Posts Tagged ‘alcoholism’

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12 July 2012

As I got off the bus this morning I was greeted by Metro, “Good Morning, Dennis, Joy’s here today.”

“Thanks, Metro. Have a good day.”

Next, I was greeted by Two-four, “Good morning, Dennis. Joy’s here today.”

“Thanks, Two-four. Have a good day.”

I could just barely see Joy’s cap and her two feet sticking out behind the concrete partition. “Hi, Joy.”

“Hi, Sunshine, how are you today?”

“I’m great. How do you like staying at Chester’s place?”

“Like it. He’s quiet, not like Chuck. Have the house all cleaned and it’ll stay cleaned. There’s no dog tracking in mud all the time. The fridge is full of food. We had bacon and eggs this morning. Have all my laundry done. The only thing I’m waiting for is my GST (Goods and Services Tax) check from the government. I don’t think Chuck would hold that back on me. He says he hasn’t received his yet, either.”

Said, “I haven’t seen Silver or Hippo lately? Heard that Silver is panning near the Mission.”

“That’s strange,” said Joy, “I can see Silver going to the Mission for meals, but he’s had his spot for over ten years. He has regulars that come by. One that drops him a twenty. Can’t see him sticking his nose up at that, to pan near the Mission. As far as Hippo is concerned, I think he’s visiting his folks in Oshawa.

“Another couple of people I don’t expect to see are Daimon and Lucy. He wouldn’t dare come down on crutches. He’d be too vulnerable, and he’s made a lot of enemies. I think he’s going to be lying low for quite a while.”

“Have an appointment to see my probation officer today. On the card she gave me, the date reads Thursday, July eleventh. The eleventh was yesterday. I just noticed it this morning. There shouldn’t be any problem. I’ll tell her I was going by the day of the week, not the date.”

At the park, this noon was Shakes (asleep), Lucy (asleep), Little Jake (barely awake), Andre, Hippo, Ian, Danny, Joy, Chester, Wolf, and his dog Shaggy. Asked Hippo, “You look all cleaned up, you’ve shaved. Have you been home visiting your folks?”

“No, for the last week, I’ve been staying at the West End Hotel (the West End Detention Center).”

“Hippo, did they remove your stitches while you were there?” asked Andre.

“Yeah, the nurse took them out.”

Shaggy was contentedly eating dog treats and licking Joy’s toes. “I’m not sure I like her that close,” said Joy, “Last time she bit my ankle, and she drew blood.”

Danny said, “One time, when I had my work boots on, Shaggy bit my boot. Her teeth went through a quarter of an inch of leather and left a mark on my foot.”

“Did you hear that Bear got a ticket?” said Wolf. “Can you imagine giving a ticket to a dog?”

“Can imagine it,” said Andre, “She’s going to defend herself, your honor.”

“Why would they give her a ticket?” I asked.

“Maybe because of the holes that have been dug in the lawn,’ said Wolf. The cop asked me if it was Shaggy that dug them. Said, ‘No, it was the black one, not the white one.’

Andre said, “You should have seen the breakfast I had this morning. It was all the stuff I got while I was panning last night. Had calamari, octopus, all kinds of seafood, nachos, and fajitas. At The Greasy Oven, the owner pumped up the tires on my bicycle. Holding the bike, my hat was on the ground. Some women came by and asked me, ‘Do you think the man who was here would mind if we left him some food?’ I said, ‘No, ma’am, I’m sure he wouldn’t mind. He would appreciate it. I’ll guard it until he comes back.’”

Joy said, “I walked by you guys around six this morning, Ian was asleep, and his pecker was out of his pants, just blowing in the wind. What a revolting sight, first thing in the morning.”

Ian said, “I must have gotten up in the night to pee and forgot to zip up. I was really wasted.

“My people (the people of the Heiltsuk Nation) have had an offer of a billion dollars if they allow an Alaskan pipeline company to go under our waters. We’re on an island off the west coast. We have over a million miles of water rights. We turned down their offer. Can you imagine what would happen if there was an oil leak? It would wreck the fishing industry, kill the ducks and waterfowl. We’d have nothing to live on at all.”

Andre said, “I was drinking with this guy last night. We were sharing my bottle. After it was finished, he brought out a bottle of his own. I said, ‘Now you bring out your bottle? You can be sure that we’re going to stay up until this is finished. If you fall asleep, I’ll finish it myself.’”

Joy was having trouble with her phone. “This is useless.” she said, “I’ve got the phone plan that Jacques recommended. For one thing, I only have free calling after six at night and on weekends. I never phone anyone on the weekend unless it’s seeing if any of you guys are down here. If you’re not, I don’t come. The rest of the time I have to text. I don’t know how to make spaces, so everything comes out as one garbled line. I just got a text back from Glen. He says, ‘Who the fuck is this?’ I answered, ‘Joy.’ he understood that.”

