Archive for May 23, 2014




23 May 2014

Unpredictable, that’s the only way one can describe the weather for today. Chuck said he wouldn’t be here today because rain was forecast. It rained last night. Thunderstorms are predicted for sometime today. Now, the sun is shining. Joy’s spot is empty, but Chuck is on the corner.

“Hi Chuck, do you know what time it is? I left my watch at home.”

“I had a cheap watch one time. It lasted me ten years, didn’t even have to replace the battery. I received a hundred-dollar watch, as a gift — within a year it was shot. I bought this one for nine ninety-five at Giant Tiger it’s already lasted me three years. It’s eight twenty-five. Did you see Joy?”

“No, she’s not at her spot. All her things are gone.”

“She was there earlier. I don’t know where she’s gone. There’s Sharon across the street. Her picture was in the paper last night with her arms around one of the drivers. He crashed and died later on.  She works at the Speedway, always has been interested in racing.

“Dennis!” someone hollered.

I looked across the street and Joy was waving both arms in the air. I walked across the street. “Hi Joy. I walked past earlier. I didn’t see you.”

“Hi, hic, I had to pee.  I’ve had the hiccups for the last two hours, hic. Dumbass is supposed to be coming down later. The service man for his wheelchair is going to meet him. The service call costs fifty bucks, he has that, but want’s to borrow three fifty from me for smokes. I don’t know where I’m supposed to meet him. I’ll give him a call.

“Hi, are you still alive? I had a really good morning. I had a drop of forty bucks. Do you still need the three fifty for smokes. Where shall we meet. I’m going to the park, why not meet me there…. You want me to take the bus all the way over there, just to come back downtown again?….Don’t yell at me! I didn’t do anything wrong!… Okay, I’ll see you there.” She hung up the phone.

Asshole!” yelled Joy. “He wants me to meet him at the Sally. He knows how I feel about that place. I was raped there last Christmas.” Tears filled her eyes.

I said, “I saw Shakes last night, we were on the same bus. I also saw him at noon yesterday. He was walking with his daughter.”

“Which daughter?”


“I haven’t seen her since she was beat up by her boy friend. She’s the one with three kids. How was Shakes? Had he been drinking?”

“He was fine, we had a long talk. He was heading to Little Jake’s place, but he was drinking on the bus.”

Joy said, “Jake told me he’s not supposed to drink while he’s on antibiotics. That rash will never clear up. Have you seen it?  A real mess. I don’t know what he’s got. It could be impetigo, that’s contagious, shingles — I’ve had shingles, it’s because of chicken pox.”

I said, “I’ve looked up skin viruses on the internet. There are a lot of them, some very serious that take months to heal.

“Do you know what time it is?”

Joy yelled, “Hey!” About five pedestrians turned around. Joy pointed to her wrist. “What time is it?” 

A guy stopped, looked at his watch and said, “Eight forty.”

Joy said to me, “I better get going. I have to catch the bus. I’ll see you Monday.”

“See you Monday.”

I walked back across the street to see Chuck.

He asked, “Is Joy alright?”

“Yeah, she’s just going to meet Jake. She’s not very happy about that.”

Chuck said, “I’ve got a joke for you. There was this beautiful woman who walked into a movie theater. She sat in the middle of the back row. A guy sat beside her.  Before long he he slowly slid his hand up her thigh. She had her money tucked into her garter belt. He grabbed the money, then ran out. They caught the guy and they both had to appear in court. The woman explained to the judge what happened. The judge asked, ‘Why did you allow this man to put his hand up your skirt?’ The woman said, “Well, you honor, I didn’t think he was after my money.’

“Here’s another one… A man and a woman, he just met, walk into a hotel room. Before she gets undressed the woman reached through the neck of her sweater and pulled out two shoulder pads and threw them in the corner of the room. Next she reached under her sweater, pulled out two false breasts, threw them in another corner. She reached under her skirt, unhitched her false leg and leaned it in another corner. The guy said, “When you get to the part that I’m after, be sure to throw it my way.’ “

“That’s funny, Chuck, I’d better be going.”

