2013 – April

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4 April 2013

Who dresses them?

This morning was finger numbing cold. Joy was wrapped in her blankets, sitting on a plastic box.

I asked, “Is this the first time you’ve been here this week?”

“Yeah, I’ve had a cold and have been staying inside lately. I’m really glad that you came along; I really have to pee. I’ll have to go to the library this time. Can you watch my stuff?”

“Sure”

When Joy returned she said, “My legs are really bothering me today.”

I asked, “Do you have your health card and your prescriptions yet?”

“No, I haven’t seen my worker for a while. The one day she came by my apartment, I wasn’t home. I’m entitled to go visit my friends sometimes, especially since I still don’t have any furniture. I didn’t know she was coming. She said that I should get a phone, I said, ‘Okay, you pay for it.’ I’m damned if I’m going to pay for the expense of having a phone, or paying fifty cents to use the pay phone.

“I was over at Andre’s place yesterday. Boy, you should see it. It’s fully furnished. He’s got a land line and a cell phone. Shakes, Weasel and Jacques were there. I didn’t stay long. He said I could sleep on the couch, but I didn’t want to, not with my own bed at home. I even forgot my groceries in his fridge.”

“I hope you got them back.”

“Yeah, I cooked them a nice dinner of spare ribs, potatoes and corn. They really appreciated it.”

I asked, “Have you seen Serge lately? The last time I saw him was when he had his head and beard shaved.”

“That’s when he escaped from hospital. All he was wearing was a hospital gown. The guys brought him some clothes. He went back to hospital after that. two of the workers from the Sally  said  they didn’t expect him to come out of hospital alive.

“I get a kick out of the clothes some of these people wear. I wonder who dresses them. It couldn’t be their mothers. Yesterday I saw this guy, with his pant legs rolled up, wearing nylons. I’ve heard of men wearing support hose, but these were nylons.”

As I approached the Park Shaggy started doing what he does. Jacques handed me a folded yellow towel to sit on. Wolf handed me Shaggy’s folded blanket. “I’m lending this to you on one condition,” said Wolf, “you have to feed Shaggy.” He handed me a tinfoil package of Lamb and Lavender dog treats.

I asked, “Do I give them to her one at a time, or all at once.”

“It’s your choice.”

I put a handful of treats in front of the dog.

“Wolf?” asked Joy, “what’s the lavender for. Does it make her breath sweet?”

I sniffed the opened bag, but couldn’t smell lavender.

Joy said, “That’s the first time I’ve seen anybody smelling dog food.”

Wolf said, “I didn’t know there was lavender in this. I just saw Lamb. What is lavender, anyway?”

“It’s a flower.” said Joy.

He read from the bag, “It says the ingredients are all natural, no fillers, so it’s all good stuff.”

Joy said, “I’m reading this book by Justin Cronin, it’s from The Passage Trilogy. I’m just about finished it, the second book is The Twelve. It takes place in the future. They talk about 2013 as being about a hundred years from now. What would that make it? Anyway, a government scientific project goes wrong and all these vampire bats are released. They got into a maximum security prison and started biting the inmates.anyone bitten becomes a vampire. Their fingernails glow yellow and they sleep hanging upside down. They escape and wipe out most of the world. I can’t wait to see what happens next.”

Wolf said, “Speaking of books, have you read any of the Ed McBain books? Here it is Killer’s Wedge. There are about fifty of them in a series with Steve Carella and his fellow detectives of the 87th Precinct. Some of the cops are dirty, some are drunks, you know the type. I don’t have to tell you. Anyway, they’re an easy read. That’s all I have to say about that.”

Shaggy started barking at a woman passing by. Wolf said to Joy, “You’re friend sure jumped this morning when Shag started barking.”

“She’s not my friend, she’s my worker. I told her she didn’t have to worry, but she said Shaggy bit a guy in the van. I said, ‘She’s bitten lots of people, me included.’

Wolf said, “I’ve got a really good way of getting Shaggy home. I let Joy walk in front and Shag starts to chase her, but I have her on her leash. We’re home in no time; no in and out of the cart, she just follows and chases Joy.”

I said, “So you saw your worker this morning? Did she arrange for your health card and your prescriptions?”

“I’ve got a new validation number. I think I can take that to a doctor to get my prescriptions. The problem is, I switched to Jake’s doctor, and now he’s got about sixty custys, so I can never get an appointment. Maybe I can take it to my old doctor. He kind of gave me the creeps, he’s one of those turban heads. I’ve got some female stuff that needs checking and I’m not sure I want him down there. I wish I could find a woman doctor.”

I said, “I know of a female doctor, but she’s quite a distance from where you live.”

“I don’t want that. My old doctor was just down the street and I hardly ever went to him.

“They’ve got me set up to get furniture next Tuesday. I hope that works out. I fucked it up last time.

“Uncle Wolf, can I trade you eight brown (native) cigarettes for four white ones? Here’s nine.”

“That’s not nine!” said Wolf.

“Well, that’s not four,” said Joy.

I said, “I’m glad you guys aren’t getting into higher math, or you’d have a problem.”

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5 April 2013

Toys

It snowed last night, so the sidewalks were damp. Joy was sitting on her plastic box, I sat on my backpack.

“I’m really cold,” said Joy. “Under this blanket and coat I’m wearing a windbreaker, but I tell you, it’s not breaking any fuckin’ wind. Every time I lean over a breeze whips up my back. When I woke up this morning I noticed that I had a starter of fourteen dollars. I didn’t think I had that much left from yesterday. I was going to stay home, but I figured, I’m up, there’s nothing else to do, so I might as well go to work.

“Andre was over last night. I cooked supper for him. At ten, thirty I was getting tired, I told him, ‘Look, you gotta go. I have to be up at four, thirty.’ He asked, ‘Can’t I just sleep on the floor.’ I said, ‘I wouldn’t feel comfortable.’ He said, ‘You look comfortable, sitting there in your long johns and sweater.’ I said, ‘If you weren’t here I’d be in my boxers and tee shirt.’ I don’t have to worry about Andre, apart from his usual groping, but I don’t like men staying over. I like my privacy.

