It’s pouring rain and the 20 up Commercial Drive is stinking. Denizens of the neighbourhood get on an off, hauling garbage bags of cans, faded backpacks, God only knows.. Today the bus is a temporary refuge from the downpour. I’m at the front, where two women speak loudly across the aisle. One is rocking a baby stroller where a little bond girl is bundled up. The woman’s red hair is limp, she’s a little too skinny and, surely, younger than her wizened face. 

“I want to move out of there,” she tells the other woman. “I’m expecting again. And I’m the only one in the place who’s not using.” She explains that she keeps finding drugs and works lying around the building. It’s not a good place for her daughter. But her social worker won’t let her move out, she says.  “It’s like she’s just waiting for me to fuck up.”  

I got off the bus feeling helpless, pulled up my hood against the rain and shivered. The day suddenly felt a whole lot colder. 

Welcome to East Van.

 

This is a new public art piece in Vancouver, designed by Ken Lum. I cycle past on my way home from downtown. I’m new to the city, but still think it’s fabulous. My art school friend gave me a little primer on Lum and the significance of the sign. The image goes back to the days when East Vancouver was an Italian neighbourhood. It was immortalized in graffiti tags, and maybe used by a gang or two, and is now revived in the form of public art. At night it lights up.