the true stories
I had been a letter-carrier for about eight years and finally had my own route. It was a maze of rusty gates, rotten stairs and dogs named “Blade”, “Major” or “King.” None of the occupants owned the houses and so nothing ever got fixed. The racial mix was across the map from Sri Lanka to Portugal, from Capetown to Newfoundland. Every so often a grow op was busted, a person stabbed or a house shot up in a drive-by. The bushes were thick, the trees were old and the sidewalks were broken up by their ancient roots.
I nick-named it “The Trail of Tears”, until I got to know it intimately. Then I dubbed it, “The Widow Maker.” This mailman's attitude to his routes is like his attitude towards his spouse. She is mine and I cherish her. I held this route for about seven years. In the first years of having it, I went through a divorce that stretched over two years. I then remarried and continued building a family on this same beat. I suffered broken bones and also had life-changing revelations on this route.
The house were old stucco-covered, wood-framed affairs with dank basements. The yards all had old gates with several busted concrete steps to an overgrown yard and another set of rotten wooden stairs leading to the front porches. After putting my foot through several rotten front stairs I asked the occupants to have them fixed. I waited weeks to no avail. So, I simply removed the offending planks and tossed them into the front yard making ingress to the front door impossible. The turn-around time for new stairs was about two days.
This also worked for front gates, long rusted shut and hung from fences with posts rotted at the soil-line. One of these gates could squander several hundred calories by itself leaving one weak to deal with the other obstacles of the day. Snapping the posts off with well-placed kicks and laying the whole affair flat in the lawn was satisfying, easy to walk over and the turn-around time to a new fence was about a week. No paper work was involved, necessary nor was language a barrier.
The frustrations were ubiquitous and the hazards were many and very real. The people were the lower-middle class workers and the welfare recipients. Some had been children of the first wave immigrants and were determined to succeed after watching their parent's Herculean efforts come to naught. Some of these turned to the easy money offered by crime. There were pimps, dealers, gangsters of every stripe, illegal aliens, junkies, alcoholics and schizophrenics. Everyday was a new adventure.
As they come to mind, I will tell of some of these adventures from that Trail of Tears. Check back once in a while for new stories under this heading. The territory is Vancouver's East-side in the decade of the nineties. The stories are true and I only omit enough details to protect those still living in the hood. I am still walking a beat as I write, but a different route and I yet have many others behind me. I may write of them in future. Don't let my choice of names for this collection give the impression that all was negative. Far from it. There were moments of perfect bliss, satori, shibumi and enlightenment.
Copyright © 2015 by Michael A. Hawes. All Rights Reserved.
Michael Hawes was born in Texas, raised in Louisiana and lives in British Columbia.