Tuesday, August 26, 2003


I met a guy named Rusty in Chinatown. He is of Jamaican decent, is Canadian and has short dreadlocks. I am going for a walk with him, because I want to hear his story –he worked for the Toronto public transport, then moved here and was a carpenter until 3 yrs ago, and dropped out. I want to know why. I am leaving this message, JIC. Love you, Loli

Ok, I’m back and it is 11:30. That is a very proper time to be in, so see I was ok.
After what happened the last time, I am more careful about things.

His name is Russell. Ok, I know, I didn’t get his last name, but I will. His birthday is November 9, and he is 45 and was born in the year of the monkey (but he doesn’t believe in astrology). He also guessed my age first guess, no hesitation. I like that.

I left my room at 8pm, I was putting off going food shopping, but I kept hearing a girl in the park below my window and it sounded like she was crying or pleading, but I couldn’t hear anything clear to be sure, but eventually I couldn’t take it. I grabbed my jacket & bag and went out to the park to see what was up. There was a security guard, and no one else, so I decided to go to the store, and walked the three blocks to Chinatown looking for a grocery. The only one I found had an open sign but they said they were closed when I went in, so I just said “Ok” and turned around and left because the shelves were empty and I figured they were just a front for selling drugs, or I had walked in on something.

Outside, there was like 14 guys peeing in the alley, and then some girl asked me if I want to buy a rock, so I figured abandon the quest for the night and just go home and drink some matcha. On my way back, I passed this apartment building that had iron grillwork that looked like a birdcage, and there were three couples in it twittering away like finches. Next to it, there is a fenced off cavity where a building used to be, and down below in the basement part, street artists have made a gallery. I paused to look at it in the twilight, and was thinking I should come back when there is better light to take pictures, when this sort of cute in a Bobby McFerrin kinda way guy walked past and asked “You thinking about jumping?”

I said, “No, I’m looking at the art”, and pointed it out to him, and he said, “Oh yeah, there’s a lot of kids around here with ahh, umm…” and I asked, “Wasted talent?” He just looked at me and said “Yeah”. He said lots of people take pictures of it, but I am going to go back and take some to put on my fotolog, or post on Loli, Inspired if I can find the artist, and get their story.

We were both headed the same direction, so he asked if he could walk with me, and I said yes. That is when he told me his name and asked where I was from, and I found out he was from Toronto, but had been here ten years. This is also where I learned the other stuff in the note I left for you. As we came to the edge of Chinatown, he was going to turn the corner, and I waited for the light, because I was going straight. He suddenly turned and said, “You want to smoke a joint?”

I told him no, I really didn’t think it would be a wise idea, and I was just heading home. He asked me where that was, and I said just up around the corner, and that’s when he told me he hadn’t been out of Chinatown in three years. I knew right then that I was supposed to talk with him. That is when I decided to say yes, on my conditions. I wanted to take my stuff home first (I had my camera with me) and we walk where I decide.

He walked with me to my hotel, and waited outside while I ran upstairs (ok, I walked and cursed the last flight, as usual – what is wrong with these people, third floor my ass, it is the fourth, the ground floor is still a floor…) and debated changing out of my pajamas, but I couldn’t think of a reason, so I just dropped my stuff, left a note, and went back out. I had my Levi jacket with six dollars and some change in it, my map, and nothing else.

As we walked back to Chinatown, he told me why he had dropped out. When he first came here ten years ago, he worked for BC Hydro making $21 an hour during the boom. While he was working in one of the sky rises, he met a guy who was a carpenter, and Russell liked it so much, he asked the guy to teach him, and gave up the BC Hydro job to become a $7 an hour apprentice. The guy showed him how to do carpentry, and Russell bought a truck for $3000 and started his own business. The guy who taught Russell, asked him to hire people for him under the table, and when they all got caught, since Russell did the actual hiring, he had to pay the taxes and penalties. Russell said he left the courthouse, went to Chinatown for a beer, and never left. He got a crack addiction, which he kept alive with dealing and street hustling.

Once in Chinatown, I said I was thirsty, so Russell told me to just wait in the McDonald’s, and he would be back in just a few minutes. I got a value meal, and ate the fries, hoarded catsup (I have been saving catsup packets for the last few days, JIC I sink so low as to need to make Lucy’s tomato soup), and put the Quarter Pounder in my stash pocket for later. Just as I walked out the door, Russell rode up on a bike. He locked it to a pole, and we started walking. I learned quickly to hold my breath every time we passed an alley – they reek of piss. He had a pin joint, and we hit that as we walked down the street so he could find another guy. We walked a couple of blocks until he found the guy, and I just walked on a bit as he made the buy. He caught up with me, and we walked along with him saying something to every second person on the street – he was working. I lit the joint he gave me and walked down the street smoking it like a cigarette, admiring the graffiti. We ended up back around in front of the McDonald’s where we had started, and I asked him if he had any more stops to make. He said no, so I said “Come on”, and we headed out of Chinatown.

