tape recorder out on the street and ask passersby unserious questions for later broadcast. One day, on Granville, I stopped two young women and asked them the question of the day: “Ladies, who do you think is the world’s most famous Canadian?” One of them said, “Gosh, don’t ask us. We’re from out of town.” —Chuck Davis


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