Monday, February 05, 2007


Regularly now they trot out the platitudes of myth-making. Even the most respectable news agencies in the world are making swift posting of every available salacious detail in the trial that runs near my house. Each broadcaster spits out the dimension of terror with piteous nods of respect to the targets. Ah, they were mothers and sisters and children they throw in. Those women. The prostitutes in the freezer. (How uncomfortable did that post make me?)

You see I have a small stake. I whisper a bit about the horrible crimes with agency. For I hate this case as many people do. I balk at its reflection on women. I shy from digesting the magnitude of the reality.. as a member of the community where this crime was perpetrated. Mostly I cannot stand it all because I am someone who knew Riviera. While the judge will know her as Sereena. I knew her as Riviera. A street name for a remarkable person who was bright and brave. (She looked nothing like that picture.)

In the years as this news developed I have always asked inside how could she have been a victim. She was always the heavy. A heavy-duty personality in the pool of sex trade workers working the toughest neighbourhood in the country.

I was a meek and talkative volunteer taking shifts in their living room. The WISH Drop in centre was a place for a hot meal and a shower before work for those who persist in the trade and for those many now missing. Women would put on their make up opposite a clunky old tv night after night. While they all watched, you guessed it, Blind Date, and got ready to go to work, I doled out shampoo. I mediated knock-downs over mascara and told them where to find the street nurses. It was how I finished some of my Thursdays. A scant few hours and then I'd shower before bed.

Riviera was the first woman I really talked to, though to be honest she did most of the talking. In exchange for a smoke she told me 'how it is'. She seemed to be my interpreter to this other Vancouver I could not manage alone. The mutant kindergarten where childen in the bodies of adults (often but not always) trooped around doing damage to each other inside the Downtown Eastside, poorest postal code in Canada. Entertaining visitors who came to do damage to them; those dreams of being whisked away almost always being nightmares.

Women were missing then, too. It was late 2000 and the count was high. The cries for justice rang in my righteous ears. I wondered what people there thought. What they knew. Riviera would tell you what she thought. To this day I wonder if we really ever had that conversation. Part of me thinks it is a not a memory but a lie.. not really a lie but rather the sort of mirage of memory that the mind offers when all sense seems to have evacuated an event.

What do you think is going on? Where are all the women going I wanted to ask her. My mind tells me she knew. I can see her face, resolute, unflinching knowledge of 'how it is'. "Oh everybody knows. It is out to the farm."

My mind lies I'm sure. She never said that right? If she did how would it be she would ever go? I think the unspoken. A deathwish? A desire for end? No. Couldn't have been. Not Riviera. Couldn't be. That is why I can't remember right. I must have never asked. How could I have? I was scared shitless anyway. As, I say I let her do all the talking.

Do we do that now? Are the women speaking? No. No. The aren't. A babble of voices from here to Timbuktu all reporting reporting reporting. And we hear little new. A man is accused of killing almost 50 women. Who are they? Daughters, sisters, mothers. A lot of talk out there. The horror and the recoil. The man. The man we see. His fate we hang on hearing.

So little will really be known through the process. But it does remind me of that feeling. The shallow simple sensation of a warm shower after charity. The futile rancour of my life. The thinking affected little in action. The way I used to feel as I would lie in my bed, clean under my sheets to fall asleep in security barely knowing the 40 women I had seen that night. So tenuously connected to the beings who at that moment had just begun a long night's work on the street.

Everything I have will be poured into making sure that my children grow up to at least as much indulgence as I had every night after my WISH shift. The warm bed. The security of home. Fuck preschool selection.

Addendum. I would like to thank Metro Mama for calling to our attention the Sleeping Children Around the World charity. P-man and I found that this organizations bedkits made a great addition to our Christmas shopping list this year. Thanks HBM, too. And, Mad for encouraging me to write about my whole life /whole world everyday.

For more on the WISH Drop In Centre including donations see the website.
For an alternate media option see this link. (thanks Jill!)



Blogger Mad said...

Mo-Wo. This may be the best post I have ever read in the blogosphere. I am so deeply moved I don't even really know what to say.

That trial has been weighing me down so much of late. I feel I ought to pay attention to details--dammit these women deserve at least that much--but I feel dread as well--that I am some kind of sick voyeur each time I cock my head towards the news. And as you say it, these women are presented as mothers, sisters, daughters but never themselves.

I had been meaning to write about the plight of first nations people, particulary aboriginal women, as my social justice issue the day the Just Posts go up on the 10th. I didn't know how to do it, though. Afterall, who the hell am I? I can't speak to these people or for these people. I can't even speak to a single tragic story. I would be just like another reporter--reporting something I have no immediate stake in.

Thank you for helping me to see this more clearly. Thank you for allowing Riviera's voice to speak even if ever so briefly. Thank you for offering us all an insight into Mo-Wo, the mother AND the woman.

I'm going back now to re-read the post.


7:12 a.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, M., this is an incredible piece of writing. Very powerful.
Thank you.


1:20 p.m.  
Blogger Crunchy Carpets said...

I had written about the trial on Ramblings....but as an outsider...I did not know these women, nor their families...I cannot feel the pain of that world.

You helped.

1:54 p.m.  
Blogger Mom101 said...

Argh, how horrible when an offhanded bit of hyperbole ends up striking upon something very real and very painful. Huge, sincere apologies in every way.

8:26 p.m.  
Blogger L. said...


9:25 p.m.  
Blogger nonlineargirl said...

It seems strange to say this, but what a lovely post. So heartfelt. Thank you.

12:28 p.m.  
Blogger Mamacita Tina said...

I read this post yesterday, and it keeps going through my mind. Those poor women. You are at least one woman's voice, but really, through this post so much more.

4:51 a.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I echo mad hatter, Mo-Wo. I've read this piece over and over and I think it's some of the most honest and moving writing that I"ve read in a long time. Thank you for writing this. We all need things to keep our lives in perspective every once in awhile.

5:46 a.m.  
Blogger Her Bad Mother said...

I have been afraid to look to closely at the pictures of the victims for the same reason - I've worked (arms length, in a former life) with too, too many girls that ended up back in the downtown eastside. But then I look again, just make sure. And console myself - none of my Riviera's are there. But, but... that there was even one Riveria is too much tragedy. Too, too much. Thank you.

5:47 p.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I read your post and felt good that someone marked this woman passing. the crimes seem to be endless and so awful, one feels helpless, what to do. here you are saying that you knew her,you remember, you care.its always that way in the end.injustice, so many,perhaps,its as its always been, its between you and god, to spread love and kindness and compassion. god bless

2:00 p.m.  
Blogger NotSoSage said...

Mo-Wo: Here from Mad's site. I don't know whether you're aware, but is having two former sex workers from the Downtown East Side cover the Pickton trial. I, like Mad, have struggled with whether or not to follow this trial - torn between feeling like I have a responsibility both to and not to witness it - and I haven't actually read their reports, but I have planned to.

Thank you for this post. It couldn't have been easy to put this down. Thank you for being at the Drop-in when you were.

6:42 p.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you. Just, thank you.

6:55 p.m.  
Blogger MM said...

Absolutely stunning, fantastic writing. I'm sorry it had to be about such a depressing topic. And I'm not certain I fully understand your relationship to Riviera. Did I miss something?

Curious on the edge of my seat,

1:21 p.m.  

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