Archive for July, 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
By
Grady Harp (Los Angeles, CA United States) – See all my reviews
(TOP 50 REVIEWER)    (HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)
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

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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.”

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“Brother, Can You Spare a Dime,” lyrics by Yip Harburg, music by Jay Gorney (1931)

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Once I built a railroad, I made it run, made it race against time.
Once I built a railroad; now it’s done. Brother, can you spare a dime?
Once I built a tower, up to the sun, brick, and rivet, and lime;
Once I built a tower, now it’s done. Brother, can you spare a dime?

Say, don’t you remember, they called me Al; it was Al all the time.
Say, don’t you remember, I’m your pal? Buddy, can you spare a dime?

 

“In the song a beggar talks back to the system that stole his job. Gorney said in an interview in 1974 “I didn’t want a song to depress people. I wanted to write a song to make people think. It isn’t a hand-me-out song of ‘give me a dime, I’m starving, I’m bitter’, it wasn’t that kind of sentimentality”.  The song asks why the men who built the nation – built the railroads, built the skyscrapers – who fought in the war (World War I), who tilled the earth, who did what their nation asked of them should, now that the work is done and their labor no longer necessary, find themselves abandoned and in bread lines.” (Wikipedia)

“Buddy, can you spare a dime?” The song title and lyrics, penned eighty-four years ago by Yip Harburg, express conditions that existed in the  Great Depression, the worst economic downturn that the world had ever seen. This tragic state was echoed “in  2007 and 2008  when the world reached new levels of wealth gap inequality that rivaled the years of 1928 and 1929.” (Wikipedia). This is a reminder to us that,  after nearly a century, the world is not immune to economic devastation. If the world is not immune how can we, as individuals, expect any guarantee  of economic security?

Every day, in every major city of the world, we hear a similar refrain, “Buddy, can you spare some change?” Or, we see someone standing with their hand out, holding a cap or an empty paper cup, pleading with a cardboard sign. Have we progressed at all? Who are these people? Is it possible that they’re just like us? Is it possible that they were once soldiers, leaders of industry, pillars of society? Surprisingly, many of them were.

 

 

 

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16 July 2014

As I approached the group in the park I could hear Loon babbling, seemingly to himself, since nobody else was paying any attention to him. Wolf said, “Hi, Dennis, don’t pay any attention to Loon. He’s higher than a kite. I haven’t seen him this wasted since the last time I was at Shark’s place. Joy gave me some good advice, she said, tell me if I got this right Joy, ‘It’s not worth the aggravation to get upset. Just ignore him, like I do.’ That’s good advice and that’s what I’m doing.

“I’m feeling better now, but when I woke up yesterday my throat was so sore I could barely swallow. It was a little better this morning. It’s even better since I’ve been here. I’m wondering if I should drink some wine. No, I think that would just give me a hangover.

“Did I tell you that I got two tickets yesterday. I was sitting here minding my own business. I opened a beer and right in front of me were two bicycle cops. They wrote me a ticket. I packed up and moved to the park by the river. I opened a beer and there they were again. They wrote me another ticket. I was pissed off. Usually, I’m polite to them, but  I said, ‘Jesus Christ, you motherfuckers, I”m heading to the next park up the street. I’ll be there in about an hour. If you want to meet me there you can write me another ticket.’  They said, ‘Wolf, why are you getting upset? We know you don’t pay these things.’ I apologized and said, ‘I know you’re just doing your job. I’m just feeling a bit under the weather to day.’

“Loon hasn’t shut up since he’s been here. Do you know what my brother said to him last time he was visiting?  He said, ‘In Virginia, we have laws that allow us to carry guns to shoot people like you.’  I’ve told you before about the laws down there, haven’t I? Yeah, I think I have.”

I said, “It’s amazing, he doesn’t need anybody to talk to. He has a continual conversation with himself.”

Loon yelled, “Joicey, can I have a light?”

“Loon, my name is Joy, not Joyce or Joycey. If you call me that again I’ll come over there and kick you in the head. Maybe I’ll break your nose like I did last time.”

I asked Little Jake, “How are you feeling? Are you eating now? The last time we talked, you hadn’t eaten for a week. You’d only been able to keep down a bowl of Mr. Noodles.”

“Yeah, I’m feeling better. I’m eating.”

I asked, “How about you, Mariah? It sounds like you’re the only one here that hasn’t been sick.”

“Well, ‘ she said, “I’m in my time of the month now, so I’ve just been staying around home. How’ve you been?”

