Stephen Barile ~Three Poems


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
(Operation Dustpan).
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,”
he said,

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.


circa 1935

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,
Or vice-versa.

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.



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.