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24 July 2012

This morning  Joy was sitting in her usual spot. Sausage Fingers Shawn was leaning against the railing talking to her. Shawn was looking very dapper in his Hawaiian shirt and khaki shorts. I couldn’t take my eyes off his tattoos that stretched from shoulder to wrist on both arms. The design was an intricate west coast Haida motif.

“Joy said, “I was surprised to see Hippo at six thirty, this morning. I asked him where he was going. He said, ‘To work!’ I’ve never seen him start that early before.”

I said, “I think that Andre had a talk with him.”

“I think so,” agreed Joy. “One morning he’d only made a quarter. He came across the street to bum a smoke. He saw a lady bending over his cap. He thought she’d made a drop, but she’d taken his quarter.”

“You’d think,” said Shawn, “that a person whose sole occupation was to collect money, would know enough to take care of it.”

Joy said,”I saw a guy this morning with two twenties hanging out of his back pocket. I shouted at him, but he didn’t hear me.”

“When I was in Israel,” said Shawn I saw a number of people with wallets half out of their back pockets. I was walking with a friend and he saw a twenty on the ground. He bent down to pick it up and a guy yelled at him, ‘That’s mine, it’s there for a reason.’ My friend said, ‘Okay,’ and backed off. I guess it was part of a sting operation to catch pickpockets. The guy you saw this morning was probably there to lure pickpockets. You don’t see it too much here, but in Montreal and New York there are guys who are so smooth they can grab your wallet and watch without you knowing it. I know, it happened to me. That’s why I don’t wear a watch.”

I said, “Did you notice that we have our benches back in the park?”

“Yeah,” said Joy, “I watched them putting them in. I said to one of the workmen, ‘You could have wiped them off before you reinstalled them. One of them has pigeon shit on it already.’ He said, ‘Sorry ma’am, we don’t wipe benches.’ Why would they? We’re just skids.

“There’s one that you have to be careful of. It’s not securely fastened to the base. If you lean back too far, you could end up in the bushes.”

I asked Joy, “Did you speak to the housing people from the Salvation Army yesterday?”

“No, I left early.”

Chester stopped by. Joy said, “Okay people, I’m too popular. I’ve only made four bucks this morning. I don’t know what happened to my money. When I got home last night all I had was a quarter.”

I decided to leave to let Joy get on with her panning. “I’ll see you at noon, Joy. Bye, Shawn, Chester.”

At the benches today were Hippo, Shakes and Andre. How’s everyone doing?” I asked.

Hippo said, “I made a buck twenty-five and I started work at six thirty this morning.”

Andre said, “I made the price of a bottle and lent Joy three dollars and change so she could buy a bottle. It’s the first time I know of that Joy’s had to borrow money to buy a bottle. On top of that, I got a sixty-five buck ticket for panhandling. I saw the cop coming, so I scooped the change out of my cap. He pulled up at the curb and asked me what I was doing. I said, ‘Officer, I’m just eating my breakfast and drinking my coffee. He said, ‘Why is your hat out?’ I said, ‘My mother brought me up in a Christian house and insisted that we always remove our hats before eating.’ He said, ‘I’m going to write you a ticket for panhandling. What’s your address?’ I said, ‘I’m not panhandling, officer. There’s no money in my cap. I’m homeless, I have no fixed address, but I’m staying at dumpster number two behind Starbucks.’ He said, ‘You’re not going to pay this ticket are you?’ I said, ‘No sir, I’ll probably use it as a fire starter for my barbecue.”

Shakes had gone to the hotel to use the bathroom. When he returned he said, ‘Dennis, see these pants? Yesterday they were white, then someone gave me a plate of roast beef and gravy.”

Andre said, “Yeah, Shakes ate all the roast beef and what gravy he didn’t spill all over himself, he gave to me. I love that dark chicken gravy, but it doesn’t agree with me. I had the shits and the farts all night. I was wearing this same tee shirt. See, no gravy stains, it all went in my beard.

“Weasel and Little Jake were both being assholes. Weasel kept calling me a goof and Jake backed him up. With the back of my hand I hit them both with one swat. Weasel said it again, so I got him in a headlock and let my elbow do the rest.”

I said, “I remember the video of you on YouTube – St Patrick bar fights 2010. I saw that you used some karate moves.”

“I know karate, tai kwon do, tai chi. I use them all. That video was taken at the Foggy Dew. There was a line up to get in, so I was panning the line. I think I must have made four hundred that night. There was one asshole in line that was making trouble for everyone. He was loud and swearing. I went up to him and said, ‘There are ladies here, they shouldn’t have to put up with language like that.’ He took a swing at me and missed. I knocked him down four times before he stayed down.

“The owner called me over. I thought I was in big trouble then. He said, ‘I saw what you did. That guy has been causing us trouble all evening. We’ve got a V.I.P. area inside and I’d like you to be my guest. Just stick your hand up when you want a drink. It’s all on the house.’ ”

Shakes said, “We should have gone to that club we were invited to by the guy from the Jazz’n Blues Festival.”

“Yeah,” agreed Andre, “the vodka got in the way. A guy named Rob, a friend of mine who just got out of jail, swiped two bottles of vodka from the liquor store. That’s funny, Rob robbed the liquor store. Anyway, we started on the vodka. I had a couple of seven point one per cent beers, then Rob brought out a bottle of Captain Morgan. I don’t know how I rode my bike back that night.”

Shakes said, “I don’t know how I walked to my daughter’s house that night.”

Andre said, “It reminds me of a time a buddy and I were driving past a beer store in his pickup. There was a semi backed up to the loading dock, but the store was closed. I guess the driver arrived too late to unload. There was just enough room for me to squeeze between the truck and the dock. I jimmied the lock and couldn’t believe my eyes – wall to wall beer. We filled the pickup with all it could hold. I think we had twenty-seven two-fours. We were tempted to unload and go back again, but you never return to the scene of the crime. We sure had a party though.”

Shakes said, “If you get greedy, that’s when you get pinched.”

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