Day 232 - Dallas (1st person I approached)
August 20, 2014 - I was walking home from downtown, when I spotted Dallas sitting on a bench on the seawall at the foot of Davie Street. He had earphones on but didn’t seem to mind when I approached him and asked him to chat. Dallas also told me he didn’t need to see my blog or anything. We talked a little bit about our views on approachable versus unapproachable people here in Vancouver, and in other cities.
Dallas was born at Vancouver General Hospital.
“I grew up in East Vancouver,” he said pointing to the east of the city.
“I have one brother. My parents didn’t stay together long, and then my mother remarried and I have two sisters.” Dallas went to nine different schools.
“We were poor and kept moving around. My brother and I were kind of bad asses. You know, single parent, my mother was at work and two boys, left alone. We managed to get into some trouble, but nothing any worse than maybe getting caught shoplifting from a corner store. Typical boy stuff,” he said.
When Dallas was twelve years old, his mother decided it was time to make a change and get the boys out of the city and change their landscape.
“We moved to a First Nations reserve in Mission (British Columbia), and lived in a trailer. That was quite the culture shock man, let me tell you!” he said.
“The first morning getting on the bus to go to school, my brother and I got pelted with things being thrown at us. It was the first time that I had ever experienced racism directed at me. There were two other white kids and my brother and I on the bus, everyone else was First Nation,” said Dallas.
“It only took a couple of weeks to make friends and then there was no problems at all during the four years I went to that school. I’m still good friends with a number of people that I went to school in Mission with.” His mother remarried when Dallas was fourteen and the family moved to a house nearer his high-school.
“My brother did really well in school and got a full scholarship to attend Simon Fraser University (SFU). I wasn’t really interested in post-secondary education. I figured my brother had that covered, so I moved back to Vancouver and started working,” he said.
Dallas got a job operating tugboats in Vancouver’s harbour.
“I would take pilots out to the large container ships and tankers that drop anchor outside of the harbour, waiting to come in and offload their shipments. Those ships have to have pilots on board at all times. The channels and entrance to Vancouver harbour are difficult to navigate. My job was to take the pilots who would guide the big ships in to dock for offloading,” he said.
“I was eighteen years old and making twenty-seven dollars an hour in the nineties. It was sweet. But I thought I could up my game. So I would work the tugboats from midnight to about six a.m., then I would go to the longshoreman's union office and wait around there all day. I wanted to get my union card. It took a while before I got enough work to actually get my card but after about three months or so, I had it,” he said. Getting his union card meant that Dallas would be able to work trips going to Haida Gwaii and beyond to Alaska.
“The first week after getting my union card, I got a trip up north. I made it as far as Prince Rupert, and got into an accident. My foot got caught in a steel cable and it wound around the top of my right foot and severed it. They wouldn’t let me look at my foot. Between the shock, the excruciating pain and then the morphine that I got, I don’t remember much. The Doctors in the hospital brought me around with an injection, and told me I had to call my mother to get her to authorize them amputating half of my foot. I remember slurring something on the phone,” said Dallas.
When he woke up two days later, the first thing he saw was his mother's tear-stained face.
“I didn't know what had happened. I tried to get up but I was in so much pain in my lower back I couldn’t move much. I had damaged two vertebrae in my lower spine when I fell back in the boat. They had to be fused together. When I asked my mother what had happened, she pulled the sheet back. They had taken arteries out of my inner right thigh and skin grafts to use at the end of my foot where the amputation happened. I lost all my toes to just below where the ball of the foot was. The arteries and skin grafts were used to form the end of the foot,” said Dallas.
“My mother was crying and I freaked out. I told everyone to get out of my room and didn’t talk to anyone for two days. I needed time to process what had happened and what it meant. I had been an athlete all through school. I played baseball, was in track and field and all kinds of things,” he said.
Dallas spent eight months in rehabilitation.
“After hospital I went to GF Strong Rehabilitation Centre and spent months there,” he said. It was while there that Dallas said his perspective shifted.
“When I have shoes on, you can’t see that I’m missing half my foot. I saw a few woman that had lost their arms almost to their shoulder. People that had lost their hands. Visible disfigurements. When someone says that they would rather lose a foot than an arm, or hand, my response is to ask if they walk. I mean you can still get about if you have lost an arm or a hand. Try walking with only half a foot. But these people who had lost limbs, where the loss was plain to see, they inspired me. The way they just had a 'get on with it' attitude,” said Dallas.
I asked him if he had phantom feelings where his toes used to be.
“All the time, yes!” he said. He lifted both of his legs straight out in front of him and started to wiggle the toes on his left foot.
“You can see that my left foot is moving? I’m wiggling the toes on my left foot. To me, it feels like I’m wiggling the toes on my right foot as well. I just don’t have any.” Dallas feels uncomfortable when in situations where people can see his foot.
“I usually wear water shoes at the beach or when I’m swimming. I’ve gone before without any shoes on, but I can see people looking at my foot. And then there’s all the questions that people feel a need to ask. If it’s someone I don't know, I'll sometimes make up a story before telling them what actually happened. I’ve told people about getting attacked by a shark, or climbing a mountain and getting caught in a crevice between rocks and having to cut myself free. It just sounds so much better than saying it was severed by a steel cable on a tugboat,” he said laughing. We spent a few minutes concocting even more elaborate stories about having to chew his foot off and other gruesome tales. He has a great sense of humour and outlook on things. We laughed a lot during our chat.
Dallas went to BCIT (British Columbia Institute of Technology) and studied communications.
“I have a tech(nology) company now. We do software development for the mining and geotech sector. I really can’t believe it, but the is where I’m at now,” he said. Dallas is experiencing great success with his company.
“I don’t own a house, I don’t have a car. I ride my bike a lot. I’m liquid; I have money in the bank and life for me is about living. I’ve travelled extensively. I've been to sixty-five different countries. Sometimes it takes having a near death experience to allow you to see what is really important. Living life.” #notastranger