Sins of the City - 2009

Jail time for DaleLast night I was a very pleased guest at the "Sins of the City" Tweetup at the Vancouver Police Museum. Don't know what "tweetup" means? Don't worry, it's not important. What is important is sex, drugs, illegal weapons, and the stories that surround them!

"Sins of the City" is a historical walking tour run by the Vancouver Police Museum. Some 30 of us were guests of Chris Mathieson, the museum's Executive Director, for a museum open house and preview of 2009's tour (the tour changes every year).

During the open house we got to check out the museum. The items and displays were interesting, but not exciting. That is, until Mathieson started circulating and telling us the stories behind them. The items and their history came alive! Some stories were cute, like the police robot formally known as Expo Earnie, and some poingnant, like the police service revolver that, by fluke of circumstance, was in a desk drawer when its owner was shot and killed in the line of duty.

We were treated to a viewing of museum holdings not currently on display, which included white-gold "brass" knuckles in a dragon motif, a number of knives straight out of the movies (but confiscated elsewhere), and an autographed ping pong ball used in a performance of the infamous Ping-Pong Queen, Mitzi Dupree! The novelty of the items — how often do you get to see stuff that would get you arrested — combined with Mathieson's knowledge and storytelling skills had me totally engaged. I'm sure I was smiling like a little kid. There's some pictures later in the post.

If we'd ended after the open house I'd have considered it a great evening, but then we started the walking tour, itself.

The social media folks gathered for this event were a tough crowd, in my opinion. We had no small number of people who weren't shy about asking questions, interjecting opinions. and going off topic. Mathieson was brilliant, and at times even thrived on the tangents. Never once flummoxed, he seamlessly went from one topic to the next and back again. And does this man know his local history! Walking through Chinatown and Gastown there was barely a spot that didn't have a story. From Gassy Jack's first saloon to Vancouver's race riots to how Vancouver's opium dens triggered the first national drug act he navigated the rivers of time like an Olympic white water kayaker.

Given the subject matter and its name, the Sins of the City tour is actually tasteful. Salacious at times, but not raunchy. And far from being empty calories I learned a lot of solid history about the origins of Vancouver. Chris also touched on some serious social issues during our walk. I'm not sure how much of his commentary was part of the tour and how much was response to the crowd. Regardless, although the tone of the tour is light and cheerful, serious matters are handled with respect. I'd love to recount some of the stories, but couldn't do them justice. The Police Museum website has a video about the tour: http://www.vancouverpolicemuseum.ca/SinsoftheCity.htm, check it out for a flavour of the experience.

We officially ended the walk at Carrall and Alexander where Vancouver began, also the location of the Gassy Jack statue, then quickly proceeded with an unofficial tour of the Irish Heather's Shebeen where we enjoyed a pint.

The Sins of the City walking tour is now on my list on things to do in Vancouver, and the price includes a visit to the museum. It doesn't look like there's a museum tour for adults; too bad, it's much more interesting when someone tells you the stories. The museum also has a number of programs for kids. If you have budding crime scene investigators or legal beagles definitely check them out.

Here are my photos from the evening. Clicking on the thumbnail will get you the large version. It seems my camera is starting to die, so forgive the lines you see in some of the pictures.

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A big thank you to Chris Mathieson for the wonderful evening! If you ever get a chance to hear him in person, take it. He could do a TED talk, he's that good.

Some other photos
John Biehler's Sins of the City Tour Photoset
I am I.A.M.'s Sins of the City Photos

Vancouver Police Museum
Website: www.vancouverpolicemuseum.ca
Twitter: @policemuseum / Chris Mathieson (@cognoscento)

Updates:
1) Blog posts about the event are being tracked at Off the 'Cuff, the Vancouver Police Museum blog, in this post: A Very Successful “Sins” Tweetup.
2) Raul, aka Hummingbird 604 and my cellmate in the jail photo, has a video of one of the tour stops in his post: Sins of the City Tour (Vancouver Police Centennial Museum).

1 comment

raincoaster wrote 12 years 15 weeks ago

Great post

Wicked good lead and lots of great photos. I knew I wouldn't need my camera with that many people who were THAT much better than me at this.

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