Melissa Roach 0:07
Hi, I’m Melissa Roach with Below the Radar, a knowledge democracy podcast. Below the Radar is recorded on the territories of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh peoples. On this episode of Below the Radar, our host Am Johal is joined by Ken Lyotier, a Downtown Eastside legend and a champion for binning in the city. Ken shares stories from founding United We Can and the growth of the binners community in Vancouver. I hope you enjoy the episode.
[theme music fades]
Am Johal 0:39
I was going to start Ken by saying, Welcome to Below the Radar, our podcast. But this is a different type of conversation. I first met Ken in the mid 90s or so, at United We Can. Jim Green introduced us when we were starting a program. But welcome, Ken.
Ken Lyotier 1:01
Well, thank you very much. I can't exactly remember when I first met you, but if it was in the mid 90s, it was probably right at the beginning of United We Can. And you were trying to develop a humanities course for people from the Downtown Eastside that wanted to explore university studies. Is that right?
Am Johal 1:23
Yeah, that's right. It was it was actually closer to 97 or 98 when we started. So a little bit later than 95. But yeah, United We Can was up and going and was an amazing place with lots of people coming through I just going into there just seeing the clinking of the cans as people brought them in and they were being moved around and just hearing you and Jim talk about economics in that way. It really blew my mind.
Ken Lyotier 1:55
It became all of a sudden, very unacademic. Granted, the people that listened to your podcasts, they'll know that you have that kind of event. But when it gets to digging in the garbage can it's much less academic than it is just straight scratching from material. But anyway, yes, you did have an amazing little enterprise down at United We Can. And many, many wonderful people work there. And came through there. And work all around our city still today. Doing all that work of picking up the garbage and recycling it.
Am Johal 2:33
Ken, can you maybe share the story, a lot of people might not know, about how you first came to the Downtown Eastside?
Ken Lyotier 2:42
Um, gee, well, I, I was born in 1947. In Vancouver, well in North Vancouver. So I've been in around around the city all of my life. I've never really got anywhere. I lived in Victoria for about a year. I've travelled a little bit like, momentarily, but this is my home and I never went anywhere else. So I, I had really quite an idyllic early life. But something happened in my my life, health issues are one and probably mental health issues. So I didn't, you know, I don't know when you're in the middle of mental health crisis that you really fully grasp what's going on. I still maybe don't. But in any event, I slowly over a period of years cycled down to the Downtown Eastside. I held various jobs, but I was wracked with illness chronically and it just became pretty unmanageable, and the Downtown Eastside, in spite of all the bumps and scratches, to me, anyway, felt like, a place that they probably couldn't throw me out. Sounds awful. But when I got there is sort of, like I fit, you know, like, what I saw on the outside, sort of fit, like I felt on the inside. So it has that kind of a safety about it. And sounds strange to say that, but it was like I'd, I felt, I guess probably, you know, rejected and set apart and, and a lot of that self isolation. But I did have that sort of perception of the world that I wasn't acceptable. And in the Downtown Eastside, I might not have been acceptable, but there was nowhere else to go, right. But in any of that, that was kind of the process that I went through. And in an ironic kind of way, there was a time, in that sense of I have a place here, where it's like belonging, you know, like, when you feel like, it's communion, it's really the sense of we are together here. It's okay, you know, and might not have been that's how it felt inside anyway. And it was profound, because I hadn't felt that. Maybe as a child, I did, I don't know. But, you know, our emotions develop in different ways. And I think maybe I was somehow emotionally stunted or I don't know. Plus, I discovered alcohol and drugs. So of course, that was a real factory down in our community to score what I needed to comfort me from the pain. So it was a bit torn, I don't know if that really explains things. I did have another life back, you know, I worked and I did other stuff, but I gradually descended. I pretty well settled into Downtown Eastside around 1932, or 1932, when I was around 32, or 33, ended up homeless. Good lord. At a time when that was not an acceptable thing to do. Well, you could, if you hid. You know, I used to hide under the oom-pah-pah, if anybody goes back that far, you start about the foot of Main Street, beside the railway track where the overpass goes down, me know. And I had a, a hangout of packing crates and stuff under there. But anyway, I I earned my stripes, man. God.
