Having visited countless cities in 82 countries, I was surprised to discover that a town so many had held in high praise turned out to be extremely dull, disturbing, and disappointing. It was also stimulating in some rather unpleasant ways that I hadn’t anticipated. Vancouver’s homeless population is particularly more aggressive and bizarre than you might find in even San Diego or San Francisco.
Every outing from my hostel assured me additional material for this blog in the form of strange and tragic encounters that can be experienced on almost every block one passes on Granville Street. It was like being in a B-movie that goes from trippy, to sad, to ridiculous all in the period of five minutes. One needn’t sample the legendary BC Bud (famous locally grown marijuana) to get a taste of altered states of reality. Just walk down the streets of this lunatic asylum, and you’ll get a chemical-free acid trip on the house. Vancouver is a heroin dream with periodic bursts of crystal meth psychosis.
And that’s another thing, the BC Bud is good but like everything about this place is also overrated. It is no better than what can be found at most California dispensaries, and I suspect in Washington and Oregon as well. Add to that the fact that you cannot smoke weed within 1oo feet of any window or door, and you’ve pretty much eliminated every location in Vancouver. Then you are forced to seek refuge in one of a handful of smoking lounges which were all a mile away from my hostel. For $5.00 you can chill for an hour and use an industrial grade vaporizer. The New Vansterdam Cafe was filled with three flat screens all playing various sports including the Golf Channel! Definitely not my thing, and I’m sure George Carlin would not approve if he were alive. The next place was too hot and featured a disagreeable employee and angry rap music, but the VanCity Bulldog was just right. Smaller cooler place, nice employees, and agreeable music. They even have some connection with the famous Bulldog Café in the real Amsterdam.
In fact, do yourself a favor, skip Vancouver altogether, save your money, and go a truly charming city with plenty to see and do. The real Amsterdam has a far better European cannabis culture tied up in a much prettier package. The original Bulldog and the Van Gogh Museum alone would bury this Canadian cultural failure of a city. Add Amsterdam’s hundreds of quaint bridges and lovely canal houses, and no comparison is even worth mentioning.
You’re probably wondering what possessed me to go to all of those lounges which were all a mile away from me? Well in this snoozer of a city it definitely takes the edge off of the boredom and the disturbing nature of it’s street population. It was either that or stay at the hostel, which had an older fellow staying there whose uncovered cauliflower ear was caked full of dried blood. This would have been unpleasant enough if it weren’t for the fact that he hung around the kitchen most of the time.
No day here is complete without an encounter with angry psychotic barking obscenities at anyone within earshot. There were a young man and girlfriend who displayed a sign requesting money for weed and munchies while the guy played with his pet rat. Later on, a giant black woman in a tight spandex outfit ambled by with a gargantuan boob hanging out of the ensemble, thankfully obscured by additional spandex but by no means rendered any less grotesque than it sounds. Another block offers up a giant emaciated goth dude with full hood and cloak. He must have measured 6’7″-6’10” at the very least.
At one point I heard a terrible fusillade of obscenities being hurled at some poor sod. A bus had just stopped and spat out a particularly disagreeable, haggard, gap-toothed old harpy in a filthy flower print dress who was laying into some bedraggled old bugger who shuffled up the sidewalk ahead of her in a desperate bid to save whatever hearing he still had left. She was angrier than a dog shitting tacks as she continued her spittle strewn assault. Thankfully the cacophony faded into the distance, and once again the streets were lined with the silent suffering of those sleeping restlessly on the sidewalks and in the alcoves taking leave of their misery for a short while. And so it goes, block after block.
Most of the encounters were very sad indeed. One that stands out is the filthy, undernourished, heroin ravaged, heavily tatted grandma sitting on the sidewalk wailing in emotional agony in the middle of a beautiful sunny day.
The bottom line in Vancouver, you will be hard pressed to walk a block or two without being vigorously panhandled, offered some kind of religious enlightenment, encountering someone talking to themselves or seeing something tragic or truly bizarre. My experiences have been frequent, and I would have felt as if I was embracing a warped view of this usually highly praised metropolis if I had not found numerous articles that backed up my impressions to a tee.
Needless to say, I find that the locals are more than a little too self-important when it comes to their town. I don’t give a damn what the opinion polls or the livable city ratings declare. This place has all of the unpleasant things that tend to go hand in hand with big cities without the usual compensating advantages. It’s filthy, noisy, and dull with nothing much more than the homeless and the mentally ill to spice things up. This was all a big surprise to me.
It definitely didn’t help matters that I visited here after my trip to spotless Reykjavik in breathtaking Iceland. I’m taking an all-day bus trip out into the country and to Whistler on Monday before I leave to cleanse myself of this seriously non-Canadian experience. I’m just biding my time until then.
Rest assured that none of the descriptions I have included contain any form of exaggeration. In fact, there were many incidents that were forgotten or just not included because they were just too tasteless, even for this blog.
Making progress today. I managed to find a good cappuccino, and didn’t see anyone bleeding on the sidewalk today. Seems like I got an extra special dose of the bizarre on my first four days. I’m sure everything will get back to abnormal tomorrow.
SCIENTOLOGY – Nuff Said
VENUS & MARS – Local Handmade Goth & Steampunk Corsets
Vancouver is home to a large Indian and Pakistani community.
No helmets for these guys. The only thing between their heads and the pavement is a turban!
Whistler Day Tour
This is more like it. Beautiful mountain vistas without heroin addicts littering the sidewalks.
WHISTLER – Host Mountain Resort of the 2010 Winter Olympics
Ski slopes are visible in the distance.
THIS WAS A MISTAKE
Usually, Canadians are quite adept at producing this variety of food. Still haven’t figured out what that is? That, my friends, is a ham and cheese crêpe. It was the worst crêpe I have ever taken one bite out of due to the fact that the pancake had the flavor and consistency of whole wheat flour, sawdust and a pinch of sand.
A gorge on the way to the bungy jumping.
I skipped the Bungy, having already done it 3 times in New Zealand and once in Thailand. I prefer sky diving anyway.