Posts Tagged ‘assistance’

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bench

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12 September 2012

Joy was in good spirits this morning. The sun was shining.

“Hi Joy,” I said, “you have an appointment with your worker today, don’t you?”

“Yeah, I’ll be meeting Janice and Darla at the park at 10:30. I have the same workers as Andre.”

“What will they be talking about today?”

“Just details of the place I’ll be moving into.”

I said, “You must be excited. This is the first time since I’ve known you, that you’ll be having an apartment of your own. You’ve always shared with somebody.”

“Yeah, it’s exciting and scary. It’s been so long since I’ve lived alone, I’m not sure how I’ll cope.”

“It has to be better than living with bed bugs, and you won’t have to put up with Chester’s noises. You’ll be able to watch English television, whatever programs you choose. There’ll be no one to beat you.”

“Yeah, that will all be good. I just worry about my mind. The last time in prison I was in the psych ward, under suicide watch because I kept stabbing myself with pencils. That was when they put me on Seroquel, it’s an antipsychotic for schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. When I’m on that I don’t hear the voices. Lately, it’s been television commercials that are going around in my head, like the one for Yop. It has kind of a reggae beat:

When I wake up in the morning I’m still asleep
I really don’t want no toast
I want no water, no tea, no cereal
give me a yogurt drink I’m wanting first.

Ooooooh! Give me Yop! me mama oh
Yop! me mama when the morning come.

Give me Yop! me mama
Yop! me mama
Yop! for when the morning come…

I said, “Andre was really wild yesterday.”

“Yeah, he was being a real asshole.”

“He said he got rolled. Where did he get $140.00”

“The workers arranged that for him. It was his street allowance. On Monday he got a check for $150.00. With the last of his money he bought three bottles. Little Jake invited him over to his new place. Andre didn’t even have bus fare. Jake, of course, is all proud because he has a bus pass.

“Andre is going to get the shit kicked out of him, or else he’ll be exiled. I’d rather take the beating. Being exiled is hell.

“I saw Hippo this morning. He’s been hiding out with Jacques at Dow’s Lake. He’s afraid of Bearded Bruce.”

I asked, “How did that all come about?”

“Hippo was drunk. he was ten feet tall and juiced to the gills. He was in Starbucks performing when someone called the cops. They knew he was staying behind the dumpsters so that’s where they went. They recognized Bruce because of his record, and were holding him up against the fence. Bruce was upset with Hippo. He said, ‘I could have been breached.’

“That doesn’t make sense to me. Bruce said he took jail time instead of probation, because he knew he’d never show up for appointments. For missing appointments they’d put him back in jail. If he’s not on probation he couldn’t be breached.

“There’s something funny. Bruce tried to sell crack to an undercover cop and he gets probation? Crack is a narcotic, that’s automatic jail time. I know. He does the same thing again and they only give him 180 days. That’s unheard of! I think he’s a chatter, someone who will rat out his friends. It’s the same with Weasel.

“The exterminators are coming today. I just hope that Chester remembers to tell them about the day bed. The stuff they spray will completely soak the mattress. I’ve been sleeping in the middle of the room on an air mattress. I was thinking, there’s no way they’ll be able to hold onto plastic, but sure enough they were there. I could feel a bump in my sheet, and it moved, so I squished it and smelt my fingers. It had that rotten wood smell of bed bugs. In the morning I saw a streak of blood where I squished it.

At noon the regular crew was at the park. As soon as I sat down Shakes asked me, “Dennis, how do you like my shades?”

“Very nice Shakes! Are they yours? I guess they’re yours now.”

“My worker took me shopping for clothes today. They didn’t have everything I wanted, but I did get a nice winter coat and a belt. Now, I don’t have to wear this dog leash to hold my pants up. When we got to the cash the guy said, ‘Shakes, you need some sunglasses, don’t you?’ I asked, ‘Can I have these?’ He said, ‘Go for it, Shakes.’ ”

Joy sat next to me. I asked, “How did it go with your worker today?”

“Really great!” she said. “Friday I go to see a place. Janice said it was the biggest bachelor apartment she’s ever seen. The guy who owns the building is friendly to homeless people. I guess one of his family was homeless and they died.

“I asked what I should wear. She said, You don’t have to dress fancy, but lose the bandana.”

“I told her that I had paid all my bills and didn’t have any money left. She said, ‘Don’t worry. We’ll cover it.’ ”

I asked her, “Are they any closer to getting you a health card?”

“They’re going to take me to a clinic doctor tomorrow. I said to her, “Things aren’t right in my head. I hear voices and they keep me awake all night. With them and the bed bugs I’m not getting much sleep at all.

“I told her that when I pee, there’s blood. I cough up blood, then my nose starts bleeding. I’m bleeding everywhere. That’s not right. I’ve got no energy. I can’t keep food down.

“If I get this place, and it could be as early as September 20, I’m going to cut back on the drinking. She asked me, “Why do you drink?’ I said, ‘I drink to pass out, to get away from the pain in my legs. My hip feels like it’s burning. I’m having seizures. I’m glad I haven’t had any here. Yesterday, I had two at Chester’s place. He didn’t even notice. My eyes just rolled back in my head and my mind went blank for a while.

Jacques answered a call on his cell phone. He handed it to Joy. “Chester,” he said.