I said, “I put my back out again, but apart from that, everything is fine.”

Wolf said, “It’s time I was leaving, I’ve run out of beer.’

Mariah’s phone rang, she handed it to Joy. “Hello… are you coming down? So, I won’t see you then… Okay, goodbye. I’ll see you tomorrow then. I love you.”

“He’s going over to that druggie Gilbert’s place. I’ll be able to wave goodbye to him as he goes past on the bus. I’ve told him not to bring that junkie over to my place.  Jake said that he’d shoot up before he came and would wait until after he left to shoot up again, but I don’t trusty him. We’ve got a bathroom. Who knows what he’d do in there, behind a locked door.

“Well I should go too, but I need to pee. Is that park guy still around?”

Mariah said, “No, he’s down at the other end. You’re okay behind the bushes.”

When Joy returned we walked toward her bus stop and my work. She said, “The last time I saw Loon that wasted, he started talking really nasty to me. It was just over here near the bus shelter. I punched him in the face, he fell back and split his head open.

“Anyway, I’ll see you tomorrow.”

I said, “Bye, Joy.”

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womanbox

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16 July 2014

I was walking along the sidewalk towards Chuck’s spot when I heard somebody call  from across the street, “Hey, Dennis, what are you doing over there?” I turned my head and saw it was Joy. I crossed the street.

“Hi, Joy, I haven’t seen you for ages.”

“No, I’ve had chickenpox. I’m not contagious now, but I’m still scratching. It bugs the hell out of me and freaks people out,  ’cause they think I have fleas.

“Whoa, did you see the look that woman gave me?”

I asked, “Are you sure she was looking at you and not me?”

“She was looking at both of us.”

“Perhaps, it was someone I work with.”

“She was  pissed off with somebody. I feel like going after her, to see what her problem is.”

A garbage truck stopped at the curb in front of us. The driver waved, got out of the truck and came over.

“Hi Lemar, I said.”

Joy said, “Is that your name? I never remember.” He opened his safety vest to show his name tag.

“I’ve known people with that name, but they were black.”

Lemar said, “My dad was black.”

I said, “My daughter-in-law is black. My granddaughter is…

“Creamy coffee-colored.” said Joy.

“That’s right,” I said, “she’s a beautiful little princess.”

Joy said to Lemar, “Are you going to let your partner empty all the bins?”

“Yeah, ” he said, “he empties, I drive. I guess I better get back to it. Nice to see you, Joy, Dennis.”

“Nice to see you, Lemar.”

I asked Joy, “Did you attend Shakes’ funeral?”

“I was there, but I didn’t go into the church. I don’t do funerals. Little Jake went in. He said there were only about twenty people there. Danny was telling everybody that he was having a smudging ceremony and that everyone should be sober. That’s a pack of bullshit. All Shakes’ friends are alcoholic. When did you ever see Shakes when he was sober? I remember one time, when he was on antibiotics, but that was only for a couple of days. Danny was also selling pictures of Shakes. I didn’t like that at all.”

I said, “I bought one. He said he was selling them for the price it cost him to have them printed.”

“How much was that?”

“Ten bucks.”

Joy said, “I’ve got my own pictures of Shakes. I don’t need any more.

I said, “I attended the smudging ceremony that Danny arranged. He was there from 6 pm Monday to 6 pm Tuesday. I was there Tuesday at noon.

“How’s Big Jake?”

“A pain in the ass. He doesn’t get up until about one o’clock, then he comes over to my place. I feed him.  At nine I kick him out. I have to be up at 5:30. If he had his way he’s stay until one in the morning.

“I can’t believe how much he smokes. We bought two cartons of smokes from Shark a week ago and already there gone. I told him that two cartons would last me a month. I’m always butting them out, then relighting them. NOw, my place smells like an ashtray. I’m always washing the walls to get rid of the cigarette stains.”

I said, “I’ve been talking to Wolf, Jacques, Little Frank, Mariah and Debbie. Wolf said that Outcast got a nasty bite when he tried to break up a fight between Shaggy and another dog. His hand was dripping blood.  Wolf told him, ‘That was a stupid thing to do!’ Outcast said, “You should have better control of your dog.”

Joy said, “Outcast is always whining. This weekend he’s helping his ex move into the subsidized housing. He said, ‘Because of their rules, I won’t be able to live there.’ I said, ‘Outcast, how old are you — fifty? Don’t you think it’s about time you got a place of your own instead of always living off somebody else.’ He’s been at Shark’s place three months now. He was only supposed to be there a week. He’s another person that smokes too much. He has emphysema.”

