https://rainn.org/

They Call Me Red

……

24 May 2013

I asked, Joy, “How was your weekend?”

“It was quiet. I’ve been having dizzy spells. I’d be watching television, and I’d go to get up, then find myself flat on the floor.”

“Have you seen the doctor?”

“No, Greg was supposed to come by Friday to take me to get my health card. I had all the information he asked me to bring. I’ve got it in my backpack in a plastic bag, so it doesn’t get wet. I guess he thought, because it was raining Friday, I wouldn’t be out, but I was. I waited all morning for him.”

“Can you phone him to arrange another time?”

“Yeah, I can do that at noon. They always come by. My leg is really hurting where I scraped it on the bus. I’ve been cleaning it with peroxide and putting Polysporin on it, but it looks really red at the edges. I think it’s infected.

“Chester has been by, just hanging around. I don’t know why he does that. He knows I’m working. I still need four dollars and twenty cents.”

“I guess he was on a butt run, was he?”

“Yeah, I guess so. He probably didn’t find enough on Friday to last him the weekend.”

“Nobody has seen anything of Andre. He’s really gone AWOL. Last month, O.D.S.P (Ontario Disability Support Program) fucked up. They gave everyone their full check, without first taking off rent payments. Andre spent his on booze. He has until the end of the month to get his stuff out of his apartment — and he has a lot of stuff. He lasted there a lot longer than I figured he would.”

I asked, “How long has he been staying there?”

“He moved in just before I did, so that would be six months.

“I’m waiting for Shark to come by with my native cigarettes. He’s taken over from Buck, but I’ve hardly seen him. He usually comes by on Tuesdays.”

“When I’ve seen him, he seemed very quiet.”

“Yeah, I think he’s doing junk again. Smashing crack into his arm. It seems so stupid. Five or six Valium will give you the same feeling and doesn’t leave you drug sick.”

“Wolf, has been downtown all weekend. He’s been too drunk to walk home. He’s been sleeping at ‘the heater’, of all places. I’m glad I have my apartment. I’d hate to be sleeping outside right now.”

Sample my books for free — To date, $1945.00 has been donated to the homeless:

Gotta Find a Home: Conversations with Street People

http://buff.ly/1SGzGCY ($2.99 Download)
http://buff.ly/1qLHptc ($.299 Download)
https://buff.ly/2lUfp6Q ($.99 Download)
https://buff.ly/2Gkoyxj ($2.99 Download)
They Call Me Red:
https://buff.ly/2GJSDsG ($2.96 Download)
Podcasts:http://buff.ly/1Pxlf9p
http://www.blunttalk.libsyn.com/
http://buff.ly/1XU368M
http://buff.ly/2iYvOE4
http://buff.ly/2jdjZd6

RWISA “RISE UP” TOUR

Posted: October 31, 2019 in Dialog, Prose

Long-time readers of this blog know that since 2010 I have recounted my conversations with street people who I met on an almost daily basis. I belong to a group entitled RAVE WRITERS – INTERNATIONAL SOCIETY OF AUTHORS, who have issued the following challenge:

“As we get closer to the end of 2019, we’d like to share with the masses our dreams and visions of a much better world. Every day in November, we hope to profile one story a day, your story, in a blog post sharing what you would do to make this world a much better place if money and time were not barriers in your life. We’re calling this the RWISA “RISE UP” TOUR because we want the world to rise up and do more!”

 

i do what i can.

crying

i’m sitting on the sidewalk
as a woman, huddled in a blanket,
a patterned do-rag on her head,
sobs on my shoulder.
i put my arm around her
and say, “it’s okay.”
knowing that nothing is okay,
it will never be okay.

i’m beyond my depth.
i don’t know what to do,
or what to say…
anything that comes to mind
is shallow and meaningless.
this woman’s experiences
are completely foreign to me.
what do I know —
about alcoholism?
about motorcycle gangs?
about sleeping on the streets?

all i can do is let her cry,
tell her that she has forgiveness,
that what saddens her,
what keeps her awake,
or gives her nightmares,
is all in the past.
it’s time to forgive herself
and love herself
and live
in the present moment.

she can’t go on.
she can’t stand the pain.
she can’t do this anymore.
drink is the only thing
that numbs her mind;
enough to endure–
enough to pass out at night
and do it all over again
the next day.

i can only do
and say so much.
it’s always a pleasant surprise
to see her sitting on the sidewalk,
knowing that she’s made it
through another night;
that she hasn’t been taken
by violence, sickness
or the police.

i do what i can.

 

Have you sat on a frozen sidewalk watching pedestrians walk past as if you were invisible? Have you been physically or verbally abused, spit upon, had hot coffee thrown at you because of your appearance? Have your friends been beaten or worse, doused with gasoline and set on fire because they were sleeping on a park bench? Have a dozen or more of your neighbors been murdered over the past ten years?

There are many reasons why people become homeless: losing a job; family break-up; family violence; mental illness; poor physical health; addiction sickness; physical, sexual or emotional abuse – to name just a few. But, the defining reason is the loss of housing.

Can you imagine the problems of being homeless: no credit; no privacy; no mailing address; no phone; no private bathroom; no stove; no washer and dryer; no locks to secure personal belongings or to ensure your personal safety? My street friends endure this merciless punishment every day.

