2014 – January – April

10 January 2014

Move Along!

“Hi Chuck!” I said, “I haven’t seen you since before Christmas.” He had his wheel chair parked in front of Tim Horton’s . Snow was mounding on his woolen cap, his shoulders and forearms. Goldie was wrapped in a blue blanket on his lap.”

“The reason I’m not on my usual corner is because the cops chased me away. I think it was that black-haired bitch from the hotel that called them. I’ve been there for years now, nobody complained before;  mind you she doesn’t usually come out this early.”

I said, “Hippo tried panning there in the summer a few times. She came out and asked us to move along. Hippo never has much luck panning.”

“I wouldn’t be here if Joy was at her spot.  I don’t cut anybody’s grass. Sometimes there is a native couple on the next block. They’re nice, especially the woman.  They don’t stay long  — collect enough for a couple of beers then they leave.”

“Yes, that would be Alphonse and Magdalene. They’re nice people.”

“There is one guy I don’t like; the guy who stands in Joy’s spot. He’s a bad one. He doesn’t even live here. He’s got a place near Sherbrooke. He went there for Christmas. I don’t know why he comes down here, but one thing he told me is that he had seventeen hundred dollars. He was going to party until that ran out, then he’d be back.”

I said, “That would be Ghyslain. He told me that he’d been sleeping outside, in a parking lot nearby.”

“No, he’s never slept outside. He stays at the Shepherd’s, the Mission or the Sally Ann, anywhere they have a bed. He eats his meals there too.

“I don’t like the way he talks to Joy. The last time she was down he was standing in her place.”

“He told me that had been his place before Joy took it over. That would have been fifteen years ago.”

“What he said to her was, ‘You can stay here until nine o’clock, then fuck off.’ I don’t like it when men talk that way to women. There’s no reason for it. If I could stand up I would have done something about it. When I was younger I did.

“Joy should be down here. You have to be at your spot regularly. That’s how people get to know you. Also, she sits too far back. People don’t want to go out of their way to drop change. I’ve told her all that. but does she listen? No.”

“Would you like a coffee?”

“Yeah, a coffee would be nice — extra small, two milk, one sugar.”

When I came back with his coffee I asked, “How has Goldie been feeling?”

“She’s been okay, got sick once over Christmas, nothing serious. I’ll tell you one thing though; I was sitting in my kitchen and, from the corner of my eye, I saw a movement. Goldie had her nose under the cupboard. She’d cornered a mouse. I talked to my landlord and he gave me one of those humane traps. They don’t kill the mice just contain them in a cage. I put bait in it and the next morning there was a big, fat mouse in there. I guess she’d been eating Sandy’s food. I let her go outside. I set up the trap again just in case there were more, but I only caught the one.

“This snow wasn’t supposed to start until later. Then they say we’re going to have freezing rain. This has been a bad winter — intense cold, freezing rain, snow, ice.”

So, did you see your family at Christmas?”

“I went to my granddaughter’s place. They had to carry me up the stairs.  I had a walker but I broke it.

“It was okay.

“I won’t be here next Monday or Tuesday. I have plans. There’s something that I need to get settled for once and for all. I hope I can.”

“Perhaps, I’ll see you next Wednesday.”

“It depends on the weather.”

“All the best, Chuck ”

.

13 January 2014

Puddles

Temperatures were hovering around the freezing point, sun was shining, wind — non-existent.  A beautiful, warm winter morning.  Joy was seated on her box, a blanket wrapped around her knees.”

“Hi sweetie,” she said, “how was your Christmas?”

“Great,” I said, “quiet, spent time with my in-laws. Other than that, I was at home.”

“How about you? How was your Christmas?”

“Quiet, I cooked a turkey with all the trimmings. Mariah and Charlie were down for a while.  He drank too much and started getting obnoxious, so she took him back upstairs. Rhino comes over occasionally. When he starts getting loud, I tell him, ‘If you want to be loud, be loud at your own place’. He takes the hint and leaves.

“Lardass is really getting on my nerves. He just drops in anytime he likes, and doesn’t leave until about two thirty in the morning. He may be on his way here now. Usually he phones first, otherwise he’ll be outside until I get home. One night it was too slippery for his wheelchair, so he called the Salvation Army to say he wouldn’t be able to make it in before his deadline. I was hoping they’d give him an ultimatum, ‘Either get in here, or lose your bed.’ But they were nice about it, ‘ Just come in when you’re able.’

I asked, “How does he secure his wheelchair, since he can’t bring it down your stairs?”

“He locks it outside. ” It’s plugged in overnight with an extension cord that he’s run through a hole in  my screen. Every day the hole gets bigger.

“I spend all day cleaning, then he spends two hours messing the place up again. I gave him shit for it. ‘You don’t do a damn thing around here but make a mess. If you’re well enough to mess things, you’re well enough to clean them.’

“I still find puddles of pee in front of the toilet.  I asked him, ‘How do you manage to miss the bowl when you’re sitting down?’ He said, ‘I’m a newbie at this. I haven’t had  much practice peeing like a chick. Maybe it’s you that misses.’ I said to him ‘I’ve been doing it for forty-eight years and haven’t missed yet.’

“My basement wall is sagging. It makes the door hard to close, so I have to slam it. It may bother the neighbors, but I don’t care. I’ve been pretty quiet lately, haven’t had a drink since New Year’s Eve. The people upstairs are still stomping around. Lately, it’s not him, it’s her.  I yelled up from the stairway, ‘Bernadette, you fuckin’ bitch, the next time I see you outside, I’m going to punch your fuckin’ face in.’ It got real quiet after that.

“I was thinking I’d see Jacques come by. With the cold weather, I guess he’s been doing his own cooking. He used to  come  to the Mission and eat off them for breakfast and lunch. That used to fill him up for the day.

“You don’t have any change do you?”

“No,” I said, “no change, no bills, nothing.”

“That’s too bad. This is one day I want to get drunk. I guess I’ll just have to stay here until I make the price of a bottle.”

.

14 January 2014

I’d Shoot Him 

Chuck was on the corner, so I stopped to talk to him.

He said, “Would you mind standing on the other side. I’ve got a regular who comes from that side. He sometimes drops me a five or a ten. If you’re standing there he might just walk by.

“Did you have a good Christmas?”

“Yes, it was quiet.”

“I don’t know where Joy is. She was out yesterday, so she must need money, but she’s not here today. I keep telling her that  she has to be out every day. If I can get out, she can get out. Oh well, it’s her life.

Someone stopped to pet Goldie, and dropped change into Chuck’s cap. She poked her head up. Chuck said, “Now that she’s got a bit of attention, she wants me to pet her.”

“I bought this winter coat at Giant Tiger. It’s really warm. I’ve seen construction guys wearing the same coat.”

I said, “It almost matches Goldie’s fur.” I noticed that under her blue blanket she was wearing a pink coat. “She looks comfortable.” I said.

“Yes, she’s well taken care of.

“Almost… I went to a lot of stores. Sears had these expensive coats for nine hundred dollars. I don’t need anything like that. I even tried the Giant Tiger in Scarborough. They didn’t have anything. I went to the one near the market and this was the only winter coat they had. The rest were junk.”

