The Crack House

So this was it, West Broadway, corner of Abbott. An unfamiliar face akin to a Los Angeles long past visited. Tight streets, crude faces, spaghetti telephone wires and the marauding of massed billboard invasion.

We're here. Clayton, alias sushi-boy, aka Klaytea Baebee; Sian alias Sian de Lier, Sian delerious, Cecile alias Shashille and one aka. Georgious Obilinskavinchsky, hauling a beacon red, one hundred and twenty litre sulo rubbish bin, and sidekick boys-own burgundy bin from the baggage collection roundabout. The new tyres are a god-send. The ride along the shorn carpets of Vancouver international terminal is silky, laced with a cat's purring sound, as the pertruding nodules of the freshly vulcanised rubber tyres roar quietly.

Cecile's backpack had the oddly shaped skins of the musical bikes attached to it, an odd concoction, but saving us the feared freight cash that an extra piece of luggage would mean. Then there's two djembe drums, bellies stuffed with costumes, socks and jocks, a snare drum wedged in between and would-be gun case crammed with polycarbonate pan pipes, poor persons bagpipe, reticulation whistles and cuica . The resultant length, cubic meterage and shape resembling something more along the antiballistic missile lines. Its a cow to carry, and yet hovering below that magical thirty-two kilogram mark.

So, whats the population of Vancouver then?
Who cares when theres snow capped mountains demanding the eyes to focus. New cars, signs, culture. The city zooms by. Too much information, not enough sleep, upside down world.

We can't be delivered to the hostel doorstep because of roadworks, so, on the corner of West Broadway and Abbott it is. Two sulo bins, drum skins, three backpacks, hand luggage, briefcase and a jumbo conglomerate massif now affectionately known as `the package of thirty one and a quarter kilos'. I'm engaged with the taxi driver, cash receipt and other idle chat, whilst, unbeknown to me, Clayton is engaged with the underworld.

The underworld here is a thin young blond with beset eyes encircled in comic like grey circles. She's telling stories of extremes with a new language, accent and slang. She has a certain directness of approach, a quick-step walk and an eye for her prey. The young pre-pubescence of Clayton's first time overseas aura; his tiredness, dishevelled clothes and hair of madness has attracted her. She strikes.

"Oh Hi!" she says, with a stick on smile announcing rusting teeth. "Want some weed, crack, coke or spill?" Straight to the point. Her voice is loud enough that a couple overhears and momentarily observe, a prospective transaction in motion. No credit cards, just cash. And what the heck was 'spill' anyway?

"Naaah" says Clayton in what had become known as his Zazi-zaah, vocal defecating sub nasal sneer. Its slightly sarcastic, laid back (tending towards death), yet precise. His eyes are directly focused on hers. Unthreatening.

"Want to take me out then?" was a her response without any sense of the full weight and meaning of the previous "Naaah". So........, he may not trust the fine print particulars of the drug deal, but he may be in need of loving. Crack. A lonely young man, wrestling with naivety and straight from the country, the land Down Underpants. He knows nobody, has nowhere to stay and nothing to do. Perhaps his mind was open to the games of a mistress.

And what she couldn't offer. Or more likely what she would put on display. There was an acute chance of any or all of venereal disease, syphilis, big pox, small pox, medium sized pox, whooping cough, foot in mouth, mad cow disease, HIV and SHIT. Of course, the aforementioned range of drugs would be available at call (or scream), as would the well endowed pimp, or minder, to do you over if her post rump demands weren't met. And sex! Yes, there would be sex too! Ho-hum..... frenetic grasping, groping and gurgling. Perhaps the old frozen wet lettuce leaf across the buttocks routine; the darting of tongues.

I wondered if she would even feel anything? A mind so overwhelmed by toxins and chemicals, hallucinogens and a life of roller blading the backstreets. The backstage girl in black. My thoughts and words were superfluous to her. Our worlds would collide for a night and a day and then I'd retreat to the middle-suburban comforts I felt at ease in. In my world it was easy..... boy meets girl, girl throws up, gets married, raises a cow, lives as a vein to the system, dies! My only future contemplation of her might be the brick venereal disease that embodied my suburban home.

