2012 – December

Sky’s Newswire

3 December 2012

It was rather quiet at corner today. In attendance were Shakes, Little Jake, Amigo, Donny with the motorized wheelchair and Loretta.

I said to Shakes, “How do like your new place?”

“It’s fine. I got robbed there Saturday night.”

“Shakes, how did you get robbed in your own place?”

“I was drinking with a guy who lives downstairs, in the same building I’m in. I gave him money to go out and buy me two bottles. I left my door open so he could get back in. He didn’t show and when I woke up, my other bottle was gone. I’ll make sure I get those bottles next time I see him.”

Loretta said, “Do you see the boots that guy walking by is wearing? My boyfriend, Vance wears that kind of boots. He has to, he’s a roofer. He’s working his last day today. The season is over. He can’t roof in the snow. This hat I’m wearing is from the company he works for, Reliable Roofing.”

Jake said, “What does he do when he’s not roofing?”

“He goes on unemployment insurance, so I’ll have him all to myself.”

“Jake said, “He doesn’t come around here very much. Doesn’t he like us?

“It’s not you he doesn’t like. He doesn’t like me drinking with you guys, because that’s when I get into trouble.”

Jake said to me, “These antibiotics I’m taking make my face itch and my ankles swell. I have to keep taking them until the end of December. I see my doctor this afternoon. He’s putting me on a special diet. I took the menu to my worker. She says that I’ll qualify for an extra two hundred dollars a month.

“Did you hear that Debbie was hit by a bus last week? She had bags of groceries in both arms and was running to catch the bus. She was banging on the side, trying to get the driver to stop. She slipped, groceries went flying and the bus ran over her arm. I told her to go to the hospital, but she didn’t want to. Her upper arm is all purple now.

“I should bring my mountain bike down and sell it. Right now I’m using it to hang my clothes on.”

I asked him, “How is your new apartment working out?”

“I won’t be getting my furniture until January — it’ll be better then.

“It’s nice here, in the sun. I don’t want to get up at all. How about you, Shakes?”

“I just want to sit here.”

A security guard wearing a reflective vest walked by. He looked at us, but didn’t say anything.”

Jake said, “That’s the nice one. He doesn’t care if we’re here. It’s the old guy who tells us to move along. Shakes got a ticket the other day for trespassing.”

I asked, “Did he get the ticket here?”

“Yeah, right here. He wasn’t charged for alcohol, just trespassing.”

Jake asked Loretta, “Are you going to the liquor store today?”

“No.”

Jake asked, “Are you barred from there?”

“No, just from the one on Yonge.”

“I can’t find anyone to go for a run. I guess it doesn’t matter. I’ve got no money anyway.

“Shakes, have you got any money?”

“I’ve got five dollars and five cents.”

“Loretta have you got any money?”

“I don’t even have enough to buy a pack of smokes, but I’ll buy a cigarette off you for a dollar.”

“I’ll buy one too, Frank,” said Amigo. Shortly after he left.

Jake said, “Well, we’ve got enough for a bottle, we just don’t have anyone to go for a run.”

I said, “You could have asked Amigo.”

“I don’t know him well enough, at least not well enough to trust him with seven bucks. He might not come back.

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After leaving work I met Sky.

He said, “Did you hear that I was kicked out of a city council meeting. Not only that, two goons, that’s what I call them, escorted me out of the building. The police arrested me for trespassing. How can I be trespassing at our city hall? Tell me that! The police roughed me up in the car and again when we got to the jail.

“I appeared before the judge the next morning. I told him how I was treated and mentioned that our mayor is in a conflict of interest situation. He also sits on the board of Ontario Hydro. I was at the council meeting expressing my concerns about the city not adopting my idea of a solar-powered mono-rail, similar to ones they have in Europe. Of course the mayor was against the idea, because it’s going against what Ontario Hydro wants.

Montreal’s former mayor, quit amid multiple corruption allegations last month. Did you hear what his severance package is worth? It’s more than two hundred and sixteen thousand.

“Have you seen my website?”“Yes I have, Sky. It’s very impressive.”

“Did you see my presentation to city hall? What did you think of that?”

“Yes, I thought you put your ideas forward very effectively. Are you still sleeping outside?”