“A friend of mine, a lesbian, went to the hospital for a hip replacement. They found cancer. She’s a nice lady, works across the street. She’s had a partner for the past seventeen years. They’ve been married for the past seven. My girlfriend has gone to spend time with her for the next two weeks. It just shows, you never know what’s around the corner. The important thing isn’t what happens to you, but how you handle it. There was another woman, I’d see her nearly every day at noon. She was smiling all the time, what you’d call a bubbly personality. Her husband left her, father and daughter died. The last time I saw her she was a blubbering mess.

“I’ve lived through lots of adversity, even as a child. I learned to fight against it; not necessarily with my fists, but I had my ways.  My father was a big drunken lout. When he came home everyone would be petrified. One evening, when he was really drunk he plopped himself in his easy chair. The rest of us were sitting around the room. He said, ‘I bet you all think of me as a real son of a bitch.’ Then he looked at each one of us. Nobody said a thing, when he got to me he said, ‘Okay, tell me what you think.’ I said, ‘I don’t have to say anything.  You know what you are. It doesn’t have to be spelled out for you.’ Everybody gasped. My father looked at me and started to laugh. He said, ‘I knew you’d have the guts to tell me straight.’ I couldn’t wait to get away from that place. I left in the middle of grade ten. He beat my mother, all of us. If he came back to life now, I’d shoot him; I really would.”

I asked, ‘Wouldn’t you be worried about the consequences?’

“What are they going to do to me? I’m seventy-three years old. Whatever they did, I wouldn’t care. It would have been worth it.

“I’ve had a hell of a time getting around lately. They plow my sidewalk, but don’t plow the area where Wheelchair Taxi  needs to put their ramp down. If they can’t put their ramp down, I can’t get on. I even talked to the woman driving the sidewalk snowplow. She refused to clear the area. She said, ‘If you’ve got a problem, phone city hall.’ I did, but nothing happened. Another problem I have is getting my wheels cleaned and oiled. There is a motorcycle shop near me. They have the air hoses and could do the job, but they say it isn’t worth their time. The garages won’t do it either.

My back was getting sore bending over listening to Chuck. He has a soft voice and I need to have my ear near his mouth to hear him over the sound of traffic and people talking.

“I have to be going Chuck. Perhaps I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“I might be here. Have a Happy New Year.”

“Happy New Year, Chuck.”

.

16 January 2014

Kinda Sluggish

Chuck Senior in his wheelchair, with Goldie on his lap, was crossing Queen, so I waited for them. He expertly maneuvered, in reverse, into his spot.  Goldie raised her head, eager to be petted.

Chuck said, “Remember the other day, I asked you to stand on the other side because I hoped one of my regulars would be coming by? Not five minutes after you left, he came by and dropped a twenty into my cap. Then a woman came from the other direction dropped a five and a ten.  Instead of  being parked outside Tim Horton’s, I splurged and went inside for a coffee — a regular paying customer. It was nice to get out of the cold. I didn’t come by yesterday because I was just too tired. I took a sleeping pill last night and slept from six in the evening right through the night.”

Goldie jumped down and was prancing in circles. Chuck said, “I haven’t seen her do that since last summer.  Want to know why she has so much energy? She just had a big shit. I guess she hasn’t been feeling well the last few days, kinda sluggish. She’s telling me that she wants a treat.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out a handful. Goldie danced on her hind legs until Chuck put the treats on the ground. After finishing them she barked.

“Okay girl, I guess you can have some more.” He put down another handful.

I asked, “How is your friend who has cancer?”

“They’re going to be putting her on chemo to see what that does. If the cancer isn’t too aggressive it may cure her. We’ll just have to wait and see.  My sister died of cancer, mind you, she smoked two packs of cigarettes a day.”

I said, “My sister, also died of cancer. She didn’t smoke at all.”

“I used to smoke three packs a day, then I started feeling sick. My kidneys shut down, I was shitting all the time. I spent two and a half months in hospital. It turned out that it wasn’t the cigarettes that were doing the damage; it was black mold. I was in a basement apartment. I didn’t notice anything but behind my book-case was a big black spot. When I moved boxes from my closet shelf there was mold on the ceiling,  everywhere.  As soon as I found out I moved.

“You know, people never listen. A friend of mine keeps complaining that his dentures don’t fit properly. I remember him telling me, before he had his teeth extracted, that his dentist was going to put the new set in right away. I said to  him, ‘Tell your dentist that’s wrong! Your gums are going to shrink.  I had twenty-two teeth extracted. I was without teeth for six months. I had my dentures fitted and I’ve never had a problem.’ Do you think he would listen to me? No, he listened to other people — people whose teeth don’t fit right.

“I was hoping to go to Cosimo’s today, I’d like to get some pork chops. They’re having a sale —  buy two, get the second for a dollar.  I’m not sure how much of a charge my battery has.  Just sitting here drains the power.  I could take the bus, the two  blocks down to Parliament, but the drivers really don’t like that. It throws them off their schedule.  I may just take a chance.”

I said, “I noticed how well you maneuvered, you’re an expert driver.”

“Four years in this thing and I’ve never hit anyone yet, even in crowded malls. I anticipate which direction people are going to move then turn out of their way. I can really zig zag my way through crowds.

I said, “I’ll have to go now Chuck, but perhaps I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Bye.”

.

12 March 2014

The coldest winter in twenty years, that’s what the weather forecaster’s say. None of my homeless friends have been out lately. I don’t blame them. I boarded the Queen streetcar, heading east, and threw my gym bag on an empty seat. As I was about to sit down, the passenger in front of me turned his head and said, “So, You’re going to sit behind me are you?”

I looked closely at his face and asked, “I know you, don’t I?”

“Yes, you know me.”

“Sorry, I can’t remember your name. Do you remember mine?”

He thought for a moment then said, “No, I don’t remember.” He moved over in his seat to make room for me to sit down.

I  said, “I remember talking to you in  Moss Park in the summer. Do you still go there? Does anybody go there, or is it too cold?”

He said, “I don’t like to be with people. It’s just me, myself and I. That’s the way I like it.

“I was going to go to an A.A. meeting. I got all dressed. I’m wearing three coats now. Something happened and I lost track of time. See that building up there on the corner. That’s where I should have gone, but it’s too late now.” I could smell beer on his breath. That was the something that happened.

“Do you go to A.A? Have you ever?”

“No,” I said, “I used to have a drinking problem, but I quit on my own. Now, I just have a beer every once in a while, maybe a glass of wine.”

“Are you going home to have a beer?… It’s okay, I won’t charge you… I’ve been trying to get back into rehab.

“My roommate is pissed off at me for some reason. I don’t know what it is. I used one of his onions. Maybe that’s what it is. He’s Jamaican. They eat that funny sort of food. But, he’s okay. Maybe I had the TV on too loud last night. I don’t know.

“Do you know if there’s a McDonald’s around here?”

I said, “I don’t know the area very well. I’ve got a Tim Horton’s card. Is that any good to you?”

“No, I’m not asking for money. Is that what you thought? No, I’m okay.

“This  is a nice neighborhood we’re passing through. I used to live around here. I had a sound system, three hundred watt speakers, a big TV. I got behind in my rent. I told my landlord, ‘To hell will you, for all the trouble I’ve had to put up with around here.’ I owed him two months back rent. He kept my stuff and changed the locks.

