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Twenty days of my life backed up for posterity (This old phone, part two)

October 15, 2018

One of my 2010 sleeping spots—the former 2990 Arbutus Street—overgrown, abandoned and up for redevelopment.

This is part two of my look at the personal documents found on the SD card of a Treo 680 phone I used between 2007 and 2013. Part one looked at miscellaneous files; some relating to a custodial job I had in 2008 and 2009, others to software I purchased for the Treo and one meticulously detailing my entrepreneurial exploits selling specialty beer bottles between 2011 and 2013.

This part reproduces a journal that I kept, beginning in spring of 2010—just as the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics were winding down—and ending 11 months later in the winter of 2011.

For all that time, there are only 20 entries. Still, they do shed some light on my day-to-day activities and concerns as a homeless person in Vancouver, over seven years ago.

I have edited the entries for typographical errors and clarity and reversed the written order to begin with the oldest first. Editorial comments are in italics enclosed by square brackets.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

  • Paralympics opening ceremony
  • Clocks spring forward tomorrow

Fine, steady rain. Tonight I’m bedding down in a small parkade—has the proportions of a tipped-over cereal box. It’s about sixty-feet deep. I’m at the very back, where the prize would be.

[This refers to my current sleeping spot. In 2010 it was an alternate to my regular spot: the entrance way of the Lonetree kitchen store, then at Arbutus and 14th Avenue.]

Monday, March 15

First day of Spring? Not a strong opening. Just after midnight so it’s practically still Sunday. Steady light rain. Dull day. Did not one thing of note. Expect to do more of the same after a good sleep. Need to be up by five a.m. so as not to inconvenience the early-to-work folks. Be nice if the rain will have ended by then.

My old Lonetree sleeping spot, off to the viewer’s right of the entrance—still nicely screened by the hedge from street view.

Tuesday, March 16

Overslept. Up in a panic at 9:15 a.m. The folks at Lonetree obligingly didn’t open at 9; feel bad about that.

The Palm Garnet platform is over, so EPUB support from commercial developers is unlikely, leaving the platform to the vagaries of open source—eek!

[By 2010, more and more ebooks were coming out in the three-year-old EPUB format—a webpage-like document format designed for electronic books. However, no one was (or likely ever would be) writing an EPUB reader for the Palm operating system. Palm was on it last legs, thanks to Apple’s iPhone and Palm’s incompetence.]

Wednesday, March 17

Enjoyed another meaningless day. Coming back from downtown, biked Seawall on the south side of False Creek. Nice. Used my emulated Windows XP to run a Win-only app that converts Windows TrueType fonts to a Palm OS format. Thank you Steve Jobs for the BSD-based Next—the foundation of OS X—and for switching to Intel chips. And thank you Sun Microsystems. I love my MacBook Pro!

I’ll have to make note of my friend Ben W.’s amazingly sorry situation—in drug rehab, living under the thumb of the Sally Ann at Harbour Light where the food is literally rotten. Last week, he broke his left shoulder while riding on a TransLink bus. The driver was apparently totally at fault and Ben has engaged personal injury lawyers. A month or so back, his mother in Edmonton committed suicide. I could go on.

[I purchased the MacBook Pro in 2009. It was sadly the victim of a dash-and-grab theft in a coffee shop in 2012. I cannot think of a good reason why I was thanking Sun Microsystems! The less said about my “friend” Ben, the better.]

Monday, March 29

Power outage on the part of West Broadway from Oak, North and West, beginning sometime after 2:30 a.m. I woke late (6:30 a.m.) in darkness. As I was leaving my parkade, a B.C. Hydro truck drove by twice—suggesting it was a small outage.

According to, during Saturday’s Earth Hour B.C.’s electricity load dropped by 1.04 per cent—slightly less than last year. I is sooo proud!

Sunday, May 5

I was riding my bike through an alley this afternoon. As I approached a cross-street I could hear bird cries. Riding into the cross-street, I saw a flurry of small birds—sparrows, starlings, I don’t know—all circling and in full voice.

On the street, against a curb, a crow was killing one of the little birds—pecking away at it—the little bird was crying out weakly and the other birds were echoing its distress. None dared attack the crow.