It’s a staggering fact that “1 out of 3 Americans are 1 Paycheck away from being Homeless”. They are homeless because wages are low and housing prices are forever rising.” (Medium.com) https://buff.ly/2BNvL90) Statistics have shown that housing is no longer affordable for low-income earners. Often, taking on a second or even a third job is necessary to pay the rent.

I once thought that our government and social service agencies provided a safety net that would take care of those in dire need. I volunteered at a homeless shelter and found that was not the case. I asked Joy, who features in all of my books, why she didn’t go to the Salvation Army for meals. She said, “I was raped there last Christmas, so I don’t go there anymore.”

In a Toronto Globe and Mail article, January 14, 2018, the subheading read, “As temperatures dip, the city’s homeless must often choose between freezing conditions and sometimes dangerous public shelters.” A homeless woman named Barb was quoted, “It’s safer out here. There’s no bugs. No one’s going to beat you up or steal your shit.” https://buff.ly/2Nfcq5F

I have heard sickening stories of abuse as children and babies born with drug dependencies. Most have mental and physical illnesses, suffer beatings, broken bones, stabbings, and have a fear of abusive partners, or the police, or both. Authority in any form is seen negatively, as a means to control their lives. The homeless shelters are noisy, infested with bed bugs, the scene of fights and a place where personal items are stolen. Most of these people prefer to sleep inside common areas such as bank foyers, outside under bridges, or behind dumpsters.

Debbie noticed the cloth bag I was carrying. On it was printed Hope Shelter where I volunteered. She said, “There was a man who was barred from  No Hope Shelter. The temperature was minus forty degrees. No place would let him in. He froze to death standing up, leaning against a brick wall.”

“Why was he barred?” I asked.

“It doesn’t matter why he was barred! Nobody should be forced to freeze to death!” I agreed with her.

“Get a job!” is a comment often heard on the street. To casual passersby this may sound like a reasonable solution; however, to a homeless person, there are many invisible barriers as to why some people are unemployable. Applications for employment require a mailing address, email address and phone number, something that the homeless can’t provide. Interviewers expect candidates to be well dressed. This is difficult if you’re living out of a backpack and relying on public washrooms. Illiteracy is a factor among some of the homeless. They need assistance to complete an application of any kind. Education levels may be low due to eviction from the family home at an early age. Drug use often leads to incarceration and a prison record. All of these factors are barriers to employment. In a variant of the well-known phrase attributed to John Bradford, “There, but for the grace of God, go I.”

Bearded Bruce described his situation as follows, “Hi Mate, I’m going through a hard time. Someone photographed me panhandling and now my welfare has been cut off. I went to their office to see them and I nearly lost it. All I’m getting now is three ninety-five a month. I said to the guy, ‘Where am I going to live on three ninety-five. The cheapest room in a boarding house costs four-fifty. Could you live on three ninety-five a month?’ He said, ‘No.’ I said, ‘If I was a prostitute you’d accept that as working, but if I say I’m a panhandler you won’t accept that!’ He said, ‘You’re right, panhandling is against the law, prostitution isn’t, as long as there is no solicitation involved.’ You see, if a high priced call girl with her own apartment does tricks she can claim that as income. She even has to pay taxes on it. It’s a crazy world we live in. I’m going to claim to be a prostitute.”

With the assistance of my sister-in-law, a real estate broker, and her husband, a retired financial planner we envisioned the CARDIFF HOMELESS REHABILITATION CLINIC. The objectives of this clinic are as follows:

Providing accessible mental and substance abuse/addiction care for the homeless in the Greater Ottawa area.

Utilizing a service system that emphasizes trust, respect, confidentiality, compassion, empathy and spirituality.

Collaborative professional effort and commitment from volunteers in the health care industry (doctors, nurses, psychologists, pharmacists, etc.), administrative support.

The Ottawa Innercity Health Resource assists the various organizations servicing the homeless in Ottawa. We have met with them on several occasions and received their encouragement and support. They offered the volunteer services of addiction medicine specialists, doctors, nurses, pharmacists, psychiatrists and any other staff required. What we need is a building.

We don’t wish to duplicate services already available but, from speaking with my street brothers and sisters I learned some reasons why present shelters and other homeless services are avoided and others need to be improved. I took our clinic proposal to the people forced to live on the streets and asked for their advice. Bearded Bruce had the following comments:

“Follow up and job placement would be mandatory. These people would need to trust that there was someone to turn to if they had a relapse or things went bad. You must be willing to accept people who are drunk and/or on drugs. At present these people are barred from AA and the Salvation Army. They demand that an addict be clean for twenty-four hours before entering their premises. There is a small window where addicts have hit rock bottom and may decide that they desperately want recovery. If an addict or an alcoholic can resist for twenty-four hours they don’t need a program. In Scotland and Holland, addicts commit to seventy-two hours where they are locked in and sometimes tied down. After that, it’s their decision to stay or go.

“There would need to be a pharmacist to administer the drugs of choice. Methadone is not a substitute for heroin, it replaces the craving and is administered to a user who has given up the drug, much like a nicotine patch is used by someone quitting smoking. You can’t just slap a patch on a smoker and expect any results. They have to have a deep desire to quit. Being told by a doctor that you either quit or die is often enough motivation.

