I rent an office on the edge of Gastown. It’s in an old tower built in 1910. I like the building. It’s a sort of contemporary Vancouver rendition of A.J. Leibling’s Jollity Building. Lots of one-man bands and good causes. Artists, theater troupes, a scamster or two no doubt.
The building has a famous staircase which runs from the 2nd floor to the 14th, which is actually the 13th. Story has it the architect fell to his death down these stairs shortly after the building was completed. Lots of people said they saw his ghost around the building during the first years I was here. The ghost would hijack elevator cars and stop them on the second floor, right where the architect died. The doors would clank open and you’d wait for a second. Then the doors would close and you’d carry on to wherever you were going. It happened to me numerous times, but it all stopped after they replaced the old elevators.
I’ve been down here 12 years, a long time. I had a room on the 7th floor first and wrote most of Stanley Park between that office and a bench across the street in Victory Square. I moved up to the 12th floor maybe five years ago. Lots of room and light, harbor views. I wrote Story House in this room and up at the public library, which is just a few blocks away. During that book the place was stacked with plans and architectural drawings. It’s actually a lot tidier for the book I’m working on now.
The neighborhood around here is troubled, but still full of life and community. I received hate mail when I wrote about this area in the Globe and Mail not long ago. Some people really don’t like the idea that there is anything other than poverty and addiction here. But there is. Among other things, the streets are exploding with art. Not just graff writing, but posters and photographs, random screeds. Somebody’s been writing a book in installments in the alley between Pender and Hastings. I’ve seen some of it, hundreds of words written on any surface available. It’s compulsive and strange, intensely compelling. You can’t explain it in terms of any calculation or profit motive, which tends to startle the contemporary man.
Timothy Taylor is the author of Story House and Stanley Park, which was a finalist for the Giller Prize, and was selected by the Vancouver Public Library's "One Book, One Vancouver" program. He is also the Journey Prize-winning author of the short story collection Silent Cruise. He lives in Vancouver.