Am Johal 6:20
Now, you mentioned that you have, you know, chronic pain from from Crohn's and other things and just, you know, myriad reasons how people come to the Downtown Eastside and make it a home and contribute in so many ways. And in you, you also found places that, you know, were important to you at particular moments and continue to be, you know, talk about the The Dugout, and First United Church, as places that welcome people in. I'm wondering if you can speak to your experiences of first encountering these types of places, and what what they mean to you.
Ken Lyotier 7:00
Well, when you're when you're out in the cold, and you don't really have anywhere to go, and your shoes are falling off your feet. And you're kind of hungry and not feeling good and got a cold, it's wet, and you're wet, and everything's wet. To have a place where you can come duck inside and get some heat and, and something to eat, and maybe even talk to somebody is pretty serious business, to say I've been down here a long time. And I've seen, you know, enormous amounts of effort, put into service to try and support and help people that are in struggle in our community. And there's lots of us, and, you know, nothing that we've created in terms of those services is perfect, eh. It's just, you know, people trying to help each other. And sorry, it's probablym I'm an emotional guy at the best of times, but I think probably I'm on meds and stuff better making me more sensitive. But no, when I just thought when I think of all the efforts that people put in to help me and I witnessed it, you know, and I tried too, but, but you know, it's flawed, and, and there's so much hurt. And it's hard to know. And we try to get, you know, maybe this can help, maybe that can help. But once in a while. For some people, we strike lucky, for some reason, the stars align or whatever. And in some ways, that kind of happened to me. Partly because people were so damn patient with me, you know, they didn't throw me out, because there was a poor house to throw me to. I did get locked up a few times. And I did get sort of drugged out on psychiatric drugs and whatever, just to keep me in line, I guess. Because I was pretty haywire in those early days. And I still can get well, not maybe as extreme just because I don't have the energy. When I see people that are sort of strung out in our community, I know how that is.
Am Johal 9:33
Ken, I'm wondering, in one of the things I've really always appreciated about you is, you know, the way you're such a pillar in the community, and you know who you are and the people who you represent, because you work with them, but you you always took the time to meet with all sorts of people, policymakers, politicians, other people, artists, those types of things. And I'm wondering if you can speak to you know, what United We Can offer you from that vantage point in terms of being able to push for broader policy changes. I remember visiting you once and you used to have binners dinners at United We Can where it was, you know, literally people just getting together for food and coffee and being able to talk about things which was really about building community. Also remember the artists Germaine Koh doing a project where I think she I spoke with you and eventually set up an installation at Centre A when it was located on Hastings Street. But wondering if you can speak to some of those things, because I think you were such a wonderful ambassador to the neighborhood, in opening up the conversation about what it means to live in this neighborhood. And what the positive possibilities were if people looked at things a little bit differently.