It occurred to me that there was nothing useful I could do by intervening short of scaring off the crow and killing the little bird.

I did nothing.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Last few weekends I’ve bottled along the Broadway corridor between Arbutus and Alma, starting at about 1 a.m. (so technically Sunday morning).

Back in the summer of 2004 I found that early in the hours of Saturday or Sunday I could pick up $30 worth of beer cans just riding up and down West Broadway. The cans would be everywhere! Along the curb, on the sidewalks, in the street, in the curb-side garbage bins, artfully hidden just inside stairwells—absolutely everywhere. And the range along Broadway ran from Oak all the way to a block West of Alma.

So far, in the summer of 2010, I’ve seen nothing like that—not even 50 beer cans on the best of the five times I’ve looked this year. Why? Fewer bars along West Broadway; weekends have been chilly and, or wet, compared to the warm, dry Summer of 2004; not as much disposable income; perhaps a different area is more popular now.

As I was exiting eastward along West Broadway, towards Arbutus and a good sleep, I made a wide berth around a bald-headed fellow who was striding east on the south sidewalk and bellowing a monologue. Only notable part I caught: “I’m homeless and I still collect Knick-knacks!”

Overview of the one-block-square Grace Estate (variously listed at 4245-4285 Ash St. and 616-690 West 26th Ave)., showing how the alley becomes its squiggly, gated main street.—Google Street View

Thursday, July 7, 2010

At Heather and 26th Ave. is a one-square-block, multi-unit property called Grace Estate. Access through the lane is closed at both ends of the block by large wrought-iron gates. Today, at about 6:30 p.m., I was in that area binning the blue boxes which will be collected by the city tomorrow morning.

Reaching 26th and Heather I saw—for the first time ever—no closed gate on the west end of Grace Estate. The gate was open and badly damaged—looked as if a large truck had rammed it.

Ahead of me was one block of un-picked recycling blue boxes. I went from one end to the other and back (the other gate was still there and closed). I could hear conversations and laughter, but no one came out to chase me off. My heart was thumping.

There was so much stuff in those blue boxes!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The second fireworks event at English Bay. I watched from the railway cut on the East side of Arbutus, at 15th Avenue. Fireworks always affect me almost hypnotically. What impresses me most is the incredible appeal they obviously have generally. I’ve heard in past years that 300,000 people have gone done to English Bay to watch them. What else besides a state of emergency could cause this kind of movement of people?

The fireworks begin at 10 p.m. and last about 25 minute. Within 15 minute South-bound traffic on Arbutus becomes bumper-to-bumper—for over an hour. I know the same is true on Macdonald and probably also on Burrard and Granville.

Never fails to amaze me.

Connaught Park’s rough old, “bee”-friendly, cistern-style drinking water fountain in April 2010 and August 2011 (showing even birds loved it) and the new fountain, as of May 2012.—Google Street View

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Yesterday was B.C. Day—Encorp depot at Ontario Street and 7th Avenue closed early at 3 p.m. Did a second run to the depot at Blenheim, so still a decent return. Binning Eastward was very good till Pine Street.

At the Park on Larch Street there’s an old concrete, cistern-style water fountain with a nickel-brass stem faucet. At 4:30 in the afternoon it was festooned with bees.

I’ve never thought about—or seen—bees drinking water—it was really neat. They had to drink off the wet, rough concrete above the water-line.

In a business dumpster in a lane on the west side of South Granville at 14th Avenue, I found an empty, heavy-weight plastic bag, large enough for three people to sleep in. My goal for the next eight hours (with breaks) was to fill it—only managed a bit over half-full ($46.55). To icky to keep afterwards, sadly.

[The greenspace referred to is Cannaught Park and it was bees and/or wasps. I should have also mentioned that I was the only one willing to approach the old concrete water fountain, abuzz as it was with potential stingers. The old drinking water fountain has long since been replaced with a new model that is (one assumes) much less bee and wasp friendly.]

