Archive for December 2, 2015




2 December 2015

Bearded Bruce, a hulk of a man, was sitting on the sidewalk, panning for change.

“Dennis, come down here. I want to give you a hug. Don’t make me stand up. I’m a bit drunk today.”

“Bruce, I haven’t seen you for ages.”

“Loretta said she met you a while back, so I’ve been hoping to see you. This isn’t my regular spot. It’s the first of December today, isn’t it? I get excited about Christmas approaching. I’m going to stop drinking so I can save money for a big Christmas meal. Tonight I put up my tree, the little one foot tree that Weasel brought over last year. I miss him and Blackie too.

“How’ve you been?”

“I’ve been fine, Bruce, no complaints. Loretta mentioned that she’d been staying with you.”

“Yeah, for a few days, for a few months, whenever she can get her legal troubles settled. They asked her if she had a place to stay and she offered my name. I was accepted. She takes care of me. She’s a beautiful woman, but she can be a fierce bitch.'”

I said, “She mentioned that she’d been drinking and had gotten into a few fights.”

“Well that pretty well sums it up. She’s staying with me until her court date when she finds out what’s going to happen. I was surprised that I’d been approved to be her guardian, but they checked me out and since I’ve been in my own place for three years they figured that I was stable. That’s why I’m a bit drunk today; I’m celebrating three years with a home. I’ve paid my rent on time. That’s another first for me.

“They cut me off Welfare, so I have to pan twice as long to get enough money to eat.”

“Why did they cut you off?”

“I wouldn’t go along with the silly things that they wanted me to do. For one thing, they won’t accept that panhandling is a job. If I was a hooker, I wouldn’t have a problem. That’s considered acceptable work.”

I said, “Have you thought of listing yourself as a hooker, but earn your living as a panhandler?”

“Believe me, I’ve given that a lot of thought, but it’s just not me.”

“The world is a crazy place,” I said.

“Yes, it was Socrates that said, “The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.”

“I’m glad to hear that Loretta has a place to stay.”

“Now, don’t you go looking at her through rose colored glasses, like you did towards Joy. She’s a beautiful woman, but an alcoholic, who has some serious charges against her and she can be a real bitch.”

I said, “I can appreciate that. I haven’t seen that side of her, but alcohol can turn the nicest people mean.

“Did you hear that Rick moved to his home town? I really admired him.”

Bruce asked, “What did you admire?”

“That he made and distributed sandwiches to other homeless people.”

“Yes, that’s admirable. Did you also hear that he did two years in prison for stabbing a guy in the lung.”

I said, “I hadn’t heard that, but I know that he broke his hand while trying to strangle somebody.”

Bruce asked, “Would you like to share a joint?”

I said, “Sure.”

“Do you have any cigarette papers?”


“Well, I’ve got the pot, but no papers.

“In that case would you like a drink?” He pulled out a flask of vodka.

I looked around, saw that the coast was clear and said, “Sure.” I took a swig. It tasted good. I handed it back and Bruce took a swig.”

As people passed on the sidewalk Bruce would yell, “Hey, hey, can you help a fellow out. Have a good evening. God bless you.”

A while later he asked me if I wanted another drink, “I said sure.” I took a swig and handed it back to him. I said, “I could very easily become an alcoholic.”

Bruce said, “You already are.”

That jolted me a bit, but I said, “My father, brother and nephew were alcoholics. My niece was addicted to cocaine and her husband was on heroin. It probably runs in the family.”

Bruce said, “I heard that you’ve written a book. Is that right?”

“Yes I have. It’s about when I first met Joy about five years ago. I donate the proceeds of book sales to the Innercity Missions, Outreach Support Program. I also continue to help street people on my own.”

“That’s great. I like those Outreach people. Writing about what people say to you is one thing, but to understand this life you have to live it. I don’t mean for a week, but at least a month. I suggest from January 14 to February 14. Bring a warm sleeping bag, three pair of heavy socks and anything else you can fit in one backpack. You can’t rely on any money you have in savings accounts or credit cards. I’ll help you find a place, I’ll show you how to panhandle and I’ll be across the street, if you have any problems. That’s what I did with Loretta and now she’s independent. That means a lot.”

“I appreciate that, Bruce. I’m not ready to do that this year, but I agree that the only way to understand this way of life is to live it. On the street is real; it’s immediate. Either you make enough money for food or you don’t.”

“What is real? Wasn’t it Plato that asked that same question?

For Plato, in order for something to be real, it had to be permanent and unchanging. Reality and perfection for Plato were closely related.

“Have you managed to find any jobs as a chef. I know you have the qualifications.”

“Yeah, I worked as a chef for twenty-three years then I let alcohol and crack get the better of me. To tell you the truth, I don’t want to work. I enjoy what I’m doing. When the sun is shining, this is the best job in the world.”

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They Call Me Red


28 May 2013

Joy was looking dejected as I approached this morning. She said, “Today is even worse than yesterday.”

I said, “You’ve told me that Mondays are always bad.”

“Some people do okay on Mondays, but I never have. Yesterday I made just enough for a bottle and a pack of smokes. I need cigarettes. Nobody’s seen Shark for over a week. He’s probably in his bedroom smashing crack into his arm. I’ve had to pay the full price.