I heard Joy ask, “Did the Health Department guy come by to spray. He said he would… You told him what? I’m going to be coming home soon.’

Joy handed the phone back to Jacques. She said, “That stupid, stupid man.” Then she started sobbing. The sobbing turned to gasping. She reached into her backpack and pulled out her inhaler. After four puffs, the gasping stopped. Tears were still falling from her eyes.

I asked, “Did something go wrong with the exterminator?”

“Chester wouldn’t let him spray. He said it would be an invasion.”

“It is an invasion,” I said, “an invasion of bed bugs.”

Joy said, “After we sprayed Chester’s room the first time, they don’t seem to have gone back there. We found their nest under his bed and we soaked it with spray. Maybe they bite him and he doesn’t react, but I see him scratching. I’m going to have to sleep on the balcony. That’s the only way I can get away from them. They don’t like the cold.

“That really pisses me off. I paid him $400. for rent, I filled the fridge with groceries. He was supposed to buy more but he hasn’t. He says he has no money. He shouldn’t be spending it on the muk muks. I clean, I cook, I just can’t take it anymore.”

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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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bench

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30 August 2012

At noon the temperature was 87 degrees Fahrenheit. On my way to the park, I stopped to talk to Serge and William.

“How are you, Serge?”

“I’m tired, I didn’t get much sleep last night. I slept over there (he pointed north-west), outside.”

“You didn’t sleep at the Shepherd’s?” I asked.

“No.”

William said to me, “I forgot your name.”

“I’m Dennis,” I said. “I’m just on my way to the park. I’ll check on you on my way back. William, try to make sure that Serge doesn’t fall down.”

They both laughed, “See you,” said Serge. I waved at both of them.,

Sitting on the curb at the park were four of my friends. Buck and his dog, Dillinger stopped for a while then walked on.

“Hi, Loretta” I said, “You haven’t been coming around as much as you used to.”

“I live way out past Orleans. Do you know where Mer Bleu is? That’s where I live, Mer Bleu Road.

“Joy’s feeling a bit better than she was yesterday. She’s with her worker, viewing apartments. There’s one she could get for August 15, if she likes it.”

“I said, “That’s great. She’ll love having a place all to herself.

“How have you been?” I asked.

“Fine, I’ve been working.”

The sandwich ladies came by offering juice, granola bars, sandwiches and socks. Danny took a peanut butter sandwich, Shakes asked for something with meat. Miles explained that he had severe allergies to mustard, mayonnaise and onions. He showed me the EpiPen (epinephrine autoinjector) that he always carries.

Miles said, “Did you know that apple juice is poisonous? It contains cyanide and arsenic. Over a long period it can cause organ damage and cancer.

“I just came back from San Francisco. I have my own landscaping business there. When we first moved to the States we lived in Ocala, Florida. Later, we moved to San Francisco. I got a real break there. I got a job with a landscaping company. There was nobody to look after my daughter, so I brought her with me. My boss really liked my work and would always call for me if she needed something special done.

“One of our clients was Arnold Schwarzeneger. It would take a crew of us about three days to do his property. He would always give my daughter some money. He’d say, ‘Don’t tell your Daddy.’ She’s grown up now and has kids of her own. She lives with her boyfriend in Anchorage, Alaska. She’s studying accounting, business and something else she won’t tell me about. It has to do with the land.

“I have a proposal to build a three floor complex for homeless people. There would be the lower floor with facilities for storage, because that’s a problem for the homeless. We’d also have bunks for sleeping on that floor. Food facilities would be on the second floor and the top floor would be for games. My daughter and I would be partners. She would have her own apartment, on the third floor, for whenever she comes to town.

“It would be a safe place for alcoholics and the homeless. Even if people were drunk we’d let them in, but they wouldn’t be allowed to drink on the premises. I estimate the total cost would be about 1.3 million dollars. I even have a location picked out, near the river.”

Shakes said, “I’m going to be getting my own place soon.”

“Do you know the location, yet?” I asked.

“Right in the middle of ‘Crack Haven’, behind the Sally Ann. After I’ve been there for a while, I’m going to ask to be relocated. After I get my place they’re going to take me shopping for clothes. I’ve got a television set at my daughter, Betty’s apartment. I also have a DVD player put aside. The guy said, ‘As soon as you have your place, Shakes, we’ll deliver it.’ ”

“That sounds great, Shakes. It will be better than sleeping on the street.”

“I think I’ll sleep outside, sometimes.”

“I said, “At least you’ll have the choice of where to sleep. If it’s raining, or if it’s cold, you can come inside.

“It’s time I got back to work. Your plans sound great, Miles. Maybe we can work together.

”I’ll see everybody tomorrow,” I said as I waved good-bye.

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group3

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29 Aug 2012

This morning Joy’s spot was vacant. I looked north on Metcalfe Street towards Parliament Hill. Hippo was on the west side, Silver was on the east, in his usual spot in front of Starbucks.

I sat beside Hippo. “How’s it going with your housing application?” I asked.

“Great,” he said. I got a place on Charlevoix Street, or some French name like that. It’ll be ready for the first of October. They’re completely renovating the building, including new parquet flooring. There won’t be any carpets – I’m glad of that. I won’t have to worry about bed bugs.”

