Working On The Commission, Hotel Patricia Receives a Visit, and The “Alien Fifth Column”

East HastingsHello, good morning, and welcome to the Saturday Morning News Post!

Work continues on my commission for the CBC Jelly Roll Morton tribute in Vancouver, Jan 15. Click here for details.

Basicly, I’m writing a suite for Jelly Roll and his time spent at the Patricia Hotel. Some of it’s finished, some of it’s not. I’ve been spending a fair amount of time at my keyboard lately, recording ideas and little snippets of songs that catch my attention. That’s the easy part though, now I gotta take some of these gems and craft them into full fledged songs. “Driving the tunes home” as it were, is the laborious part, it’s still fun, but it’s still work, and as such, I try to avoid it as much as possible.

Anyways, a few nights ago I thought it was high time I go and see this Patricia Hotel for myself which is located in the infamous “Lowest-income postal code in the country”, East Hastings St.

Now I’ve been to many parts of the world, and I’ve seen some shady places, but I’ve NEVER hung out on East Hastings Street. With the jailhouse right in the middle and drug addicts walking around like zombies, it’s the kind of area that if you have to drive through, you may find yourself shrinking down low in your seat, subtly locking your car door, and trying to avoid eye contact with anyone. Or, umm,…maybe that’s just me.

And to all my friends who live in that area, I know, I’m just perpetuating the negative East Hastings stereotype and yes, there are some good things happening there too. Truth is, my evening spent in this area was uneventful and pretty quiet. All the bars have MMA fights on TV, and to my amazement, AC/DC music was far more prevalent than Jelly Roll Morton.

Bad news for residents of that neighbourhood though (good news to all you middle/upper-middle class Vancouver residents), is that when Danderfer begins to feel comfortable hanging out in a “rough” part of town, well,… things are gonna change. I might just be more courageous than I used to be but, far more likely, I am the harbinger of gentrification.

Fact is, because it’s been an “off-limits” area for development for so long, it’s now one of the most interesting, well-preserved parts of Vancouver. For example, the old hotels still have separate entrances for men and women! (Fun fact: When Canada entered World War II, hotel-based beer parlours were seen as a breeding ground for venereal disease among soldiers. One provincial Board of Health official referred to beer parlours “frequented by diseased women” as an “alien fifth column which is insidiously undermining the health of His Majesty’s Forces.” The solution was to physically separate men and women. By April 1942, all Vancouver parlours were required to install partitions at least two metres high so that men and women could not see each other. Several of the remaining bar hotels on the strip – most notably the Balmoral and the Empress – still have separate entrances for men and women.)

There are valid arguments for and against development in this part of the city, but it looks inevitable as Vancouverites clamour to pay ludicrous prices for downtown real estate. I just hope they don’t steamroll the character out of it with more glass & steel buildings.

Okay, I must get back to work. Thanks for reading and enjoy the Winter holidays!

  • Steve

    And I notice that that photo was taken out of a moving car! Didn’t want to get out and walk on the sidewalk?

  • james

    Hey! At least I slowed down, didn’t I? What do you expect from us Kerrisdale boys? That’s a loooong ways from home, you dig?

  • John Doheny

    When I brought my New Orleans band up to play jazzfest in Vancouver in 2008, we were put up at the Landmark on Robson, and the guys (who with one exception, had never visited Vancouver before) were amazed (and slightly weirded out) at the squeaky-clean post-modern multi-cultural cleanliness of it all. (as one remarked “wow! It looks like everything was just uncrated the day before we got here”).

    The gig, however, was at the Ironworks. Great venue, but sketchy neighborhood. As we cruised past Hastings and Main, everybody remarked that we were now leaving the alternative universe of Pomo Vancouver and entering something that looked at bit more familiar.

    They were pretty surprised when I told them what the annual murder rate was though. New Orleans clocks that many about every two months, and with half the population. Must be the gun laws.

    Too much work killing someone by beating them to death with a bottle of maple syrup.:-P

    BTW, I played the Patricia a couple of times back in the early 80s with a western swing band. What I remember most is the smell; disinfectant, vomit and hair tonic.