Posts Tagged ‘addiction’

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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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2 January 2013

The temperature at noon was 1 degree Fahrenheit with a 13 mph wind, making it feel like -17. Last night it went down to -5. The only person at ‘the heater’ was Magdalene.

She said, “Hi, Dennis, my boyfriend, Alphonse is in hospital.”

“I’m sorry to hear that, which hospital is he in.”

“He’s in the Montfort. He’s been there for a couple of days now. He has pneumonia. Also, he’s had paranoia. He thought he saw people standing around his bed, but there was nobody there. He thought they were trying to kill him. He ran outside. The police brought him back in. They said that if he stayed outside he would die. When he got back to his hospital bed they gave him a glass of whiskey, because he’s an alcoholic.”

“I said, “Irving is on a program at The Oaks. They give him a glass of wine every hour. Gradually he’ll be able to stop drinking altogether. He wants to get back to work moving furniture, but it’s hard for him while he’s an alcoholic.”

Magdalene said, “We’ve been sleeping outside lately. We are on a list to get an apartment, but nothing has happened.”

“Where, exactly, have you been sleeping?” I asked.

“On York street. If you go to the end, there is a little boutique there, turn left into the alley. There’s a place with a heater that blows down on you. We have a covering that goes around us.

“For a couple of days, he wasn’t able to eat. His face was getting very thin. That’s when he decided that he should go to the hospital.”

“Have you thought of staying at some place like the Mission?”

“After Alphonse gets out of the hospital, we may have to. I don’t like those places. They’re rough, noisy, crowded and stuff gets stolen there.”

I said, “Shakes told me that every time he sleeps at the Mission, Shepherd’s or the Salvation Army, things are stolen from him: his backpack, money, bottles, weed, even his clothes.”

“I’m going to see Alphonse at the hospital this afternoon, but first I have to go to Welfare to see if I can get my bus pass. Ambrose has a check waiting there but only he can sign for it. I’m going to talk to them and see if they can release it to me. I’m listed on all his forms. I don’t even have his phone number at the hospital.”

I asked, “When you visit your worker at Welfare, can she help you to get an apartment? She should be able to get the phone number for Alphonse at the hospital.”

“Maybe, I don’t know, they were looking for us, but we haven’t been back there for two weeks. Maybe they found someplace.

“Alphonse has an appointment with his probation officer, tomorrow morning at 8:30. He’s going to have to cancel. I don’t know the phone number, I hope he’s awake, so I can get the number from him.

“This morning I ate at McDonald’s. I didn’t think I had any money, but I found four dollars and twenty-five cents. I was so hungry.

“Next week I start at New Directions. They’re going to help me deal with my anger management issues. I want to stop fighting, especially with Alphonse.”

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……

31 December 2012

The snow was lightly falling at noon, the temperature was around the freezing point with no wind. Jacques, Jacquie, Mariah, Wolf and Shaggy were standing at the heater.

Wolf said to Jacquie, “Is your name like Downtown Jackie Brown? I think that was a movie.”

“No, it’s like Jacquie Kennedy.”

“Hi Wolf,” I said, “Did you and Shaggy have a good Christmas?”

“It was quiet, I haven’t been back here since I saw you last. I dropped over to André’s new apartment. It’s actually Rodent’s old place in the same building as Outcast. They had to gut it when Rodent left. I’m not sure what kind of infestation he had. They replaced the walls, put in a new wooden floor. He has new appliances. I had a few beers with Andre. I sure hope he takes care of the place. It’s like a palace.

“I’m worried that Little Jake is going to be evicted. He has a hydro bill of two hundred dollars that he hasn’t paid. They’ve cut off his power except for his stove. Two hundred dollars seems a lot for three months. I only pay about thirty-one. He has electric baseboard heaters. I’d never get a place with them. They’re expensive. Jake’s got to get that sorted with his worker. I’m surprised that they aren’t covering his hydro.”

I said to Wolf, “Weasel has a nice place too, doesn’t he?”

Peter said, “Well, it’s smaller, it has carpet. He has a dog. That’s hard on a carpet. It’s not just the dog hair, but the wet, muddy feet. Darrell’s not much of a housekeeper.

“I’ve had my place over three years and I wouldn’t be embarrassed to invite you over. It’s reasonably tidy and well taken care of.”

I asked Jacques, “Have you heard from Joy, lately? Has she phoned you?”

“No, but Bruce is supposed to go visit her. I guess she’s still depressed.”

“So, how was your Christmas, Jacques?” I asked.

“Same old, same old. I was here on Christmas with my Santa hat on, but I left. Everybody has apartments now, so they didn’t come down here. I was looking for the chicken man, but I didn’t see him either.”

I asked, “Has the security guard been by yet?”

“No, not yet. He doesn’t usually come by. Now it’s the city cops giving out tickets for trespassing. They have them all made out ahead of time. They gave one to Shakes. It was just written out to ‘Shakes’. I don’t think that will hold up in court.

“How about you, Mariah?” I asked, did you have a good Christmas?”

“It was just me and my son, so it was quiet.”

Jacqui asked, “Didn’t you have Charlie with you?”

“No, I kicked him out two and a half months ago.”

“I’m so sorry,” said Jacquie.

“I’m not,” said Mariah, “He was someone who could just suck the energy out of a place. Do you know what I mean?”

Wolf said, “I know what you mean. It can really affect your health when you live with someone like that.”

“Yeah, I was tired all the time, was getting colds. I was tired of being in debt. I’m a bit lonely now. It was nice to have someone to snuggle up to, but I can live with being alone.

“Another thing, when I lived with Charlie I was always cold. Mind you, we had our bed on the floor, that can make a difference. Now I sleep on a bed that folds into a couch when I don’t need it for sleeping. I think just being a foot higher makes a big difference.”

Wolf pulled his toque off and said, “Has everybody seen my new haircut? I went to the barber shop on Montreal Road, across from the bank. There’s a little Lebanese lady that runs it. Just twelve dollars for a haircut. She asked me, ‘How do you want your hair to look?’ I said, ‘Do anything you want.’ That put a smile on her face. When I left I said, ‘See you again next year.’ It’s been a year since I last had it cut.”

Mariah said, “I’ve stopped having my hair cut. I think the last time I had it done was 1994. It’s long, but it doesn’t grow anymore. I don’t have it colored or anything. If I get split ends I use some of that beef marrow shampoo. That seems to repair all the damage.”

I said, “I like the grey in your hair. It looks a lot more interesting than if you had it dyed all one color. If you had to pay to have your hair colored, like you have it naturally, it would cost a fortune.”

Mariah said, “They say that when men have gray hair they look distinguished. When women have gray hair they just look old.”

“I don’t agree, I think your hair looks beautiful.”

“It really does,” said Wolf.

Jacques pulled off his sheepskin hat to show off his bald head. I have a set of clippers. Every couple of months I cut Shark’s hair, just cut it all off. I’ll do the same with mine one day.”

Jacquie said, “Jacques, Your hair is really long at the back, but it’s so little.”

“It’s so little,” repeated Jacques, “that’s the story of my life.”

