Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Bergmann's Lost Art

I had the day off today, and spent a portion of it reading Gabor Mate's book "In the Realm of the Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction". It's a good book. Well written and with great compassion and understanding for the addicts who breathe life into what otherwise could have been another academic book on addiction. Dr. Mate's ability to convey the feeling of community and connection that exists between the addicts and denizens of Vancouver's Downtown Eastside is dead on.

I worked many years on and off in that community, starting in the late 80's when I was fresh out of university, and departing most recently in 2006. And truth be told, I miss it.

After a couple of hours on the couch with the book, I jumped in my car and headed out to run a few errands. I put Art Bergmann's "Lost Art" cd into the stereo and cranked up the first track: "The Junkie Don't Care".

As the disc played itself out I came to realize that there wasn't much that Dr. Mate was saying about the the lives of addicts that Mr Bergmann hadn't already said. Although a new release, these songs were written in the mid 80's. The disc speaks of a world full of abuse, violence, death, neglect, addiction, disillusionment, betrayal, deceit, corruption, pain, self destruction, resignation, failure, and political culpability.

Pretty heavy stuff. But catchy as hell.

Gabor Mate is a medical doctor and author who works as an addiction specialist in the Downtown Eastside.

Art Bergmann is an artist, pure and simple. He has chronicled the lives of this city's lost souls since the late 1970's, long before our troubled subculture was fodder for international attention. He has always written with the intelligence and understanding of an academic, and the voice of a poet.

A true gift. And well worth finding.

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