“It’s essential that there be representatives on the board who were down and out drug users or alcoholics and are now in recovery. Nobody else would know the hell that recovering addicts go through. As an example, a man wouldn’t be effective as a counselor at a rape crisis center, unless the man had himself been raped. A healthy youth wouldn’t be effective counseling to elderly arthritis sufferers about how to deal with their pain. As a parent you wouldn’t be effective counseling pedophiles, you’d look down at them with disgust. Am I getting my point across?

“Another thing you would need is security. If addicts can’t get money for drugs they’ll resort to violence and stealing. This causes bad feelings. If both the thief and the person stolen from are in the same room, or if one is outside and the other is inside, they’ll break down the door to get revenge. If you’d like I’d be willing to speak to this group, and could refer other people who may be of value in the program.”

Ted added, “I know so much about those places I could be a counselor. In group sessions when you first arrive you have to give a statement. It would start with, ‘I am an addict and I can’t control my addiction.’ Sometimes, when young girls were asked to describe their situation they’d start crying and say they couldn’t talk about it, the counselor would say, ‘Go over and talk to Ted. He knows what’s going on.’ So, they’d come over and I’d say. ‘You have to be open and honest. You say you can’t talk about what happened, but the truth is that you’re not willing to talk about it. The only way this program is going to help is if you put your heart in it.” These people need help, but they want it on their own terms. They don’t choose addiction. It’s a disease and should be treated as such.

The CARDIFF HOMELESS REHABILITATION CLINIC is a viable proposal and would make Ottawa a much better place. I have the time and medical support but lack the money to either build or rent a suitable property.

What I have learned over the past years has changed my life. The people, who I consider my friends, are alcoholics, drug and other substance users. Some work as prostitutes, some have AIDS, most or all have served time in jail for various offenses. All of them I would trust with my life. They have welcomed me into their street family. I am honored to consider them my brothers and sisters.

“We can’t help everyone, but everyone can help someone,” said Ronald Reagan. The next time you see a person begging for money, smile, say hello and open your heart. Offer to buy them a coffee or a breakfast sandwich. Perhaps, they are in need of bus tickets to attend an appointment. Converse with them and consider the words of Bill Nye, “Everyone you will ever meet knows something you don’t.” Without exception strangers are people just like us, seeking happiness and an end to suffering.

To date, $1945.00 has been donated to the homeless.

 

https://rainn.org/

They Call Me Red

……

24 May 2013

Payback Is Sweet 

A light rain was falling,  it was see-your-breath cold. Metro said to me, “You won’t believe it, but Joy is at her spot.”

As I approached I could see her huddled over, rocking slightly. “Joy,” I said, “you look cold.”

“I am. I forgot my heavy coat. By the time I realized how cold it was I was halfway to the bus stop. I’m wearing Jake’s sweater, two layers of long underwear under my jeans, but I’m still freezing.

I said, “I didn’t go to the park yesterday because of the rain.”

“We just huddled together inside the glassed-in bus shelter: Outcast, Jacques and Little Jake. Finally, I said, ‘Why don’t we just go to my place? I’ll cook something.’

As I was getting on the bus I slipped and landed on the front step of the bus. I didn’t notice at first but there was a deep gash in my shin. Outcast said, ‘You should go to the hospital.’ I’ll show you.”

I said, “Don’t take the bandage off.”

“It’s okay unless this kind of stuff really freaks you out.”

“No, I don’t have a problem with that.” Joy removed the bandage and revealed a one inch gash on the front of her shin. “You wouldn’t believe how much blood came out of there, some is still on my shoe.”

I asked, “Has Jake tried to get in contact with you?”

“No, but I’m tempted to park myself in front of the Salvation Army and watch for him. Jacques has seen him. Chester has seen him. He’s still wearing my Tiger-Cats sweatshirt, number sixty-four. I’ll never peel that off him. He’s wearing shorts too. I said to Chester, ‘I bet they’re tan color, cargo shorts.’ Chester said, ‘Yes, that’s what he was wearing.’

“That’s what he was wearing when he went in. They’re supposed to launder them for you before you’re released. I was in for three years. I couldn’t get into the jeans I came in with. They were too tight.”

I asked, “Did you gain weight in prison?”

“Yeah, that and I had my son, Nicholas.”

I said, “I remember you telling me that you had been raped by a jail guard.”

“Yeah, Rob Nottingham. He isn’t with the prison system anymore. I saw to that. When Nicholas was old enough, I told him that his father died in the war.  One day he came home from school and said to me, ‘My dad didn’t die in the war; if he had that would make you about eighty years old. What really happened? Where did I come from? So I had to tell him the full story.”

“One day, at my mom’s place where we were staying, I heard a banging at the front door. Nicholas was crying upstairs. I was yelling at my mom to answer the door. She was yelling at me to answer it. I could hear a Harley revving up in the driveway. My uncle and some of his friends were there with Rob spread-eagled on the driveway. ‘What do you want us to do with him?’ he asked. Fuck, I figured that costing him his job was enough, but my uncle didn’t see it that way. With the back wheel of the bike spinning, they forced his hand in, again and again. He ended up with two fingers and a thumb on one hand, the other was just a stump. I still remember the screams.”

Five O’clock

Message from Stella,

Hi Dennis; Sadly, Bear passed away today. At a Veterinary check-up, a large tumor was discovered in his abdomen. Probably Cancer and the Veterinarian did not think Bear would survive surgery & Chemo. I was with Bear as well as Bruce and the wonderful people from the Veterinary Community Outreach program. He went peacefully as I was holding his paw. Will miss them both.