“Oh, yes, I always do. I don’t mind it. There was a lady who offered to let me leave some of my stuff in her backyard. Now, she says I can’t. Do you know of any place I could store my grocery cart? Someone mentioned a place near the bus depot. Maybe I’ll try there.”

“That sounds like a convenient location for you. It’s within walking distance.”

“Did I tell you that I’m building a solar-powered ship? A friend of mine from Newfoundland, an engineer, is working on it with me. It will have condos aboard, the world’s largest dance floor, swimming pools. We’re looking for investors. Are you interested?”

“Not now, Sky, but let me know how it is progressing.”

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Joy Still In Hospital

11 December 2012

On the bus I met Patsy, André and Little Jake. Patsy asked, “Have you heard about Joy?”

“I heard that she was in the East General. I visited her a couple of times.”

“Yesterday, she was transferred to the Mount Sinai, that’s what Jacques told me. She’s able to move around a bit now, in her wheel chair.”

I said, “That sounds like good news. How have you been? I haven’t seen you for a while.”

“I’m okay, my mom (Mary) has been sick. She hasn’t been out lately. Nick and I have been staying in. It’s just been too cold to do anything. My brother (Larry) has gone back to Iqualuit.” Patsy got off the bus at Queen and Yonge.

I moved closer to the front of the bus and met Jake and André. They were going to Jake’s new apartment.

“Hi André, Jake, it’s good to see you.”

“Have you heard about Joy?”

“I heard that she’d been moved to the Mount Sinai, but I don’t know why.”

André said, “I think it’s because there are tests that they can do at there, that they aren’t able to do at the East General. I also think that she’s been moved out of intensive care and they needed her bed. When I was at Mount Sinai, they gave me an intravenous drip, because I’m alcoholic. Towards the end they were just bringing me glasses of brandy once an hour. I’d save them, so I could drink them all at once and get a bit of a buzz.

“A bunch of us are going to get a taxi and visit her. I hope that she lets me in her room. I’d hate to pay that money and have her say I couldn’t come in.”

Jake said, “I’m sure she’ll let you in.”

André said, “Guess what? I’m getting my own apartment by the first of January. It’s going to be in St. James Town. They took me to see it. It’s really nice.” It was coming to their stop so we shook hands and they got off the bus.

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12 December 2012

At the park I met Jacques, Mariah, Little Jake, Deaf Donald, Gnome, Weasel and his dog Bear, Wolf and his dog Shaggy.

Jacques said, “I was talking to Joy this morning. She was a bit weepy, because she thinks they’re going to keep her in hospital until after Christmas. I think they want to keep her, so she doesn’t start drinking again. If they let her out, she’s going to visit her friends and they will all be drinking, so she’ll start again. She drinks that wine, eh? That’s bad. Me, I just drink a few beer, so far it hasn’t caused me any problems, except for a big belly.”

Mariah said, “I’m a reformed alcoholic. I went right down hill. I was a falling down drunk. Now I can buy a small bottle of cognac and it will last me a week. I just have a few sips a day. I cut out smoking and drinking when I was pregnant.”

Jacques said, “People tell me that maybe I’m pregnant. I hope not.

“I like to have a bit to drink, just beer, with maybe some pot every once in a while. With some people it’s beer, with some wine, with some pot, with some crack — something different for everybody.

“I’m still looking for my bunk beds. I’m going to have to get out of the place I’m staying. Jake said I should talk to his worker, but she’s been sick. When I talked to her last she said she could get me an apartment, a start-up allowance and arrange for me to get O.D.S.P. (Ontario Disability Support Program). I don’t have any of that now. Maybe she could even get me into one of those over sixty places. I’m only fifty-six, but if I could get into a place like that I’d avoid a lot of the crack heads.

“You should see where I am now. It’s just a room. I share a kitchen with two native guys across the hall. There is a double sink, both sides are filled with dirty dishes. There is a table that is filled with clean dishes. I have no place to sit to eat my food, no place to wash my dishes. I went to turn on the stove, but first I had to move the cock roaches. I don’t have them in my room, just the kitchen. Me, I shut up about that. That’s how I lost my place in Regent Park. My neighbor said there were mites. When the inspector came, I let him in. He took pictures over here, over there. When he came back he had a notice saying the place was condemned. I don’t want that to happen again.