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11 December 2012

On the number fourteen bus, I met Trudy, André and Little Jake. Patsy asked, “Have you heard about Joy?”

“I heard that she was in the Civic Hospital. I visited her a couple of times.”

“Yesterday, she was transferred to the General, that’s what Jacques told me. She’s able to move around a bit now in her wheelchair.”

I said, “That sounds like good news. How have you been? I haven’t seen you for a while.”

“I’m okay, my mom (Mary) has been sick. She hasn’t been out lately. Nick and I have been staying in. It’s just been too cold to do anything. My brother (Larry) has gone back to Iqualuit.” Trudy got off the bus at Booth and Gladstone.

I moved closer to the front of the bus and met Jake and André. They were going to Jake’s new apartment.

“Hi André, Jake, it’s good to see you.”

“Have you heard about Joy?”

“I heard that she’d been moved to the General, but I don’t know why.”

André said, “I think it’s because there are tests that they can do at the General, that they aren’t able to do at the Civic. I also think that she’s been moved out of intensive care and they needed her bed. When I was at the General, they gave me an intravenous drip, because I’m an alcoholic. Towards the end, they were just bringing me glasses of brandy once an hour. I’d save them, so I could drink them all at once and get a bit of a buzz.

“A bunch of us are going to get a taxi and visit her. I hope that she lets me in her room. I’d hate to pay that money and have her say I couldn’t come in.”

Jake said, “I’m sure she’ll let you in.”

André said, “Guess what? I’m getting my own apartment by the first of January. It’s going to be in Vanier. They took me to see it. It’s really nice.” It was coming to their stop so we shook hands and they got off the bus.

12 December 2012

At the park, I met the usual congregation of friends and Dogs.

Jacques said, “I was talking to Joy this morning. She was a bit weepy because she thinks they’re going to keep her in the hospital until after Christmas. I think they want to keep her, so she doesn’t start drinking again. If they let her out, she’s going to visit her friends and they will all be drinking, so she’ll start again. She drinks that wine, eh? That’s bad. Me, I just drink a few beers, so far it hasn’t caused me any problems, except for a big belly.”

Mariah said, “I’m a reformed alcoholic. I went right downhill. I was a falling down drunk. Now I can buy a small bottle of cognac and it will last me a week. I just have a few sips a day. I cut out smoking and drinking when I was pregnant.”

Jacques said, “People tell me that maybe I’m pregnant. I hope not.

“I like to have a bit to drink, just beer, with maybe some pot every once in a while. With some people, it’s beer, with some wine, with some pot, with some crack — something different for everybody.

“I’m still looking for my bunk beds. I’m going to have to get out of the place I’m staying. Jake said I should talk to his worker, but she’s been sick. When I talked to her last she said she could get me an apartment, a start-up allowance and arrange for me to get O.D.S.P. (Ontario Disability Support Program). I don’t have any of that now. Maybe she could even get me into one of those over sixty places. I’m only fifty-six, but if I could get into a place like that I’d avoid a lot of the crack heads.

“You should see where I am now. It’s just a room. I share a kitchen with two native guys across the hall. There is a double sink, both sides are filled with dirty dishes. There is a table that is filled with clean dishes. I have no place to sit to eat my food, no place to wash my dishes. I went to turn on the stove, but first I had to move the cockroaches. I don’t have them in my room, just the kitchen. Me, I shut up about that. That’s how I lost my place in Vanier. My neighbor said there were mites. When the inspector came I let him in. He took pictures over here, over there. When he came back he had a notice saying the place was condemned. I don’t want that to happen again.

“I don’t need a big place. I live alone. My last place was a bachelor. There was just room enough for my fridge and a table with about this much space in between. I think that the bathroom was bigger than the rest of the apartment, but I didn’t mind.”

Two police cars stopped at the curb. I decided to move over to talk to Wolf, so there would only be two groups of four. We’ve been told before that they don’t like to see groups larger than four people. Nobody was blocking the sidewalk, there was no alcohol visible and nobody was drunk.

“Hi, Wolf,” I said, “what are you reading now?”

“It’s a book about Hollywood in the 1950s. It’s called Suicide Hill. I forget who wrote it (James Elroy). It’s like that book The Choirboys by Joseph Wambaugh. If these guys think they have it bad now, it’s nothing like it was in the 1950s. This detective, Lloyd Hopkins, goes after bad guys and what he does to them isn’t exactly legal. The cops would do ‘wino runs’ where they’d pick up winos and addicts.

“I’m an alcoholic and I smoke a bit of crack. Maybe it’s the German in me, but I respect authority. I respect what the police do. I’m polite to them, not like some of these guys. Damian has beaten up Snake, he beat me up. If it weren’t for the cops who would protect us?

“In the book, they wouldn’t give out tickets to the winos like they do here. If they wanted information, they’d beat them, and believe me they’d talk. Sometimes, either before or after they talked, they’d kill them, for no reason. Suicide Hill was a place in Hollywood where the police would dump the bodies.

“I guess you’ve heard about Joy. Jacques was talking to her on the phone this morning. He asked her if she wanted to talk to me, She said, ‘No.’ What am I going to do? I’ve never been her boyfriend or anything like that, but I let her stay at my place when she was beaten by Big Jake. I don’t get involved with women very much anymore. I live alone, pay for the odd hooker once in a while. There was a woman who stayed at my apartment last night. I sent her out to buy me a case of beer. She said that when she got back she had a surprise for me. I like surprises, but she didn’t come back, so I put her bag and clothes out in the hall.

“Joy has to quit drinking. We’ve all told her that, but she won’t listen. Maybe she’d listen to you.”

I said, “I don’t think so. When I saw her last, the doctors had told her to stop drinking or she’d die, She said, ‘You told me that the last time, and I had ten months out on the street.'”

“I know,” said Wolf. “I’ve been in hospital, for injuries. I was in that car accident, I’ve had my cheekbone smashed when I was beaten up. I’ve broken my arm when I fell, but nothing internal. When your kidneys or your liver starts going, you have to quit drinking, there’s no way around it. Look what happened to Silver, just a few months ago. Anyway, if you can talk sense to Joy it might save her life.”

Two outreach workers came by. One of them was carrying a backpack. He said to Wolf, I’ve got some dog biscuits. Would you like some for your dog?”

Jacques said, “I wouldn’t mind some for me.”

The outreach worker said, “I’ve also got a sleeping bag in here. Would you be interested?”

Wolf  said, “Sure, I’d like it.”

“Can you use the backpack as well?”

“Thank you very much. I really appreciate this.”

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13 November 2012

At noon, on the traffic island, were seven of my friends including Danny in his motorized wheelchair.

Daren said to me, “We’ve met before, haven’t we?”

“Yes,” I said, “I saw you yesterday and I also met you two years ago, across the street, where the benches used to be. You told me that you’d lived in Boston and that you’d been in the army.”

“It was the Marines. I was in Baghdad and Afghanistan. When we’d walk along the streets, there would be bodies just lying there on the sidewalks – dead bodies. We’d smell the rotting flesh.

