One could place the border between the real world and the university world on the intersection of Macdonald and West Broadway in Kitsilano. Beyond the small, yet curiously lively Kitsilano Public library branch, the landscape changes noticably. The high-priced and au courant Apple iPod stores and maternity wear boutiques begin to give way to the esoteric and arcane second-hand bookstores and rustic independent coffee shops. The street is groved in deciduous trees, contrary to barren skies of just East of the library. It was there that I met the Yelling man and the Cell Phone Posse.
The Yelling Man was openly schizophrenic, with not even a cell phone headset to cover for himself. He didn’t look like a crazy homeless person from say, 10 meters. He was clean shaven, and with the ratty clothes he might have been mistaken for a contractor. However, his use of the words mother, god, and some colorful metaphors in even more colorful combinations let an last vestiges of a sane facade drop like a sack of hammers.
Like any good Vancouverite, I kept my distance, lest I become the subject of his curses or (heaven forbid) get asked for change. But as the good fellow was swearing away a blue streak, I came across a group of what looked like university students gathered in front of the Bank of Montreal, eagerly awaitng a call from a friend/ride/drug hookup. In this lonely street, in this groved hideaway, I realized something as I stood between the Yelling Man and the Cell Phone Posse.
Those kids were planning on not only leaving the front door of the bank, they were gone period once they pushed out their degrees. The Yelling Man probably had a right to be angry, hampered by his poverty and the sounds of voices no one else can hear. The street of West Broadway beyond Mcdonald is proud despite its delapidated state. Situated on the edge of one of the most prestigious universities in the country, in the heart of the greatest city in the world. Wonders are passim in shops and kiosks specialized to points of oddity and mystery. Still, the torn concert and weight loss bills lining the street posts, along with the odd mildewy odor that wafts through on hot day, connotate the hubris of the place. It seems like it was built on a lark, as an insult to an overbearing parent. Like the cell phone posse, it was temporary, gone with the breath of a lease rate hike. With posse gone, no one would deign to shop at the second-hand bookstores and indie coffee shops when faced the the Chapter/Starbucks Chimera of the outside world. The Yelling Man would be all that remained, wandering up and down the streets, screaming at his imaginary betters.
The loss of the unusual is great tragedy. It symbolizes a want taken to the extreme, a kind of superiority formed by not being this or that thing. I’m not the Kistilano chamber of commerce. Perhaps the cycle of post-graduate business ventures has been going on for decades. If so, it has and will be maintained by those who are not the Yelling Man or the Cell Phone Posse, who are neither stagnant nor transient. These people are involved, they exist, and therefore the shops exist.