Drunken girls stalk Granville Street with stocking'd legs exposed from high heels to thigh, sharp little steps through three inches of powdery white. They teeter shivering in doorways as I pass by, my scarf wrapped around the lower half of my face; I can hear them talking about Polish shopping sprees or men or - towards the later portions of the night - trying to flag rides back to whichever suburb they come from. "Ohmigod I'm fucking FREEZING" is a common refrain, offered in tones of giggly awe; but I also overhear - again in a female voice, but this one belonging to a woman in boots - "What's wrong with these people? Are they fucking retards? Don't they know it's the middle of December?"
En route to 1067 from Richards, I see a homeless man (I think) in a doorway, sleeping in his parka on a ledge. He lingers in my mind as I make my way to Megabite to spend some of my last $10 on two slices (overhearing, en route, a man bellowing to his friends: "The Fraser River has fucking frozen over!"). If he dies, am I responsible for it, by virtue of having done nothing? Thanks, Christianity. After eating, I go to Blenz at Nelson and Granville - the location that mysteriously closed and then re-opened - and, having settled on a course of action, make my pitch: "Hey, excuse me. I don't have a cell phone. There's a homeless guy sleeping a couple of blocks from here - I'm hoping I could use your phone to call the poilce, see if they can get him into a shelter."
The guy behind the counter looks uncomfortable. "Ah... well... we don't really have an 'office phone,'" he says. He looks a bit sheepish. I don't so much as raise an eyebrow - he's young and he has rules to follow, after all. I just go next door to the Pita Pit, where they oblige. I sit at a table with their cordless. "Police, fire, or ambulance?"
Soon enough, a police operator is asking me, "Does he appear to be injured or intoxicated?"
"No, he seems to be sleeping. He's wearing a parka." I don't think to say: I didn't look too closely.
"Sir, I'm going to give you another number to call..."
When the non-emergency operator takes my name and address, I feel bizarrely concerned that my gesture could be used against me at some point. "Keep an eye on this one - he intervenes."
I make my way to 1067, where, when no one is playing, I visibly register my concern with a few people - Femke, Dave Chokroun, Jeff Younger. "What do you do in a case like this? Is calling the police it?" I watch two sets, one a Fond of Tigers offshoot of some sort who at times sound like they haven't figured out how to play with each other just yet and at other times approach the sublime; then there's a brief set from a Darren Williams-less Semi-Sorrow and the Pity, with Stephen Lyons pitching in some skronky guitar as Dave rants and drums. Their version of "Apeman" kills. Lyons tense guitar reminding me, I dunno, of something you might hear D. Boon do (on "Base King," for example). I worry throughout: what if I go back in an hour and the homeless guy is still there? What then? Do I bring him back to my apartment? He could be nuts, a drunk, a junkie; I don't want him sleeping in my space, he could rip me off. What about the hallway? What if he rips off one of my neighbours, or what if I get in shit for letting him in?
On the other hand, what if he freezes to death?
One of the 1067'ers I ask remarks that the shelters are probably full by now... Eventually I decide to skip the FOT-offshoot's second set - following Dave and Stephen's - and make my way back to the corner where I saw the guy. I'm relieved he isn't there. I stand and watch snow sheet the city, then turn back. Drunk 20-somethings clutter the roads, laughing and shouting at cars that honk at them. I feel like telling one cluster that a guy got killed a few months ago, standing in the road in front of my building, mowed over by a drunk driver - likely some drunk suburban brat like them. I could warn them that standing in the road and making cars veer around them in the snow is dangerous. Their tone of voice dissuades me. "Fuggit," I think, adjusting my gloves as I tramp up Nelson. "Let'em get hit... teach'em a lesson."
I wonder if the Fraser is really iced over...