“I’ve been getting these migraine headaches. It feels like someone hit me with a baseball bat at the back of my skull.”

I asked, “Was that because of your car accident?”

Alphonse said, “He’s had a tumor.”

“Yeah, where this missing patch of hair is. The surgery wasn’t so bad; it was the chemo that I really hated. I’d keep throwing up and wouldn’t be able to stop. It was every morning. I went to the doctor recently about the headaches. He ran some tests. I don’t want to go on morphine; I’ve already got one addiction, I don’t need another. I have to go back October thirty-first for the results, Halloween – I think it’s this Thursday — to get the results.”

“Darren,” said Alphonse, “it’s November thirteenth, Halloween was two weeks ago.”

“Do you mean I missed my appointment?”

I said, “It’s no problem, Darren, phone them, they can make another appointment for you.”

“I’ve been staying in shelters, but I hate it. To wake you up in the morning they kick you in the foot.”

I said, “I’ve heard that there are a lot of crack heads there, getting up every hour, walking around, keeping people awake.”

“Not only that, but they smoke crack in the bathrooms. The smell makes me sick. It’s like burning tires. My former wife used to be on crack. I’d wonder where all our money was going. We could never seem to get ahead. One day I came home and found two guys on top of her. One of them broke my leg. I took our two kids in the truck and they stayed with my mother. The next time I saw her she patted her backside and said, ‘Kiss my ass.’ That’s the last time I saw her.”

Alphonse said, “Magdalene has been going to a women’s shelter to have a shower and get cleaned up. She said there are always women smoking crack in the bathrooms.”

“Yeah,” said Magdalene. This morning I saw a woman with a hypodermic needle to her throat. I don’t know what she was shooting. I couldn’t believe it.”

Alphonse said, “We have some good news. We’ve applied for assisted housing and I think they’ve found us a place in Vanier. I think it’s on Lavergne Avenue. They still have some other applications to go through, but I think we’re going to get it. We’ll also get a ‘street allowance’ because we’re living on the street. We’ve also made an application for O.D.S.P. (Ontario Disability Support Program. We’ll be getting a health card and a bus pass.”

Darren said, “Congratulations! Lately, I’ve been sleeping outside. I really admire you guys — sleeping outside for two and a half years.

“I was in court this morning for a pre-sentence hearing. Do you know old Alphonse?”

“No,” I said.

“Anyway, old Alphonse gave these two kids money to buy a bottle. It was a girl and a guy. They never came back. Later on, I saw them. I grabbed the guy in a headlock and took him back to old Alphonse. He didn’t have the money, he’d spent it on crack, so I laid into him. I felt a hand on my shoulder and without thinking, I threw a punch. It was a cop. He didn’t identify himself. How was I to know? A couple of them jumped me, had me in handcuffs face down on the ground. One had his knee on the back of my neck. The others put the boots to me. It was the fat blond woman who split my ear. I think they have metal plates on the toes of their boots.

“One lawyer told me I should sue. Another told me to let it go. I’ve got until January first to prepare my statement.”

Ambrose said, “Something similar happened to me and Magdalene. We were panning on Metcalfe Street. A guy came along and lay down beside us. Magdalene told him to move along. He got up to swing at her and I clocked him right at the back of the jaw. He fell into the street. The police and ambulance came. I told them what happened; that I was just defending my woman. There was a woman nearby who also witnessed it. The cop said, ‘Alphonse, you shouldn’t have done that, but I understand why you did. Just move along and we’ll forget about it.”

”So, Dennis,” said Darren, “you seem to know what it’s like for us. Have you ever slept on the streets?”

“No, but my brother did. He slept on the streets of Calgary. After not eating for three days, he was ready to jump off a bridge, when someone suggested that he join the army. He had to lie on his application because he had been dishonorably discharged from the navy. When they found out that he’d given false information, he was already in Korea. Later, he became Eastern Canadian Boxing Champ. He was an alcoholic and got into lots of fights. He’s dead now — asphyxiated on his own vomit, sleeping in a Toronto hotel. He’d also been robbed and beaten.”

“I’m sorry to hear that,” said Darren.

“We sure got wet last night,” said Alphonse. “I gave Magdalene my inside pants because hers were soaked.”

I walked over to talk to Andre and Shakes. “Hi, Andre, how have you been?”

“So, now you decide to come over and talk to us. I thought we were being ignored.”

“No, Andre, it’s just that I haven’t seen Darren for a long time. How has it been going with your worker?”

“Thursday, I signed the papers for my health card. I filled out the application for housing. Now I’m just waiting. I see my worker again on Wednesday.

“Shakes and I slept outside last night. We were picked up on Bank Street. They phoned Hope Recovery. Shepherd’s said they had room for us. When we got there they said they were full, so they took us to the Sally. They said they were full – at nine o’clock they’re full. I think they were pulling something. I can’t believe that in buildings with four floors, that they couldn’t have found a space for us. I would have been happy to sleep on the basement floor. It would have been better than being in the rain, but they wouldn’t let us in.”

I asked, “Did Little Jake give you the bottle I brought you?”

“No, I saw him last night. He didn’t say anything about a bottle.”

“Friday, the afternoon you had the meeting with your worker, the police were writing tickets. You asked me if I could do you a favor and buy you a bottle. I said, ‘I’ll see what I could do.’ I knew that you guys would have had to pour out all your booze, so I brought back a bottle of Imperial sherry from the Rideau Street liquor store. You weren’t there so I gave the bottle to Frank. I said to him that you’d probably want to share it, and to make sure Shakes got a drink.”

“I didn’t know that. Thanks!” Actually, I didn’t pour out my booze. I didn’t have any to pour out. I was sober Friday, Saturday and Sunday. I spent the weekend at my cousin’s.

Shakes had his head down. With his hat on I could barely see his face. I bent down and looked into his eyes. “Hi, Shakes, how are you doing. Are you getting there?”

“Hi, Dennis, I’m getting there slowly but surely.”

“Shakes, I heard that you were robbed twice last week.”

“Yeah, twice.”

Andre said, “What happens is — it doesn’t matter if you have a padlock on your locker or not — guys will come in the middle of the night with bolt cutters and cut your lock. Everyone knows that Shakes will have a bottle, some pot and some change. I think it’s the staff, they’ve got access to bolt cutters.”

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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group3

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25 October 2012

This morning I met with Joy and André. Janine, one of Joy’s regulars dropped two dollars and squatted down to chat. Joy asked her, “How did it go with your dentist appointment?”

“They took x-rays and found all sorts of cavities. In the old days, you’d have a cavity, it would be painful, then you went to the dentist. Now, it seems, they’re always filling something. I don’t know what they’re doing in there.”

Joy waved at Magdalene and Alphonse across the street. They came over. Very excitedly, Alphonse said, “Magdalene is pregnant again. She went to see an apartment yesterday. She’s been put on first priority. We find out today if she’ll be accepted.”

I asked, “When is the baby due?”

Magdalene said, “We’re not sure. I took a home pregnancy test and it showed two pink crosses. I’m not taking any drugs or alcohol now.”

