Posts Tagged ‘charity’

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31 December 2012

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

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

“No, it’s like Jacquie Kennedy.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I’m so sorry,” said Jacquie.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“It really does,” said Wolf.

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

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

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

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9 November 2012

This morning was very cold. Joy and Andre were sitting together. Joy borrowed a cell phone from one of her regulars and requested that her appointment with the Salvation Army worker be moved up to 9:30 am.

“Chester had better be home when I go there to get my stuff. He’s been a real asshole lately. He’s drinking beer and mixing it with sherry. It’s making him act really crazy. Last night he was opening and slamming doors all night long. I got even. When I got up four this morning I made sure that I opened and slammed every door at least twice. He asked me, ‘You washed your dishes and left mine in the sink?’ I said to him, ‘Chester, you’re just a hair away from having your face punched in, so watch what you say.’ I’ll be so glad to get away from that place. He’s even started stealing my sherry. He snuck into my room and I saw him drink out of my bottle. I bought a carton of cigarettes, I haven’t even opened the bag, but I can see there’s a handful missing.”

“Did you hear that Blackie bit Andre this morning.”

I asked, “Were you sleeping outside last night, Andre?”

“No,

“Weasel lets that dog lick his sores. Blackie could have HIV. He could have infected me.”

Joy said, “I told him, ‘Weasel, if it weren’t for Blackie, nobody would have anything to do with you, not even Stella. He said, ‘That’s not true.’ I said, ‘You don’t look after Blackie, you’re always passing him off to someone else. You take advantage of people. Nobody likes you.’

Andre said, “When I see him later, I’m going to ask him, “Do you know what a dog bite feels like? Then I’ll pop him. It was the same when my step father would keep bugging me at the table. My mother could see that I was starting to shake, so she told my step dad, ‘Keep that up and Andre’s going to hit you.’ He kept it up, I stood up and knocked him right out of his chair. He was laying on the floor and my mother bent over him and said, ‘I told you.’

Mo said, “We have some good news about Serge. Some of the guys and I have been visiting him in hospital. He’s looking a lot better. He looks strange with his head and beard shaved. They had to do that because of the lice, he had them bad. Apparently he’s lost a lot of weight. They’re giving him some beer and sherry, trying to get him off the Listerine. He asked me, ‘Joy, could you get me a bottle?’ I said, ‘No way, I can still smell that stuff on you.’

Andre said, “It’s just like when I was in hospital last with my heart attack. I lost a lot of weight.”

I said, “I remember that Andre, you were pale, weak, your face was gaunt.”

It was time for me to go to work, Both Andre and Joy said, “If we don’t see you this afternoon, we’ll see you Tuesday.”

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……

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26 October 2012

As I approached Joy, she started getting up. “Go ahead,” I said, “I’ll watch your stuff.” She headed off to the library.

When she returned I said, “I visited Serge, yesterday. His breathing tube is out, he was sitting up, muttering away in French. He didn’t recognize me or the names of his friends, except William. He scowled and his blood pressure went from 130 to 180. What do you think that was about? Do you think William pushed Serge?”

Joy said, “I’ve never liked that guy. I’d rather punch him in the face than talk to him. I told Serge that his bruises looked more like they had been caused by a fist,  and not a fall. I’ve had a lot of experience in that area. I’m going to have a talk with William.”

“Did you sleep at home last night?”

“Yeah, I was tired. I walked in, took one look at the kitchen, and lay on my air mattress. I slept until about three o’clock. Chester came home, I said, ‘Look at this mess. Didn’t you tidy up at all while I was away? I looked in the cupboard and you’ve eaten my last can of soup. What am I supposed to eat?’ He said, ‘Well, I don’t have anything to eat either.’ I said, ‘Take some of the change you’ve got on the table and buy yourself something.’ His check comes tomorrow, maybe he’ll buy groceries, but I’m not counting on it. I’ve even thought of going back to Cornerstone, just until they find me a place.”

A woman stopped and handed Joy a huge lollipop. “What flavor is this?” asked Joy.

“I don’t know, all the other ones have been really good.”

