Archive for August 7, 2014

readers+writers journal

cover buyTelling The Stories of Those Too Often Ignored

Dennis Cardiff has been involved with street people since 2010, when he began to reach out, on his own, to some of the people without homes who he encountered in his daily life. In his new book, he documents conversations he’s had with them over the past 4 years and, in the process, gives those who are often robbed of their humanity a human face.  Written in diary form by month, and including some of Cardiff’s own poetry, the author chronicles the lives of people who are often ignored, feared or reviled. About this project, Cardiff says,

“Writing about the homeless and helping the homeless, has given my life a purpose that it didn’t have before. Documenting their stories will, I hope, introduce them to the public in a non-threatening way. Some panhandlers look intimidating, but that disappears when one sees them laugh.”


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6 August 2014

The weather was perfect. A a large  group had congregated at the park to take advantage of the cool shade. Several friends  I hadn’t seen for a year came towards me.

Dennis, brother,” said Outcast, “I haven’t seen you in ages.”

I held out my hand. He said, “You don’t get off that easy. Give me a hug.” He’s a bear of a man, I worried about  my ribs. He said, “I haven’t been coming around because the bicycle cops were patrolling every hour.”

He said, to Wolf, “Remember when you got two tickets, an hour apart. They said, ‘You’re still here. We’ll write  another ticket.’ “

“Yeah,” said Wolf, “Usually I’m polite with the cops, but I was pissed off. I said, ‘In about an hour, I’m going to be at the park up the street. You can give me another ticket there.’ They said, ‘We don’t ride that far.’ “

Jacques reached into his suitcase and pulled out a canvas bag. “Sit on this, Dennis. It’s all I have.’

“Did I show you my new toy?” He pulled out of his case an Acer tablet computer. “I’ll start it up. Can you imagine someone throwing this in the garbage? Why would they do that? Stella ran some tests and it’s working great. Now I have to learn what I can do with it.”

Debbie said, “I used to be good with computers. I worked as a legal assistant, but I’ve got a big mouth, so I was fired. I complained about their billing practices. I couldn’t keep quiet about clients getting charged unfairly. That’s all going to be in my book.”

Outcast said, “You aren’t going to use real names are you?”

“No, I’ll change them. I’ll write fiction with a lot of truth in it.”

I said to Wolf, “I visited Joy in the hospital, Sunday.”

Outcast said, “I heard that Mariah was going Sunday as well.”

I said, “Yeah, she went in the morning. My wife and I went  late in the afternoon.”

Outcast asked, “So, how is she?”

I said, “Not happy. She’s having trouble breathing, she’s lost her voice, can’t speak above a whisper. Even though there’s a wheel chair outside her room, she’s not allowed to leave her bed until they find out what’s wrong with her. She had a temperature, one degree above normal on Saturday. They checked while we were there, everything was within healthy limits. They’re going to take her to another hospital for tests.

“Joy thinks she has pneumonia, but they haven’t diagnosed it, yet. She’s had it before, but said she’s never had it this bad. When she coughs, she feels a bubbling in her lungs. She asked her doctor if she was going to die. He said, ‘No.’ ‘”

Outcast asked, “Did she go to hospital because of her breathing, or because of problems with her legs?”

I said, “Jake was staying at the Sally, she called him at six in the morning saying that she couldn’t get out of bed. She asked him to take her to hospital. The pneumonia developed later.”

Outcast continued, “I’m glad you went. I can’t do hospitals;  not with the way my lungs are. I’d be sure to catch something.”

Wolf was fumbling with a dented metal container. He opened it, gathered some marijuana crumbs and started to roll a joint.  “Jacques said to him, “Wolf, I’ve got something for you.”  He handed him a black plastic container, the size of a cigarette case. It’s made by Kodak. I’m not sure what they used it used for.”

Wolf said, “How do you get into it?”

Jacques said, “There’s a trick. Let me show you.” He pressed the sides and the lid popped open.

“That’s neat.” He put the contents of his metal container in the plastic one. “I may need another lesson, when I want to get into this again.

Hippo, I need a filter!”

Hippo brought over a cigarette. He was wearing a tee-shirt that listed the advantages of wearing a beard, some of them were: good insulation for winter; soup strainer; crumb catcher and makes you  three times more handsomer.

Debbie said, “That shirt reminds me of one time little Jake came home from visiting his parents. He was clean-shaven, his clothes were washed and pressed. I said to him, ‘Jake, you look so handsome.’  He said, ‘Shit, now I’ll have t go home to change into my panning clothes.”

Wolf whispered to me, “Are you listening to this conversation? That’s something I don’t agree with. People give me clothes — they may not be the latest fashion, but they’re decent looking. They’re not ragged. I keep them as clean as I can. My hair may be long, but I wash it in the shower every day. I’m always sober when I start out in the morning. I’m polite and respectful. Maybe if Jake did the same, he’d do a better job panning.”

Outcast said, “I tried panning once, “I sat out there four hours and made twenty cents. Never again!”