Archive for the ‘Dialog’ Category

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They Call Me Red

……

 

12 June 2013

The park was welcoming today. “The sun was shining the weather was warm and the regulars were sitting on the curb. “Shark, ” I said, “I haven’t seen you for a long time.”

“No, I don’t come here very much anymore.”

“How are you feeling?”

“I’m okay. My feet hurt —  that’s because of the HIV.”

“How is Irene?”

“This morning she was puking her guts out. It’s a reaction to the new medication. She hasn’t been outside since winter; she just doesn’t have the energy. There is always an excuse, ‘It’s too hot? It’s too early. It’s too cold.’ When she does invite me out with her, it’s evening, and I’m drunk by then. I keep telling her, “Let’s do our shopping in the morning when it’s cool and the crowds aren’t as large. I have to stop by Wal-Mart for groceries on my way home. I’ll be leaving shortly.”

“Joy has been staying at Chuck’s place, just around the corner from me. She wouldn’t come over to our place because of me.  Irene didn’t want to go to Chuck’s place, so they didn’t get to see each other.”

Loretta came down the sidewalk and stopped to talk.

“Loretta, ” I said, “Shark and I were just discussing how complicated women are. They always invent new rules and forget to tell us about them.”

Loretta said, “Yeah, I can’t even figure myself out.

“Shark, did you hear that I finished a two-month program? I’ve been sober for over five months.

“Congratulations, Loretta! I said. “You mentioned that you’re going back to school. When does that start?”

“In another month. I have to finish my grade twelve first, then I’m going to secretarial college.”

” Scarface has quit smoking. He’s got two patches and a puffer. It’s been four days now.”

“Yeah, ” said Shark, “I saw him this morning to by some smokes. He told me all about it. He’s been sober four years, hasn’t he?”

“Five.”

“Good for him, ” said Shark. “I should quit smoking. It would save me a lot of money. Mind you, I’ve been saving money not buying diapers. I get a two-hundred-dollar allowance for those. This morning, at Buck’s place I let a wet fart, I said, ‘Oh, oh, I better go home.’”

Loretta said, “Nothing a shower and a change of clothes can’t fix.

“I had his dog Dillinger all day yesterday. He loves to chase a ball.”

Shark said, “He can play with it all by himself. He bats it with his paw, then runs after it.

“What’s happening with that asshole?”

“He’s in detention now.”

“Has he been bothering you lately?”

“Not since they put the restraining order against him.” To me, she said, “This all has to do with to when I was raped.  It’ll be a year ago July seventh.  I went to the hospital immediately after, so they have evidence and were able to charge him. There’s been a preliminary hearing. The official court date has been set for September.

“This is the first time I’ve been able to charge a guy with rape. At home, it used to happen all the time.

“See what I made?” Loretta showed me a lighter that had a red, beaded cover. “A guy in the recovery program showed me how to do it. It’s made with seaweed beads and clear fishing line. I want to try to make cell phone covers.”

Wolf said, “Dennis, I read that horse book you gave me. I didn’t think I’d like it. I don’t know anything about horses. I always thought it was a sport for rich people, but I didn’t have anything else, it was on the top shelf,  so I started reading. I really dove into it. I couldn’t put it down.  I had to find out who was killing the horses. Have you read the book?

“No, I haven’t read it.”

“Then you won’t mind me telling you that the vet was behind it. He was poisoning them. I wouldn’t give the book the first rank, but it was still good. I prefer the shoot-em-up detective kind.

“I’ve been sober for the past five days. Because of the rain, I didn’t feel like going out;  but after a while — even with the books — Shaggy and I get bored, so we come down here.  I don’t like everybody here. I told Jacques to fuck off the other day.

“Jacques, I’m sorry about the other day. Are we okay?”

Shamus  and Brent from the Innercity Ministries stopped by. “Would anybody like a sandwich?”

Shark said, “Yeah, I’ll take one. Do you have any razors? How about Chapstick, or lip gloss, or something like that. Irene wants me to get her some.”

Shamus said to Shakes, “How have you been?”

“I’ve been trapped in my apartment. I didn’t want to leave with the door unlocked,  so I had to stay there for two days.  I haven’t paid my cable bill, so I didn’t have television. I haven’t paid my phone bill so I didn’t have a phone. I had nothing.”

I asked,  “Did Tommy have your keys?”

“Yeah, Tommy had them. Yesterday he came back and apologized. He said, ‘I forgot I had your keys. I brought you a bottle.’”

I asked, “So, everything is good now?”

“Yeah, everything is good.”

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They Call Me Red

……

 

11 June 2013

This morning I sat beside Clark. He said, “I was told that Joy doesn’t use this spot when it’s raining, even though, with the overhang from the building, I’ve been able to keep quite dry.”

“That’s right,” I said “or a few days after check day.”

“Yeah, I can see that.” Within minutes a dark-colored pigeon jumped up on Clark’s knee. He looked me up and down, from side to side, then hopped back down.”

“He seems friendly,” I said.

“Yeah, at my other spot I feed them. This is the alpha male. I’ve seen him mating with four or five of the females around here. That gray one over there is distinctive as well. Notice, she has only two toes on her left foot.”

I asked, “How do you think that happened — maybe a fight with a cat?”

“More likely a snare of some kind. I was talking to a lady who works at a bird sanctuary. She said they’ve noticed a lot of birds like this. They’ve yet to pinpoint where the snare is located, but they’re looking for it. They’d like to introduce a humane trap that wouldn’t injure the birds.

“A lot of restaurants serve it on their menu. Bought locally it goes for about three dollars a pound.”

I said, “You’ve mentioned that you’ve done tree planting in British Columbia. Would you rather live in the city or someplace in nature.”

“I’d far rather live in nature. Every time I come back to the city, I can feel this wave of stress come over me. ”

I said, “I have a small cabin that I get away to, most weekends. It has no heat, electricity or running water.”

“Have you ever thought about solar power. They’ve done studies that show it’s much less expensive than hydro. They’ve developed a new solar heat conduction vacuum tube, in glass or metal. They’re also called evacuated heat pipes. You should give them a try.”

“I will.”

“I’ve heard that the government is cracking down on marijuana production.”

