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11 June 2012

The weather at noon today was ninety degrees and sunny. Typically, everyone was complaining about the heat. I met Serge sitting on the curb. We shook hands.

“How are you doing, Serge?”

“Not bad. I’m just drinking my lunch. The others are up top.” He was sipping from an innocent looking clear plastic water bottle that also contained rubbing alcohol.

“I’ll see you later, Serge.”

“See you.”

At the park were four of my friends.

Loretta said, “I’m sad today. It’s my birthday, I had to appear in court on an assault charge and I met my ex. We had a big fight right in the Courthouse. They think I may get jail time. I hope not.”

“Hey,” said Silver, “my birthday is coming up this month. What kind of present are you going to buy me, Outcast?”

“How be I give you a kick in the ass? My birthday was in January. What did you give me?”

“Well, could I have a smoke?”

“I’ll throw it over the railing. Will you get it?”

“Sure I’ll get it.”

“How be I throw you over the railing?”

“How old will you be, Silver?” I asked.

“On the 23rd I’ll be 52. Outcast is a couple of months older than I am.”

“How old are you, Chester?”

“I’m sixty-four.”

“How are you feeling. Are your toes still black  from being run over by the the bus?”

“Yes they’re still black, but they’re getting better. I’m still in a lot of pain. I usually don’t take pills. The only thing I take is demerol. My doctor gives it to me for migraines. They get very bad. I get them about once a month.”

“Have you seen Joy today?” asked Loretta.

“No,” I replied, “she wasn’t panning this morning.”

“She was here yesterday,” said Silver. “Maybe she panned large and doesn’t need to come out today. I’m just staying around until the pigs come. Then I’m taking off. I hid my backpack with my beer in it, so if they come, all I can lose is this can on the railing.”

“Friday, they were here nearly every hour,” said Outcast. “I kicked over three cans.”

Loretta said, “I left my beer on the railing, right where it was. They didn’t say anything.”

Outcast said, “Debbie’s computer crashed today. I had some savings put away, so I bought her this laptop. It was regularly $400.00, I got it for $200.00.”

Silver said, “Sorry, Dennis, for my smoke getting in your face. It’s getting so we’re not allowed to smoke in parks, on public patios or any public places.

“I nearly burnt my bed the other night. My mattress is on the floor. The end of my cigarette fell off and I guess it rolled under the edge of my mattress. I kept asking my roommate, ‘Do you smell something burning?’ I flipped over my mattress and there was a plate sized, smoldering hole. I got two or three pans of water from the sink and doused it. Then I had to sleep on the floor.”

“Silver,” said Outcast, “you’re dropping ashes on Chester’s backpack. Soon, it’s going to be on fire.”

“Chester,” said Loretta, “come over here and stand in front of me. I want to take off these long pants and put on my shorts. I’m too hot in these.”

Outcast said, “I’m really being stupid. I have asthma, I’m smoking and I don’t have my puffer with me.

“I’ve got lung problems too. Now, it’s turned into cancer. In the 1980’s I was working on the Post Office building, removing asbestos. We weren’t wearing masks. We didn’t even know it was dangerous, back then. Of the twenty-seven guys I worked with only thirteen are still alive. The rest of us are still waiting for a settlement from the government.

“At least I have insurance so my kids are taken care of. My brother was a firefighter during 9/11 in New York. His lungs are so badly corroded, from the dust and the smoke, that, he can’t do anything. I come from a family of eleven boys and one girl. I’m the youngest.”

“That’s a big family,” I commented.

“How was your weekend, Silver?”

“I panned in my usual place on Saturday. On Sunday, I was at the two churches downtown in four shifts from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm. I always do well there.

“This morning I went for breakfast at the Salvation Army. Mondays they always have a full breakfast. I had a three egg sandwich. They have really good sausages there. Tuesday, at the Mission, they’re having their full breakfast.

“On Father’s Day Chicken Man will be coming by. He came into a lot of money, now he’s spreading it around. On Father’s Day and on Mother’s Day he gives away chicken and turkey hot dogs, and with them he hands out $5.00 bills.”

  1. toad (chris jensen) says:

    Yoo, Dennis having a good day back east I see. Dam those smoking law, as children are generation grew-up bombarded by smoking, now they threaten with laws, don’t figure?

    It’s a warn sunny day here in Vancouver on the way grab a coffee and cheezies breakfast of champions, didn’t see any panners or street people.



  2. skinnyuz2b says:

    I like the way your conversations wander all over the place, just like in real life. Very believable. Back in mid 80s, the husband of a friend was a member of the very first class action lawsuit (a test case) for aspestosis (sp). He is long ago deceased.


    • dcardiff says:

      Yes the conversations wander all over the place. Often I’m trying to listen to two different conversations at the same time. Never a dull moment.



  3. msuzanneb says:

    Many Blessings to you and your friends, Namaste, mary


  4. How much time do you spend with them, Dennis?


    • dcardiff says:

      It depends a lot on the weather and how long it has been since check day. I pass Joy’s spot every work day. If she’s there I stop to talk for about twenty minutes. If it’s not raining, I visit my friends at the park and spend about forty-five minutes. Occasionally, after work, I’ll meet Bearded Bruce and Craig on my way to the bus.



  5. 1WriteWay says:

    I love how they accept you, talk freely around you. I used to study ethnographic HIV/AIDS research focused on needle drug users. The researchers would have to spend months (at least) to gain enough trust among the community to learn about their behaviors and practices and attitudes toward efforts to try and stop the spread of HIV among them. It’s hard (and counterproductive) to try and help people when you don’t understand what they really need or what they will accept.


    • dcardiff says:

      It’s taken three years of visiting almost daily to establish this level of trust. It took the first year for Joy to trust me enough to introduce me to her friends. They agreed to the idea of having me write a book on their lives. Now, I’m just one of the family. I’ve been there when the police have raided. I’m there when pot is bought, sold and smoked. I’m there when illegal cigarettes are bought and sold. They openly discuss their diseases and medications. I feel very honored to have been accepted into their street family.



      • 1WriteWay says:

        That is a wonderful commitment on your part. It understandably takes a long time to build trust. I’ll keep reading 🙂


      • nannus says:

        I see that plan to write a book is already there. You should really do that. You have a unique perspective. We cannot see and hear what you can see and hear.


      • dcardiff says:

        Yes, I already have a lot of material and I’m getting more every day. I’m editing, sorting, naming and wondering what would be a suitable ending. It will all come together eventually.


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