The Mountain View Motel faced north towards Grouse Mountain. The name alone evokes images of freedom and fresh air, but it was basically just an urban trailer park set alongside a street with heavy traffic.
Vancouver wasn’t at all like I had expected. Before we’d moved out of Poppy’s house in Victoria, when Dad told Kim and me that we were going to live in Vancouver, I had imagined a grey, cold, dirty city, filled with old brick-faced tenements. I somehow had this weird big-city stereotype in my head – one of coldness and isolation. I was basically scared of this new, big place.
When we’d arrived, it was the tail-end of a bright, hot summer. Sunshine and my youthful enthusiasm and curiosity probably made everything seem new and nice, but as I look back on it now, the Mountain View was fairly shabby. It was a transient, impermanent little community of trailers, mobile homes and worn out motel houses – a kind of urban campground on its last legs, left over from some golden sightseer’s heyday of 20 years before.
I think that many of the people who lived there weren’t passing through on some sightseeing tour. They’d seen too much already, and were either trapped in a cultural or financial dead-end, or were actively trying to escape to a better place to raise their families and improve their lot in life. As a kid of just nine years old, I didn’t have these kinds of insights, but I did see and sense the shabbiness and air of depression lingering in the people and buildings that made up my new neighbourhood.
We moved into Unit 22, up in the rear corner, away from the noisy traffic of Kingsway. I’d never lived next to such a busy street before. I was fascinated by the big semi-trucks that went past every few minutes. It seemed weird to me that people could live right next to such a noisy, congested road and it wouldn’t even bother them.
Unit 22 smelled slightly musty or damp, but all the same it was nice to be under a new roof.