I said, “I was talking to Bruce yesterday. He had to take his sleeping bag to the laundromat to have it dried. Have you had any problems with water seeping in where you are?”

“No, we’re just over there, on the other side of Starbucks, behind the dumpsters. We put up a roof. It’s nice and dry. We just pile up the cardboard and go to sleep. I found it really cold last night.”

“Have you seen Andre, lately?” I asked.

“No, the last time I saw him, he was going to visit red-haired Debbie. He asked if I wanted to come, but I said no. I really don’t like her, but Andre seems to like her fine.”

“Andre was telling me that Sharon was out of prison. Have you seen her?”

“I saw her once. We call her the super bitch, but not to her face. She fights like a man.”

I said, “That’s what I heard from Andre. She’s the one who punched Magdalene. I’m going across the street to talk to Silver. Will I see you at noon?”

“Yeah, I’ll be there. I’ll see you then.”

I walked across the street to talk to Silver, “How are you feeling? You have your doctor’s appointment today, don’t you?”

“Yeah, I’m going to the Sandy Hill Clinic at one o’clock. It’s on Nelson just off Rideau. That’s where my doctor is. I’ve been going to him for a long time. I asked my worker about him. She said he’s a good doctor, so I keep seeing him. It’s important to have a doctor that you can depend on. I know a lot of people who don’t have their own doctor.”

At the park were nearly a dozen of my human friends and Shaggy. Hawk and his dog Dillinger dropped by later.

“Silver,” I said. I guess you’re getting ready for your doctor’s appointment this afternoon.”

“No, I got that mixed up. It’s tomorrow. Today is ladies day.”

I walked over and shook hands with Outcast. “Hi,” I said.

“Dennis, what time is it?”

“It’s about five after eleven.”

“I don’t usually see you here until noon. You’ve thrown my whole schedule off. Don’t do that again.”

“Okay, Outcast, I’ll keep that in mind.”

I sat next to Joy, “How are you feeling now?”

“I’m really sick. I’ve been throwing up blood, and from the other end as well. My poo isn’t black it’s red. Don’t tell any one.” She was near tears. “I feel dizzy and have a full blown migraine. I just want to go home and lie down. I think it may be from the bed bug spray I’ve been using. I’ve got some powder now. I’ll see if that’s any better.”

Following are some of the side effects of common bed bug sprays:

Pyrethroids:
Inhalation: coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, runny or stuffy nose, chest pain, or difficulty breathing.
Skin contact: rash, itching, or blisters.

Long term effects: disrupts the endocrine system by mimicking the female hormone, estrogen, thus causing excessive estrogen levels in females. In human males, its estrogenizing (feminizing) effects include lowered sperm counts. In both, it can lead to the abnormal growth of breast tissue, leading to development of breasts in males and cancerous breast tissue in both male and females.

Neurotoxic effects include: tremors, incoordination, elevated body temperature, increased aggressive behavior, and disruption of learning. Laboratory tests suggest that permethrin is more acutely toxic to children than to adults.

Other: A known carcinogen. There is evidence that pyrethroids harm the thyroid gland. Causes chromosomal damage in hamsters and mice; deformities in amphibians; blood abnormalities in birds.

I said to Joy, “Shouldn’t you see a doctor?”

“I can’t. I still don’t have my health card. I talked with my worker this morning. She checked with Oasis – the woman I dealt with before, back in April, didn’t even submit my request. They have nothing on file. It’s been sent now. It’ll take about three weeks until I get it in the mail.

“They may have a place for me as early as August 15. I told them that I don’t want to be in a crack house. I want someplace safe with no bugs. An apartment would be ideal. I’d like to be on one of the lower floors, so I’d be able to climb over the balcony and drop to the ground if necessary.

“If that place isn’t available, or if I don’t like it, there’s another coming vacant September first. I get to take a look at them next week.

“I have to get away from Chester. He’s a nice man, but I’m tired of all the noises he makes. He grunts and groans when he sits down or stands up. I have no time to myself. It used to be that he would be asleep when I got up in the morning, then I’d have peace and quiet while I was drinking my tea. Lately, he’s been getting up when I get up. I don’t want to have to talk to people that early.

“I’m going to leave soon. There are some people here that I really don’t care to be around.

“I have to go by Chuck’s old place. My check may have been left in the mailbox. I’ll just sneak up and take a look.”

Joy left to talk to Silver, so I sat with Elaine and Outcast. “How is your new apartment, Elaine?”

“It’s great. We’re still moving things around.”

“Shark said you had a plastic Mickey Mouse stapled to the wall.”

“Yeah, that’s in Shark’s games room. Outcast came over with his tools yesterday to hook up our satellite and the cable TV. He used a three-way splitter so we have TV in the bedroom, living room and in Shark’s room. The TV is free.”

“How are you feeling today?”

“I feel better than I did yesterday. I just had a couple of beer today. I had a terrible hangover yesterday.”

Anastasia came over and sat by me, she said. “Elaine was telling me that you live in our neighborhood, or Elaine’s old neighborhood. I live on Silver at Dorchester. I take the number fourteen bus.”

“Yes, that’s the same one I take. Once, on the bus, I met Shark and Irene. They got off three stops before I did. I live just off Kirkwood.”

“I’ve never seen you there. What times do you take it?”

