Thursday, June 16, 2011

Why Words Matter - The Vancouver Riot Aftermath

Words matter.

I think most Vancouver Canucks fans who weren't downtown cringed when they heard and saw the first reports of the riots. Supposed fans in team jerseys - if they weren't burning them, that is - setting fire to police cars, fighting, throwing bricks and bottles at police and eventually trashing our city core, looting businesses.

Eventually, they turned on reporters they were at first so eager to show off for, realizing the news cameras were capturing evidence. (Never mind the fact that they used their own phones to take pictures they proudly posted on Facebook later. Talk about evidence).

Then came the comments on various social media, implying that if this was the way Canucks fans reacted, the team didn't deserve to win. That these "fans" proved Vancouver had no class and that we all, Vancouverites and our city as a whole, were crap.

The fans hit back. They argued that no, these rioters weren't true fans. They were rent-a-rioters, the same people who show up at any large public event or any protest, bent on creating violence and mayhem. The critics dug in. They said it was semantics. Wearing the Canucks logo? You're a fan, regardless of your motivation to head downtown yesterday, regardless of whether or not you packed your handy scarf to hide your face and molotov cocktails.

And yes, I was offended.

I complain about this city a lot. I complain about the cost of living, the dearth of affordable childcare, the growth of the gap between the rich and poor. Yet, I love it. I don't think I realized how much I love Vancouver until I kept waking up early this morning, shaken by the images I had seen on TV last night.

I didn't watch hockey until I moved here 12 years ago. I'm not the hardest of hardcore fans, I'm pretty middle-of-the-road. Many of my friends are Canucks fans. Not a single one was rioting last night.

Chief Constable Jim Chu noted in his statement this morning: "...our city was still vulnerable to a number of young men and women disguised as Canuck fans who were actually criminals and anarchists (emphasis mine).

These were people who came equipped with masks, goggles, gasoline and even fire extinguishers that they would use as weapons.

We recognized some of the same criminals among them who took part in the vandalism during the Olympics.

This criminal element within the crowd was responsible for the burning of 15 cars, including two police cars."

Some say the arrested include folks from Seattle and Portland, the same ones who let loose in Toronto during the G20. And there was certainly the bridge and tunnel contingent, the same drunken losers who like coming to the West End to beat up anyone they perceive to be gay and cause fights during the yearly Celebration of Light fireworks displays.

Not fans, in other words.

No, the fans were out early this morning, cleaning the city up. Putting it back together.

Meanwhile, the real fans would like an apology from the critics. Eat your words.

*You will notice I haven't posted any riot photos. I was at home so I didn't take any. I think we've seen enough of them anyway. Instead, I posted shots of people who helped clean up our city.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Freelance, I've Missed You

Let me get this straight right off. There are plenty of things that are great about my job in particular and about having a regular, 9-5 gig in general. But freelance reporting? Man, I've missed you.

When I first started freelancing many moons ago, it was tough. All that work to be told "no thanks" many times over seemed masochistic but I persisted.

And then I got it. I figured out how to turn writing about things I liked doing into assignments - at the time, I was spending a lot of spare time in a dragon boat so I started pitching articles about it. I rewrote and sold the same story 3 or 4 times. And I was hooked. Yeah, there was still rejection involved and the work of constantly networking, researching, pitching. But I had figured out how to rock it.

I balanced freelance with a part-time job for several years. Before having my son, I assumed I would file stories as my angelic baby would peacefully nap, play or contemplate life. Yeah, right.

Reality Bites
Reality hit a couple months into my maternity leave. I would still need daycare if I actually wanted to get work done, at home or otherwise. And without full-time work? It would be impossible to afford. Oh, and the PPD that turned me from a sometimes-neurotic artiste into a sobbing mess? Yeah, staying at home was not going to be my cup of tea if I wanted to save a sliver of sanity and actually be a half-decent parent.

So I found full-time work as a writer. I'm now at a different job, but still plugging away at a career as a writer in communications and marketing. But you know what? I still miss freelance reporting because:

1) It gives me the freedom to write about something I enjoy and/or feel passionate about.
2) I work with editors I like.
3) I get to meet and learn more about cool people.

A Little Inspiration
During a yoga class a few months ago, the teacher who was leading it struck a nerve with me - and I mean in a good way. Something he said made me think, "He has a story to tell. And I will not stop until it's told." I did a few more of his classes and kept thinking the same thing. I contacted my editor at Xtra West, who I had kept in touch with, and she agreed.

You can see the result, my interview with the fabulous yogi and singer Will Blunderfield at on the Xtra West website, with photos by my deliriously-talented husband, George Smeltzer. Enjoy!