An Eventful Evening
Trip Start Jan 08, 2010
45Trip End Sep 27, 2010
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So I spent a few hours with Anne on Friday and towards the end of the evening she asked if I would go outside with her for a smoke. I said sure, but it took about 15 minutes to get anywhere near the door because she kept dropping stuff or forgetting what she was doing or stopping to look for who-knows-what. So we finally got outside and she asked if I would walk her to where she lives in the Portland Hotel just up the street. I said no worries, so we started walking. Then she noticed that there were some cops about and she got a bit nervous and walked a bit faster saying “can’t be seen by the cops, can’t be seen by the cops.” When I asked why, she said she had just punched someone out in the Portland! So I was a littler nervous, not knowing what to do if the cops did come over. As we were walking up and down the streets we got some very interesting looks from people. Anne kept grabbing my hand to hold it, but then letting go and flailing about because of her Hodgkinson’s, so who knows what people thought was going on. My Red Shield shirt has never been more useful than it was that night.
Anyway, we made it to the Portland and she went to the front desk to pick up her room key. The Portland is an SRO (single room occupancy or slum hotel) with a medical clinic in the bottom and the residents have to hand their key in and pick it up again when they come and go. They get buzzed in by the people at the front desk, so not just anyone can come wandering in. Instead of pressing the buzzer, Anne kicked at the door until they heard her and opened up. All the while she was dropping things and randomly tipping the contents of her bag onto the ground to find something and walking backwards and forwards and round and round
We took the lift up to her room and I was shocked by the conditions. The floors and walls are all just raw concrete and each room has a big yellow metal door, split in half horizontally like a stable door. Instead of Anne using her swipe key to get in, she gave the top half of the door a running kick and it went flying open to reveal a sparse and dilapidated room. It was all concrete and furnished with little more than a couch bed and a small bookcase. There were some dodgy cooking facilities and a filthy bathroom as well, but I suspect the kitchenette at least is rarely used.
Anne rushed round and round the room picking things up and stuffing them into her bag, then she grabbed her bed-bug infested blanket and took off downstairs again. I had no idea what was going on but it looked like she was moving out. She asked if I could walk her up Hastings to the First United church to detox; I guessed she wanted to get out of the Portland for a while until things died down a bit. I said yes of course but asked if we could go back to Recreate so I could tell them where we were going. We did that, but on the way she got more and more agitated about the cops and kept wandering onto the road in front of cars so I had to try and pull her back and keep her on the pavement. She was still dropping things and looking for something and when we got close to Recreate she told me to go on and talk to everyone and she would wait on the corner.
I ran over to where Pete and the others were waiting having closed up and told them I was going with Anne to detox and I’d meet them later. Pete said we had gotten an invitation from one of the Recreate regulars to go for a coffee and could I meet them at the café after
I jumped on in time to hear the bus driver yelling at Anne “What the hell are you doing!? Do you even have a ticket!!!?” and to hear Anne yell back “Of course I’ve got a ticket!!” (which, of course, wasn’t true). It’s not the driver’s job here to get money or tickets from people, they just drive the bus and a security person gets on occasionally to check tickets, like a tram. The driver then made a big mistake; he grabbed Anne’s arm as she was walking past him down the bus and tried to get her to come back. She flew off the handle and started yelling “Don’t ever touch me!” and other more colourful words that won’t be repeated here. He started driving and Anne and I stumbled about trying to get to a seat while her stuff was falling out of her bag again
This person Anne knew seemed to have a bit of a calming effect on her, which was certainly needed. When we had gone a couple of blocks I heard the driver radio someone telling them basically that he had a nut-case on board. That made me really nervous; if the cops got on and tried to fine us that’s bad enough but if they worked out Anne had just punched someone and she was trying to avoid them, that could get interesting. I wasn’t sure what I would do, or be required to do if someone I was with got picked up by the cops. Anyway, luckily we were just one block away from the church we were headed for by then so we got out un-arrested! We used the door in the middle of the bus which you have to push to open. I gave it a push with my hands, it didn’t open, so Anne used her mighty leg-strength once again to kick open the door and let us out
Once we got inside I saw that the whole main hall and the balconies were filled with bunk-beds for homeless people. Anne walked round and round looking for “her bed” and when she found it, dumped her stuff down and asked me to help her make the bed, which just consisted of spreading her blanket over the bare mattress. While we were doing that a volunteer from the church came over to see how we were doing, I introduced us and made sure it was ok for Anne to stay there. It was all good and Anne insisted on giving me a tour of the place and introduced me to everyone as her daughter, which she does for all the young girls around here for some reason. It was odd, even though she was so aggressive to some people and so unpredictable, I felt very safe with her because she wanted me with her and was nothing but lovely to me the whole time.
Once she was settled in, I raced back down Hastings to see how Pete was getting on at the coffee shop. It turned out they had only just arrived because our friend had insisted on taking Pete for a ride around town on her electric scooter bike thing. We went inside and spent the next hour or so talking with her about all sorts of weird things from her bike, to her job, to her previous line of work, to death, to bed-time and everything in between. A very eventful evening, and a very educational one.
In other news, we are back at The Empress now and have been for a few days. We have settled back in fine and feels like we never left
We have some new people staying here in The Empress with us as well. Tony and Linda from the south of England are staying for the next 3 weeks in the room joined to ours. Linda is not a fan of mice (to say the least) so we are doing our best to round them up without bait because we don’t want to attract every mouse in the building and have them die on our floor. It has been fun showing Tony and Linda around the place and has made us reaslise just how much we have learned, but also how much we still have to learn; new lessons come up every day. As we talk with them we can hear in them the same opinions and perceptions we had just 5 weeks ago and which have been revolutionised since being here. It really reinforces what we have learned.
We have had another fun activity this week; going to Playland!!! Playland is an amusement park about 10 minutes’ drive up Hastings and it is soooo much fun! Cherie was taking the 2 little ones there (the 2 big ones went the day before) and asked if we wanted to come along. They have season passes for all the kids and try to go there at least once a week in the Summer. There were all sorts of fun rides and I think our favourites were the Hellevator, which was a huge tower you shot up really fast then plummeted down from, then up and down again
Well that’s it for the week, the steep learning curve continues but we are having a great time in the process. Someone has painted on our bathroom wall “I have come that they might have life and life to the full” which is a quote from Jesus. As we stare at it from the loo we have come to realise that we can have life to the full anywhere, anytime.
Until next week then!
PS There is a metal band that now practices in the building across the alley from us. It’s hilarious, their best song goes “Tonight there’s gonna be a jailbreak…somewhere in this towwwwwwwn. Tonight there’s gonna be a jailbreak…so don’t you mess arouuuuuuuund!” They also have a lot of guitar solos and “Yowwwww!”s. Let’s hope they make it big and move to a better house somewhere else.