“I don’t need a big place. I live alone. My last place was a bachelor. There was just room enough for my fridge and a table, with about this much space in between. I think that the bathroom was bigger than the rest of the apartment, but I didn’t mind.”

Two police cars stopped at the curb. I decided to move over to talk to Wolf, so there would only be two groups of four. We’ve been told before that they don’t like to see groups larger than four people. Nobody was blocking the sidewalk, there was no alcohol visible and nobody was drunk.

“Hi, Wolf,” I said, “what are you reading now?”

“It’s a book about Hollywood in the 1950’s. It’s called Suicide Hill. I forget who wrote it (James Elroy). It’s like that book The Choirboys by Joseph Wambaugh. If these guys think they have it bad now, it’s nothing like it was in the 1950’s. This detective, Lloyd Hopkins, goes after bad guys and what he does to them isn’t exactly legal. The cops would do ‘wino runs’ where they’d pick up winos and addicts.

“I’m an alcoholic and I smoke a bit of crack. Maybe it’s the German in me, but I respect authority. I respect what the police do. I’m polite to them, not like some of these guys. Daimon has beaten up Shark, he beat me up. If it weren’t for the cops who would protect us?

“In the book they wouldn’t give out tickets to the winos, like they do here. If they wanted information, they’d beat them, and believe me they’d talk. Sometimes, either before or after they talked, they’d kill them, for no reason. Suicide Hill was a place in Hollywood where the police would dump the bodies.

“I guess you’ve heard about Joy. Jacques was talking to her on the phone this morning. He asked her if she wanted to talk to me, she said, ‘No.’ What am I going to do? I’ve never been her boyfriend, or anything like that, but I let her stay at my place when she was beaten by Big Jake. I don’t get involved with women very much any more. I live alone, pay for the odd hooker, once in a while. There was a woman who stayed at my apartment last night. I sent her out to buy me a case of beer. She said that when she got back she had a surprise for me. I like surprises, but she didn’t come back, so I put her bag and clothes out in the hall.

“Joy has to quit drinking. We’ve all told her that, but she won’t listen. Maybe she’d listen to you.”

I said, “I don’t think so. When I saw her last, the doctors had told her to stop drinking or she’d die. She said, ‘You told me that the last time, and I had ten months out on the street.’ ”

“I know,” said Wolf. “I’ve been in hospital, for injuries. I was in that car accident. I’ve had my cheek bone smashed when I was beaten up. I’ve broken my arm when I fell; but nothing internal. When your kidneys or your liver starts going, you have to quit drinking, there’s no way around it. Look what happened to Silver, just a few months ago. Anyway, if you can talk sense to Joy it might save her life.”

Two outreach workers came by. One of them was carrying a backpack. He said to Wolf, I’ve got some dog biscuits. Would you like some for your dog?”

Jacques said, “I wouldn’t mind some for me.”

The outreach worker said, “I’ve also got a sleeping bag in here. Would you be interested?”

Wolf  said, “Sure, I’d like it.”

The outreach worker said, “Can you use the backpack as well?”

“Than you very much. I really appreciate this.”

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I Don’t Do Hospitals

13 December 2012

Jacques, Wolf and Shaggy were the only ones at the park today. The sun was shining and Jacques was enjoying the warmth.

“I’m always happy, me, especially when the sun is shining. I come down here — where else am I going to go? I was looking in the Loblaw’s flyer today, they got the big lasagna and the big cabbage roll, the five-pound one for seven dollars. I love that, but living alone, I can’t eat that much. Even Hippo he can’t eat that much. At the market I buy camembert and brie, the round ones. At Loblaw’s it costs four, seventy-five — me, I can’t afford that, but at the market they sell the ones near the expiry date that they can’t sell in stores, two for five dollars. I leave it at room temperature for two days and spread it on crackers. That’s my favorite.”

Wolf said, I don’t like cheese that much. The only kind I buy is mozzarella, and on a hamburger I’ll have cheddar.”

“You like mozzarella, that stuff they shave? It tastes like puke.”

“I like it, okay? I know, I’m German, they make lots of cheese, but I just like Mozzarella. You don’t have to like it, but it’s what I like.

“Jacques is supposed to be watching his cholesterol. I’ve heard of beef stew, chicken stew even rabbit stew, but have you ever heard of someone making bacon stew? If his doctor knew that, he’d flip.