Ken Lyotier 10:57
Yeah, well, I mean, number one, I think, is people have an assumption when they look at the Downtown Eastside. Well, it went back for a long time probably has to do without attitudes that people have towards welfare, and people on welfare, and charity and all this stuff. And why don't those lazy bums get up there and get a job like real people, and whatever, real jobs or whatever. You know, I have never seen harder working people than the people that work picking up cans and bottles and bringing them to United We Can. Those are the hardest working folks in the world. So it's never been an issue about people being lazy bums, that's just not the case. People want to work, can work when you know, people will work as much as they are able, if they have a chance, if it's something they can do. And that's really important to understand. So when people have got an opportunity to do that, and they can come together and participate, and in a sense, demonstrate that they have value, they don't have to demonstrate it, they have value already. But you know, there's a way there's a connection to that dominant value in society that you have to sort of have to prove yourself. So when people are able to do that, and that basically requires movement or currency across the counter. So they have cash in their efforts, then there's something that gets turned along in people, to do more. And that was one of the pressures we had United We Can. Once people got an appetite, earning money, they wanted to earn more. And it was always a struggle to get more jobs, more stuff that people could do. And, of course, people had still really limited incomes, because the work that we're doing paid nickels and dimes, you know, wasn't like people were earning a king's ransom dumpster diving, but it was something. But we had a big struggle to get human resources or welfare benefits or whatever it was called at the time to hear that maybe, you know, it was worth considering that getting over the idea of people earning some money while on welfare, might do something to help people move ahead. And so that was one of the things when we did binners dinners that came out loud and clear, you know, we had these little kind of projects where people engaged and stuff, and these other messages about where people were at, and what would work for them became really clear. And we were able, because of the circumstances of United We Can to articulate that to decision makers, you know, who needed to hear it. And we weren't dependent on their government grants to make the business run, which was an important thing, because oftentimes, it's hard to criticize the hand that's feeding, you know, you don't bite it. But I just use that as an example, the binners dinners. So I mean, it had a social aspect to it. But out of it, of course, people talk about what they're up to, and what they were up to was binning. That was their common thing, right. And they always had a lot of issues around that. That's really important to learn about, if you might find out what's going on in the Downtown Eastside with people get down, they roll up your sleeves, on the streets with people hang out for a long time. And, you'll find out and learn some stuff about what they really need, you know, without making assumptions about how it's supposed to be, and it's hard to do. It's hard because I too, like I get all judgmental. I have my prejudices and whatever but it's really a piece of work that I think we all have to do on ourselves as we are involved here to readjust our perspectives on what's right and how to get there, you know. Anyway, I probably went way off topic there but it was really important to know and you know, I'm at a stage now sort of passing on, but it was another thing that was really hard to get through to people was that United We Can was their thing you know, we built it together. It wasn't Ken Lyotier that built United We Can. I remember one time we had enough loot that we can put an awning out front of the place and it was a pouring rain day. The next day, it was in July, but the next day after we put up the awning with pouring rain and the binners to line up outside before we opened our doors with their baskets and stuff. And I went out to pass out cigarettes, I guess that's wrong today. But that's what we used to do. And you know, the guys are all waiting in line. And they're all grateful for the awning. And I said, Well, do you realize, you know where that awning came from? They said, Oh, I guess it's just part of your business. And I said, it's part of your business. You know, like, they're the ones that worked to get it. You know, they they put that together. I couldn't have done that. I think this is not just a Downtown Eastside. I think it's everywhere. People have an idea that it's somehow Pharaoh's Egypt, you know, and we're going to orient ourselves in this weird kind of pyramid. That ain't it. We're all just brothers, eh. And it's so hard to get that spirit going, particularly if you have to take the lead on something because it tends to create a gulf, you know, so it's really important to constantly keep reaching back and stepping back with the troops. And remember who you are.
Am Johal 16:33
Ken, can you talk a little bit about where the idea for United We Can came from and how you actually made it happen? Because I think you probably would have had to bring people on board. And there's probably rules that worked against it and that type of thing about how you got the seed funding to get things get things going.
