Archive for October 10, 2013



10 October 2013

Another perfect day. I walked by the park and didn’t see any of my friends. There was a person sleeping on the lawn, but I didn’t recognize them. I turned to leave and saw Little Jake riding up the sidewalk on his bicycle. He wandered over to the person sleeping and said, “It’s Magdalene. I’ll just let her sleep it off.”

“Are you in a rush to go anywhere?” Jake asked.

“No, let’s sit for a while, enjoy the weather.”

Jake said, “I was in a panic this morning. I was desperate for a coffee and I couldn’t find the card you gave me yesterday. I looked everywhere. I finally found it. It was in the plastic case with my dope. So, I was able to have my coffee.

“My throat still feels miserable. I have trouble talking, swallowing. I’m still waiting for three government checks. Ever since I filed my income taxes, I haven’t seen a check. I got a letter in the mail asking me to confirm my address. Isn’t that the stupidest thing you’ve ever heard?”

“Yeah, ” I said, “it’s like phoning you, and asking what your phone number is. ”

“Exactly. I got my worker to fax a copy of my lease and all the other shit they wanted. I need that money. I owe a lot of people.”

I asked, “Have you been seeing your doctor and taking your HIV medication?”

“No, I asked my worker yesterday to set up an appointment with my doctor. I need to get my prescriptions renewed. Also, one of the pills I have to take is huge. I usually puke trying to swallow it. That’s no good.”

I asked, “Can you crush or cut that pill smaller?”

“No it’s a gel capsule. I asked my doctor last time if they came in smaller sizes. He said they did. I don’t know why I got these big mothers. I’ll have to get that settled when I see him. I also have to get new papers signed for my special diet. That’ll be three birds I can kill with one stone.”

Jacques walked by and mumbled something about having to put some money on his phone.

Jake said, “That guy can be a real tit some times. I gave him fifty dollars when my last check came in and said, ‘Hold on to this for me. It’s for my bus pass.’ At the first of the month he was talking to my new dealer, who said I owed him thirty bucks.  Jacques gave him thirty and when he saw me, gave me twenty.  I said, ‘For Christ’s sake. You didn’t smoke that dope. Why did you pay for it?’ So, I’m left without a bus pass. I hope this warm weather holds out until the end of the month.

“Shakes should be down shortly.  I was at his place last night. On my way home I picked up a dozen pork cutlets and some bread crumbs –I left my other bread crumbs at Shark’s. I dropped six off at my place, then took six to Shakes’ apartment. I didn’t know if he was at home, but his door was open, so I walked in. He was passed out on his couch. I made schnitzel with a big green salad. it was delicious. I love green salads.

“Later on, we heard a knock on the door. It was a woman cop, serving a subpoena for him to appear in court in January, because he had been robbed.  The cop asked him how he was doing, He said, ‘Just having a drink and smoking some dope with a friend.’ That’s what he said to the cop. Anyway, they really must have a hard on for this guy. If Shakes isn’t to appear until January they must have a lot of charges to go through.

“It looks like I’m going to have to pan to get some money. Not that it’s anything different from what I’m doing now, just sitting here.”

What other jobs have you had? I know you were a maitre d, at one time, you’ve been a cook. What else?”

“I started off stealing bicycles. I used to be a bicycle mechanic. I know everything about bicycles.  I can take them apart, put them back together. I know every part and what it’s for. If something isn’t working I can make it work.  I remember, one time, I had five bikes in the back yard.  I was living with my grandparents at the time. One afternoon a cop came by and said, ‘We’re looking for some stolen bicycles. Have you seen any around?’ I said, ‘No.’ After they left, I hoisted two over each shoulder and hightailed it to the back forty. My grandfather asked me why I was riding a particular bike that evening. I said, ‘This is one that the cops aren’t looking for.’ He just laughed.

“I’m Jack, man. I can do anything. When I was a kid I had an older brother. It seemed that he got everything and there was nothing left for me. My mom said, ‘If you want something, get a job and earn it.’ I was thirteen at the time. She shouldn’t have said that to me. I got a job at a restaurant washing dishes and was earning a hundred bucks a week. This was back in 1980, so for a thirteen-year-old, that was a fortune.

“It was actually a family business. My mom worked in the kitchen and my uncle ran the place. Some of my cousins were waitresses. I worked my way up to cook and finally, maitre d. It was an Austrian type restaurant. I got to dress to the nines, got big tips; a hundred to one fifty a night.