“I leave for work at 8:00 in the morning and come home at 6:00 in the evening, unless I go to the gym after work, in which case I catch the 8:30.

“Those aren’t my times.

“They’ve just sprayed my apartment for bed bugs, but they didn’t get all of them. I phoned the exterminator, now he says they might be in the woodwork, or in my books. He didn’t tell me that before. He should have given me a full account of what he could do and what he couldn’t. He didn’t do that.

“I went to the Salvation Army to get some bed bug powder. They wouldn’t give it to me. They said that I had to be homeless. Well, I’m the next thing to it. I’m on disability pension. Sometimes, I think I’d be better off to just shut my door and move to the Sally Ann.

“I didn’t get to visit my family this summer. The other day I lost my upper front tooth. It just fell out. It was an implant, it cost me a thousand dollars. All my other teeth are fine. They can’t put a bridge there, but they can get me a ‘flipper’. Some people have told me that it’s difficult to chew when you have a ‘flipper’. They take it out when they eat.”

I said goodbye to everyone, and told Joy I’d see her in the morning.

Sample my books for free — To date, $1945.00 has been donated to the homeless:
Gotta Find a Home: Conversations with Street People
http://buff.ly/1SGzGCY ($.99 Download)
http://buff.ly/1qLHptc ($.99 Download)
https://buff.ly/2lUfp6Q ($.99 Download)
https://buff.ly/2Gkoyxj ($.99 Download)
Podcasts:http://buff.ly/1Pxlf9p
http://www.blunttalk.libsyn.com/
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http://buff.ly/2iYvOE4
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panhandeling-women

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28 August 2012

This morning, when I approached Joy, I noticed that she had her blanket wrapped around her legs and her hood pulled up.

“Hi Joy, you’re all bundled up.”

“I’m not feeling well. I was throwing up all weekend. I couldn’t keep anything down. Chester asked me if I wanted him to call for a doctor, but I said no. This morning I had toast and tea. I thought that would stay down, but it came back up again. Cathleen was by earlier, she brought me a cup of tea, two cream, three sugars. I only drank half of it and I’m starting to feel queasy.”

Alphonse and Magdalene came by, said hello and shook hands, then carried on. Joy said, “I don’t like Magdalene. Usually, I don’t have anything to do with her. It was weird shaking hands.”

Bearded Bruce came along, “Hi Dennis, I just wanted to see how grumpy here was doing today.”

Joy said, “I’m grumpy alright, feeling sick doesn’t help.”

“What kind of sickness do you have?” he asked.

“Just nauseous,” she said.

Bruce said, “I just saw Alphonse and Magdalene. They seemed happy.”

“I’ve got no use for her,” said Joy.

“Why is that?”

“I’ve got no use for someone who drinks alcohol and smokes crack while they’re pregnant. I never did that and I’ve got five sons. If she’d stayed clean they’d probably still have their baby.”

“Bruce, “ I asked, “how did it go with your housing appointment yesterday?”

“Great, they’re going to have a list of places for me to look at tomorrow.

”I was panning yesterday and a guy handed me a five dollar bill. He said, ‘I guess you’re going to spend that on beer, are you?’ I said, ‘As a matter of fact, I’m going to use this to dry my sleeping bag. With all the rain we had last week it got wet.’ Later on he saw me in the laundromat. He said, ‘I didn’t believe you, but I guess you were telling the truth.’ There’s nothing worse than trying to sleep in a wet sleeping bag. I probably spend half to two-thirds of the money I make on food. That way I’m not throwing up every morning and don’t have the shakes.”

Joy asked, “Where’s Inuk?”

“I don’t know,” answered Bruce. “she didn’t come home last night. I’m just on my way to have breakfast, then it’s to work. Maybe, I’ll see you both at noon.”

After he left Joy said, “That’s quite a relationship. They’ve been together three years and he doesn’t even know where she is.

“Bruce really does eat a lot. When he was staying at Chuck’s he’d cook huge meals. Two strips of bacon would be plenty for me. He’d put twice as much on my plate as I could eat, but between him and Chuck they finished everything left on my plate. In the morning I’d see him drinking a glass of milk then a Pepsi. I’d ask him why he was drinking that. He’d say, ‘It’s to coat my stomach.’ I can see drinking the milk, but the Pepsi?”

I asked, “How are you making out with housing?”

“I find out Wednesday. My worker is going to check with Oasis – that’s the place Bruce went yesterday – and try to find out what’s taking so long to get my identification and health card. My worker asked, ‘Do you know who you talked to at Oasis last time?’

I said, ‘No.’

‘Can you describe her?’ she asked.

‘She had an attitude and I didn’t like her.’

‘That applies to a lot of the staff over there.’

‘I can’t remember if it was a man or woman, if they were tall or short, thin or fat — they all look the same to me. I see thousands of faces each day. It’s hard to pick out just one.’ ”

A lady dropped some change into Joy’s cap. A man, one of her regulars, handed her a five dollar bill.”

“Allright!” said Joy, “Thanks!”

To me she said, “Things are looking brighter now.”

Chester stopped by. Joy held out her clenched fist to him. He held his cupped hand out. “Pennies!” said Joy. Chester pocketed the pennies and moved on.