” This is my stop coming up. I’m going to visit a friend, to see if he’s home. If he isn’t home, I don’t know what I’m going to do.”

.

27 March 2014

With the temperature at minus sixteen, I didn’t expect to see any of my friends outside, but Chuck Senior was at his usual corner.

“Hi Chuck, I didn’t expect to see you this morning.”

“Well, it may be raining tomorrow, so this may be my last chance for a while.”

“How are you and Goldie?”

“Goldie’s fine, I’m not so good though. Remember I told you about what happened at the Air Canada Centre, where my walker got broken, and the cops wouldn’t let the cab driver pick me up? That still pisses me off! Anyway, I told you that I phoned the Centre and they said they’d send me two tickets, one for me and one for my daughter. Well, the tickets arrived in the mail all right. I put them in the dish where I keep my Disability Transport pass. I invited my daughter to come to the game with me. Will sir, I looked this morning and they were gone.”

I said, “That’s terrible, Chuck, after all you went through to get those tickets, and now to have them stolen. Who has access to your apartment?”

“A number of people do. My superintendent, my cleaning lady, my daughter — she wouldn’t have taken them ’cause she’d be going to the game, anyway –my son, but he doesn’t like hockey. I trust my cleaning lady. She’s been with me for years. She was in a few days ago. I noticed that the tickets had been moved to the coffee table. I guess when she was dusting. Things get moved around a bit, but I’ve never had anything stolen.

“I didn’t sleep so good last night; thinking about the tickets, and I ate some things I shouldn’t have.”

I asked, “Like what?”

“Well, I bought some of that Montreal style… What is it?”

“Montreal style smoked meat.”

“Yeah,  that’s what it was. It’s way to salty for me. Anyway, I had it in a big sandwich with fries. For supper I fried an egg, and  had some of the smoked meat, with toast. My stomach was rumbling all night.

“I’ll be okay tomorrow. I’ll eat lots of spinach and fresh vegetables. That should fix me up.

“The arthritis in my hands is acting up. I can hardly move my fingers.

“I’m going to look around for those tickets. I may have put them somewhere else. I’m going to contact some people. If all else fails, I’ll phone the Air Canada Centre. If someone uses those tickets, they’ll be informed that they were stolen, and they’ll be thrown out of the game.

I said, “Well, Chuck, I wish you all the best with that. I hope you get your tickets back. Perhaps, I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“They’re forecasting rain for later on, so I don’t know. I usually wake up at about one thirty in the morning, anyway. If it looks like rain I’ll take Goldie for her walk then, so I don’t have to take her when the rain is heavy. Each morning I walk outside. If the weather’s lousy I go back to bed, stay where it’s cozy until I’m ready to get up. That’s what I’ve been doing most mornings.”

 

28 March 2014

Tickets Found

On his usual corner was Chuck Senior and Goldie. A light dusting of snow fell overnight, but the freezing rain predicted, has held off.

“Hi Chuck, Any news about your missing tickets?”

“Well, you can’t find what was never lost in the beginning. I did something really dumb.” He formed his fingers into the shape of a gun, held them to the side of his head and said, “Boom”.

I told you that I received the tickets, by mail, in a big brown envelope. There was also a nice letter that said, I hope you enjoy attending the game with your daughter. I threw the envelope away. I didn’t have any use for it. I put the tickets in a smaller envelope with the rest of my papers. I must have looked in that envelope a hundred times. I was sorting through my envelopes last night and saw some advertising in one of them. I pulled it out to throw in the trash and on the other side was printed my tickets. I guess they had gotten stuck together. So, this weekend I see the game with my daughter. I feel so stupid.”

A lady stopped by, “Hi Charlie, do you have time to talk with me?”

“I always have time to talk to a pretty girl.”

“Charlie, I’m not pretty and I’m older than you are, so I’m hardly a girl. I’m seventy-eight. I’ve still got six years on you. Anyway, I wanted to give you something, but it’s in my backpack at home. I only brought my purse today.” She bent down and kissed him.

Chuck said, “You see, this job I got isn’t so bad after all. You’d be surprised how many women kiss me throughout the day. Then of course in the warmer weather there’s the crazy lady. The one that picks up the cigarette butts and other trash off the sidewalk. I’ve always been nice to her. I can’t understand a word she says, but I nod my head, say, “That’s nice.” Whatever seems appropriate at the time. She doesn’t harm anybody, but lots of people abuse her. She just wants to be listened to. If I’ve got extra change I’ll give it to her for a coffee and a donut.

Sometimes, she makes perfect sense. She showed me her journal one day. It was beautifully written, but it was all in French. I don’t speak French, so I don’t know if it made sense or not. Once came up to me and said. ‘If I ever decide to get married, I’ll choose you.’ Then she gave me a big kiss. I said, “Wait a minute, not so fast.”

“She has some mental problems. We all do. I certainly do. “

I said, “I do, too, Chuck.”

“That reminds me of the time I applied for my disability pension. You wouldn’t believe the number of hoops you have to go through to get that. I’ve got a bad back. They wanted me to see a psychiatrist. I can’t figure that out. They said they had to make sure I was telling the truth. Okay, I agreed to see a psychiatrist. Actually, I’ve been on various occasions. One time, I arrived at my appointment early. The psychiatrist said, ‘You’ll have to wait about ten minutes, my receptionist isn’t in yet. While your waiting I have some papers for you to fill out. It was all the standard stuff. Back then we didn’t have a health card, like we do now. I came to the part where I had to fill in my medical insurance number. It was a long number, but I remembered all the numbers, except for the last three. So, I pulled a paper out of my wallet and wrote down the rest of the number. All the other numbers, like my driver’s licence, Social Insurance; I remembered all them. The psychiatrist asked me about the paper I pulled out of my wallet. I said, ‘I forgot the last three numbers for my medical insurance.’ He said, “You mean you had all the other numbers memorized?’ I said, ‘Yes.’ He said, “Why are you here. You have a better memory than I have.’ I told him that I needed a signature for my disability insurance. He said, ‘Sure, I can do that for you. Apart from that your mind is as healthy as can be.’

“Another time, I was waiting for a psychiatrist appointment. He had his office door opened about two inches. I was curious, so I peeked inside. He had a tourniquet around his upper arm and was shooting up. I told my worker about it. She said, ‘We know that he has diabetes.’ Well I know that you don’t need a tourniquet to inject insulin. It was probably heroin, or else he was a crack head.”

“I knew this woman one time. She was very pretty, a prostitute. Lots of guys wanted to marry her, but she held them off. Then this psychiatrist and her got married. I asked him about it. He said, ‘I want to write a book about life with a prostitute, so I married her.’ I asked, ‘What happens to her after you finish your book.’ He said, ‘I don’t know. I haven’t thought that far ahead.’

“Speaking of prostitutes, I get propositioned quite a few times while I’m sitting here.”

I said, “I expect that their out of your price range; are they?”

“No, they’re all on crack. I could get head for fifteen to twenty dollars, if I wanted it. I’d make sure I was wearing at least three condoms. You never know what diseases they’re carrying. There are a lot that hang around where I live. It’s a rough area. A guy was stabbed to death right in front of my building, just a few days ago. It was probably a drug deal gone bad.”

I asked, “How did you initially injure your back? Was it quite a while ago?”