A woman walked toward the group and spoke to Jake. He put on his backpack and walked away with her.

“Who was that?” asked Danny.

“That’s his social worker.”

“You mean, a social worker will come looking for her client?”

“Not many will, but she does.”

~~~

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29 April 2015

Bearded Bruce was using the pay phone. I waited for him to finish. He said, “Hey bud, it’s good to see you. It’s been a couple of months now. It was a brutal winter.”

I said, “I’ve been looking for some of my friends. Markus, I talked with him yesterday. Met Magdalene and Native Nance. Saw Greg and Luther. Little Jake, I’ve talked to him on the bus.”

“You won’t see Jake for a while. Three days ago, it was check day.

“We’re still around. I pan on this corner then move on to the next block later on. I’m just waiting to hear about some work”

I asked, “What kind of work will you be doing?”

“Landscaping, the same as last year.”

Remembered that Weasel and Bruce shared that job last year. I didn’t want to mention that sad topic.

“Yeah, I’ll be doing some word for Stella, as soon as the ground is dry enough.”

I asked, “Have you seen Joy lately. Nancy was at her place for Easter dinner. Joy seemed to be doing fine then.”

“Well,” said Bruce, “she wasn’t inclined to listen to the advice of her doctor.”

“Yes,” I said, “I’m well aware of that.”

Bruce said, “I talked to Mariah yesterday, she hasn’t seen Joy for three days and she’s holding her check for her. She knocked on Joy’s door, but there was no answer. It’s not like Joy to miss collecting her check. I’m going to drop by her place tomorrow.”

Said, “It was great seeing you, Bruce. Take care.”

“Take care, bud.”

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wheel

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30 April 2015

“Good morning, Chuck, how’s your day going for you.”

“Dennis, I hate to be the bearer of sad news, but Joy passed away. When they discovered the body, they figured that she had been dead for about three days. I almost wish it were me instead of her. I’ll miss her giving me a kiss on the cheek. Asking, ‘How’s it going you old fart?’ “

Said, “She’ll be missed by a lot of people. I’ve often told her my troubles. She was sympathetic, or at least acted that way. Have you heard any news about funeral arrangements?”

“They may have a small service at the Mission. I don’t know if she had any family.”

“She has five sons and two sisters who live out of town. She also has an uncle who would regularly ride in on his motorcycle.”

Chuck said, “I didn’t know that. When I die, I don’t want any fuss. Arranged for a woman to have me cremated and then spread my ashes on the St Lawrence. Enjoyed myself out there.

“As far as the rest of my family is concerned, they can all go to hell. I don’t want a service, no notice in the paper, nothing written about me. I don’t even want them to be informed there was a service. They’d only go there to be seen. They’d hang around saying ‘Oh, Daddy this and oh, Daddy that.’ Now they don’t give a shit. Like the native point of view, ‘Today is a good day to die’. Even in the bible, they say let the dead bury their dead (Luke 9:60:  Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”)

“There was a drunk guy who came around yesterday who said, ‘Chuck, it’s so good to see you. Remember this and remember that.’ I didn’t remember the guy. Later it came to me, I’d throw him out of a bar where I’d worked as a beer jockey. He gave me a dollar, but I don’t want to see him again.”

Said, I must go now Chuck, but take care. I’m sorry about Joy, we’ll miss her.”

“Yes, we all have to die.”

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11 July 2012

This morning I was passing the library. Inside, I saw a man sitting on a bench, and a backpack at his side. His hair was long and stringy, and he looked half asleep. I wondered whether I should approach him. I didn’t know what his reaction would be. Decided to take a chance. “Hi, would you like some breakfast?”

He was drinking from a dark plastic bottle. He didn’t acknowledge me or stop drinking. “If you want breakfast, there’s a Tim Horton’s on the next corner.”

Held out a Tim Horton’s card. “I’m just offering, no obligation.”

“No, thanks.”

“Have a good day.”

At the park this afternoon, Gaston said, “I was talking to one of my private clients. We have been working with her for a long time doing odd jobs, and anything she needs help with. She has houses in Arizona and California. We’ve been invited to come down with her and manage one of her houses. All our expenses will be covered. She’ll even arrange for Molly Maid to come in, while we’re away, to manage our existing clients who need their houses cleaned.”

Larry and I discovered that we were both born and raised in Saskatoon. “I lived there for seventeen years,” he said. ” After that, we moved nearby to Osler and Warman. I wasn’t with my real mother and father but lived with a white, foster family. I always felt bad that other kids had parents, but I didn’t, and that’s the way it was. I stayed with that family until I saw the guy hitting his wife. Then I moved out. I went to Winnipeg where I grew up quick.” He lifted up his tee shirt and pointed to his ribs, “This scar is where I was stabbed — a souvenir of Winnipeg. Then I went to prison.

“Had a wife, we split up, but we have a son. Whenever I’m straight and sober, I visit him. He’s seventeen now and he loves me. I’ve never had anyone love me before. We’re neighbors. My ex-wife’s boyfriend doesn’t like me to come around. He thinks that we’re having sex together.

“Educated, I used to be a deeply religious person, went to church every Sunday. Man, I really jumped in with both feet. Then I had an epiphany. It was a dream or a vision where I saw two books on a table, one white, one black. Kept trying to reach for the black one — the bible is usually black — but I was guided to the white one. Shortly after, I came across the book ‘Conversations with God’ by Neale Donald Walsch.  It’s a book where the author asks questions of God and God answers. It opened my eyes. Previously, I felt guilty all the time. Now, I feel free. Can create my own destiny.”

Larry is affected by a pigment disorder (non-segmental vitiligo) above his upper lip. He let his moustache grow, one side came in white, the other black. He had been teased about it, so he shaved it off. “Now I remember why I stopped shaving,” he said. “I must have cut myself three times. That’s what happens when you use those cheap disposable razors, they give you at the Mission. They get them at a discount because the blades have nicks in them. Remember using one of those to shave, and I don’t mean my legs, it made a bloody mess. If I buy one of those five-blade razors it will last me three months.”

Loretta said, “Do you see the self-mutilation job I did to myself? Her legs were covered with bruises. “Got other bruises on my ribs. Larry and I and some others were going to Bluesfest, but we had some booze to drink first. We walked across the black bridge. I’m afraid of bridges anyway. We were on our way back, nearly across the bridge, when I lost my balance and fell over the edge. Landed in the river on some sharp rocks. Could have killed myself. Larry helped me to get out of the water.”

“How many lives is that you’ve used up?” asked Larry.

“Two, I have seven left.”