Motioning to a woman passing, wearing a black dress Joy said, “That woman should start thinking of using a dry cleaner or getting rid of her cat. She’s covered with hair.

“That guy that handed me the five – I see him most mornings. Usually he says, “Hi!” but if he’s with his friends, he just keeps his head down.”

At noon, at the park, were Chester, Shark and Jacques. Joy had been there earlier, but Chester mentioned, “She’s having lunch, with Cathleen at Tim Horton’s.”

“Hi Jacques,” I said, “I haven’t seen you for a long time.”

“No, I’ve been at Dow’s Lake. There is always a breeze there, so even on the hottest days it is cool by the water. The cops don’t bother me there. I can drink my home-made wine and relax.

“Tomorrow they’re coming to spray for bed bugs. I have air conditioning which seems to slow them down, but I pay by the month and I don’t want to pay for September. We do get some warm days and there will be the humidity. The bed bugs will be jumping in the carpet then.

“It’s so easy to get them, they can jump onto your pant leg, you carry them home, they bury themselves in the carpet and lay eggs. Soon you have thousands of them. I wrap a towel around my pillow. Every morning I unwrap it and find one or two bed bugs. I pick them up and put them in a container.

“I’m looking for a new place. Near where I live, at Beech and Champagne, I’ve seen lots of For Rent signs. Maybe this week I’ll take a look at them. The only problem is, if I move, where am I going to make my brew. Another problem in my neighborhood is that there aren’t many convenience stores, and no wine stores. The closest is at Westgate. There’s Di Rienzo butcher shop and grocery store. They make good sandwiches, but I don’t buy my bread there, it’s too expensive. Also, they’re not open late.”

“Shark,” I asked, “are you all settled in your new apartment?”

“Almost, we’ve still got some things to rearrange. We found a plastic Mickey Mouse with his hand out. We stapled him to the kitchen wall and put our change in his hand.

“Elaine’s still at home in bed. I phoned her and asked if she was coming down. She asked, ‘Is it one o’clock yet?’ She can’t get her meds until one o’clock.”

“So, how long were you able to keep off the booze?”

“About ten minutes. I was down here last week and Shakes gave me a sip of his wine. Then I decided to get a six-pack of beer. What really did me in was the twenty-six of vodka. I’m going to pick up some beer for Irene on the way home. I don’t know who I was trying to fool. I am the way I am.”

Shark said to Jacques, “That was quite a sentence they gave to Shakes — six months probation. He won’t be able to do anything. If he spits on the sidewalk, he could get arrested. If he smokes a cigarette in the park, he could get arrested. That would be a breach on top of a breach. He’d do jail time.

“Danny was with him when he got out. A cop stopped Shakes and said, ‘I could arrest you right now.’ Shakes asked, ‘What am I doing wrong?’ The cop said, ‘You’ve been pan handling and you’ve been drinking.’ Shakes said, ‘I’m allowed to drink.’ The cop said, ‘You’re allowed to drink inside a house or a bar. You’re not allowed to drink outside.’ Shakes was ready to argue, but Danny told the cop that he was taking him to the Shepherd’s. The cop let it go.

“Friday is check day. We should have that spent by the end of the weekend. I don’t know how these people on welfare can live. They get $450. a month and the cheapest price for one room is $400. Landlords prefer to rent to students — even though they make a lot of noise — because their parents are footing the bill and they leave at the end of the school year, which means that the landlord can jack up the rent. Try to pay all your food and other expenses out of the remaining $50.”

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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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15 August 2012

Today is Shakes’ forty-eighth birthday, at least seventeen of those years have been on the street, many in prison. At the park to celebrate were six of his friends . We all signed a card with a gram of weed in it.

John started early, at five o’clock in the morning. He pushed a grocery cart through the affluent neighborhood of Sandy Hill collecting empty beer cans and liquor bottles. He returned these to the Beer Store for a refund and had enough money to buy Shakes two bottles of his favorite Imperial sherry.

Bruce said, “Mona and I visited with a social worker to apply for housing, the Ontario Disability Support Program and for me to get copies of my health card, birth certificate and immigration papers. The immigration papers have to be notarized and cost one hundred dollars.

“I’m expecting to get $450.00 from O.D.S.P. and another $300.00 from welfare. Hopefully, I can find a clean, bug free apartment away from crack-heads. That’s my main complaint about the shelters, such as Shepherd’s of Good Hope, the Salvation Army and the Mission. After rent this should leave me about $95.00 for all other living expenses. To supplement this I may still have to panhandle. Mona and I have decided not to share an apartment, so that when we have a fight, each of us will have a place to come home to. Sometime in the future I hope to find work as a camp cook for a construction or logging company. I have my chef credentials. What may stand in my way is the fact that, having served time in prison, I’m not bondable; however, I have never committed a violent crime and my social worker will help with references. I can even get a reference from the restaurant near where I pan handle. They occasionally bring me coffee and they’d say, ‘Sure, Bruce’s a good guy. He’s never caused us any trouble.’ If I wasn’t there it might be some drunken loudmouth.”

Little Jake arrived and said, “I ditched Debbie somewhere on Bank Street.”

Bruce said, “You’ll never learn. If you get kicked in the balls by a horse, you don’t jump on the same horse again. If you do, expect another kick in the balls.”

Jake agreed, “I know.” Shortly after, Debbie arrived.

