This is not a funny story. It's really just sad. But it needs to be said.

Quick note:  there is no joke in the title.  This really is a sad story that needs to be said, and it's kind of unfortunate that I have to tell it in a blog that is usually about funny stuff and music.  This is a downer post, about the social ills of the city I love.  It's about homeless people, drug addicts, and all that entails.  If you're the type of person who comes here looking for a cheerful, happy story with all sorts of funny insights, you can safely skip this post.

It's a story I'm relating less than an hour after it happened (I got home at 1:15, and finished this post at 2:00 am), and it may be a little raw.  But it's Victoria - and not the sunny side that tourists are used to seeing. 

I love Victoria, I really do.  But it definitely has its fair share of problems.

It started about an hour ago.  It was a little past twelve, and I knew I wasn't going to sleep anytime soon - my insomnia was acting up again.  But I didn't want to go to bed at 4 am like I've been doing when insomnia strikes, so I decided to get pre-emptive.  I was going to go for a bit of a midnight stroll.

It wouldn't be too bad - the snow was gone, and the weather was good, and hey, it's a monday night, so it should all be good, right?

Well, I forgot to take into account that Victoria's been under a blanket of snow for the past week.  And then, it rained for two nights straight - this was the first night of decent weather in a week.  Meaning - drug addicts and alcoholics would be hitting the street in force.

There was some nice foreshadowing when I watched a security guard chase two addicts out from the eaves of an old health food store on the Vic West side of the Johnson street bridge.  He waved his flashlight at them angrily as they jumped into the bushes.  It was almost kind of funny - I've seen things like this in Victoria all the time, and I didn't think much about it.  But the night got progressively worse.

I was looping back from the Johnson street bridge, and making my way down government street when I had a fun encounter with Victoria's finest - also known as "the drunk on a curb".   A well meaning couple were trying to look after a passed out native* guy lying asleep on the sidewalk, flat on his back.  And, of course, a disheveled guy in a trucker's cap was also there, screaming loudly and drunkenly at his friend to "get the fuck up" and screaming at, well, everyone else, too. 

I turned the native guy on his side so he wouldn't choke or anything, while the husband thanked me and let me take the lead.  He was a nice enough guy, the husband, but I could tell he was way out of his element.  Meanwhile, his wife stayed a good fifteen feet away (good call) and was on the phone, calling 911 or something.

I told the drunk friend to stop swearing while I rolled the native guy, which of course woke him up instantly.  With the husband's help, we got him sitting upright, and then the guy just leapt to his feet and started wobbling - I had to grab him so he wouldn't fall over and hit his head, while he muttered a bunch of crap about respect and circumstances and other bullshit touchy-feely crap that street addicts spout.  Neither the husband or I were paying much attention - he actually looked at me and said "Victoria's getting worse, isn't it?" while the native went on and on.  For a moment, I liked him.

And then he left with his wife a moment later, while I was propping up the native, leaving me alone with two drunks - one of them a loud, screaming drunk.  That couple suddenly fell a few points in my good books. 

An angry drunk afraid of cops.  Who then proceeded to ask me for two dollars for cab fare so he could get his friend home (cab fare starts at about three bucks).  And his friend, the drunken native, kept spewing gibberish about how the white man doesn't respect him. 

You don't say?  It's not cuz you're native, pal.

I was there when the paramedics showed up, and I gave them the basic situation as they stepped out into the night.  Of course, in the thirty seconds it took for me to talk to the paramedic, the angry drunk had run in one direction, and the drunk who had only a minute earlier been unable to stand had found the reserves to hobble halfway down the block.  The Paramedic and I laughed about it, I gave them some more basic info, and I left them to their night and went about my way.

I had to walk by the drunken native on my way home, though.  And he proceeded to follow me, wave me down, and try to buy cocaine off me.  I told him I didn't have any money I could give him, which he had no problem believing... but he had a hard time believing I didn't have any cocaine I could give him.  Or know anyone who might have cocaine to give him.  He then muttered one of two things.  Either he said: "I'm not trying to be a dick here, I'm trying to be a man!" OR he said "I'm not saying you're a dick, but you should try to be a man!". 

Neither of which made any real sense, given the context.  I basically just shrugged, said "Whatever" in my best "you're an idiot" tone, and went about my way.  Sorry, buddy, but when you pass out on the sidewalk and beg others for drug money, you lose any right to say what does and doesn't make a man.  

