a four-story brick hotel
at 90 Alexander Street in Gastown,
the original settlement
and oldest part of the city,
close to the Port of Vancouver,
was built in 1905
to serve the itinerant male populations
in the winter when the logging camps closed,
the unemployed fishermen,
and railroad workers
from the Canadian Pacific Railway.
A hotel where CPR locomotives
ran on tracks within spitting distance,
disturbing hotel guest’s sleep.
Most idle men spent their time
in the saloon, bar and pool hall,
a smoky combination of Victorian
and Edwardian styles,
on the ground floor of the hotel.
Reggie, a county-fair knife salesman,
and his wife, lived in the basement;
my neighbors in the house on Alberni Street.
He invited me, his upstairs comrade,
to join him for an evening at the Anchor Hotel.
We drove east on West Georgia Street,
caught Cordova at Burrard, the West End
to Coal Harbor, Water Street,
Maple Tree Square, and Alexander Street.
The night we entered the saloon
almost every seat and table was filled.
The place, loud and boisterous,
Turkish waiters were delivering pitchers
of foaming beer to the tables as fast
as the patrons could drink them down.
At every table in the first-floor bar,
Patrons were smoking, passing,
or filling hash pipes. Crumbles
of Afghani hash spilled out
of aluminum foil wrappers on every table.
Blue clouds of smoke hovered above
The assorted tables throughout the room.
In the din of the celebrants,
we found seats among Reggie’s friends
and began an evening of smoking and drinking.
A waiter spilled a pitcher of beer
On my suede pants, I could do nothing.
Sometime after midnight, the loud noise
in the bar and saloon abruptly ceased.
All the attention in the place that night
directed at the double doors on Alexander Street.
Two Royal Canadian Mounted Policemen,
in long coats and animal-fur hats,
stood in the doorway and scrutinized the crowd.
Then something happened I’d never seen before.
Suddenly, everyone between us and the door
jumped up and threw their empty beer glasses
at the Mounties, crashing them all around,
though none of the glasses hit them.
A friend of Reggie’s, with all the fervor
of the French Revolution, stood up,
finished the beer left in his glass,
and shouted: “Remember Maple Leaf Square,
you bastards!” and hurled his glass,
which fell short of hitting the Mounties.
I thought; we’re through, I’m through.
They’ll call for reinforcements and jail
everyone in here. But, they turned around,
walked out and didn’t come back.
As an American exile in Canada, arrested
I risked possible expulsion.
I asked Reggie, as we walked to his car,
“What about the Maple Tree Square,
“his friend yelled,”
throwing his beer glass?”
I’d missed it by five months,
It was on August 7th, 1971.
he told me. A full-fledged riot
where hundreds of young people,
described as hippies,
gathered in Maple Tree Square,
smoking pot and playing music.
Their numbers reached two thousand,
On the sunny, late summer day,
became a gathering to protest drug laws
and drug raids in Vancouver
A ranking police officer on hand
decided to clear the crowd,
ordering everyone to leave
the square within two minutes.
Of course, this was ignored.
He instructed four horseback
mounted-officers to disperse the crowd,
followed by police in riot gear.
It was pandemonium, among the police
and protesters; who threw rocks and bottles,
and an out-and-out riot thus ensued.
Seventy-nine people were arrested,
thirty-eight were charged with crimes.
There was immediate public backlash
of the riot and its aftermath;
“And a growing hostility
between young people and authorities,”
finding our way home to the West End,
on the snowy and icy Vancouver streets.
Reggie’s green ’64 Chevy Nova
was a steel ball in a pinball machine
bouncing off curbs,
plowing into embankments
and piles of snow
on the avenues in the cold night.
HOUSE DETECTIVE AT THE SEQUOIA HOTEL
The four-story brick Sequoia Hotel,
At 921 Van Ness Avenue, in Fresno,
Was refurbished & modernized in 1935.
Each of the 180 rooms had a bath now,
A telephone, there were two electric elevators,
With trained operators in uniforms
Of heavy braid & pill-shaped hats
Who reported unusual behavior among the guests
Directly to the House Detective
In his office, Room 4112‑a bed & dresser,
Filing cabinet, desk, typewriter, & telephone.
On the wall, photos and descriptions,
The known & suspected (not necessarily wanted),
Hotel thieves, confidence men, nimble-hipped
Romeos, & scoundrels.
He watched for crimes against nature,
Fornicators, night birds, & flesh peddlers.
He often sat in the overstuffed chair
Beside the large fireplace in the lobby,
Pretending to read the newspaper,
Keeping an eye on the hotel safe,
Between $2,000 & $3,000 in cash, &
Valuables deposited for safe-keeping.
Or behind the staircase to the mezzanine
Where the fresh fruit brokers met,
Or by the kitchen door & stairway
Down to The Persian Room night club.