Sample my books for free — To date, $1945.00 has been donated to the homeless:

Gotta Find a Home: Conversations with Street People

http://buff.ly/1SGzGCY ($2.99 Download)
http://buff.ly/1qLHptc ($.299 Download)
https://buff.ly/2lUfp6Q ($.99 Download)
https://buff.ly/2Gkoyxj ($2.99 Download)
They Call Me Red:
https://buff.ly/2GJSDsG ($2.96 Download)
Podcasts:http://buff.ly/1Pxlf9p
http://www.blunttalk.libsyn.com/
http://buff.ly/1XU368M
http://buff.ly/2iYvOE4
http://buff.ly/2jdjZd6

https://rainn.org/

They Call Me Red

……

22 May 2013

There had been a torrential rain shower earlier in the day, so at noon the sidewalks were damp and the weather was muggy. I sat on the curb next to Debbie.

A man was standing in front of Wolf with four lighters. He was shaking each one of them to see which was the fullest. After he had decided, he put one in his pocket and left the rest. He said, “I can get a hundred bucks for this in prison. The only other way to light a cigarette is to spark two electrical wires together.” He looked at his watch and said, “I’m going to be late.” He hurried off and returned a few minutes later. He grabbed his jacket off Shaggy’s cart and said, “Now, I’m really going to be late.” Again, he hurried off.

Wolf said, “That’s Kenny, my neighbor. He’s also my connection, I should say my white connection, but he got caught trying to sell two bricks to a narc. They gave him two years. There’s good money selling drugs, but it’s illegal, you take your chances.  Now, he’s going to turn himself in with fifty pills and a lighter up his ass. He knew it was coming. He’d only been putting off the inevitable.

“What I worry about is the baby pit bull terrier he has. I guess his roommate will be looking after him. He’s a big guy who rides with a motorcycle gang.”

“My cousin was up from Virginia. He couldn’t get over how we drink beer on the street and smoke joints. Mind you down there you could be sitting there cleaning your gun. That would be fine, but pull out a joint or a beer and you’re looking at a prison sentence.

“That’s Virginia, I’ve heard it’s even worse in places like Alabama. When his son turned sixteen the first thing he did was to enroll him in the N.R.A. He figured that if his son was going to be around guns, he better know how to use one.”

Debbie turned to me and asked, “Did I tell you that I made a proposition, at the university, about a housing project for the homeless. This professor put me down, made me look like a fool. What would he know about the homeless? You can listen to my ideas or not — I don’t give a fuck.

“One day I’m going to write a book.”

I said, “That’s a good idea, to write about the homeless.”

“It’ll go way deeper than that. I’ll show where the corruption started. It’s been all downhill from there.”

I asked, “Do you think that the government is to blame?”

“Partly, with all the treaties they broke, but it’s more than that. I’m looking for a sponsor. Do you know anybody who would sponsor me?”

“What would be required of this sponsor?”

“I’d need office supplies, paper, a filing cabinet.”

“How about a computer? Do you think that would help?”

“I don’t know anything about computers. I do everything the old-fashioned way.”

“Have you thought of using a computer in the library? They’re free.”

“I can’t go to the library. I’m banned. There’s a book I never returned. I can’t get a library card until I pay for that book.”

Sample my books for free — To date, $1945.00 has been donated to the homeless:

Gotta Find a Home: Conversations with Street People

http://buff.ly/1SGzGCY ($2.99 Download)
http://buff.ly/1qLHptc ($.299 Download)
https://buff.ly/2lUfp6Q ($.99 Download)
https://buff.ly/2Gkoyxj ($2.99 Download)
They Call Me Red:
https://buff.ly/2GJSDsG ($2.96 Download)
Podcasts:http://buff.ly/1Pxlf9p
http://www.blunttalk.libsyn.com/
http://buff.ly/1XU368M
http://buff.ly/2iYvOE4
http://buff.ly/2jdjZd6

https://rainn.org/

They Call Me Red

……

22 May 2013

Joy was in good spirits this morning. She said, “I almost thought you were going to walk right by. Who is that woman sitting on the plastic crate? For some reason I’m in a good mood today, I don’t know why. I was at Bearded Bruce’s yesterday. I did some cleaning for him. What is it about guys that they leave things in such a mess?”

“I’m surprised,” I said, “with him being a cook and all.”

“Yeah, if it was a restaurant, I wouldn’t want to eat there. I was just about to throw out a cup of bacon grease. Bruce said, ‘Hey, don’t throw that out. That’s my grease. I use it for everything I cook.’

“He does, I couldn’t find any margarine, so  I buttered his toast with it. It’s no wonder he had a heart attack.

“His place is even smaller than mine. If his was this much bigger (holding her arms apart about four feet) it would be my apartment. Then he has this huge bed. It takes up almost the entire room.

“I had a great time playing with Bear. I took him down to the river. He ran right in. I tried putting this collar on him (indicating a strap wrapped around her ankle). He wouldn’t have anything to do with it. I put it around my neck and said to him, ‘See, Mommy wears a collar. It’s okay.’ I’m glad that he’s with Bruce now. He’s officially retired. Bruce doesn’t take him panning like Weasel did.