I said, “He also has lung cancer from working with asbestos.”

I checked my watch. Joy said, “I see you replaced your watch strap. It’s about time.”

“This was a present from my sons. I couldn’t visit them with a broken watch strap.”

Joy asked, “I have to decide whether or not I want to see Jake today. He’ll probably be phoning around one. Will you be at the park at noon?”

“Yeah, it’s been a while since I’ve seen everybody.”

“I’ll probably see you there then.”

“Bye, Joy”

“Bye.”

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final 3

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Click the Following Link to Purchase:

http://www.amazon.com/Gotta-Find-Home-Conversations-Street/dp/0989931897/ref=tmm_pap_title_0

All proceeds go to those forced onto the streets.

 

Dennis…..

Book is brilliant.

Written in a manner that anyone, even a young adult could read and come away with a clear understanding of life on the streets.

I had seen a documentary about the homeless living underground in NYC and it was incredible. The characters, the sacrifice, the tragedies. It was called “Dark Days,” and it may still be on Netflix:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dark_Days_(film)

I also passed homeless when I worked in downtown NYC. Every day at lunch I would pass this robust black woman with all her shopping carts stuffed with stuff. She was the happiest person I ever meet on the streets. Always a greeting, always a smile. One day she had all her stuff spread out on the sidewalk and I asked her what was wrong? She smiled and said she was spring cleaning. Reminded me that even in her state of life she needed to be organized and rid herself of the unnecessary. A policeman walked by, he didn’t really hassle her but he said it was illegal to set up a flea market on the street. She responded that there was no sign saying this was a flea market. He added that no yard sales or garage sales were permitted. She said “are you kidding? Does this look like my backyard? Does this look like a garage? This is a sidewalk sale…and they have those up and down Seventh Avenue all day with their tables set up with books and art.” The policeman smiled, “you got me there. Just don’t block the walk way.” I thought he was done with her but just as he started to walk away he said “you just never know what you can find at a side walk sale,” and he dropped a ten-dollar bill on her blanket. After a few minutes of silence, she said to me that the cop who just came by wasn’t a full-time cop…he was an angel. Told me he brought her coffee every morning when he was on duty and talked to her. This is why I
can’t tolerate it when they bad mouth policemen. They don’t know the whole story. The relationship they have with the street. This homeless woman was also not stupid. She had a stash of books and she would be seen seated on a fireplug that comes out of a building wall and she’s be reading Hemingway. And I knew she could because she would engage me in conversations about literature. But like you mentioned in your book, I didn’t ask her where she came from. But she was educated.

LIFE Magazine did an article on a bag lady who was found dead on a 1960 subway system platform. She had two shopping carts filled with junk. It was springtime and she was wrapped in three coats, a sweater and a scarf. When the detectives finished fishing through her personal items they found three bank books that added up to over $235,000. Her ID gave her last residence and name. It turns out that she was once a very beautiful, highly paid executive secretary at EXXON. When they went to EXXON people who remembered her said she had gone to lunch one day and never
returned. Never went home. She was reported missing by her boss. She was unmarried. The pictures of her that LIFE Magazine was able to get were astonishing. She was beautiful. They think she may have had amnesia, or a psychotic event. She had been on the streets for over a decade. I’ll never forget that story.

Me? A vagabond of a man (I don’t like to call them bums) in Port Authority approached me and asked me for money or a cigarette. I ignored him. But then, while waiting for my late bus, I went over to the newspaper stand and bought some magazines, candy, cigars and lots of stuff I really didn’t need. A saint must have tapped me on the shoulder as I turned to walk away because I realized I spent over $12 on junk after refusing a homeless man. But, my Uncle always told me not to give them money because they would only buy alcohol. Instead, I bought a pack of cigarettes, a container of coffee, a Coke, and container of soup and a kaiser roll and a donut. I waited for the police to not be looking and as I passed him seated in an alcove I said hello again. A police man did walk over but I cut him off by showing him my WABC-TV identification card — I told him I was interviewing this homeless man and to allow us 15 minutes. He said ok. I gave all the stuff to him, then just as I was about to leave I gave him a cigar for a special day. He never stopped telling me how he was going to share this stuff with his buddies. That’s all that mattered to him. Sharing it. Was he sincere? He was weeping. Every time I saw that man from that day on, I would slip him a coffee, or a pack of cigarettes (that was like money on the streets). He was the most polite person I ever met. Turns out….he was a WWII veteran. The humor? He told me not to get him cold soda — hurts his teeth. This will probably be the only thing I ever did that will help me get into Heaven. Though today, because I am still unemployed in my profession, I work with Special Needs Children. That’s a story in itself.

