Monday, February 22, 2010


I got off the bus at Main and Broadway, and strolled into Reno’s, an all American diner. Sorry, I mean all Canadian. I’m in Canada now. The Olympics are underway, as evidenced by the Maple leaf flag everywhere.

Inside I join a table of three men. The scene is like something from a Tarantino flick, diner coffee and pop culture talk about comic books, right before the big mission. The three at first don’t seem to have all that much in common. There’s Thanatos, about 60 years old, gray hair pulled back, wearing a skull and cross-bone print tie.

Sitting to his right, eating a club sandwich is Motor-Mouth, up from San Francisco. He’s in his 20’s, has bleach blonde hair and multiple facial piercings. His namesake becomes obvious- he vocalizes his entire stream of consciousness.
"He talks non-stop, but he has a big heart." Thanatos says.

And next to me is Knight Owl, who I met in New Bedford for the Superheroes Anonymous 3 meeting. Knight Owl works as an EMT in Iraq, and on leave he’s done a fair amount of world travelling.

The three of them joke like old friends, and in a sense the three real life superheroes are. We clear out of restaurant and head to Knight Owl’s place- an efficiency apartment he is subletting for two weeks. The guys gear up. Knight Owl displays his first tattoo, done here in Vancouver. It’s of his Knight Owl logo, and the Latin around it translates as “Faithful to the end- for the good of mankind.”

We wait for a documentary crew that will follow us for the mission- dropping a van load of supplies to homeless camp near Canada’s poorest postal code- Main and Hastings Streets. The “Olympic Tent City” was set up to provide shelter and to bring attention to Vancouver’s homeless situation. It is set up in a vacant lot that takes up an entire block, fenced in and in the shadow of a half complete condo building.

After checking into my hostel, in nearby Gas Town, I took a walk around the Main and Hastings area. It was pretty shocking and bleak. I stood outside the Treasure Island pawnshop, where homeless congregated in large groups on park benches in a small court next door. A man with long greasy hair pushes himself in a wheel chair down the street, and nearby a man yells and gestures wildly.
On the next block, near Columbia, and entire block is filled with homeless, junkies, prostitutes, outside of abandoned storefronts. Some have odds and ends junk laid out in front of them on the sidewalk they are trying to sell, a junkie bazaar.
“Three packs of batteries-five bucks!” A man tries to pitch to the crowd. A man selling packs of cigarettes rolls up some bills and shoves them in his sock.
There’s a long line of shopping carts and giant bags filled with cans. The smell of weed and stale beer permeates the air. The ground is littered with burning cigarette butts, abandoned flannels and sweatshirts and dive bombing pigeons.

Outside the Carnegie Community Center large groups of homeless and junkies hang out in large groups, ignoring the occasional tourists passing through. There are so many, so many of them. There's a lot of desperation, hordes of people who look like they might be dead in a short amount of time.
We arrive at the Olympic Tent Village, and Thanatos, Motor-Mouth, and Knight Owl load up cases of water, granola bars, bags of rice(volunteers cook meals at a make shift kitchen) and several boxes of blankets. Inside the camp it is dark, and dozens and dozens of people are milling around, wrapped in blankets and eating stew out of recycled yogurt containers.
“No one should have to live like this.” Thanatos says, as we head back to the van.
I head back to the hostel. Big days ahead.

Author’s note- sorry this is such a short take, and also I don’t have my camera cord, so I can’t upload pictures. I’ve been awake since like 4AM my time. Good night.