The Love Songs of J. Alfred Lionsgate

Vancouver is a lovely city, whose denizens have some oddly endearing habits … like planting trees on top of buildings, and letting raccoons wander the paths …

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It also appears that they have some seriously overweight bicyclists …

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More to the point, however, there’s a lovely bridge called the “Lion’s Gate Bridge” that connects Vancouver and West Vancouver, which I walked in both directions in the last few days. It is a very tall, beautiful bridge that looks a lot like the Golden Gate Bridge only done in green. Here’s a shot of it in the smoke that has accompanied our whole trip …

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And another look on the clearer day when I walked it …

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And like the Golden Gate, the Lion’s Gate has obviously been the scene of numerous suicides over the years. I say obviously because at both ends of the bridge and in the middle, they have the official response to the suicides—a telephone linking to a suicide crisis center. Here’s the one in the middle of the bridge … and yes, it’s a long, long way down to the water.

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OK, fair enough, glad to see the Government doing something. But what was really impressive is that on every second or third post on the bridge railing, different people have taped up drawings and words to speak out to those thinking of ending their lives.

So without further preamble, I offer to you the Love Songs of J. Alfred Lionsgate, the response of the Vancouver public to the suicides, the cards taped to the bridge to reach out to those in danger of losing the fight.

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The cards are small, too small to see from a car, but clearly visible to someone walking up to the highest point of the bridge and considering taking the express elevator straight down to the water …

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Some of them have quotations, real or imagined.

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But all of them are heartfelt pleas for some unknown and unloved person to not take that first step … and it’s a very long step …

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Some tend to the humorous …

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But all of them have the same serious caring purpose, whether it is crudely put forth …

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… or it is carefully written.

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Now, I have to say, if I saw any of these as memes on the web, or as cross-stitched samplers in someone’s house, I’d dismiss them and think “Schmaltz. Feel-good piffle. Sweet nonsense!”.

But out on the Lion’s Gate bridge, these were not anything of the sort. They were all tiny love songs in the sunlight, representing the best of humanity—our compassion for the lost, the lonely, the scared, the least among us …

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And all of them were highlighted and given meaning by the starkness of the scene, the awful drop below, the beauty of the day, and the ultimate finality of the possible choice …

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I finally realized that the thing that gave them strength and the thing that gave them pathos was the same—these were the very words that the authors had said to themselves to get them through their own hard times. They held meaning to the authors beyond guessing, and the authors had taken the time to write them up and draw them up as a perfectly anonymous gift from the heart to someone that they had never met and never would meet.

And as a result, they contain a power that no meme could ever have.

I took a lot more pictures, there were many more of them, too many to post, but let me leave you with one final thought, one that certainly spoke to me …

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Those, dear friends, are just some of the anonymous Love Songs of J. Alfred Lionsgate, a tribute to the compassionate best of the humanity in all of us …

… and meanwhile, on the other side of Vancouver, life goes on its merry mad way.

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Tonight we’re back in Washington, still in the smoke. A freight train goes by, calling my name to come and ride, a voice from another time … what a truly astounding planet this is.

My very best to all of you, and whatever you do … don’t jump …

w.

 

20 thoughts on “The Love Songs of J. Alfred Lionsgate

  1. Part 2; delivered as promised. Thanks, Willis.

    I find it interesting to think about the sheer number of those posters that have been put up. Someone who is really in the depths of despair has to pass a lot of those words of help and persuasion before they get to the spot where they intend to end their life. One of them might might be couched just right to cut through to a despondent person.

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  2. Thanks Willis.

    … these were the very words that the authors had said to themselves to get them through their own hard times.