 ~~~

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6 July 2012

Another sweltering day at the park (39 degrees Celsius, 102 degrees Fahrenheit). As I approached the group, I saw Larry and his mother, Anne, seated on the grass. Trudy, Buck, and his dog Dillinger were standing by his bicycle. Wolf and Debbie were in a heated discussion while his dog Shaggy lay panting by the railing.

I shook hands with Larry, waved to Anne then extended my hand to Trudy. She hugged me instead. I extended my hand to Buck. He said, “What? I don’t get a hug?” I hugged him and said, “Share the love, brother.”

Walked over to Wolf. He said, “Go away, I don’t want to talk to you right now. Walked back to sit with Larry and Anne. Larry said to me, “With this hot weather I guess you’ll be going to your cabin this weekend.”

“Yes, I’ll be leaving at six tonight and will be coming back Sunday evening. Hope the weather stays like this.”

“Dennis,” said Wolf, “I didn’t mean to be rude. Well, yes, I did. Anyway, I can’t break my train of thought, or I won’t get it back again. Need to make eye contact. See, now Trudy is standing between us. Trudy, couldn’t you go around the other way? Can’t you see we’re trying to have a conversation here?”

“I’m sorry, Wolf,” said Trudy.

Moved closer so I could hear him better.

Buck said to Wolf, “Your German team didn’t do too well in the Euro Cup.”

“We didn’t do well in the last two world wars, either.”

“Dennis,” said Wolf, “We’re about the same age, so you know what I’m talking about. That murder in St. Isidore — that’s what Debbie and I were discussing — have you been following that in the newspaper.”

“No,” I said, “I don’t know anything about it.”

“Come on man, it was on the front page of the Sun, yesterday. You’re smart.  I thought you kept up with what’s going on in the world. A twenty-four-year-old guy was murdered in St. Isidore. He was lured behind an elementary school by three girls, where he was stabbed and murdered by three boys. The oldest was twenty. The headline read, ‘Seven Lives Wasted’. Can you imagine what those families are going through? Not only the family of the murdered guy but the others as well.

“I have a son. I don’t see him anymore. When he was nineteen years old, he murdered someone. What’s with these kids? There’s no discipline, that’s what’s the matter. When I was a boy, I had to set the table, the knives would have to be just so, the forks over here — none of these people would know what I’m talking about. If I got something wrong, I’d get a smack across the back of my head. That’s my Germanic background. Yours is similar, I think. What is it, Scottish?”

‘No, Irish.”

“That’s not it.”

“Icelandic.”