“I have to piss like a racehorse. Can you watch my stuff. I’m going to have to go to the library. I went into the pizza place this morning and he was waiting for me at the bathroom door when I came out. He said, ‘You can’t just come in and use the washroom. It’s for customers only.’ I said to him, ‘A lot of your customers are buying coffee and breakfast for me.’

“Andre and I ate breakfast there last week. They serve too much food. I had to stuff the sausages in my pocket, to eat later. It must have cost us about thirty bucks, but it sure was good. I love sausages.

“I’m really feeling cold. I’m waiting for one of my regulars, the Australian guy. He comes every Friday, if he’s in town. I’m going for forty dollars this morning, so far I’ve got thirty-four. If he doesn’t show I’m going to leave.”

I said, “Last time I was at the point. I had a long talk with Mariah. She seems really nice.”

“Yeah, she is. Andre told me that she was a nympho, so I asked her about it. She said, ‘Yeah, I am.’ I said, ‘But, you don’t have a man around. She went to one of her drawers and pulled out a bunch of toys and told me how she used them. That was too much information. She’s not into women though, neither am I.

“Hi sweetie,” Mo said to a man I recognized. “I was just telling Dennis here that I was waiting for my Australian friend.”

“Actually, I’m not Australian, I’m Dutch.”

“I’m sorry, I’m not good at accents.” He handed Joy a folded bill.

“Thanks, that just made my day. You’ve been traveling haven’t you?”

“Yes, I’ve been away.”

To me she said, “That’s it, I’m out of here!”

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8 April 2013

Waiting for Workers

Joy was in good spirits this morning. She has an appointment at two o’clock with her workers to get furniture for her apartment.

“I just hope they show up this time. Twice in the past I waited around all day for nothing. I hope I can get a DVD player, then I’ll be able to return the one I borrowed from Mariah. I’m going over to Chester’s later to borrow some DVDs. I’m tired of watching Transformers, the Godfather and Bladerunner over and over and over. I thought I’d never get tired of Bladerunner, but now I have the entire dialog memorized.

“Andre has a new couch for me. He’s got it in storage along with a big table. It’ll have room on it for my TV and some of my nick nacks. He invited me over for supper, but why should I go there when I have plenty of food at home.”

I said, “I was talking to Andre last week. He said he’d been sober for three months.”

“Well, he got drunk this past weekend.

“This morning I’m going back to tidy up, not that there’s much to tidy, just my air mattress and some laundry.”

Chester and Metro stopped by to chat, so I said goodbye and headed off to work.

.

15 April 2013

Mondays are always bad…

This morning was cold. Joy was wearing two hoodies, a jacket and a heavy sweater over those. Her legs were wrapped in a blanket.

“Hi Sweetie, I’m glad you’re here. I have to have a major piss and I can’t go into the pizza place. Will you watch my stuff and do your magic?”

I sat on her box and guarded her cap with the change (the jingle). I smiled and tried to look needy, but nobody was buying it. I noticed the averted eyes. Some of my friends passed without saying hello.

Joy returned, I said, “I didn’t have any luck.”

“Mondays are always bad. I didn’t want to come out today, but I missed Friday and Thursday because of the weather, so I figured I better get out.”

“How did Tuesday go?” I asked,” Do you have your furniture?”

“No, and I’m really pissed off that they cancelled again. I phoned my workers at about one o’clock Tuesday,  as I was crossing the bridge. I heard one of them in the background say, ‘If that’s Joy, tell her we’ll have to reschedule.’ She couldn’t even tell me herself.  I said, ‘I’ve been waiting five fuckin’ months, this is insane! All my other friends have been taken to the warehouse to get furniture. Why is it that I have to wait so long?’ I don’t know what that woman has against me. If I gave her a shot in the head, they’d phone the police. I guess that wouldn’t be a good move.”

“The table and couch that Andre promised me — he gave them to somebody else.

“I’m not like some of these other people. I have no family to turn to. Mind you, I’d have plenty of places to crash, if I lost my apartment.”

I asked, “How was your weekend?”

“It was cool. I went over to Andre’s.  Snuffleupagus was there, that’s what I call Hippo. He was whining the whole time. ‘I don’t have any money in my bank account.’ I told him that his GST (Goods and Services Tax) refund would be coming soon. His income tax refund would take a little longer. He’ll just have to wait, like all of us. You can’t hurry the government; but he wants it now!

“Weasel is pissed with me because he invited me over and I haven’t been there yet. He had Jake over and split his eyebrow? I told Jake that when he mixes sherry and beer, like he does with his Jakeonator, he flips out and becomes a real asshole. That’s what happened, so Weasel smacked him upside the head, chased him out the door and across the parking lot.

“Weasel said to me, ‘You know I’d never hit you, Joy!’ I said, ‘Why not? It’s not like I’ve never been hit before. Is it because I’m a woman? Well, I don’t punch like a woman, so don’t worry on that score.’

“I passed out on the couch,  Weasel was asleep in a chair and Andre slept on the floor. Andre’s sister was over. I like her. She’s moving into a beautiful place. It’s great if you can afford it.  He’d been telling her that he want’s to get together with me, but that’s not going to happen. She’d look over at me with those questioning eyes, Why don’t you like my brother?

“It’s not that I don’t like him, I feel about him like he is my brother. Nothing’s going to happen between us. I’ve been telling him that for two years now. Even when he and Weasel walked me home he had this pouty face and said, ‘Can I at least have a hug?’ When I did hug him he tried to kiss me on the mouth, but I turned my head and he got my cheek.” I said to him, ‘That’s the reason there’ll never be anything between us. The more you try to get closer, the more I’m going to push away.’ Then he said, ‘So, you want me to just leave you alone?’ I said, ‘Yes!’ Maybe he’ll eventually catch on.

“I’m still short four bucks. You don’t have four bucks do you?”

“No,” I said, “I only use plastic — to get the Air Miles.”