I said, “That seems silly since people are licensed to grow marijuana for medical purposes. Why doesn’t the government just take overproduction? Then, there would be quality assurance and tax money coming in. With drugs on the street, you never know what you’re getting.”

“When I was tree planting a lot of guys used to grow pot or hallucinogenic mushrooms. They put the mushrooms into brownies. A guy from another camp came over, ate too many brownies, along with lots of liquor and nearly died.

“When I was in university I studied Psychology. I was mostly interested in Humanism. That’s an ideology that promotes reason, ethics and justice, while specifically rejecting supernatural and religious ideas as a basis of morality and decision-making. It makes sense to me.”

I said, “I like to keep an open mind. I listen to all ideas; accepting the ones with merit, rejecting the others. I’ve developed my own personal philosophy.

“Well, It’s time I headed to work. I enjoyed our conversation, Clark. I look forward to doing it again. Perhaps, the next time it rains.

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They Call Me Red

……

10 June 2013

Bearded Bruce

After leaving work I noticed Craig sitting in his usual spot on Jarvis. I handed him a Subway card and he asked, “Is that change I hear jingling in your pocket?”

“No,” I said it’s keys. I never carry change.”

“I could sure use some change right now, but thanks for the card.”

On the next corner, sitting beside a Metro newspaper box was Bearded Bruce. When He saw me coming he opened the door of the box and pulled out a paper. “Have a seat, if you’ve got a few minutes.”

I positioned the newspaper and sat down. “I haven’t seen you for a while, Bruce.” I handed him a Subway card.”

“What’s this, you used to hand out Tim Horton cards?”

“Joy requested a change of menu.”

“So, I’ve got her to blame for this. Next time I see her I’m going to demand my money back. Seriously, thanks for the card.

“I don’t go to the park much anymore. It’s always the same people, they’re always whining the same things. And I’m trying to control my drinking. This is a drinking day. I was up there at noon, so was Little Jake, Jacques, Wolf and Shaggy. Joy wasn’t there.”

“I haven’t seen Joy for a while.”

“She’s doing okay.”

“How is Little Jake?”

“Jake is Jake. He’s supposed to meet me here, then we’ll take the bus to my place. He asked if he could stay over. I told him, ‘Sure, man, I’ve got pork chops, chicken, anything you like.’ I’m guessing that he jumped the bus and is at my place waiting for me. What can I say? He’s not taking his meds. Sometimes he won’t even come over to my place, because he knows I’m going to nag him about it.

“I got caught jumping the bus the other day. A security woman came up to me and said, ‘I’m going to have to put you in handcuffs.’ I said, ‘Look, little girl, do you see the size of me, do you really think I’m going to let you put handcuffs on me? You’d better call for backup.’ So, two more security officers showed up. I said, ‘You caught me. I didn’t put in a ticket. That’s three dollars and fifty cents. I’ve got my Welfare check right here. I’m just trying to get downtown to cash it. If you like I’ll come back and put in two bus tickets. Do you think handcuffs are really necessary?’ They wrote me up a fine for a hundred and thirty-five dollars, then gave me a day pass. I said, ‘Don’t you think this is a bit foolish. I’m not going to pay the fine, but if I get a day pass every time I jump the bus, I’m never going to put in a ticket. You’ll see me back here tomorrow.’

I asked, “doesn’t O.D.S.P. (Ontario Disability Support Program) cover bus passes?”

“I’m not on O.D.S.P. I have the papers filled out, my doctor’s signed them, but I haven’t handed them in. I qualify, because of my back injury and my addictions, but I don’t think I deserve it. I feel I can get along without it. It’s just the way I am.”

A gorgeous woman passed within a few inches of us. We both sighed, “Beautiful!” She turned and gave each of us a warm smile, then moved on.

“Sometimes,” said Bruce, “I think I have the best job in the world.”

I said, “Sometimes, Bruce, you do.”

“I got a real scare the other day.” said Bruce, “I thought I was having a heart attack. I got dizzy, I had tingling in my left arm and leg. I phoned an ambulance for myself. The lady on the line said, ‘Just go home and rest. We’ll pick you up at your house.’ I said, ‘I’m at a payphone, this is where I’m having a heart attack. I can’t go to my house. I can barely stand.’ ‘Okay,’ she said, ‘wait there and we’ll have an ambulance pick you up.’

They took me to the hospital and checked my heart. It was okay, but my blood pressure was through the roof. They gave me some medicine, then a doctor put on some rubber gloves and put his finger up my bum. I’ve had that before, but I said, ‘My heart’s over here. What are you doing back there?’ They checked on me in about forty-five minutes and asked me how I was doing. I said, ‘I feel fine.’ The medicine must have done the trick. I know my stomach’s bad. I haven’t been taking care of myself. Next week I have to go in for a gastroscopy, that’s where they put a tube down your throat to see your insides.”

“The doctor said, ‘Bruce, you’re going to have to quit smoking, drinking and eating fat. I told him, ‘I can use a patch to help me quit smoking. I’ve got the drinking under control, that’s not a problem, but there’s no way I’m giving up fat. I fry everything in bacon fat. Every time I cook a mess of bacon, I pour off the fat and store it in a can in the fridge. No, sir, I’m not giving up fat.’ ”

I said, “These people walking by, they don’t even look at us.”

“I know,” said Bruce, “it’s like we’re invisible, or else they’re blind. I wonder if they’re deaf as well? If I said, There goes an ignorant asshole! Do you think he’d hear me? I do that some times, but it doesn’t get me any money. Usually, if it’s a woman, I say, ‘You’re looking good this evening.’ If it’s a guy I say, ‘Good evening, sir.’ I’m usually polite.

There was a man with a bicycle waiting for the ‘walk’ light. Bruce said to him, “How’s it going, man?”

The guy said, “It’s been a long day.”

Bruce said, “It’s been a long day for me too. I was out here at six this morning, and I’m still here, nearly thirteen hours later. Don’t you think that deserves a bit of change?” The guy pushed his bike across the street.

I asked, “Do you know Craig, down the block?”

“Sure I know Craig. We’ve slept together. I don’t man together, but we’ve both slept on the street near each other if you know what I mean.