“I eat bacon every day. I like to fry it and then cook my eggs in the grease. That’s what gives them the good taste.”

Jacques said, “In my place, you’re not supposed to cook after ten o’clock; but at one thirty I woke up and smelled grease. The young guy was frying something. He’s not a very good cook, but the smell of that grease frying sure smelled good. He left his frying pan and dishes in the sink for another day.”

I asked, “Has anybody heard anything from Joy lately?”

Jacques said, “I went to the hospital to see her this morning. She was looking okay. She’s moving around a bit.”

I asked, “She isn’t walking yet, is she?”

“She uses a walker. She seems weak on her left side. Her left foot she kind of drags. They told her that she can’t drink any more, but already she told me that she has two bottles of sherry in her fridge at home. They want to keep her over Christmas. She say she want to be out to spend it with friends and have a few drinks. The drinks might kill her.”

Wolf said, “Sometimes they’ll do that, let patients out for Christmas, but in her case it isn’t such a good idea.”

I said, “When the doctors told her she wasn’t allowed to drink, she said, ‘You told me that last time and I got ten months, without coming back here.’ So she has no intention of quitting.”

Wolf said, “People are different, what hurts one, may not hurt another. It’s the same with animals. Weasel really gave me shit for giving Shaggy a little piece of chocolate. I can’t see the problem of giving her just one little chunk. It’s not like I’m giving her a whole chocolate bar.”

Jacques said, “I saw on TV, a doctor was saying that for some dogs, the sweetness of the chocolate turns into a poison inside the dog, but it’s not all dogs.”

“Well, Shaggy’s had chocolate before and it didn’t kill her, so I guess she’s not one of those dogs.”

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14 December 2012

The weather at noon was warm and sunny. There are still patches of ice on the sidewalk, but for the most part walking was easy. On the lawn in front of the Armory was a group of about half a dozen regulars.  Jake was hopping about weaving in and out of the group. I asked, “What are you pretending to be, Jake, a Christmas Elf or a Christmas Grinch?”

“I’m a Christmas Mouse. I’m a sneaky little muthufukka.”

Jake was putting a cigarette in his mouth backwards. Mariah yelled at him, “Turn it around the other way!”

I said, “You’re picking up bad habits from André. He stayed at your place the other night, didn’t he?”

“Yeah, the night we saw you on the bus. It was the night he hit the old lady up for four hundred bucks. She left her card in the cash machine and he was able to get into her account.

“I really don’t like André much. He owes me cigarettes, he owes me a bottle, he owes me pot. I spent money on groceries. Wait until he gets his place, we’ll all come over and sponge off him.”

Mariah said, “I guess I can kiss goodbye the twenty that he owes me. I’m never going to see that again.”

Jacques said, “Jake, you’re standing too close to me.”

I said, “What’s the matter Jacques, are you afraid of a Christmas Mouse?”

Chester said, “I haven’t been to see Joy yet, but I hope to before Christmas. I’ve been invited to a party at All Saints Church-Community Center. There’s going to be singing, dancing and they’ll be serving a Christmas meal.”

Someone asked Chester for a cigarette. He held up a clear plastic bag full of cigarette butts. “This is all I have.” To me he said, “I go for a butt run every morning. I just pay for rolling papers. It costs me hardly anything. I smoke all I want to.”

Jake said, “I can’t wait until January when I get my furniture.”

Nissa said, “Frank, you shouldn’t always be thinking about the future. Appreciate what you have here and now. The sun is shining, it’s warm, you’re with friends. I try to think of the present, not the past where the pain is. (She crossed herself and blew a kiss into the air.) This is all we have.” Nissa is an attractive woman, but the scar across her nose indicates a violent background.

Mariah said, “I won’t be going to see Joy. I’ve nothing against her, but I just don’t do hospitals anymore. Remember, Jacques, when Willy was in the hospital at the same time as my old man. I was at the hospital all the time. Willy could be moved around, so he was always wanting me to push him in his wheel chair outside to have a smoke. My old man, the one I dumped ten months ago, was hooked up to all kinds of tubes and wires, so he couldn’t get out of bed. It was back and forth, back and forth all day. I’m just not going to do that anymore. I need to take care of myself.”

At that point two bicycle police pulled up.