Alphonse said, “Same with me.” He looked longingly at a gram of pot Joy had in her cigarette case. “That looks so good,” he said. They walked off together to have breakfast.

Joy handed André a cigarette paper and the pot. He asked, “You want me to roll it?”

Joy said, “Well, how is it going to look if I’m panning and rolling a joint?”

André went into a nearby alcove for a few minutes, then came back with a joint that Joy put in her cigarette case.

I asked Joy, “Where did you sleep last night?”

“At Wolf’s. I’d been at Outcast’s until Debbie came home, then all hell broke loose, so I left. I was walking past Wolf’s place and saw Shaggy on the balcony. I called to him and Wolf came out. He asked, ‘Where are you going?’ I said, ‘I’m going downtown to sleep behind Starbucks.’ He said, ‘Come on up.’ He threw me the keys. ‘You can stay here.’ His place is in more of a mess than I’ve ever seen it. He said, ‘I know Joy, I’m going to get around to that, sometime.’ Also, he has cockroaches. At least they don’t bite.”

I asked, “Were you able to talk to Stella about menopause?”

“Yes, she said she could talk to me until my ears bled, but it wouldn’t do any good, because every woman is different. My being bi-polar and schizophrenic just makes it all the worse.

“I go to see, Annie, my probation officer, today at ten o’clock. Hopefully, I’ll find out how many more visits she wants me to have. November 12 is the day my probation is supposed to end, but I may have to see her after that. I don’t know if it will be once every two weeks, once a month…

“I’ve had three sessions with Christien, from the Elizabeth Fry Society. It’s probably more time than I would have had if I’d been with a group. She’s going to be away for a couple of weeks. They said it’s no problem, we’re all trained, others here are familiar with your case. We can arrange an appointment with someone.’ I said, ‘I signed a confidentiality agreement with Christien, nobody else. I don’t want to start from the beginning again, with a new person.’

“I don’t want anybody to know that I’ve started cutting myself again, either. Annie asked, ‘Why do cut yourself?’ I said it’s hard to explain, but when my mind is going a hundred miles an hour, in a ten-mile an hour zone, I don’t know where I’m going to stop. I need something to distract myself. Cutting does that for me.’ Mind you, the second time I cut myself I was thinking, hey, this hurts. I don’t want to be doing this. Chester nearly freaked when he saw me coming out of the bathroom with a towel wrapped around my arm. It was a deep cut too. It was gaping open. I didn’t want to go to the hospital this time. I used band-aids to pull the skin together.”

I asked, “Where will you sleep tonight?”

“I have to go home to get the rest of my clothes. Chester doesn’t want me to leave. I don’t know what I’m going to do.”

I arrived at work and phoned Craig from the 507 Center. He has been in telephone contact with the hospital about Serge. I said to him, ‘I understand that you’re trying to contact Serge Roberts’ family. I’ve talked every one I know and even his closest friend, William, said, ‘He’s either from Vancouver or Toronto, I can’t remember, and he may have a sister in Montreal.’ I didn’t learn anything more definite than that.’ Craig said, ‘I’ve heard the same stories, probably from the same people.’

“The latest news from the hospital is that they’ve taken the breathing tube out. He’s still in ICU, but seems to be doing fine. Later tests will determine if he’ll have any lasting effects from his fall.”

I hope to visit Serge this evening.

At noon I met the regulars along with Spike in his motorized wheelchair.

I asked André, “How was the rest of your morning?”

“It was okay. I had to fill out another form for my O.D.S.P. (Ontario Disability Support Program). They lost the last one. This is four times I’ve filled in the same form. Joy and I have the same worker, Jenna. She’s been busy lately so we’re going to be switched to Susan. I’ve known her from before. She guaranteed that Joy and I would have our own apartments before December first. I hope so because once it gets close to Christmas it’ll be hard to get things delivered. I’ll be getting $800.00 as start-up allowance to buy furniture. I’ll be able to get a new double bed from Sears. I don’t want to spend Christmas sleeping on a bare floor. I’ll also get a hundred dollars for groceries.”

I asked, “Do you know when your court date is?”

“November second. It’ll probably be in Courtroom Five, but to find out for sure, all I have to do is check the dockets. I think I’ll have it remanded until I’m able to contact my lawyer. He works between Cornwall and Kingston. He’s sometimes hard to get a hold of.”

Peter called me over. “I appreciate you helping me out the other day. I drank too much, I couldn’t make it home, so I slept outside. I wasn’t here yesterday because I was too hung over. At my age I can only drink for two days, then have to take a day off. I don’t know how guys like Weasel do it. He came to my panning spot at seven in the morning and he was drunk already. I had to tell him to get lost. My regulars know that I’m an alcoholic, but they don’t want some stumbling, incoherent drunk hanging around. He was pissed off when I told him to go, but we’re okay now. I’m going to his place this afternoon. Shaggy can play with Bear and I’ll cook supper. It’ll be chicken or some kind of fowl, that’s what I like.

“I got a surprise the other night. At nine o’clock in the evening, someone was banging on my door. They’d managed to get through the lobby door. Usually, I don’t let anybody in. If any of these guys came over, I’d tell them to fuck off. If I was expecting somebody, they’d yell and I’d throw the keys down. I looked through the peephole, it was Joy.

“I guess you heard how Chester was trying to paw her. I can’t understand these guys. You don’t touch a woman without her permission. They can’t seem to get that through their heads.

“I asked her, ‘Tell me the truth now. Outcast invited you over to his place, then when Debbie came home he threw you out. What’s that all about. That’s no way to treat a friend.’  I’ve got no use for him anyway. He’s living with one woman and invites another woman over when he’s alone. That doesn’t seem right.

“Anyway, I invited Joy to stay the night. I gave her the sofa and I slept in my room with the door locked, but first I told her, ‘I wanted to watch Law and Order, C.S.I. and Criminal Minds. Those are my favorite programs and I’m not going to miss them.’ I’ve only got one channel, CJOH, and with rabbit ears, sometimes the signal doesn’t come in too clear, but that night the reception was good. Some people need HBO and all the movie channels, but with CJOH I get a hockey game Saturday night, an NFL game on Sunday and all my favorite shoot-em-up shows. It’s all I want, besides, I can’t afford the hundred dollars a month. If I wanted them badly enough I could afford them — like if I quit drinking.

“I spend a lot of my time reading. If you saw my place you’d see books laying all over the floor. I always have a few going at a time. Every so often I like to come down here, have a drink with my friends. I take Shaggy for walks. She’s getting old so she needs to go out five or six times a day.

“Joy asked me, ‘Does anybody else have a key to this apartment? Now, what do I look like? Would I let other people come and go as they please in my place? You know me better than that. I like my privacy, but Joy was paranoid. I said to her, No, there is nobody that has a key to my apartment. She relaxed after that. She was up at five thirty in the morning, off to her panning spot.”

I mentioned that I would be away in San Diego on vacation.

