The rain is driving and thick tonight. It’s like walking through a constant bead curtain. Fat drops clatter on the garbage laden sidewalk, piles of peoples’ belongings, and the cars negotiating Hastings street. A man wrapped in a hoodie and plaid shirt sits tucked in a doorway, an attempt, I suppose at keeping out of the deluge. There is no dry place in this weather.
As the traffic light turns red, a woman darts into the street. Luckily the drivers are watching and wait for her to cross. Between the dark, the rain and people, cars move cautiously through this area.
This is the gritty heart of the city. And despite the pouring rain there are a lot of people out here. Some, like us, are headed some place. But many are just out where they always are, meeting with friends, trying to score something, watching what’s going on. For many people down here, the sidewalk is the only place they can gather to share a smoke, a drink or even a conversation with friends. There’s a sense of place here.
The Downtown Eastside is notorious. This is the area that reporters always write about because it’s a poor postal code rife with drugs and all that goes along with that. I know people who are nervous about coming down here or just wouldn’t. This is not my neighbourhood and I don’t exactly feel it’s home turf, but for tonight I am part of it. I’m enjoying the walk, the vitality of it and connections that are here, even the rain. People acknowledge us, some with nods, some with stares. I don’t sense hostility, just interest. Still I stay aware. But I’m a city girl so I always try to be aware of what’s around.
We’re headed to Pat’s Pub in the Patricia Hotel. As we step inside we see friends. My jeans are damp, leather jacket and felted hat dripping, which we laugh about as they come over to hug me. We’re here to celebrate a record release for our friend Tim Chan’s band China Syndrome.
I’m sure the rain kept some people home tonight. Rainy nights are good for curling up with books and cups of tea. But I’m glad to be out. The darkness enfolds me like a quilt and the wet and wind remind me that the world is a living thing and life is all of this, the grit and glory. I don’t want to shut myself away from that because God is out here in the heart of things, in the community that gathers under awnings and doorways, in the music played for the love of it, in sharing a damp hug and a glass with friends. Blessed be.
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