and I quote

february 2012

click for permalink February 5, 2012

So I was browsing in one of my favorite Gastown consignment stores yesterday chatting with the lady who owns it about her life before she moved to Vancouver in the 1970s. It turns out she's from a small logging town south of Seattle and before she moved here with her Italian husband and eventually became a seamstress and shop owner, she worked as a medical assistant for a now-famous heart surgeon — famous enough that I thought I'd actually heard of him. She told me she helped him test medical procedures on animals which would eventually be used to treat people, repairing heart valves and and partially replacing arteries with artificial parts, which she says is how she learned to sew. Like I said, his name sounded familiar and after a bit of searching, I'm pretty sure this is him:

In 1962, [Dr. Lester] Sauvage became the first surgeon to successfully use a vein as a substitute for a coronary artery, in a series of experiments on dogs. His work, published the next year, was an important milestone in the development of coronary bypass surgery for humans. [He] also made a number of advances in the design of artificial arteries, using Dacron; and the repair of leaky heart valves. (

So there we were chatting away when a scruffy but friendly looking man stuck his head in the door of her shop. "Hey, do you need a mannequin? It's a nice one — no arms but besides that she's in good shape." She told him she didn't have room for another mannequin, which is true — there's hardly enough space to move around between racks of clothing, and hidden underneath the hanging garments all around the sides are giant steel barrels crammed with still more merchandise.

Of course I couldn't resist stepping outside for a look. I've had a weird fascination with mannequins ever since I was little (even before the 1987 Kim Cattrall movie of the same name), probably because they seemed like perfect life-sized Barbie dolls... and suddenly, having said that, it occurs to me that I might be able to trace it to a single, inspiring moment after all. A 1978 episode of Fantasy Island where Barbie Benton of Playboy Playmate fame starred as a mannequin brought to life by a window dresser who had fallen in love with her.

Well, to make a long story short, I wouldn't say I'm in love but for ten bucks, I certainly couldn't pass up the opportunity. After a brief, halfhearted attempt to convincing myself to stop and think it out for a minute and consider things like where would I put her and how would I get her home, to say nothing of the usual where had she been and was she carrying anything communicable, I handed the man ten dollars. He smiled and said it would buy him a few decent brushes, so he was off to paint for the rest of the day. The shop owner told him that was more than she'd made being open all day (since I'd brought a bag of clothes with me and was shopping on trade credit, ours was more of a break-even transaction). As the door closed behind him I said, "well, if nothing else, I've contributed to the artistic process."

And so I began the hike home from Gastown with a new wool sweater in my backpack and a naked mannequin against my torso. We looked almost nonchalant, with my left arm around her waist and her knee draped over my other arm, and she was lighter than I expected. There's hardly anything as effective at drawing people's attention than walking down the street with a naked mannequin, though, and I had several amusing encounters with people as I searched for a cab. An incredulous young man crossed two intersections leaving his two friends on the opposite corner to ask me if I had found the mannequin or paid for it; then he wanted to know what I planned to do with it; then he told me I was cute and skipped back to where his friends were waving with bemused looks on their faces. A block or so later, as I waited to cross the street, a lady who looked about 60 with pink-streaked hair asked, if I didn't mind, how much I had paid for it. Then she told me that she has one she keeps on her front porch, but she brings it in for the winter.

Another man, in his 50s and presumably very serious under normal circumstances, walked almost an entire block with me, keeping just ahead or just behind me and glancing over as if he expected something truly remarkable to happen the minute he looked away. His attempts at conversation never progressed beyond the equivalent of "you've got your hands full" and the like, but he was clearly quite beside himself. The final encounter worth mentioning was a couple of Gastown residents lounging in the doorway of an empty storefront who, upon spying me and my companion as we approached, called out in mock chivalry, "hey, leave her alone!" I replied that she was my friend and I would do no such thing, whereupon they wished us well and turned their attention back to the beer they were sharing.

Isn't she pretty? Okay, so maybe she's a crackhead but what do you expect? I think she looks remarkably healthy... considering I bought her from a guy pushing a shopping cart a block away from East Hastings St. I bet she'll clean up real nice.

Five random things