“I’ve injured it a number of times. I blame a lot of it on my dad. He had a job as caretaker of a cemetery. At that time they used push mowers, not these gas or electric jobs that they use now. I was about eleven at the time. He’d mow around the tomb stones; I’d go around with the clippers and get the long strands beside the stones. There was this old stone we were working around. I was on my hands and knees at the back. He was mowing in front. I guess he hit the stone a little too hard and it toppled over on me, caught my leg between my knee and hip. He refused to take me to the doctor. I lay on the sofa for about three days, then he asked, “Are you ready to go back to work?” I said, “No I’m not ready to go back to work. My leg is fractured.

“When I was fifteen, I was playing high school football. I tackled this guy, my helmet dug into the dirt, my legs bent back over my head. I told my dad about it. He said, ‘Stop your whining. Suck it up and act like a man.’ I’ve also been in a car accident. I was thrown out against a rock.”

“My dad’s dead now, but If I ever got the chance to see him again I’d say to him, “It’s good to see you dad. I love you. Then I’d shoot him in the head.

Other people had stopped to drop Chuck change or folded bills. Others were patting Goldie, so I made my exit and waved to Chuck.

28 March 2014

Tickets Found

On his usual corner was Chuck Senior and Goldie. A light dusting of snow fell overnight, but the freezing rain predicted, has held off.

“Hi Chuck, Any news about your missing tickets?”

“Well, you can’t find what was never lost in the beginning. I did something really dumb.” He formed his fingers into the shape of a gun, held them to the side of his head and said, “Boom”.

I told you that I received the tickets, by mail, in a big brown envelope. There was also a nice letter that said, I hope you enjoy attending the game with your daughter. I threw the envelope away. I didn’t have any use for it. I put the tickets in a smaller envelope with the rest of my papers. I must have looked in that envelope a hundred times. I was sorting through my envelopes last night and saw some advertising in one of them. I pulled it out to throw in the trash and on the other side was printed my tickets. I guess they had gotten stuck together. So, this weekend I see the game with my daughter. I feel so stupid.”

A lady stopped by, “Hi Charlie, do you have time to talk with me?”

“I always have time to talk to a pretty girl.”

“Charlie, I’m not pretty and I’m older than you are, so I’m hardly a girl. I’m seventy-eight. I’ve still got six years on you. Anyway, I wanted to give you something, but it’s in my backpack at home. I only brought my purse today.” She bent down and kissed him.

Chuck said, “You see, this job I got isn’t so bad after all. You’d be surprised how many women kiss me throughout the day. Then of course in the warmer weather there’s the crazy lady. The one that picks up the cigarette butts and other trash off the sidewalk. I’ve always been nice to her. I can’t understand a word she says, but I nod my head, say, “That’s nice.” Whatever seems appropriate at the time. She doesn’t harm anybody, but lots of people abuse her. She just wants to be listened to. If I’ve got extra change I’ll give it to her for a coffee and a donut.

Sometimes, she makes perfect sense. She showed me her journal one day. It was beautifully written, but it was all in French. I don’t speak French, so I don’t know if it made sense or not. Once came up to me and said. ‘If I ever decide to get married, I’ll choose you.’ Then she gave me a big kiss. I said, “Wait a minute, not so fast.”

“She has some mental problems. We all do. I certainly do. “

I said, “I do, too, Chuck.”

“That reminds me of the time I applied for my disability pension. You wouldn’t believe the number of hoops you have to go through to get that. I’ve got a bad back. They wanted me to see a psychiatrist. I can’t figure that out. They said they had to make sure I was telling the truth. Okay, I agreed to see a psychiatrist. Actually, I’ve been on various occasions. One time, I arrived at my appointment early. The psychiatrist said, ‘You’ll have to wait about ten minutes, my receptionist isn’t in yet. While your waiting I have some papers for you to fill out. It was all the standard stuff. Back then we didn’t have a health card, like we do now. I came to the part where I had to fill in my medical insurance number. It was a long number, but I remembered all the numbers, except for the last three. So, I pulled a paper out of my wallet and wrote down the rest of the number. All the other numbers, like my driver’s licence, Social Insurance; I remembered all them. The psychiatrist asked me about the paper I pulled out of my wallet. I said, ‘I forgot the last three numbers for my medical insurance.’ He said, “You mean you had all the other numbers memorized?’ I said, ‘Yes.’ He said, “Why are you here. You have a better memory than I have.’ I told him that I needed a signature for my disability insurance. He said, ‘Sure, I can do that for you. Apart from that your mind is as healthy as can be.’

“Another time, I was waiting for a psychiatrist appointment. He had his office door opened about two inches. I was curious, so I peeked inside. He had a tourniquet around his upper arm and was shooting up. I told my worker about it. She said, ‘We know that he has diabetes.’ Well I know that you don’t need a tourniquet to inject insulin. It was probably heroin, or else he was a crack head.”

“I knew this woman one time. She was very pretty, a prostitute. Lots of guys wanted to marry her, but she held them off. Then this psychiatrist and her got married. I asked him about it. He said, ‘I want to write a book about life with a prostitute, so I married her.’ I asked, ‘What happens to her after you finish your book.’ He said, ‘I don’t know. I haven’t thought that far ahead.’

“Speaking of prostitutes, I get propositioned quite a few times while I’m sitting here.”

I said, “I expect that their out of your price range; are they?”

“No, they’re all on crack. I could get head for fifteen to twenty dollars, if I wanted it. I’d make sure I was wearing at least three condoms. You never know what diseases they’re carrying. There are a lot that hang around where I live. It’s a rough area. A guy was stabbed to death right in front of my building, just a few days ago. It was probably a drug deal gone bad.”

I asked, “How did you initially injure your back? Was it quite a while ago?”

“I’ve injured it a number of times. I blame a lot of it on my dad. He had a job as caretaker of a cemetery. At that time they used push mowers, not these gas or electric jobs that they use now. I was about eleven at the time. He’d mow around the tomb stones; I’d go around with the clippers and get the long strands beside the stones. There was this old stone we were working around. I was on my hands and knees at the back. He was mowing in front. I guess he hit the stone a little too hard and it toppled over on me, caught my leg between my knee and hip. He refused to take me to the doctor. I lay on the sofa for about three days, then he asked, “Are you ready to go back to work?” I said, “No I’m not ready to go back to work. My leg is fractured.

“When I was fifteen, I was playing high school football. I tackled this guy, my helmet dug into the dirt, my legs bent back over my head. I told my dad about it. He said, ‘Stop your whining. Suck it up and act like a man.’ I’ve also been in a car accident. I was thrown out against a rock.”

“My dad’s dead now, but If I ever got the chance to see him again I’d say to him, “It’s good to see you dad. I love you. Then I’d shoot him in the head.

Other people had stopped to drop Chuck change or folded bills. Others were patting Goldie, so I made my exit and waved to Chuck.

.

28 March 2014

Tickets Found

On his usual corner was Chuck Senior and Goldie. A light dusting of snow fell overnight, but the freezing rain predicted, has held off.

“Hi Chuck, Any news about your missing tickets?”

“Well, you can’t find what was never lost in the beginning. I did something really dumb.” He formed his fingers into the shape of a gun, held them to the side of his head and said, “Boom”.