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Fruit abounds! Blackberries everywhere, apples, plums. Apparently also huckleberries—but I wouldn’t know them to see them. My sleeping spot right beside Arbutus railway cut at 15th features a “wall” of blackberries and a crab apple tree. The crab apples aren’t great—actually quite woody and the blackberries are smaller than found around Heather and the 20s.

I’m trying to make hay while the sun shines bottle-wise. From about 9 p.m. until 2 a.m. I binned part of a residential area scheduled for blue-box pickup Friday—West of Trafalgar and South of Broadway. The trick here involves the month change which advances the pickup one day. In July this area was picked up Thursday morning. Now, in August pickup will be Friday morning. But, as always happens, a number of households put their bins out one day early, as if it was still July. I may have collected $30-worth with no competition.

Sitting on a metal bench, which is bolted to the concrete sidewalk, which is of a piece with the asphalt road, I can feel the city through my butt!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Very light rain through the day until about 8 p.m. After some 30 days of hot dry weather, the light rain seems to bring oil to the surface of asphalt, creating incredibly slippery roads. A binner named William related seeing a woman brake her car at a red light and slide right into the intersection.

In 2005-or-so, during similar light rain after a prolonged dry spell, I was biking North down either Alder or Birch Street, between 8th and 5th Avenue—very steep downhill grade! I only had good brakes on the back wheel and realized that they were clamped and (in fact) the back wheel wasn’t turning—but I was picking up speed!

I was nearly fixated on the traffic I could see rushing along 5th at the bottom of the hill and a vision of me careening into it. I managed to muscle my bike into a gliding curve that took me into the lane between 7th and 6th, and straight into a low hedge which stopped me quite nicely. Of course, I was also using my right shoe to slow me down.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Sunday is my 49th birthday. I’ve been thinking about a kind of bicycle which has hub-less spherical tires. The tires would be in housings similar to spherical furniture wheels. The front tire would be able to turn in any direction. Steering would be by “body english” rather than a steeering column. There would be no chain drive. The back tire, which would be contrained to turn on one axis only, would have a toothed band running around the vertical equator, which would be inset as if the toothed band was a belt very tightly notched around the tire. A wide, toothed gear would be against this band. The rotation of this gear would rotate the back tire. Many obvious problems.

[What the heck?]

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Around 5:30 p.m. I headed northeast from East Broadway Avenue and Ontario Street to begin an evening of binning Shaughnessy [recycling blue box] pickup. Could be at it until 1 a.m.

First stop, Heather Street between 26th and 27th Avenue—Grace Estate—collect maybe $2 worth. Then eastward to stop at Arbutus and 16th to get a coffee. Pause at the park just southeast of Cambie Street and King Edward Avenue. There I find big garbage bags at a garbage bin by a baseball diamond.

Party of three gleefully tell me that I’ve hit the jackpot—perhaps 200-plus beer cans. One of the guys comes back as I’m finishing up. We chat. Off-hand he says he left another three bags at Quilchena Park (33rd, between Granville and Arbutus).

I make it there in about 5 minutes. I find the big load of bagged and loose cans by a garbage bin. While I’m collecting this, a guy comes over to tell me that his group, over at the next diamond, has another bunch of cans. I finally get to McDonald’s at Arbutus and 16th by 7 p.m. Have to decide if I have storage capacity for any more binning this evening. Ha!

[a fair-size crowd of interested and approving onlookers gathered to watch me bag, organize and firmly secure to my trailer, what was a $60-plus load of beer cans.]

My bike trailer as of March 2013. The bike hauling it has changed and so has the trailer frame itself. But the box on the trailer frame is still essentially the same one in 2018 that I built in 2010.

Tuesday, October 6, 2010

Yesterday was the sixth anniversary of my homelessness—hoo-boy! Some achievement.

One week and well-over $100 later, I’m nearly finished making a new box for my bike trailer. The major cost was $85 worth of black welded steel wire display grid and butterfly clip fasteners from Eddie’s Hang-Ups. I’d hoped to used expanded steel sheet but it would’ve required some welding.

While ago, I found a binned box (just sides, no bottom) made of thin plywood sides which were fastened together with self-nailing steel right angled strips. Very nice. Very specialized—not to be found at Home Depot or Rona.

