I went out to dinner in Gastown this weekend, and it made me think a bit about this part of Vancouver. Gastown is a startling mix of people, it’s images seem to fracture along very different lines.
On one side of Gastown’s current story, is the party. Young, good-looking Vancouverites with money to spend on a night out often come to this part of downtown. Dressed up in short skirts, expensive jackets, high heels (a terrifying prospect on Gastown’s cobbled streets) they line up outside of trendy clubs and bars, happy about spending a night drinking and spending money with friends.
The other is a reality of downtown Vancouver, particularly downtown Vancouver this close to the infamous Downtown Eastside. So between the lines of young, well off partiers, you have people huddled in doorways or approaching you for money, living their lives on the streets near Gastown.
Do both sides realize how odd the juxtaposition of the two seems? Do those in line for a night out feel guilt when they answer “No” to the question of “Could you spare some change?” knowing their wallets are filled with money for drinks that night? Does each question the motivations of the other? Does it dampen anyone’s party, to get off the bus and walk through poverty to get to a night out?
This are questions I really wonder, just as I wonder how many people who ride the #135 Bus from SFU in Burnaby, along East Hastings to West Hastings to the downtown campus, truly look out the windows at what they pass by every day.
Vancouver is all at once a place of hope for so many, a place of opportunity, of knowledge and culture and diversity. And yet, we have people that we allow to live this way, without help, and for some, without concern.