Wolf said, “I’ve never been to San Diego. I’ve been to Florida, Philly, Detroit. I haven’t been to Chicago or New York. If I was to go there I’d turn right, right again, right again, another right and I’d be back where I started. I wouldn’t want to find myself in some dangerous neighborhood and not know my way out.

“I have a brother in Virginia. There are a lot of red necks down there. The Confederate flag is flying everywhere. If you get caught with a doobie you get tossed in prison and they throw away the key; but, and this is a big but, you can carry two loaded guns. It’s in the constitution, and you can buy your beer and ammunition at a gas station or Walmart.

“I don’t know how I feel about that. On the one hand, you know everybody is armed, so you don’t cause them any unnecessary aggravation. You know what I mean? On the other hand, having a psycho on the loose, carrying a loaded gun is a scary thought.

“I’m on a pension. After I pay my rent I’ve got three hundred dollars for everything else. It’s not much. I’m an alcoholic — my drug of choice is beer. I may have an occasional blast, but I’m not on Percocet, Percodan, Perco-this, Perco-that. I pan to get extra money. I live a quiet life with Shaggy, enjoy my books, my TV and my beer… that’s it.”

I asked Jacques if he had found an apartment yet. “No,” he said, “I was talking to Shark’s landlord. He had a bachelor for $560.00. I could have managed that, but he rented it to somebody else. If I can’t find a place by the end of the month I’ll store my stuff in a locker and rent a room for a while — not too long.”

I asked, “How much does a room cost?”

“About five hundred a month. A bachelor is six hundred and up, a one bedroom, seven hundred and up, a two bedroom, eight hundred and up. I thought of getting a two bedroom and sharing with someone, but who would I share with?

Tonight I visited Serge again. They’ve moved him from bed 29 to bed 1. He didn’t seem to recognize me, spoke only French and didn’t respond to the names of his friends that I mentioned, except William. He scowled and said, “William!” and his blood pressure shot up from 130 to 180. He seemed agitated and pulled out his intravenous tube. The nurse said his confusion is probably temporary, due to his concussion. His blood pressure eventually returned to normal. He sipped from a can of Labatt Blue, then hid it under his hospital gown.”

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.group3

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24 October 2012

This morning, as I approached Joy, she waved, got up and headed towards the library. When she returned she said, “I’ve been waiting for you. I had to pee so bad. I slept outside last night.”

“Why?” I asked.

“Chester’s drinking again. When he does, he gets all touchy feely. I’d had enough, so I packed my bag and slept behind the dumpsters, in back of Starbucks.”

“Do you have a sleeping bag?” I asked.

“No just this blanket, it was cold.” (35 degrees Fahrenheit)

“You have an appointment with your worker today, maybe she could get you a sleeping bag.”

“I’m just so fed up!” she cried, “My legs are aching. I’m half in the bag. There is a commercial on TV that says, ‘It’s now time for that second talk’ — referring to menopause. I need to have that second talk, but I have nobody to talk to. I remember my mother going through it. She was all over the place. I’m just losing it, man!”

“Perhaps you could talk to your worker about that. Also, Stella is coming down this morning.”

“I sure hope so.”

“She sent me an email. She wants to celebrate Bear’s fifteenth birthday. She has a card and a big bone for him.”

“I hope she bring the coat she promised me.”

“I saw Serge in the hospital last night. He was asleep the whole time I was there. He had a breathing tube in his throat and oxygen going in his nostrils. The nurse said they may take the breathing tube out either today or tomorrow, depending on how he responds. He had a slight fever so they had a cooling blanket, that looked like an air mattress, on top of him. That’s common with head injuries. He was lightly sedated and had been given Tylenol for pain. The nurse had been talking to him earlier and he said the pain wasn’t too bad. She said he’s had a long history of being admitted to hospital for falls. He sure looks younger with his head shaved.”

“They would have done that for the lice. When he was picked up last time, by Hope Recovery, they shaved off his beard. I’m glad it’s not more serious. I can’t take any more deaths right now.”

Andre stopped by and said to Joy, “I see Little Jake is at Silver’s old spot.”

Joy said, “Jake is family. I had to kick Al out of there this morning. Later I saw his girlfriend, Angeline. Her arm was in a make shift sling and was all purple. She said, ‘Bo did this to me.’ I said, ‘I hope you got him back.’ She said, ‘After he had punched me three times in the head, I stabbed him in the side. That slowed him down.’ Bo is going to be on a lot of shit lists. These guys got to learn not to treat women that way.”

I said to Andre, “How’s your day going so far?”

“Lousy, I’m barred from every McDonalds in town, the World Exchange liquor store, Hartman’s and Loblaws grocery stores. The list of places I can go is getting shorter and shorter.”

“What happened at McDonalds?” I asked.

“I was panning out front of the one on Bank Street. The district manager was there at the time — he barred me. He said, ‘I never want to see you in front of any of our stores. If I do, or if any of my staff does, the police will be called immediately.’ That was a good spot for me.

“I stole a cooked chicken, and some other meat, from Loblaws. I was hoping to have a real feast, So much for that idea.”

Joy started getting restless. She said, “I’ve had about enough of this place, and I’ve got to get my legs moving. I want to get drunk.”

I had agreed to meet Stella at the statue of the soldier, near where the group usually meets. Shakes, Gnome, Wolf and Shaggy, Outcast, Jacques, Loon, Stella, Weasel and Blackie the birthday dog were all there. Jake and Weasel were near coming to blows.

Shakes said, ‘Will you guys keep the noise down. Soon the cops will be coming.”

“Shut up, Shakes”, said Weasel.

“I won’t shut up. I’ll talk as much as I want to. Nobody’s going to stop me.”

I said, “I’m glad we got that settled, Shakes!” He laughed.

Loon was drunk, has no teeth, and was talking non stop over the din of the arguing.

Outcast asked me, “Do you understand a word he’s saying?”

“No,” I said.

Outcast said, “I’ve just come from Shark and Elaine’s place, I think Loon was there earlier. They were nodding off, so I left. Soon, Loon will be doing the same.

“Dennis, you coming at ten o’clock throws my whole schedule off. I think I should be having lunch now.”

“Sorry, Outcast, but I came to see Stella, not you.”

Joy said, “I’ve known some of these guys for twenty years. I’ve known Chester for a long time too. It really hurts, for him to treat me, and talk to me the way he does. Do you see the scar above Loon’s right eye? I gave that to him. One time he grabbed me by the crotch and I decked him. His forehead split open like a tomato. He’s never tried that again — the piece of shit. I’m really surprised that I haven’t got into a fight yet, today. There’s still time.”

Andre was sitting quietly. He said to me, “Sometimes it’s safer to not open your mouth.”

I asked Jacques, “Do you know if Serge has any family?”

“I don’t know. I’ve known him for a long time. He’s never mentioned any family to me.”

I said, “I wonder if his friend William knows about his family. Serge stayed with him for a while.”