“It’s okay, I see my Dutch guy coming. This could be good.”

A tall, well dressed man said, “Hello.” and dropped two quarters.

“Thanks, honey.” said Joy. To me she said, “That’s not good.”

I said, “I’ll leave you to work your charm.”

At noon it was still misty, as I passed a bus shelter I saw Tom and Shakes. “Hey, it’s been a long time, man!” said Tommy.

“Yes it has, Tom. Shakes, do you have your hydro turned on yet?”

“Yes I do. That Friday that it went off, I phoned my worker and said, ‘I want my fuckin’ hydro turned on. It’s a long weekend coming up. How would you like your fuckin’ hydro off for that long. I’m going to be out this afternoon, but when I get home for supper the fuckin’ hydro had better be on.’

“You told her, Shakes!”

“Yeah, I sure did, ha ha ha.”

“So, Tommy, have you been panning near the mall?”

“No,” Tom said, “Did you hear what happened to me there a couple of years ago? I wanted a Happy Meal from McDonalds, but I was a bit drunk and I knew they wouldn’t serve me. I didn’t have any money, but I had just been to the pharmacy and had my prescription for Percocet renewed. I asked a guy going into McDonalds if he used Percocet. He said, ‘Yeah!’ I asked, ‘For three Percs would you buy me a Happy Meal?’ He said, ‘Sure!’ What he did was go straight to this big security guard and told him I stole some Percs from him.

“The security guard came out and tried to put his hands in my pockets. I wouldn’t let him and pushed him away. Another security guard came along and grabbed my arm. The other one kicked my leg from behind and broke it. It was sticking way out to the side. They put me in cuffs and phoned the police. I managed to squirm my way, with the broken leg, to a pay phone. With the hand cuffs behind my back I was still able to pull myself up, knock the receiver off the hook and dial 911. I said to the operator, “This is Thomas Pelletier, I’ve been beaten by security guards and they broke my leg. I need an ambulance. The operator said they had already received a call and an ambulance was on its way.

“By that time the police had arrived. They wouldn’t listen to anything I said. One put his knee on my head, breaking my glasses. The other one took the pills out of my pocket and handed them to someone.

I said, “I have a prescription for those pills, just ask at the pharmacy. They didn’t even check. The cop said to me, ‘You’re nothing but a homeless, drunken Indian. If you don’t shut up we’re going to take you out of town and bury you.’

“I yelled to people in front of the mall, ‘My name is Thomas Pelletier. The police have just told me they are going to kill me, take me out of town and bury me.’

“The ambulance came and took me to the hospital. They set my leg, put it in a cast and a brace. I was supposed to go for physio therapy, but I’m an alcoholic. There’s no way I could sit in a room for three hours without a drink. Besides, it was on the other side of the city. I didn’t even have money for bus tickets. I hadn’t been panning, so I had no money coming in.

“I wore that leg brace for a year and a half. In the end it did help me. People are more likely to give money to a guy in a brace than one without.

“Ever since then I’ve been afraid for my life. I’m supposed to be part of a native group protesting the wind turbines scheduled to be installed on Thunder Mountain. They want to put them on sacred land. If the police see me, I’m afraid that one of them will push me in front of a passing car.

“I was talking to the Anishinaabe Clan Mothers at Maniwaki and in Cornwall. I explained to them that this protest could end up like the one at Oka. The young people wouldn’t remember, but I was there. Some of them wouldn’t feel comfortable carrying guns, but there would be guns behind them, protecting them.

“It was our Chief that signed over the land to the wind turbine company. I said to him, ‘It won’t be you standing in the front lines blocking the equipment. It’ll be me.’ I’ve served over fifteen years in correctional institutions and mental institutions. I don’t mind going to jail. In fact I would be proud to give my life to protect our sacred ground. It’s all we have.”

“I have to go now, Tom. If there’s anything I can do to help, let me know.”

Shakes asked, “Dennis could you spare some bus tickets and a Tim Horton’s card?”

“No problem, Shakes.”

“Thanks Dennis, we’ll see you soon.”

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17 April 2013

This morning was interesting, as in the Chinese curse, ‘May you live in interesting times.’ Joy was on her box as usual, standing behind her was a powerful looking man and a small woman. I recognized them, but hadn’t seen them for about a year.

Joy said, “Dennis, you remember Daimon and Lucy in the Sky”.

“Yes,” I said, “I haven’t seen you two for a long time.”

Joy whispered to me, “This is scary.”

Daimon pulled out a bottle of sherry, took a swig and passed it to Joy. She hesitated, but he insisted.

Joy said, “I really appreciate you guys coming by, but I don’t want any of my regulars seeing me drinking. I’ve been out here since six o’clock and I’ve only made about two dollars. Have a look in my cap”

Daimon said, “No problem, Joy, I’ll help you.”

A man walked past and Daimon said, “Hey, don’t forget about the hat!”

Lucy laughed and said, “That’s what he does when we’re panning.”

Joy said to Daimon, “Have you been in any fights lately?”

“No, not for about a year.”

“Of course, you had your leg in a cast for most of that time.”

“No, it wasn’t that. I didn’t have the need to fight anybody.”

Joy asked, “How about you, Lucy?”

“No, I haven’t been fighting. I robbed a guy yesterday. It was his stupidness. He didn’t see Daimon standing in the background. He asked if he could have anal sex with me. I said, ‘Sure, let’s go into the alley.’ Daimon followed us in there. He said to the guy, ‘Give this woman all your cash, then fuck off.’ The guy ran. What was he going to do? Call the cops?”

Joy said, “Something similar happened to me last week. A guy propositioned me. I said to him, ‘It’ll cost you eighty bucks and cab fare to my place. Cash up front, now.’ We hailed a cab, when we got to my building, the guy was busy paying the driver, I hopped out the door — I can be pretty nimble when I have to. I ran across the parking lot, into my apartment and locked the door. The guy didn’t know where I went. Served him right.”

