Private Eye: Eugene Leftowicz

 

12 December 2013

I saw Ghyslain, standing in Joy’s spot. “Hi, man, it’s cold this morning,  minus twenty-three (minus ten degrees Fahrenheit). There’s no wind, but it’s too cold to sleep outside. I tried it until two this morning, then I had to go into Tim Horton’s for a coffee. I have a warm winter coat, a winter sleeping bag, but it’s still too cold.”

I asked him, “Are there still people sleeping behind Tim Horton’s, or Starbucks?”

“Yeah, my friend Gilles. He sleeps just down the block, behind Tim Horton’s. Last night I went back there to check on him. He was drunk. I said ‘Hey, man, get up, you’re going to freeze!’ He said, ‘Don’t give me that bullshit.’ I said, ‘It’s no bullshit, get up, have a coffee, get warm. He said, ‘I don’t have money for a coffee.’ I said, ‘I’ll buy you a coffee.’ So, I bought him a coffee. We sat inside there, holding our coffee cups to warm our hands. Then I went to someplace else.

I asked, “Do you sometimes go to the Mission or the Salvation Army?”

“Yeah, I did that Monday, but too many bed bugs. They’re everywhere.  I had to throw away all my stuff. I’m not going back there, ever.”

“I was sleeping behind the Legislative Buildings a couple of nights ago. There was this nice little doorway where I could get out of the wind.  A guy came out to have a smoke.  He said to me, ‘Move along, you piece of shit!’ He said it in French because I’m French. I said, ‘Don’t you call me a piece of shit. You’ve got no authority. Who owns this building? I want to speak to the owner.’ It’s our own Legislative Buildings, we should have some rights there. Anyway, I moved on.”

I asked, “Is there any chance that you may get a place of your own?”

“Yeah, January ninth. I was talking to my worker. She said I could have a place near Hunt Club, but that’s too far away. I have to get downtown to the Mission to have my meals. I have to see my worker. She thinks that she can find me something on Queen. That’ll be better.”

I said, “I guess it would be good if you were able to get a bus pass. That would help.”

“Yesterday, I was standing right here. A pedestrian was talking to a cab driver. He was telling him to park someplace else. The cab driver asked him, ‘Do you know how much I pay for a license to park here?’ I guess the guy called the cops because a cruiser pulled up. The cop talked to the pedestrian first. He said, ‘This driver pays fifteen thousand dollars for a cab license. I’m not going to hassle him just because he’s beyond the taxi stand markings.’ Then he talked to the cab driver. He said, ‘I’m just going to write this up as a warning. You don’t have to pay it.’

“Have you seen Joy lately?”

I said, “Yeah, I saw her with Frank on Monday. He had to see his parole officer. She hasn’t been back since.”

Ghyslain said, “I saw Chuck on the corner, one day. I think it was yesterday. I also saw him with one of his sons in the Eaton Center.”

I said, “I know one of his sons, Chuck Junior. Joy calls him Roly Poly. He has another, but I’ve never met him.”

“It’s too cold to stand here any longer. I’m going in to get a coffee and to get warm.”

“I’ll see you tomorrow, Ghyslain.”

“See you, man.”

~~~

Gotta Find a Home: Conversations with Street People
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Private Eye: Eugene Leftowicz
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