“Of the three fights I’ve gotten into, he was the cause of them all. People think he’s stupid, but he’s not. One day some guys walked past him and kicked over his cup. He was scrambling around, chasing this change when I came up. I said, Greg, do you have the twenty you owe me? He pulled all the change out of his pocket and gave it to me. Then I said to the guys, ‘Now what the fuck do you want? If it’s what I’ve got in my pocket, you’re going to have to go through me.’ The police arrived and I had to go to court. I told the prosecuting attorney exactly what happened and he agreed with me. Case closed. There was another time though, that I had to serve three months. That’s when I was still drinking heavily. It wouldn’t take much to set me off.

Bruce said to me, “You’re too well dressed to be a panhandler.”

I said, “I could always say to people, ‘I’m trying to top up my R.R.S.P. (Registered Retirement Savings Plan).”

“Yeah, that would work.”

It was time for me to go, so I said, ” Goodbye, Bruce, until next time.”

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They Call Me Red

……

5 June 2013

It was a wonderful day in the park today as, I suppose, it was in Mr. Rogers’ neighborhood. In attendance were Jacques, Gaston, Yves, Wolf and his dog Shaggy, I shook hands all around. Wolf said, “Id get up, Dennis, but you know me. It’s one of those days.

I was about to sit down between Wolf and Gaston when Yves handed me a newspaper. “Sit on this, it’ll keep your pants clean.” I said, “Thanks, Yves.”

Gaston said, “Now, isn’t that a lot softer?”

“Yes, it is.”

Wolf said, “I’ve got something even better. I’ll go over to Shaggy’s cart.” He brought back a thick folded blanket. “Try this. I just got it this morning, rather Shaggy just got it this morning. A lady — maybe it was the Christmas lady for dogs — she brought a big bag filled with the blanket, a toy rubber boot, a stuffed dog and dog food, lots of dog food. Shaggy really hit the jackpot. She gave me something too. I think I spent it.”

“This blanket is really soft and comfortable. Thanks, Wolf.”

Wolf said, “This morning when I woke up the first thing I saw was a six-pack of beer, so that’s when I started. If I hadn’t seen it I would have been alright, but if I see it I drink it. That’s why I’m the way I am now. You understand?

“Dennis, tell those fucking Frenchmen to shut the fuck up! I’m having trouble concentrating. Let them go ahead and mumble to themselves.

In unison Gaston and Yves said, “Ta Gueule!, colis, tabarnac.”

Jacques said, “Wolf speaks perfect French, he just doesn’t like to use it.”

Wolf said, “I’m German, not French! Don’t make me get up!” He laughed, then continued conversing with them in fluent French.

I said to Wolf, “You couldn’t get up if you tried.”

“I know,” he said, “I just like to stir the shit sometimes.”

I asked Jacques, “How are you liking your new apartment?”

“I love it. Did you know I have a balcony? Yesterday I bought a mattress, a futon. I think that is the good one. I don’t buy the most expensive, but not the cheapest either. I bought the next one up. Me, I don’t like the coil mattress, because after a year, you get one coil sticking through into your back. I don’t want that. In my other place, I had been sleeping on the floor for the last four months, and I had no window. This place is nice, and I can brew my wine again.

“It used to be that they would give you a start-up allowance when you moved and every three years, but not anymore. I had to pay for the mattress myself. I don’t mind.”

Shamus and Judy, from the Homeless Outreach Program, approached. They were wearing red vests with the crest of their organization embroidered in yellow. They had brought sandwiches, socks and a variety of other things to hand out.

“Wolf, what kind of sandwich would you like? We have egg, minced ham and tuna.”

“This is my drinking day, not my eating day,” said Wolf. ” I’m a shaving guy. Do you have any razors?”

“No, sorry, Wolf.”

Jacques said, “I’ll take an egg, and leave me a minced ham for Wolf. He’ll eat it later. Can I have some socks?” Judy handed socks to Jacques, Matches and Wolf.

Shamus said to me, “Dennis it looks like you’re holding court.”

I said, “It may look that way, but Jacques is King”

Jacques said, “Shakes is King.”

I said, “Okay, we’ll go along with that.”

Judy asked, “Has anybody seen Serge? We haven’t seen him for a long time. I know he was in the hospital, but then he was out.”

I said, “I visited him a couple of times in the hospital, but he escaped, in his hospital gown. He was too sick and was taken back to the hospital.”

Jacques said, “I was talking to Greg from the Sally. He got a message saying that Serge passed away on April seventh. Nobody knew, otherwise we would have gone to the funeral.”

Judy asked, “He had cancer, didn’t he?”

I said, “I’m not sure. He didn’t talk much and when he talked it was in French.”

Judy said, “I hear that Outcast is in remission. Is that right?”

I said, “I knew that he had lung cancer. I didn’t hear that he was in remission.”

Jacques said, “I saw him a few days ago. He seems fine. He doesn’t come here anymore.”

“How about Joy? How is she.?”

I said, “I saw her Thursday, she seemed fine then.”

After they left Jacques said, “They gave me all these bars that I can’t eat. I don’t have enough teeth for things with nuts.”

Shakes said, “You, know, Dennis, I’ve known Wolf since ninety-five. I’ve always called him Pudding because he looks like a pudding. I’m the one that got Bowser for him. He looks like Shaggy, but he’s stuffed. I remember bringing him home on the bus. I barked and pretended that he was going to bite people. Now, he sits on Pudding’s balcony.”

“Yeah,” said Wolf, “People will say they passed my place, I must have been home because the dog was there, but he wasn’t barking.

“Shaggy loves Bowser, they lay beside each other all the time. One time when it was raining Shaggy went out on the balcony, grabbed Bowser with her teeth and brought her inside the living room. Isn’t that something?

“Dennis, we should pick on you for a while.”

I said, “Go ahead.”

“I was going to get Shaggy to bite Jacques, but you’ve got some meat on your arms. Shaggy, bite Dennis! She won’t bite you, she likes you.”

Shaggy wandered around and lay next to me, her warm side pressing against mine. I petted her. After being freshly clipped she felt like velvet.

It was time to leave, so I returned the blanket to Wolf and shook hands all around. I said, “Bye, maybe I’ll see you tomorrow.”

