Photo: George stands in front of the UBC Learning Exchange. He asked a Downtown Eastsider with a camera to take this photo; I think it was taken in early 2009 but I haven't had a chance to talk to the photographer. George was wearing his Alaska t-shirt but did not yet have his Sarah Palin glasses.
I asked Dale, a homeless guy with a shopping cart who hangs out in front of McDonalds restaurant at Terminal & Main, where George was. "You know George, the guy who wears the navy blue t-shirt with FBI on the front," I said, prompting Dale's memory. "The cops picked him up," said Dale who used to sleep in the same spot as George under a bridge. "He was threatening people."
Don't get me wrong, George wasn't threatening his friends and acquaintances around the Downtown Eastside. He was actually quite affable, always quick to call out, "Hi!"
Downtown Eastsiders had cautioned George, who was a fixture around the Downtown Eastside with his shopping cart -- "my carriage," he called it -- that he couldn't go around threatening people. You just can't send President Obama a letter warning him,"You're dead", he was told when he showed the letter with the fax receipt stapled to it. You can get arrested for that; you can do jail time, people warned him. But George would remind people of the reason he was immune from prosecution. "I'm George Washington incarnate."
George had recently been notified that he had inherited money from his half-brother. He showed the will to people on Whopper Wednesday at Burger King, and at other places too; it had an official red seal in the upper corner. He said that when he got the inheritance, "I want to get a room in a rooming house." On the front page of the will was the name of a Montreal law firm, along with their address and telephone number. George said he phoned them and threatened them.
Long before George learned of his inheritance or threatened Obama, he had been regularly dropping into the University of British Columbia Learning Exchange on Main St. near Keefer to use the free phone. He would phone the Canadian Security Intelligence Service [CSIS] and threaten to bomb them. Once CSIS returned the call and spoke to a staff person at the Learning Exchange, according to George. The staff person told George not to use their phone again.
But George needed access to a telephone on another day, so he told staff at the Learning Exchange that he just needed to make a quick call. He made it quick, the call to CSIS, threatening them.
UBC Learning Exchange staff banned George from the premises. I know that because I was walking past with a couple of friends in the spring when George, standing out front on the sidewalk, asked a woman with us if she would do him a favor and go inside and fill up his coffee cup. The Learning Exchange provides free low quality coffee to attract the poor, keep the sign-in numbers up, and keep the funders believing they are helping ahelluvalot of down and outters turn their lives around.
UBC President Stephen Toope who helped himself to $565,000 in income and perks last year will never mention George, the guy they kicked to the curb. All the networking these UBC povertarians do at their catered openings and socials at the Learning Exchange -- Toope gave a speech at one last November -- you would think they would have a few names in their Rolodex like homeless advocate Judy Graves to call and ask, "Is there anything you can do here?"
Standing on the sidewalk out front of the UBC Learning Exchange, George was always friendly, stopping people to chat, most recently about his new Sarah Palin rimless glasses that he got a kick out of wearing with his Alaska t-shirt. Dionne, the Learning Exchange Co-ordinator, a white woman who likes to remind people that's she's really Black -- a sort of Michael Jackson in reverse -- would stand just feet from him when she ducked outside to stand in the sunshine on her breaks, taking long drags from her cigarrette, escaping into her novel.
"They were looking for him," Dale said. Vancouver Police spotted George standing with Dale last month on Hastings St. across from the First United Church. They grabbed him. They told him they were sending him back to where he'd come from; George had always claimed he had been born in the U.S. and had Canadian status. The police took the cheap handcuffs George carried with him -- he claimed to be an under cover FBI agent, which would explain the handcuffs -- and handcuffed his shopping cart to Dale's, creating a headache for Dale. The police told George, "You've been threatening people," Dale recalls. "The cops were laughing at him."