Every time someone would pass on the sidewalk Shakes would say, “Good afternoon ma’am, today’s my birthday. Would you like to wish me a happy birthday? or Andre would say, “It’s my friend’s birthday today. How about wishing him a happy birthday.”

Bruce said, “That’s the way to appear inconspicuous, sit in the middle of the sidewalk, shirtless, with a cowboy hat on and yell at everybody passing by.”

Both Shakes and Andre had been drinking since early morning. Shakes was laying on the grass and Andre was constantly chatting, or posing. John said, “Do you have a pause button somewhere, or do you go on like this from morning to-night. I don’t need TV, all I need is to come down here and watch you two clowning around. I’ve got my own HBO, right here.”

Hippo was disappointed. He has a housing appointment with the Salvation Army, Thursday and all morning he thought this was Thursday.

I said to him, “Hippo, you need to get a calendar. You could scratch each day off, and you’d always know what day it is.”

Bruce said, “Even if he had one, he’d need someone to remind him to look at it.”

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9 August 2012

The first person I saw at noon today was Bright Sky. “I asked him, “How long have you lived on the streets?”

“Oh gosh, my parents died in 1999, I wasn’t in very good shape, so that’s when I decided to travel around the world in eight hundred days. I still havent’s made it. I was down in Mexico for a while. I liked it there, but there is a lot of violent crime.

If the state of Chihuahua were a country, today it would have the fourth-highest level of major violence in the world”, the murder rate in Mexico is 13 per 100,000 (sixth highest in the world) compared to only 4.2 per 100,000 in the USA (24th highest in the world). 

“I’ve lived in Toronto and Vancouver. In Trois Riviere, Quebec, I was arrested for hitchhiking and threatened with rape. Last year I appeared on ‘The Lowell Greene Show” on talk radio. I announced on the radio my intention of running for Prime Minister of Canada, since our current Prime Minister Harper is doing such a poor job. Later I was beaten by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, who also confiscated my photography equipment, laptops and files. I still haven’t been able to get them back.

“On July 14, 2001, I spoke at an Ottawa City Council Meeting about the proposed Ottawa Light Rail Transit Project and my Solar Monorail vision.

“In Europe monorail systems are used almost exclusively for mass transit. With monorails, there is not the problem of traffic congestion or snow removal. It’s far more cost-effective to build up for monorails, as opposed to digging down to build subways.”

I asked, “Do you know the people who congregate in the park near the Arts Center? The group varies from day-to-day.”

“I know of them, but I don’t associate with them. I met some of them at the tent city for ‘Occupy Ottawa’. Shakes just lay on the edge of the fountain. I can’t figure him out.”

I said, “He’s a very nice person. He’s been panhandling for the past seventeen years. He comes from Toronto. While he was there he was a boxer. He sparred with George Chuvallo and Shawn O’Sullivan. He must have been good. It’s possible that he sustained some brain injury while boxing.”

Bright Sky said, “Getting a few knocks to the head can cause a lot of damage. I’m concerned about the baby carts that some people pull behind bicycles. I saw one involved in an accident right on this corner, last winter. I took some pictures and asked the woman riding the bicycle if her child was wearing a hat and mittens. She was an army girl. A couple of army fellows were there as well. They said, ‘That’s no way to speak to a woman.’ The police arrived and asked what the problem was. I tried to explain, but they wouldn’t listen. They just told me to move along.

“Another time, I was attacked by a woman. I was taking pictures from across the street. She came up to me and said, ‘Hey! I don’t want my picture taken!’ I said, ‘I’m not photographing you, just the street scene.’ She didn’t believe me and grabbed my camera.”

The next person I saw was Serge, his left eye still black. He told me that yesterday he overslept until 10:00 am at the Shepherds. He said he almost never does that. This morning he was up at 7:30, thinking that it was Friday, P.N.A. (Personal Needs Allowance) day, when he receives a check in the amount of $27.00. He had fallen again and showed me where he scraped his arm.

On the grass at the park were Hippo, Andre ( who had shaved off his beard and left only a mustache), John (he said to remember his name just think of toilet), Daimon (on crutches with his right leg in a cast) and his girlfriend Lucy-in-the-Sky.

I hadn’t seen Daimon or Lucy since they were beaten up while trying to mug a black dude named Lucky. Lucy was knocked out, Daimon was left with a broken ankle. Whenever I’m near them I feel like the gingerbread man faced by a pair of foxes. My thought was not if I will get mugged, but when. Hippo and Andre would have my back, so I’m safe for another day.

Both John and Hippo had bicycles and planned to cross the Ottawa River into Gatineau, Quebec, where beer is cheaper. They prefer the tall cans of Labatt Maximum Ice (7.1 percent alcohol), not available in Ontario.

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8 August 2012

Today at the park, the congregation included ten regulars, including Shawn ‘Sausage Fingers’, Buck and his dog Dillinger. The first person to approach me was Joy. I hardly recognized her. Gone was her do rag, her hair color had changed from black to blond and was professionally cut and styled. She was wearing a loose cotton, black on white print blouse with gray stretch pants.

“Joy,” I said, “you look beautiful!”

“Thanks, I thought I needed to pamper myself for a change. Were you on vacation?”