“A lot of people have been complaining to Buck. He may decide to go back to selling cigarettes. He smokes up to two packs a day. It costs him a fortune. He says he wants to quit. It would save him a lot if he were getting them straight from the reserve. Maybe, I can get some from Mariah. I’ll see if I can get hooked up with her guy.

“I don’t think I slept more than an hour last night. When I was in the hospital they told me I have a torn rotator cuff. They said that if I was an athlete they’d operate right away, but I’m not, so they didn’t. It sure hurts. I’m still not able to sleep on that side and I’ve got one rib that seems to be pinching my lung. I’m also getting dizzy spells while lying down. That’s scary. If it doesn’t clear up by Friday, as much as I hate it, I’m going to the hospital.

“I took the bandage off my shin. The cut looked really red at the edges. It was weeping some ugly yellow stuff. I washed it with peroxide and put on more Polysporin then bandaged it again. It really hurts.

“I’m also trying to soften the scab, where the stitches are, in my head. I rub on Polysporin every day, but it doesn’t seem to help.

I asked, “Were you able to talk to Greg from the Outreach Centre.”

“Yeah, he was up there yesterday. He said he was here Friday. I said, ‘Look, dude, I waited in the rain until 10:30.’ He said, ‘I was here looking for you, I even checked Tim Horton’s and the pizza place. I didn’t see you anywhere. Believe me, I looked.’ Anyway, we’re going on Thursday morning to get my health card.

“Hippo came over yesterday. He just hung around. I told him, ‘Dude, I’m going to make myself lunch, but I don’t have enough for both of us.’ He got all pissy then and left. I don’t know why he comes to my place to eat. He has plenty of food at his apartment. His parents buy him groceries.

“Everybody’s been asking if I’ve seen Andre or Big Jake. I haven’t, and I don’t want to. People have written off Andre completely. He has no friends at all. I don’t understand that. Jake was beating me for three years, but he always found a place to stay, either with Little Jake or Weasel. I’d say to them, ‘You guys have known me a lot longer than you have Jake. I introduced him to you. Don’t you think you should give me some support here?’

“I’m sure they pulled the plug on Serge. If a person has no money they turn off the life support really fast. It’s a shame.

“I get my check on Friday, then I can pay back everybody I owe. Chester should have his Old Age check by now. That’s probably why I haven’t seen him. I hope he pays his rent and doesn’t spend all his money on hookers, who are just going to rob him. He’s done that before.

“Here he comes now. He walked past an ashtray — I can’t believe it. No, he’s gone back. I don’t know how he can smoke other people’s butts. Sometimes, they’re still burning. It’s just wrong. I hope he doesn’t stay long.”

I said, “Hi Chester, how are you doing?”

“I’m okay, I’m going to stop in for breakfast at Tim Horton’s. Will I see you there, Joy?”

“No, I’ll see you at the park, later.”

Jacques also came by, “I’m going to the store, Joy. Can I get you anything?”

“No, I haven’t made enough yet. I just have four twenty. I’ll see you up at the park.”

At the park, I gave Wolf a book by Ken Follett, one of his favorite authors.

“Thanks, Dennis, I really appreciate this.”

Little Jake said, “Dennis, I have a joke for you. There were these two guys. One guy says to the other, ‘This apple tastes just like a woman.’ The other guy says, ‘Let me try it’ so the first guy throws him the apple. The guy takes a bite and says, ‘This tastes like shit.’ The first guy says, ‘Bite the other side.’ Funny, eh?”

Someone wearing a Beatles tee-shirt came along. “Where’s Jacques? I see his radio, but no Jacques. What happened to him?”

Joy said, “That’s his radio, alright. It’s tuned to BOB FM. Do you hear Katrina and the Waves? That’s the only station he listens to.

“He went on a liquor run. He’ll be back soon.”

Sure enough, Jacques arrived. He sat down and proceeded to empty a small bottle of vodka into half a bottle of soft drink. “Now,” he said, “If the cops come along and smell my drink, they’ll think it’s
Kool-Aid. Smell it Joy. Tell me what you think.”

He handed the drinking bottle to Joy who took two large swallows.

“I said smell it, not taste it!”

Joy said, “Yeah, it smells fine. Vodka never has an odor, unless you get into the really high-octane stuff.”

Jacques said, “Speaking of the cops, I haven’t seen them around today. Yesterday they were here three times.”

Joy said, “Today they’re more concerned about that body they pulled out of the river. On the news, they say that foul play isn’t suspected, but I don’t know. They haven’t released the guy’s name, and they said there was no water in the lungs. That means he was dead before he hit the water.

“If you want to kill somebody and get rid of the body, it’s best to beat him to the point where he’s unconscious, but still breathing. Then, throw him in the river. He’ll automatically breathe in the water. When he’s discovered they’ll just think he drowned. Any bruises could be from rocks in the river.

“I really shouldn’t know this stuff. These other guys should know it, maybe, but for me, it’s just wrong. I shouldn’t know all these ways to off people.

“Do you find this kind of talk morbid?”

“No,” I said.

“Do I entertain you?”


Two women were approaching on the sidewalk, Joy said, “Some people should not wear pink. That other woman should know that if her ass cheeks are hanging out, her shorts are too small. If I had a daughter I’d never let her dress that way.”


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