Archive for October 17, 2013




17 October 2013

I wasn’t expecting anybody to be at the park today. Rain has been forecast all week. Surprisingly, I saw Shakes, Loretta, Hawk and his dog Dillinger.

“Hi Dennis,” said Loretta, “I’ve got something to show you. Read this:

For inuit struggling with trauma and addiction, this Ottawa house has been more like a home over the past 10 years.

The Mamisarvik Healing Center on Russell Rd. in Ottawa has treated about 500 Inuit in that time…

Like many projects and centers across the country, Mamisarvik will lose its Aboriginal Healing Foundation funding at the end of the year…

Loretta Kunuk said it would be a tragedy if the center had to close for lack of money.

“There’d be more suicides, for sure, more babies getting hurt and not taken care of,” she said. “All kinds of problems.”

Kunuk, born in Yellowknife and raised in Kugluktuk, what was then called Coppermine, went through the eight-week residential program in spring 2013 so that she could stop drinking. She’s been sober ever since.

“I’d had enough crap in my life. I had to do it,” says Kunuk, who now lives in Ottawa. “I’ve been sober 10 months now.  For a chronic alcoholic, that’s something.”

Kunuk was abused as a child. She started drinking at age 10 and became addicted to the numbing escape it offered from the pain of living.

But the booze also fueled a rage inside her and at 18, she left Nunavut an crisscrossed the country, crashing on friends’ couches, getting into fights, getting arrested.

Three years ago she was struck by a hit-and-run driver in downtown Ottawa and left for dead. After reconstructive and plastic surgery, she was able to walk again but is riddled with scars, inside and out.

Mamisarvik saved her life. She still speaks to some of her counsellors there and credits them to giving her a future she wants to live in.

“If you really want to change, if you really have hit rock bottom, that’s where to go. It saved me,” says Kunuk, 43.

“You just have to want it for yourself. You can’t do it for someone else. That’s just a waste of time.”

Kunuk has already recommended the program to family members and friends who are struggling like she was.

“That’s amazing, Loretta,” I said “ten months sober and you have so much more to look forward to. That’s a great accomplishment already.

“For a chronic alcoholic it really is. I wasn’t even a nice drunk, I was vicious. I wasn’t having fun, I was just getting into trouble for myself and my friends. Now it’s just a matter of trying to stay sober one day at a time.

“I saw my Probation Officer this morning. I’ve just got one month to go then I’m free. It’s been seven years.”

Shakes said, “I don’t try to stay sober. I just want to stay drunk. I have a good time, pass out, then start all over. I’m not nice.”

Loretta said, “Shakes, don’t say that. Of course, you’re nice.”

“Nope, I’m just me.”

“I saw a black guy on the bus last night. He had a large can of beer, and an empty, in a plastic bag.  He kept passing out and falling against the lady sitting next to him. He accidentally hit her with his beer can. She looked over at me, but I didn’t know the guy. I hope I’m not that bad.

“When I get on the bus I just say, ‘This is all I got.’ Usually the driver will say, “Sit down, Shakes, we know where you live. You’re the stop at Summerside and Merivale.’ Sometimes they’ll even give me a day pass, so I don’t have to pay on the way back.

“This is what I woke up with this morning — two bucks. I haven’t got anything since. I don’t know what’s wrong this year.  Jake has been complaining about not making much. I always make more than he does.”

“Jake doesn’t talk to people. You say, ‘Good morning, or good afternoon, have a nice day, sir.’ “

“Jake yells at people.”

“Yeah, I guess It depends on how much he’s had to drink.”

Dillinger was playing in the bushes. Every so often, he would poke his head up, as if he were playing hide-and-seek.

I asked Shakes, “How is Jake doing? I’ve seen him the past two days. He told me that he had a seizure. He fell backwards onto his coffee table, where there was an open pair of scissors. He got a two-inch puncture in his back. He walked into his bathroom, there was blood pouring out of his back, he slipped in the pool of blood, hit the toilet tank, then landed on the toilet rim, breaking a rib.”

“Seizure? He was just drunk.”

I said, “Joy figured that he had been beaten and stabbed.” Shakes smiled.

“Does Frank have much furniture yet? I know he has a bed.”

“A bed full of bed bugs, that’s all.”

“Do you have bed bugs at your place?”

“Don’t mention bed bugs. Yeah, I got them, along with cockroaches. The cockroaches I don’t mind. We get along fine, but the bed bugs bite. I can get along without that. In all my years in Ottawa, this is the first place where I’ve had bed bugs.”

“Shark has them at his place.”

“Yeah, he had them bombed. That’s the only way to get rid of them. I haven’t seen him for quite a while.”

I said, “Hawk was going over to his place yesterday to play Scrabble.”

Shakes said, “I have a Scrabble game at home, also a chess set.”

Loretta said, “I don’t know how you learned to play chess.  There are so many different moves. I get all confused. My daughter plays chess. She beat her father in five moves one time.”

I asked, “Where does your daughter live?”

“In Lindsay. Her name is Ocean. This year she’ll be graduating from grade twelve. She’s really smart. I’m so proud of her.”

Shakes said, “Lindsay is near my old rez, Curved Lake.”