“Wait, wait, I’ve got another one… He looks around to see if anybody else is listening then says, ” A man and a woman walked into a movie theater.  The man was wearing a toupee. They started to become amorous and the man’s toupee fell into the woman’s lap… Have you heard this one…He felt around in the dark for a while. The woman starts breathing heavy and says, that’s it … that’s it...THAT’S IT! ‘ The man said, “No, I don’t think so, mine’s parted at the side.’ Ha ha ha.”

” Chuck, I’ll see you on Monday. Have a good weekend.”


Interview with Sue Rowland

Posted: May 23, 2014 in Dialog, Poetry

Originally posted on Journal with Sue by Sue Rowland

A Friend to the Homeless: Interview with Dennis Cardiff



dennis cardiff author smaller size

Once in a while you come across a couple of bloggers who really catch your attention. You wait eagerly for the next installment.

Today I’d like to introduce you to Dennis Cardiff, an extraordinary listener. His blog is Gotta Find A Home  and his new book by the same titleGotta Find a Home, Conversations with Street People, is coming out soon. Check out the give-away and promos for it.

I found out how talented and modest Dennis is after he agreed to do an interview. He is also a serious artist!  Added to his art and writing, Cardiff also is a poet. His own story is one that inspires compassion and motivation.

Here is the interview:

SRWhat got you started in writing?

DCMy first wife was a poet. She got me interested in writing. I wrote mostly poetry at that time. I became a voracious reader. I read Tolstoy’s War and Peace in two weeks. I’d read everywhere, even while walking down the sidewalk.

 In 1969 I attended York University, Toronto and studied Poetry and Creative writing. I was introduced to some of the best poets from Canada and around the world. My poetry professor once said to us, “If you fully understand what it is you want to say, there is only one combination of words that will thoroughly explain your viewpoint.”

 I’ve worked in art galleries most of my life and some of my duties included writing exhibition catalogs, newsletter copy and giving tours. Learning how to subdue a group of high school students, and to mollify a group of nuns, viewing the erotic sculpture of Gaston Lachaise is challenging. This experience taught me the importance of brevity and impact.

 SRSo, do you journal? What inspires you?

DC: I have journaled sporadically, but I was away from writing for a long time. Reading Bob Dylan’s book Chronicles: Volume One, gave me more understanding of his writing process, especially deconstructing the work of authors he admired. He made it sound easy.

 In 2007 I joined where I was able to get feedback on what I had written and encouragement to explore new directions. In April of 2013, I joined and received even more feedback and encouragement, for which I am very thankful.

 SR:What called you to write about homeless people? We all seem to categorize people who stand on the streets with signs. We often just pass them by with urgent feelings of avoidance. Why is this?

DCMy first encounter with a panhandler was, when I moved to Toronto in 1968, to live with my older brother, Jack. Being a storyteller himself, he viewed panhandlers as follows: If they present you with an interesting, unique story of why you should give them money, that story has value and should be rewarded accordingly.

My poem The Silver Fox reflects that period of my life.

in forgotten tap-rooms
dirty old men,
forgotten old men,
slop piss-colored beer
from, wet, dripping glasses.
The hollow din,
the retelling of “the good old days”,
echoes sadly
as life quickly passes.

“They used to call me ‘The Silver Fox’
What do you think of that?
They used to care.”

An empty glass crashes
to the muddy floor.

“I guess I’ll be hitting the street tonight.
Sleep in an alley tonight.
Nobody cares.”

in forgotten tap-rooms
dirty old men,
forgotten old men,
slop piss-colored beer.
Nobody cares….

homeless 1 copy.jpg for blog post

 Cardiff continues:

In 2010, I noticed a woman seated cross-legged on the sidewalk with her back against a building wall. A snow-covered Buddha, wrapped in a sleeping bag, shivering in the below freezing temperature. I guessed her to be in her forties. Everything about her seemed round. She had the most angelic face, sparkling blue eyes and a beautiful smile. A cap was upturned in front of her. I thought, There but for the grace of God go I. Her smile and blue eyes haunted me all day.

