From the tent city of Oppenheimer Park to the Hollyburn Country Club in West Vancouver: these are probably the two polar extremes of Vancouver’s wealth disparity. Oppenheimer Park, which I wrote about recently, has increased in size even since then, with some estimates placing the number of tents now at around 240. The City of Vancouver is almost certainly, in the interests of “protecting” the poor and defenseless residents of the park, about to forcibly evict the lot of them. Many will end up transferred to available rooms in one of the nearby Single Residence Occupancies (SROs);. There’s a reason the tent city developed. Conditions in SROs are sub-human. I imagine many tent city residents have already tried them. Thanks, no thanks. Sleeping in a tent in a public park seems like a better way to live: at least the air isn’t fetid or the threat of violence always present. A real community has developed in the park. People have lived there a long time. They’ve made friends, as was evident yesterday, as residents of Oppenheimer staged a demonstration. They marched and shut down traffic at Hastings & Main. It’s probably the best act of resistance available to them. It definitely disrupted traffic and caught the city's media attention. But the City of Vancouver is going to do what it wants to regardless. It's got businesses to think of, a public image to maintain.
Yesterday, while the residents of Oppenheimer protested, we spent the day in West Van, at Hollyburn watching the tennis. I’ve lived in the city now two years and this was my first time crossing the bridge over into North Van and West Van. I see it every day from my window, and mostly this has been as close as I have felt I have needed to get. But, as I have mentioned on more than one occasion, tennis is a sport I credit with me not already being dead; it is the only sport I still play; and watching live tennis is always way better than you think it’s going to be. So, as the hedonist Greek philosopher Pherocubus wrote in 23 B.C., “If the tennis will not come to you, go ye henceforth to the tennis.” We crossed that fucking bridge.
Even in East Van, where we live, you get immune to the sight of luxury cars on Vancouver city streets. There’s more per capita in Vancouver than anywhere else in North America. It is a baller’s paradise. But no, as it turns out, I only thought I was immune. In West Van, it’s a different game entirely. In the round-a-bout outside the club, on our way to park, our Mazda was nearly trapped and devoured by an entire prowl of Jaguars. I felt like I was suffering heat stroke already, imagining the whole thing, wealth like this could not possibly be real. But it is. West Van is the wealthiest neighbourhood in Canada. The average price of a West Van home is $2.8 million.
On the grounds of the club proper we were treated like peasants, right up there with dirt. The reason? We had a day pass. Seemingly, this made us the lowest of the low. The brightly coloured re-admission bracelet they put on you felt more like a scarlet letter than a privilege. We were not allowed in the club, or near the club. Its entrances were all guarded and all the guards were in it for the long haul. I heard a dude dressing down an obviously extremely wealthy woman for trying to sneak a +1 in during the tournament: she was told, firmly, that it simply wouldn’t do.
There was no shaded seating for the day-passers, and nothing but wooden benches. Above us, club members--the current membership fee is a flat and non-refundable $50,000—sipped wine under canopies and studied the spectacle below. I think they were more curious about the poor people their club had to let in this one week (you need an audience for a televised event) than they were interested in the tennis. Day-passers could choose to indulge themselves in anything, ranging from “Coney Island” hot dogs to beer. The menu for the club is so exclusive it is password protected. You are not even allowed to know what billionaires eat, ok? Day-passers are denied access to the indoor restroom facilities of the club. Day-passers were instead directed to rented un-air-conditioned port-a-potty trailers. They’d parked them in a remote field so no one at the club would suffer the disgraceful sight of poor people and their disgusting bodily needs.
Despite taking all the necessary precautions—sunscreen, hats, sunglasses, hydration—when we left our skin was crisp and pink, and by the time we got back to East Van, we felt the burn all over.
The stadium court is one over. The benches there are the same. Uncomfortable and nothing but sun.That's Malek Jaziri, of Tunisia, out there towelling his face. It was hot. Malek lost in three sets, to Liam Broady of Stockport, England. Everyone kept referring to Broady as "Bro," which I guess must be his nickname, but wow did you hear the word bro a lot. I doubt you'd ever hear the word bro as much in a single afternoon in any other setting that is not frat party at an ivy league school.