“One time we had a big group, forty-five people. My mother and I  served forty-five meals in forty-nine minutes.

“Why did you leave that job?”

“My uncle was killed in a car accident. He was also my best friend. I was twenty-five at the time, he was thirty-five.

“I’ve done lots of other jobs; worked in a bowling alley setting pins, that was back in the day before they had automatic pin setters.”

I said, “I did that back in 1960. We were paid a penny a pin. if it was one guy, playing one game of five-pins, ten frames, I’d get paid fifty cents. If it was a league of ten-pins, I’d be setting two alleys, five bowlers per alley, three games, it would work out to fifteen bucks. A lot of money in those days. I’d have about twenty bruises on each leg, between my knees and my ankles, from pins bouncing back.”

Jake said, “I’ve also worked concrete, electricals, any kind of construction. Like I said, I’m Jack, man!”





5 October 2012

At 10:15 this morning I entered the Kelly Funeral Home, Somerset Chapel, to attend the viewing and memorial service for Silver. Most of the viewing rooms were empty. I heard voices and walked into one of the rooms. I didn’t know if I was in the right room until I saw, at the front, two boards of photographs with Silver lettered on top. There must have been a dozen photos on each board. Many of the photos I wouldn’t have recognized. They were from Silver’s childhood, teenage years and as the adult that I had considered my friend for the past nine months. As I was looking, I was approached by a woman with blond hair, and a welcoming smile.

She asked, “Did you know Silver well?”

“Yes,” I answered, “I sat and talked with him nearly every day. In the mornings, in front of Starbucks, and at noon at ‘the benches’ at Confederation Park.”

“I’m Silver’s’s sister, Cathy, by the way.”

“Silver spoke fondly of you,”

“Did you also know that he has three brothers, a son and a grandchild? Did Silver mention that? I’ll introduce you to them when I see them.”

“Silver may have mentioned the rest of his family. The last time I saw him was about two weeks ago. He showed me the swelling of his ankle and varicose veins he was worried about. He said he had an appointment with his doctor that same day. Jacques mentioned that Silver’s stomach was swollen. We all noticed that he had lost weight, especially in his face, and were worried about him. Sometimes, he would sit alone and just gaze into the distance. It just seemed to be his way. It was a great shock to hear that he had passed away.

“What was given as the cause of death?”

“Liver failure. Swollen ankles and abdomen are symptoms of liver failure. Luckily the whole family was able to be at his bedside for the last week. His son and granddaughter, of course, his mother and father, his brothers, his nephew. We all had lots of stories. It was good to see Silver laugh.”

“Here’s Cody now, Silver’s son, and Cody’s daughter Jennifer, Jenny for short.”

“Hi, Cody, and Jenny. I knew your father well. I’m so sorry for your loss. You have a striking resemblance to your dad.”

“I know. I’m proud of it.”

Cathy said, Dennis have you met Steve?”

“Hi Steve.”

Linda said to Dave, “You saw John fairly regularly too, is that right?”

“Every day or so we’d go for a beer together. I lived next door to him at the Lafayette.”

Cathy said, “We’d lost contact with Silver. We didn’t know he was so close. He didn’t have a phone. If we’d know where he was we would have whisked him away.”

“Steve, how long was Silver at the Lafayette, about four years?”

“Nearly five years.”

“Dennis,” asked Cathy, ” what was your impression of Silver?”

“He was the sweetest, kindest, gentlest man. He always had a smile to greet me. It was always a pleasure talking with him.”

Cathy said, “He was a glass-half-full kind of person, wasn’t he?”

“Yes,” I said, “He was always cheerful and optimistic.”

I saw Danny, Outcast, Spike, Shark and Irene. Outcast walked over to the photographs and said, “Here’s me with Silver, this other one is of me also, but my head is cut off.”

I said, “Outcast I’d recognize your crotch anywhere.”

Shark said, “We’re not staying for the service. We just came to pay our respects to Silver’s family, then we’ll raise a few glasses to Silver.”

Irene and I walked over and signed the visitor’s book. I saw Danny sitting down, so I went over and sat with him.

“I’m just on my way to Thunder Bay,” he said. “After I leave here I’m, going to the bus depot to pick up my tickets.”

I asked, “Is that where you’re from. Do you have family there?”

“My mother’s in hospital, so I want to spend time with her. She has had part of her colon removed. Now they’ve found more polyps in the remaining colon. Doctors want to remove another two inches. She doesn’t want to go through that again. She said, ‘I’m ready to go. Why won’t they just let me die at home.’