At the end of my long poem posted here on Writing.com called “Cradle of the Infidels,” I quote a Canadian homeless man who was interviewed by a Canadian reporter in 1983 and asked him why he was the way he was, and why others like him were as well. His response was: With all their education and diplomas, current psychiatry will always fail because doctors are unable to help us forget the past 

I never forgot that.

I loved your book Dennis, the art work, the language. Great piece of work.

Good luck with it. God bless the people who are in it.

John Apice

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14 July 2014

“Good morning, Chuck. It’s a beautiful day.”

“Yes, I think today is going to be good. At noon I’m going for lunch with my lady friend. I hope we go tho the Italian place across the street. I love their lasagna. Have you ever tried it?”

“No, but I love lasagna. Are you all ready for your trip.”

“I’ve got most things packed. I’m going to buy some apples for the trip. They won’t spoil or get bruised. Sometimes, on my way home, if I’m hungry, I buy one of those five dollar frozen meals. They have a big assortment.

“I forgot to bring my bus schedule with me this morning. As of today, there is a reduced summer schedule. I don’t think that’s right. I know that kids are off school for the summer, but nothing changes for other people. I asked a lady at the stop, ‘What time does the next bus arrive?’ She gave me the time it was supposed to  arrive. Then I asked, ‘Is it usually on time?’ She said, ‘It could be ten minutes early. It could be ten minutes late. There’s no telling.’ Sure enough, the bus was ten minutes late. I asked the driver why he was late. He said to me, ‘What’s it to you?’ I said, ‘Some of us have to be downtown at a certain time for work.’

This may have confused the driver, because on Chuck’s cap is printed, ‘Don’t ask me to do anything. I’m retired.’

Chuck said, “The experience on the bus this morning is just one more reason why I should buy that covered scooter. Eight thousand dollars is a lot of money, but I know I can pay it back. I’ll just have to cut back on some things. I’ll have one of those handicapped stickers for it, so, I’m thinking, I’ll be able to park it across the street in that little alcove there, where they park the bicycles. It isn’t much bigger than a bicycle. I don’t think the cops will bother me. I hope not. I just need something large enough for me and Goldie to ride in, with a few bags of groceries. That’s all I need.

I said, “We’ll, I won’t be seeing you tomorrow, Chuck. Have a good trip and I’ll see you Wednesday.”

“I’ll see you Wednesday, bud.”

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11 July 2014

Shaggy gave one half-hearted bark as I approached the group. Wolf handed me a blanket and said, “Dennis, she’s just saying hello. Make sure you pat her so she doesn’t feel ignored. Did I tell you that she took on a pit bull the other day? A neighbor brought over her little dog with big ears. I don’t know what you call them. Anyway, there was also a pit bull. The pit bull attacked big ears, Shaggy intervened and the pit bull backed down. What do you think of that? My girl is a hero, or heroine, for saving big ears.

“I’ve got something to show you. One of my ladies lent it to me. I’m to give her, what’s the word?  —  an appraisal? I don’t think that’s it, but she wants me to tell her what I think, so she can tell her husband. Here, have a look.” The novel was Vengeance by Benjamin Black. I read from the back cover, “A bizarre suicide leads to a scandal and then still more blood, as one of our most brilliant crime novelists reveals a world where money and sex trump everything”. This looks good Wolf, all the things you like.”

“I’ve got my whole weekend planned out. Reading, then on Sunday Germany plays Argentina. I also may watch the game on Saturday, Brazil versus the Netherlands. I always cheer for Europe.”

Jacques said, “I have two dollars bet on Argentina for Sunday. I hope they win. I just bet on them because the German bet against them.”

Little Jake said, “Hi, Dennis, how you doin’. I’m still feeling sick. I can’t keep anything down. I was over at Bruce’s last night, he fed me some Mr. Noodles. I was able to keep that down, but apart from that I haven’t eaten all week.”

Jacques said, “See, I told you, eat soup. That’s the best thing for you now. When you can keep that down, then you can try other things.”

Wolf said, “You gotta eat, Jake. If you don’t eat, you don’t shit. If you don’t shit, you die — simple as that.”

Gnome wandered over, “Hi, guys.”