Daimon and Lucy moved on toward the Armory. Joy said, ‘They told me they were feeling drug sick. He said he has a check coming, so they didn’t hassle me. When Big Jake was around, I got in a fight with Lucy. Daimon punched me in the side of the head. Jake picked him up by the front of his coat and threw him right on his ass. He said ‘This is girl stuff. Let them fight it out themselves. If It’s man stuff you want, you can take me on.’ Daimon just sat there in the middle of the street.”

Joy asked me, “Do you know what time it is?”

“No,” I said, “I don’t have my watch.”

“You hid it when you saw Daimon and Lucy. Am I right?”

“No, I just forgot it at home.

“I’ll let you get back to work. Will you be at ‘the point’ later?”

“Yeah, the whole gang should be there.”

10:00 am, at ‘the point’ (the traffic island)

I sat between Joy and Chester. Chester said, The buses are free for seniors today, but do you have any spare bus tickets for tomorrow?”

“Sure, Chester. How are your legs feeling?”

“They’re okay. They hurt a bit. I’ve been sober for the last three days. I can do that. It gives my body a chance to recover.”

Joy asked Chester, “Can I borrow your phone? I want to call Buck to see if he can bring me some weed and some cigarettes.”

On the phone Joy said, “Hi Sweetie, where are you? In bed? I’m sorry did I wake you? I was going to ask, ‘Were you whacking off?’ But, you beat me to the punch. So, are you coming down? Okay, we’ll see you then.”

To me she said, “Poor guy, he walks all the time and he wonders why he gets tired.”

I asked, “How did the meeting with your worker go? Do you have furniture yet?”

“It was a joke. They took me to the Salvation Army Thrift store and gave me a voucher for sixty dollars. I was supposed to get a hundred. Anyway, I bought a comfy office chair and a foot stool that opens up at the top for storage. I also got two black fluffy mats. One I’m going to put under my air mattress. The other I’ll put in the hall. What I really wanted was a love seat they had, but the price was a hundred dollars, so I’ll have to make do with what I got. They will be scheduling a visit to the giant warehouse, that’ll be in about two weeks or so. I guess they’ll bump me to the top of the list. I’m not quite sure how that works.

“When this furniture deal gets settled I’m going to have a showdown with my worker. I want to find out why she treats me the way she does. I know she’s a dyke and I’ve got no problem with that. What people do in their private lives is up to them. What they do when they’re working for me is what I’m concerned about. I’m not the only one having trouble with her.

“By the way, when I went back to the library again, to use the washroom, I saw Daimon and Lucy. They were sitting on one of the top benches. Daimon said, ‘We’re up here looking down on everyone.’ When I came back they were both asleep.”

I asked Chester if he knew the time. He pulled out his phone and said, “Can you read the numbers? They’re pretty small.” He shaded the phone inside his jacket. “It’s ten, forty-five.”

“I should be going,” I said.

To Joy I asked, “Will I see you tomorrow?”

“Maybe, It depends on how much it’s raining.”

I walked across the street to visit with Uncle Wolf and Shaggy. “Hi Wolf. I’ve got a book put aside for you. Do you like Ian Flemming?”

“The guy that wrote the James Bond books? Yeah, I like him.”

“I’ll try to bring it tomorrow. I’ll see you then.”

.

19 April 2013

When I squatted down to talk to Joy she said, “Daimon and Lucy have been creepin’ about this morning. They’re both drug sick. Nick went somewhere to get some sleep. Lucy said she’d stop to talk with me, but she had to get fixed. You wont believe believe it but she asked me, ‘Do you have a rig with you?’ I said ‘I’m not a user, and even if I was I wouldn’t keep that stuff on me.’ It would be just my luck to have a cop check my bag and get pricked with a needle. That would be an attempted murder charge against me. Jake has AIDS and he spit at a cop last summer. They told him that, if it had landed on them, he could have been charged with attempted murder.

“Anyway, Lucy slunk off to Tim Horton’s to use their bathroom. They won’t let her into The Pizza Oven. She’ll be smashing in there. It’s been a while since she left. Maybe she’s nodded off. I guess I’ll find out when I go there later.

“She was looking really rough, wearing baggy winter pants. It looked like she hadn’t bathed for a while.

“I’ve got a sore neck from that office chair I got. It has a high back and the only way I can rest my head is to stretch out. I have to hunch my back to watch my DVDs. Hippo brought me a bunch. The ones I enjoy the most I’ve been watching over and over, there’s The Godfather,  Serpico, Bladerunner — I have the dialog memorized from that one — Pirates of the Caribbean. He also brought me Charlie’s Angels. I can’t see myself watching that.”

I said, “I like movies with Johnny Depp.”

“They’re weird, man.”

“Do you mean weird as in Edward Scissorhands?”

“Yeah that and Willie Wonka, and there’s the one where he plays the Mad Hatter and Finding Neverland. I heard that in real life he wears women’s underwear under his clothes.”

I said, “He played in the movie Ed Wood. His character was a producer of b movies, who is also a cross dresser.”

“That wouldn’t be much of a stretch for him. I can’t imagine any guy wanting to wear women’s underwear. Even I don’t like to wear women’s underwear. I wear men’s boxers, because they’re more comfortable.

“When I was with Jake he wanted me wearing these panties cut way up on the sides. He thought they looked sexy. He even had me wearing a thong. Can you imagine walking around with a string up your ass? If you sat or squatted wrong, it’d cut you.”

I asked, “Have you been taking your medication?”

“I’ve been taking it, but not the way I’m supposed to. I’m trying to make the pills last until I get my health card. It pisses me off that my worker hasn’t got me one after five months. Everybody else has theirs.”

A well dressed lady stopped to talk to Joy and dropped a five. She asked, “How have you been, I haven’t seen you around for a while?”

“I was in hospital from December to the end of January. It was because of the fibromyalgia I’ve got in my legs. I was in a wheel chair for a while then a walker then a cane. I couldn’t get out much.”

“How are you feeling now?”

“I gimp around a bit. I won’t be running anytime soon. If I get chased by a ferocious dog, I’ll just lay down and get eaten. I won’t have any choice.”

