I woke up in the Samesun on Granville, sirens blaring through the window. They went on forever, but I couldn’t see any cars. Just kids, smoking pot in the alley. Vancouver has a beautiful skyline surrounded by mountains, parks and trees, and a hard partying crowd that hangs out downtown. The hostels in the centre go from friendly to crazy. The Samesun hostel had a cheap bar which made it easy to get together with strangers, but the American backpackers down the street had a $100 reward for ratting out any crackheads in your room. Most of the best bars are for backpackers like the Cambie in Gastown, but the most memorable moments are spent walking around smoking grass.
Hastings Street is home to the B.C Marijuana party, Cannabis culture magazine headquarters and the New Amsterdam Cafe. None of these places will sell you anything, but you can come in and smoke up. A quick search online showed me the best deal in town so I walked down to a safehouse, which I later found out was run by the Hell’s Angels. It was tense at first, but when I realised everyone buying from them were businessmen on their lunch break, those bikers are like pussycats.
I met an Englishman and brought him to the cafe to smoke indoors, but even these guys have their limits telling us that there’s no smoking until 5pm. We went to Hastings Park to smoke until our conversation petered out. I realised we were too far gone to talk to each when we came back to the cafe, but perhaps that’s the way they like it in the New Amsterdam. It is a fun place to hang out with strangers, but still a place to be wary of. East Hastings epitomises the dark side of soft drug culture in the city, consisting of one long line of homeless people. The city has one of the highest rates of drug abuse in the country, and it shows. There are needle dispatch points in all the parks, homeless people will actively get off their ass to plead and follow you, not even always for money but maybe for a bite of your sandwich.
The American couple came up from Seattle to do a couple days partying, the girl was only 20 but legal to drink here. Her husband was a Christian minister, yelling “I’m smoking pot!” at cops with a joint hanging out his mouth as they try to turn a blind eye. We got in his rusty car to go by Stanley Park, a beautiful peninsula surrounded by the pacific, trying to see if any whales wanted to say hello.
The city has one of the biggest film industries in the Americas which might be why it feels like you are in a movie when walking around town. It is a beautiful city with strange character one best seen through a haze of smoke, shared with strangers trying to figure out where you have seen that corner before.