Ken Lyotier 16:52
Yeah, well, I suppose nothing happens in a vacuum. But there's also some mystery to this stuff, too. Like I was saying earlier, you know, sometimes luck just sort of has a play in things. But I dumpster dived big time in the city. And finally I sobered up. In 1989, sort of got my act together in terms of not drinking and drugging anymore. But I binned. I dumpster dived all over the city, when it wasn't a popular sport. It was like, not that common and people that did it sort of hid away, we had sort of had a self esteem thing about it. And even poor people would kind of looked down their noses at doing that digging in other people's garbage. But I guess I got to the point that I really didn't care. And it was funny, too, because I had what was known in the day as hash eyes. Like, I'd be out on the street and I see drugs wherever. I'd find bottles of full of alcohol wherever I went. So people used to hang out with me, because I was really lucky at scoring. But I didn't drink or drug anymore, right? So they, they didn't want to get their hands dirty. But they were happy to take the findings. But many of them. Yeah, I did a lot. But there was lots of problems with particularly the refund deposit system in BC, back in those days. That was like the late 80s, early 90s. And, and, you know, you could only take back so many cans, bottles, and there were only certain kinds that they would take. And, you know, it was it was really and you could only take them to certain stores and there was no bottle depots. So it was not just the challenge to pick them all up. But it was hard to get them all back. And they cut the rate on them and say, Oh, I'll give you two sets out of five and all that. Anyway, a couple of us were complaining to one another about the scam, the rip off of the whole system, and how we could do it better. And a friend from a local church, heard us, overheard us and he said, Well, do you think that you could do something, I might know where you could get some money to help. So we are of course interested and he said he had a fund and so we applied and got $1,500 to do a one day depot in victory square where where we would pay people to bring in cans and bottles, non refundable ones to Victory Square on a certain day. And we invented this little system of how we tally it all up. And we handed out leaflets and posters and whatever. And then on the day of the event, we went up to Victory Square my friend Bill Trembley and I. And I have this little, this dropbox with the cash in it. It was hilarious. We got there. And people were lined up. Like all around Victory Square, up Hamilton at around the next block. And it was unbelievable. Like we did this land office business because we had no idea who would get this you know, as they say up and up till that time, they're semi-invisible. But people got it. They understood what what this was, right? And so they came with all these bottles, we ended up with this mountain of bottles in Victory Square, totally a loser as a business because they were all non-refundable. And we had to pay a truck to take it out to the recycling yard. But I'll tell you, it was the best damn community development experiment I ever saw. Because it was just a natural right? People knew how to do it. They knew how to count and knew stuff was and they figured it out. We have volunteers helping, and it was just like, instant success. And everybody loved it. So then after that, when we'd meet each other on the street, people say, oh, man, that was so cool. When can we do that? Again? Right? Let's do more of those. Yeah, well, finding more money to do more, to start. And the point was, we wanted to try and change the rules, right? So it took us a long time, that was probably 1990. It took us about five years to sort of plan our little business venture. And it was like, many, many, meetings, and workshops, figuring out we're going to write a constitution. Good lord. Well, the binner are, right, because we didn't have other models, though. We, we knew nonprofits, because we'd seen all these services around, we kind of knew how they were, but we're gonna have our own anyway, that was very good.
Am Johal 21:23
Ken, what are some of the more memorable stories that United We Can that you that you remember?
Ken Lyotier 21:29
Oh, I'll tell you, some would twirl your hair. You know, it was a rough business, it wasn't always smooth sailing, you know. And when you've got a ship that you're trying to steer, and people expect you to steer it right, or one of the things that I was on the board of United We Can, and then the board decided, no, they, they hired somebody, or they were gonna hire somebody to manage the place, but they didn't think that would work. And then they decided they wanted me to do. And I had not really planned, I was actually having a pretty good life as a binner, eh. I hadn't really planned to do that. I didn't know anything about management or all that stuff. And you know, anyway, they said oh no, you can do it. So I ended up doing this thing. And then I got some support from various places it was support was from place of wanting to do board development is one of the academies and it's fair enough, they want to sort of show teach people how to be board members and what their responsibilities were. I wasn't a part of that. But they were doing it. So then the binners had an 'after the board development meeting' meeting. They came into the office, we were just about to close up. I was counting the cash and getting ready to lock it up. And they told me as a group, no, you can't lock it. You can't lock it up, because we want some money out of there. We want to have a party tonight and we're the board. And I said no, that's not gonna... they kind of knew, you know, but they'd heard this other story like they were in charge right. It was like why the hell not. So what I mean the point, there was other things like that, where, you know, people come into a culture basically. And they have different ideas. You know, of course, they have different ideas. They don't know that culture. So they're sharing their wonderful ideas. But there's a disconnect. Unless you embed yourself in the culture for a while and get to understand where people are coming from, it's very easily can go off the rails. And other thing, like, at Christmas time, like most of the people that were involved in United We Can lived in SROs around the Downtown Eastside and, you know, estranged from family and just connect in many ways. And, you know, if they're gonna hang out, they'd hang out in the bars and stuff, right? Anyway, at Christmas time. I mean, I, I don't drink. But I wasn't a big sort of moralist about people having a drink or joint so, so we'd have a big party on Christmas Eve, at the bottle depot because we opened on Christmas Day, halfway through the day to do binning, but people would get together in that bottle depot on Christmas Eve and party, and tell each other stories and get close. And nobody had to show how to be a community. They were. They are, you know, people know how to do that. It's a natural thing in us. And if you give people an opportunity, of course. You can tell I love them, hey.