“No, I ask him that. He said, ‘I think, maybe, he came from Vancouver or Toronto. I can’t remember which. I think he has a sister in Montreal.’ Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal — that’s a lot of people there, and Robert is a common name. William has been kicked out of his place. When Serge stayed there, a neighbor complained. He said that Serge was dealing drugs. Can you imagine, Serge dealing drugs? I’ve never even seen him smoke a joint. He just sits quietly. I like that. I talked to Serge about maybe sharing a two bedroom apartment, but now he’s nearly dead. I also thought about sharing a place with William, but he was given notice, the first night he was at his new place, that he was making too much noise. If you’re given notice three times, you’re out. That’s what happened. I don’t want to be in the middle of a situation like that, not me. I’ll just get me a bachelor apartment, it doesn’t matter how small, just someplace quiet. That’s what I want.

“Yesterday I found a tent in the garbage. It looks brand new. I set it up in my living room. I’ve never seen a tent so small. It would only fit one person. There is no way that two people could get in there. If I don’t find a place by the end of the month, maybe I’ll be sleeping outside. I don’t think for too long. Who knows?”

Jake sat next to me. He said, “I’ve blown my three hundred and fifty dollar start-up allowance. Now, they’re asking for receipts. DOES ANYBODY HAVE ANY RECEIPTS? I NEED SOME RECEIPTS.”

Joy asked, “Did you punch Weasel?”

“No, but I spit on him.

“I went to my HIV doctor and he wouldn’t give me my needles.”

I asked, “Why?”

“I don’t know.”

Two Outreach Workers with the Salvation Army came to talk to Shakes. “How are you coming along with my housing arrangements?” he asked.

“Were looking at a few places, the problem is they become available December first, so we’ll have to find someplace temporary for you, from the first to the end of November. Don’t worry, we’re working on it.”

Weasel and Stella were getting ready to leave. Stella showed me the card she had made. It had pictures of Bear as a pup, with his original owner Henri.

Joy said, “I remember when Henri first got Bear. There were two puppies in the back seat of a car. Henri was to choose which one he wanted. Bear jumped out the door and came straight to him. The other dog just sat there. That decided it. They were together until he died.”

Bear wandered over to me. I held my hand out — he bit it.

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group3

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13 September 2012

This morning the sun was shining and Joy seemed in good spirits.

“How did you sleep? Were you outside on the balcony?” I asked.

“No, it was a bit too cool for that, but I slept okay. I took the sheet off my air mattress and made sure that none of me touched the carpet. The bed bugs didn’t seem to have been able to climb up the shiny plastic. I didn’t get any bites during the night. I have a chalk line of powder around where I sleep.

“When I was in the bathroom I saw something move. I squished it. Sure enough, it was a bed bug. I could tell by the rotting wood smell. I’ve never known of bed bugs to crawl across tile.”

I said, “I’m still pissed off with Chester.”

“Why is that? What’s he done now?”

“I just think it’s very selfish of him to turn the exterminator away. He knows how much the bed bugs bother you. Just because they aren’t bothering him, that’s no reason not to have them exterminated. It’s not a safe, healthy environment for you.”

“Yeah, I was pissed off about that, alright. I stayed out until 9:00 last evening. He was upset that I came home so late. I said, ‘I’m forty-six years old. Are you saying I have a curfew? I wasn’t planning to come back at all.’ I told him, ‘I can’t live like this.’ He said, ‘I’m sorry. I’ll phone the Health Department and have them come another day.’ I said, ‘They’re not going to drop everything and come here, when they’ve already been turned away once. They may charge you for the visit.’

“I do the cooking, the cleaning. Before I moved in he said he kept his place very clean. It was a mess. It took me an entire day to wash the floors, the fridge. There was some kind of dairy product that had gone bad in the sink. That nearly made me sick. I bought groceries. He was supposed to buy some, but he hasn’t. We’re down to our last slice of bread.

“He doesn’t do anything, but make messes after I’ve cleaned up, and piss on the toilet seat. He said that if I’m concerned with the bed bugs he’ll share his bed with me. ‘No, thanks!’ I said. ‘I have no interest in sleeping with any man.’

He said, ‘Oh, Joy, I would never touch you. You don’t have to worry about that.’ I said, ‘I’ve heard that before.’

“I wish Chester would bathe more often. I have a shower every morning. He has one a week. All the guys are smelling a bit ripe now.

“I’ve heard from Rodent that Jake wants me to write to him. Why would I do that? I still love him, but I don’t have a death wish.

“I heard that Silver is at the Mission Hospice recovering.”

I said, “I know that he had an appointment with his doctor, last Thursday, to see about the swelling in his ankle. I haven’t seen him since.”

Joy said, “Chili may have to have both of her legs amputated. I’m so angry with her. I told her months ago to have the swelling in her knee taken care of. She’s been smashing cocaine into her arm and it’s become infected. The infection has spread to both legs as high as her hips.”

At noon I met my friendsat the curb near the park. Joy was waiting for her worker. We saw a Salvation Army van pass by and stop near the park. Joy walked over, but the van left before she arrived. Shortly after, her worker arrived. They were gone for about twenty minutes.

While Joy was away I talked to Jacques. He said, “I’m looking for a new apartment also. They raised my rent in June by three percent. It was $685., now it’s $710. I can’t afford that. I’ve had to cancel my cable. I tried to fix up an antenna using wire, but now I only get a few channels and they aren’t very clear. I saw an ad in this newspaper — on Donald Street I can get an antenna for $6.99. That’s not too bad if it works. I’m going to go there this afternoon to talk to them about it.”

“You’re going to miss living by Dow’s Lake.” I said.

“Yes, it’s a great bachelor apartment, but it has bed bugs. I’ve told the landlord about them, I suggested that he remove the carpet. It doesn’t matter what kind of floor is underneath. He isn’t interested in having it removed. I’m not paying $710. for a place with bed bugs. I hear that Chester has them too. They’re everywhere.

“I talked to Serge yesterday about us sharing a two bedroom apartment somewhere. He seemed interested, but today he isn’t here. I think he’s staying at his friend William’s place, while he is away. He has his own key.”

When Joy came back she said, “That was a waste of time. I still can’t see a doctor until they get my identification sorted out. They’ve moved the viewing of the apartment to two o’clock tomorrow. At least that’s something to look forward to.”

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bwgroup

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4 September 2012,

Today is the first workday after the Labor Day, long weekend. I had a relaxing time at the lake and was anxious to hear any news from my friends. Metro was handing out newspapers as usual. “Good morning, Dennis. Did you have a good weekend?”

“It was great, Metro. How was yours?”

“Good! Are you hoping to see Joy this morning? I haven’t seen her. Maybe she’s still recovering from the weekend.”

I didn’t see her in her usual spot. I looked across the intersection for Silver, but his spot was vacant also. Pat was nowhere to be seen. I was surprised at how disappointed I felt. I wondered about the results of Silver’s appointment with his doctor. I wondered how Joy’s viewing of an apartment went on Friday. Even Shakes, who I sometimes see in the morning, is getting a new apartment. I wonder if he’s moved yet. Sleeping outdoors is so dangerous, I can’t help but worry. Hopefully I’ll see them at noon.

Sitting on the curb near the park, all alone, was Silver. “Hi,” I said, “How was the appointment with your doctor?”