“Icelandic, that’s it. Vikings, raping and pillaging, just like the Huns. Anyway, back to St. Isidore, the armpit of Quebec. What’s with these kids? Did they think they would get away with it?

“That’s one of the reasons I don’t come here on weekends. You just never know what’s going to happen. Hippo’s been jumped. Rocky’s been jumped. They’re a lot bigger and tougher than I am. Slept at ‘the heater’ and I was darn glad to see Andre and Hippo come along. Glad to have — what’s the word I’m looking for?”

“Protection?”

“That’s it, protection. When I’m anywhere in this area, I know I can call out and someone may come to my rescue.

“This heat is bad. When I cross that line of shade, where it meets the full glare of the sun, it’s like walking into a wall.  Shaggy’s not going to be riding much today. Of course, she’ll be in the cart going up the bridge.”

I said, “Maybe you should get in the cart and have Larry push.”

“That cart wouldn’t hold me. It’s meant to be pulled behind a bicycle. Jacques, big Jacques, you know how strong he is. He’s fixed it a couple of times for me. That cart’s getting old. Shaggy and I were hit by the car when she was three years old, so that’s over eight years.”

“I notice that the front has been changed. Don’t these carts usually have wheels in front?”

“Yes, the wheels stuck way out in front. It was hard to turn. Jacques cut it shorter and replaced the wheels with the blade of a hockey stick. Now it slides.

“Anyway, on my way here this morning I stopped to buy Shaggy some dog food. She eats well. It reminds me of when Little Jake first got sick. I fed him well, maybe too well, it seemed to make him worse.”

Asked, “How is Jake now?”

“I don’t want to talk about Jake. Getting back to dog food. Remember being at the counter and getting four five-dollar bills as change.  Later, I wanted to buy five grams of weed and I couldn’t find my money.  I had to take everything out of my pockets and at last, in this tiny little pocket of my jeans, I found the four bills stuffed inside.

“So, I talked enough. Do I rate a chapter in your book? Fuck off then, go away. I’m just kidding. But, seriously, it’s time for me to go before it gets too hot.”

Before Chester left, he said to me, “By the way, Joy was here earlier, but she had to leave because of the heat.”

“Thanks, Chester. Have a good day.”

I went back to sit with Larry, Anne and Trudy. I heard Larry say to Anne, “Chester asked me if I thought there was any chance of you and him getting back together. I told him, ‘Ask her yourself. It has nothing to do with me.’ ”

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5 July 2012

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

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

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

“You tell me, Shakes.”

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

“Now I know, Shakes.”

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

I asked, “Was anybody here yesterday?”

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

Charles offered me wild blackberries from a large plastic basket.

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

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

“What’s in it?” asked Andre.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

.

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3 July 2012

At the park today I sat next to Shark.

“I lost my phone last night,” he said. “The guy who found it had a heavy European accent. He must have gone through my entire contact list. I know he phoned my landlord, he phoned Irene, she said, ‘Who are you and what are you doing with my husband’s phone.’ He finally called Jacques, who was with me at the time. The guy had an appointment near Sherbourne and Shuter at ten forty-five, so he asked if I could meet him there at ten forty. It was good for me because I had to go to the liquor store anyway. So, I went there and got it back.

“I was going to get a new phone. The billing date for this one is near the end of the month. By that time, I usually don’t want to spend money on a phone — I want to eat. If I get a phone with a billing date on the first of the month I can pay it on check day, along with my rent.

“I also got thrown in the can last night – charged with being drunk in a public place.”

Shakes said, “Shark, we both arrived at the Shep at the same time. The Sally Ann dropped me off just as some fine piggies were throwing you out of a cruiser.

“I said, ‘Hey, don’t treat him like that! He’s my friend.’ They said, ‘Stay back, Shakes!’ ”

Shark said, “They went through everything in my bag. I had a bottle of wine and five grams of pot in there. I showed the cop my license for medicinal marijuana. He said to the guy at the Shep, ‘Don’t give him the pot until he’s ready to leave, or else he’ll smoke it on your property.’

“It’s a good thing they didn’t give it to me. There would have been a lineup of people wanting some.

“I phoned 311, run by the Salvation Army. They’ll drive you home, provide you with a sleeping bag, or take you to any of the shelters. They close at three o’clock. I guess I phoned five minutes after. I just got a recording. It took me about an hour to walk home.

“Irene was pissed because I didn’t take her home from bingo, but I had to meet with George. By the way, do I have any dobber marks on me?” He took off his cap.

“Yes, you have one right on top of your head.”

“Trudy, why don’t you have any dobber marks on you.?”

“I just stayed far away from the people with dobbers.”

“This is my meds day,” said Shark. “I have to walk to Yonge and George. That’s where I get my morphine and marijuana.”