“Can you get me a copy of Weasel’s obituary? Wolf was showing it around yesterday, but he snatched it back before I could read it. I don’t know why Little Jake was so upset, considering how Weasel abused him. Wolf read a few things that really seemed funny, like Weasel being an athlete. He could barely get up off his ass. There was something else about him being caring. He didn’t care about anybody but himself, but something happened a week or so ago. I asked him for two dollars. He said, ‘I’ve only got a twenty.’ I said, ‘Well, I’m not running for change.’ He said, ‘Keep the whole thing. Consider it a gift.’ I said, ‘Sure, it’s eighteen dollars more than I needed.’ A few days later he died.”

A man walked by and sneezed, Joy said, “Bless you!” To me she said, “I wish I could sneeze like that. You can’t imagine how much that would hurt my ribs.”

I asked, “Are you going to see the doctor today?”

“No, tomorrow. Yesterday I phoned and made an appointment. I’m so glad I have my immunization card. I asked if he wanted my Birth Certificate. He said, (imitating a deep voice) ‘Yes, please bring that along too.’ So, I’ll get everything checked out and taken care of.”

Metro walked by, seeing Joy and I sitting together he said, “What’s the split — sixty forty? Seventy thirty? Is he your pimp?”

Joy said, “Pimp, none of the girls have pimps anymore, unless they’re high-class call girls. Now, forty to sixty bucks will get you anything you want. Fuck, a crack ho will do you for soup and a sandwich.

“When I was in Montreal, my girlfriend and I had a pimp — a big black guy. We did all the work, he got most of the money. We figured, ‘What do we need this guy for? Protection? We were getting the shit beaten out of us by the johns all the time. We decided to go independent. That was a mistake. One night a big black car came down the street where we were working. It stopped, we were told to get in. They took us to the bus station, gave us a ticket and said, ‘You’re going to Detroit.’ I said, ‘Better kill me right now, ’cause there’s no way I’m going to Detroit alive.’

A large garbage truck stopped near by, Joy yelled,  “Hi, Sunshine!” A good-looking, young man waved before emptying the garbage cans. I asked Joy, “I’ve been introduced to him before, but I forget his name.” Joy said, “I forget his name too. I just like looking at his tight butt.” He came over, shook hands with us both, then went on his way.

A man wearing a Leafs hockey jersey walked by. Joy said, “Hi, Father Peter!” He stopped and chatted for a while. Joy said, “I see you’re not wearing your collar today.” He said, “I just came from breakfast; I didn’t want to get it dirty.” Joy asked, “Have you seen Father Jacob lately?” After he left she said, “They’re getting younger and cuter every day. Those priests would surprise you. I saw Father Jacob grab some woman’s ass the other day; at least it wasn’t a guy’s ass he grabbed.”

Chester came shuffling along. I took that as my cue to leave.  I asked Joy, “Will I see you at noon today?” She said, “You sure will, even if it’s just to bitch at the guys.”

Sample my books for free — To date, $1945.00 has been donated to the homeless:

Gotta Find a Home: Conversations with Street People

http://buff.ly/1SGzGCY ($2.99 Download)
http://buff.ly/1qLHptc ($.299 Download)
https://buff.ly/2lUfp6Q ($.99 Download)
https://buff.ly/2Gkoyxj ($2.99 Download)
They Call Me Red:
https://buff.ly/2GJSDsG ($2.96 Download)
Podcasts:http://buff.ly/1Pxlf9p
http://www.blunttalk.libsyn.com/
http://buff.ly/1XU368M
http://buff.ly/2iYvOE4
http://buff.ly/2jdjZd6

https://rainn.org/

They Call Me Red

……

 

21 May 2013

All weekend I’ve been anxious about Joy, wondering what Big Jake will do. When I saw her sitting in her usual spot I was relieved.

“Joy, I’ve been worrying about you all weekend!.

“Why?”

“Friday you were so nervous about what Jake might do.”

“Yeah, I guess I was. He didn’t do anything. I was so bored on Sunday, I borrowed Chester’s phone and called Rodent. I said, ‘Hi, whatcha doin’? Care to come over to my place for a barbecue?’ He got all flustered, he said, ‘Jake stayed with me for a few days, but he’s gone now. I don’t know where he is.  He has all this paperwork about how he’s supposed to stay away from you.’ I said, ‘Yeah, so when has that ever stopped him before? Usually, he’d just move back in with me.’

“That Rodent, he’s such a liar and a scum bag. Jake was probably sitting right beside him. We’ll meet up, maybe today, maybe tomorrow. Who knows?”

I said, “That’s the thing with life, we never know what the next moment will bring.”

“Life’s a bitch and then you die.”

“Joy’s words of wisdom and inspiration for the week?”

“Yeah,  something like that. I’ve got a splitting headache and the dizzy spells have come back. Hippo went to the East General Hospital and got my immunization card with my medical number on it.  I don’t have it with me now, but I’ll bring it tomorrow. I’ll stop by the Mission, or go to the Clinic on Dundas, to have a doctor check me out.

“I’ve been reading this book by Justin Cronin, The Passage Trilogy.  I’m nearly finished and it’s over nine hundred pages. The only other time I can remember finishing a book was when I was doing time.”

“Will I see you at the park at noon?”

“Yeah, as long as it’s not pissin’ down rain.”