“Through the wrapper, it smells like strawberry. Thanks!”

To me, she whispered, “This is the last thing I need. Look at all the food I got: chocolate bars, a club sandwich with chicken, lettuce, bacon and tomato, some kind of bagel, an apple, a banana. Here, you take the banana, it hasn’t even touched the sidewalk. After my stomach operation, my doctor told me not to eat bananas, too much potassium, it could kill me. In the winter when I’d get a banana, I’d put it on the sidewalk and when I’d pick it up, half of the peel would be stuck to the concrete. The apple I’ll give to Jacques. What I really want is a drink.”

“How was your appointment with your probation officer?”

“I’m so happy. I asked her, ‘So, when do I come back next? Do I have to report twice a week, Once a month?’ She said, ‘You’re done. No more visits, although I would like you to meet with Doris from the Elizabeth Fry Society. You seem to have made some progress with her.’ I agreed, I said, ‘She’s away for a week or so, but when she’s back I’d like to see her, but nobody else.’ I didn’t like the way that other woman talked to me on the phone, let alone sitting in a room with her and spilling my guts. Doris even lets me drink there. I told her, ‘If I’m sober, I’m not going to say a word. If I can drink, I’ll relax a bit and will feel more comfortable. Some of the shit I went through is still upsetting.’

“I got a letter from two of my sons.  The youngest calls me Aunt Joy, but he was really close to my mother — I don’t mind that. They’re both doing well. I’m going to write back to them. Finally, I have contact with two of my sons again.”

At noon I met with six of my friends including Curly with his skateboard, and Danny in his motorized wheelchair. Joy looked very relaxed.

I said, “You must be happy, with no probation to worry about.”

“I’m happy alright, I’m also drunk. As long as I don’t get arrested before November 11, I’m free and clear. This afternoon I just want to go home and sleep. I have to switch keys with Chester because he’s staying out. When I have his keys, with the electronic card for the outside door, I feel like I’ve got the keys to Fort Knox. I can do anything I want, eat whatever I want, watch whatever I want on TV.

“Chester, when I get home, do I have dishes to do?”

“No,” said Chester, “I did them.”

To me, Joy whispered, “I’m going to have to do them again. He’s lousy.” She counted her change and gave Chester enough to buy a couple of beer.

“Sometimes I wish I looked more like a woman. A guy asked me why I wear a do-rag. I took it off and asked him, ‘Would you give me money if I looked like this?’ He said, ‘No, I guess not.’ ‘Well, there you go.’ Some people think I look like a dyke. I like men, it’s just that I don’t want to be somebody’s property. I like my independence and privacy.

“Hey Barfly, do you know you’ve got a cigarette burn in the crotch of your sweat pants?”

“Yes, I know. These are my court clothes. I was in court this morning.”

I asked Jacques, “Have you found an apartment, yet?”

“No, I’m going to be homeless at the end of the month.”

“Are you going to get a locker, and take a room for a while?”

“I checked on the lockers this morning, first thing at nine o’clock. They want you to keep it a minimum of two months, and it costs seventy dollars a month. I can’t afford that. I’m going to talk to Shark, maybe he has a little place in a corner where I can store my stuff. I don’t have much, me:  my fridge, my microwave, my George Foreman grill and my cooking pot. That’s all. If I need anything else I might find it in the garbage. Every week people throw stuff out. I found a toaster, I took it home, plugged it in and it worked great. Did you see my new bike?” He pointed to a new looking bicycle with front shock absorbers. I bought that for five dollars. It’s no good to me. Can you see me riding something like that? Imagine Shakes trying to ride that. He can’t stagger straight, let alone ride a bike, same with Jake. He might start off sober in the morning, but in the evening he’s all over the place.  I sell it for what I paid for it.

“In the place that I’m in now, I pay five hundred and ten. That’s with everything. That’s a good price. I don’t need anything big. I threw out my old mattress because of the bed bugs. Every time I move I throw away about  70% of my stuff. I don’t like to pay for movers, so I just take what I can carry on my back and what will fit in my cart.

