Gastown: A Story

I was reminded of this in an unrelated conversation with someone the other day. 1972 — Erminio [Butch] and I hitch-hiked cross country [Canada, actually] and then down the west coast. We had our blue, aluminum-framed backpacks and a couple of hundred dollars and off we went. It was another time. Took the bus from Merrick Rd to Jamaica; subway to the City; Greyhound to the Canadian side of Niagara Falls. Then, it was all thumbs. Lots of adventures and stories to tell, but, we are talking about Gastown.

Never had heard of it, but we pulled into Vancouver, BC after several weeks of traveling, and everyone we met – actually, even before we got to Vancouver – told us we had to go to Gastown. So, we did. Gastown was a section of the city that was, more or less, comparable to the Village in NYC, or San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury. Gastown/Hippietown — same thing.. We meandered around until there we were – right smack dab in the middle of Gastown! So, we plopped down, leaning against a brick building, and were looking over a map to see where the heck we were and why, and how we were going to sleep that night. I happened to look up, and noticed a young woman in a ticket booth for a wax museum motioning at me to come over. I looked around to see if she was actually beckoning someone else, but she wasn’t. She was waving Butch & I over. Dumbfounded, we jumped up and moseyed over to the ticket booth. Dang! She was good looking! We struck up a conversation and she handed us two free tickets to the museum. “Thanks!” And, in we went, backpacks and all. About a half-hour later, there in the museum darkness, the young lady had tracked us down. “You guys need a place to stay? My girlfriends [one of whom also worked there and was standing with her in the display-lighted hallway] and I just rented a place and you could stay there. Only problem is we don’t have much furniture yet.” [More like “none”!] “Uh, let us mull this over” – two guys with no where to stay; three girls offering us a place to stay. “We’ll get back to you!” No, I don’t think we said that. After the drool, I’m pretty sure there was an emphatic, “Far Out!” Well, she was getting off from work at midnight. Just so happened, there was a bar across the street, so after making arrangements, Butch & I went over to the bar and had a few beers. Suddenly, and I still don’t know what caused this, a knock down, drag out brawl erupted — I mean it was serious – chairs flying; glasses breaking; fists flying – we hightailed it on out of there … unscathed … somehow … Back across the street we went and waited until the clock struck 12. We kept busy watching the cop cars arriving. Then, 2 pretty women came out, a car pulled up with another pretty woman driving, and off we went. Before long, we were in a practically bare apartment … just little ole Doof [that’s what we called Butch who was really Erminio] and me. Oh, and three young women. It was a weird stay – and they invited us to stay as long as we wished. I will not go into all the gory details … just will mention that after I rolled out my sleeping bag, I later found a package of birth control pills laying on it. Hint? I don’t know. I was too dumb in those days.

We spent 5 days laying out on the beach – while the girls were working – and what a beach it was. Vancouver is a beautiful city … and unique. Laying on a pristine beach, you look up and are pretty much surrounded by mountains. Bliss. Then, the nights were spent in an apartment. Did I mention the 2 guys and three girls? You might think it was even MORE bliss … Close, but no cigar. And, after 5 days, we just HAD to get the heck out of there. Bliss has its perks, but the numbers were just not in our favor and we vamoosed and hit the road one morning after they left for work. On the road again! Now THAT’S bliss.

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