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The lobby is tiny and hot and swarming with flies. No guests after 6 p. No throwing things out the windows. He smokes a hand-rolled cigarette on the way, a flouting of the rules that thankfully masks the stench of the urine-steeped linoleum.
I let out a nervous laugh. The corridor looks anything but heavenly. I jiggle open the sticky lock on my door and feel some relief.
Someone has even decorated: five hot rod posters are pasted to the walls. I run water in the sink and adjust the shard of mirror to my height. After unpacking my two-burner stove, I make myself a cup of tea. Then I put my shoulder into the wooden frame, forcing the window open. Vancouver is a young city with a young skyline. My view, however, is of its history, bathed golden in the setting sun. Across from me are the Carnegie Centre and the Roosevelt Hotel, two century-old buildings of brick and stone.
The Carnegie was once a library, then a museum, then it was boarded up, and now it serves as a community centre.
The Roosevelt was long ago converted from a hotel into single-room occupancy sro housing. Curtains blow out from the windows, and I notice that others, too, are watching the street from above. The drugs, however, are only one dimension of the Downtown Eastside that interests me. There are many dimensions, and above all there is the whole — the community — and the degree of disconnect between the people who live here and the world beyond its fifteen-block radius.