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They Call Me Red

……

4 June, 2013

Little Chester, Back from Hospital

When I arrived at the park the only friend I saw was Little Chester. He was standing in the middle of the sidewalk. He took a few unsteady steps forward. I was worried that he would fall into traffic, so I suggested that we sit on the curb.

“Do you know where I spent last night?” he asked.

“No, where?”

“In the hospital.”

“Why were you in the hospital?”

“I was drunk.”

“Did you pass out someplace?”

“Yes.”

“Where did you pass out?”

“I don’t know. On the sleeping bench. The police were by earlier. They asked if I was drunk . I said, ‘Yes.’ They left me alone. They came by an hour later and asked me if I was drunk. I said, ‘No.’ They left me alone.”

I asked, “How long have you been on the street?”

“I’m not really on the street. I have a place to stay, with my daughter. She’s twenty-seven. She’s into fitness. She has her own studio.”

“You told me where you’re from, but I’ve forgotten.”

“Newfoundland.”

“That’s a beautiful province . I’ve never been there, but I’ve seen it featured on television.”

“They make that all up. It’s not beautiful; it’s ugly.”

“I like rocks and being near the ocean.”

“They’ve got plenty of that.”

Maryjane came by and asked, “Is anyone else here?”

I said, “Chester said it was just him and me. The police were by a couple of times.”

“I’ll go take a look.”

Wolf came down to the sidewalk, “Dennis, we’re over here! What do you think of my girl?” Shaggy had been clipped and groomed.

“She looks great, Wolf. It will be a lot cooler for her. I see she’s not panting. ”

“No, she likes it. She’s still got a head like a lion, and a funny tail, with nothing in the middle.” Shaggy started barking. Shakes took her tail and pretended he was winding her up. She lunged and nearly bit his finger.

“That’s it Shaggy, take another bite. She’s acting like she’s hungry, but I’ve run out of biscuits. It’s not like she’s on starvation rations, she ate a whole bag this morning.”

Shakes said, “You know Dennis, since I’ve had my apartment I’ve slept outside two nights. Both nights it was friggin’ pouring friggin’ rain.”

I said, “You’re lucky the police didn’t find you. They would have taken you to The Shepherd.”

“Yeah, but they would have released me the next day. There was only one time that they kept me for three weeks. I was on probation and had a stipulation saying that I wasn’t allowed to drink. When I was in jail they asked me, ‘Shakes, why do you keep drinking when you know it’s not allowed?’ I said, ‘I didn’t listen to my parents either.’ The piggies have only been to my apartment once. It was the time I was jumped and the other guy said I had stolen money from him, can you imagine that?

“It was at Queen and Jarvis. I was on the ground, but I kept fighting. It was like a turtle on it’s back, my fists were going, my feet were kicking. Ha, ha, ha.

“I guess they believed your word over his. Was that it?”

“The police said to me, ‘Shakes, show us your money.’ It had been in a banking envelope in the inside pocket of my jacket. The guy couldn’t find it. I gave the envelope to the police. There was two hundred and twenty dollars there. They said, ‘Shakes we’re going to keep this and return it to the man you stole it from.’ I said, ‘You’re not taking my money. I’m the victim here.’ They let me keep the money.

“Tommy gave me a lighter and, you know, I lost it. This morning I was going through the pockets of my leather jacket. Do you know what I found — my lighter. The only thing I need to get before I go home is two bottles of wine and some shit paper. Tommy bought some groceries, so we got food. I’ve got a gram.’

Wolf asked, “Has anybody seen my little buddy Jake? He wasn’t around yesterday and I didn’t see him Friday. You live close to him, don’t you Shakes?”

“Yeah, we live on the same street. There’s four buildings in a row. I live in one, he lives in the end one. I went over to his place Sunday at eight in the mornin’. I was afraid of making too much noise — it bein’ Sunday and all. He was sick — pukin’ all mornin’. I brought four bottles and two grams. I said, ‘Let’s have a drink!’ H e said, ‘No man, I’m too sick.’ I said, ‘You mean I have to drink these four bottles all by myself.”

I said, “That doesn’t sound like Jake.”

‘Then I said, ‘How be, I roll us a joint?’ He said, ‘No man, I’m too sick.’

Wolf said, “That certainly doesn’t sound like that Jake I know. Here’s a little song that my dad used to sing:

Well, I walked round the corner
and I walked round the block,
and I walked right into a bakery shop.

I picked up a doughnut
and I wiped off the grease,
and I handed the lady a five cent piece.

Well, she looked at the nickel
and she looked at me,
and she said “Hey mister, you can plainly see.

There’s a hole in the nickel,
there’s a hole right through.”
Said I, “There’s a hole in the doughnut too!
Thanks for the doughnut, good-bye!”

I went by Little Chester on my way back to work. He was passed out, laying on the curb. The police will be taking him to The Shepherd, if he can walk, otherwise it will be to the hospital.

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They Call Me Red:
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https://rainn.org/

They Call Me Red

……

30 May 2013

I approached the group of people standing on the sidewalk near the park. I shook hands with Hippo, Little Jake, Nicholas and Joy. I tried shaking hands with Shakes who was lounging on the grass.  He pulled me down. “Dennis, do you know where I slept last night? Right over there (He pointed to another section of the park.) I passed out in the rain.”

I asked, “When did you wake up?”

“Seven o’clock this morning. Tommy woke me up. He was sleeping over there (pointing behind him). Dennis, could you spare me enough to get a bottle?”

“I’m sorry, Shakes. I don’t have my wallet with me. You know I’d help you out if I could.”

“Yeah, I know that, Dennis. I’m a street person. I had to ask.

” Some people look down on us, don’t give us any respect.”

“You know I don’t feel that way, Shakes, don’t you?

“Yes, I know that, Dennis.” He opened his palm and showed me three grams of weed. Then he laughed.”

I said, “That should be enough to get you there.”

Hippo was wandering around in the bushes. Shakes said, “Hippo is incognito.”

I asked, “Do you mean he’s disguised as another animal?”