I walked him up past my hotel, and through the BC Hydro Park. We exchanged info about our marital status and kids (he has a 7 year old in Kitts that he hasn’t seen in almost 4 years because of the drugs). I steered him down Homer St, and asked him which building in Vancouver was his favorite. He named a fancy hotel on Robson that he had worked in. He asked me what mine was, and I just pointed at the library. He changed up and said “yeah, me too”, so I decided to teach the liar a lesson. I sat down on a bench and asked him what was it about the building that he liked. He smiled because he had been caught and said ok, he had just said it to get in my pants. Then he said he was sorry, he had forgotten how to act around women, and he didn’t mean to say anything offensive. I told him that if he did say something that made me upset, I would just point him to Chinatown, and I would go home. Then I showed all the features I liked about the library, and showed him the book excerpts that were part of the walks and tree edging. He had not known they were there.

I led him farther down Homer St., and he said his friends would think him crazy if they knew how far he had ventured out of Chinatown. The change of environment really had him nervous, so I took his hand, and reassured him that I walk the route every day. I made him slow his pace and he said, “Do you know what you are doing?” I just smiled and said “Of course.”

I was taking him out of Chinatown. I was reminding him of life outside of that neighborhood. I was showing him the possibilities.

There is a lot of new construction going on in Yale town by the office building I intern at. I casually pointed them out, and told him how far I had seen them progress in the time since I arrived in BC. We turned another corner, and Russell saw the crowds around the restaurants, and his body stiffened up. I took his hand again, and said that we were almost there. Two blocks down, there begins a row of sky rise apartments. They are modern, with natural influences, and are landscaped with flowers & fountains & wandering paths.

Walking past one of the flowerbeds, I caught the scent on the air, and paused to smell a cluster of blooms. I looked up, and Russell was watching me. He said, “do that again”. I laughed at him, but obliged, and offered the blooms for him to smell. He was fiending for a hit, so we sat on the edge of a fountain, and he pulled his shirt up over his face and lit his pipe. When he pulled his shirt back down, he looked embarrassed and said “I shouldn’t be doing this in front of you.” I nodded, and said I understood though. He asked me if anyone had told me I have beautiful eyes, and I thought ‘yeah, I hear it like three times a day’ (not conceit, I really do hear it a lot) but I didn’t say it, I just said thank you, smiled and walked on.

We wandered through another garden, and he said it was kind of romantic, and he got embarrassed as soon as he said it and changed up to “so when can we have sex?” Which elicited a loud ‘Ha!’ and I pointed to my favorite housing high rise and said, “When you have an apartment in that building”. He made a face, and I said besides, I don’t do that on a first date. This brought another funny expression from him, and put me in full merriment mode. I just chortled my way down to the seawall with him trailing behind, complaining that I keep laughing at him.

We sat down on a bench and looked at the boats in the harbor and the lights on the far shore and listened to jazz that was drifting out of a restaurant nearby. It was one of those ‘isn’t life wonderful?’ moments, so we just sat quietly for a while. More people came by, and he was starting to get edgy, so we walked along the wall a bit, and found another bench. He said he was more comfortable with his back to the water, because he could see everything going on around him better. So I sat on the bench and looked at the boats, and he stood on the wall, and looked at me. After a few minutes, he blurted out “Do you like spankings? Say I can spank you every day, and I will marry you”.

Naturally, I laughed. I laughed a lot. I thought I would fall right off the seawall laughing. And I put that in my mental notebook as the best proposal of marriage yet. He complained I was laughing at him again. I just called him silly, and started walking again. That’s when he stole a kiss. It was quick, light, soft and warm. It caught me totally by surprise, and I had to regroup. I wandered over to a kiosk that gave the history of a coopery that used to stand on the site, and half read it while I sorted things out, because the little voice in my head was demanding to know why he was still standing after that, and saying things like “OMG, you liked it! You are not considering…” and I am responding duh, no, it just was…unexpected. It was also unexpectedly nice. Meanwhile, he is still standing where I left him, apologizing.

I said it’s ok; we started to walk back in silence, and I couldn’t resist asking, “so what kind of spanking are we talking about?” and laughing at it all over again. I stopped so we could smell all the flowers on the way back. I wanted him to notice what Chinatown smells like when he went back.

When we got back to BC Hydro, we sat on the wall and talked a bit. He needed to go back to Chinatown and wanted me to go too. I sad no, I was just going to go upstairs and go to sleep. He asked me to come back down in 20 minutes, I said no. He said he would bring me coffee, and that is when I told him come back tomorrow. Meet me here in the park at 8pm, we will walk up Robson St, and look at the buildings you worked on. He asked for my phone number, which I didn’t have to give anyway, so we just said bye. As I was going inside my hotel, he turned back and said “Thank you”. This time I knew the kiss was coming. I let it happen. He looked at me and said, “did I tell you that you have beautiful eyes?” and left. I came upstairs, wrote you, and fell asleep.

Russell didn’t show up the next day. I was ten minutes late, and there was a film crew camped outside my door for some television show. They had walkie-talkies and security guys all around, so I knew even if Russell had shown up, he wouldn’t have stuck around. I do realize there are many reasons why he wouldn’t show up. There is a strong probability that he changed his mind or forgot, maybe as soon as he got to Chinatown. There is also a slim possibility that he went home, and dreamed of flowers and boats and jazz and spanking a beautiful eyed girl in an apartment in the sky, and checked himself into rehab. That one is my favorite. Be safe, Russell.

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