“What are you people doing here?”

Jacques said, We’re just enjoying the warm weather, the sun, the fresh air.”

Rosie said, “Don’t worry, we don’t have any booze or drugs.”

One officer pointed to a clear drinking bottle, filled with an amber liquid. “What’s that? Is it beer? Shake it for me.”

A patrol car pulled up at the curb. Officer McQuaig was driving. The two bicycle patrol officers said, “Your friends are here, we’ll leave you to them.”

The patrol car left and a police van with another patrol car pulled up. Two male and two female officers got out. One of the men walked over to Jacques and started writing a ticket.

One of the female officers said, “We’ve got a zero tolerance policy for alcohol now.”

The other female officer said, “Would someone please pick up that newspaper and the other junk on the ground.”

Chester picked up the newspaper, I picked up a chip bag. The officer said, “There’s a garbage container at the next corner. You can dispose of it there.”

Violet asked, “Are the rest of us being charged?”

“No,” said one of the female officers, just this gentleman here. The rest of you are free to go.”

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15 December 2012

It’s Saturday. I visited Joy in the hospital. I went to her room and and elderly woman said, “She may be in the sun room down the hall to your right, or she may have gone to the cafeteria, or outside to have a smoke, she may be anywhere.”

I thanked her and headed to the sunroom. I hardly recognized Joy. She looked so small. She was crying. I sat next to her.

“I’m glad you came. I wasn’t expecting you. Why did you come?”

“I just came to see how you are. Why wouldn’t I come? Jacques told me about visiting you yesterday. He said you were upset about the possibility of not getting out before Christmas. He also said that sometimes they let patients out for Christmas day.”

“I don’t know what’s going on. I hate it here, especially on weekends. It’s like a morgue, and I can tell that the nurses don’t like being here on weekends either. I guess you met Emily. She moved in yesterday. She’s okay, but sometimes I want to smother her. She didn’t know how to flush the toilet. I don’t mean just after she peed. I’d come into the bathroom and there would be poo floating in the toilet. I asked her about it. She said, ‘I pushed all the buttons, but nothing made the toilet flush.’ I showed her which handle to press. She must have gotten up five times last night to use the bathroom. I guess she didn’t close the door before she flushed, because it woke me every time. After the injection they give me at night, I’m usually gone to the world.

“She thinks she’s getting out Monday. She needs help from the nurses for everything, even to put a pillow between her knees. There’s no way she’s getting out soon. I’ve even talked to her daughter. They live about a mile and a half apart, but the daughter has a family of her own. She doesn’t have time to look after Emily.

“So how’s everybody? Bert just sort of came, dropped off some stuff for me, took me down for a cigarette, then left.”

“I saw Patsy on the bus on Tuesday. On Wednesday I saw André and Little Jake.  He’s  pissed with Emile, said he owes him money, owes him a bottle and Jake has paid for all the food.”

Joy said, “The Monday, before I went to hospital, it was raining, so we were all down by the river under the Laurier Street Bridge. I told you that André had punched red-haired Debbie. Patsy walked up to him and punched him in the face. Then she punched him again. He had blood trickling from his mouth and he sat down on the grass away from the group and started crying. Patsy said, ‘You think you’re such a big man, but now you’re crying like a bitch.’ He said, ‘I’m crying because I can’t hit you back.’ Nancy said, ‘You can’t hit me back because there are other people around. If we were alone you wouldn’t have a problem, just like you didn’t have a problem with Debbie.’ Andre is on the outs with everyone, he owes Jake, he owes Jacques, he owes Buck. You can’t keep taking from people and not giving back.”

“I guess you heard that Shakes has his own place now.”

“Yeah, not only that, but it’s completely furnished. Jake has been waiting for two months and still doesn’t have any furniture, except for a bed.”

“He also has an air conditioner, still in the box.”

“Yeah, that he sits on. They promised me furniture on the Tuesday after I was brought in here. I hope Chester still has my other stuff. My workers were in to see me when I was at the Civic. They checked my place, said that the heat was really on now. They asked me what I wanted for Christmas. I said, ‘Having an apartment full of furniture would be nice.’ I’ve been telling my physiotherapist about how difficult it is for me to get down on my air mattress, and it leaks so I wake up on the hard floor.

