Archive for May 3, 2023


5 July 2012

This afternoon in the park, sitting in a circle, were Shakes, Andre, Larry, and his brother Charles. Wolf and his dog Shaggy were just leaving. As I sat down, Larry handed me a copy of The Sun to avoid grass stains.

Shakes was laying on the grass as usual. I bent to shake his hand, then noticed that he had a cigarette in one hand and a wine bottle in the other. “Don’t bother shaking my hand, Shakes. I see your hands are full.”

“Dennis,” said Shakes, “do you know what a smoothie is?”

“You tell me, Shakes.”

“It’s when you’re expecting a Hershey bar, and you get a squirt instead…ha, ha, ha.”

“Now I know, Shakes.”

“Thanks for not asking me to shake your hand, Dennis,” he laughed hoarsely.

I asked, “Was anybody here yesterday?”

Andre thought for a while, “No, they turned the sprinklers on. That’s one way to keep us away.”

Charles offered me wild blackberries from a large plastic basket.

“I got those as a drop this morning,” said Andre. “Sitting in front of Tim Horton’s on Dundas and this dude asks me, ‘Do you want some fresh blackberries?’ I say, ‘Sure!’ He goes into the back somewhere and brings this big basket of blackberries. He says, ‘There’s enough here to bake four pies.’ I say, ‘Thanks, but you’re talking to a guy who lives on the street. I don’t have a pot to piss in, let alone an oven to bake pies. I’ll share these with some friends in the park. They’ll enjoy them. Thanks again. I love blackberries.’”

It’s Thursday, so the ‘sandwich ladies’ had made their appearance. I saw juice boxes, a pair of white socks, and cellophane-wrapped cookies. Larry unwrapped a sandwich and looked inside. “Does anybody want some of this?”

“What’s in it?” asked Andre.

“I think it’s minced ham, I’m not sure.”

“I’ll pass on that,” said Andre as he pulled out a Tim Horton’s bag. “We’re eating high-class today!” He offered me part of a cheeseburger, but I had just eaten. Torn into four parts, he passed one each to Shakes, Larry, Charles and saved the last for himself. Shakes passed around his bottle of wine. Charles sputtered and nearly choked.

Larry said, “Dennis, don’t mind my brother. He gets silly when he’s drunk.”

“He’s silly when he’s not drunk,” said Andre. “He’s silly all the time.”

Andre, who was shirtless, then demonstrated his belly dance. “I was doing this on Canada Day on Yonge and Dundas. One woman gave me a Sourpuss, one gave me two beers, one dropped five bucks, and another dropped a knob of weed. She asked if she could videotape me and put it on YouTube. Said, “Sure!” I must be on there about ten times. There’s one from St. Patrick’s Day, 2010, labelled Bum Fights.

“It had over seven hundred hits the first week. Since then, it’s had over twenty thousand. Wish I was getting royalties.”

Larry said, “One time I was sleeping under the Old Eastern Avenue Bridge, around the time they were putting up the chain link fences. Asleep in the corner when I heard someone rattling the fence. They said, ‘Do you want a drink?’ I was half asleep, so I didn’t answer. Then they said, ‘Do you want some bottles of wine?’ My ears pricked up then. ‘Sure!’  Came out and sure enough, they had all these bottles lined up. They said there had been a wine-tasting event nearby and any opened bottles had to be disposed of.

“A bunch of us met the next day and passed the bottles around the circle. Anyone who liked the taste kept the bottle. If they didn’t, they passed it on. I tried some Dom Perignon but didn’t like it. I know it’s over two hundred a bottle, but it tasted awful.”

Andre said, “I had a job at the Banff Springs Hotel and when they had a function, any opened bottles, even if they only had an ounce out of them, were given to the staff. The full bottles I had to take them down to the basement. When I was working down there, a huge mother of a bug dropped on my shoulder. I don’t know what it was called but it was about two inches across and had pincers, like scissors in front. Wearing rubber gloves when I picked it off my shoulder it nipped the end of one of the fingers. If I hadn’t been wearing the gloves it would have been my finger that was nipped off.

“Whenever I saw one of those bugs, I hit it with a shovel. I may have broken the odd bottle of wine, but I wasn’t getting anywhere near those bugs.

“In the forests they also had wood-boring insects (Mountain Pine Beetles) that would drop from the trees, sometimes three or four at a time, and could bore into your skin. They would post signs advising hikers to keep off the trails at certain times of the year.”

It was time for Andre, Shakes and Little Jake to go to work (panhandling). Shakes was having trouble with his pants falling. I asked Andre, “Are those new pants?”

“They must be,” replied Andre, “They’re clean.”

“I’ll get you fixed up, Shakes,” said Andre. He tore a two-inch wide strip from a garbage bag in one of the sidewalk containers. He started feeding it through the belt loops, then he noticed that Shakes had a belt around his waist, but under his pants, over his underwear.

“It’s alright folk, we’re not doing anything disgusting here. We’re just trying to help our buddy, so he won’t do something disgusting all by himself.” Andre fed the belt through the loops and Shakes was good to go. Unstable, but vertical and able to stagger somewhat straight.


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