“It was fine. He took some blood tests, but I won’t get the results until next week. I have another appointment for a week Thursday. He should be able to tell me something then. I showed him how swollen my ankles were. He didn’t tell me what was causing the swelling.”

“You were telling me that you had varicose veins, perhaps it’s a circulation problem.”

“That’s what I think it is, but I won’t know for sure until next week.”

“How are you sleeping?” I asked.

“I’ve been sleeping okay. I woke up at 6:30 this morning, did what I had to do, then went back to bed and slept for another couple of hours. I didn’t bother panning today.”

“How was your weekend?”

“It was quiet. My neighbor, Don and I ordered a pizza and watched some movies. That’s about all.”

“I’ll talk to you a bit later, Silver. I’m just going up to say hello to the rest of the guys.” Sitting on the lawn was Little Jake. Standing at the park railing was Shark, Andre, Jacques and Danny who had a guitar case strapped to his back.

“Hi Danny, I said, “I didn’t know you played guitar.”

Shark said, “Either did he, but he knows how to hock it.”

Jacques said, “Maybe it’s not a guitar in the case. Maybe it’s a gun, like in a movie I saw a while ago. There was an Elvis convention and these five guys, dressed in Elvis costumes, robbed a casino. Kurt Russell was in it and another guy with long hair in a ponytail. He was a mean one, shooting into the crowd with a machine gun.”

Jake said, “That was Kevin Costner. The movie was called 3000 Miles to Graceland.”

Shark said, “Dennis meet your new neighbor, Jake. He’s moving into Elaine’s old place, if the landlord ever gets around to fixing it up. He’s supposed to change the carpet, but he didn’t do that when Elaine moved in. He’s drunk most of the time. He knows all the people in the building who drink and will come to the door and ask, ‘Can I have a beer?’ I’ll say, ‘No, but you can take these empties, since you’re here.’ Otherwise the maintenance man will go rooting through the trash for them. You’ll see the landlord drinking on the front steps. If not there, he’ll be on the back steps. The maintenance guy moves things from one apartment to another. When you view the place everything looks all nice and new, then they switch the nice furniture for crap.

“It took Irene ten months to get out of that place. The landlord said that she would be on probation for the first three months, then he was supposed to have her sign a lease, but he never brought it around. When she was moving out he said, ‘You know you’re breaking your lease.’ I said to him, ‘She never signed a lease you drunken bastard. There’s no lease to break.’ He said, ‘You don’t have to get nasty about it.’

“Eventually, we’re going to get all new furniture. Irene and I have a difference of opinion when it comes to buying things. She always wants to buy what’s cheap; like her mattress, she paid $125.00, I paid $300.00, but mine is twice as thick as hers. I don’t want to be sleeping on something that has pieces of metal sticking out. If I want something I pay for it, I don’t care what it costs.”

“So, when are you moving, Jake?”

“They’re supposed to get back to me, but I think it should be next week or the week after.”

Jacques said, “Those Salvation Army people, they don’t look very hard for an apartment for you. It’s okay if you find one yourself, then they’ll help you with moving. Otherwise, they’re useless.”

Danny said, “I nearly had a place lined up last week. I told the landlord that my disability pension would cover the first $450.00 of the rent. If there were any extras my mom would pay them. He could just give her the bank information and she would deposit a check every month. She’s an elder and a Clan leader. She’s been handling my finances for the last twenty years because of my addiction problems.”

“Andre, how was your weekend?” I asked.

“The weekend was pretty wild, but I’m trying to keep it cool today. I have to see my worker to arrange for my identification and my health card, again. This time I’m going to have them keep a copy on my file in case I lose them.

“Here are my workers now.” Two women walked into the park and Andre met them.

Jacques said, “Who are those two? I thought it was a big guy and a girl who came around. Maybe they fired him because he wasn’t doing his job.”

I asked, “Jacques, did you hear if Joy got her place?”

“I saw her Saturday, no it was Friday. She went with her worker, then she was going to 507 to pick up an air mattress.”

“Yes, she didn’t want to bring bed bugs into her new place.”

“It’s best if you don’t have carpets. They make nests everywhere in carpets. I found a big spider web with lots of dead bed bug husks. I love the spiders, me. I don’t mind how many I have of them as long as they keep eating the bed bugs.”

Jake said, “I saw Chester having breakfast at the Mission, but Joy wasn’t there.”

Shark received a telephone call, “Yes, Elaine?” he said. “What’s Hippo doing there? Tell him to get out. Tell him anything — tell him you and Kat have to go out. Tell him you have to go to the doctor. That’s what we had to do last night. We were at Buck’s playing Bingo. Trudy wanted to wash the floors. So Buck said, ‘Okay, Hippo, time to go.’ He left with no problem.

To me he said, “We’ve got Kat with us now.”

“You have a cat?”

“No, Kat is a person, a friend of Elaine’s. She’s over there now. She’s small, doesn’t take up much space — not like Hippo. When we sweep, we can just ask her to lift her feet, there’s no problem.

“Silver hasn’t moved in the last twenty minutes. Is he okay? I don’t think he’s drinking today, is he?”

“Yeah, “ I said, “he has a beer on the go. He’s not feeling too well.”

“I know he went to the doctor last Thursday. Elaine said to me, ‘Make sure he goes to his appointment.’ Our doctors are both in the same direction. He goes to Sandy Hill Clinic, my doctor is further up, but my appointments are Mondays and Wednesdays. Thursday he’s on his own.

I want to go to Brantford to visit my son, but my dad said, ‘It’s not a good time.’ I’d like to go for two weeks but I have to arrange it with my doctor. I said to him, ‘You phone my dad and arrange it. I can’t get anything out of him.’ ”

It was time for me to go. I said good-bye to everyone and headed on my way. Danny was walking ahead of me with the guitar case on his back.

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group3

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21 August 2012

Joy was in her usual spot this morning. The weather was cool with the threat of rain. Joy asked, “Is that the girlfriend of Alphonse, in the next block?”

“Yes, it’s Magdalene. I spoke to her last week after she lost her baby. Later in the week I talked to Ambrose. He said it was a ‘crack baby’ induced prematurely. He had a hole in his heart and his lungs weren’t able to supply oxygen to his other organs.”

“I’m sorry,” said Joy, “but she should be charged. Every kid I’ve brought into this world has been clean. I quit crack, cigarettes and alcohol while I was pregnant. That way, they at least had a fighting chance in the world. The night before my oldest was born, I smoked a joint. It showed up in the baby’s blood tests. They were ready to take him away from me. I said, “You’re going to take my baby away, because I smoked one joint? Over my dead body!

“My sister had a ‘crack baby’. You couldn’t even look at him or he would spaz out. Can you imagine what kind of  life is in store for that kid?

“Alphonse is on the skids with a lot of people right now. He and Magdalene have been sleeping in the hut with  Andre, Hippo,  Little Jake, Weasel and his dog Bear. Bear sleeps by the door, as a guard. Everyone knows that you have to be careful opening the door because Bear is behind it. Ambrose came by one night falling down drunk and just pushed in the door. It scraped Bear’s paw and she had to get five stitches. Nobody’s seen Alphonse since. Bear is still limping and has to have special ointment put on her paw twice a day.