I told you that I received the tickets, by mail, in a big brown envelope. There was also a nice letter that said, I hope you enjoy attending the game with your daughter. I threw the envelope away. I didn’t have any use for it. I put the tickets in a smaller envelope with the rest of my papers. I must have looked in that envelope a hundred times. I was sorting through my envelopes last night and saw some advertising in one of them.  I pulled it out to throw in the trash and on the other side was printed my tickets. I guess they had gotten stuck together. So, this weekend I see the game with my daughter. I feel so stupid.”

A lady stopped by, “Hi Charlie, do you have time to talk with me?”

“I always have time to talk to a pretty girl.”

“Charlie, I’m not pretty and I’m older than you are, so I’m hardly a girl. I’m seventy-eight. I’ve still got six years on you. Anyway, I wanted to give you something, but it’s in my backpack at home. I only brought my purse today.” She bent down and kissed him.

Chuck said, “You see, this job I got isn’t so bad after all. You’d be surprised how many women kiss me throughout the day. Then of course in the warmer weather there’s the crazy lady. The one that picks up the cigarette butts and other trash off the sidewalk. I’ve always been nice to her. I can’t understand a word she says, but I nod my head, say, “That’s nice.” Whatever seems appropriate at the time. She doesn’t harm anybody, but  lots of people abuse her. She just wants to be listened to. If I’ve got extra change I’ll give it to her for a coffee and a donut.

Sometimes, she makes perfect sense.  She showed me her journal one day.  It was beautifully written, but it was all in French. I don’t speak French, so I don’t know if it made sense or not. Once came up to me and said. ‘If I ever decide to get married, I’ll choose you.’ Then she gave me a big kiss. I said, “Wait a minute, not so fast.”

“She has some mental problems. We all do. I certainly do. ”

I said, “I do, too, Chuck.”

“That reminds me of the time I applied for my disability pension. You wouldn’t believe the number of hoops you have to go through to get that. I’ve got a bad back. They wanted me to see a psychiatrist. I can’t figure that out. They said they had to make sure I was telling the truth. Okay, I agreed to see a psychiatrist. Actually, I’ve been on various occasions.  One time, I arrived at my appointment early. The psychiatrist said, ‘You’ll have to wait about ten minutes, my receptionist isn’t in yet. While your waiting I have some papers for you to fill out. It was all the standard stuff. Back then we didn’t have a health card, like we do now. I came to the part where I had to fill in my medical insurance number. It was a long number, but I remembered all the numbers, except for the last three. So, I pulled a paper out of my wallet and wrote down the rest of the number.  All the other numbers, like my driver’s licence, Social Insurance; I remembered all them. The psychiatrist asked me about the paper I pulled out of my wallet. I said, ‘I forgot the last three numbers for my medical insurance.’ He said, “You mean you had all the other numbers memorized?’ I said, ‘Yes.’ He said, “Why are you here. You have a better memory than I have.’ I told him that I needed a signature for my disability insurance. He said, ‘Sure, I can do that for you. Apart from that your mind is as healthy as can be.’

“Another time, I was waiting for a psychiatrist appointment. He had his office door opened about two inches.  I was curious, so I peeked inside. He had a tourniquet around his upper arm and was shooting up. I told my worker about it. She said, ‘We know that he has diabetes.’ Well I know that you don’t need a tourniquet to inject insulin. It was probably heroin, or else he was a crack head.”

“I knew this woman one time. She was very pretty, a prostitute. Lots of guys wanted to marry her, but she held them off. Then this psychiatrist and her got married. I asked him about it. He said, ‘I want to write a book about life with a prostitute, so I married her.’ I asked, ‘What happens to her after you finish your book.’ He said, ‘I don’t know. I haven’t thought that far ahead.’

“Speaking of prostitutes, I get propositioned quite a few times while I’m sitting here.”

I said, “I expect that their out of your price range; are they?”

“No, they’re all on crack. I could get head for fifteen to twenty dollars, if I wanted it. I’d make sure I was wearing at least three condoms. You never know what diseases they’re carrying. There are a lot that hang around where I live. It’s a rough area. A guy was stabbed to death right in front of my building, just a few days ago. It was probably a drug deal gone bad.”

I asked, “How did you initially injure your back? Was it quite a while ago?”

“I’ve injured it a number of times. I blame a lot of it on my dad. He had a job as caretaker of a cemetery. At that time they used push mowers, not these gas or electric jobs that they use now. I was about eleven at the time. He’d mow around the tomb stones; I’d go around with the clippers and get the long strands beside the stones. There was this old stone we were working around. I was on my hands and knees at the back. He was mowing in front. I guess he hit the stone a little too hard and it toppled over on me, caught my leg between my knee and hip. He refused to take me to the doctor. I lay on the sofa for about three days, then he asked, “Are you ready to go back to work?” I said, “No I’m not ready to go back to work. My leg is fractured.

“When I was fifteen, I was playing high school football. I tackled this guy, my helmet dug into the dirt, my legs bent back over my head. I told my dad about it. He said, ‘Stop your whining. Suck it up and act like a man.’ I’ve also been in a car accident. I was thrown out against a rock.”

“My dad’s dead now, but If I ever got the chance to see him again I’d say to him, “It’s good to see you dad. I love you. Then I’d shoot him between the eyes.

Other people had stopped to drop Chuck change or folded bills. Others were patting Goldie, so I made my exit and waved to Chuck.

.

31 March 2014

Leafs Game

The weather is still hovering around the freezing point. For pedestrians it means treacherous sidewalks, especially in the shade. I could see Chuck’s knees and the wheels of his chair from a block away; the rest of him was obscured by an aluminum pole that accommodated the push button for the Walk light.  When I talk to Chuck, I have to be careful not to lean on the button; a bell goes off each time it is pressed.

“Hi, Chuck, did you enjoy the hockey game?”

“Yes, I enjoyed being at the game, but our team lost  5-3  to St. Louis.  Toronto allowed a season-worst 23 shots in the first period and, thanks to some awful play from Dion Phaneuf, spotted St. Louis a 4-1 lead in the second period. They made a two goal come back in the third, but it wasn’t enough.  One loss isn’t so bad, but we fell from third-best record to tenth place in just two weeks.

“I didn’t sleep well last night, ate too much junk food. I had some pizza, then later I had some fried chicken — too much grease. I’m leaving here in about fifteen minutes. When I get home I’m going straight to bed.

“This afternoon I’m going to a place in the west end to have my income tax calculated. I got a friend who is an accountant. He’ll do it for me for free. The government is taking away all of our deductions.  It used to be that I’d get a refund of eight hundred dollars. That would keep me off the street for a while. That was really helpful. Pensioners like me  have it rough. It’s all we can do to pay the rent and have enough left over to eat. It’s worse for a woman trying to raise kids. I have a cleaning lady that comes over one afternoon a week — I like my mornings to myself. I can’t imagine how she makes ends meet. What happens when the kid needs a new bed? Those are expensive. How about a grandmother whose grandchildren live half way across the country? Do you think she can afford  travel costs, the way they are today? No way!”

“What do you think of our mayor, Rob Ford?”

“People say a lot of bad things about him, but he did something; he kept  taxes low by reducing the size and cost of government. He also boosted tourism. It’s the provincial and federal governments that are holding back our pensions. Their suggestion is that people save more money. I don’t get enough money to be able to save.  Old Age Security and the Guaranteed Income Supplement pays less than a thousand a month. That may sound like a lot of money, but try to live on it.

