After the meeting I met with a longtime reader of the Flophouse - someone whose emails have always been a delight. She was one of my first readers and I still remember how good it felt to hear that there were people out there (folks not related to me) actually reading what I wrote and finding it useful and entertaining. Kristin, thank you for that and for the coffee and conversation. It was such a pleasure to finally meet you.
After coffee I headed back to the hotel to pick up my suitcase and take a taxi to the train station. On the way I got very thirsty (who know Vancouver could be as hot as the south of France) and decided to stop for something to drink. Just in front of the convenience store I saw a panhandler. Did I haul out some change and give it to him? You bet I did. I always do - not so much for them but for me. Not to assuage some of my middle-class guilt but because giving to someone else without judgement, without conditions, without expecting anything in return is a radical change in my mentality and a habit I want to cultivate. It is an antidote to self-centeredness and greed and fear about never having enough.
And, as so often happens, I got back something I needed to hear: his story. Recession, factory closures, older workers and giving up. You can walk down the streets of many big cities these days and probably hear something very similar in the U.S., in Europe, and in other places. And then we talked about the general problem of homelessness in Vancouver and how drugs and alcohol are a part of life in the streets there and make a bad situation even worse. He congratulated me for making it into AA and said, "You look good." I hope Dave makes it off the streets eventually because he didn't look so good. But he was a kind well-spoken man and I fervently hope that the time he spent talking with me didn't cut too badly into his daily take.
The CBC reporter was more than happy to alleviate her boredom by chatting with me. Three bags had been left in the train station unattended, the station had been closed down and the incoming train from Seattle was sitting out there on the tracks and had been for over 2 hours. The police had just found the owners of the baggage and they were interrogating them in the parking lot. Three young Asian backpackers looking very contrite.
Not being one to miss an opportunity, when the CBC reporter asked me where I was from and what I was doing in Vancouver, I gave my best elevator speech about FATCA, citizenship-based taxation and the Isaac Brock Society. Canadian Brocksters, there is hope - when I said "FATCA" her eyes lit up. Yes, she had heard of it and smelled a story. The idea that someone from France came all the way to Vancouver to meet with people about this definitely sparked her interest. Alas, as she was rotting through her bag looking for a card to give me, a spokesman from the police came out and she had to run over to where he was holding a press conference. But she asked that I give my coordinates to her colleague which I did. Cross your fingers, folks, and hope that she gets back to me.
Eventually it was all sorted out and the backpackers were sent off in a Vancouver police car. (Those poor kids - what a great vacation this turned out to be.) I have to disagree with this CBC article because the delays were hardly minor. First they had to bring in the train that was sitting out on the tracks. Then they had to clean the train and prepare it for boarding. U.S. Customs and Immigration took forever to open. By the time we boarded we were already late. We pulled out of the station at last and about a half hour later Canada Rail put up a red light and made us cool our heels on the track for another 20 minutes. But we finally got rolling and, oh, was it worth it. The sun setting over the water was not to be missed. As we clickety-clacked down the line, people out on the beach enjoying their evening waved to us on the train. Sunsets and people of goodwill know no borders.
We pulled into the King Street Station in Seattle an hour late. What a fine trip it was. So many people to meet and places to see - some planned and some that were pure beautiful blind luck.
Amin Maalouf once wrote:
Chacune de mes appartenances me relie à un grand nombre de personnes; cependant, plus les appartenances que je prends en compte sont nombreuses, plus mon identité s'avère spécifique.We are not islands, mes amis, living in glorious isolation in in complete control of our destinies, parsimoniously controlling our interactions with our fellow human beings. It is trite but true: We are all connected and if we just parse our experiences and identities we can connect to anyone just about anywhere. Precious little of what we have lived is unique to us alone but that doesn't simply make us cogs in the great wheel. Rather, it is the combination of all our memories, talents, and tales that make us who we are. It is a rich reservoir that we can draw from to make the most of the time we have on this mortal plane.
Each one of my adherences connects me to a large number of people; however, the more groups I belong to, the more my identity proves to be specific.
Grâce a chacune de mes appartenances, prise séparément, j'ai une certaine parenté avec un grand nombre de mes semblables; grâce aux memes critères, pris tous ensemble, j'ai mon identité propre, qui ne se confond avec aucune autre.
Thanks to all my adherences, taken separately, I have a certain relationship with a large number of people like me; thanks to the same elements, taken all together, I have my own identity, which can never be confused with any other.
If a man be gracious and courteous to strangers, it shows he is a citizen of the world, and that his heart is no island cut off from other lands, but a continent that joins to them.