Day 66 - Garyallan

66 Garyallan.jpeg

Day 66 - Garyallan (2nd person I approached)

March 07, 2014 - “It’s Garyallan. All one word, one R, two LL’s and AN. People want to break it up, like I need to have a middle name. It’s all one word,” he says when I ask his name, right after he said he’d speak with me.

“I talk to lots of people, and lots of people have taken my picture, for many different reasons. Some willingly, others, not so much.”

Garyallan has incredibly bright blue eyes, with a mischievous sparkle to them. 

Born in Ontario, but he says

“Where in Ontario, I can’t really say, no one knows for sure, same with the date, unknown.” Garyallan goes on to tell me, “My mother was a raging alcoholic, and some people took me from her. It wasn’t because they wanted to save me. They took me because they wanted a kid, and it was easier to take one than have one I guess. They knew my mother and they took me. That’s how I ended up here, in Vancouver. Not sure what age that was either, but I’ve been here most of my life.” Garyallan continues,

”Ya see, the thing is, back then, records weren’t kept in the same way they are now. Buildings made of wood burned to the ground, and then the contents were gone. Lost forever. Maybe that’s why I don’t have any identification. It’s easier to get records if you were born anywhere other than Ontario.”


As we talk, Garyallan strums on his five string banjo that he says he’s had for thirty years.

“I got it new. Can’t remember if this was the first one I had or not. Wait, actually, come to think of it, it’s not. I seem to remember waking up one morning, after a night out with some buddies, getting drunk. I look at the end of my bed and there’s this banjo. If I recall correctly, I bought it the night before, drunken fool that I was. Shiny. It was shiny, and I’m like a magpie for things that are shiny. I tried for a couple of weeks to sell it, but no one was having it. So I started to learn to play the damn thing. Been playing over thirty years now.”

Garyallan tells me the story as if it were a movie he had seen. He’s animated when he talks, using his hands to underscore certain parts, then back to his banjo, and strums some more.

He has one daughter, and he tells me they are very close.

“It wasn’t always the way. Her mother had a few problems as well. And the in-laws, the maternal in-laws took my daughter and they moved to southeast Asia. I tracked them down eventually. Problem was, they were in southeast Asia. but it was three years I got to be there, so that was good. She’a good girl.” 


In his early twenties, Garyallan tracked down his mother too.

“She didn’t know I was even coming for her. I ‘knocked on the door’ (he uses his hands to show me, instead of using words). She says ‘Who are you’ and then I tell her. It’s all good. We get along real good. She’s still alive and that’s a miracle. She tells me all the men in our family seem to have reached tragic ends. Either bar fights or hit by cars, because of drinking and being drunk. And all the women seem to have suffered from mental anguish. Booze does mighty strange things to people. Every one has their own recovery too. For me, after years of week-long benders and even waking up once in another city, I just stopped thinking it was fun. I can have a drink now and again, and I like it. But it’s not to get drunk.”

I asked Garyallan what he did with his time, and he stops strumming his banjo, and opens his jacket to show me a bible in a large inside pocket.

“I didn’t make peace until late in life, and me and the Lord, we get along pretty well those days. I play my banjo, I visit friends and sometimes, I stop and sit down and play for people passing by. That’s why there’s so many pictures of me everywhere. People always want to take a picture of me and my banjo. I keep moving along,” he says, sounding content.

After I take his picture, and we shake hands, I thank him for his time and tell him I hope to see him again sometime.

“Maybe we’ll catch-up some more next time I see you Garyallan. Take good care of yourself, and take it easy,” I say.

“Take it easy?!” he says. “Shit, why didn’t you tell me that 45 years ago? Woulda made all the difference.” #notastranger