Am Johal 24:46
Totally, totally. And Ken, you know, in the Downtown Eastside, you've seen so many versions of the city coming in with different plans for the future people coming in with development and this and that, there's always somebody's trying to shape the neighborhood in particular directions. That'll be long after we both pass away. But I'm wondering if you can speak to what your aspirations for this neighborhood are in the in the future.
Ken Lyotier 25:15
Ah, it's a dream but, I got I cut my teeth getting involved in the Downtown Eastside on social housing, through First United Church. That's how I learned anything about this sort of at a different level of social issues and involved people, but and so for me without the housing, without decent, affordable housing and affordable for poor people, it's very hard to make a go of it. And I just think there's loads more opportunity than we want to acknowledge for our capacity to do that together. I mean, I think it requires a fundamental rethink of use of land, land use, basically, to use it for highest and best rather than maximization of profit, but that's too revolutionary for our time, has been all along the way. And we're becoming more and more economically invested and tied into having land as an investment rather than as an opportunity to maximize use for people. But in any event, I mean, I just think the number of offices that are sitting half empty downtown here, and how we may begin to look at those shells and turn them into something else, when there's people laying on the street. I mean, it's, there's a level of hypocrisy here, that's awful. But I got it in me too. Because I don't, I see people out on the street, and I don't bring them in anymore and lay them on my, on my floor. I can't handle it, you know, I, I can't handle the, the needs. So it isn't just about providing a shell. It's about supporting people, because people are already broken, and they're getting more broken. So it requires more and more to support people, to help through those hard times. And we don't know the half of that of what it is. What it takes to help people through that hard stuff, right? I mean, we're building this massive hospital down here next door, you know, good, we desperately need something close by, a big health place that could help people here. And we should be planning right now, for the intermediary pieces between that huge place that we're building, and the brokenness in our community. And thinking of what kind of fits there are where people could live, get healthy, be supported, get on with lives that are meaningful, and purposeful, and valued. And we're missing the point on that one so far, as far as I can see. And I don't know what it's going to take to crack that knot. But it's a fundamental one for me, like the housing case is, is fundamental. And the pressures between I get it, we live in a capitalist economy. And developers are sort of in there trying to generate revenue out of their developments, and they're trying to make profits. And there's that profits going on all over the place. But we're also a human economy. I mean, we're people. We're not just disposable. And, you know, it's time to start. Yeah, picking up people. It's not so easy, though. But you know, that's the thing, you know, if more people roll up their sleeves, get involved, discover the reality of it, see it for what it is. And it isn't, I mean, one of the things I think is really important is not to throw rocks at the other guy, you know, the other guy has his perspective and his values and his skills. And if we could join forces sometimes and work on these problems, we may get way, way further ahead than we thought, rather than totally being mistrustful of the possibility that we really could be human beings together, you know. Everybody that's involved in this has a human heart. This system was built by critters like us, you know, we got minds. We got hearts, we have souls, I guess, if you can find them, but I think most people, if they can get past, they're all sort of stuff, care. I think that that's what I see. Yeah, we have, we have some ways to go on some of the hateful stuff where we need to re-educate ourselves, you know, discrimination stuff, stuff against women, against, you know, visible minorities, disabled people, all that stuff. There's a lot of re-education of people that needs to happen, including yours truly, you know, just with this, you know, Truth and Reconciliation stuff. I've learned and honestly, I'm going through cancer treatment at the moment, through radiation treatment. So I have to go to the Cancer Centre, which is like a many United Nations, eh. It's wonderful. It's brilliant. But anyway, I went there with a friend, a longtime friend from the Downtown Eastside. He's Chinese