26 March 2008


My least favourite part of town

Chemo floor quickie panoramaThere are some pretty views from the Fairview neighbourhood of Vancouver, but it is now officially my least favourite part of the city. It's objectively far nicer than many other parts of this region, but that doesn't matter.

Part of my dislike comes from a job I had there back in the '90s. There was no backbreaking physical work or relentless tedium (I encountered those in earlier jobs, installing alarms and working night shift at a gas station, respectively), but it was still the worst position I've ever held, because the psychological environment of the place was positively poisonous. I would take the longest lunch hours I could, sometimes walking down to False Creek and sitting on a grassy knoll, just staring into the distance eating while trying to purge the stress from my system.

I quit after nine months, during which numerous coworkers had come and gone, some quitting after one day and others (including the person who hired me, who'd been with the company since it was founded) being summarily fired for often arbitrary reasons. I'm amazed I stayed so long.

But that's not the main reason. It's because Fairview is also home to the B.C. Cancer Agency, where I spend far too much time these days. Counterintuitively, the people there, from volunteers to doctors to nurses to technicians, are overwhelmingly wonderful, friendly, helpful, and understanding. The building is nicely decorated for a medical facility. It runs like clockwork—I've never had so many appointments with such complex interrelationships run so smoothly and on time, or been apologized to so profusely when things run late or get postponed.

And yet, it is the Cancer Agency, where I have gone for CT scans and radiation treatments and chemotherapy and emergency prescriptions of blood thinner injections. It's where my doctors told me that my cancer had spread to my lungs. True, Fairview is not where I spent the worst days of my life, late last July when I had lost 50 pounds, was hooked up to two IV poles in a ward at St. Paul's hospital, and could only lie in bed—not bathe, walk, eat, or even drink—for several days.

Yet somehow Vancouver's downtown West End, where those worst days did happen, still holds too many other happy memories, of fireworks and new love with my wife, and childhood walks in the park with my grandmother. Fairview is where I'm reminded, all the time, of how broken my body still is. Even driving through it on my way elsewhere, I feel queasy, my subconscious focusing on the nauseating chemical soup of chemo I get there every two weeks. Tomorrow is the next infusion.

Sorry, Fairview. I can't help it. You suck.

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Was that a medical device company for which you worked? It just sounded eerily like one of my past stints.

That picture needs a blue tarp. Fairview sucks in no end of ways...although an infusion is probably at the top of the list.
It was a magazine, not a medical supply company.
I feel the same nostalgic queasiness when I drive past the OHSU clinic in Portland, OR, where I received my chemo for most of 2007. Some of the nicest people, but the worst memories of toxic infusion, live in that particular space...
hey derek - I used to work with you back in the the old days of MSI...

AND I totally worked in the bottom of that building in the picture... AT the medical supply place!


Andee (andrea) Bailey
Hi Derek,

Well, I lived in Fairview Slopes (if you consider 12th between Granville and Cambie the Fairview area) and it's not all that bad (you have a Safeway, certain degree of closeness to restaurants, downtown, etc. - bear in mind I'm a young(ish) male singleton in this town, so those are amenities I enjoy). But I can totally see why Fairview would not be appealing to people. Hence why I always tell people - Move to Mount Pleasant! (that's where I live now).
I'm not saying there's anything objectively bad about Fairview. My reasons for disliking it are very personal, and totally involuntary: when it's the place that makes me puke up my dinner, bad associations just come naturally. :)
I guess that means that the hookers have moved out of Mount Pleasant (or not, depending what floats your boat), but the last time I lived in Vancouver (early 90's) that's where they gathered.
@ Derek: Completely understood :)

@ Joanne: Uh oh. I didn't say that they've ALL moved out, but the neighbourhood has changed substantially. Yes, the movie "Mount Pleasant" depicts it as such a nasty neighbourhood (and yes I have found preservatives and needles there, this afternoon at 12th Avenue and Kingsway no less) but it is evolving.

If you feel like it, read some of my Mount Pleasant related posts, including a history post and a guest post I had at Miss604.com.

I do still feel a bit scared about walking at 3 am around Broadway and Fraser, but even that is changing lately.

And no, hookers don't rock my boat :)