For the Downtown Eastside

I fell in love with you when i first moved here 16 years ago. I felt taken in and accepted by you in a way that i had never known. You believed in me, you showed me how muddy the world is, that i have a great capacity to give, and that i have a strong voice and i have a right to be heard. You were human scale in a sea of towers, you were warm, awkward, unpredictable, crazy, generous, desperate, caring and harsh. I felt at home with you, i know you better than any place in the world. I have an intricate map of you in my head, deaths, protests, memorials, celebrations, clinics, restaurants, phone numbers, streets, who owns the different parts of you, and who wants to claim some, but not all of you, because not all of you is marketable.

I see how you suffer, i suffer too, i watch all these people that call you home, suffer. They don’t leave you, maybe they don’t want to, maybe they can’t. I have had it easy with you. I know that. I will never know what it is like to walk the sidewalks of you with such vulnerability. I organized a parade on your spine, Hastings street, i drew pictures on your sidewalks with people aged 6 to 70. I painted with others on plywood lining your streets, made music with others in your parks. I have loved you because you let me, i have loved you because you have shaped me, you have taught me about commitment and i have loved you because you don’t fit. You don’t fit in this city of beige and glass, with yoga asses sealed in lululemon pants, art fucks coming out the yin yang, lefties that are actually conservative, and an entire city comatosed, anesthetized by the ocean, the mountains, the rain, its own prettiness and privelidge. We are the Valley Girl of Canada and the Downtown Eastside, well you, your a wise guy, you don’t have alot of money, didn’t really care about it much, people mattered more, justice mattered more, you hold our stories, our ghosts, you know the truth. The Valley Girl with her asshole older boyfriend with money don’t want you around anymore, they want to kill you, they want to kill everything about you that reminds them of their humanity, of their roots. You remind them that they built their empire at the expense of all the lives you have seen destroyed all the people that you held that no one wanted to hold, you remind them that they really are small town no matter how hard they try. If they get rid of you, they can maintain the illusion of a world class city, but your ghost will haunt them when they exist as a shell, a city with no memory, and filled with droids in the same pants, living in faux-heritage duplexes.

I will miss you when you are gone. I won’t miss you suffering, i want your suffering to end, i want you to know what it feels like to be honoured for who you are, to feel healthy and to not be asked to fit into some hole that will never fit because you are too big. People are working so hard to save you, and i don’t know if i can help anymore, or if i ever did, and sometimes i wonder if i made things worse. I have been talking about you for years, defending you, speaking about your value, helping care for and be with people who were suffering on your sidewalks, in your parks, in your buildings. I am tired now, as i imagine you are, fighting for the right to exist. Everyone is trying to change you, make you look shiney, hide the suffering, put on your handsome clothes and a brave face, the Olympics are coming. I will stand next to you when they come and we can give them the finger together.

Love,

Sharon

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2 responses to “For the Downtown Eastside

  1. this is a very beutiful sad love letter,

    I am holding out for the land claim protests that will heat up 2010

    or I will just go to Hawaii for two weeks or maybe NY

  2. thank you for sharing another piece of your heart map. you have voice of great knowledge and incredible honesty. keep writing out your book of Vancouver and outsell that silly Copeland stuff.

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