origin, right? And anyway, we went there. And we were treated by a woman who came from the Philippines and a nurse. And she was telling us about how the day before the anti-vax people were protesting and they blocked people from getting into the Cancer Centre. People have been waiting months there to get an appointment and then they were blocked. But anyway, she wants to know how come I knew Jimmy, my friend. As I explained, well we've known each other for a long time. Anyway, she thought that was very interesting that a white guy like me, would know a Chinese guy and have him as his friend to come up to the Cancer Centre. And anyway, the thing was, she started to talk about how with Asian attacks and stuff, she had sort of a, built a wall, a barrier of dependency. And then they were talking about Jimmy and her talking about her. And, you know, I realized, I don't have a clue. God, I know, I need to hear those conversations, right? I just sat there listening like this such an education. I don't know, it's just like to be at somebody else's skin. But I can learn, but never crossed my mind. You know, unless people were able to talk about stuff. But there was rich. I've learned more in the last year, while than a long time. It's very good.
Am Johal 31:31
Ken, you've always had a real generosity with people, even those you might immediately disagree with, I'm wondering what your influences have been either people that you met, or things that you read that informed your way of working, which was to kind of reach across difference and to talk with different types of people in the work that you were doing to help bring people together?
Ken Lyotier 31:58
Well, I read a lot. Cramped in my house here. So many books, got a lot of them I've not read too. I've read a lot. But I don't know, if I've got it out of reading, I have a spiritual journey that I've been on since I sobered up. And that's how, you know, sort of test of moral compass that might have already been there, but broken or twisted or something. But it adjusts. But one of the keys, I think is to be honest about how we feel, which is hard. I mean, I've been pretty weepy during our conversation here. And I, I say that, maybe meds are a part of that. But it's the time in my life too, there's a lot of emotional stuff going on. But to be honest about how we feel, for example, you're sitting at a board meeting. And you're sitting with other people who have their agendas. And you have one, too, whether you can acknowledge it or not, but you have a perspective on things. And there's something on the table to be discussed. And there's decisions to be made about it. And there's power plays up at work there. And people are sizing it up to determine how they can get their wishes met. And sometimes, maybe, rightly, maybe wrongly, I might start to feel a little tension. I'll start to feel my heart beating a little faster. The way the conversation goes, I feel I'm being pressured. You know. I don't like the feeling. And this is uncomfortable. There's a little bit of fear in there. I don't, you know, I'm trying to hold everything under control. But I can feel the adrenaline starting to go. And I can feel I get an edge to my voice. And I don't like it and it's uncomfortable. And I need to say so. I need to say, this is how Ken's feeling right now. Describe it. Not accuse anybody of what they're doing. But tell about who I am and what's going on for me and put it on the table and say, when I'm feeling like that, I can't make a good decision. So I need to work through why I'm feeling like that, and then I can adjust that. I can help. But to not be honest about it. Either risk, going along, just 'cause you're going to go along with herd because you know you don't really know, or you just don't want to be upset, or confrontation, might still risk confrontation. But I personally think it's way better to get real and honest. And not think you're smarter than the other guy. And you're going to out negotiate him and or whatever. Sometimes you can. But I think being honest, and recognizing what your capacities are, you know, but honesty, not just about the cash register, but about what's going on in your heart. That's hard to do. Because when you do that, it really makes you vulnerable. It really puts you at risk because then everybody knows where your sensitivities are. But we don't have to apologize for having that. We're all just learning, you know, and if we really want to change things, God it would be nice if people could get there together. Be more real rather than having their, we're going to bully through our agenda, you know. Not the way the world is built, I know. We do have this adversarial system. But I think if we get closer to those things, we might make some way way better decisions. That's my opinion.