Sample my books for free — To date, $1945.00 has been donated to the homeless:

Gotta Find a Home: Conversations with Street People

http://buff.ly/1SGzGCY ($2.99 Download)
http://buff.ly/1qLHptc ($.299 Download)
https://buff.ly/2lUfp6Q ($.99 Download)
https://buff.ly/2Gkoyxj ($2.99 Download)
They Call Me Red:
https://buff.ly/2GJSDsG ($2.96 Download)
Podcasts:http://buff.ly/1Pxlf9p
http://www.blunttalk.libsyn.com/
http://buff.ly/1XU368M
http://buff.ly/2iYvOE4
http://buff.ly/2jdjZd6

https://rainn.org/

They Call Me Red

……

18 May 2013
William Robinson’s Obituary
 July 10, 1965 – May 8, 2013. Outdoors-man, dog lover, storyteller, avid reader, sportsman, son, brother, stepson, brother in law, uncle, great uncle, nephew, friend and faithful Boston Bruins fan.He was a sensitive and creative soul whose life did not follow a conventional path. In his early years, William was an athlete who excelled at hockey and soccer. He also enjoyed a love of sailing. He worked as a videographer, a tradesman and a nanny. While William lived most of his life in Toronto, he also lived in Vancouver and spent time in Ireland. His last years were challenging and he spent much of his time on the streets of Toronto with his loyal companion, his dog Bear. They were very grateful for the kindness of strangers.William’s family and friends love him, miss him and wish him safe and happy travels.

A private celebration of William’s life has taken place. His ashes are now in Halifax and will be scattered on the Atlantic, as he wished.

William’s family extends a special thanks to Leigh and Karen at Good Shepherd Ministries Homeless Shelter.

If desired, a donation may be sent to The Good Shepherd Ministries Homeless Shelter, 412 Queen St E, Toronto, ON M5A 1T3.

Published in The Toronto Star on May 18, 2013

Wolf handed me Weasel’s obituary to read. He said, “I like the line, ‘His was a sensitive and creative soul.’ He was a good friend and I don’t want to get Little Jake upset, but just between me and you, it doesn’t say anything about how many times he punched Jake in the head, when he was high on crack; or the time he kicked my door down, trashed my apartment and beat me. I know I shouldn’t speak bad of the dead, but I just had to say that. You understand?”

“I understand, Wolf.”

“Okay, enough said about that. I really enjoyed the book you gave me, the one about the war;  not the one about the racehorse. Horse racing is for rich people. I didn’t think I’d understand the racing terms. I put it in my bookshelf and I’ll read it someday.

“but the other book, by Ken Follett, that was really great. It gave me something to read all weekend. Once I started it I couldn’t put it down. Did you like it?”

“I haven’t read it.”

“You haven’t? Do you want me to bring it back to you? Have you, at least, read the back of the book, so you know what it’s about?”

“Yes, I read the back, but no, Wolf, you hang on to it. I’ve got too many books on the go right now.”

“Okay, I understand, but just so you know, that’s the kind of book I can really get into. Did you know that it starts on the first day of the Second World War? They had some massive planes that could land on the sea, but then they built so many runways that these planes just weren’t practical. After all the whole idea was to use them for bombing and if they had to land near the shore that wasn’t so good.  Have you aver seen a big plane that could land on the ocean?”

“I’ve seen pictures of big seaplanes.”

“At first, when I started reading, I thought they were after a spy on the plane, but it turned out that they were really looking for a  scientist. If they caught him they’d put him in chains in some prison and would have interrogated him until they got all the information they needed to develop the atomic bomb. You know what would’ve happened then?   We wouldn’t be here.”

I asked, “Has anyone seen or heard anything about Serge,  in the past six months?”

Little Frank said, “No, the last I heard, he was in the hospital, on life support. He didn’t have any family, that anyone knew of. We didn’t even know his last name.  Another person we haven’t seen for a while is Blair. I’m guessing that they’ve both passed on.

Mariah was sitting on the other side of me. I asked her, “How have you been feeling?”

“I’m okay today, otherwise I wouldn’t be here. I’ve got a pain in my hip caused by two slipped disks in my spine. I have two others that have been fused since I was nineteen. I was having treatment for about six months.  At first,  I could hardly move.  My back was hunched over and I couldn’t straighten up. They gave me anti-inflammatory pills, and put those little electric pads on me, but that’s all they could do for the first couple of months. They couldn’t manipulate my back,  have me do exercises or anything. Eventually, it eased up and they got the disks back in alignment. That was a year ago.

“Now, when I feel a pain coming on. I just rest at home for a few days. That seems to take care of it.”

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……

17 May 2013

I was late this morning,  so I only had a few minutes to talk with Joy.  She was sitting on her plastic crate and was visibly shaking.  “I just heard this morning, from Jacques, that Jake was out of prison.  I thought he was getting out today. I didn’t sleep a wink last night.

“Rodent had a party for him yesterday. Jacques was invited, but didn’t go.  Shark and Irene were invited. They may have gone,  I don’t know. Rodent told me that, if Jake ever came near me, he’d kick him out of his house. That’s never stopped Jake before. He’d just stay somewhere else.”

I said, “You mentioned that you’d been in contact with Jake and that he’d wanted to get together with you. That sounds like he still cares for you.”

“Yeah, he wants to hook up, but twenty-six months in prison would make him a bit pissy. Even when we were on good terms, that didn’t stop him from beating me.

“I thought I saw him on the corner a while back. I nearly shit my pants. It turned out to be someone else. I’ll see him sooner or later. I’m definitely getting drunk today. I’ve panned enough for a bottle.’

“I wonder if Jake’s heard about you being beaten by Andre. That would upset him.”

