Ghost Town

“Vancouver is not always about craft beers and snowboarding.”
– A wise remark from a fellow writer

I was on my way to a meeting, thrill was bubbling in my stomach. I got on a familiar bus, going on an unfamiliar route. 5 stops, 15 minutes, my phone announced.

 

First stop, Downtown was shallow and sun-soaked people washed over it.

Second stop, heavy shopping bags, dangling from tired arms, mounted the oversized vehicle.

Third stop, the sun-kissed skins and steamed dresses stepped off to explore Gastown.

Fourth stop, the polished buildings, with a rustic charm, were replaced with beaten concrete blocks.

Fifth stop, I got up from my seat, next to a man wearing multiple-day-old clothes and got off the ride.

 

Only two stops east of Gastown, I found myself in Ghost Town*.

 

The sad walls of the erect structures whispered abandonment. The dirty windows of the stores advertised emptiness.

 

A frail man lay under the fading sun beams, with his limbs draped over the gravel parking lot.

A woman, decorated in scars and bruises, washed her tired skirt under the water fountain.

A young man, wearing his bones inside out, stumbled about, speaking to the thin air.

 

I have never been to this part of the city. Although, it’s not a million miles away, only a few minutes from the shiny shops and tourist-attracting sights.

 

Initially, I was scared, but glancing around at this feeble state, misery crept into my mood. How can our city be so numb to this throbbing wound?

Have you been to this kind of neighborhoods where you live?

 

*This title is a fabrication of my imagination, and is not in reality assigned to this neighborhood.

28 Responses

  1. I used to live in Barranquilla, Colombia, and my bus went through an area of downtown that was a “zona de tolerancia.” I never got off there because it seemed scary, but looking out of the window I always felt that those streets felt a little haunted.

    1. Just out of curiosity, what does“zona de tolerancia” mean?

      Very accurate description, they do look ‘haunted’.

  2. Sadly, Em, I think most American cities of any appreciable size have neighborhoods like this, and sometimes more than one. I second Fandango’s admiration of your description of the young man wearing his bones inside out. Very evocative!

    1. That is sad. I often entertain the though of what our governments could do for these poor souls if they weren’t busy chasing money and power.

  3. Hi, Em! I like how you describe the buildings and people. It made me instantly think of places in my area!
    A lot of suburbs of my home town look like they’re falling apart and so do a few citizen look like. When all the shopping centers and businesses are moving to the city center, the suburbs are dying and I think, this can be found everywhere!
    When I’m outside, riding bicycles I pretty much always have to cross at least one of those neighborhoods to get where I want to ride. I try to take it as a challenge and the rewards await at the destination. But it always feels strange and it’s almost never fun to cross those suburbs.
    So, I can relate to your story!
    Hope the meeting was great, though!

    1. Hi Dennis,

      Thanks for sharing this, it is amazing how so many people have had similar experiences. It was definitely not fun for me to see either. But the meeting was great, thanks for asking. I appreciate your comments, thanks for reading.

  4. Poignant descriptions of the reality of too many a place that all too many do not venture into, but perhaps should.

    And yes, I have been to and had worked in the ‘inner city’ (euphemism for the lesser financed, oft multiply deprived parts of big cities, where poverty is abundant) for quite a few years. In some of these neighborhood, it was only safe to walk in one direction, or on one side of the street, or the long way around the block. Some of the children who lived on these streets have not been out of the neighborhood. Segregation of another kind. There were many dull-eyed adults. Dull-eyed children, too. Both of which broke my heart. The hardship, like the boarded up windows and crumbling buildings, was real.
    But I also found those neighborhoods to be filled with kind people, wise oldsters, cheeky kids, and hard-working parents who juggled several jobs just to barely make ends meet. I got my share of inquisitive glances at first, but the ‘regulars’ on street corners, as well as in the bodegas themselves only looked at me sideways the first few days I walked by or into them. When it became evident I was just another person going to work, living life, they accepted me with the same gruff but effective service they offered to others. Along with coffee and bagel, the bodega owners (and/or the ‘regulars’) warned me when it wasn’t advisable to cross on certain avenue and was prudent to walk to another subway route, let me know which corners had people shot on the night before, and gave me the half-nod I came to recognize as ‘good morning.’

    1. Oh wow, thank you so much for sharing this. It is very fascinating to me hearing the ‘inner’ story. I would bet, before reading this, that people who live in that area are kind, but unfortunate. It’s a sad tale…”Some of the children who lived on these streets have not been out of the neighborhood”.

  5. Ghost Town sounds like a good chunk of the city of Cleveland, as well as many of the surrounding towns. I’ve lived in the area for over 20 years. When one lives in such neighborhoods full-time, it’s easy for situational awareness/concern for one’s own safety to overpower any sense of sympathy.

    The town I was living in in northern California also has many similarities to Ghost Town, minus “the sad walls of the erect structures” that, “whispered abandonment” (a fantastic line, by-the-way). Like Vancouver, this town also shared a pretense of being a utopia. I suppose it was, but only for those who chose to stay willfully ignorant or constantly high.

    1. That’s super interesting. I did think of Cleveland as a beautiful place, mostly because I’ve never been and that’s how it is portrayed on the media accessible to me. Thank you for sharing.

      1. Oh, Cleveland is extremely beautiful. It’s a nice, temperate climate, and having Lake Erie right directly to the north is fantastic. But like many former industrial Meccas in the US, the city has a lot of problems; namely: a lagging economy, vast wealth inequalities, racial segregation and injustice, corrupt and/or incompetent leaders, intense urban sprawl, and a high crime rate.

        There are some very nice areas of Cleveland, but there are also sections of the city that look like they just survived a WWII blitzkrieg. Sometimes you can literally see the difference on a street-by-street basis. One street will have nice, victorian-era homes with fancy landscaping. A street or two down, however, and the houses are falling apart.

        The city’s been slowly coming back over the past few years, but there’s still a long ways to go.

        1. Thanks for sharing your insight and experience. I think it’s the same here. Take a wrong turn and you find yourself in a 180-flipped street.

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