I have always been told not to give money to panhandlers because they’ll just spend it on booze. I thought to myself, What should I do, if anything? What would you do? I asked for advice from a friend who has worked with homeless people. She said, ‘The woman is probably hungry. Why don’t you ask her if she’d like a breakfast sandwich and maybe a coffee?’  This has become a morning routine for the past four years. The woman (I’ll call Joy) and I have become friends. Often I’ll sit with her on the sidewalk. We sometimes meet her companions in the park. They have become my closest friends. I think of them as angels. My life has become much richer for the experience.

I have asked homeless people what could be done to improve their situation. The most eloquent response came from Bearded Bruce.

“I get a welfare check now, seven hundred and thirty-two dollars a month. I’ve never taken welfare before, but I had to in order to qualify for my apartment. It’s a program they started me on in prison. Before that I was content to sleep behind the dumpsters, but after I was crammed in with a bunch of guys for three months, with no privacy, no freedom and I got to talk to my worker in a spacious, quiet interview room… what she was saying sounded pretty good.  They pay my landlord directly. It’s subsidized, so that leaves me with about two fifty. A person can’t live on two fifty a month, so I pan when the weather’s decent. There’s a restaurant that gives me their leftover food. When I cook I use a big pot. I have Tupperware containers; one for Shakes, one for Little Jake, one for Chuck. I have to take care of my boys.

“If I wasn’t on this program, the least expensive room, that’s ROOM, mind you, would cost five hundred and thirty a month. It would be in a rooming house crawling with cockroaches, infested with bed bugs, crackheads. Guys running up and down the stairs all night. I’d rather sleep on the street. If the city wants to cure homelessness they need to provide affordable, clean housing.”

SR: It’s amazing how much compassion you have for people, and how your writing and art bring the world alive to the reader, and to the viewer. Where do you find the passion for this kind of work?

DC: What has influenced my life the most was being diagnosed with polio at the age of eighteen months and six major surgeries, one hundred and fifty stitches, over a period of sixty-seven years.

The following poem, The Lost Boys, is biographical.

I was a young boy with a withered leg,
abandoned, in a cold hospital bed.
Faceless attendants wore gloves, masks and gowns.
No parents for cuddles, kisses or love.

Alone were the Lost Boys with polio,
the silent, unpredictable killer.
Quarantined, isolated like lepers,
our only strength came from one another.

Expected to die, we boys joined forces.
We supported each other, forming a bond.
After lights were turned out we would whisper
together, “Shush, the Sisters are coming.”

Older patients had access to wheelchairs.
Sometimes they’d transport me to other wards —
to meet other boys was high adventure.
An empty bed usually meant a death.

Six decades since, in the still of the night,
after lights are out, I can sometimes hear
that haunting refrain I heard as a child,
whispered, “Shush, the Sisters are coming.”

I don’t feel sorry for myself. In fact, I am grateful for polio, it made me what I am today. We all have scars, it’s what we do to overcome those scars is what’s important. It seems that for most of my life I have been recovering from one operation or another or fighting arthritis. I lift weights and train at a gym three nights a week. I’m in better shape than most men half my age. I identify with the marginalized because I, too, have been marginalized.

When I sit on the sidewalk with my homeless friends, I see the looks of disgust, the averted eyes, sometimes hear the rude comments. Most people don’t realize that they may be only a couple of paychecks away from being homeless. They don’t realize how quickly the bank will take your house if you lose your employment and can’t make the mortgage payments. They fear that, and don’t want to be reminded of it by panhandlers or the visibly homeless.


Thank you, Dennis! I’m honored to be highlighting your work. My husband is a polio survivor and also an artist–a woodcarver. Your poem about being a little boy in the hospital resonated deeply.  It just goes to show how much people can do when they set their minds to the task.

i am joyful

I encourage readers to buy Gotta Find A Home and to sign up for the blog.  Through your writing I feel all your people, from Joy, to Bearded Bruce, Weasel, Shakes, and all the others, especially their pets.  Even though the stories of the street people are intense, we are all touched by the true grit of their lives.