Archive for July 26, 2020

RRBC Interview, Eyes on the Book hosted by Rox Burkey


9 March 2012

I sat next to Shakes on ‘the benches’ today. Donny was collecting wine bottles and beer cans, from the trash barrel, to return for a deposit, “Hey, I got at least a buck here!” He’d stand the beer cans on the sidewalk and stomp them with his foot so they’d take less space in his backpack.

Jacques and Outcast (without his dentures), were enjoying the sun.

Wolf came over to show Donny how to stomp the cans properly. “We used to do this in my apartment, with a hardwood floor. You should have seen the circles it left.”

Outcast asked me, “You’re here almost every day. Do you work close by? We were trying to figure out what kind of work you do.”

“I come most days, not every day. I work in that tall building down the street. I’m in the mailroom. I fetch and carry, do what I’m told. I find the conversations here more interesting.”

“Right on, man! I used to work in the mailroom at Unemployment Insurance. It was back when they issued those cardboard checks. I worked in a room where they cut the checks. It was really high security. Not even the guards were allowed into the place where we worked. We used to smoke pot, do anything we wanted. Who’d have thought that the people cutting those checks were stoned all the time.”

A boy, who didn’t appear to be old enough to shave, came by on a skateboard. He stopped and asked, “Do any of you guys want to buy some weed?”

Shakes replied, “We’ve got our own, but thanks for asking.

“Jacques, dial ‘Shakes 1’, I want to speak to my daughter. Jacques speed dialed and handed Shakes the phone. “It’s me. If I’m not at ‘my office’ by three o’clock, I’ll be at Mom’s.” He then handed the phone back to Jacques.

Outcast asked, “Hey Jacques, how much are you paying for your phone plan?”

“I pay twenty-five a month. It’s the cheapest I could find. I can call anywhere in the city day or night. If I pay another ten a month I could call anywhere in Canada.”

“I was checking some rates this morning. Let me get the brochure out of my pocket.” With the brochure, also came his dentures, falling on the sidewalk.

“Don’t anybody move! Damn! It looks like I broke a tooth.”

Shakes pulled a plastic toy baby out of his pocket. He flicked a switch on the baby’s back and held it to my ear. I heard laughing, then, “Time to wake up!” He laughed and said, “Isn’t that funny? It belongs to my grandson.”

I said to Shakes, “Tell me about your boxing days in Toronto.”

“I learned to box when I was six years old. We had a heavy bag in the barn. My dad taught me, my dad and my uncle. Later, I sparred in the ring with George Chuvalo and there was another guy. I forget his name. Oh, I remember, it was Shawn O’Sullivan.

“Where did you fight?”

“Sully’s on Dupont. I lived in Parkdale, I was always fighting.

Hi ladies! Have a nice day.” To me, he whispered, “Nice rump roast on that one. Hahaha.

“I got some pot, but I need a cigarette roller. Donny, will you roll a joint for me?”

“I’d love to man, but I got the shakes. Your pot would end up all over the sidewalk. Ask Outcast, he’s good at that.”

“Outcast will you roll me a joint?”

“I can’t, man. I got my hands full. Use Jacques’ pipe. Jacques, give Shakes your pot pipe.”


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