Joy said, “I don’t know what’s wrong with me lately. The cops were at my place last night. P.C’s Mackenzie and Tarantino. They kept asking me where Andre is.  I said, “Have a look around if you find any green slime–that will be him.

“MacKenzie said, ‘Your old man is out, he’s staying at the Salvation Army.’ I said, ‘He’s not my old man, he’s my ex. I know he’s out he’s been out two weeks today.’

“Anyway, They’re going to meet me at my place in an hour. That is if they don’t come by and pick me up here.”

Little Jake said, “Andre is dead to us. He’ll end up like Kenny back there. I have to take a leak. I’ll be right back.”

Joy said, “If  Brian’s got his mouth open, piss in it.”

I asked, “What happened to Brian?”

Joy said, “He was actin’ like an asshole, a dickhead. He wouldn’t stop talking.  I told him that he should go; that every guy here wanted to kick the shit out of him.” Jacques,  Shark,  Hippo and Little Frank walked away.

“I said to him, ‘Are you going to leave now?’ He just sat there, so I nailed him in the face. His nose exploded — there was blood everywhere. Then I kicked him in the back of the head. He said, ‘Joy, you broke my nose!’ I said, “Let me straighten it out for you.’ I kicked him on the other side of his head. That knocked him out. I think he’s still laying back there.

“I’m not usually like that. These guys know me as a fighter, but this is the first time they’ve actually seen me fight. I don’t know what’s happening to me. It’s been this way for the last month.”

I asked, “Did Greg take you to get your Health Card yesterday?”

“Yeah, he did. I made an appointment with the doctor for this afternoon, but I had to cancel because the police are coming over.

“Everybody else got their check today, even Mariah, who lives upstairs from me.  I’ve got a suspicion that the nut case downstairs goes through my mail. I check the mail in the late afternoon. There won’t be any. In the morning there’s mail in my box. Go figure.

“Jacques called me a rat and a goof for pressing charges against Andre. I said, ‘Jake was beating me for three years. Nobody said anything when I put him in prison. Why is it different for Andre?’

It was time for me to go back to work. I shook hands with everybody, then I stopped by the other group with Debbie, Jacques, Wolf and Shaggy. Wolf said, “As you can see I’m that way again.”

“I can see, Wolf. I’ve heard that you’ve been this way all week.”

Debbie intends to write a book about her life. I had an extra notebook and pen that I gave to her.  She said, “Thanks, Dennis, I really appreciate this.”

Sample my books for free — To date, $1945.00 has been donated to the homeless:

Gotta Find a Home: Conversations with Street People

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http://buff.ly/1qLHptc ($.299 Download)
https://buff.ly/2lUfp6Q ($.99 Download)
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They Call Me Red:
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They Call Me Red

……

28 May 2013

Joy was looking dejected as I approached this morning. She said,”Today is even worse than yesterday.”

I said, “You’ve told me that Mondays are always bad.”

“Some people do okay on Mondays, but I never have. Yesterday I made just enough for a bottle and a pack of smokes. I need cigarettes. Nobody’s seen Shark for over a week. He’s probably in his bedroom smashing crack into his arm. I’ve had to pay the full price.

“A lot of people have been complaining to Buck. He may decide to go back to selling cigarettes. He smokes up to two packs a day. It costs him a fortune. He says he wants to quit. It would save him a lot if he were getting them straight from the reserve. Maybe, I can get some from Mariah. I’ll see if I can get hooked up with her guy.

“I don’t think I slept more than an hour last night. When I was in hospital they told me I have a torn rotator cuff. They said that if I was an athlete they’d operate right away, but I’m not, so they didn’t. It sure hurts. I’m still not able to sleep on that side and I’ve got one rib that seems to be pinching my lung. I’m also getting dizzy spells while lying down. That’s scary. If it doesn’t clear up by Friday, as much as I hate it, I’m going to the hospital.

“I took the bandage off my shin. The cut looked really red at the edges. It was weeping some ugly yellow stuff. I washed it with peroxide and put more Polysporin on, then bandaged it again. It really hurts.

“I’m also trying to soften the scab, where the stitches are, in my head. I rub on Polysporin every day, but it doesn’t seem to help.

I asked, “Were you able to talk to Greg from the Outreach Centre.”

“Yeah, he was up there yesterday. He said he was here Friday. I said, ‘Look, dude, I waited in the rain until 10:30.’ He said, ‘I was here looking for you, I even checked Tim Horton’s and the pizza place. I didn’t see you anywhere. Believe me, I looked.’ Anyway, we’re going on Thursday morning to get my health card.

“Hippo came over yesterday. He just hung around. I told him, ‘Dude, I’m going to make myself lunch, but I don’t have enough for both of us.’ He got all pissy then and left. I don’t know why he comes to my place to eat. He has plenty of food at his apartment. His parents buy him groceries.

“Everybody’s been asking if I’ve seen Andre or Big Jake. I haven’t, and I don’t want to. People have written off Andre completely. He has no friends at all. I don’t understand that. Jake was beating me for three years, but he always found a place to stay, either with Little Jake or Weasel. I’d say to them, ‘You guys have known me a lot longer than you have Jake. I introduced him to you. Don’t you think you should give me some support here?’

“I’m sure they pulled the plug on Serge. If a person has no money they turn off the life support really fast. It’s a shame.

“I get my check on Friday, then I can pay back everybody I owe. Chester should have his Old Age check by now. That’s probably why I haven’t seen him. I hope he pays his rent and doesn’t spend all his money on hookers, who are just going to rob him. He’s done that before.

“Here he comes now. He walked past an ashtray — I can’t believe it. No, he’s gone back. I don’t know how he can smoke other people’s butts. Sometimes, they’re still burning. It’s just wrong. I hope he doesn’t stay long.”

I said, “Hi Chester, how are you doing?”

“I’m okay, I’m going to stop in for breakfast at Tim Horton’s. Will I see you there, Joy?”

“No, I’ll see you at the park, later.”

Jacques also came by, “I’m going to the store, Joy. Can I get you anything?”

“No, I haven’t made enough yet. I just have four twenty. I’ll see you up at the park.”

At the park, I gave Wolf a book by Ken Follett, one of his favorite authors.

“Thanks, Dennis, I really appreciate this.”