"Naaaaaah!" was only a millisecond longer that the previously direct "Naaah" but it was accompanied by turning body language which couldn't be mistaken. Clayton turned his back on the dark side, trundling slowly back to where our luggage was dumped. He seemed forlorn with shellshock. In only some days he would transform, let loose on Vancouver, the suburban sushi-boy on his all conquering bronco bicycle, lassoing pawn shop specials whilst hunting and gathering the icons of ownership. Possessions. CD's. Things. Technology. He would have long forgotten this chance collision with the princess.

The hotel owner greeted us with trembling hands and wry smile, a French-English accent, and request for identification. He seemed friendly enough and really I couldn't care were he Attilla The Hungry right now, I would just ask him to take my money, give me the room key, receipt and let me sleep.

We made the return journeys from Abbott to the hostel foyer with military precision. This was just a prelude to the endless skyrockets to the seventh and eighth floors in the four person lift.

Our second trip down the lift and we're met at the bottom by Clayton's would be lover-wife-drug-supplying-donator-of-contagious-diseases. Her company was a fellow member of dark side anonymous. He displayed some wild tattoos up one side of his neck and arms covered in blue-black markings. Spray-on jeans, cliched lumber jacket that itched me to break out into Monty Python songs, and nervous rubber necked movements of a chicken on speed. I wondered if I should forthrightly (of the British stiff upper lip variety) put out my hand to shake his, and at the point of hand grasping hand, pull his moustachioed face to mine, and say "she doesn't really love you, you know?!" Coy smile. "Ahh, just kidding.... ha!ha!ha!......" and stand there as an eight inch blade ripped into the region of my heart, followed by his gouging the gullet into lasagne lookalike pieces.

Enough to say he wasn't your average looking Christian kind of guy. No snappy one liner retorts, or buzzer in you hand handshakes to be exuded here. His only acknowledgement of our existence was, I'm sure, the presence of his heart beat.

The lift takes them to heaven and returns with three men. Amen! Overtly thin and psychedelic spiralling red eyes. Caricatures of themselves in real time. Walking on air.

A clear picture now that the 'hostel' on the end of 'Downtown', as shown in our guidebook, should have been replaced by something more apt like 'freak show' or 'Downside'. We had chosen, as Canadians say, a real bummer!

Three homeless waifs from Fremantle sitting on the half sized double bed, laughing uncontrollably at our choice of accomodation and pondering why they'd even consider registering such a dumpsite in our travel guidebook.

Slicing neatly into our jet lagged states and manic laughter came loud repetitious knocking. Shouting. Muffled voices just doors down the damp and musty corridor. A deal goes down. Money. Hands slap and fingers click in underworld sign language. Lives of dependency.

Clayton reluctantly retreats to his single room on the eighth. Cecile is worried about him.

I'm showering, trying to relax into sleep mode. And there on the top of the shaving cabinet, above the filthy washbasin, are three syringes and needles. A 'boof' on my jet lagged brow, jabbed me in the centre of my forehead.... this room had a history, of sex, drugs and rolling all around.

And out of some squeaky clean middle suburban disgust I leapt out of the relaxing warm waters, used half a trees worth of toilet paper as surgical safety gloves, carefully picking them up and hurling them out onto the tar blackened, rubbish infestooned rooftop next door. Televisions lying in a state of post plummeted explosion, tubes and circuitry spewing with composting body parts and enough shiny jagged edges to bedazzle a jeweller.

At that moment, just one hour into our Whak tour of Canada, I looked upon Vancouver with disgust. It seemed such an abhorrent, dark place. Overcast with an underbelly of filth. I felt tired, as did the cockroaches in the corner of the room. Out came the sleeping bag, symbolic of some giant protective condom, to protect me against the history of this gravy stained bed. I looked up to the ceiling, a gaping crack across it completing some imaginary crack trifecta. I bade all a bad evening and tumbled to a blissful death.