Archive for January, 2014


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23 January 2013

This morning on the 176 bus I met Ian. I hadn’t seen him for a long time. He said, “I have to go to Kanata to see my probation officer. I told you, I got six months probation with community service. I’m at the Oaks Residence where they have a ‘Managed Alcohol Program.’ I’m doing really well.”

“I can see that. You look good. You must be anxious to get back to moving furniture?”

“Yeah, going to work would be good.”

“How about plans to move back to British Columbia? Do you think that will ever happen?

“No, I like it here.”

“Even in this cold weather?”

“Yeah, I can put up with it.”


24 January 2013

When I got off the bus this morning I was greeted, as usual by Two-four and Metro. Two-four said, “Hey, Joy was here yesterday. She’s using a cane now. She only lasted about ten minutes because of the cold.”

“It’s great to hear that she’s out of hospital.”

“Yeah, she’s looking good.”

Metro was wearing a balaclava. I asked him, “Are you going to rob any banks after your shift?”

“Yes, as a matter of fact, five of them: the Royal, the Imperial, BMO, TD and another one. I can’t remember the name.”

“Well Metro, you don’t need to know the name of a bank to rob it. Good luck with that.”

“Have a good day, Dennis.”

“You too  Metro, Two-four. Stay warm.”








16 January 2014

Chuck Senior in his wheelchair, with Sandy on his lap, were crossing Laurier, so I waited for them. He expertly maneuvered, in reverse, into his spot.  Sandy 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.”

Sandy 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. Sandy 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 Hartman’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 Bank, 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 the 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.”







14 January 2014

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 Sandy, and dropped change into’s 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 Sandy’s fur.” I noticed that under her blue blanket she was wearing a pink coat. “Sandy 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 on Ogilvie. They didn’t have anything. I went to the one near the marked 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 Paratranspo  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.”





13 January 2014

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.”





“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. Sandy 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.”

“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 Ghislain. 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 Sandy been?”

“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. Sandy 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 “





18 January 2013

Friday night, on the bus,  I heard a commotion at the front. There were people standing in front of me so I couldn’t see what was happening. I heard, “Jesus Christ, can’t you give a guy a break. He’s been hit by a car and just wants to get home. He doesn’t have any money.”

The mood settled down and gradually people exited the bus; to my surprise, sitting across from me were Little Jake and Shakes. We greeted each other, then Shakes said, “Dennis, did you hear what happened to me? Last Wednesday night I was hit by a car at the corner of Merivale and Moriset. The woman driving said she didn’t see me. The piggies drove past and didn’t even stop.”

Jake said, “Shakes, you were dressed in black with your hood pulled over your head. That’s probably the reason she didn’t see you.”

I asked Shakes, “Did you go to the hospital, or see a doctor?”

Jake said, “No, Shakes doesn’t like hospitals or doctors, but you should see his knee, it’s swollen like a grapefruit.”

I said, “Maybe he needs a brace for his knee or crutches.”

Jake said, “He doesn’t want that, he’d rather lean on me. By the way have you heard from Joy?”

“I went to see her in hospital before Christmas. She seemed okay, I pushed her in her wheelchair downstairs so she could go for a smoke. I know she has issues about staying alone, especially without furniture.”

Jake said, “I have issues about staying alone. I trashed my apartment last week. I went to see Jenny, my worker, and she’s going to send a cleaning team Monday morning. She’s really great. They’re going to bring mops and buckets and cleaning supplies. I told her she didn’t have to do that. I’ll have the place cleaned by Sunday, but she wouldn’t listen. She’s arranged for me to see a doctor as well. I’m going to be going to the General Hospital, where Joy is. I know she doesn’t like people to just drop by on her, but if I have a reason to be there, it should be okay.”

“Jake, do you have your furniture yet?”

“No, I was supposed to contact Jenny the first week of January, but I just wasn’t up to it. I don’t have a phone, so she wasn’t able to contact me. I’ve still just got the bed and the air conditioner, still in its box that I sit on. I don’t have any money, except for a few tim Horton cards. I go there, have a coffee and watch TV. I pick up butts, that’s all I have to smoke.”

Shakes had his head on his knees and his eyes closed. I said to Jake, “Is Shakes asleep?”

Shakes opened his eyes, “I’m not asleep, it’s just that I’m in pain because of my knee.”

I said, “I’ve been to the park a few times, but nobody has been there except for Magdalene. I talked to her one day. I’ve had a cold, so I haven’t been going out much at noon. I heard that André has an apartment now.”

Jake said, I haven’t seen anybody since before Christmas. The last time I saw André, he was bumming off us. We didn’t part on very good terms.”

Their bus stop was coming up, so Jake said, “Come on Shakes, let me help you up. We have to get off soon.” Shakes put his arm around Jake and they hobbled off the bus. I was surprised at how much I had missed them.


2 January, 2013
The temperature at noon was 1 degree Fahrenheit with a 13 mph wind, making it feel like -17. Last night it went down to -5. The only person at ‘the heater’ was Magdalene.
“She said, “Hi, my boyfriend, Alphonse is in hospital.”
“I’m sorry to hear that, which hospital is he in.”
“He’s in the Montfort. He’s been there for a couple of days now. He has pneumonia. Also, he’s had paranoia. He thought he saw people standing around his bed, but there was nobody there. He thought they were trying to kill him. He ran outside. The police brought him back in. They said that if he stayed outside, he would die.”When he got back to his hospital bed they gave him a glass of whiskey, because he’s an alcoholic.”I said, “Irving is on a program at The Oaks. They give him a glass of wine every hour. Gradually he’ll be able to stop drinking. He wants to get back to work. He does furniture moving, but it’s hard for him while he’s an alcoholic.”Magdalene said, “We’ve been sleeping outside lately. We are on a list to get an apartment, but nothing has happened.”

“Where, exactly, have you been sleeping?” I asked.

“On York street. If you go to the end, there is a little boutique there, turn left into the alley. There’s a place with a heater that blows down on you. We have a covering that goes around us.

“For a couple of days he wasn’t able to eat. His face was getting very thin. That’s when he decided that he should go to the hospital.

“Have you thought of staying at some place like the Mission?”

“After Alphonse gets out of hospital, we may have to. I don’t like those places. They’re rough , noisy, crowded and stuff gets stolen there.”

I said, “Shakes told me that every time he sleeps at the Mission, Shepherd’s or the Salvation Army, things are stolen from him: his backpack, money, bottles, pot even his clothes.”

“I’m going to see Alphonse at the hospital this afternoon, but first I have to go to Welfare to see if I can get my bus pass. Ambrose has a check waiting there but only he can sign for it. I’m going to talk to them and see if they can release it to me. I’m listed on all his forms. I don’t even have his phone number at the hospital”

I asked, “When you visit your worker at Welfare, can she help you to get an apartment? She should be able to help you get the phone number for Alphonse at the hospital.”

“Maybe, I don’t know, they were looking for us, but we haven’t been back there for two weeks. Maybe they found someplace.

“Alphonse has an appointment with his probation officer, tomorrow morning at 8:30. He’s going to have to cancel. I don’t know the phone number, I hope he’s awake, so I can get the number from him.

“This morning I ate at McDonald’s. I didn’t think I had any money, but I found four dollars and twenty-five cents. I was so hungry.

“Next week I start at New Directions. They’re going to help me.”…


7 January, 2013

Tonight I met with one of the housing outreach workers. All but two of my friends are now housed.