“Andre,” I said, “how was your weekend?”

“Good, great even! On Canada Day (July first) I was panning on Yonge and Dundas. There were a bunch of women around, so I started belly dancing. One woman gave me a couple of beers, and another gave me some pot. I got drops of five dollars and ten dollars. It was great!”

“Shark,” I asked, “how are you and Irene getting on?”

“It’s iffy. You know women.” Shark’s cell phone began to ring. “She’s just phoning me now. Here talk to her. Ask her if I’m a complete asshole.”

“Irene, is Shark a complete asshole?”

“Shark, she says you’re a partial asshole.”

“Ask her if she wants me to bring her a lobster”

“Do you want Shark to bring you a lobster?”

“She doesn’t like lobster,” I said.

“I knew that. Ask her if she wants some shrimp. She hates shrimp.”

“How about shrimp?”

“No, to shrimp.”

“Ask her if she wants fish sticks.”

“Do you want fish sticks?”

“Fish sticks are a go, Shark. Here she is. I’ll let you talk to her.”

“Irene asks if you’re going to be here tomorrow?”

“Only if she brings me some fish sticks.”

~~~

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29 June 2012

It was hot at noon, with a pleasant breeze. A large crowd had gathered at the park. There was some concern that the size of the crowd may attract the police, so Jacques, Outcast, Silver, Joy and Pierre moved further down.

I sat beside Shark. I asked him, “This is the weekend that Irene moves in, isn’t it?”

“No, a month from now, August first. She’s on her own now. She invited me over to her place for six o’clock last night. I brought pork chops, potatoes – two bags of groceries.

“She said, ‘Get out!’

” ‘You mean right now?’ I said

“ ‘Get out!’

“ ‘Okay,’ I said, ‘I’m going, but don’t expect me back!’ I packed up the groceries and left.”

“Had she been drinking?” I asked.

“Had she ever. She was into the lemonade coolers that are only seven percent alcohol. Then she added regular vodka which is thirty-seven percent. These things taste so good that, on a hot day, you tend to drink them like water.

“She phoned me at midnight, one o’clock, two o’clock. She phoned Buck at three o’clock.”

I asked Gaston how his life was going. He said, “My daughter is in Cambodia now. She’s trained for eleven years to become what’s called a medical engineer. That’s an interdisciplinary degree applying principles of engineering, medicine and biology. Her husband is a lawyer. She’s been there a week and says she feels comfortable living there permanently.

“I told her, ‘Give it six months before you decide to buy a house, or take on any other long-term commitments.’ ”

“The last time we talked, you mentioned that you do some writing. Have you published any books or articles?”

“No, I have some started, but recently I’ve been attending a class in psychology and kinesiology at the university. I’ve previously taken them separately, but now they’ve been combined.

“I’m working on a history of my family, but many of the records were destroyed in a fire. That will be a long-term project. My father’s family is from Sudbury, my mother’s is from Val d’Or. Our family was living in Toronto but went to visit family in Sudbury where I was born, on January 1, 1950 – right on the dot of midnight.

“I have poor circulation. See the burst blood vessels in my ankles. I used to sleep with two pillows under my head and one under my feet. It’s easier on your heart if your feet are elevated. I raised the bottom of my bed, and now I’m able to get rid of one pillow.”

Shark said, “I sleep with four pillows.”

“Is that so you don’t roll out of bed?”

“I still roll out of bed.”

“Gaston said, “I live on Elm Street. I can remember when there were trees on each side of the street arching over. It was like driving through a tunnel. The city decided to widen the street so they cut down all the trees. About five years later they came to the conclusion that there was too much traffic, so they narrowed the street again, but without the trees. It could have been done differently – circulating the traffic around the trees. We need the trees. They give off oxygen and take away carbon dioxide.”

Andre had been sitting in a cross-legged position, sound asleep. When he awoke he smiled and waved at me.

“So, Shark,“ I asked, “you’re not moving?”

“I’ve talked to my landlord. I’d like to get a two-bedroom apartment. When one becomes available, he’ll move me free of charge. We get along well.”

Joy said, “No Gene, I’m not coming on to your girlfriend, although I did have a wife for a year and a half while I was in prison.”

Andre said, “That big cop does not like Little Jake.”

“It’s because he’s always mouthing off,” said Joy. “He’s like a dog gnawing on a bone, he never quits.

“They have to be really careful with Jake because of his HIV. He always has open sores on his lips or scrapes where he’s fallen down.

“Do you remember when there was the big hep c scare? I spit at a cop and got eighteen months for assault with a deadly weapon. I didn’t spit anywhere near him. That could happen to Jake if he isn’t careful.”

Andre said, “I was panning on Sherbourne, yesterday. This suit passes me and says, ‘Get a job!’ I said, ‘Okay, hire me!’ He said, ‘Bathe first!’  I said, ‘You know, just because I don’t have access to a shower, doesn’t mean that I don’t wash – all over.”

