Homeless in Vancouver: Day four of my Arctic journal

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      After a morning of light flurries, snow continued to fall on Vancouver’s Fairview neighbourhood into mid-Tuesday afternoon (January 14).

      But the afternoon snow quickly diminished in both quantity and quality, becoming as fine as powdered sugar—almost invisible against all but the darkest parts of the streetscape.

      At 3:04 p.m.—as the sun was coming out—only a faint, swirling white static could be made out against the bodywork of dark automobiles.

      Then the falling snow was gone. But the biting cold remained.

      At -6° C, the temperature was only one degree warmer than it had been seven hours earlier, at 7:30 a.m., when I was making the trip from my parkade sleeping spot to a McD’s for breakfast.

      Dealing with the cold (outside and in my sinuses)

      Quick-frozen running water on the side of a building and a blue recycling bin off Hemlock Street at 5:50 p.m. Monday.
      Stanley Q. Woodvine

      Despite the overnight low of -8° C, I slept warmly and well (thank you for asking) and my travels up the side streets and through the back alleys have been slow but relatively uneventful.

      Monday morning it did take me a good five minutes to pull my bike and trailer up an incline of only a block-and-a-half, but that was because of soft, overnight snow. By Tuesday morning the snow was passably firm.

      And it is true that for the last two days I have chosen to walk, rather than ride, my bike and trailer.

      This is both because of the slippery road conditions and the fact that the cables for shifting gears on my bike have frozen firmly in their housings.

      One cyclist on Alder Street on Monday evening wasn’t walking their bike.
      Stanley Q. Woodvine

      During any extended bout of subzero winter weather I can expect to lose cable-actuated bike functions to freezing. The only surprise is that the brake cables haven’t seized up…yet.

      Monday evening I even took an extended walking tour through the back alleys of Fairview to collect returnable beverage containers.

      The worst thing, I find, to navigate in winter is bumpy and deeply imprinted snow and ice—the result of flash freezing. What I found instead underfoot on Monday evening was snow and ice that had had a chance to melt flat before freezing.

      An alley off Spruce Street on Monday evening showing the relatively flat ice and snow that I prefer.
      Stanley Q. Woodvine

      As someone who rarely slips and falls, I think flat ice is the best kind.

      The 24-hour forecast predicts that the temperature will continue to rise overnight, about a degree every three hours, until it edges just above the freezing level early Wednesday afternoon—when it is expected to be snowing heavily.

      Hopefully the extreme cold (for Vancouver) departs tomorrow—and takes my equally annoying head cold with it!

      One of many Vancouver drivers seen Tuesday afternoon on West Broadway who did not bother to properly clear the snow off their car windows—as B.C. law requires.
      Charlie Smith
      Stanley Q. Woodvine is a homeless resident of Vancouver who has worked in the past as an illustrator, graphic designer, and writer.

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