Category Archives: DTES

historically trained

i’ve been thinking about the ways we take care of our past. and the ways we don’t. and how it gets written over and over.  and sometimes people are more concerned with taking care of the past than they are about casually discarding human lives in the present day.

as you may know, i have historical training.

so while trying to avoid some task, i came across a lost folder – an archive. the fact that this document exists is a testament to qualities not conventional among public officials –to understand that our lives are an ongoing argument to mean in the world, which as i understand it, is to become what we are seeking, rather than demand it of others, and refuse to situate ourselves as endlessly lacking, rejecting the power we inherently have. or, in Tracey’s words, “don’t ask if you’d never give.” i’ve tried to follow through with a bit of the stuff she was working on. and in doing so have learned a lot about government. much of which, as any reasonable person, i didn’t want to know. but holy shit people, am i glad i did.

and if it’s not clear, i do consider the obscenely exploitative and stipended poverty-dependent local activist culture a primary cause of tracey’s death. exploitation and enforcement is a good deal at 10$/hr in this housing market when people are this poor. i’ve done as much as i can at this time to point out these contradictions and hypocrises, and seriously people, this is your fight.

we talked a lot about what the downtown eastside means, and all that had to be figured out. she loved it and she was rooted here but was of more than this place, through relations and connections and networks locally unperceived.

i am not sure if this was posted publicly when i was at vandu, or by the city at the time. it would take me 4-8 hours to prove, one way or the other conclusively, and nobody is paying me right now to do that or even anything i am actually good at or might possibly even enjoy.

on the editorial history i am a little unclear. in any case, this is the city’s proclamation of Tracey Morrison Day, July 21, 2017.

PROC - Tracey Morrison Day - July 21 2017-1 - Edited

for this and much else, thanks Andrea Reimer

when his friend c.s. lewis died, tolkien was shaken. he wrote that he was  “like an old tree that is losing all its leaves one by one: this feels like an axe-blow near the roots.” and he was over 60 then — he was an orphan at twelve, he was in the mud of the “great war” and on his return all his close friends were dead — and as his authentic self, a tree, experiences lewis’ thoroughly natural death as a near-sunderinng from the earth itself 

i first read that last winter.  it stops my heart, and i don’t have a sense of rootedness. or a family. i said in 2014 that the neighbourhood was the closest thing i know to what people meant by “home.” that tentative sense has been gone for about 15 months. it seems to me that most people in the DTES who have been affected by (ie. seen up close) the realities of the “overdose crisis” in this place, have been changed profoundly. to claim otherwise is to embrace denial and a perverse stoicism. or people keep themselves busy – anything as long as there’s never a moment to think – or get really involved with researching the derangement of their senses, or become so involved they can believe themselves indispensible to the situation, invincible, and later indifferent, while the bodies pile up.

i reject that completely. the DTES was predisposed to react in these ways. in fact we were all already traumatized and damaged before this all happened.

i need a bit of time to think. so i’ll take this.

i presume she’d laugh at some of the absurd situations i have found myself in; others she’d enjoy for rather different reasons. but there was an election, the meter has clicked over, i did what i could. wondering what she’d make of all this.

Some people, even elders say, this is sick land, meaning it’s bad land, right. And well, it could be, but you know, how sick could it be when this is where I found compassion, friendship, family, love, hope, faith in people – this is where I found it.

i remember this conversation, her speaking with an elder. we continued walking down the street to deal with some messed up shit that was happening. we talked about that conversation later, though. “maybe its too sick right now,” she said then, and added quietly, “we have to heal ourselves first.”

there’s clearly no interest among the surviving powers in the neighbourhood to do anything different, acknowledge some collective wrong, and rethink the way all our interactions are about power. and i don’t share Tracey’s faith, especially faith in people, not after all this. so i’m not not interested in continuing in this manner, in maintaining these ways of living, or working , or being, in this place.

“that’s just how it is down here,” i hear all the time. “that’s how people are,” i heard often (when i talked to people more). such beliefs condemn even the possibility of positive change as naive – this reflex condemnation is another reason why we are in this mess. so, much thanks, therefore, for showing me (or reminding me?) that these beliefs are both bullshit and chickenshit at the same time. and that there are others. and nothing needs to be this way, down here or anywhere else. there’s nothing natural or acceptable about this disaster. 

on Hastings, it’s just more rain

to quote gord downie, i had a job before this. like – everyone – some of my interests and skills are not about despair. but even i find myself difficult to be around, and i’m concerned that i’m going to start hating the neighbourhood (as so many of its self-appointed ‘leaders’ do, which explains a lot). so if i’m ever going to be any help to anyone around here, i need a few steps back from this. and it’s a little silly to be this frustrated both that i can’t do exactly what i want and that i quit too many jobs.

i need to get back to my other work, and see if i can find it. and i need a break. seriously, at least 6 or 8 months. away from vancouver entirely. i have some writing to do. i haven’t been out of town for years. i have zero 100% reliable income other than disability, no resources, nowhere to be. things to do; i’m restless. bored. time to go. ideas welcome. accepted but help would help more (particularly the non-financial) but as i have no money, small donations would be helpful too 

all the crisis

many of the issues – massive, structural, civilization-damning fails – that i focus my efforts on are very local and immediate to me: deep poverty, homelessness, mental illness, drug use/ harm reduction, catastrophic overdose deaths, colonial murders, ecocide. because i live in the downtown eastside – vancouver, british columbia, all the unceded territory. this is canada’s lost & found box, and everyone in it is broken or breaking. maybe i am close to understanding it. but we must not replicate this

one thing i am sure of – these crises will spin endlessly if marginalized people continue to be dependent, and continue to make demands of Them (and so cede the possibilities of our own expressions of power). ongoing total dependence, after all, is a growth industry for everyone but us

20180720_125533 - Edited

we must instead demand more of ourselves and each other.

“i could do that better if i was given the chance,” lots of people say and i agree. but that’s not a thing, that chance, it’s not going to be given. so take it.       take the chance

history – which is to say, time – does change the meaning of things. mine was, and is, a decision made with an awareness of consequence and risk. it signifies something, surely, to abandon a liferaft. but that’s ok! everyone return to your islands so we can watch each other drown, better than being shot into the sun, past some mathematical horizon

for whatever’s waiting    on the other side of that graph

overdosedeath1_160831

Stealing Home

Stealing Home was held at the Interurban Gallery  (1 East Hastings, Vancouver) in february 2012. Other documentation (and  work) lost, but i found the artist statement:

Side Effects (detail)

Stealing Home is perhaps best considered a visionary environment turned in on itself to create the outlines and intimations of a home. And this home is a transitory space, and it is a struggle to feel at ease within one. Scavenged doors and windows, pieces of houses exist on their own terms and in tension with each other. Glass and mirrors face each other, bearing images as though burned into them, suffused with natural and reflected light. Salvaged words link together, building new texts and whispered associations about the problem of home and homelessness, both inside and outside.

This home is dissolving, fading from view. Many people are here because it’s at the end of things, because this is Vancouver, the terminal city: the last city on the tips of the ocean, literally unsheltered from the storms. It is a city of rebels and runaways.

Stealing Home is also a house turned in on itself, an interior exterior space. This unsettled house is also constraining: these windows do not open, nor can some even be seen through. Some look back at you.

Limited Vision

What I hope to create is an experience of this strange home: intimate moments stolen from an all-too-real world, privacy in plain sight.