Joy said, “That’s an image I don’t want in my head.”

“I’m just saying.”

Cruising up the lawn on his bicycle, tattooed from head to foot, is our friendly neighborhood crack dealer.

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27 June 2012

This morning Joy was sitting on her storage box, talking to Chester. They were finalizing the arrangements for Joy to move in. Chester shook my hand and then said goodbye.

“I still haven’t told Chuck that I’m moving, but I won’t be giving him any rent money for July. I’ll give him a hundred towards the cable bill. He’s really been nasty to me lately. He phoned me at the park yesterday and asked, ‘Are you coming home tonight?’ I said, ‘I don’t know, maybe I will, maybe I won’t.’ ‘If you do,’ he said, ‘bring me some pot.’

Andre came trudging up the sidewalk with his backpack, a raincoat and his folding stool. “I don’t know what happened last night, but I found this in my cap.” He held up a business card from a ninety-nine-dollar hooker.

I said, “That should give you some clue.”

“No, that’s not in my price range. What really scared me is finding this rock in my cap.” He held up a one-pound rock. “This swung in my cap makes a mean weapon, just like a billy club. I vaguely remember saying to some guy, ‘You want my money? Try and take it from me.’ I don’t know what happened after that. I went a bit haywire yesterday. I nearly got in a fight with Daimon. I said, ‘Your brother is three times your size and I took him, so come and get it.’ His brother is huge — twenty-two-inch arms, about six-foot-seven. He’s a monster. He’d have to duck to go through a door sideways.

“I’m going to have to go to work. I need a drink.” With that, he left.

I asked Joy, “If Daimon just got out of prison, would he still be an addict?”

“It’s much easier to get drugs on the inside than it is on the outside.”

“So,” I asked, “did I miss anything after I left yesterday?”

“No, It was pretty quiet. I waited for Pierre to come back. Then we watched a few videos. His son is twenty-four years old. He’s autistic and has a mental age of about twelve. We get along great. We were about to watch Paranormal 2. He said to me, ‘You’re going to be scared.’ I said, ‘I don’t think so.’ There is a part where this guy is being dragged off the bed by a demon. I jumped off the couch and ran down the hall. Everyone got a good laugh out of that.”

On my way to the park, I met Serge. “How are you doing, Serge?” I asked.

“I’m fine. I’m just going to the bench near the bank. I want to sit down before I fall down again.”

“Take care, Serge.”

“See you.”

At the park, the usual congregation was in attendance. There was lots of excitement in the neighborhood. Emile was swearing. He dragged Ian by the ankles for about twenty feet. Then Ian and Shakes started fighting, rolling around on the lawn.

I sat next to Joy and asked, “What’s this about?”

“Ian is drunk and was being a dickhead to everyone. Andre had enough and went after him.”

Ian eventually slunk back into the circle. “I don’t know what I did wrong?”

Andre answered, “Your woman screwed you over, and pressed charges against you. Now you’re drunk. You ask us for help. Sure, we’re going to help you, we’re family, but don’t act like a dickhead and treat us like shit.”

I noticed that Shakes’ leg was bleeding and that he had a burn scar near his ankle. “How did that happen?” I asked Joy.

“I’m not sure of the details. I don’t think he remembers. Someone set him on fire. The same thing happened to another homeless guy sleeping on a park bench. Someone doused him with gasoline, then set him on fire. He was wearing a plastic raincoat and it melted into his skin. He was released from the hospital and was staying at the Sally Ann, but after three days of pain he just gave up and died.”

Joy asked Andre and Jake, “Where’s your brother from another mother, Hippo?”

“He got money from his mother, now he doesn’t feel that he should associate with the likes of us.”

“He’s being a real asshole, considering all you’ve done to help him. If he comes back to your place (behind the dumpsters in the back of Starbucks) you should lock him out.”

“I’ll do more than lock him out, I’ll knock him out.”

“Did everyone hear the good news?” asked Joy, “Rocky just told me that Daimon and Lucy got beat up by some black dude named Buddy. Lucy was knocked out. Daimon was stomped and has a broken leg. It happened last night. Rocky was there, I wish he’d caught it on video.”

“I’m sorry to hear that,” said Andre, “I was hoping to do that myself.”

Gene said, “Daimon’s not so tough. He kept bragging about his maximum-security prison background, but I beat him one time. He sucker-punched me on the side of the head. He was surprised that I came back with three punches. I knocked him into a closet. Then he ran away like somebody’s bitch.”

“When I was still with my Jake,” said Joy, “Daimon came after me. Jake pushed him and Daimon bounced twice on his ass. Jake said, ‘Don’t even think of getting up.’

To me, Joy said, “Chester says I can move in anytime, even if I haven’t got my check yet. I hope that Chuck doesn’t have a hissy fit when I tell him that I’m leaving. Maybe I should pack my clothes first. I don’t want him throwing my stuff out the door or anything.”