The night wasn't done, though.  In the fifteen minutes it took for me to leave that guy on the curb and get to my front door, I was assailed by all manner of Victoria's finest.  I had two different people, in two seperate occasions, try to buy drugs off me.  I had a hooker asking to "borrow" smokes off me, and who was convinced I was lying when I said I didn't smoke.  And I had to walk by a tweaked-out meth addict who was picking imaginary cigarrette stubs off the pavement while scratching the scabs all over her face while her legs kicked out at random intervals. 

Every other car on the street was either a cop or an ambulance. 

Like I said, I love Victoria.  But Christ, it has its problems. 

*  Okay, a disclaimer.  I refer to him as "native guy" mostly so I can differentiate between the two drunks.  Yes, there are a lot of drunken natives in Victoria.  But I'm not really trying to make some sort of racist remark, here.  I've got a large percentage of native in me, myself.  The ills affecting the native population BC is pretty horrible, and I get that there's a lot of hardships these people are forced to deal with.  But I'm not one of those liberals who will give a drunk or a drug addict a free pass just because they're native - that's the worst kind of racism, in my book. 


  1. You are right, my brother from another mother:) - this IS a sad story and it IS reality for alot of people; not just First Nations.

    I know we have yet to meet, but I know the day will come. You share the opinion of most Canadians in fact, in regards to our people.

    Conditions on reserves are way worse. Our father's reserve has 85% of it's population addicted to needles and perscription drugs- 85%- not including alcoholism and other drugs...

    I'm not saying ANYONE who chooses to live their life like that DESERVES a "free pass",but we cannot judge a man until you walked a mile in their moccasins.
    What I felt after reading that is whatever spouted from his lips to you was an attempt to connect to you...why? Because his spirit saw your spirit Dave.
    Our father may not have been in our lives (yours NEVER) but you are Mi'kmaq Dave, and the spirit world goes beyond our comprehension...

    Our father, has worked in positions helping people heal from addictions the for many years, and even wrote a proposal for a new approach/ direction to the program. Unfortunately politics reared it's ugly head, and corruption seeped through the community in the form of a new Chief and Council:Wath the series on APTN called BLACKSTONE- shamelessly it mirrors life on the rez EVERYWHERE.
    Some of our relations are healers- Medicine men, pipe carriers etc. This could be the Great Spirit, ancestors, Grandfathers, calling to you... just saying..
    If you are going through something in your life right now, now might be the time to embrace your heritage.
    I know you say you are atheist, but native spiituality is not a religion- it is a way of life.
    I hope I am not offending you, I love you and long to meet you. I only speak from my spirit with good intentions. Our brother Micheal just asked me if he could come sweat with me the next time I go. I am so proud of him. The next time I go to the sweat lodge I will pray for you.

    I think you are an amazing writer, intellectual, and critical yet creative thinker Dave. I have read some of your blogs and must say you have our wit and charm :)
    Please consider coming home!!!

    I just got my Journalism degree and am about to start some projects with some Elders based on the very topic and so much more...
    There is an extra room in my house waiting :)
    Inbox me.
    K'esalul, (I love you),
    M'sit Nogamaq, (All my relations)
    Your Sister,
    Michelle xoxo

  2. Trying to help someone, only to have him turn around and yell at the people who were helping him (and call them racist names), isn't a good thing. And he wasnt' trying to "connect" with me. He was trying to play me.

    I get that there are background problems going on here. I'm familiar with addiction issues plaguing the native population, and I didn't really want to get into it. I was merely referring to him as "drunk native" to differentiate him from "drunk white guy".

    Quite frankly, his background had nothing to do with it. His friend was white as a sheet, and he was no different in my eyes.

    I get that there's more than I can see, and you're right, I have no idea about his background. But there's a much bigger issue here - the homeless and drug addicts that plague Victoria.

    Every long-term resident will tell you it's getting progressively worse. Last year, I was in the city with a friend, during the day, and she watched someone doing crystal meth for the first time in her life.

    I know you've never been here... Victoria is a place that has a huge homeless population, and they are scaring away visitors. In a city that's based on tourism, that's a very scary thing.

    Anyways, I'm sure I'll get out there. I was trying to get out there for May, but this economy isn't going to let that happen. Probably will happen next year, though.