“All the best to you,” said the lady as she walked away.

I said, “She seems nice.”

“Yeah, she doesn’t usually drop me money. She’s a big shot with the government. When she’s alone, and only when she’s alone, she’ll stop to talk with me. When she’s with people from work, she doesn’t even look at me. I guess she’s embarrassed.”

I met the rest of the group at eleven o’clock, at ‘the point’.

I asked Joy, “Did Daimon and Lucy come back after I left?”

“No, and I checked the washroom. I just can’t understand people smashing that stuff in their arms. It just makes you nod off.”

Two women, Sophia and Becky approached. Sophia said, “We just graduated on Tuesday, so we’re free now.”

“Congratulations!” said Joy. “Hey, you’ve put on some weight. The other day I saw you from across the street. I was going to say, ‘Sophia, your ass is bigger.’ I decided not to.”

After they left I asked, “What did they graduate from?”

“I don’t know, probably rehab. I think that was part of Sophia’s parole, that she’d have to attend rehab. They’re confined to a house. They have to do chores. They’re monitored all the time.”

“When I was released from Kingston, I was sent to the Phoenix Program in Hamilton. It was all paid for. I was using crack then.

“They gave us these little, blue Twelve Step books from A.A. I said to the woman, ‘I’m not here for alcoholism, I’m here for drug addiction.’ She said, Just replace the word alcohol with the word drug. It’s the same program.

“I got kicked out of there. You couldn’t buy crack in Hamilton so my friend and I went out and got drunk.” They made a mistake in refunding  me the unused portion of the money paid for the program. I got really wasted after that.

“My mom wouldn’t speak to me while I was taking drugs. I quit, but I’d lost weight, so she thought I was still using. She wouldn’t let me see my kids. I had lots of money then. She liked that.”

“Earlier, I tried taking a pee behind that brick wall. Bruce yelled over at me, ‘Joy, I can see your bum.’ I tried to turn around a bit, but the shrubs don’t give much cover. I couldn’t pee after that. I’m going to go back there and try again.”

Joy walked across the street and I talked to Bruce, who I hadn’t seen since he’d invited me over for Christmas dinner. “How are things going in your new place, Bruce?”

“Great, sometimes I don’t even want to leave. I pan in my usual spot from six to around nine. I make about twenty bucks, enough to buy my smokes and a few groceries. I go grocery shopping twice a week. My freezer is full. I’m eating well. I only drink once a week — today.

“My place is small, just a bachelor with a big double bed. My girlfriend had been staying with me, but she had to go to hospital for gallstones. They did, what they call, non-invasive surgery. They put a tube through her nose and vacuumed the stones out that way.

“It was awful when I went in to see her. She had the tube in her nose, the oxygen tube, she had to have a blood transfusion. There were machines with wires hooked to her arms. Her blood pressure was going up and down. I thought I was going to lose her.

“Then she developed pancreatitis. I’m sure she picked that up in the hospital, because it was antibiotic resistant. She’d never taken antibiotics before so she wasn’t immune. It wasn’t an allergy. Anyway, they had to use two of the strongest antibiotics they had. She’s fine now.

“She’s gone to stay with her folks for a while. I hope she doesn’t start drinking again. When she was here, I could keep an eye on her.”

It was time for me to go back to work, so I said my goodbyes.

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My Friends

21 April 2013

Today is Sunday, which means that I won’t be seeing my friends until tomorrow. Following  are some word portraits, so you can get to know them:

Joy 

Love is amazing —
when we give it freely
it doesn’t diminish,
it enriches our souls.

Joy, is a panhandler
(incapable of anything else),
she is also my friend.
Each morning
(on my way to work)
I eagerly anticipate
her greeting and warm smile.

I sit with her
on the sidewalk,
as witness
to her blackened eyes.
I listen to her stories
of beatings and abuse,
give comfort
when she cries.
“Tears are a sign of weakness”
her father used to say.

I bring her tea
(cream and three sugars),
a bagel with cream cheese,
on mornings when frost
is on the ground,
and on the hearts,
of most passers by.

She gives to me
her hand to hold,
an attentive ear
to my daily problems,
and a hug
(when a hug is needed).

With her kindness,
Joy has enriched my soul
and filled my heart with tenderness.
She has given me so much
that I didn’t know existed —
I am deeply in her debt.

.

Antonio

My friend, Antonio,
greets me
with a salute and a bow
(it’s his way).
I am very glad to see him
and very honored.

I don’t see him very often,
he has his own schedule,
not necessarily
corresponding with mine.
He is a free spirit.

Through dark glasses
he sees the world
(so not to offend).
He is very conscious
that his appearance
may cause concern.
He wears a beard,
his clothes are ragged,
all his belongings
follow him
in a shopping cart.

He feels uncomfortable
in enclosed spaces,
so he sleeps outdoors,
summer and winter,
on a park bench
(with his friends
the squirrels),
when temperatures
are well below freezing.

He is not immune
from assault,
beatings
(having his teeth kicked out),
not because of what he does,
but what he is,
how he appears.

I usually see him
in front of the library,
one of his favorite places.
He likes to look at books
and see pictures
of kings and other people
he has studied
in school.

Occasionally,
he joins me for coffee.
He tells me
the most wondrous stories.
Sometimes,
I think he makes them up
for my benefit.
In any case
I am honored.

.

Through Shaded Eyes

A breathless beauty,
enchanting and fanciful,
where castles of ice abound —
if we didn’t know just where to look
they never would be found.

A wonderland of mystery
in a public park downtown.
The squirrels know what life’s about —
in Antonio’s sleeping bag
they tunnel in and out.

They scamper
over drifts of snow,
no boots upon their feet.
When he awakes, he’ll feed them
the little he has to eat.

Through shaded eyes
he views, the world passing by.
With gentleness and thoughts of kings
he tells me of his precious dreams.
A shopping cart, holds all his worldly things.

.

Andre

So, I’m panning
in my usual spot.
This suit walks by —
in passing he says,
“Get a job!”
“Hire me!” I say.
“Take a shower,” he says.
“I may sleep outside,
that doesn’t mean
I don’t wash —
I wash all over.”