Wolf said, “Hi Gnome, where are you staying now?”

“At my brother, Gordon’s place. It’s a condition of my probation. Gordon says I have to be in the house by 8 and in bed by 8:30. I said to him, ‘I’m a fifty year old man. I’m not going to bed at 8:30.’ Also, I’m not supposed to drink.” He then pulled out a can of Strongbow Apple Cider and opened it.

Jake said, “I’m sorry, Dennis, I’m too drunk to talk today. I tried panning, but that didn’t seem to work either.” He patted Shaggy, rubbed her belly and her ears. Shaggy licked his face.

Wolf said, “I’d be careful getting your face that close to Shaggy’s mouth. I can show you lots of scars where she’s drawn blood. She’s an old bitch and she can get cranky, Just ask Outcast. That was a stupid thing he did, trying to break up a fight between two dogs. He should have known better. The dogs weren’t injured, he was the only one dripping blood. My stupid neighbor let her dog near Shaggy’s bowl. Of course she’s going to be protective. It’s her space. It only lasted a few seconds. The other dog was on a leash. The owner pulled it back, fight over.”

Jacques said, “It’s time for me to go. I’ve finished my last beer.”

Wolf said, “I’ve got mine timed just right. I’m on my last one now.”

Jacques said, “Well, I’m going home to get hydrated, to have another beer. Maybe on my way home I’ll buy some groceries. I’m in the mood for a couple of chicken breasts. I’ll get some white potatoes, that I don’t have to peel, and a can of gravy, that usually lasts me two meals.

“Wolf, don’t forget to bring your two dollars on Monday.”

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11 July 2014

“Good morning, Chuck.”

“Good morning, how are you today? The weather is a lot better than yesterday. We don’t have that cold wind. It should be hot this afternoon.

“I just didn’t have the energy to get out of bed, when the alarm rang this morning. I thought to myself, I’ll just lie here ten minutes longer. Of course, I fell asleep and didn’t wake up for another half hour, so I had to race to get ready.

“I can’t figure some of the bus drivers. I caught my regular bus, twenty minutes later than usual. I normally get downtown between ten and five to six. This morning I got there between ten and five to six. Some of the drivers go so fast it’s scary. Some of them jerk and swerve around corners. I have to hang on for dear life. The majority are adequate drivers, but there are some that hate wheelchairs. Once it was twenty-three below. I’d been waiting about twenty minutes for the bus. When it arrived, some people got off, some got on. The driver didn’t lower the ramp, he just sat there stone-faced looking straight ahead. A fourteen year old girl got off the bus, pulled the strap for the ramp and let me on. I said, ‘There you go, a fourteen year old girl has more balls than this useless fart of a driver.’

I said, “You or some of the passengers must have complained about that.”

“No,” said Chuck,  “two of my relatives work for the bus company. The only complaints that they write are the ones filed by the drivers. If a supervisor is around they’ll write something down when they get a call from a rider. As soon as the supervisor leaves it goes straight to the waste basket.

“One time I got dumped into a snow bank. The bus stop area was shoveled and swept, but the driver stopped five feet short of that area. He lowered the ramp and it hit a pile of snow. A couple of passengers got off and kicked some of the snow away. I drove down the ramp, my wheel caught the soft snow and I flipped on my side. Some big strong women were able to right me and my chair, otherwise I would have been stuck.

“Sometimes they won’t let me on. One driver said, ‘We already got one of you guys on the bus. We don’t have room for any more.’ Of course they did. There are two wheelchair designated spaces, on every bus. Just before the last bus strike, I was at the bus stop. The driver opened the front door, said to me, ‘You’re a useless piece of shit.’ He closed the door and drove off, leaving me there. I never saw him again. He’s lucky I didn’t.

“A very small percentage, maybe one percent, will go out of their way to help me. One driver whose ramp wasn’t working called to a few big male passengers, ‘Come on, this man needs help!’ I was lifted on the bus, and off at the other end.

“Next week, I go to my grandson’s wedding. I’ve got my washing done, some of my clothes folded. They told me to pack my big raincoat — I don’t think I’ll need it.”

I asked, “What day do you leave?”

“Tuesday at six in the morning. The wedding isn’t until 11:30. I’ll be dressed in my old clothes, like now. I’ll go to the main street, pan for a few hours, go back to the hotel, then change into my good clothes for the wedding. I can’t afford to miss a single day without making some money.

Chuck’s phone rang. I waved goodbye. He whispered, “Bye, bud.”