“I’m practicing going up and down stairs. There are four of them. I can go up alright, but my right leg is too weak for going down, that’s why I have to use this walker and a wheel chair. I seem to have to drag my right leg, and can’t use my right arm very well.”

I asked, “How would you feel if you had a walker when you left here?”

“I don’t know. I haven’t got my head around that yet.

“I just don’t want to be in here. I had planned to get a turkey, cook a Christmas meal, have my friends around. It would have been nice. The doctor said I might be able to get out just for Christmas day, but what good is that to me. I have no family, no place to go, no furniture. My friends have their own things to do.”

I said, “Chester was saying that you were fine during the five months that you lived with him. it’s just since you moved out on your own that you’ve had problems.”

“Chester’s had Raven over for most of the time that I’ve been gone. He owes Jacques money, he owes everybody.

“I hear that Outcast has been talking trash about me. Telling people not to feel sorry for me, that I brought this all on myself.”

I said, “Outcast talks trash about everybody. When Patsy was by last, she said to him, ‘Outcast, it’s not always about you.’ He said, ‘Of course it is. It’s always about me.'”

Mo said, “He’s pissed with me because whenever he’s come over he’s tried it on. I said to him, ‘Outcast, you’re living with another woman. You sneak over here and expect that something’s going to happen. It doesn’t work that way.”

I said, “Did you hear that Debbie had her arm run over by a bus?”

“No, how did that happen?”

“She was drunk, holding on to bags of groceries, running beside the bus, pounding on the side to get the driver to stop. She slipped. The groceries went flying and she fell with her arm under the bus. The rear wheels ran over it. Jake said her upper arm is purple and misshapen, but she won’t go to the hospital or to a doctor.”

Mo said, “She’s stubborn like that. I’ve been in pain for a long time, but as soon as I saw that my pee was brown, I knew that my kidneys weren’t working properly. It’s lucky that the emergency numbers on my cell phone still worked. The paramedics had to chair lift me out of my apartment. It turns out that my problems are mostly due to epilepsy, not drinking. Now, I’m getting medication for that. One of the reasons they won’t let me out is because I get a pain injection morning, night and when I need it during the day. I wouldn’t have access to that if I left. I get ten pills in the morning, twelve with lunch and another fourteen before bed.”

I asked, “Couldn’t they arrange for you to have injections at a clinic, close to where you live?”

“My doctor doesn’t seem to want to go along with that. I said to him, ‘Couldn’t I just have the injections in pill form?’ He said that because they’re narcotics he didn’t recommend that. I guess he thinks I’d sell them.

“Another thing, Emily is in because of cervical cancer. I haven’t had a pap smear for decades. I asked the nurses about it. They said that, if I wanted one, it would be my doctor here that would be doing it. There’s no way I want that slime ball down there.

“I’ve even got hemorrhoids now. I’ve had five children. I’ve spent most of the past ten years sitting on the cold sidewalk. So, why do I have hemorrhoids? The nurse said it’s probably because I’ve been constipated. They’ve given me fiber, laxatives, suppositories. I was doubled over in pain, so finally they had to give me an enema. It was worse than giving birth. I think I’m still constipated, but I haven’t been able to eat for nearly a week. I keep throwing up. They keep telling me to have some toast. I don’t want toast. The food here really sucks.”

I asked, “What about feeding you through an intravenous tube?”

“They took the tube out a few days ago. See the marks all over my arm? I don’t want to get any more needles than I have to.

“I want to go for a smoke, I’ll bring this walker back to my room and grab a wheel chair. Do you want to drive?”

“Sure, I’ll push, you give directions.”

Before we left, Joy called for the nurse. She said, “Sweetie, can you give me an injection for my arm. The pain is really bad.”

When we got outside Joy said hello to a couple, who were also having a cigarette. She said to me, after they passed, “It’s sad, she had a baby a week ago. It’s left lung isn’t fully developed. They don’t know when the baby will be released. They have other kids at home.”

I asked, “Was the baby premature?”

“No, it was a full term. They don’t know what went wrong.”

We went back into the hospital. An Inuit couple stopped to talk to Joy. After they left Joy said, “Could you smell the sherry? I could smell it as soon as they came into view. I know all the muk-muks from downtown. They hang out on Rideau Street.”

