Day 199 - Andrew (2nd person I approached)
July 18, 2014 - Andrew was sitting on the stairs behind a transit station, headphones on listening to music, and watching people going in and out of the station. As I approached him, I wondered if his music would be so loud he wouldn’t hear me. He took them off, smiled at me and listened to what I had to say.
“You want to talk to me? I’m pretty weird.” I told him I thought most people are pretty weird, in their own way, and that everyone has a story. He introduced himself to me and reached out to shake my hand. I was sitting next to him and the grip of our handshake wasn’t the best. I asked him to shake again. Andrew smiled, and as we shook a good firm connected handshake, said
“A wimpy handshake is an indicator of a suspect character.” He lit a cigarette.
Andrew was born in Richmond, BC (British Columbia), at Richmond General Hospital.
“I’ve lived in Richmond all my life. I have a sister and a brother, with three years between each of us. I’m the oldest,” he said.
“That came with a certain amount of responsibility, especially with my little brother. He’s six years younger than me so I always wanted to guide him in the right direction. He’d do things that he shouldn’t do and we’d both get in trouble, even though I hadn’t done anything. We’re a pretty close family, and that's a mutual responsibility. My sister's married and is an interior decorator. My brother doesn’t have a mean bone in his body and is such a nice guy. Although he does have questionable taste in music,” he said shaking his head in disbelief.
“I went to French immersion school for all grades from kindergarten to the end of high school. I didn’t like school all that much, and couldn’t wait to leave. I was an outsider, and was really into music. I was the guy that everyone knew was into metal music,” he said.
At eight years old, Andrew started to play the guitar.
“I’ve been playing guitar ever since then. I also played the saxophone in the school band. I’ve had and been in a lot of different bands over the years. I only hung out with a few people at school and I’d say I’m probably only in touch with one or two people that I’ve known since then. But no, I wasn't one of the kids that wore a black trench coat,” he said laughing. He lit another cigarette. After graduating high school, Andrew
“worked a number of odd jobs. Restaurant work, bar work. I once had a gig as a DJ in a strip club. I did that for about a year. My parents were just happy I was working,” he said. When he was about 22, Andrew went to audio school.
“It was a private school that taught music production and audio engineering. The course was for one year and I got pretty good at it. It was music related so of course I was interested. It was something that I wanted to do. Not the usual path of going to university right after high school, just because my parents wanted me too. Colleges and universities have a done an excellent job at marketing. So many kids go to university, spend all that money, drink and party for four years, work hard and then still don’t know what they want to do,” he said.
Andrew spent ten years working as a receptionist in a medical clinic on the Downtown Eastside (the poorest neighbourhood in Canada).
“That was a tough job, but it did have moments of feeling good, being able to help people that are in difficult circumstances. I’m not sure how anyone that thinks concentrating all the resources into one small neighbourhood will make anything better. The majority of patients we saw were seniors, disabled, addicts and or people with mental health issues. And most often once people get things under control, mental health is usually a common factor for the majority of patients,” he said, lighting another cigarette.
“The NIMBY’s really piss me off (NIMBY - Not In My Back Yard). Some people in wealthier neighbourhoods seem to think that addiction can’t stem from their residents. That’s madness - like you’ve never heard of a wealthy person with a cocaine habit, or using heroin? Those people want it to go away, but won’t do anything to help.” After ten years Andrew needed to move on.
“It takes it’s toll. Getting up and feeling dread and pressure before even going to work isn’t a good way to feel.” He now works for a local cancer agency in an administrative position working with records and files.
“It’s a vacation compared to the work environment I was in on the DTES, that’s for sure!”
Andrew is currently in a band called ‘Lethal Halo.’
"I’ve been playing the guitar since I was eight years old, but I’m no match for the skill of the guitarists in this band. They needed someone for vocals and it worked out. We’re in the process of recording some tracks. I’m also working on a side project doing some very slow metal, so I’m keeping busy.” I asked what he see’s himself doing in the future.
“I’m a musician. Of course I’d like to play music full-time. I don’t need or want to be rich. It’s not about the money. If anyone is in this business for the money then they should find something else to do. It’s about getting that one in a million chance, which means dealing with a lot of rejection. I do this because if I didn’t I’d go bat shit crazy and my universe would likely fall apart.” #notastranger