“I just love Bear, she’s really a sweet dog, but has horrible breath. Weasel said to me, ‘I feed her Dentabone.’ I said, ‘That’s for removing plaque and tartar from her teeth. For her breath you have to give her Doggie Mints. If those don’t work she should be taken to a vet. That probably won’t happen, because all Weasel’s money goes on crack. I gave Doggie Mints to my dog, Roxie; she was a boxer and had great breath. She used to sleep with me every night. I didn’t even mind if she put her paw on my face when she slept. I couldn’t tolerate that with any of the men I’ve lived with.

“Like me, she was epileptic. If I had a seizure, she’d pat my face until I came out of it. I’d do the same for her. One time she had a prolonged, grand mal seizure and died before I could get her to the vet.”

I said, “I saw Bearded Bruce last Thursday. He and Inuq have applied for housing.”

“Yeah, I met them at Chuck’s new place. They were staying there. Maybe I should have held out at Chuck’s a while longer. His new place is a huge two bedroom. I don’t know about Inuq. She and Bruce have been together three years now, but while he was in prison she was living with other guys. I met her one day with her oldest son. He isn’t of legal drinking age, but he was staggering drunk.”

I said, “Bruce and Inuq are each getting their own apartments. That way Bruce said, ‘When we get into a fight we’ll each have our own place to go home to.”

Joy said, “I don’t know what’s happening with Fran. They’ve called her into court about three times. She’s so afraid of Gene, she doesn’t even want him to see her. It was just January that he got out of prison for beating her the last time. He was in a holding cell with my Jake, before they moved him to Millhaven.”

Chester stopped by to say hello. To Joy he said, “I didn’t hear you leave this morning.”

“If I’d stopped to make the bed, you probably would have heard me. Is there anything you want me to bring home?”

“I wouldn’t mind some pot. Do you know where I could get some?”

“You could try the Mission. I could give you some phone numbers, but I don’t know if anyone is coming downtown this afternoon. I saved some roaches. You might be able to get one joint with what’s in the can on the kitchen table.

“Chester, I want to use your phone later. I want to make an appointment with the Elizabeth Fry Society.

To me she said, “I’ve been thinking of looking into some kind of employment. I couldn’t do nine to five, but I’d like landscaping, maybe with flexible hours — of course, I’d want to be paid under the table… I’m good at growing flowers and plants. A neighbor, one time, had a couple of rose bushes that never bloomed. He was going to dig them up and toss them out. I said, ‘Let me try to do something with them. I dug them up, replanted them somewhere else, and within a couple of months they had pink and white blooms on them.

Noon in the park was quiet. Weasel was asleep with Bear under a tree. Andre was drunk, professing his love for Joy. “We could make such a great team,” he said to her.

“Yeah, sure we would,” said Joy.

Weasel awoke and asked, “What time is it?”

Bearded Bruce said, “It’s only twelve ten. Go back to sleep for another hour.” Later Weasel said, “I don’t remember coming here.”

Bruce said, “We started out up the hill. Then we came down here.”

“Weasel,” said Joy, “you missed a great fight. That big native guy and Andre were scrapping. He pushed Andre down on his ass. Andre got into that karate stance he uses, but he was so drunk that he couldn’t keep his balance. I kept egging him on saying, ‘You shouldn’t let him get away with that.’ Andre took a swing, missed, and the big guy pushed him on his ass again. The cops were strolling through the park and didn’t do a thing. I was sure someone would get a ticket.”

Weasel walked over to Hippo. I overheard him say, “If you even try to get up, I’ll knock you back down.” He then walked down the line to Bruce who said, “Well, didn’t we wake up with a gut full of grumpy juice?”

“What?” said Weasel, “Can I have a cigarette?”

“Of course you can,” said Bruce.

I asked Bruce, “How are the arrangements coming for housing?”

“Monday, I got my first Welfare check for $300. I’m waiting for my program (Ontario Disability Support Program) to kick in. Nothing can happen until that’s in place. Then we’ll sign the papers for housing. Hopefully, we’ll have a place in September.”

William came by with a two-wheeled cart. “I got this from a bar that was being refitted. One wheel was off the cart, but I took it to the Shepherd’s and a guy helped me to get the wheel back on. We inflated the tires and it’s good as new. The bar was throwing out a mini freezer, a fridge, all sorts of stuff. I saw some empty beer bottles in the garage and asked if I could have them. They gave me six cases of two fours, so I got $14.40 for those.

“Hippo, don’t throw that wine bottle away. I’ll take it.”

“Come get it yourself.” William rooted through the garbage container for the wine bottle and also pulled out a large paper coffee cup with a plastic lid.

Joy said to me, “I hate it when he does that.”

“William,” said Joy, “you’re not going to drink out of that are you?”

“It’ll be fine. I’ll swish a little beer in it first, to clean it out. I forgot my cup at home.” He pulled out a can of beer and filled the paper cup, so it looked like he was drinking coffee.

He said to me, “Would you like to know what I did with the Tim Horton’s card you gave me? I didn’t sell it to buy beer. I bought two coffee, a bagel with cream cheese — did you know that Tim Horton’s ran out of meat? I was in there at 10.00 pm, they close at 11:00, they didn’t have any meat. I went in the next day, a bit earlier. I still had about $1.50 on the card, and got some kind of meat wrap. I made good use of the card.

“I met a woman in the park once. I was sitting on a bench, shaved, dapper looking. We started talking. It turned out that we had both previously lived in Montreal. We talked about that for a while. She said, ‘You’re a very interesting man.’

“I was straight forward with her. I said, ‘I left my wife because she had been cheating on me. I lost my job, my unemployment insurance ran out and now I’m homeless.’ She said, ‘I left my husband because he had been cheating on me.’ She was a beautiful woman, had lots of money, ran her own business. She said, ‘I have some errands to run. Will you wait for me here, for about twenty minutes?’ I said, ‘I won’t wait right here. I was planning to go to the liquor store to buy a couple of bottles of beer, but that will only take about fifteen minutes, so I’ll be here before you get back.’ She said, ‘Can I give you money to buy a six-pack? Then we can share a few beer.’ I said, ‘You don’t have to give me any money. I’ve got a cheque on me for $547.00. I’ll buy a six pack.’ She said, ‘You’re so generous.’ When I got back with the beer she had two huge bags with her. She said, ‘I’ve bought you a gift.’ There were clothes in there, chips, chocolate bars. She even bought me a return ticket to Toronto and back. She said, ‘If things don’t work out for you in Ottawa, come visit me in Toronto. The tickets are good for a year.’ She gave me her address and phone number. I said I’d call her.

“My apartment was robbed. They took my back-pack with the address and phone number in it. She’d told me where she lived, but I couldn’t remember. I couldn’t even remember her last name, so I couldn’t look her up in the phone book. That’s the way it goes. Perhaps, we’ll run into each other some other time.”

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