“When the Canadian government brought in the International Free Trade Agreement it cost us a lot of jobs. I worked at a brush manufacturing company. My job was to shape the handles of the snow scrapers. I could run five or six per minute through the shaper. It was dangerous. If I pushed too hard it could fly back at me and cause serious injury. I was paid about two dollars an hour at that time. The company decided to ship the rough handles to Japan. They were bundled by the hundred, sent by truck to Vancouver, then by ship to Japan. Labor costs there were about ten cents per hour. The handles were returned to us the same way, then we’d attach the plastic scraper on one end and the bristles on the other. My job was gone so they moved me to the push broom department.

“I should mention that the company I worked for  was started by two guys who had no money, but they had a great idea.  They collected sawdust from the local lumber mills, added  a green color, a pine scent, some oil and sold it as a sweeping compound. The company has been around for a hundred years and now produce  a full range of powered scrubbing, polishing and carpet care machines and vacuum cleaners.

“Anyway, I enjoyed making the push brooms. I asked my boss if it was okay to make a broom for myself. I said I’d do it on my own time, during breaks. He said, ‘Sure, go ahead.’ What he didn’t know was that I made a broom with a longer handle and instead of the regular corn bristles, I used camel hair. This was back in the sixties. What I made was worth about sixty dollars at the time. Can you imagine what it would cost now? I worked with my brother-in-law Bruce. He’d come over to my place after work for a few beers. I threw the broom to him and said, ‘Bruce, would you sweep my floor?’ He looked at the broom and said, ‘You son of a bitch.’

“I  also worked at a shoe factory. The owner drove a Rolls Royce, he was too cheap to have a driver. That car was absolutely filthy, but he refused to have it washed. He’d say, ‘The rain will clean it eventually.’ He made a lot of money, but there was to control of inventory. If I wanted a new pair of shoes, I’d just go to the back and ask for the style I wanted and give them the shoe size. I didn’t wear those shoes; instead I’d sell them for half price. I’d have a buyer lined up ahead of time. It served him right, the old tightwad.”

 

.

 1 April 2014

Employment

Another sunny morning around the freezing mark. We still haven’t given up hope that Spring weather will arrive. Chuck was in his usual place.

“Hi Chuck, after our conversation yesterday, I Googled on the internet to see how they make brooms. It was fascinating. I guess it’s changed a lot since you worked at that.

“I don’t know what they do now, but I was pretty versatile. I operated a lot of different machines. There was one for making broom handles. We’d feed a squared length of wood into this machine and it would come out the other end shaped like a broom handle. Adding the ferrule, the part that screws into the broom head, was a separate operation.

“The work was dangerous. It was before the government required health and safety inspections. We didn’t have any kind of guards on the machines; everything was open. A couple of times wood flipped back at me. I had five cuts on my chest one day, not bad cuts, but they hurt. Twice, my glasses were knocked off and skidded along the floor. I got the company to pay me for new glasses.

There was a woman who operated a machine that trimmed the scrapers. I cringed every time I saw her working. If she’d slipped or pushed a little too far, she would have lost her fingers. Later they put up a guard so that only the scraper would go through, not her hands.

“I also worked at fitting the bristles. First of all we’d cut them to the correct length, then with a pair of tongs we’d pick up a stack and hold them over the drilled hole. With a foot pedal we’d operate a machine that would drive the bristles into the hole and secure them with a staple. You had to be quick to get the tongs out of the way before this machine came down. Then, the broom went into the trimmer.

“We made all kinds of brushes, even the tiny twizzlers that they use to clean test tubes. There was a special machine that would twist the wire around the bristles. We’d cut them to length, then trim them.

“I guess the hardest to work with were the brushes for the big industrial floor polishers. We also made vacuum cleaner brushes. All of this work was repetitive. I stayed eight years then moved on.

“I was a manager for a while, but I got too frustrated with the stupidity, just utter stupidity, of some of the workers. We used these big forty-five gallon barrels for shipping handles. We had to know both the total weight and the number of handles we were shipping. I explained it to them, I said, ‘Weigh the empty barrel first. While it’s still on the scale fill it with the handles. Subtract the barrel weight from the total and that’s the weight of the handles. Weigh one handle and divide that weight by the total and you have the number of handles, within one or two. Now, that’s not too difficult to understand is it? I’ve only got grade seven education and I could figure it out.  I got called over, the guys had filled the barrel and were trying to lift it onto the scale. I said, ‘That barrel weighs five hundred pounds, you’ll never lift it; but, once it’s on the scale, and loaded, it’s easy to roll off the scale.’

“Another time we had some boxes that had to be stacked on a high shelf. The boxes weren’t heavy. This guy was taking them one at a time, climbing the ladder, placing the box neatly, then climbing back down. It would have taken all day to finish the job.  I picked up the boxes at a time and threw them up on the shelf. I could stack them three high, without a problem. They wouldn’t be straight, but after they were all on the shelf, it took just one trip up the ladder to straighten them.

“I remember we had a couple of black ladies working with us. A lot of the staff wouldn’t have anything to do with them. This was back in the sixties. One time they came into the lunch room and the only chairs available were beside me. They asked, ‘Do you mind if we sit with you?’ I said, ‘I don’t mind in the least. Have a seat.’ They had a really good sense of humor. I sure got the cold shoulder from a few of the workers, though. I didn’t care. I pulled a trick on these ladies one time. We used a solution to soften the bristles before we could use them. I was up to my elbows in this stuff. It started out kind of a brown color, but dried black. I managed to get it smeared all over my face. When I saw these same two women coming, I jumped out and said, ‘What are you white women doing, working in a place like this?’ They had a good laugh at that.

“I worked at the cemetery digging graves, cutting grass, digging graves, cutting grass. The only good thing that came out that job was, a woman came up to me one day and asked. ‘Your name is Chuck isn’t it — Chuck Noble, from Perth.’ I said, ‘Yes, it is, but how did you know?’ She said, ‘I’m Rosemary Clark. I used to babysit you, when you were a child.’ It was nice meeting her. We went out for lunch a few times, talked about our former neighbors, things that had happened in Perth, gossip mostly.

“Remember yesterday, I told you that I was having my income tax done. I was worried that I wouldn’t be getting a refund. My accountant gave me this article that explains everything:

A tax refund of $1,000+ may be the most lucrative windfall many people get. They use the money to pay bills, cover large expenses or simply spoil themselves and their family.

Will people be just as happy with a payment of $90 or $100 a month? Maybe they will in the long run, since most bills come on a monthly schedule.

But right now, many feel betrayed by a government that is making their financial situation worse — without consulting them — in the guise of extending a helping hand.

Ontario Finance Minister Dwight Duncan is well aware of the growing protest. He called me Friday and backed down from the decision, instead of defending it, by saying he’d explore an opt-out provision for those who insist on annual tax refund.

“I’ll bet a lot of people don’t know about that opt-out provision. As for me, I want my refund right now.”

.