“Hey,” I say,
“if you’re so successful,
why do you look
so unhappy?

“I’ve made the price
of my bottle.
I’ve got some smokes,
a little pot.

“Me, I’m the happiest guy alive.”

.

Shakes

it’s nice
waking up
in the morning.

If I don’t,
I know
something’s
wrong.

I don’t know
where I am,
or how I got here,
but, I’m here.

I got some wine,
some cigarettes
and some ‘mary jane’ —
I start walking,

ain’t looking
for trouble, but
it finds me.

how am I?
I’ll be doing fine
soon as I get
this drunk on.

.

Alphonse

I look into your eyes,
grey with tears and sorrow
from the Arctic Ocean.

I feel your hurt deep inside,
hear your thunder,
see your rain.

With your fist at your chest
you open your heart,
tell me of hardship,
betrayal and pain.

I listen
with my heart
as one who has been there.

With my arm around your shoulder,
as a brother,
I urge you, to act with patience
and with love —
to be Love.

.

A Lost Brave

a lost brave
leans against a building
(tho he is unwelcome)
beside a busy walk.
everything he owns
fills a pack
upon his back

he is far
from his fishing boat,
an ocean teeming with fish,
from the majestic forest,
from his children,
his clan

his eyes reveal
a story of hurt and pain –
the uncertainty of the city.
a sidewalk for a bed,
charity of strangers
his only grace

a challenge
every day –
a new beginning.
beyond the fire
that tames his demons
the only plan that matters
is to survive

far from home
he can scarce remember.
a lost brave, fighting back tears,
pride in the knowledge
of his ancestry,
his place –
his blood

.

23 April 2013

The morning was bright and sunny.  When I approached Joy, she said, “Hi, Sweetie, I listened to Buddy the weather man this morning. He said it was supposed to be warm, so I didn’t wear my long johns. As soon as I got outside I thought, That was a mistake, but it’s too late to go back now. I’m sitting here shivering. I’m glad I’ve got my blanket. I’m also glad I have this box to sit on. When I was down on the sidewalk I could see way too much. Now, at least I’m above ass level.

“Some of these women wear skirts that are way too short for the size of their waistlines. I don’t need that view before breakfast.”

“How was your weekend?” I asked.

“I wasn’t here yesterday, because I was feeling sick. I was at Andre’s on the weekend.  I cooked spare ribs. We got barbecue sauce from this Chinese place where we got the ribs. Every time I’ve used it for marinating, I’ve had the runs for four days.

“I was at home Sunday, all snuggled up in my jammies, ready for bed, when Andre bangs at the door. I said, ‘What are you doing here?’  With a mournful look he pouted, ‘You said I could come over sometime.’ I said, ‘I didn’t mean now!’ He came over the next day with Hippo and brought the rest of the ribs, so I cooked supper again.

“I explained to him, ‘There’s never going to be anything between us. Stop pushing me!’ If he had teeth it might be different, but he’s got this gaping space in front, and the few teeth he has in back are rotten. I can’t even sit close to him because of his foul breath, Shakes is the same.

“He said, ‘I’m saving my condom supply for you.’ I said, ‘Don’t bother.’ I believe in safe sex, but I can just imagine what kind of diseases he’s carrying.

“You should see some of the skanks he goes out with. There’s one fat bitch who is huge. I can smell her from fifteen feet away. He said he only gets blow jobs from her, but she sleeps in his bed. I don’t know how he can put up with the stink.

“He came down here this morning at eight o’clock. He asked, ‘What are you doing?’ I said, ‘What the fuck do you think I’m doing! I’m working!’ Even Jake had the sense not to come down for me until nine o’clock.

“Well, that’s my venting for the day.”

I asked, “Have you heard from your workers about taking you to the furniture warehouse?”

“I’m going to phone them this afternoon. I’ll borrow Chester’s phone. One worker was over yesterday. She asked to use the bathroom. It was just an excuse to scope out the place. When she came out she asked, ‘Why do you have two tooth brushes and men’s hair gel in the bathroom?’ I said, ‘Hippo brought  the Axe, ’cause his hair’s getting so long he can’t manage it. The two toothbrushes are mine. I use the blue one in the morning, it’s newer, but I like to use the green one at night, because it has a tongue cleaner on it.’

I said, “You mentioned that Jake was getting out of prison soon.”

“Yeah, May seventeenth. One of his friends was going to sponsor him, but he’s been sick, so I guess he’ll be going to a halfway house. He’s got family here so this is where he’ll be coming. People ask me if I’ll be getting back with him. I tell them, ‘I don’t want to be with anyone, but if he’s changed I might consider it.’ I’d rather just have him as a fuck buddy.

“Here comes Chester. I wonder what he wants.”

I said, “I’ll leave you to it.”

“That’s it, leave me alone with him.”

.

25 April 2013

This morning was sunny but cold. I usually walk straight to Joy’s spot, but I had run out of bus tickets and Tim Horton coffee cards, so I had to make two stops, stand in two lineups. When I got to Joy’s spot she was sobbing. “Thank God you’re here. I saw you cross the street and I thought I wouldn’t see you. I left my purse at Outcast’s place last night. I took a cab, and only after I tried to pay the fare did I realize I didn’t have my purse with me.  In it I had my cash, my pot, all my phone numbers. I told the guy, ‘I’m just going to go up to my friend’s place to get some money.’ He grabbed my bag and said, ‘I’ll hold onto this until you get back.’ I went to Mariah’s place. She wasn’t home. Even if she didn’t have any money I could have used her phone to call Andre or Outcast. I went down to the cab and said to the guy, ‘Fuck man, I got no money. I can’t call my friends. Can I pay you tomorrow? He said, ‘I’ll give you twenty-four hours, then I call the police.’

‘What is it with you people? You think you can get away without paying. I got bills to pay.’

