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A week ago today, one of my most trusted, intimate friends wrote me off. For good.

This was no ordinary friendship. I hesitate to use the word “soulmate” which has a slightly ethereal sound to it. I prefer to say this was a “friend of the soul”. The relationship was characterized by mutual regard, transparency and fierce loyalty. This, in addition to intelligent conversation, mutual shared values (!), seeing one another through some extremely tough times, and a hell of a lot of fun over the six years. We’re lucky to encounter this in our lifetime. And I certainly believed with my whole heart that this would last a lifetime.

But there was one aspect of me that bothered my friend, which bothered me, and it would erupt and disrupt repeatedly. Repeatedly, but not chronically.

In my perspective, it was entirely tolerable, and came with the territory of genuine intimacy. If the friendship were a ‘pie chart’, maybe 5% tops would be allocated to this conflicted area. The remainder would filled with, well, the qualities mentioned above.

To my friend’s perspective, it was too much. It exceeded my friend’s ability, much less desire, to see past that to the (in my perspective) weightiness of all that was true and good.

So after six years, I was written off (by e-mail no less).

As you can imagine, after recovering from the initial blow, it has caused significant introspection.

Questions I am grappling with are:

  • How is it possible for humans, in all their glory and their mess, to write one another off, ever? (and yet we all, me included, do it routinely in one form or another)
  • To what extent do we, as a culture, easily treat one another as disposable? Why is that?
  • What is the cost of friendship? What are appropriate measures by which we decide if another human is “worthy” of our ongoing, committed friendship? (I once had a friend who was Always Late – an hour or more. It nearly did us in. Thankfully, I relaxed, she moved to the ‘burbs, and we found other ways to stay connected that didn’t entail me sipping my 10th latte. But what if it hadn’t improved? Would I have written her off?)

So now I suppose I will go through the stages of grief. But the questions haunt me: what is the cost of friendship? How is it possible to write off a person? a person?

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photo credit: megyarsh

Blogging buddy Squawkfox (I love her blog, and you will too) wrote a post on 50 reasons to stop using plastic bags.

So good was the post that MSN money picked it up! Yaaaay, Squawkfox!

I thought it was a great piece and frankly, a no-brainer, ie., why wouldn’t we use canvas bags for shopping?

Well some of the 200+ commenters on her post didn’t agree:

  1. I don’t care whether or not my plastic bag will be around 50 years from now.  Really, I don’t.  Let’s concern ourselves with how to turn our economy around and get inflation under control.  The media loves to jump on a “fad” until the next one comes along.  Give me a break!
  2. If plastic bags are banned how the heck am I going to pick up my dogs business in public places?? paper is not suitable..maybe I can carry a roll of saran wrap for collecting  that crap or better yet put a diaper on the dog… oh wait, that also made of plastic.. damn I guess I better get rid of the dog… now about the catbox ….
  3. well, too bad.  i need them for my trash can.

You get the idea.  And there were quite a few like this sprinkled in the mix.

Wow – I guess I’m more left-coast than I thought.  I don’t get it.  Why isn’t using canvas bags a no-brainer?

Happened again. The VPD  kicked a few homeless awake in the morning, at Pigeon Park this time. I wonder if Kim Capri is going to use the “the grass might catch fire” excuse again, for this concrete park? Photo courtesy of Blackbird.

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Fellow Citizens, you should know about this:

Many of you know of the infamous Oppenheimer Park in my ‘hood, the Downtown Eastside. It’s a pretty grim park, frankly. I only go there rarely and I don’t let my dogs walk there because of the needles. And other stuff. See image below.

People without a house and nowhere to couch surf hang out there in the day and sleep there in cardboard and cheap sleeping bags at night. Not my kinda crowd, not easy people to be around, and easy to dismiss.

But this next part is insane:

Yesterday morning at approximately 4:30am the police took action against the homeless living in the park. People were ticketed and were allowed to leave with their belongings- those who didn’t have shopping carts or other means of carrying their belongings had everything loaded into a garbage truck that had followed the police into the park.

The police stated they intend to continue this action on coming nights.

I ask you:

1. What the hell is the point of ticketing them? TICKETING the HOMELESS?

2. Exactly who among us is upset that we can’t use the park at 4:30am because people without homes are sleeping there? Why, precisely, was it so imperative that they be moved along at that ungodly hour?

