March 29, 2013 marked my 20th year in BC. The journey to the West Coast began when a good friend asked me to travel from Charlottetown to Vancouver with him as costume maker and makeup artist; – Girl Friday while he pursued his dreams on the drag stage. I had just finished school with no plans and had casually started pursuing a hotel career, so it seemed no time like the present!
I remember the balmy day I arrived in Vancouver via train at the Pacific Central Station, awe-inspired as the snow-capped the mountains versus my knees as had been the scenario on the commencement of my journey in Moncton.
The sweetness of cherry blossoms, the grandiose mountains and the hum of the city were waiting for me. Until this point, the largest cities I had traveled were Halifax and Ottawa during my journey across country. I instantly felt at home in the beautiful city of Vancouver; it welcomed me with open arms. With my life packed in two suitcases, my friend and I set forth to find our new home.
Quickly we hopped on the Skytrain to Granville and went to the lunch counter at Eaton’s to ponder the classifieds for rentals. We stored our suitcases with friends and reviewed possible apartments in the Westend. We found a suitable place but reference and credit checks would take at least a day to secure our new home.
My friend assured me of a place for the evening. After celebrating our arrival with a few cocktails we proceeded to our room for the eve. Located adjacent to Pacific Central Station, I felt I had come full circle for the day and was looking forward to a good night’s rest.
I would not know the history of the Cobalt Motor Hotel until several years later, but I only imagined the stories as I entered arguably Vancouver’s most notorious “dirty secret”. A haven for prostitutes, drug trafficking and underground activity, even in my naivety this place would never have been on my list. Having worked in the hotel industry for only three short years, I knew this type of place was the reason my mother cried for days when I told her I was leaving for Vancouver. I quickly wished I had had another cocktail to build confidence I would need to overcome the fear ahead.
The only room available was $16 and my friend and I would have to share a bed. We settled in for the night in our clothes from the day. We would later go to the bathroom together and shower with our sneakers on. The hotel never slept with unfamiliar noises all night. The endless sounds echoed from the streets into the daylight and one’s I hoped I would soon forget.
We checked out of the Cobalt at 9:03am with enough time to walk to the Eaton’s lunch counter for breakfast for opening at 9:30am. We eventually made our way for 12:00pm to the building we would come to know as our first Vancouver home.
My experience that evening resonated the message, “don’t forget where you have come from”. One night at the Cobalt Motor Hotel gave me inspiration and hope to follow my dreams. Little did I know at that time my life would take a serious career path into luxury hotels in the two decades to follow. (Weeks after leaving the Cobalt, I went to work at the Hotel Vancouver). My struggles and obstacles seemed so minuscule to the one night I spent in the Cobalt listening to those suffering around me. I am blessed. I am grateful and thankful for the dreams I dared to dream and pursue. I travel by the Cobalt Motor Hotel as often as I can to remind myself of humility.