Little Jake said, “Dennis, I have a joke for you. There were these two guys. One guy says to the other, ‘This apple tastes just like a woman.’ The other guy says, ‘Let me try it’ so the first guy throws him the apple. The guy takes a bite and says, ‘This tastes like shit.’ The first guy says, ‘Bite the other side.’ Funny, eh?”

Someone wearing a Beatles tee-shirt came along. “Where’s Jacques? I see his radio, but no Jacques. What happened to him?”

Joy said, “That’s his radio, alright. It’s tuned to BOB FM. Do you hear Katrina and the Waves? That’s the only station he listens to.

“He went on a liquor run. He’ll be back soon.”

Sure enough, Jacques arrived. He sat down and proceeded to empty a small bottle of vodka into half a bottle of soft drink. “Now,” he said, “If the cops come along and smell my drink, they’ll think it’s
Kool-Aid. Smell it Joy. Tell me what you think.”

He handed the drinking bottle to Joy who took two large swallows.

“I said smell it, not taste it!”

Joy said, “Yeah, it smells fine. Vodka never has an odor, unless you get into the really high-octane stuff.”

Jacques said, “Speaking of the cops, I haven’t seen them around today. Yesterday they were here three times.”

Joy said, “Today they’re more concerned about that body they pulled out of the river. On the news, they say that foul play isn’t suspected, but I don’t know. They haven’t released the guy’s name, and they said there was no water in the lungs. That means he was dead before he hit the water.

“If you want to kill somebody and get rid of the body, it’s best to beat him to the point where he’s unconscious, but still breathing. Then, throw him in the river. He’ll automatically breathe in the water. When he’s discovered they’ll just think he drowned. Any bruises could be from rocks in the river.

“I really shouldn’t know this stuff. These other guys should know it, maybe, but for me, it’s just wrong. I shouldn’t know all these ways to off people.

“Do you find this kind of talk morbid?”

“No,” I said.

“Do I entertain you?”

“Yes.”

Two women were approaching on the sidewalk, Joy said, “Some people should not wear pink. That other woman should know that if her ass cheeks are hanging out, her shorts are too small. If I had a daughter I’d never let her dress that way.”

Sample my books for free — To date, $1945.00 has been donated to the homeless:

Gotta Find a Home: Conversations with Street People

http://buff.ly/1SGzGCY ($2.99 Download)
http://buff.ly/1qLHptc ($.299 Download)
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They Call Me Red:
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Podcasts:

Sample my books for free — To date, $1945.00 has been donated to the homeless:

Gotta Find a Home: Conversations with Street People

http://buff.ly/1SGzGCY ($2.99 Download)
http://buff.ly/1qLHptc ($.299 Download)
https://buff.ly/2lUfp6Q ($.99 Download)
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https://rainn.org/

They Call Me Red

……

24 May 2013

I asked, Joy, “How was your weekend?”

“It was quiet. I’ve been having dizzy spells. I’d be watching television, and I’d go to get up, then find myself flat on the floor.”

“Have you seen the doctor?”

“No, Greg was supposed to come by Friday to take me to get my health card. I had all the information he asked me to bring. I’ve got it in my backpack in a plastic bag, so it doesn’t get wet. I guess he thought, because it was raining Friday, I wouldn’t be out, but I was. I waited all morning for him.”

“Can you phone him to arrange another time?”

“Yeah, I can do that at noon. They always come by. My leg is really hurting where I scraped it on the bus. I’ve been cleaning it with peroxide and putting Polysporin on it, but it looks really red at the edges. I think it’s infected.

“Chester has been by, just hanging around. I don’t know why he does that. He knows I’m working. I still need four dollars and twenty cents.”

“I guess he was on a butt run, was he?”

“Yeah, I guess so. He probably didn’t find enough on Friday to last him the weekend.”

“Nobody has seen anything of Andre. He’s really gone AWOL. Last month, O.D.S.P (Ontario Disability Support Program) fucked up. They gave everyone their full check, without first taking off rent payments. Andre spent his on booze. He has until the end of the month to get his stuff out of his apartment — and he has a lot of stuff. He lasted there a lot longer than I figured he would.”

I asked, “How long has he been staying there?”

“He moved in just before I did, so that would be six months.

“I’m waiting for Shark to come by with my native cigarettes. He’s taken over from Buck, but I’ve hardly seen him. He usually comes by on Tuesdays.”

“When I’ve seen him, he seemed very quiet.”

“Yeah, I think he’s doing junk again. Smashing crack into his arm. It seems so stupid. Five or six Valium will give you the same feeling and doesn’t leave you drug sick.”

“Wolf, has been downtown all weekend. He’s been too drunk to walk home. He’s been sleeping at ‘the heater’, of all places. I’m glad I have my apartment. I’d hate to be sleeping outside right now.”

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Gotta Find a Home: Conversations with Street People

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RWISA “RISE UP” TOUR

Posted: October 31, 2019 in Dialog, Prose

Long-time readers of this blog know that since 2010 I have recounted my conversations with street people who I met on an almost daily basis. I belong to a group entitled RAVE WRITERS – INTERNATIONAL SOCIETY OF AUTHORS, who have issued the following challenge:

“As we get closer to the end of 2019, we’d like to share with the masses our dreams and visions of a much better world. Every day in November, we hope to profile one story a day, your story, in a blog post sharing what you would do to make this world a much better place if money and time were not barriers in your life. We’re calling this the RWISA “RISE UP” TOUR because we want the world to rise up and do more!”

 

i do what i can.

crying

i’m sitting on the sidewalk
as a woman, huddled in a blanket,
a patterned do-rag on her head,
sobs on my shoulder.
i put my arm around her
and say, “it’s okay.”
knowing that nothing is okay,
it will never be okay.

i’m beyond my depth.
i don’t know what to do,
or what to say…
anything that comes to mind
is shallow and meaningless.
this woman’s experiences
are completely foreign to me.
what do I know —
about alcoholism?
about motorcycle gangs?
about sleeping on the streets?

all i can do is let her cry,
tell her that she has forgiveness,
that what saddens her,
what keeps her awake,
or gives her nightmares,
is all in the past.
it’s time to forgive herself
and love herself
and live
in the present moment.

she can’t go on.
she can’t stand the pain.
she can’t do this anymore.
drink is the only thing
that numbs her mind;
enough to endure–
enough to pass out at night
and do it all over again
the next day.

i can only do
and say so much.
it’s always a pleasant surprise
to see her sitting on the sidewalk,
knowing that she’s made it
through another night;
that she hasn’t been taken
by violence, sickness
or the police.

i do what i can.

