ROBSON STRASSEFirst day back in Vancouver. On a mission. Feeling fabulous. Huge hearted. Bright sun. Beyond the Lions Gate Bridge, gray cloud lumps tumble over hazy North Shore mountains. Breezing up Robson, still constipated by Tokyo jet lag, I shoot past the House of Clogs, Japanese English learners, hurry along Express Bento Sushi, Alberta tourists, Taste of India, salute sunglass shops flogging those Keanu Reeves Matrix jobs. On past Woodfired Italia Cusino, Buddha T-shirts, Murchies Coffee, Joe Fortes Seafood. Waiting to cross the intersection with two Starbucks and Pastels Gourmet Coffee, I hear a familiar refrain. Spare change. Hey mister. Got any spare change. Desperate young eyes plead up to me from behind a plastic cup. Well, Im in a generous mood today, so I just keep going, happy, guilt free, buoyed by my own good fortune. I sniff the air. Scent of Jumbo Hot Dogs wafting from gas burners before Avantes Hair Styling. I bound along Robson. Whitmanesque. Alive in a fathomless universe. I stroll past Kalypso Greek Cuisine. Greet Mahoneys Sports Grill. Amble before souvenir shops stacked with plastic totem poles, Indian dolls, Mountie mugs, beef jerky, Canucks hockey sweaters. I am vast. I contain contradictions. The city rages around me. A Mexican lady chats with a fat bald guy holding a map, Ees near ocean. A German couple, sporting lederhosen and cowboy hats, walk with two blonde children. Sunshine fills the sky. I hear a car alarm. Imagine a mystic ocean. Aldos Shoes beckons. Take An Extra 50% Off. A poster whispers. July 26th. The Beatnuts and Rhythmn Nation team up with Uberzone and Anne Savage. My heart soars like an eagle. I dont fear Death. I am one with creation. Before Purdys Chocolates a polite derelict inquires, Sir, can you please spare a little change for a hamburger. Bummer. Whats the matter with this fellow. Doesnt he realize, these are tough times. World economy, mired in recession. Capital in short supply. To avoid his dying eyes, I alter my perspective. Comtemplate Purdys New Caramel Apples. Admire the West Coasts finest hand-dipped chocolate nougats. I feel refreshed. Exhuberant. Limitless. I recall Tokyo. A city where homeless dont whine for handouts. Dont panhandle the successful. Expect us to share their misery. Passing a fashionable sidewalk cafe, I hear a party of hearty young fellows. Buds. Vancouver neat guys. Short hair. Shades. White Polos. Working Strawberry Marguiritas. Laughing like nitwits. The truly deserving. Farther along, the Califorex Currency Exchange offers to swap solid Canadian Loonies for Yen Euros American Hong Kong. Life feels immense, passionate, powerful. Outside the Mondo Gelato Bar, a lady with an Eh? t-shirt. Inside the Nutrition Store, big-biceped guys in sleeveless t-shirts and super shorts studying supplement cans. I’d love to join them. Become part of their steroid-addled liebenstraum. But Ive still got blocks to go, things to do, so I plough on, breeze by the Thai House, meander along Hainanese Chicken Rice Lunch, amble past Smoked Salmon Gifts, past a sign guy, Parkinsons. Please Help. Not today, Buddy. Im on an important journey. A sacred quest. Finally, I spot my destination. Chapters Books. Mecca. So what if theyve destroyed the citys small book purveyors. Bankrupted the uncompetitive. This is the Third Millennium. The Wheels of Commerce grind without pity. Relentlessly unshackle the captains of industry. Reward innovation. I quickly peruse the generous poetry section. See what Ive missed this past year. Settling on A Dazzling New Anthology compiled by Billy Collins, I retire to the instore Starbucks. Over a fruit granola bar washed down with a tall tasty Colombian, I randomly open the collection by Americas Poet Laureate. Come upon The Death of Santa Claus by Charles Webb. Hes had the chest pains for weeks, but doctors dont make house calls, to the North Pole. Brilliant. Absolutely stunning. Life is good.