3. Where, exactly, do we as a society expect them to move along to? At 4:30 in the morning? Without a place that is their own?

My fellow citizens, and especially those in Vancouver,

if you, like me

  • have a place to call home (esp. us property owners)
  • enjoy enough abundance that we can delight in getaways for the weekend (ironically, away from our own homes)
  • possibly struggle with so much stuff that we actually store our excess

if you, like me want, to live in CANADA, not some Dickensian horror,

for Christ’s sake (perhaps literally), here is some action you can take:

  1. Hold your politicians to account. This is not about the police. It’s about what kind of society your politicians are shaping. E-mail the following with your thoughts on the matter: Mayor Sam Sullivan, [email protected] Peter Ladner [email protected] ; Kim Capri [email protected] ; Suzanne Anton [email protected] or the entire council at [email protected]
  2. Inform yourself further – easily – by things like joining the facebook group Streams of Justice. This is a faith-based group but you will be comfortable hearing about and joining their activities no matter your own faith or no faith at all. Or, browse and keep checking Blackbird’s photo documentaries on homelessness in Vancouver on Flickr.
  3. If you are ready for some more radical action, I am considering sleeping outside myself as an act of solidarity. Not sure when, not sure where, but I hope to have my podcasting skills up to speed and contribute to the documentary of what happens at 4:30am in Vancouver. If you may be interested in joining me, either twitter me (money coach is my handle) or do a bit of research to figure out how to contact me (because of the nature of this post, I am not going to publish my e-mail or I’ll get tons of hate-on stuff)

We don’t have to settle for a lame-ass city, fellow citizens. But our politicians need to know we’re not OK with this.

-nancy

The park in question:

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Photo Credit: The Blackbird

update – this press release:
July 17, 2008, Vancouver, BC:  Police continue to ticket and confiscate belongings of “homeless” campers at Oppenheimer Park in the Downtown Eastside every morning.  The sweeps typically happen between 5:00 a.m. and 6:00 a.m. and campers were threatened today that multiple tickets will turn into arrests tomorrow.

Neighbours are concerned about this and not for the usual reasons the public would expect.  Kathy Walker, a parent of 5 and resident of a house across the street from the park, will sleep out with the campers tonight.  She said: “The park has been very much under control all year.  People are quiet, they clean up after themselves and they support each other.  They put away their tents before the park opens at 8:00 a.m.  These people are part of a community.  We want Oppenheimer exempt from this unfair by-law.”

With a virtual zero % vacancy rate, closure and upscaling of many local residential hotels, 40,000 turnaways from shelters over a 9 month period in the area, the campers themselves wonder where they are expected to go.  Brian Humchitt and his partner Tina Eastman were ticketed this morning.  They said:  “We’re homeless in our own land.  We are struggling to survive in our home which is our tent.”

Wendy Pedersen, parent of 2, resident of the DTES and organizer for the Carnegie Community Action Project, says “these tickets will turn into warrants.  This by-law is the perfect tool to aid the police to move people where they want them to go before the 2010 games – out of the Downtown Eastside.”

PIVOT Legal Society is collecting tickets and planning to contest them in court.

A convergence of concerned neighbours is planned for 5:00 a.m. Friday morning and a press conference will be held at 6:00 a.m.  Planning is underway to continue the pressure.

PRESS CONFERENCE

Where:  Oppenheimer Park, 400 block Powell Street
When:   Friday, July 18 6:00 a.m. – near the totem pole

I just got back from a three-night getaway.

Some generous friends from out in the valley (hi there – you know who you are *wink*) have a place that I now refer to as Martha Stewart Unkempt (the Unkempt is a compliment. And the inside is kempt. The outside is just all lovely and done, but not manicured). An acreage, a vast lily and fish pond, berry bushes, garden, and tall, very tall trees that seclude the property.

The dogs are welcome too, much to their delight. It’s doggy disneyland: squirrels, crows and for once in their blessed lives, a green yard (they’re concrete jungle urban daschunds). Oh, and a geriatric, ever-tolerant, black lab.

And the sounds: birds at night, creatures rustling in the bushes, the zap of bugs getting to close to the light, chain saws and trains in the distance.

The point is this: truly, truly the best things in life are free.

Readers: any best-things-in-life moments that you’ve had this summer?

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