Another woman said hello as we passed. Joy said, “She looks familiar, but I don’t know where I’ve seen her before. Did you notice, she’s still wearing prison shoes.”

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Christmas Dinner

19 December 2012

At noon the weather was mild, slightly above freezing, with no wind. The streets were slushy, but most of the snow had either been cleared, or it had melted. Near the Armory I met Bearded Bruce, Little Jake,  Shakes, Gnome, Inuk, Wolf and his dog Shaggy.

I said to Wolf, “I downloaded the James Ellroy trilogy, the one that ends with Suicide Hill.”

“You say you downloaded it? How did you do that?”

I said, “I have an electronic reader, a Kindle, and I downloaded the book from the internet.”

“I didn’t know you could do that. It’s a great series. It really gives you a feel of what life was like in Hollywood in the 1950’s. They didn’t have cameras everywhere like they do now. No cameras in the holding cells. The cops could do anything they wanted. Don’t tell anybody I said this, because some of these guys, criminals, gangsters, think they’re tough by spitting on the cops and calling them names. Not me, it’s, ‘Yes officer, no officer.’ If I’m drunk and they take me to jail, which they’ve done a few times, I’m polite. I say, ‘I don’t want to cause any trouble.’ We have it good now. I’m glad you got those books, you’ll enjoy them.

“Does anyone want a chocolate covered muffin?” Wolf passed the plastic container to Jacques who took one. He broke off a piece and asked Wolf’s permission to give it to Shaggy.

“Sure, Jacques, Shaggy likes chocolate.” To me Peter said, “Now if it was Weasel, he’d have a fit if anyone offered chocolate to Bear. He’d kill them. But, I figure, a little piece of chocolate, just a little one, mind you. I wouldn’t give her a whole chocolate bar, but one square of a Cadbury’s Caramilk, or something like that, isn’t going to hurt her. I know I shouldn’t smoke or drink beer. I shouldn’t use pot or the other stuff —  that we don’t talk about — but I’m healthy. I don’t have stomach problems. I enjoy a drink and a smoke with my friends every once in a while. It’s a treat for me. Shaggy needs a treat sometimes too.”

I saw Bearded Bruce. He walked over to me and shook my hand. He said, “I haven’t been around here for the past four months, but I was hoping I’d see you. I have my own apartment now. I’ve been there about three weeks now. I still can’t believe the words coming out of my mouth, but I have my own place on Sherbourne Street, my own brand new oven and fridge, a new floor. I still sleep on the floor in my sleeping bag, but gradually I’m getting some furniture. I’ve got a couple of chairs to relax in.

“Jenny from The Shepherd approached me a couple of times. She said, we have spots for ninety people in our program and we want to choose you to be a part of it. I said I wasn’t interested, then she visited m in jail, when I did the five months. I was in there with thirty guys. When she came we were allowed to go to a big empty room to talk. Just being in a room with so much space got me thinking about how much I was missing. Anyway, when I got out I started on this program, she found me the apartment, got me on O.D.S.P. (Ontario Disability Support Program). They cover part of my apartment rent, the rest comes directly out of my monthly check. I haven’t even cashed my last Welfare check. Jenny asked me about it. I said, ‘I’ve still got some of my start-up allowance.’

“I’m cooking Christmas dinner, it’ll be Weasel, and some of the homeless people. If you don’t have any plans, you’re welcome to come. I got a fourteen pound, Lilydale, grain fed turkey. I’ll be cooking that on Christmas day. I’ll be getting a ham Friday. I’ll cook that Christmas Eve, because my oven isn’t big enough for them both. We’ll have mashed potatoes, stuffing and all the trimmings. I’m a certified chef you know. I’m qualified to work at the Royal York.

“I have a good resume, good qualifications, it’s just the five-year gap when I was into drugs and alcohol. I’ve been to a few interviews, and I’m straight forward about my time in jail. I just have to find an employer who’s been there, who knows where I’m coming from.”

“It’ll come, Bruce. Just give it time.”

“I’ve also joined A.A., but I don’t like it. I may find another group I like, but at this one there’s too much talk about God. I’m not a God person. I was when I was little, and I may be later on, but not now; so that puts me in conflict with a lot of the steps in the twelve step program. I have cut my drinking back to about eighteen beer a week. I smoke more pot, but no crack, no other drugs. I won’t even allow them in my house.