Am Johal 35:32
Ken, I know that you've had challenges to your health the last while and I won't dwell too far in it in the sense that you're probably going to lots of meetings and appointments to it. But wondering if you can speak to how you're spending your your days, as you, as you go through this?
Ken Lyotier 35:49
Well, I'm busier than I've been in a long time. It's unreal. I mean, I gotta tell you a secret Am, which maybe not breaks until after I croak, but you know, in my old dumpster diving ways, I was able to squirrel away as, you know, a vast fortune, which nobody will believe until I'm gone, and I've distributed it to all those that need, but no, important that I have sort of accumulated a little asset, which I have a plan to contribute to try and do things to help our community move ahead in a spirit that I want, hope people can believe in. And some good people that are willing to come on board and support that. So it's been a little bit of a thing to set that up and get it in place, and get my will done and get the banking done and get stuff in position. I have a wonderful group of neighbours in a place where I live, but they've been really supportive. And of course, and I've got this endless series of ongoing effort to sort of keep me relatively comfortable. I have, you know, a little while I don't have a long while, but I have a little while, and I want to enjoy it as much as I can. And, you know, I was thinking of our old friend, Jim Green, before we were going to talk today. And his love of opera, right? And listen to some opera. And it's so beautiful. And, that's probably why I'm all emotional. But, you know, we're, for most of my young life. I hid my feelings and I killed my feelings of alcohol and drugs. I think that's a lot of but I see around me in the Downtown Eastside, people that are in so much pain, they try to kill their feelings. And we feel before we think, so it's okay to have feelings. It's how we express them, eh. But in any event, so yeah, I I'm enjoying beautiful things. I went out and enjoyed the sunshine a bit today. Talked to a friend. Did some recycling. And I'm just keeping Ken going until Ken isn't gonna go anymore. And you know, what, I'm not afraid to talk about it. It's totally okay, of course I'd rather be here for a hundred more years and it's been a great life. But I'm not afeared and I'm not depressed. I'm just sort of where I'm at, you know, this is, living and dying are totally normal things to happen to every one of us. So it's okay, you know. We're all here. I always think this is eternity, is this is the main act. We're getting it right now. So it's okay. We've had our little taste. It's good.
Am Johal 38:49
What can I just want you to know you're you're a joy and an inspiration to so many people, including me and just watching you work from a distance, be interviewed on television, to run into you for a conversation, we learn from you just by being around you. And you've sort of played that role for a lot of people even though even if people hadn't told you that, in a while. It's very true. You're someone that we all learn from, and to help us think in a different way. And there's a gentleness and generosity to your spirit as well, that helps build community because of the way in which you work. And I think it makes us all better people to be around that way of working. So I just wanted to make sure you knew that.
Ken Lyotier 39:39
Well, coming from you, Am, I consider that I really really nice compliment. And the feeling is mutual. And I learned from you to my brother, lots. So thank you very, very much for sharing that. That's very nice of you.
Am Johal 39:56
And thank you so much for joining us and taking some moments in this time to speak to us. Is there anything you'd like to add?
Ken Lyotier 40:05
No, I'm done. Well not quite done, but I'm done for now.
Am Johal 39:40
Well, it's wonderful to see you in good spirits during this time.
Ken Lyotier 39:46
I was gonna say prepare for the second coming, but I better not. Okay, love you, Am.
Am Johal 39:53
Thank you, Ken. Love you, Ken. Bye.
Melissa Roach 40:31
Below the Radar is a knowledge democracy podcast created by SFU’s Vancity Office of Community Engagement. This has been our conversation with Ken Lyotier. Read more about Ken’s life and work at the links in the show notes. Thanks for listening and see you next time on Below the Radar.
[theme music fades]