 

Have you sat on a frozen sidewalk watching pedestrians walk past as if you were invisible? Have you been physically or verbally abused, spit upon, had hot coffee thrown at you because of your appearance? Have your friends been beaten or worse, doused with gasoline and set on fire because they were sleeping on a park bench? Have a dozen or more of your neighbors been murdered over the past ten years?

There are many reasons why people become homeless: losing a job; family break-up; family violence; mental illness; poor physical health; addiction sickness; physical, sexual or emotional abuse – to name just a few. But, the defining reason is the loss of housing.

Can you imagine the problems of being homeless: no credit; no privacy; no mailing address; no phone; no private bathroom; no stove; no washer and dryer; no locks to secure personal belongings or to ensure your personal safety? My street friends endure this merciless punishment every day.

It’s a staggering fact that “1 out of 3 Americans are 1 Paycheck away from being Homeless”. They are homeless because wages are low and housing prices are forever rising.” (Medium.com) https://buff.ly/2BNvL90) Statistics have shown that housing is no longer affordable for low-income earners. Often, taking on a second or even a third job is necessary to pay the rent.

I once thought that our government and social service agencies provided a safety net that would take care of those in dire need. I volunteered at a homeless shelter and found that was not the case. I asked Joy, who features in all of my books, why she didn’t go to the Salvation Army for meals. She said, “I was raped there last Christmas, so I don’t go there anymore.”

In a Toronto Globe and Mail article, January 14, 2018, the subheading read, “As temperatures dip, the city’s homeless must often choose between freezing conditions and sometimes dangerous public shelters.” A homeless woman named Barb was quoted, “It’s safer out here. There’s no bugs. No one’s going to beat you up or steal your shit.” https://buff.ly/2Nfcq5F

I have heard sickening stories of abuse as children and babies born with drug dependencies. Most have mental and physical illnesses, suffer beatings, broken bones, stabbings, and have a fear of abusive partners, or the police, or both. Authority in any form is seen negatively, as a means to control their lives. The homeless shelters are noisy, infested with bed bugs, the scene of fights and a place where personal items are stolen. Most of these people prefer to sleep inside common areas such as bank foyers, outside under bridges, or behind dumpsters.

Debbie noticed the cloth bag I was carrying. On it was printed Hope Shelter where I volunteered. She said, “There was a man who was barred from  No Hope Shelter. The temperature was minus forty degrees. No place would let him in. He froze to death standing up, leaning against a brick wall.”

“Why was he barred?” I asked.

“It doesn’t matter why he was barred! Nobody should be forced to freeze to death!” I agreed with her.

“Get a job!” is a comment often heard on the street. To casual passersby this may sound like a reasonable solution; however, to a homeless person, there are many invisible barriers as to why some people are unemployable. Applications for employment require a mailing address, email address and phone number, something that the homeless can’t provide. Interviewers expect candidates to be well dressed. This is difficult if you’re living out of a backpack and relying on public washrooms. Illiteracy is a factor among some of the homeless. They need assistance to complete an application of any kind. Education levels may be low due to eviction from the family home at an early age. Drug use often leads to incarceration and a prison record. All of these factors are barriers to employment. In a variant of the well-known phrase attributed to John Bradford, “There, but for the grace of God, go I.”

Bearded Bruce described his situation as follows, “Hi Mate, I’m going through a hard time. Someone photographed me panhandling and now my welfare has been cut off. I went to their office to see them and I nearly lost it. All I’m getting now is three ninety-five a month. I said to the guy, ‘Where am I going to live on three ninety-five. The cheapest room in a boarding house costs four-fifty. Could you live on three ninety-five a month?’ He said, ‘No.’ I said, ‘If I was a prostitute you’d accept that as working, but if I say I’m a panhandler you won’t accept that!’ He said, ‘You’re right, panhandling is against the law, prostitution isn’t, as long as there is no solicitation involved.’ You see, if a high priced call girl with her own apartment does tricks she can claim that as income. She even has to pay taxes on it. It’s a crazy world we live in. I’m going to claim to be a prostitute.”

With the assistance of my sister-in-law, a real estate broker, and her husband, a retired financial planner we envisioned the CARDIFF HOMELESS REHABILITATION CLINIC. The objectives of this clinic are as follows:

Providing accessible mental and substance abuse/addiction care for the homeless in the Greater Ottawa area.

Utilizing a service system that emphasizes trust, respect, confidentiality, compassion, empathy and spirituality.

Collaborative professional effort and commitment from volunteers in the health care industry (doctors, nurses, psychologists, pharmacists, etc.), administrative support.

The Ottawa Innercity Health Resource assists the various organizations servicing the homeless in Ottawa. We have met with them on several occasions and received their encouragement and support. They offered the volunteer services of addiction medicine specialists, doctors, nurses, pharmacists, psychiatrists and any other staff required. What we need is a building.

We don’t wish to duplicate services already available but, from speaking with my street brothers and sisters I learned some reasons why present shelters and other homeless services are avoided and others need to be improved. I took our clinic proposal to the people forced to live on the streets and asked for their advice. Bearded Bruce had the following comments:

“Follow up and job placement would be mandatory. These people would need to trust that there was someone to turn to if they had a relapse or things went bad. You must be willing to accept people who are drunk and/or on drugs. At present these people are barred from AA and the Salvation Army. They demand that an addict be clean for twenty-four hours before entering their premises. There is a small window where addicts have hit rock bottom and may decide that they desperately want recovery. If an addict or an alcoholic can resist for twenty-four hours they don’t need a program. In Scotland and Holland, addicts commit to seventy-two hours where they are locked in and sometimes tied down. After that, it’s their decision to stay or go.

