Own Private Hobo Jungle
Stanley Park In Fact And Fiction
Stanley Park was in the headlines a lot this summer.
morning paper expended a lot of ink whipping itself and its more
readers into a frenzy of alarm about the "discovery" that our
world-renowned civic parkland was teeming with impoverished and
in the park's emerald depths, the headlines screamed, live a tattered,
dangerous and no doubt ill smelling population. The Province estimated
squatter population at over 500, although more sober guesses ran to
hundred. The CanWest daily claimed these unauthorized campers were on
of burning down our city's share of the forest primeval at any minute,
an insolent blaze that would no doubt race from those poverty campfires
Beaver lake to the luxury townhouses of Yaletown and the business
towers of the
downtown core. Something, the press thundered, must be done, and done
actually, no. The rains came soon enough, and even the remote danger of
forest fire in the park faded. In fact, cigarette buts discarded by
SUVs on the
cross park causeway have always posed more proximate danger to the city
than the carefully tended fires of the desperate few who live in the
shade beyond Lee's Trail.
there was really nothing new to the story. Stanley Park has been home
settlements for thousands of years, long before the British Navy set
the end of
the downtown peninsula aside as a source for masts and timbers in the 19th
century, and long before the city itself existed.
European settlements began to appear around the harbour, the forests we
held tents, shacks and lean-tos
erected by folks pushed out to the threadbare margins on the city, as
well as a
few stubborn surviving first nations villages. The trumped up forest
was a new angle to the story, but settlements of what Shaw's Mr.
called the "undeserving poor" have existed in the Park for over a
century, and attempts to root them out go back at least as far.
we don't want the unsightly and unruly poor on the streets of the city,
the visible micro parks from which they have been most recently
we aren't willing to let them live even in the depths of the park, just
are they supposed to go?
the Province was waxing ever more rebarbative on the subject of
was restoring my threatened faith in the usefulness of the printed word
reading Timothy Taylor's elegant first novel, Stanley Park.
Taylor's debut effort, first published in 2001, has recently come out
back, and it is strongly recommended reading for anyone interested in
food, strong drink, hot sex and the rain forest city we uneasily share
parkland poor and the predatory rich.
Taylor has given us a first novel with an
impressively mature, and measured
tone, a cast of keenly observed characters and a Vancouver that is both immediately
recognizable as our own and uniquely the product of his artistic
characters range from Jeremy Papier, a struggling and innovative chef
to local produce and passionate gastronomy; his father the professor,
abandoned his offices at the university to live among the homeless in
Park, and the evil Dante Beale, whose international coffee franchise
say Starbucks? I knew you could) threatens to take over and denature
pioneering restaurant, The Monkey's Paw. Others in the teeming cast
Caruzo, a ragged and haunted figure who has lived in the park for too
carries too many of its secrets, a whole kitchen full of lumpen
cooks who help Jeremy pull off a renegade restaurant opening night
never to be
forgotten by anyone who had a chance to taste the loin of raccoon and
mallard harvested just down the street in the park, and several
scenes of sexual passion and loss.
addition to the keenly observed and imagined characters, the lovingly
food and the profound reflections on the value of the local and the
an age of globalization, the virtues of Stanley Park include
of the homeless that are neither alarmist nor sentimental. As a bonus, Taylor gives the
plausible true crime re-working of the Babes in the Woods murder
unsolved killings that occurred in the park in the 1940s.
the Province. Save your quarters and buy yourself a copy of Stanley