photos: Gary Kyle sells Megaphone at Cambie and Hastings in Vancouver. Photo: Jackie Wong.

Meet Gary Kyle, punk incarnate

"It’s important to know that there are outlets. There are ways out. And the biggest thing is having stable housing. Housing is the number-one priority we should be focusing on.”

Get on your megaphone

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“I played bass in a band for 10 years called Retox. The name was inspired by an episode of The Simpsons. There was a scene where Homer was sitting in Moe’s bar and across the bar jumped these three beer bottles that said “detox” on them. The band members saw that and thought to call the band Retox. It was a punk-metal band. We got together twice a week, nothing serious. But over time, we got better and better.

“I joined the band when I was living in Montreal and had come out to Vancouver to visit a friend of mine. I went to my friend’s place, they had drums and amps set up. We rented gear over the weekend, we jammed, and we just hit. Two weeks later, I came back from Montreal. We were together until about 2005, until Brett [one of the members] passed away.

“I’ll listen to pretty much everything these days. I discover new bands just by keeping up with the old ones. These days, I’m enjoying a band called American Sharks. They remind me of Black Sabbath, Motorhead, Corrosion of Conformity— all of them blended together.

“I discovered American Sharks through Gwar, who came to town recently. I caught the lineup: Corrosion of Conformity (COC) was playing with them, and American Sharks. I checked them out and was blown away.

“I’ve seen Gwar a couple times. When they play live, they put plastic up around the first 14 feet of the stage area. It’s called the Splatter Zone. At this stage in the game, I try to stay out of it. Back when we were younger, yeah, sure, I’d be right up in the mosh pit.

“Beyond music, I try to keep myself busy. I work part-time at Insite in the chill room, and also at the Washington Needle Depot. If it weren’t for a community resource [like Insite] for the people down here, the death rate would probably be a lot higher.

“I got into Megaphone when I was panhandling, of all things, at the same spot at Hastings and Granville. I did that for years. For a year and a half, Patrick [a Megaphone vendor who sells down the street] kept telling me, ‘Do the Megaphone thing. Do the Megaphone thing.’ He kept coming by, going, ‘Go do it! Go do it!’ I was like, ‘Yeah, whatever!’

“Then I came here [to the Megaphone office] for Hope in Shadows training [in 2013]. I did the training session, walked to Gastown. By the time I got to Gastown I was already sold. The first week, I think I sold like 20 or 30 calendars.

“I ended up getting the Megaphone going, too, in early 2014 after the calendar season ended. I found an area to work. It ended up being close to home, Cambie and Hastings.

“Selling Megaphone, you feel better about yourself. It’s not a guilt thing or anything.

“A lot of people think that because I’m selling Megaphone, I’m homeless. Hate to disappoint ‘em, but my housing’s actually really good! I’m grateful for that, that I’ve got stable housing. I managed to make it into housing the Woodward’s building almost three and a half years ago. I moved there after going through recovery at Onsite.

“The community’s changing. It’s tight down there. There’s not enough facilities for recovery. Places are overburdened.

“But it’s important to know that there are outlets. There are ways out. And the biggest thing is having stable housing. Housing is the number-one priority we should be focusing on.”

Gary sells Megaphone at Hastings and Cambie in Vancouver.

Get on your megaphone

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121 Heatley Ave
Vancouver, BC
V6A 3E9