~~~

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12 July 2012

As I got off the bus this morning I was greeted by Metro, “Good Morning, Dennis, Joy’s here today.”

“Thanks, Metro. Have a good day.”

Next, I was greeted by Two-four, “Good morning, Dennis. Joy’s here today.”

“Thanks, Two-four. Have a good day.”

Could just barely see Joy’s cap and her two feet sticking out behind the concrete partition. “Hi, Joy.”

“Hi, Sunshine, how are you today?”

“I’m great. How do you like staying at Chester’s place?”

“I like it. He’s quiet, not like Chuck. Have the house all cleaned and it’ll stay clean. There’s no dog tracking in mud all the time. The fridge is full of food. We had bacon and eggs this morning. Have all my laundry done. The only thing I’m waiting for is my GST (Goods and Services Tax) check from the government. I don’t think Chuck would hold that back on me. He says he hasn’t received his yet, either.”

Said, “I haven’t seen Silver or Hippo lately? Heard that Silver is panning near the Mission.”

“That’s strange,” said Joy, “I can see Silver going to the Mission for meals, but he’s had his spot for over ten years. He has regulars that come by. One that drops him a twenty. Can’t see him sticking his nose up at that, to pan near the Mission. As far as Hippo is concerned, I think he’s visiting his folks in Oshawa.

“Another couple of people I don’t expect to see are Daimon and Lucy. He wouldn’t dare come down on crutches. He’d be too vulnerable, and he’s made a lot of enemies. I think he’s going to be lying low for quite a while.”

“I have an appointment to see my probation officer today. On the card she gave me, the date reads Thursday, July eleventh. The eleventh was yesterday. I just noticed it this morning. There shouldn’t be any problem. I’ll tell her I was going by the day of the week, not the date.”

At the park, this noon was Shakes (asleep), Lucy (asleep), Little Jake (barely awake), Andre, Hippo, Ian, Danny, Joy, Chester, Wolf, and his dog Shaggy. Asked Hippo, “You look all cleaned up, you’ve shaved. Have you been home visiting your folks?”

“No, for the last week, I’ve been staying at the West End Hotel (the West End Detention Center).”

“Hippo, did they remove your stitches while you were there?” asked Andre.

“Yeah, the nurse took them out.”

Shaggy was contentedly eating dog treats and licking Joy’s toes. “I’m not sure I like her that close,” said Joy, “Last time she bit my ankle, and she drew blood.”

Danny said, “One time, when I had my work boots on, Shaggy bit my boot. Her teeth went through a quarter of an inch of leather and left a mark on my foot.”

“Did you hear that Bear got a ticket?” said Wolf. “Can you imagine giving a ticket to a dog?”

“Can imagine it,” said Andre, “She’s going to defend herself, your honor.”

“Why would they give her a ticket?” I asked.

“Maybe because of the holes that have been dug in the lawn,’ said Wolf. The cop asked me if it was Shaggy that dug them. Said, ‘No, it was the black one, not the white one.’

Andre said, “You should have seen the breakfast I had this morning. It was all the stuff I got while I was panning last night. Had calamari, octopus, all kinds of seafood, nachos, and fajitas. I was at The Greasy Oven and the owner pumped up the tires on my bicycle. Holding the bike, my hat was on the ground. Some women came by and asked me, ‘Do you think the man who was here would mind if we left him some food?’ Said, ‘No, ma’am, I’m sure he wouldn’t mind. He would appreciate it. I’ll guard it until he comes back.’”

Joy said, “I walked by you around six this morning, Ian was asleep, and his pecker was out of his pants, just blowing in the wind. What a revolting sight, first thing in the morning.”

Ian said, “I must have gotten up in the night to pee and forgot to zip up. Really wasted.

“My people (the people of the Heiltsuk Nation) have had an offer of a billion dollars if they allow an Alaskan pipeline company to go under our waters. We’re on an island off the west coast. We have over a million miles of water rights. We turned down their offer. Can you imagine what would happen if there was an oil leak? It would wreck the fishing industry and kill the ducks and waterfowl. We’d have nothing to live on at all.”