“I said to him, ‘First of all, what’s this YOU people. Do you think I’m a ho? I wouldn’t be wearing nearly these many clothes if I was hooking. Do you think I’m a crack addict? Do I act like a crack addict? Is it because I’m part native?’ This guy was a fuckin’ immigrant! I was born here.

“This morning I had to beg the bus driver to let me on. I said to him, ‘I got no tickets, can I give you two tomorrow. He said, “Okay, I see you going in to the hotel through the back way. Why don’t you go through the front?’ The only reason I go in there is to take a piss, but I said to him, ‘I work as a cleaner there. Only paying guests are allowed to use the front door.’

“Most of the regulars on the bus think I work in construction. I overheard this woman say that one of her pipes was leaking. I said to her, ‘It sounds to me like you just need a plastic elbow. It’ll fit inside your pipe and stop the leak.’ This other guy says, ‘If you’re a tradesman, how do you cut marble.’ I said, I’d use a Jig saw and plenty of water to keep the blade cool.’ I just pick this stuff up on programs like ‘How’s this Made’.

“It’s just like when I was in prostitution.  For a while I worked in a phone sex chat room.  People say I have a sexy phone voice. I’ve heard myself on tape recorder. I just think it sounds nasal, like I have a sore throat. I went by the name Lincoln. But I’d say ‘I’m not that big, but I do purrrr.’ It was crazy working in that place. There were about sixty of us in this room, we each had a cubicle. Most of the time we’d have our feet up munching on something. When we’d get a call we weren’t allowed to initiate the conversation. Just like when we were on the street, the guy would have to tell us what he wanted and we’d give him a price. We’d wait until the guy said something like, ‘What are you wearing?’ I’d say, ‘I’m just curled up in my pink baby dolls, waiting for you handsome.’ Otherwise we could have been charged with soliciting.

“Jake phoned me one time, and, I mean I was living with the guy, right, so he knew how I’d be dressed and what I looked like. We chatted for a while and when I got home he said, ‘I had such a hard on all afternoon, I had to leave work, it was such a stiffy’   — or woody, or chipmunk, or whatever you want to call it.

“Anyway, I was sure glad you came along this morning. You cheered me up. When I saw you go by, I just put my head down in my lap and started bawling my eyes out. This old lady stopped, not one of my regulars, and asked, ‘What’s the matter deary? Is there anything I can do to help?’ She reached into her purse and dropped me one blue bus ticket. I don’t know if they even take them any more. That was before the pink ones, the orange ones. And there was only one. I guess I could have told the driver that it was folded and I couldn’t get it apart. That might have worked.”

We saw Chester coming. “What does that old fart want? It’s always something, bus tickets, cigarettes…”

Chester said, “Hi Joy, Dennis. I can’t stop I’m going somewhere.”

Joy said, “You’re always going somewhere.”

“Cheer up,” he said, “we get our checks tomorrow. You’ll be getting yours too. I’ll see you.”

“I was hoping that Andre would be coming down. Last time I saw him was at Mariah’s. He was fooling around with this stupid camera. When Mariah saw that he’d taken her picture she beat the shit out of him — had him in a headlock and was pounding his face. There are a lot of people who don’t like to have their picture spread around.”

I asked, “What’s Mariah worried about?”

“I shouldn’t even be saying this, but when she was with a motorcycle gang in Montreal.  They’ve now joined up with a larger, international gang.  Well, she brought the affiliation papers to the larger gang. I’d tell you the names, but then I’d have to kill you.”

Next came Toothless Chuck (not to be confused with Chuck who has teeth). Hi Joy,  Dennis! Haven’t seen you guys for ages. Joy, I got those paints you wanted.”

“Cool, man. I’ve painted some vines on my walls and I wanted to add some color — flowers or something.”

“If you see Tom, tell him I have a box of oil pastels that I want to sell. I’m having a barbecue this afternoon. Do you want to come? Shark and Irene will be there.”

“I don’t know man, Shark and I don’t get along so well.”

“Just talk to Irene then. There will be lots of other people. I’m on my way to pick up some groceries. I’ll pick you up on the way back.”

“Yeah, okay.”

Before I left Joy asked me, “Would you like a pear?  Someone gave it to me.  I don’t eat them.”

“Sure. I’ll probably see you at noon.”

I went to the park at noon. Wolf had mentioned that he didn’t have anything to read for the weekend. I brought him Ian Fleming’s, ‘On Her Majesty’s Foreign Service’, a James Bond novel.  He was very grateful.  He said, “I’ll give it back to you once I’m finished.”

“No, you keep it, Wolf.”

“I really appreciate that. It’ll be in my bookshelf, if you ever want it back. Books are like gold to me. I can’t stand it when people abuse books.

“I’m just coming off a ten day drunk. I was even drinking what these people drink. What is it, Imperial or that Pale Dry. I know why Joy went to hospital. I haven’t had a solid shit since I started drinking that stuff. It’s back to Blue for me;  not even Old Milwaukee. I don’t need that extra half percent of alcohol.

“If you don’t have a solid shit, you’re not healthy. That’s my advice. Now if you don’t mind I’m going to sit down before I fall.”

Shakes called me over. He was half sitting half sprawled on the curb. He reached for my hand and pulled me down.

Jake said, “You two are really getting close.”

Shakes whispered, “Dennis, can you give me some bus tickets? I’ll need six, two for me to get home and four for Tommy and I to come down tomorrow. Tom’s not like me. I’ll say to him, Lets jump on at the back door. He won’t, not if he’s sober. Did you know that Tom is living at my place now. He doesn’t like the way I live. He’s always tidying up. Thanks, Dennis.”

I sat between Wolf and Mariah. I asked her, “I guess you heard about Joy leaving her purse at Outcast’s place last night?”

“Yeah, she came running up to my apartment, but I didn’t have any cash.  She should get it back today, unless she dropped it somewhere between Outcast’s and the cab. You know how us women depend on our purses.”

Wolf leaned over and whispered to me, “I’d be surprised if her money’s still there. I don’t know if he’d steal from Joy, but he stole from me when he came over to buy some crack. He can’t be trusted, but that’s just between me and you. Nobody else heard that.”

