Archive for August 22, 2019

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1 May 2013

Cops and Shakes

The sun was hot at the park, almost uncomfortably hot. I shook hands with Tom, Wolf and his dog Shaggy, Jacques, Outcast, Chili and Gaston. I sat cross-legged on the sidewalk in front of Gaston. He has a soft voice so I had to move closer.

“I haven’t seen you for a long time, Gaston. How have you been doing?”

“I keep busy, doing some landscaping and a variety of work for elderly people. We have great conversations. I like to keep my own hours.

“My brother is in the military. I was talking to him about psychology, interpreting body language, that sort of thing. We talked about kids today, how they have no respect. You see them on the street with a glazed look in their eyes. They don’t connect. Kids like that I can’t teach.

“He proposed to me that I give a talk at the military base. There may even be full-time work for me there. That would make things easier.

“My other brother, his wife and kids came by from Montreal. I’ve been teaching a course at my house and have these yellow sticky reminders everywhere: on the fridge, on my walls in the kitchen, bedroom, bathroom. It’s my memory. I’ve even got reminders to look at reminders.

“I’m hoping to start a course at one of the outreach centers to get homeless people more involved in the community. They’re capable of more than just laying around.” He nodded toward Shakes who was sprawled on the grass.

I was very involved in our conversation, asking Gaston about psychology and psychiatry. I asked him about specific titles and authors that he could recommend. Then I heard a loud noise beside me.

Two bicycle patrol cops had pulled up and were talking to Shakes. One had kicked his bottle over.

“Hey, Why did you do that to me?”

“You know you’re not allowed to drink here.”

“That was my Jack Daniels. It was my first drink of the day.”

“Shakes, if you’re sprawled on the grass like this, drinking, people will complain, then we’ll be called.”

“I understand what you are saying, but do you understand what I’m saying.”

“Just go someplace out of view of the public, someplace that we don’t patrol, and you’ll be okay.”

It was time for me to get back to work. Everyone else drifted away from the uniforms.

Gotta Find a Home: Conversations with Street People
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