 


2 April 2014

Hunting

This morning I was determined that I wouldn’t wear my clunky winter boots, or my down filled parka. Dressed in my regular shoes and leather biker jacket I headed off to work. Standing in the sun, in the shelter, with my hands in my pockets wasn’t too bad. I could still see my breath. When I got downtown and was standing at Chuck’s corner, in the shade, with a stiff wind blowing I was frozen.

“Hi Chuck, did you get your income tax refund yet?”

“No, I won’t be getting anything until July.  My accountant explained it to me. There are two options, we can accept quarterly payments starting in July, or take the full amount, not payable for a year. What kind of horseshit is that? I don’t know that I’ll be alive in another year. I said to my accountant, “They’re just hoping we’ll die off, so they wont have to pay the money!’ He agreed with me.

“I can remember one year, we got such a surprise. I had my income tax done by H & R Block downtown. At that time, they guaranteed that if they made a mistake, they’d reimburse you. They don’t do that any more. It was sometime in June that I got a call from H&R Block.  The guy said to me, ‘I’m afraid we made a mistake in filing the income tax for you and your wife.’ I was scared shitless. Then the guy said, ‘We guaranteed to reimburse you if we made a mistake. There is a check for you. Would you like to come down and pick it up?’ I said, ‘How big a check are we talking about?’ The guy said, ‘I’d rather not discuss the amount over the phone.’ I said, ‘Will you at least give me a hint? If it’s only fifty bucks, I’ll wait until tomorrow.’ The guy said, ‘It’s between seven and eight hundred dollars.’ I said, ‘We’ll be there right away.’ I phoned my wife and said, ‘Get dressed and be ready to go downtown. I’ll pick you up in a cab. We’re getting some money.’ I borrowed ten bucks from a woman I worked with and phoned a cab. We rushed down to H & R Block. The guy there said, ‘The money’s not here, it’s at Revenue Canada, down the street, but they close at four. You’ve only got ten minutes.’  We ran out of there, down the street with minutes to spare. I opened the door. I was shocked to see  a cop standing there with his gun pointed in my face. I nearly had a heart attack.

“It turned out that he had just picked his gun up at the police station and stepped into the foyer of Revenue Canada to replace the bullets. He apologised, he’d just been startled by us rushing up the steps and flinging open the door. I was shaking like a leaf. If I’d had my wits about me I would have had him charged; it probably would have cost him his job, but in the state I was in I didn’t notice his name tag or badge number.

“It’s not that I’m afraid of guns in general. My brother-in-law and I used to hunt all the time: geese, ducks, deer. We’d trap beaver — skin them, clean the hides and stretch them. We’d get paid by the pound. For us it wasn’t sport; we were poor,  we killed for food. That was sometimes the only meat we got. My mother could even bake an apple pie, without apples. She’d use soda biscuits:

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C).
  2. In a saucepan over medium high heat, combine the water, sugar and cream of tartar; bring to boil.
  3. Drop in whole crackers and boil for 5 minutes. Pour mixture into pie shell; sprinkle with cinnamon and lemon juice.
  4. Mix together the crushed crackers, brown sugar, cinnamon and butter; sprinkle over pie filling.
  5. Bake for 15 minutes and reduce heat to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C) and continue to bake for 15 to 20 minutes longer. Serve warm.

I didn’t know we were poor. I thought the way we lived was the same as everybody else. The day I found out was when my mother told me that I couldn’t be in the school concert, because I had no shoes. I had rubber rain boots. I wore them all winter. I didn’t need to go skating to freeze my feet. They froze every day.

My sister Ruth, married a native. When we hunted up north, his father would act as our guide. Once, in the bush, we saw an albino moose. They were considered sacred, so we didn’t shoot it. I wouldn’t have anyway; it was such a beautiful creature, something I knew I’d never see again. About a week later, we heard that a group of  Americans had shot it. If the natives had caught them, they would have laid on a real beating.

When I was hunting I was always careful. When I was using a shotgun, I’d put two bird shot shells in the chambers, but I wouldn’t lock the gun. I’d carry it open. If I was using a rifle I’d always keep the safety on, even when I had my finger on the trigger.

“What we’d do is take turns ‘dogging’. We’d find a trail that entered the bush on one side and exited on the other. One of us would take his place near the end of the trail. You could usually tell if a deer was nearby; you’d hear the snorting, sounded a bit like a horse. Anyway, this one time, my brother-in-law was the ‘dogger’. I’d picked a spot just off the trail.  I had my rifle pointed at an opening between two trees, where I could get a good shot.  I didn’t hear any snorting, but I could hear something moving in the bush. Then between the two trees appeared my brother-in-law. I was so mad, I yelled, ‘You fuckin’ bastard’. He thought he was being funny, playing a joke; I could have killed him. I yelled, ‘Get the hell out of here. I’m never hunting with you again.’ I never did.

.

 

4 April 2014

“Good morning Chuck. Do you have any big plans for the weekend?”

“Big plans…hmmm…no, I think I’ll just do the usual.  I’ll go to the mall, meet some of my friends, drink coffee, tell lies. Then, I’ll go across the street to McDonald’s, meet other friends, drink coffee, tell lies. That’s the way it goes.”

I said, “It’s still cold, that wind is what makes it bad.”

“Yeah, every year we get that south wind. At first it blows cold, then later on it brings that warm air up from the States.”

“Have you ever thought of living someplace warmer?”

“Every day.  It could never be too warm for me. If I had the money, not that I’ll ever get any. I buy one lottery ticket a month and a few of those scratch cards. If I ever won the big jackpot, I’d move to Nevada or Colorado.”

“Would you go to Las Vegas?”

“Oh, I might spend a couple of weeks there, but I’d like to buy a place away from the city. I’d have one of those grabber sticks to catch rattlesnakes.”

“What would you do with the rattlesnakes?”

“Oh, I’d just throw them away, or I might skin them and make snake-skin belts. That might be something I’d like to do.

“If I won money, one thing I’d like to treat myself to — I know it’s selfish, but I’d like to buy a season ticket for the Leafs games. I’m not even sure I’ll be around for a complete season.  It pisses me off, I pay full price for a ticket and my wheelchair, or my walker, is parked in the aisle. I’m not even taking up a seat.

“Have you ever heard of the painted desert?”

“Yeah, I’ve heard of it. I may have seen it in a television documentary.”

“I was asking one of my buddies, ‘Do you know how the painted desert got that way?’ He said, ‘No.’  I said, it started with those pioneers in their Conestoga wagons heading west. On the bumpy trail a paint can fell off. It started rolling, the lid came off and painted the rocks along the way. Other pioneers following thought that it looked nice, so they’d paint a rock here, a rock there. After a few years it was all painted. That’s what you see today.

“The next day he came up to me and said, ‘You son of a bitch. You were lying to me yesterday.’

“You know those ticker tape messages that come across the bottom of the television screen. It use to be that they’d have an entire channel that way. I don’t know if you remember when they ended that fifteen year war in Lebanon. It was back in ’91. My son Chuck Junior could read by then, but not very well. They flashed a headline ‘Lebanese end Civil War.’ Chuck just glanced at it, from the corner of his eye and said, ‘I didn’t know they had a war in Lesbian.’ I laughed at that.

“Have you heard about three blonds that walked…”

I asked, “Where are they? I don’t see them.”

“They’re not here, I’m telling you a joke. Have you heard about the three blonds that walked into a building?… You’d think that at least one of them would have had the sense not to. That’s my joke, I made that up, it’s original.