I’ve gotten a lot of advice about my trailer from other experienced bike-and-trailer binners:

  • “Bicycle Chris” swears by a true flatbed, prefers 20″ wheels, and insists flatbed should be centred over wheels or it will “wreck your iron” (towbar). I noticed his flatbed is a large piece of the same display grid I’m using for my new box.
  • Randy says 20″ wheels are necessary because the bearings in smaller wheels (like my trailer now has) are not strong enough. His trailer is very similar to mine in that his wheels (20″) are toward the back of the box—which he says is best. He says if your load extends far enough behind the wheels (ala a centred bed) it puts a lot of upward force on the towbar. He added a flip-back, and when he needs to put bags that far back, he says he needs to counter-weight by putting a bag on his bike rack. He says my trailer’s aluminum frame is a problem.
  • Peter, who considers Granville Island his personal binning domain, swears by his axle which, he says, can hold, 600 lbs. He uses a large Metro shelf piece as his flatbed. As far as he’s concerned my trailer is a toy.
  • Jimmy says my aluminum frame is very good, particularly because the arm to the hitch is double tubed. He favours 20″ wheels but not because of bearings. He, like everyone else, pointed to the plastic/rubber hitch joint as a guaranteed failure point. He recommended I get a piece of high-pressure hose of same diameter as the flex-connector, have it cut and drilled to the same dimensions as the flex connector, brad the screw-hole for the bike side, and this would never fail. I ran to Bike Doctor on West Broadway and bought a replacement “classic flex connector” for $14.

[Sadly Pete, aka “Granville Island Pete”, passed away in 2014. He just couldn’t get up in his parkade one day. Many of his friends and binning acquaintances brought him food. But after something like two weeks of that, the parkade owners had had enough. Pete ended up in a hospice bed in Vancouver General Hospital. He was an old, old-timer who had no time for most younger homeless binners. And he wasn’t much friendlier with his acknowledged peers. Following Pete’s death, another old-timer named Steve told me, with tears in his eyes, that he’d known and drank with Pete for 17 years and even he didn’t know the guy’s last name.]

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Took in the showing of the film Red today at the Ridge Theatre; one of an audience of older folk that maybe quarter-filled the theatre. We all really enjoyed the film.

Wednesday I got up at about 11 a.m., just as the building owner and a party of three arrived. The three—an older gent, a younger gent and a woman—are to help the owner get some tenants for the building which has sat empty since, at least January.

The older gent, while conceding that the building had been nice in it’s day, declared it a dump. He explained that prospective tenants had no imagination and wouldn’t see beyond the shabby state of the building. The wild-growing greenery and broken windows were a sign to any potential tenant that the building “wasn’t loved” by the landlord.

To emphasize his point the older gent declared, “It looks like he lives here!”

“He” being me.

The younger gent and woman immediately looked at me to see how I reacted to this insult. I beamed at them.

The gent explained to the owner that short-term tenants might be gotten—fireworks-sellers for example. As I left, the young gent and I exchanged smiles.

Friday the older gent and woman were back. We spoke. The gent and I traded names (I’ve forgotten his) and we shook hands. He told me the building had been slated for demolition but the owner went to the city with a plan to refurbish it—currently it’s striped inside to the studs.

I mentioned that the owner might do well to level it and turn it into a managed parking lot, given the demand in the area—with Meinhardts-and-all. He pointedly replied that the owner would do better to level it and put in a community garden—which would earn him property tax relief. I mentioned that cutting the grass was a good idea.

He said a guy was coming that very day to do it. But a guy didn’t and hasn’t, but I expect my days of using the spot are numbered.

[The Ridge Theatre, along with the block-long Ridge Centre, was demolished in late 2013 to make way for a condo. My sleeping spot didn’t last as long.]

Monday, October 25, 2010

Yesterday, at about 9:15 p.m., my brand-new, thorn-proof tube on the driver’s-side of the bike trailer was flattened by a big tack. It was raining and my patch-job didn’t take—it’s been my experience that contact cement doesn’t cure very well in the presence of rain.