Shakes came over and crouched to sit down on the sidewalk.

“Yeah, Shakes, you might as well join us. You’re already sitting on my toilet seat cushion (referring to the Montreal Canadiens’ hockey team logo).”

Wolf’s dog Shaggy started barking. Wolf reached into Shaggy’s buggy and pulled out a tinfoil bag of treats. Shakes was fumbling, trying to open the bag. Wolf said, “If he doesn’t get that bag open soon, Shaggy will bite him. She will, she’s like that and it doesn’t matter what race the person is;  black, brown, yellow or white,  she’ll bite them.”

Shakes had the bag opened and put one of the doggy treats in his mouth, then leaned toward Shaggy. Wolf said, Those treats are pretty small, I don’t think he should try that.”

Shaggy took the treat without incident. “How old is Shaggy?” asked Shakes.

Wolf said, “She’s as old as I’ve known you. You came here twelve years ago; she’s twelve years old.”

Jacques said, “Shakes, hand me that bag. I want to see if it has glucosamine in it. I’ve asked my doctor if glucosamine will help my arthritis. He always changes the subject. He won’t give me a straight answer. Yes it has glucosamine, along with pea flour, rice flour, miniblablabla…”

I said, “Ask Shakes how they taste. Maybe you’ll like them.”

“Mariah said, “It’s good for cartilage.  I take it all the time.”

It was time for me to go back to work.  As I struggled to my feet. Mariah held out her arm. I leaned on it to get my balance.”

I said, “Us old people need a helping hand every once in a while.”

“You could have leaned harder than that. I’ll need a hand up when it’s time for me to go.”

.

26 April 2013

Same Mother, Different Fathers 

It rained last night, so there were puddles on the sidewalk. I didn’t expect Joy to be at her spot, but there she was. I asked, “How was the barbecue yesterday?”

“It was good, except for Shark. I told Chuck that Shark and Irene would bail, and sure enough they did. We were waiting to eat, Chuck had to go to Shark’s place to buy some pot.  He figured he could talk Shark into coming. When he came back he asked me, ‘What is it between you and Shark?’ He said to me, ‘I’ll sit at the same table with Joy, but I’m not going to feed her.’ I said, ‘It’s thirty years of fighting. Don’t sweat it. I wouldn’t eat any food that Shark’s greasy, fuckin’ fingers had touched anyway.

“I’m expecting Chester to come by. He’ll have his check by now. He want’s me to move back in with him. He know how much I hate the place I’m in now, but I don’t hate it that much.”

“He’s still seeing Raven isn’t he?”

“Whenever he thinks he can get a piece of ass. I’ve had it with her. The last time I had anything to do with her was at his place. I think I told you about it. I was cooking steaks. She came over and leaned her head almost into the frying pan.  Her long fuckin’ hair was nearly touching our food. I was cool, I just went downstairs to talk to Mariah. What I wanted to do was take the steaks out  and push her skinny face into the grease of the pan.

“Since then she’s come up to me and said, ‘I’m so sorry Joy.’ I just said, ‘Keep the fuck away from me, and don’t ever talk to me again.’ I can be a real bitch sometimes.”

I asked, “Apart from Shark and Irene not turning up, how was the rest of the party?”

“It was good until Chuck’s landlord came over. Chuck laid into him with, ‘When are you going to fix my fuckin’ window? It’s a hazard. A child could fall through there.’ I could see this was going bad so I stepped between them. I took Buddy into the hall. He asked, ‘Who are you?’ I said, ‘I’m Chuck’s sister and I may be looking for a place if the price is right.’ He said,  You sure don’t look like Chuck.’ I said, ‘Yeah, well, same mother, different fathers. The only thing we share in common is sperm.’  He asked, ‘Where are you from and what do you do.’ I couldn’t decide what to say, but I said, ‘I’m from Montreal. I work in housing maintenance. I could fix that window for you, but as far as living here you’re charging way too much.  Chuck’s paying eight, ninety. I know you’ve done some painting upstairs, but I wouldn’t take it for more than seven hundred. It’s only one room.

“Chuck came storming out and said, ‘Look, you fuckin’ nigger. Get out of my place before I put you down right here.’ I said, ‘Hold on Chuck, I was negotiating a reduction in your rent.’ I knew that Buddy had a button on his phone that would have brought a dozen of his black brothers here in minutes. He got in his truck drove ten feet then slammed on his brakes. I thought we were in for it then, but he drove off.

“I picked up a butter knife and tightened the screws in the window so it doesn’t sag.  Chuck said, ‘What about the next time it comes loose?’ I handed him the butter knife, saluted and left.”

I’m not much of a conversationalist, so when Joy was at a loss for words, which happens very rarely, I read her poetry.  She said, “I have glasses now, Can you leave those poems with me, I’d like to read them again.”

 

 

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In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts

I’ve sometimes wondered why I’m drawn to homeless people. I’ve found some answers in the book, In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction by Gabor Mate, M.D. He has a web site at: http://www.drgabormate.com

Dr. Mate works with drug addicts in the former Portland Hotel, on Hastings Street, in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, considered Canada’s drug capital.

“What keeps me here?” muses Kersten Steuerzbech. “In the beginning I wanted to help. And now … I still want to help, but it’s changed. Now I know my limits. I know what I can and cannot do. What I can do is to be here and advocate for people at various stages of their lives, and allow them to be who they are. We have an obligation as a society to … support people for who they are, and to give them respect. That’s what keeps me here.”

“Liz Evans began working in the area at the age of twenty-six. ‘I was overwhelmed,’ she recalls.’As a nurse, I thought I had some expertise to share. While that was true, I soon discovered that, in fact, I had very little to give — I could not rescue people from their pain and sadness. All I could offer was to walk beside them as a fellow human being, a kindred spirit.’ ”

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Comments
  1. susanissima says:

    Oh, how you honor your friends! I especially love the poetry. Just wondering, do you ever ask about your friends they ended up homeless? Are there common themes to their backstories, Dennis?

    Like

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