In the redwood-paneled lobby he stood
Appearing preoccupied, reading The Racing Form,
Seen but seldom noticed, & inconspicuous.
The slightest “disagreement” however,
Dispensed with quickly in shrouded secrecy.
He didn’t abide lawbreakers: bad check artists,
Pickpockets, bill jumpers, or towel thieves.
A majority of complaints he answered
Were loud room parties. With telephones
In every room, he could order the desk clerk
To call the noisy room & ask them to be quiet.
If the noise did not abate, then a polite visit.
He was annoyed however, by the stairway
That led from the concrete sidewalk out front,
To the night club in the darkness below.
Armed with a nickel-finish, .32 snub-nosed revolver,
(Detective Special), a blackjack, & handcuffs.
He avoided the restaurant,
Relying on the hostess in the cocktail lounge
To keep him apprised of barroom activity.
The manager advised him of secret parties
Held in an isolated room on the fourth floor.
Prominent men or women, the frequent guests,
Millionaires & movie stars,
Were not disturbed, merely charged double.
He would receive an undisclosed amount of cash
As a tip, for stand-by security, & watchful eye.
(He normally refused tips on principle, but
Hard-pressed enough, he would accept one).
He was paid by the hour, & on the take.
Shrewd, answering only to the manager,
With absolute authority over the staff.
He interviewed all prospective employees,
Chambermaids & cocktail waitresses.
The biggest headache for the House Dick:
Crested hens with their red-comb roosters
Consorting. Not permitted on the premises.
He knew every professional & amateur
In town, & if he merely glanced in their direction,
They immediately left the hotel property.
The problem, men bringing women to their rooms,
Visitors in the rooms, allowed only until 11:00 PM.
Bell boys, room-service waiters, chambermaids,
& open transoms above the doors
Tipped him off to the smockage happening
& what went on in the rooms.
A tough man to get mixed-up with,
He was not a judge, nor protector of guest morals.
The REMBRANDT HOTEL
A month before I walked into the pub
At the Rembrandt Hotel for the first time,
Two hoodlums were gunned down gangland-style
In front of the Zanzibar Club, next door,
The 1700 block of Davie Street,
A half block south of Denman Avenue.
I loved the idea of a high-rise swanky hotel
Being named after an artist, a Dutch artist,
Rembrandt van Rijn, one of the greatest
Visual artist in history, certainly
The most important artist in Dutch art history.
Rembrandt was considerably influenced
By the works of the Italian masters.
Like many great masters before him,
Rembrandt encouraged his students
To copy his original paintings,
Sometimes he finished or retouched them,
To be sold as the genuine article,
Sometimes selling them as authorized copies.
The farthest I ever got
Inside the many-storied Rembrandt Hotel
Was the pub on Davie Street
And the urinal in the men’s room;
Pissing Canadian 5% by-volume beer.
All part of the Canadian sense
Of beer superiority, that theirs
Has a higher alcohol content
Than their counterpart American beers.
In the morning, I drank red-beer,
Draft beer with tomato juice, for breakfast.
It was regular draft beer in glasses
For the rest of the day’s beer consumption
And long into the cold night.
Having a life-style that allows you
To sit in a bar and drink beer
All day and night, is a waiting game.
For a future when the war will end,
The fighting will stop, and those
Exiled, can return to their homes.
If you have to sit and wait, a seat
In a dark, secluded Canadian hotel pub
Is better than sitting in a jail.
The cold air outside is sobering,
On the nightly walk home, three blocks;
Two blocks north on Denman Street
Stephen Barile was born in Fresno, California, and graduated from Roosevelt High School, attended Fresno City College, earned an Associates of Arts degree in Theater Arts, and California State University, Fresno. He earned a Liberal Arts bachelor’s degree from Fresno Pacific University, and graduated CSU Fresno with a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing. He was the former chairman of the Fresno Arts Council, the William Saroyan Society, a retired commissioner and chairman of the Fresno County Historical Landmarks and Records Advisory Commission. Stephen Barile was former Vice-President of the Fresno Free College Foundation and was a long-time member of the Fresno Poets Association. He taught writing at CSU Fresno, and Madera Community College. Stephen has written poetry, in earnest, for over 35 years. His poems have been anthologized and published widely in on-line and print journals, including North Dakota Quarterly, Tiny Seed Literary Journal, Featured Poets, Santa Clara Review, Kathmandu Tribune, Tower Poetry, Mason Street Review, Sandy River Review, Open: Journal of Arts & Letters, OVUNQUE SIAMO, Ararat, Wild Blue Zine, The Heartland Review, Rio Grande Review, The Broad River Review, The San Joaquin Review, Haight-Ashbury Literary Journal, Pharos.