“I spoke to Shark’s landlord. He had a place that I really liked but it was eight hundred a month. I can’t afford that. There was another that I liked — he rented it. There may be something in Vanier. I like where Hippo is living. He could only get a single bed, the place is so small, but that would be okay for me.”

I mentioned to Jacques, “I visited Serge yesterday.”

“Yeah, you went? I hear he’s sitting up in bed, looking much better. William is going to visit him later today. They are good friends, they both speak French.”

I said, “When I mentioned William’s name, Serge scowled and his blood pressure went from 130 to 180. He was clenching his fists and pulled out his intravenous needle.”

“That’s strange,” said Jacques.

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English: A SUBWAY Club 6" sandwich.

English: A SUBWAY Club 6″ sandwich. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

14 May 2012

The weather at noon was perfect. As I was walking the street I met Nick. He was panning in his usual spot. Nick is diabetic and was taken to the hospital by paramedics last week. I gave him a wave as I passed.

“How’s it going, bro?”

“Great, Nick!”

As I turned right on the sidewalk, toward the lawn, I saw Serge sitting by himself on the curb, in the shade. “Hi, Serge, How are you today?”

“Everyone is up on the lawn. I’m not so good today. I have pains in my legs and in my hands. It feels good just to sit here and stretch my legs out. It’s because I drink too much. What I drink (rubbing alcohol diluted with water) costs me $2.35 a bottle. That’s all I can afford, but it’s not good for me. I think I have arthritis in my hands.” He stretched his fingers to show me how stiff and swollen they were. “In the morning, I have to hold my hands under hot, running water for a while, just to get my fingers moving.”

“Have you tried hot baths, for your legs?” I asked.

“I don’t have a bath tub. I’m staying at the Shepherd’s now, but I have to find a new place. They have me on the Wet Program. I don’t know why? I don’t like it. I used to be on the other side.

Wet Program: Shepherd’s of Good Hope

Partnering with Inner City Health, this area provides 12 beds for chronically homeless, alcoholic, high risk males. The Programs intent is to reduce harm to the individual and to the community by preventing binge drinking of alcohol and alternate stimulants. (mouth-wash, Purelle, Aqua Velva etc.) It also reduces emergency services (police calls, ambulance, hospital stays, cells etc.), decreases the number of incidents in the community (aggressive pan handling, passing out on the streets) and restores dignity and creates a sense of community. The Program provides ongoing health assessments, access to counseling, social and clinical services.

“There’s too much noise. One guy there, he opens and closes the door all night long: open, close, open, close. The man in the bunk beside me, he speaks French, so that’s good, but in the middle of the night, instead of going down the hall to the bathroom, he sits at the edge of his bed and shits on the floor, not once, but twice. That’s no way to act, shitting on the floor like that. I’m going to move to the Salvation Army. I think it will be better there.”

The next person I met, walking down the sidewalk was Hippo. “Hi, Hippo. How did you make out selling that lawn mower?”

“I took it down near the Mission. A taxi driver stopped and asked me if I wanted to sell it. I said, ‘Sure!’ He gave me ten dollars for it.

“Today, I got kicked off Bank Street. A cop gave me half of a Subway sandwich. Five minutes later, another cop came along and told me to move away from there. I only made $1.72, plus the sandwich.”

Sitting on the lawn were the usual group of about six people. I shook hands all the way around. Tracey said, “Dennis this is my friend, Richard. He’s deaf, but he can read lips.”

“Hi, Richard,” I said.

“God bless, he said.”

Standing near the railing of the bridge were Loretta, Outcast and Joy. Loretta borrowed Joy’s cell phone and walked away.

“Hi, Joy. How’s it been, finding a new place?”

“Loretta found a two bedroom apartment on Daly Street, close to downtown. She walked by, it looked good from the outside. She may be phoning about it right now. There’s also a friend of Chuck’s that would rent me a room for $450 a month.

“I’m not feeling so well today. Yesterday I was drinking vodka and cranberry juice. It didn’t agree with me.

“You couldn’t buy me a bottle of sherry, could you?”

“I’m sorry Joy, I don’t have any cash with me. I can give you some bus tickets, but I don’t have any Subway cards. They ran out and won’t have any more until next month.”

