Brain has been a bassist for 50 years. He was not the only musical prodigy here. The Downtown Eastside (DTES) has about 30 extremely talented musicians and artists that could potentially hit it big. However, only if their habits were under control. In other words, a lot of wasted potential exists here.
After a few minutes of conversation, it was quite obvious that Brain was quite cynical about life and this place in general. The reality of the Downtown Eastside simply brought him down. His life used to be very different than it is today. A glance in his past would leave your mouth open. According to him, it would take someone three re-incarnations to achieve what he accomplished in a single lifetime.
Without a doubt, Brain is the smartest man I have ever met. Throughout the many debates I had with people in the past, he was the only one whom I had to prove logic as false to make my point. Then, he threw up his hands in the air and said “well what’s the point of debating anything?” Debates usually do not get this far. He was a highly intelligent man of reason, which is why I gave him this nickname.
In search of some positivity within his mind, I asked him how many people here cleared their addiction problems and started living a normal life. His response: None. If someone leaves this place it is because of suicide, overdosing, heart or lung failure. Drugs are essentially a slower version of suicide.
The next question on my mind was “if someone truly wanted to get out of this lifestyle, are there any resources available to get this person out and do you know where to go to receive that help?” Shockingly, he said that he didn’t know of any. There is a Detox center located nearby, but some addicts use these centers just to lower their drug tolerance for a limited time. Once they have successfully lowered their drug tolerance, the drug will feel like it did in their olden days. I tried to cling onto his every word, but the new band playing in the background agitated him quite a bit. He was annoyed at how they didn’t know the proper structure of Music Theory.
Next, we discussed the blatant mistreatment of Natives here in Vancouver and Canada. “3.5% of the population in Canada is Native and 70% of them are living here in the Eastside”. He continued on stating that, about 90% of the people living in the Downtown Eastside are Natives! I am not sure where he got these numbers from, but a walk along Hastings does seem to support these statistics. But why?
A few reasons why so many Natives live in this neighborhood is because their reserves are not livable and they were forced out of their original habitat for centuries. I am certain that there are more reasons why we have such a skewed representation of Natives living in the Downtown Eastside. “How bad must your life be if you choose to drink Listerine at 8 in the morning just to get drunk?” I don’t know and I never want to know. I simply cannot imagine it. The fact that First Nations were mistreated over so many years is a well-known and also a well-forgotten fact at the same time.
Next on the topic of discussion, was how people living here have no sexual relationships with one another. One thing you won’t see walking down Hastings are couples holding hands. Nobody is in love. Most people here are depressed. Then what beauty do I see in these people? Am I just being overly naive and romantic? I think not. I warned you of his cynicism early on.
After talking to Brain for a couple of hours, most issues seemed to be striking the same chord, the issue being addiction problems. Addictions can start in different ways. Sexual abuse, post-traumatic stress, experimentation, failure, mental illness, physical disabilities, unemployment or heart-break can potentially trigger a life-long drug addiction. Drug abuse to me is an escape from reality. The addict tries to fill a void instead of facing the music. Drugs are an aggressive way of forgetting hurtful memories.
To put it in Brain’s terms, “some people are here because Uncle Joe stuck his penis in their mouth at the age of 5.” Brain believes that they should be able to get over it, since it was not their fault. However, that is clearly not something one can easily get over. This broken and shattered world view would take a long time to heal and wounds like this will certainly bruise indefinitely.
I had to cut our conversation short because the Salvation Army may close its doors soon. Brain invited me to dinner here tomorrow night. They will be serving Turkey for $1.75. I do not have that kind of money, but I told him that I will try to make it. In the meanwhile, I need to find a place to rest my head.