My family immigrated to Seattle, and my dad’s best friend and his family immigrated to Vancouver. We’d drive up to visit, and one of our regular stops was our Chinese herbalist. I loved going to the shop – the ginormous wall of wood drawers filled with all kind of crazy dried things was mesmerizing. Spent a ton of hours sifting through the draws, drawing in the back room, and gluing my drawings together with rice (the Asian ghetto version of paste).
The shop was located on East Hastings Street. The area has never been anything other than seedy. One night, my father planned a quick stop by the shop. He parked in the back alley, and not a minute after he left a cop knocked on the window. My brother rolled it down and explained that we were waiting for my dad to return with his Chinese medicine. The cop responded with, “Chinese medicine, huh?” He asked where my father went and left. Moments later my dad returned to the car, package in hand and explained how the cop busted into the shop. Only then did we realize that the cop assumed that the Chinese medicine be drugs.
I think about that night every time I drive along East Hastings. Looking back it totally makes sense – it’s a rough part of town and not pretty. The core section is full of homeless people and druggies hangin’ on every corner and in front of every building. And you’ll most definitely spy used needles and cracked vials on the street.
So WHY did I end up on East Hastings this past sourcing trip?! Not for a Chinese medicine pick-up. To check out a local band, Sunshine. They were celebrating the release of their self-titled debut album at a classic Vancouver landmark, The Astoria. The cab dropped us off in front of the awesome neon sign. A TOTAL dive bar with the standard fixtures – weathered locals and cheap drinks. It’s also got pool, pinball… and a dance floor! It’s the perfect place to see a show – you’ll feel close to the stage no matter where you stand. Paid the cheap cover and walked into the flood of 80’s new wave meets indie pop Canadian hipster vibe. Exactly what I wanted on a cold, wet rainy night – dancing and Sunshine.
(STMT X Canada Sourcing Trip – photos RAD AND HUNGRY)
The Astoria, Downtown Eastside
769 East Hastings Street
Vancouver, V6A 1R3