“Yeah, Andre’s spent next month’s rent.  He’s just finishing out his last month’s rent.  He said he’ll be leaving town next month. I’m sure his sister won’t take him in. Can you imagine? He’d be drunk, having pool parties until all hours, kicking doors in. She wouldn’t put up with that, even from her scum bag brother.

“Are you going to be at the park at noon?”

“I’ll be there. Take care.”

 

The park was sunny, warm, everything one could hope for in the way of weather.  I sat next to Joy on the curb.

“Has anything happened?” I asked. “I see you’re still in one piece.”

“No, Jake hasn’t been around. You know the party that Rodent arranged for his homecoming? Nobody came. Shark and Irene were invited, but they didn’t want to go. Shark said, ‘Why would we want to go there?’ Rodent thought he had friends, but the only ones he has are the ones he buys with booze or drugs.

“I almost wish Jake had come by. I wanted to ask him if he felt violated last night. I wouldn’t put it past Rodent to drop some Dilaudid in his beer. I’m sure that’s what he did to Chester that time I was staying there. After two beer Chester was staggering — and he can drink a lot. Rodent was rubbing his back, rubbing his thigh. I didn’t stick around but I’m sure he waited until Chester passed out then it was slam, bam, then he rammed. I shouldn’t talk like this, but when it comes to Rodent, he’s such a perv. I can’t stand the guy.”

I asked, “Do you have any plans for the weekend?”

“No, I need some pot, so I invited Buck over for supper. He asked, ‘What are you cooking?’ I said, ‘Steak.’ So he said, ‘Okay, I’ll be over.’ I really don’t want to be alone this weekend, and you can bet I’m staying sober. I want to be able to see what’s coming, so I can duck.

“Jake should be getting  his forms filled out for O.D.S.P. (Ontario Disability Support Program).  He was on it for a few months before he went inside. He’s using a cane now. He should have had his hip replaced two years ago. If he had, he wouldn’t have gone to prison. If he was on crutches, he wouldn’t have been able to hit me. He’s got to be pissed after twenty-six months inside.”

I said, “I notice that Lucy is here; is Daimon around?”

“No, he’s in hospital. He’s having problems with his ankle that Buddy broke in their fight  last year. That’s the way with ankles. I should know, I’ve had mine broken five times each.

“I see that Willie’s getting crazy. He’s into  the sherry again. I don’t know what it is with these guys. I water mine down, so it tastes better,  but I drink as much as them. It’s just over a longer period of time.”

Mariah came by and asked Joy, “Was that you screaming last night?”

“No, I went to bed at six o’clock and was watching videos. I didn’t sleep all night. I didn’t hear a thing.”

“The neighbor above you, heard something too. She said it sounded like, “No you can’t come in! Get away from here!’ I thought it might have been that scum bag, Andre, skulking around again.”

Gaetan said, “Something funny happened a while ago. It wasn’t really funny. I guess, it was sort of bad for me. Anyway, I found this doctor’s bag, you know with a stethoscope, blood pressure meter, the light they use to look in your ears and nose, all that kind of stuff. It was just lying on the sidewalk. I took it home and tested my blood pressure; it was bad — one ninety over ninety. My dad died at fifty-one of a heart attack. I’ve already outlived him by four years. I think my blood pressure is up because of stress. I just bought a Harley; I’ve got payments to make. I’ve never had that before.  I’ll just have to learn to relax.

“I’m happy, we’re all happy. Even if I had lots of money, I wouldn’t be happier than I am now. Money doesn’t buy happiness. Do you know what’s important in life?”

I said, “Love, friends, family?”

“That’s right, what you see all around you. This is family.

“Do you know why the cops give us tickets? It’s because at the end of the year, when they show a deficit, they say they need more money because of unpaid parking tickets. They’d never say it’s because homeless people haven’t paid their fines for drinking violations. Some of the people here owe, thousands, tens of thousands of dollars.”

I said, “I know, Jacques has his walls covered with tickets.

“A cop said, the other day, ‘Three tickets and I get a toaster.’ I guess he was happy to meet his quota.”

Serge said, “I don’t think it’s fair that they have a quota. Do you think it’s fair?”

“I don’t know, Serge, it’s too complicated for me.”

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……

 

16 May 2013

Today the park was cool and breezy.  I had two books for Wolf, one by Ken Follett, Winter of the World and one by Dick Francis, Comeback. From reading the back covers they seemed like the type of shoot-em-up stories that he would enjoy. Shakes was seated on the curb, lying back into the bushes, sound asleep.

Jacques said to me, “I don’t think you’ll see Joy today. She hasn’t been panning for the past few days. Today is the day that Jake gets out of prison.”

I said, “I wonder how that’s going to work out. She already has broken ribs.  Jake may be upset that it was her testimony that sent him to Milhaven. Also, he’s going to be upset with Andre, who will be no match for him.”

Jacques said, “I talked to Mariah,  she said that Joy hasn’t been home. She did mention going to Chuck’s place for some moose steaks. Maybe she stayed over there. Maybe she went to visit Outcast. I hope not, he’s not good people.”

Wolf added, “Yeah, what’s the point of going to his place if, ten minutes later, he throws you out.”

Shakes woke up, “Hello Dennis, I was just having a little cat nap. The bloodsuckers were after me this morning.”

“What do you mean the bloodsuckers were after you?  Do you mean the police?”