“It reminds me of a party we once had a long time ago. It was getting late, we were running out of booze and one of the guys said, ‘I guess it’s time we sent the women down to the market to earn some money for more booze.’ I said, ‘That won’t work. I sent Muriel down last week and she came back with twenty dollars and ten cents.’ I asked her, ‘Who was the cheap bastard who paid you ten cents. She said, ‘All of them.’ That came from the devilment way down inside me.

“There is one thing that makes me mad. I live near this stadium. The city spent fifty thousand laying sod. The next year they ripped it all out and put in a parking lot.

“See that guy in the wheelchair that just went by. He’s a nasty son of a bitch. He hates everyone. He’s got no legs, but that’s no reason to take it out on other people. If someone is in his way he’ll run them right over. He doesn’t care. Sometimes, I’ll look in the mirror and wonder if life is worth living, then I look down at Goldie and I know why I’m here.”

 

Comments
  1. Lots of really thought-provoking stuff on your site. I was inspired to paint my own “Rain Dog”, but can’t work out how to paste it here. If it’s ok I’ll mention you on my website.

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  2. Your philanthropy truly amazed me. It is so genuine, especially surrounded by self-centred and objective-less blogs about “positive” thinking.

    Liked by 1 person

    • HI Raisa, thanks for your encouragement and support. It is much appreciated. I learn more from my friends on the street than I do from any books or blogs. These people are happy, they may have nothing, but they’re happy. We can all learn from them. I love your writing and your photographs, I especially enjoyed your post “Love”. I will visit often. ~ Dennis

      Like

  3. thank you for the follow – am following you back – intriguing blog you have here

    Like

  4. Years ago, when I was still young and working to exhaustion, I used to carry a large briefcase around on a cart. One afternoon, on a crowded NYC street, I was loaded down not only with the briefcase, but additional legal files in my arms, dry cleaning, and other items. Anyhow, as I stopped to catch my breath and rearrange my parcels, a homeless woman with a couple of large, ragged bags of her own looked sympathetically at me and asked, “You too?” Our fates, mine and hers, it seemed to me were separated by a hair’s breadth. Blessings, A.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. […] Some people choose to wear rose colored glasses, but the dust of the world builds up, and their view becomes dim. I admire the way that Dennis uses his blog to reach out and clean the lenses of them with his efforts, as a radio of the street. His latest post inspired the flow of my thoughts for this article, and following up my last post of “Blogging Makes Laughter” with this one is fitting, as the joy in embracing the less fortunate, can be seen in between the lines of his stories. […]

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    • Hi Benjamin, I am honored that my words have inspired you to write such a beautiful post. Conversing with people on the streets is indeed joyful. Each day I can’t wait to get away from the people I work with, to enjoy the conversations of my street friends. ~ Dennis

      Like

  6. susanissima says:

    You’re doing wonderful work here, Dennis. Can’t wait to read more!

    Like

  7. A few months ago, I had the pleasure of joining my friends and two chaperones on a trip to NYC. We spent the majority of our time there helping the homeless and hungry at various centers and missions. I can honestly say it was an amazing trip and I met some of the nicest, funniest, most intelligent people whose only differences from our group was their lack of shelter, food, good clothing, money, or- unfortunately- all of these things combined. The people I went to NYC with compose the youth group at the church I attend. Not all of us are actually religious; I personally do not believe in God, an neither do a couple other youths. But I know that this was one of the most cherished experiences I have ever had and most likely ever will have.

    I’ve fallen on hard times myself, with my mother, back when I was younger and I didn’t quite understand why we couldn’t stay in a house like other people or use the utilities that everyone else seemed to rely on.

    I fully support you in your endeavor to help people.

    Like

  8. Joanie says:

    What a unique blog site, Dennis. Thank you for visiting mine, and I’m so very glad I came here. Thank you for being a compassionate human being. Peace.

    Like

  9. fyrewise says:

    Hi Dennis — thank you so much for the follow. I am really glad to find your blogs. You’re doing wonderful work, it’s very inspiring. I lived in Tucson during my early twenties and there is a very visible homeless population there. For a few years I walked a thin line between being employed for minimum wage and being homeless myself. My experience led me to befriend a few people I would see on the streets on a daily basis, though I never got to know them as well as you know many of the friends you write about. It was an eye-opening couple of years regardless.

    Your blog has returned me to that frame of mind and I feel that I should be doing more to help. I live in a smaller town now, and it’s rare to see anyone on the streets, though I’m sure there has to be some kind of outreach program here. I’ll have to do some research.

    Thank you again for sharing your own stories and the stories of so many others.

    Like

  10. floridaborne says:

    It kinda puts things into perspective.

    Like

  11. neelkanth says:

    QUITE NICE A NARRATIVE.
    My thanks for following me. I too am now a follower of yours not just as a ritual of reciprocity but quite in a positive sense.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. terryengland says:

    Thanks for the follow on my blog. Yours is of a different character, but great to see you take an interest in others. Good luck with your efforts.

    Like

  13. Zestwriter says:

    Enjoyed reading, thanks.

    Like

  14. I’m so happy to have found your blog site. For some years now, on a smaller scale, I have been breaking down my own barriers of fear and integrating with the people (and their animal spirit partners) of the street.

    I am a single woman from a family who groups all homeless people into the category of drug addicts and alcoholics who are lazy and dangerous. When my family first found out that I was providing friendship and limited support (food) to my challenged neighbors, they told me that I was putting my own life in danger. But, like you, I am drawn to the stories and the connection and the sense that my presence makes a difference, albeit small.

    I continue to connect with the people of the street, but I don’t tell my family anymore. I know they don’t believe that I’m still doing this because I heard them talking not too long ago saying, “Remember when she used to go talk to those people all by herself? I’m so glad that phase is over.” Ha! Recently, I saw an woman not much older than I am, standing in the rain, soaking wet, asking for change. I quick ran to a dept. store and purchased an inexpensive rain hat, scarf, gloves and umbrella, grabbed a food care package from my car and went to meet her. She was incredibly filthy and the smell of her permeated every molecule of air between us. When I handed her the items I’d purchased, she cried, and hugged me and kissed me all over my face, with great amounts of passion blessing me repeatedly. I cried, hugged and kissed her back in returned passion. Immediately afterward, I met with my mother. After I hugged her, she wrinkled up her nose and said, “Good Lord! Where have you been? You wreak.” I told her the story above. She rolled her eyes, shook her head and said, “I certainly hope for your sake that you do not get yourself into a dangerous future situation.” To which I smiled and replied, “I hope the same thing for you, mom.”

    I have spent a decent amount of time listening to the stories of the streets, as well. They are fascinating. What’s most important is that WE are hearing and seeing each other. In relationships, what is most important is validation/response . . . knowing that the other acknowledges our existence and considers us equally viable. WE are all connected.

    I read and published the following statement recently on “The Animal Spirits.” I believe it is a great phrase to insert (whenever possible) into conversation with all living beings:

    “I see you
    You are not alone
    We are in this together
    You are loved
    Let there be LIGHT”

    Will look forward to reading your future posts and . . . many blessings on you and yours because of your willingness to not only feel compassion, but act upon it.

    Gerean Pflug/The Animal Spirits

    Like

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