I asked, when were you last there?”

“1977, I had a house there. I gave it to my uncle. He has a family, he’s sober.”





17 October 2013

Metro shouted to me as I was crossing the street. “I haven’t seen her here today!”

I replied, “I see someone in her spot. I’m going to check to see who it is.” Yesterday it was Angeline, a very pretty woman. I said to her, ‘We’ve met before haven’t we?’ ‘Yes.’ she replied. I said, “I’m Dennis and you’re Angeline, am I right?’ ‘That’s right,’ and she smiled. An ominous looking man with a beard was standing about twenty feet away. I suspect that he was her boyfriend or bodyguard.

As I came neared I recognized Joy. She waved. I said, “Hi, Joy, how are you feeling today, still sick?”

“I’ve got diarrhea, it even woke me at two thirty this morning. I’ve been puking, I can’t keep anything down. I’m even puking up tea. The last thing I had to eat was a hot dog. You know what they’re made of?  Beaks and assholes. Surprisingly, the only thing I’m able to keep down is alcohol. I didn’t drink yesterday or the day before, but I’m drinking today. Excuse me, I’m just dying to have a smoke.”

I asked, “What other symptoms are you having. Is this still part of the flu you had?”

“I just feel wasted, man. I ache all over. My legs are sore, I’m used to that, but It feels like I’m dying.”

“Is your apartment warm yet?”

“Oh, yeah. My upstairs neighbor threw out an oil heater. I grabbed that. It really throws off heat. I don’t leave it on while I sleep, but that along with the heater Andre gave me and my oven, I’m toasty warm. I’m not staying down here long. I have to stop at the Metro, that’s the only place I can go with just one bus fare. I’m going to pick up some steaks. I’ll have to cut them in half, because I can’t eat much, but I love them. I also need toilet paper. The other day I was going to get a Tim Horton’s Steak panini, but they didn’t start serving them until eleven. I said, ‘You mean I have to wait two hours? Fuck that!’

I said, “I was talking to Little Jake the past two days. He told me that he had a seizure and fell backwards onto an open pair of scissors. He got a two-inch puncture wound in his back. His sleeping bag, mattress cover and mattress were all soaked with blood. He walked to the bathroom, blood was pouring out of his back.  He slipped in the blood, hit the toilet tank and fell on the rim of the toilet, breaking a rib.”

“And you believe that? Have you ever heard of anybody injuring themselves by falling on a pair of scissors? And the broken rib? He was beaten up and stabbed. He’s been letting the wrong people into his apartment. I don’t let anybody in that I don’t know. Usually I don’t even answer the door. I’m sure that he and Shakes are back to smoking crack. That’s how Wolf got his jaw broken.”

I asked, “What else have you been up to?”

“Mariah was down to my place yesterday. We started drinking at about eleven, while Charlie was messing around with something. She left him with a gram, so for him that would amount to two joints. He makes these big, fat mothers, then he runs out. I’d get four joints out of a gram. Later he came down and asked Mariah if she had any more. She said, ‘Nope, that’s the last of it.”

“So she hasn’t kicked him out yet?”

“Not so far, unless she did last night. She brought her vodka and she was drinking my sherry. She was shit faced when she went up at around four.”

“Did you get your check?”

“Yeah, I even found my Trillium check. I decided to look in my mailbox on the weekend. I wasn’t expecting anything, but there it was, all soggy and crumpled up. I think someone’s fucking with my mail. I’m pretty sure it’s the troll who lives at the end. My mailbox has a lock, but I don’t have a key for it. I have to kind of jimmy it open, so I guess anybody else could do that.

“I haven’t seen Hippo for ages. He often goes to the farm to visit with his mommy, but she throws him out after a couple of days. She can’t stand him. That’s where my jail mail goes.”

“What do you mean jail mail?”

“Well, Big Jake isn’t supposed to contact me. So any letters he wants to send to me go to Hippo’s address. The last letter I got from him had the return address of some other guy. I guess Jake did him a favor to send some mail for him.

“Have you heard that they’re going to start charging rent at some of the prisons, like Joyceville and Collins Bay? It costs one hundred and fifty thousand to keep somebody there. They earn some money, working in the prison, but that’s usually used for their canteen stuff. “

“What kind of work does he do?”

“Well, because he’s in his electric wheelchair, he really can’t do much. At least they let him use it there; at Collins Bay they wouldn’t. He had to get around using canes. The only work he does is making things to sell to prisoners, like the origami motorcycles. He could do just about anything, he’s one of those all-purpose tools. He could even be doing their income tax if he wanted to.”

“Has he had experience preparing income tax?”

“Oh, yeah. He’s good at figuring things out. That reminds me, can you look up the address for Canada Care. They want me to check on getting his wheel chair downstairs. As it is, he’d never be able to get down.”

I asked, “So, how has Frank been making out in prison. Has he been having a hard time.”

“He’s just being Jake, doing whatever Jake does. He doesn’t have any complaints. He loves it there. Sometimes he talks kind of faggy, on the phone, even when he was out. So, I don’t know what’s going on.

“See that woman in the striped dress over there. She’s carrying a baby and doesn’t even have its head covered. It’s too cold to have a baby dressed like that. Humans!”