“Yes, I was at the lake for a week. It was great, except for Saturday. I was working on the roof of my cabin and got a case of heat stroke. I had to be wrapped in cold, wet towels. I’d been drinking lots of water.”

Outcast said, “It was brutal here, one hundred and four degrees Fahrenheit. The rain we had just increased the humidity, but didn’t lower the temperature. I used up one of my inhalers. I have to go to the pharmacy today to get a new one.”

Joy said, “I still don’t have my health card, so I borrowed Chester’s inhaler. That probably isn’t a good idea, but it’s all I could do. I was hardly here at all last week. It was just too hot.”

I said to Joy, “I was so sorry to hear that Magdalene’s baby died.”

“I didn’t know that. What happened?”

“I don’t know any details. I spoke to her yesterday morning. I asked, ‘How is your baby?’ She said, ‘He died two days ago.’ I asked how Alphonse was taking it. She said, ‘I don’t know.’ Perhaps they aren’t together any more.

“I mentioned it to Trudy. She had seen Alphonse earlier that day, but he wasn’t talking to anyone.”

Joy said, “Trudy was by earlier, but she didn’t stay. She was acting funny. She probably knows something that she doesn’t want to talk about.”

Outcast said, “It sounds like Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. A baby can turn over in bed and suffocate. It happens a lot.”

I said, “If anyone hears about funeral arrangements, please let me know. I’d like to attend.

“I was talking to Shakes yesterday. He was at his daughter Bettie’s, for her birthday party on Sunday. She had been beaten by her boyfriend.”

Joy said, “That Kit, what a scumbag, beating a woman six months pregnant with his twins, their son looking on. Someone is going to take care of this. I see him every day crossing in front of our apartment.”

Shakes came over. I asked, “What kind of injuries does Bettie have?”

“Her face and ribs are badly bruised; beyond that, I don’t know.”

I asked, “Has her boyfriend been charged?”

Joy said, “We don’t do that. We wait until someone is nearly beaten to death, and left in a pool of blood to die, as I was; or like Fran, with her back permanently fucked. That’s the reason that Big Jake and Gene are in jail.”

Outcast waved at a woman passing by on the sidewalk. “Did you see that woman I waved to? She’s my boss. Two days a week I volunteer at the Salvation Army. She’s the Executive Director. She posted bail for me one time. I’ll always be thankful to her for the help she gave me. She’s not surprised to see me here. She knows that I’m an alcoholic and a drug addict… and always will be. I was sentenced to ten years, of course, I didn’t have to serve the full term.”

I sat down on the grass with Little Jake. “How have you been this past week?”

“I’m not allowed to pan, because I’m on probation. That sucks!”

“Have you had your court appearance yet?”

“That’s on August 30th. I’ll know what’s going to happen then. I fell off my bike a few days ago.”

“Where were you injured?”

“My knees and my elbows were scraped. I have bruises on my right leg. I was wasted. I don’t know what happened. They found my bike in the hedge. It was in pieces, so I threw it away.”

“You probably hit the curb. I’ve done that before and have the scars to prove it.”

“Yeah, that’s probably what happened.”

“Riding drunk probably seemed like a good idea at the time.”

Joy said, “Everything seems like a good idea at the time.”

Shawn said, “There is such a thing as common sense, and everybody has it to some degree. Even people with down syndrome, or any of the syndromes have it. I’ve had some experience with that, mind you, I have a mental disability and I’m getting a pension for it, but my mind has two settings; either I’m polite, or I’m all out crazy. There’s no in between.” He took off his shoe and said, “See how the middle three toes come up and down as one? I got three pins in them attached to another piece in my instep. That’s from jumping out of a three-story window. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but I wish I had just put my hands up and gone with the cops.

“What happened was, me and another guy were in a hotel room making a drug deal. He left to get some more, and the cops followed him back. We were both standing there, at the table, the scales at one end, the drugs at the other, when the cops broke the door down. I backed towards the balcony, said, ‘I’m out of here!’ and over I went. I landed in the alley, which was concrete. It would have been nice if I had landed in soft earth or even some bushes. I was lucky to have gotten off so easy, but I still went to prison. I could have saved myself a lot of pain.

“Now when I go through a metal detector, at the airport, all the alarms go off. They ask me to take my shoes off. ‘No problem,’ I say. It happens all the time.”

I said, “I have the same problem with metal detectors. I have an artificial hip and a rod in my right femur from a motorcycle accident. Do you think it would help, for you and I, to bring an x-ray to the airport?”

“No, they want to see for themselves.

“On another occasion, I was at home listening to music. It was 10:30, I had the volume up. Then I heard this pounding and kicking at my door. When I heard that I figured somebody had come for a fight. I opened the door and this guy was screaming at me to turn the music down. I said, ‘No!’ I saw his fist coming up. I just reached over it and connected with his jaw. He took off, like a scared rabbit, down the street. I thought he lived next door. If he lived down the street why would he be complaining about the music? It wasn’t that loud. I yelled after him, ‘You can stop running now. I’m not going to hit you again.’ I did turn the music down. Some people — go figure!”

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bench

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July 26, 2012

Joy wasn’t in her usual spot, so I went across the street to talk with Silver, who pans in front of Starbuck’s.

Silver said, “I haven’t seen Joy. I don’t know if she’s coming down or not. Today might be check day for her, so she may be waiting around for that.”