    That chokes.
    ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

    In the USA guns (>50%) and hanging (~25%) are the methods of choice. “Fall” (def. ?) is about 2.3%.
    Canadians, with a lower availability of guns, may have different proportions. With such a tall bridge being in the center of the major city of the region, perhaps, it is an attraction most of us would not encounter.
    I (for example) would have to drive a long way to find a bridge high enough from the water to be sure a jump would cause death and not just hurt a lot. But, I could just go jump head first into a melt water stream or lake. Officials at Lake Tahoe warned of this very cold water (almost instant) response last year at just about the time Washington State had several deaths (unintended) at popular recreation places along snow fed streams. I doubt most people know about this.

    ps: This is not about me. I know or have known folks that were hurting. So I follow some of the numbers.

    _ _ _ _ _ _
    Another day and a half of smoke on the Dry Side of the Cascades.
    Visibility has gone from 1.5 miles yesterday to about 3 or 4 at 10 am today.

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  3. Perfect, Willis.

    Context is everything, and the Lionsgate bridge – what a context!

    I’m 73 years old, a member of the lucky generation who benefited from an education system that had not yet been dumbed down. So the outstanding poems of T.S. Eliot were part of my secondary school education. Yours too, I suspect, for many of your posts are love songs to life.

    Man, i’s good to be above ground, savouring the wonder of existence. Keep travelling with your ex-fiancee, and keep writing, man

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  4. Vancouver is a lovely city to visit, where you can stay downtown and walk in Stanley Park or along English Bay or go to Granville Island markets. But living there and driving there? Forget it.

    I’d never heard of the cards on the bridge. Much better than the padlock fad, although darker.

    Trivia
    Golden Gate Bridge, 1937. Lions Gate Bridge, 1938.
    By length and height GG is about twice the size of LG.
    suicides GG 1937-2012 over 1600; now has safety nets. LG n/a, 20-28 in 5 years up to about 2014; safety nets not possible. Both have telephones to help lines.
    (neither publicizes suicides)

    Interestingly, one Vancouver police official says 90% of the time they can talk people down. And another study of 515 of those talked-down from the GG found that 26 years later 94% were still alive or died of natural causes.

    It’s a terrible way to go. Don’t even think about it.

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  5. I always worry about rabies if I see a ‘coon during the day. They are nocturnal animals and in my part of the country, rabies is a problem. I’ve always had a deep affection for them (especially after reading “Rascal” as a kid). Over the years, I’ve matched wits with ’em o’er the garbage containers— the ‘coons generally win.

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  6. Yesterday I did a training course at work which is basically Mental Health First Aid so I can help those at work with any issues that want to talk or to help spot the signs of those who are further down the road toward thinking about ending it all. Mad as it seems if you are talking to someone and you get the gut feeling that they are considering suicide you ask them if that is what they are thinking and if they have a plan as most have worked out when,where and how they are going to do it. If the plan is well advanced don’t call an ambulance take them to A&E yourself and don’t let them out of your sight and get medical help.
    Over the years I’ve found that there are always things that cause us mental health problems, I’m blessed with good family and friends to help and look out for me.
    The company I work for has many faults (like every other one) but I’m pleased it’s taking the mental health of it’s staff so importantly.

    James Bull

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  7. Once or twice a year, it is like a switch flips, and I tell myself here it comes, I try to fight it (but do I really), it actually physically hurts.
    Then I’m in a place….that…ceases to see…or even look at the wonders of the world, or something.
    It is a deep dark place, that seems bottomless (only for about 12 hours so far).
    I think it is a chemical thing in the brain, but what do I know.

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  8. Well Willis you’ve tweeted another found memory. That is the trip we made in 1986 to the World Fair in Vancouver, BC. That was another magical trip when I was about 33 years old.

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  9. Thanks, Willis. That brought a tear to my eye. I didn’t get to my 7th decade without going through some pretty dark times, but I love the sunshine of my life now.

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  10. Willis, I enjoy all your writings – whether you are telling of your past adventures, current adventures, or science. You write in a way that reaches in and touches the heart. It makes me laugh, cry, or understand. Thank you. You are a blessing in the world.

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