I walked my bike from Granville and 14th to Arbutus and 16th, had a snack and repaired to my “spot” up the street and tried another patch. The tire was flat again in the morning but it could hold air for about an hour—enough to get my small load of bottles to the depot.

Spent about $20 on two tubes and extra patches.

At about 9:30 p.m. this evening, in the middle of working the blue boxes west of Valley Drive, the rim of my front wheel started coming apart—the strip that the brake pads stop against actually breaking away from the rest of the wheel. The effect was like a bulge in the rim that hit the left brake pad every revolution.

Problem was the bulge was growing so I’ve stopped for the night and will walk the bike to the depot tomorrow. A new front wheel will cost around $60. I’ll be lucky if I collected $20 to $30 worth of bottles. I hope the tire is okay.

Sunday, Dec. 12, 2010

Two flat tires requiring five repairs.

First flat: back tire, Sunday, 1 a.m. So pleased with myself for having a spare tube. Changed it before bed but it lasted less than a minute before splitting along a seam (there are no quality tubes anymore). I patched it successfully after getting up.

Second flat, front tire, 3 p.m., near Cambie and Broadway. I used half a patch—got me to bottle depot before failing.

After cashing in, I went two blocks to parking area of Guardian storage [where I have a locker] and tried again (first removing previous patch) and failed.

I walked the bike to Canadian Tire, where I bought another patch kit (can’t buy a tube, they don’t stock Presta valve tubes). Outside the store I applied a new patch half over the previous one. New patch is still holding at 1 a.m.

Earlier Sunday, at about 2:30 p.m., I was partially doored by an SUV.

Fun day.

[Flat tires are best treated as blameless acts of nature that a cyclist just has to deal with. Not so being doored. That is always someone’s responsibility—most often the driver who threw open the door without looking, but the cyclist has their own responsibility to be vigilant, simply because they are the ones who could be killed. I have been doored at least six times since 1992; in only one case do I blame myself.]

A panoramic photo of Jonathan Rogers park, taken in October of 2014, from the southeast end looking northwest.

Wednesday, Dec. 25, 2010

Leaving the bottle depot at Ontario Street and 7th Avenue, west-bound on 8th, between Columbia and Alberta, on my right was the block-square, so-called, “Homeless Guy Park.”

Noticed a small, black kite-like object stationary in the air above the middle of the park. No string leading to a person so, looking at it, I thought it was an RC helicopter—cross-shaped with a rotor atop the end of each equal-length arm. The centre of the cross was round, like a hub with four spokes.

At the west end of the park was a group of men—most in dark suits, some in dark Vancouver police uniforms. There were boxes and all the men were looking towards the copter, which began moving around.

My guess is they were playing with a new camera drone.

[There is no way this happened on Christmas Day—the one day of the year that the Go Green depot is closed. The “2” in “25” is probably a miss-type of “1”. All the same, I vividly remember the scene and how I stopped and puzzled it out.]

La Vista apartment building at 3028 Arbutus St.—former location of the offices (British Columbia/Yukon Command) of the Royal Canadian Legion at 3026 Arbutus.

Sunday, Feb. 20, 2011

Yesterday afternoon two BC Hydro workers arrived in a bucket truck at the former Legion office building where I sleep. They disconnected the power line to the Pattison billboard in the parking lot. I wonder if this means my building is going to be finally knocked down—over one year since it was stripped for demolition?

[This entry refers to the former Legion office at 3026 Arbutus—a two-storey building located a block south of Lonetree and already abandoned in 2008. I switched to sleeping in its covered entrance way in 2010. It’s a long story but, by the journal entry of October 6, 2010, I had a key and access to the inside, which I cleaned thoroughly. I was finally “evicted” by the owner in the spring of 2011, some months prior to the building’s demolition.]

Well, that’s all for the journal. Watch for the third and final installment of This old phone: Declaring three years of bottling income—coming soon. Well, as soon as I finish totaling up the days, weeks and months on the second and third year spreadsheets. Click the images to enlarge them.

One Comment
  1. Belated birthday and anniversary of homelessness. What an interesting read. It’s just like reading someone’s diary. So far your red/orange wagon has survived and served you well in your binning career.


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