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wheel

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10 July 2014

As I approached Chuck this morning, I saw a female police officer standing in front of him with her leather-bound pad open. I passed him and stood around the corner. I heard her say, “Someone reported that your dog ran out and was obstructing pedestrian traffic.” After she left I asked, “What was that about, Chuck?”

“Nothing really, she said that I had been reported, but maybe she just saw me as she was driving by and wanted to know who I was. I told her my name and where I lived. I was friendly with her. Goldie had run after a seeing eye dog, but it was only for a few seconds. She’s on a leash and she’s a service dog. They just like to keep track of the panhandlers. Some say it’s aggressive panhandling if a person is holding their hat out. One woman told me that I was being aggressive because I was talking with someone. I said, ‘They approached me and started talking.’ This cop was okay, she didn’t give me a ticket.

“Last night I ran into a real weirdo. I don’t know if it was a he, a she or an it. I’ve got nothing against trans gender people. I know a man who used to be a woman. I’ve got nothing against gays. There is a couple in my building who have been together twenty-seven years. We get along fine. This person, that I had the problem with, looked like a man. He was wearing a tee-shirt with a padded bra over that and a tiny, black tutu. He was riding his bicycle down the sidewalk in my direction and he said, “I’m not moving out of the way, you’ll have to.’ I said, “You overgrown cocksucker, get out of my way or I’ll run into your bike. Take your pick.’ He moved.

.

At noon I sat with Curt, Wolf and Jacques, who was passing around his pot pipe. Curt took a toke and started coughing. He had a hard time catching his breath. He explained, “I’ve had problems with my lungs ever since I was a kid. It’s because of bronchitis. Sometimes, I cough so hard that I pass out (the medical term is cough syncope). When I was at Shark’s place it started happening, I got the shakes and my arms started twitching, then I was able to catch my breath and I was fine. Once, I pissed and shit myself, the coughing was so bad. Sometimes, I nearly puke. I guess it’s been about three years since I’ve gone down.

“Twice I’ve drunk myself blind with gin and vodka. It was at my sister’s wedding. Can you imagine, having a wedding the same day as the Super Bowl? All the guys were watching the game, except me. I’m not a football fan, so I was drinking with the ladies. It was a free bar. I started drinking vodka with orange juice. Then it got to be a full glass of vodka with a splash of orange juice. The women kept hauling me up to dance. Maybe, they were trying to get me sober. I don’t know. I’d get up, shuffle a bit, wave my arms around. Anyway, it was like I was looking through a thick fog. I remember one time during the night, my mother said to me, ‘If you’re looking for the bar, it’s thirteen steps to your right.’  The next morning I had a massive hangover. My head was like a drum — ba ba ba BOOM, ba ba ba BOOM, ba ba ba BOOM. I was sleeping in the same room as my nephew. I woke up early and was trying to roll a joint. My nephew asked, “What are you doing?’ I said, ‘Shut up and go back to sleep.’

Wolf was saying, “I remember being asked a question at one of the many rehab programs I’ve been in. Anyway, the question was, ‘What gets into your system faster, injecting, smashing coke into your arm or smoking it as crack. I answered, injecting. I was wrong. You get a faster high with smoke. Who’d of guessed?”

He was excited about Germany beating Brazil in the FIFA World Cup. “Can you imagine, 7 – 1 for Germany.  I wouldn’t want to be a Brazilian soccer player now, they’re ready to run the team out of the country. I’m not a big soccer fan, usually I just watch the last half of each game, but I want to see Europe defeat South America. See, I’ve got my German flag attached to Shaggy’s caboose.

He continued, “When I was nineteen, and you were nineteen, all we wanted was to get laid. When my father was nineteen he was carrying a gun for the German army. We lost the war. Our black, red and white  flag was dragged through the shit; now it’s black  red and yellow. They made us change it.

“I nearly got beat up by Outcast last night. We were sitting outside. Shaggy was off her leash, because it was at her place. There were two other dogs on leashes, a Schnauzer and a  Dachshund — a wiener dog. Anyway, the owner of the Schnauzer walked into Shaggy’s space and she went after the other dog. It was a stupid thing for the owner to do. The dogs were rolling about, like dogs do, then Outcast tried to separate them. His hand got bitten and he was dripping a lot of blood. He blamed me and was ready to fight. I was glad that Hippo was there. He brought out his hatchet. Outcast settled down after that. I don’t know if it was Shaggy or the Schnauzer that bit him — or maybe both did. The wiener dog didn’t do anything.”