“There would need to be a pharmacist to administer the drugs of choice. Methadone is not a substitute for heroin, it replaces the craving and is administered to a user who has given up the drug, much like a nicotine patch is used by someone quitting smoking. You can’t just slap a patch on a smoker and expect any results. They have to have a deep desire to quit. Being told by a doctor that you either quit or die is often enough motivation.

“It’s essential that there be representatives on the board who were down and out drug users or alcoholics and are now in recovery. Nobody else would know the hell that recovering addicts go through. As an example, a man wouldn’t be effective as a counselor at a rape crisis center, unless the man had himself been raped. A healthy youth wouldn’t be effective counseling to elderly arthritis sufferers about how to deal with their pain. As a parent you wouldn’t be effective counseling pedophiles, you’d look down at them with disgust. Am I getting my point across?

“Another thing you would need is security. If addicts can’t get money for drugs they’ll resort to violence and stealing. This causes bad feelings. If both the thief and the person stolen from are in the same room, or if one is outside and the other is inside, they’ll break down the door to get revenge. If you’d like I’d be willing to speak to this group, and could refer other people who may be of value in the program.”

Ted added, “I know so much about those places I could be a counselor. In group sessions when you first arrive you have to give a statement. It would start with, ‘I am an addict and I can’t control my addiction.’ Sometimes, when young girls were asked to describe their situation they’d start crying and say they couldn’t talk about it, the counselor would say, ‘Go over and talk to Ted. He knows what’s going on.’ So, they’d come over and I’d say. ‘You have to be open and honest. You say you can’t talk about what happened, but the truth is that you’re not willing to talk about it. The only way this program is going to help is if you put your heart in it.” These people need help, but they want it on their own terms. They don’t choose addiction. It’s a disease and should be treated as such.

The CARDIFF HOMELESS REHABILITATION CLINIC is a viable proposal and would make Ottawa a much better place. I have the time and medical support but lack the money to either build or rent a suitable property.

What I have learned over the past years has changed my life. The people, who I consider my friends, are alcoholics, drug and other substance users. Some work as prostitutes, some have AIDS, most or all have served time in jail for various offenses. All of them I would trust with my life. They have welcomed me into their street family. I am honored to consider them my brothers and sisters.

“We can’t help everyone, but everyone can help someone,” said Ronald Reagan. The next time you see a person begging for money, smile, say hello and open your heart. Offer to buy them a coffee or a breakfast sandwich. Perhaps, they are in need of bus tickets to attend an appointment. Converse with them and consider the words of Bill Nye, “Everyone you will ever meet knows something you don’t.” Without exception strangers are people just like us, seeking happiness and an end to suffering.

To date, $1945.00 has been donated to the homeless.

 

https://rainn.org/

They Call Me Red

……

24 May 2013

Payback Is Sweet 

A light rain was falling,  it was see-your-breath cold. Metro said to me, “You won’t believe it, but Joy is at her spot.”

As I approached I could see her huddled over, rocking slightly. “Joy,” I said, “you look cold.”

“I am. I forgot my heavy coat. By the time I realized how cold it was I was halfway to the bus stop. I’m wearing Jake’s sweater, two layers of long underwear under my jeans, but I’m still freezing.

I said, “I didn’t go to the park yesterday because of the rain.”

“We just huddled together inside the glassed-in bus shelter: Outcast, Jacques and Little Jake. Finally, I said, ‘Why don’t we just go to my place? I’ll cook something.’

As I was getting on the bus I slipped and landed on the front step of the bus. I didn’t notice at first but there was a deep gash in my shin. Outcast said, ‘You should go to the hospital.’ I’ll show you.”

I said, “Don’t take the bandage off.”

“It’s okay unless this kind of stuff really freaks you out.”

“No, I don’t have a problem with that.” Joy removed the bandage and revealed a one inch gash on the front of her shin. “You wouldn’t believe how much blood came out of there, some is still on my shoe.”

I asked, “Has Jake tried to get in contact with you?”

“No, but I’m tempted to park myself in front of the Salvation Army and watch for him. Jacques has seen him. Chester has seen him. He’s still wearing my Tiger-Cats sweatshirt, number sixty-four. I’ll never peel that off him. He’s wearing shorts too. I said to Chester, ‘I bet they’re tan color, cargo shorts.’ Chester said, ‘Yes, that’s what he was wearing.’

“That’s what he was wearing when he went in. They’re supposed to launder them for you before you’re released. I was in for three years. I couldn’t get into the jeans I came in with. They were too tight.”

I asked, “Did you gain weight in prison?”

“Yeah, that and I had my son, Nicholas.”

I said, “I remember you telling me that you had been raped by a jail guard.”

“Yeah, Rob Nottingham. He isn’t with the prison system anymore. I saw to that. When Nicholas was old enough, I told him that his father died in the war.  One day he came home from school and said to me, ‘My dad didn’t die in the war; if he had that would make you about eighty years old. What really happened? Where did I come from? So I had to tell him the full story.”

“One day, at my mom’s place where we were staying, I heard a banging at the front door. Nicholas was crying upstairs. I was yelling at my mom to answer the door. She was yelling at me to answer it. I could hear a Harley revving up in the driveway. My uncle and some of his friends were there with Rob spread-eagled on the driveway. ‘What do you want us to do with him?’ he asked. Fuck, I figured that costing him his job was enough, but my uncle didn’t see it that way. With the back wheel of the bike spinning, they forced his hand in, again and again. He ended up with two fingers and a thumb on one hand, the other was just a stump. I still remember the screams.”

Five O’clock

Message from Stella,

Hi Dennis; Sadly, Bear passed away today. At a Veterinary check-up, a large tumor was discovered in his abdomen. Probably Cancer and the Veterinarian did not think Bear would survive surgery & Chemo. I was with Bear as well as Bruce and the wonderful people from the Veterinary Community Outreach program. He went peacefully as I was holding his paw. Will miss them both.

Sample my books for free — To date, $1945.00 has been donated to the homeless:

Gotta Find a Home: Conversations with Street People

http://buff.ly/1SGzGCY ($2.99 Download)
http://buff.ly/1qLHptc ($.299 Download)
https://buff.ly/2lUfp6Q ($.99 Download)
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They Call Me Red:
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