“Have you seen Hippo?”

I said, “Not for the last week or so.”

“Tell him that I want to see him. He owes me money, but he doesn’t have to worry. I’m not going to beat him up. I wouldn’t beat up that lovable, fat bastard. I forgive him the debt and I want to forgive him in person. It’s a Scottish tradition that on New Year’s Eve I put on new clothes, new socks, new underwear, and forgive all those people who have wronged me, or who I have wronged.”

“That’s a good tradition. Have you seen Joy, she’s in hospital?”

“I mean to go see her. She may not want to see me. We had kind of a falling out a while ago. I said some bad things to her. I wan’t to apologize and set things right.”

It was time for me to go. I shook hands with Wolf and Jacques. Wolf had been to the food bank. Bruce asked him, “Wolf, will you sell me those eggs for two dollars?”

“Sure, I’ll even throw a loaf of bread in for free. Sorry, I don’t have any cheese, you could have made an omelette.”

Bruce said to me, “See, Wolf knows I cook, and Inuk’s tasted my cooking. Inuk, tell Dennis what a good cook I am.” She nodded.

“Inuk, you’re welcome to come over to my new place. I won’t sleep with you, but you’re welcome to visit.”

We all said good-bye.

.

J.D. 

20 December 2012

At noon the weather was pleasant. At  the Armory were Jacques, Shakes, Wolf and his dog Shaggy.

“Dennis,” Wolf said, “I was at my usual place panning this morning. From seven o’clock to ten thirty I made more money than I usually make in a week.  I made three hundred and forty dollars — in just those three and a half hours. It only happens at Christmas, that’s the only time people feel generous.”

Jacques said, “That was the same with me, when I first came to town. I was panning with my dog, near Christmas time. I made seven hundred dollars. It’s never happened since.”

“Jacques, do you have any plans for Christmas?”

“No, I’ll be here. For me it’s a day like any other.”

I asked, “Will you be going to any of the special Christmas dinners at the Shepherd or at the Missions?”

“The Shepherd had their big meal last week, and the one for the Yonge Street Mission was yesterday. I always hear about them a day too late. I may go to the Mission for breakfast on Christmas, that’s all. When Pikpik was around we used to celebrate, but he’s not around any more. Maybe we’ll go to Shakes’ new place. It’s big. I only have a room and I don’t like cigarette smoke. All these guys smoke. I don’t even have a window that I can open. There’s plywood where the window used to be. Shakes has a big patio door that he can open. The smoke has a way out then.”

“Jacques,” Shakes asked, “If you smoke pot, why is it that smoke doesn’t bother you?”

“It’s just different. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because I smoke it from a pipe.”

Shakes said, “When I was fourteen, I was in a juvenile home. The guy who ran it had a collection of mary-jane pipes, really nice ones. I stole one of them one time. He knew exactly who took it. He came knocking on my door. ‘Shakes,’ he said, ‘I know you stole my pipe. Now give it back.’ I never gave the pipe back to him, ha, ha,ha.”

Jacques said, “I used to have about twelve pipes, but with all the moving around I lost most of them. I make them out of river rock. I find the nice smooth ones, then I drill them until they break. All I have is a drill. To make the sides smooth I rub it against a concrete wall. It acts just like sandpaper.

“You see here, a pot pipe has a larger hole in the stem. Resin collects there, even after the last of the pot has been smoked. Holding a flame to the bowl will light the resin. You can get a buzz just from that. This pipe has been broken, see the crack, so I fixed it with glue. It works fine.”

“Dennis,” said Shakes, “Will you do me a big favor? When you’re ready to leave, will you walk with me to the liquor store and buy a forty of J.D. for me. I’ll give you the money.” He is barred from the liquor store.

Shakes is barely able to walk at the best of times. His knees give out on him, so I agreed. When it was about twenty minutes before I had to be back at work I said to him, “Are you ready to go now, Shakes?”

“Dennis, would you mind going by your self and bringing the bottle back to me?”

“I guess I have time. Sure, Shakes.”

Wolf said, “Are you going to the liquor store? Would you mind bringing me back six cans of Old Milwaukee?”

I hadn’t thought about the Christmas line ups I’d have to face in the liquor store. I made the run and was only five minutes late for work.

.

 

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