I said, “I heard her mention that she’d have to visit Chuck’s for mail, so that might be what she’s doing.

“What did you think of that guy who rode up on his bicycle, looking for Lucy?”

Silver said, “He also came back later. I said to him, ‘I saw her earlier at the Mission.’ I was there later and saw the guy riding around on his bicycle. I went in for dinner and Lucy was there. She was drunk, or loaded to the eyeballs on something. She kept falling out of her chair. I didn’t offer to help her up.

“I don’t want to seem mean or anything, but I really hope something bad happens to Lucy and Daimon for what they did to Shark and Irene; not once, but twice. They were after Shark’s medication.”

I was introduced to Joanne, a regular of Silver’s. She said to him, “Would you like coffee and a muffin.”

“Sure,  thanks.” While she went into Starbucks Silver said to me, “She’s a jogger. I took a break from here for a couple of weeks and saw her running along the bicycle path. She’s offered to bring me some of her husband’s shirts, but she said they’d hang on me like a tent. He must be big.”

Joanne returned with coffee and a blueberry muffin. She chatted with Silver for a while then went on her way to work.

“She’s a nice lady,” said Silver.

I said, “Shark and Irene are all set to move on the weekend.”

“Are they moving in together?”

“Yes, they’ve got a three bedroom apartment. One room is just for Shark when he wants to get away to play his video games. I think he can lock himself in.”

“He’ll need that. I went out with Irene for eight years. She can be really nice sometimes, then she snaps. That’s when you don’t want to be around her. She’s just a small woman, but if she hits you right, she could break your nose. I hope Shark knows what he’s getting himself into.”

I said, “He’s told me of times when he’d brought over groceries to make supper. Before he had a chance to sit down, she told him to get out.

“I’ll let you get back to work, Silver. I have to do the same.”

On the sidewalk I met Chester. He said, “Joy’s not coming down today. She’s not feeling well.”

“Thanks, Chester, I’ll probably see you later.”

At noon at the benches were about a half dozen of my friends. Inusik, Magdalene, Andre, Shakes, Serge, Shark and Irene. I was especially pleased to see Magdalene. When I saw her last she was five months pregnant. Now, her baby named Alphonse, is seven weeks old. They are living near the hospital where Magdalene had her baby. Social Services arranged accommodation for them. They pay ten dollars a day.

Magdalene said, “Alphonse is my second child. I have another named Jean-Guy. He’s six years old.” She showed me a tattoo on her left shoulder. It was the head of a wolf and under it was written Jean-Guy. “The wolf mother will always protect her young. She can be vicious if anyone comes near her babies. I speak French, my English isn’t too good. Can you understand me?”

“There are a few words I might miss, but yes I understand you.”

Andre said, “When Magdalene first came to town, I was the first person she met. I said, “I’ll show you the town, and I did. We partied for three days and she doesn’t remember any of it.”

I asked, “Do you remember any of it, Andre?”

“No.”

Magdalene said, “We didn’t sleep together or anything, he’s just my best friend, like a brother.”

I said, “He’s like a brother to me too.”

“Shakes,” I asked, “how did it go in court this morning?”

“I was late, but my lawyer took care of everything. They set a court date of August twenty-eighth.”

Inuvik said to me, “I forgot your name. What is it again?”

“Dennis, and your name is Inusik, right?”

Shakes said, “His name is Nuisance, ha ha ha.”

A Salvation Army van stopped across the street. A male and a female worker came over. They offered bottles of water to everyone and asked if anything was needed.

Hippo said, “Do you have any tee shirts? I could use an extra-large.”

The male worker came back with two shirts, “I’ve got white and blue. Who wants what?”

Magdalene said, “I’ll take one. This one I’m wearing says ‘Hug me I’m Irish’. I don’t like to be hugged by people I don’t know.” She tried on the blue shirt. “It’s too blue,” she said and took it off.

Andre said, to the female worker, “You’re new aren’t you? I don’t remember seeing you around.”

“I came from Alberta.”

Andre said, “I know Alberta, which part do you come from?”

“Near Red Deer, I was in prison there.”

“Right on!” said Andre, “We all know what that’s like.”

I asked Irene, “How is everything going for your move on Saturday?”

“Everything is arranged, but I’m not ready. I’m glad we have some young people to help us carry things upstairs. Shark is going to help me take apart my futon. I’ll just put the mattress on the floor and sleep there tonight.

“Did Joy come down at all today?”

“No, Chester said she wasn’t feeling well. Silver said that she may be waiting for her check.”

Shark said, “No, her check won’t come until tomorrow.

“Irene has a doctor’s appointment at one. We’ll have to leave soon.”

I asked Irene, “Do you have to go to get your white blood cell count? Is it affected by your medication?”

She said, “I’ve been feeling sick. My stomach has been bloated. Even the water pills aren’t working.”

Shark said, “We both have cirrhosis. Our livers’ won’t produce enough red blood cells. That’s why our white cell count has to be monitored.”

Irene said, “We’ve both been sober for over a week. We’re not going to be able to invite any of these people over to our new place. We can’t even invite Shark’s brother. If we take one drink, we’ll be right back on it.”

“Congratulations,” I said, “what you’re doing is really difficult. I’m proud of you both.”

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