Archive for May 3, 2019




20 September 2012

I didn’t learn my lesson yesterday. It was so cold this morning that my hands were balled in fists and, like a turtle, they were trying to pull themselves into my sleeves. I was eagerly anticipating Joy’s news of whether or not she was accepted for her own apartment. This is something I have wished for since 13 December 2010 when I first met her. Now, it seems near to becoming a reality. The system may move slowly, but at least it moves.

When I arrived at the corner of Metcalfe and Slater I could see that Joy’s spot was empty. I was disappointed since I won’t be seeing her at noon due to a dental appointment. I saw Nick and Magdelene. I crossed Slater and in front of Starbucks, I met Bearded Bruce.

“Good morning, lad.” he said, “How’ve you been?”

“Great, Bruce. You’re looking well. I haven’t seen you at the park lately.”

“I’m not like some of those people, who pan until they have enough for a bottle or two, then sit around for the rest of the day. Noon is my work time, the best time to pan. I like to make enough to carry me over the weekend, or for a rainy day. We have lots of rain this season; when there’s raining there’s no panning.”

I said, “I was hoping to see Joy this morning. Yesterday, she was to find out if she was accepted for an apartment of her own. I don’t know if she’s absent because she was celebrating, or depressed because she didn’t get it.”

“I hope she gets it. She deserves a place of her own, where it’s quiet. She’s good people. I’ve known her a long time.”

I said, “I hear that Hippo is in hiding.”

“He should be, the lazy asshole.”

“I heard that you guys lost a lot of stuff. Shakes said that his new sleeping bag was taken. I also heard that there was a fire.”

“The fire was nothing. There was a lot of exaggeration.”

I said, “So, where are you staying now, Bruce?”

“Same place, in behind Starbucks.”

“Does Weasel let you stay there?”

“I let Weasel stay there. That’s been my place for the last year and a half.”

“Andre told me, that Weasel said, only he and Bear were allowed to stay there.”

“I know, I told him to say that.”

“It’s good seeing you, Bruce. You’re looking great. I won’t keep you from your work. Have a good day.

“Thanks! Bye, lad.”

My dental appointment didn’t take as long as expected, so I had a half hour to spend at the park. The first person I saw was Serge. I still can’t get used to seeing him cleanly shaven.

“Hi, Serge, I was surprised to see you yesterday, panning by the church.”

“I pan there a lot. Sometimes, I go up to Lyon.”

“I guess it’s because I only go out at noon that I don’t see you. Take care, Serge. I’ll catch you later.”

“See you,”

“It’s one o’clock on a working day
The regular crowd shuffles in.
There’s an old man sitting next to me
Making love to his tonic and gin”
  (with a nod to Billy Joel, Piano Man.)

“Hi, Joy, do you have any news about your apartment?”

“My worker called this morning. They’re still sorting out the details of the contract — who’s responsible if I cause damage, that sort of thing. It’s the daughter that wants all this contract bullshit.”

I said, “If they’re working on a contract, that has to be good news.”

“I guess so. I’m just tired of waiting. I asked my worker if I could get a sleeping bag, she said, ‘We’ll see what we can do,’ — you know, whatever.”

“So how long has it been since you’ve had a place of your own?”

“Frank and I lived at Montreal Road and the Vanier Parkway, for five years; until he started beating me and the cops kept coming over. I had the place on St. Mary, with Carl, for nearly a year; until he stopped paying the bills and the rent. This past year has been the worst. I’ve been all over the place.”

I said, “I’m sure it will all work out. By the way, I saw Bruce this morning. He wished you all the best with your apartment. He said you deserved a quiet place of your own.”

“That was nice of him.”

“I also watched the documentary, ‘Life on the Heater’. It was really well done.”

“Yeah, Goober and I missed out on that one. I think they filmed Jacques. I know he has a copy of the video. It was mostly about Rip and Faye.”

Steve said, “It was Faye that stabbed him, wasn’t it? No, It was Theresa — got him in his junk.”

Joy said, “Rip and Faye were both crazy. I think they’re both still alive. I haven’t seen them for a long time. Most of the others are dead. It was really wild to see Star as a puppy.”

Steve and I were comparing scars and broken knuckles. Steve said, “I’ve got a lot of scars from Winnipeg. This one on my middle knuckle was where I caught a guy’s tooth. My hand got infected and swelled up like a grapefruit. He must’ve had rabies. I don’t know how many times I’ve broken this outside knuckle on my right hand. I had to learn to hit with my left hand.

“One time I was in a fight with this guy. I can’t remember his name. He tried to rape my street-sister and ripped her off for a hundred and fifty dollars to boot. I remember her name. I didn’t know it at the time but he was a Dilaudid dealer. After I beat him, a big native and a black dude came looking for me. Luckily for me, I was sitting in a bar with about thirty bikers.

“I talked to these two guys. I said, ‘Hey, what would you do if somebody tried to rape and rob your sister?’ They understood that. They said, ‘We’ll let it slide, but don’t let it happen again.’

“A while later, my real sister got in a fight with this same guy. This lady is over six feet tall and knows how to fight. I guess the guy tried the same thing with her as he had with my street sister. She beat the shit out of him. The same two guys came after me. I said, ‘Hey, I didn’t have anything to do with it. I wasn’t even there.’ I told them that it was my sister who punched the guy out. They couldn’t say much about that.

“I remember when I was a kid in Mississauga. There were three of us. We called ourselves the “Three Musketeers.” If you saw two of us, you could be sure the third wasn’t far away — Dave, Dennis and me. Dave’s been dead thirty-two years now. I still have his picture. If there was a fire at my place, I’d grab that picture and jump out the window. I don’t know what I’d do if I lost that. It’s irreplaceable. Dennis is around somewhere, but I’ve lost contact with his parents and I don’t know how to use a computer.”

I asked, “How did Dave die?”

“Dave was nineteen. He and his brother were joyriding in a stolen car. They crashed it. It was such a mess, they couldn’t tell who was driving — it was that bad.”

“Were you born in Mississauga?” I asked.

“Yeah, then I moved to Barrie. The cops were hassling me a lot, so I moved to Winnipeg. I was there for fifteen years. I have a son there. It’s hard to panhandle in Winnipeg.”

“I know,” I said, “it’s cold.”

“It’s cold and the Welfare system is really hard to deal with. Believe it or not, as bad as it is, it’s better in Ontario.”

Shakes said, “Joy, can I bum a cigarette?” She opened her white, plastic case, secured with a rubber band, and threw one to him and Scott.

“Miigwech,” said Shakes.

Joy said to me, “That means thank you in Ojibway.”

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