Chapter Three: Disobedience
It is autumn of the year 2009 in the month of October, and I am reported to be seen in the D.E.S. – let continuous camera surveillance do the talking. I reportedly live one floor above the last bar open each night in the pre-Olympic environment of the greatest city on earth, Vancouver, British Columbia. I live a floor above a hard rock/dance bar called 50 Bourbon Street and the music blasts until 3 A.M..
The Hildon Hotel is a single room occupancy (SRO) in the most poverty and drug-ravaged neighborhood in North America. I neither affirm nor deny reports of my whereabouts in the D.E.S. (“The 'what'?” D-E-S, muthafucker. . .Down_town East Side) that once fielded a team of serial killers making victims out of so-called drug/sex trade workers.
“Snuff films,” said Randy. Ugh, I replied, adding a few self serving remarks about strange deeds done behind-the-scenes of the Military Industrial Complex.
“Did you know they called it the Indus tree after they planted them east of the Indus River?”
No he did not.
Vancouver has a large film industry. They are always shooting in the D.E.S. and caravans of trucks and trailers park on the streets with valuable movie-making equipment, and movie stars, and 'players' in the industry, walking parallel with 'players' at the end of time.
The Hildon Hotel was built by Masons in the Gastown waterfront district in 1909 and is today a geological anomaly that puts everybody in the building six feet under (the filthy gray carpet is the magic), close to but four feet out of touch of God. The Hildon is a shit-hole run by reformed alcoholics and drug addicts, dry-drunks and ex-junkies with habits reduced to coffee, methadone, and marijuana. These monkeys run a five-storey hotel (elevator has a deceiving looking up-pointing arrow which is another deception) composed of $500 a month rooms rented to drug-tethered tenants queuing at the front office for income assistance cheques on a day they call 'Mardi Gras,' a monthly drug frenzy in the D.E.S.. In the first few weeks of 'living' there, I was so disgusted by everybody in the building, when the day arrived, I started singing, loudly, “Have a Holly Jolly Christmas, 'Cause it's the Best Time of the Year,” until somebody named RJ came to my door, and said, “It's called Mardi Gras,” politely.
The search for oblivion becomes frantic in the yawning stretch between the month to month Mardi Gras; these days become insufferable on all the five stinking floors where a search for drug relief produces an air quality turning acquaintances into barking-mad adversaries. Knocking at doors over cigarette-paper-sized debts, pitiful larcenies, and strange women begins at all hours of day and night. Other fucking assholes try to play bashed up stereos past the nightly till 4 A.M. musical experience occurring a floor beneath me. It's much easier to get obliterated on drugs than sit around wishing everybody dead.
The wail of threats conjures nightmares that haunt denizens other than myself who is haunted by far too many ghosts to be concerned over a bunch of low-track junkies, crack-heads, and disabled people bent on self-immolation. Empathy is a thought I cannot spare.
This neighborhood is abandoned to lawlessness, dangling at the bitter end of a city's tether, watched by bullies, and perfectly fits as a doppelganger of hell. Police have a one-sentence description regarding inhabitants of the D.E.S., “If you're on the streets of the D.E.S., you are either buying drugs or selling drugs.” They have a simple code: a '1' is a seller, a '2' is a buyer. There is a one-sentence description of the Vancouver Police Department: Adolf Hitler wants you!
Observation by police in the D.E.S. is persistent to say the least, with squad cars continuously circling and beat cops continuously walking at all hours in all weather through all seasons, and police are carefully surveyed by Ones and Twos, and everybody agrees it's a matter of containment. There is gentrification underway that sort of eats at the corrosion by moving a better class of drug user in to dine at the upscale restaurants. I know a couple of employment programs are making bone-racks into street janitors by giving them a stick with fingers on it and paying them to wear fluorescent yellow and orange jackets, so the current milieu is especially geared to put a mask on things for the 2010 Winter Olympics, which are coming to the city in February.
This part of the city is the circus midway of a macabre carnival that takes place whether half-a-million visitors arrive for a marvelous world spectacle of sport or not. This neighborhood will be one of the tourist destinations, ya know, because of all the gentrification.
Vancouver is a port city on the Pacific Rim with a history of international comings and goings. The scuttlebutt in the halls of the Hildon is that longshoremen unions are controlled by the underground and the import of narcotics spans the spectrum. Like I give a fuck to hear this nonsense.
In the hallways of the Hildon, and down on the streets of the D.E.S., all the hard drugs are available at the wink of an eye, with crack cocaine leading the list, followed by heroin, morphine, oxycontin, percocet, other pills, pot, and the rest. It's not always a wise choice to shop here, but the alleys of the D.E.S. are drug emporiums day and night with supplies coming from various sources. Today's drug drops in the D.E.S. come from organizations with all kinds of racial profiles, including biker gangs, and it is an enormous drug sector. The business begins at Cambie Street and West Hastings Street (which turns into East Hastings Street a block later), and runs east six blocks past Main Street, down to Water Street beside the harbour for a total of 20 square blocks. The mayhem is contained directly to the south by historic Chinatown.
Drug sales are made in the streets, alleys, and in front of police on East Hastings. Drugs are consumed in the open air under close surveillance, you have to see it to believe it, and you will, often in front of police who occasionally make arrests. The cruisers flash the lights, a body is snatched, the marketing continues without a hiccup. Usually cops tell the number 2s to drop what they are doing and step on it and the drug user scowls in defiance and steps on the glass pipe, even shrieking their rage that a hit has been erased. No charges are laid.
My new friend in the Hildon tells me when VPD (Vancouver Police Department) makes a 'sweep' to take down a few drug dealers (as they do on occasions like when a neighborhood improvement has occurred to open a new sidewalk or hi-rise building) the phenomenon known as 'bunkers' arrives. My new friend lives across the hall on the second floor, and he tells me these people come from Surrey and other areas in the Lower Mainland to sell fake 'rocks' of crack cocaine for $20 each. They cannot be busted because they're not selling drugs but money gets exchanged and buyers walk away to an unexpected, unwelcome surprise -- they are drug-free and smoking hard wax. These bunk cocaine rocks are cut with chemo-therapy drugs or other concoctions to fry the brains.
My new friend, Dyna, comes by the name because he used to ride a DynaGlide Harley Davidson motorcycle, tells me there is a method to avoid a 'bunk' street purchase. He says candidly that these bunk sales are always underway and you have to be careful to avoid a rip-off even in the 'best' of circumstances (as if any of those exist within a mile of this place).
The habituation of 'buying' involves the typical cagey criminal maneuvers, an ancient statement of self-defeat involving body language that expresses artful dodging, dancing in the middle of a restless crowd. The crowd pleaser enters the large scene on East Hastings (or at the entrance to an alley on Carrall and Cordova) and this Two approaches the One, and the conversation (= negotiation) commences: "I got crack," says a tall, gaunt-featured woman, "and it's good stuff." The '2' replies, "Let me have a $5 toke to try it out," and Dyna hands over a 'fin' ($5 bill). She breaks off a piece in her palm and Dyna extracts a thin pyrex tube which gets lit at the toke-end. "I'll take a twenty," says this satisfied '2', and he walks into the crowd with the remains of the $20 rock.
Crack cocaine is sold in various sizes, $10, $20, or $30 rocks, weighed pieces, a commonly smoked daily dose for the average D.E.S. user. It's all garbage. A smart connection is something else that leads to a ghoulish (gluttonous) session beginning at $110, known as the half-ball. A $210 rock is called an 8-ball, which I like to call an iceberg, a 3.5 gram rock. Two of those in a row is what I like to call a very satisfying four days.