Andre said, “I was drinking with this guy last night. We were sharing my bottle. After it was finished, he brought out a bottle of his own. Said, ‘Now you bring out your bottle? You can be sure that we’re going to stay up until this is finished. If you fall asleep, I’ll finish it myself.’”

Joy was having trouble with her phone. “This is useless.” she said, “I’ve got the phone plan that Jacques recommended. For one thing, I only have free calling after six at night and on weekends. I never phone anyone on the weekend unless it’s seeing if any of you guys are down here. If you’re not, I don’t come. The rest of the time I have to text. I don’t know how to make spaces, so everything comes out as one garbled line. I just got a text back from Glen. He says, ‘Who the fuck is this?’ Answered, ‘Joy.’ he understood that.”

A woman walked toward the group and spoke to Jake. He put on his backpack and walked away with her.

“Who was that?” asked Danny.

“That’s his social worker.”

“You mean, a social worker will come looking for her client?”

“Not many will, but she does.”

~~~

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13 July 2012

The sprinklers were on at the park today, so the group was sitting on the curb. Shakes was asleep. Andre rode in on his bicycle. Sat between Anastasia and Andre.

“Today is so hot and humid,” said Anastasia. “Can’t wait until Buck arrives, then I’m going to meet some of the others at the Don River, near Jacques’ place. It’s always cooler there. I love being by the water. Mother has a cottage on Georgian Bay. Going there this summer, but I can’t afford it right now. I have to wait until my check arrives, on August first. It doesn’t have running water or electricity. Love to relax in nature. I also paint mostly landscape scenes and rocks. Paint in oils, I love spontaneity. My daughter — she’s thirty — just got engaged. They’ve bought a house in Brantford. It’s going to be a bit more difficult for me to visit her.

“Here comes Buck and Dillinger. I’ll be off now.”

Andre said, “I had a good time last night. Riding my bicycle and saw a woman asleep on a bench. I thought to myself, ‘I know that ass.‘  I peeked under her cap and recognized Betty. We were making out on the bench until about midnight. She handed me her apartment keys and said, ‘I’ve got things to finish, but go to my place, have something to eat, have a shower. I’ll be there shortly.’

“Fried a pork chop, some potatoes. We had a great meal, but what I really loved was the shower. It had a lot of pressure. Washed my hair twice. The first time the lather was black. When Betty came in, she opened the fridge and plunked a bottle of wine in front of me. We had a fun time.”

Hippo said to Buck, “How much do I owe you from yesterday?”

Buck checked on his smartphone and said, “Eight bucks.”

“I thought it was seven.”

“No, eight.”

“Well, there’s no arguing with a computer. Can you add another ten on that?”

“Sure.”

Jake said, “I wondered where everyone was last night. I’m not used to sleeping alone.

“I worry about panhandling now that I have two charges against me. Got one coming up on the twentieth and one on August fifth. I get sentenced on September fifteenth. I’m sure I’m going to get jail time.

“Trying to decide what I’ll have to eat. I think I’ll go to Dollarama and steal some smoked oysters and crackers. Pay for a bag of chips.

“Owe Buck fifty-six, but other people owe me fifty. If they’d pay me, I could pay him off. I didn’t see Ian last night. He owes me ten, Hippo owes me ten, Wolf owes me ten and this guy owes me twenty. SHAKES, YOU OWE ME TWENTY BUCKS.” Shakes slept on. “And I haven’t even had a drink yet!”

“That got his attention,” said Andre. “He made eighty at the Burlington Jazz’n Blues Festival last night. He drank most of it already.”

“Hippo, throw me that bottle,” said Jake.

Hippo threw a half-full, plastic wine bottle to Jake, but it hit his radio. The radio, playing a little more than static, got worse. Danny fiddled with the dials to try to get better reception. Nothing he did made much improvement.

Jake said, “There’s a difference between a bum and a mooch. I’ll bum smokes off people, but I pay them back. Sometimes I’ve even paid a debt twice. When I ask someone how much I owe them the nicest thing to hear is, ‘It’s okay, Jake, you’ve already paid me. Hope Shakes doesn’t think that by giving me a drink, every now and then, it’s going to erase the twenty bucks he owes me.”

“No way, man,” said Andre. “If you borrow cash, you repay in cash. If you get someone drunk, they’re expected to do the same for you, in return.”

Jake said, “Every time Ian comes around, he’s mooching cigarettes, money, or booze… mooch, mooch, mooch. He never comes around when he has money of his own. We’re going to have to put him straight on that.”

Danny said, “I saw Shakes at the Blues Festival last night. The police were harassing him. There was a couple, sharing a drink, on one side of the road. The cops ignored them, but they crossed the road and ordered Shakes to dump his bottle. It should be the same law for everyone.”

.

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