“No,  at my doctor’s, they took a whole lot of blood out of me. My arm is still sore.”

“Is Tommy still staying at your place?”

“Yeah, he’s still there.”

“I bet he likes to clean and tidy things. Am I right?”

“Yeah, he likes to tidy things.”

Wolf motioned me over. “I want to tell you something in confidence.” I moved closer. “I went to my legal aid worker this morning. She’s really a nice person… You remember, when I was charged for treating Shaggy too rough. Well, that’s going to court soon. Anyway, what I wanted to tell you was, she said to me, ‘Wolf, you don’t have to wait until you have legal problems to visit me. You can come anytime, even if you just want to talk.’  I wanted to share that with you. I thought it was really nice of her.

“You know, I just found out today about Weasel’s death and his funeral; Jacques went. The place was packed. I couldn’t go anyway, I was too drunk. If I’d walked all the way here, then walked to the funeral parlor, I wouldn’t have had enough energy to walk home. I would have ended up sleeping at ‘the heater’, then I would have had the police to deal with.

“Little Jake went. He was drunk and caused a big scene. Stella was there, she brought this new purple leash for Shaggy. That was nice.  Anyway, I’ve finished with you. Thanks for bringing me the books. I really appreciate it. I mean it. Now, go!”

It was time for me to leave for work, so I shook hands with Wolf, Serge, Jacques and Shakes.  When I approached Raven I said, “You’re looking really nice today. You’re beautiful.”

“Thanks, Dennis.”

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……

 

15 May 2013

It was sunny and almost warm at the park today. I sat between Hippo and Joy. On her other side was Mariah, Wolf and his dog Shaggy. Shakes was sprawled, as usual, on the sidewalk.

“Shakes,” said Joy, “For Christ sake, will you sit up before we get reported and the cops come? I saw one pass on his bicycle just a few minutes ago.” With great effort, and not much balance, Shakes relocated to the curb.

With talk of cops came talk of prisons. Joy said, “The worst  I’ve seen is Bordeaux Prison in Cartierville. I visited my boyfriend there. We’d been walking around Montreal and Jake decided to boost a car. He was drunk, so I said I’d crack it, but no, he’s The Man. He drove the car away, realized how drunk he was, parked it, got out and fell asleep on somebody’s lawn. He woke up a couple of hours later and took the car, but by that time there were two of  Montreal’s finest tailing him. Anyway, he went to Bordeaux. It was half H.A (Hell’s Angels), half Rock Machine. Talk about tense.”

Debbie said, “Hey, this leaves me in the middle. If  I go to either end I won’t be able to talk to anybody. Wolf, will you make some room and let me sit beside Shakes?”

“Hold on! Get out of my fuckin’ way, woman. I can only do so many things at once.”

Wolf maneuvered Shaggy’s cart further down. He wasn’t happy about it. Debbie sat down between Shakes and Wolf. She said to Shakes, “You know, in all the years I’ve known you, I’ve never known you to get laid.”

Shakes said, “I can’t afford it unless women come on to me.”

“Does that ever happen?”

“No, because I play hard to get.”

Debbie said, “I guess I’m the same way. Every once in awhile I get a little urge.”

Joy said to me, “Just shoot me right now.”

From Shaggy’s cart, Wolf pulled a six-pack of Old Milwaukee and passed the cans around. Joy took one. “The only reason I drink this is to make me burp. Here it comes. I hate the taste of this stuff and it’s hard to hide. If a cop comes and tells me to dump it I won’t mind at all.”

I asked Joy, “How did you sleep last night?”

“I ended up sleeping on my side with the broken ribs. I managed a few hours sleep, but when I got up and tried to take a deep breath, that’s when the pain hit. This morning native Brent came by. We haven’t seen each other in ages. I said, ‘Don’t try to hug me — broken ribs.’ He grabbed me anyway. I thought I was going to pass out.

“I’m not sure if I will go to Chuck’s for that barbecue today. It means taking one bus then walking about five blocks. I don’t think I’m up to that. I think I’ll just go to my place and relax. I know Nicholas will be pissed, he brought those moose steaks especially for me. He’ll get over it.

“This morning one of my regulars stopped by. She asked, ‘How are you feeling now? Is there any chance you’ll be able to get a job?’

“I should have told her, ‘I don’t do employment.’ I had a job at Arby’s once. That lasted about two hours. Then I said, ‘That’s it I’m out of here.’ I had a warehouse job one time. I liked that. It was a big place so I was always moving; not like being behind a counter somewhere.”

“Hippo, do you want to come to my place?” asked Joy. ” I’ve got chicken for supper.”

“I haven’t had chicken for months. Sure I’ll come. I’m expecting a care package from home. Can we stop at my place on the way?”

Debbie looked at Joy and said, “You’re not looking right. I can sense these things.”

“Well, I’ve been on my period for fifteen weeks now. I didn’t think I had that much blood in me. If I tried to slash my wrists, my veins would be fartin’ dust.  Before that, I’d gone five months without a period. I don’t know what’s happening.”

Debbie said, “I wasn’t expecting that much information.”

Mariah asked, “Where are we meeting for Weasel’s funeral? I heard that a lot of people aren’t coming.”

I turned to Hippo and asked, “How are you liking your apartment?”

“The place is okay, it’s just the fuckin’ neighbors. If I had a gun with a silencer I’d shoot them.”

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