“She’s had a hard life. My dad passed away a while back. He was on life support. The family was asked for permission to stop the machines that were keeping him alive. I was talking to my mom, on my cell phone, when they pulled the plug. I heard laughing in the background. The family thought that after he was removed from life support that he would die immediately. He drifted off to sleep for about ten minutes, then he awoke. He said, ‘I must be in heaven, I see all the angels of my family around me.’ Everyone laughed. I think he was trying to hold on until I arrived, but he didn’t last long enough for me to see him alive. At least I got to talk to him, and tell him that I loved him.

I met silver’s brothers and his nephew. I also met Spike. I introduced myself. I said, I think we’ve met before at ‘the benches’, or at the ‘heater’. “Maybe, he said, I go to those places.”

Shark said to Spike, “What do you think of this place?”

Spike said, “It’s handy to the Somerset Street Beer Store.”

It was time to go upstairs for the memorial service. I’m guessing there were about fifty to seventy-five people in attendance. The Minister, who hadn’t met silver, started the service with a reading from  the Book of John:

14 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God[a]; believe also in me. 2 My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 4 You know the way to the place where I am going.”

Jesus the Way to the Father

5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”

6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you really know me, you will know[b] my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”

The minister added a personal note. “I am getting on in years. I know that when my time comes that my Lord will have prepared a room for me, even though in my life I have made mistakes. I am human. We all make mistakes. The dead are not gone, they live on in our hearts and memories, and in the genes of Jesse and Abbie.

He then went over and blessed Silver’s cremation urn with holy water.

A family member read a poem she wrote for John.

Cathy talked about stories from their childhood, stories that they had recounted at Silver’s bedside:

In the winter, Silver loved ‘bumpering’. To go bumpering, you grab the bumper of a moving vehicle and allow it pull you as it careens along the icy roads. This is dangerous and not at all recommended.

Silver enjoyed board games such as Monopoly and Clue, and playing cards. He and his older brother, Don, played a game called Hi-Lo. The loser of each hand would have to do push ups. What Silver didn’t know was that Bob was stacking the deck against him. Don was ahead in the short run, but Silver developed massive shoulders, that gave him the advantage in wrestling.

Our father died when Silver was nine years old. The three oldest siblings had to take turns minding the two youngest. Silver wanted to go riding on his bike, but it was his turn to care for his younger brother. Silver found a way to do both things at the same time. He tied his brother to the front stair railing and hopped on his bike. He rode around and around the block, waving at his brother each time he passed.

Cathy read the poem Do not stand at my grave and weep by Mary Elizabeth Frye,

Do not stand at my grave and weep,
I am not there; I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glints on snow,
I am the sun on ripened grain,
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning’s hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circling flight.
I am the soft star-shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there; I did not die.

The service ended, and as the congregation arose and left the chapel the following song was being played:

Spirit in the Sky

by Norman Greenbaum

When I die and they lay me to rest
Gonna go to the place that’s the best
When I lay me down to die
Goin’ up to the spirit in the sky
Goin’ up to the spirit in the sky
That’s where I’m gonna go when I die
When I die and they lay me to rest
Gonna go to the place that’s the best

Prepare yourself you know it’s a must
Gotta have a friend in Jesus
So you know that when you die
He’s gonna recommend you
To the spirit in the sky
Gonna recommend you
To the spirit in the sky
That’s where you’re gonna go when you die
When you die and they lay you to rest
You’re gonna go to the place that’s the best

Never been a sinner I never sinned
I got a friend in Jesus
So you know that when I die
He’s gonna set me up with
The spirit in the sky
Oh set me up with the spirit in the sky
That’s where I’m gonna go when I die
When I die and they lay me to rest
I’m gonna go to the place that’s the best
Go to the place that’s the best

At the door leaving the building I had a chance to speak with Stella, who has known Silver and the rest of his friends for the past sixteen years. I hope to collaborate with her and share information. She had the following to say about Silver:

I met Silver at the beginning thru Tom, who used to pan at the Metcalfe & Albert corner. They both decided they would hitch-hike up to Timmins for some reason, but only got to Carp and came back. Guess there weren’t many beer stores along the way. Very funny. Tim passed away a few years ago. 

This was a very emotional service. Over the past nine months silver had become one of my family — my street family. It filled a void in me where my own family once was. They have all passed away, or are living in different parts of the continent. I too am a father and a grandfather.