Archive for July 17, 2014

New Amazon Review

Posted: July 17, 2014 in Prose
5.0 out of 5 stars `People are strangers only until you meet them. We are all the same, we seek happiness and an end to suffering.’, July 17, 2014
Grady Harp (Los Angeles, CA United States) – See all my reviews
Verified Purchase(What’s this?)
This review is from: Gotta Find a Home: Conversations with Street People (Kindle Edition)
Canadian author Dennis Cardiff has a heart as big as all outdoors. He seems to be a pretty selfless guy as he doesn’t provide much personal resume on which to base a beginning to read his book and he contributesa portion of the proceeds to supporting the homeless. From references within his writing it seems he lives in Toronto and spends his walk to work each day talking to the street folk he has gathered into his circle of friends.The book is a series of conversations with and about the homeless people he encounters. Cardiff is also a poet and he generously sprinkles some of his poems throughout the book that spans eighteen months of experience – growth, laughter, kindness, endless biographical information, and simply people who have no home but the street seeking some sense of dignity and understanding from those who have homes.

Early on in his book he lets us know how this concept originated: `2010 – How It Began – My lungs ached, as frost hung in the bitterly cold December morning air, making breathing difficult. I trudged in the falling snow toward the building where I work, in one of the city’s grey, concrete, office tower canyons. I dodged other pedestrians, also trying to get to work on time, 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. In the past I’ve been unemployed, my wife and I were unable to pay our mortgage and other bills, we went through bankruptcy, lost our house, my truck. Being in my fifties, my prospects looked dim. It could have been me, on the sidewalk, in her place. I was 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?’ That sounded reasonable, so the next day I asked, “Are you hungry? Would you like some breakfast, perhaps a coffee?””That would be nice,” she replied. When I brought her a sandwich and coffee she said to me, “Thank you so much, sir. You’re so kind. Bless you.” I truly felt blessed. 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.’

As a coda to this street symphony, Cardiff states: `After eighteen months of daily conversations with people living on the streets, in shelters or sharing accommodation, I have made the following observations. A full-fledged member of the street family is one who has been with the group for over ten years. Jacques and Joy are the matriarch and patriarch. Everyone else is a newbie — on probation. To gain acceptance one must be vouched for and have proven themselves not to be an *******. The group expects honesty and sincerity. That may seem strange when you consider that most of these people have prison records. Many have been involved in scams of one sort or another, but if you’re family they expect the truth. How else, they explained, can they help you? They’ll share with you what little they have, even the jackets off their back. The same is expected in return. The people who come around only when they’re in need of money, cigarettes, booze, drugs or food are soon put on notice. On check day, all debts are paid in full.’

These are the words of a man who cares, and in his caring and sharing we discover an entirely new outlook on the people whose street homes are beneath benches, in cardboard boxes, in doorways – any place that provides shelter. Dennis Cardiff brings them into our hearts. Grady Harp, July 14




17 July 2014

Jacques waved from where he was sitting in the park. Mariah reached into Shaggy’s caboose to get a newspaper for me to sit on.

Jacques said, “I’ve got something better than that — a big, fat flyer. It will be so soft, you’ll think you’re sitting on a sofa.”

“Thanks, Jacques.”

I approached Wolf to shake his hand, he said, “I won’t shake your hand, Dennis, I’m still sick. I don’t know what it is I got. I think I need antibiotics. What pisses me off the most is I can’t talk and you know how I like to talk.”

“I know how you like to talk, Wolf.”

So fuck off then. I didn’t mean that. You know me. I won’t be here tomorrow. I’m going to the walk-in clinic. I passed that pink building on my way here, but I’m half in the bag now. I don’t think they’d take me. If  I could get in, there’s no way I’d wait an hour and a half to see a doctor, just for a piece of paper. I’ll go first thing in the morning, when I’m sober. I’ll lose out on about thirty bucks by not panning, but my health is more important. The thing is, I never get sick. I only go to a doctor, maybe once a year. I stay away from most medication, just let things run their course, but this morning I took some glucosamine and a Tylenol for arthritis.

“Another thing, I feel so weak. I ache all over. Listen to me whining. Shaggy had to walk the whole way this morning. I didn’t have the energy to push her. She was alright, after she got started. That’s why you don’t hear her barking, like she did yesterday. She’s pooped.

“I’ve got two books from my ladies, so I’ve got my reading taken care of.  I’ll show you what I got.” Wolf  sorted through Shaggy’s caboose and pulled out two books. One was by John LeCarre, A Most Wanted Man. The other was by John Connolly, A Darkness More Than Night, in the Detective Harry Bosch series.

Harry Bosch is up to his neck in a case that has transfixed all of celebrity-mad Los Angeles: a movie director is charged with murdering an actress during sex, and then staging her death to make it look like a suicide.  Bosch is both the arresting officer and the star witness in a trial that has brought the Hollywood media pack out in full-throated frenzy.

“These look good, Wolf.”

“Yeah, I thought so. I’ve read a lot of John LeCarre, but I don’t think I’ve read that one.”

I asked, “Does anybody know if Loon got home yesterday?”

Wolf said, “Nobody’s seen him. Maybe he disappeared. He’s a strange guy. I’ve known him for a long time, in fact we even shared an apartment together on McLaughlin. He was a nit picky sort of  fellow. One day, Shaggy and I got caught in the rain. Loon wouldn’t let us in because we were wet. We were only allowed to stand just inside the door. You can imagine how long I lived there.

“He’s a straight shooter though, what you see is what you get. I’ll smoke pot with him, but I won’t drink with him. You saw how he was yesterday.

“What I can’t understand is how got such a beautiful daughter. She doesn’t look anything like him, or her mother, Scary Mary. She was a crackhead stripper and really lived up to her name. She was scary.”

Gnome asked, “Have you cleaned your apartment, Wolf? I know you go all out sometimes.”

“My apartment is clean. Mind you I let it go for a long time, to the point that people wouldn’t even come in. The floor was completely covered with beer cans. I’d finish a beer then just throw the can behind me. I collected all the cans and turned them in at the beer store. I got quite a lot of money for them. That reminds me, Jacques, will you take this beer bottle. I found it here and threw it in Shaggy’s caboose, but I don’t want her to get cut if it breaks.

“I’ve got something to show you, Dennis.  Jacques, have you still got that flyer? I’ve always known that Loblaws was expensive, but look at this, they’ve got sirloin tip steak for $69.00 a pound. Do you think that’s a misprint?  One pound wouldn’t feed very many people. Can you imagine, two couples having dinner. It would cost a fortune. I’m going to keep this.”

Jacques asked, “Why you want to keep that? Is it to prove to people you’re not lying, when you tell them that story?”

“I’ve got a lot of people to tell about this. They wouldn’t believe it if they didn’t see it in print.”