“I probably couldn’t handle the sherry anyway. The thought of it makes me feel sick.”

I asked Outcast, “Did you have a birthday on Friday?”

“No, it was Wolf, the one with Shaggy. We had a party at my place. Irene and Shark brought over some spaghetti sauce. We sat around playing dice. Wolf, Irene and Shark left early. I’ve been eating spaghetti since Friday. I’ve had so much It’s coming out my ass, literally.”

“Silver said, “I bet that Joy doesn’t remember the first time we met. I was panning in her old spot. Of course, I moved when she came along. That’s only right.

“I remember, you were with Crast Test at the time. You’d  throw hands full of pennies at him. One time you threw a pear. It splattered all over the wall, and all over Crash. The pigeons loved it, they were all over him pecking at pieces of pear. He said, ‘You didn’t have to throw it so hard.’

Silver started packing his bag to leave. “I’m concerned that the cops will come again and I’ll lose all my beer. I’ve got more to lose than anybody.” He walked back to say good-bye to Richard, Tracey, Jacques and Chester.

When he was out of earshot, Joy said, “That guy really annoys me. He talks even more than Chuck, and what he says doesn’t make any sense.” Fifteen minutes went by and Silver was still saying his good byes.

“Hey, Silver!” said Joy, “I thought you said you were leaving. Why don’t you quit saying good-bye and just go away.”

“In that case,” said Silver, “I’m not leaving, so ‘Liar, liar pants on fire, kissed the boys and made them cry.'”

“Silver,” I said, “I think you have your nursery rhymes mixed up.”

“Yeah,” he said, “I guess that was Georgie Porgie. Oh, well.”

Joy said, “Get out of my face, Silver, or I’ll kill you! Silver, I will kill you!

“Okay, Joy, take it easy.” Silver quietly left.

“Dennis,” said Bleeding Heart, some Saturday you’ll have to come over. All but two of us here have our own places, or else we share. We can have a couple of beer, smoke a few joints, maybe play some dice.

“Sounds good.”

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2 May 2012

Noon was damp and overcast. It had rained earlier. At ‘the bench’ were about a dozen of my friends.

I was sitting on the curb beside Shakes. “How are you doing Shakes? Are you getting there?”

“When I woke up this morning I had three bottles of wine, some J.D., some mary jane and some food. Then I went for a walk. I’m doing all right.”

Mukluk was standing in front of me. She bent over, and an open beer, in a pocket inside her coat, started spilling out on the sidewalk. “I’m sorry about that,” she said.

She had been feeling down because Bearded Bruce had started his prison sentence today. When will Bruce be getting out?” I asked.

“He got four months.”

“Have you lived in Ottawa long?” I asked.

“I’ve been here about six years. I’m from Iqualuit, capital of Nunavut. It’s on the south coast of Baffin Island at the head of Frobisher Bay. It took three hours to fly here. I miss my family.”

Trudy had a new video game app on her cell phone. “I’m really addicted to this game. I played it all yesterday and started again first thing when I got up this morning. Sometimes when I look up, all I see is colored squares.

“I nearly got evicted last night. I came this close.” She pinched her thumb and index finger together to indicate about a half inch. “I was drunk, and broke two doors down.”

“Remind me not to be near you when you’re drunk,” I said. “I’d be afraid of what you’d do to me.”

“Don’t worry, when I get drunk I don’t fight people, only doors.”

“Hi Rocky,” I said. “How have you been?”

“Not so good. I have a hangover. I slept in Tom’s Bar last night. The bar closed at one. I fell asleep at eleven. Tom said, “You can have some wine, but don’t touch the beer.”

“Rocky,” asked Shakes, “Do you have a cigarette, or some wine?”

“No, all I have is this bag of chips from the Shepherd’s. They were giving them out to everybody.”

“Why is it that, whenever I see you, you never have any money, wine or cigarettes?

“Do you ever see me without money, wine or cigarettes?”

“No.”

“It’s because I’m independent. I take care of myself first. It’s not that I’m mean. I’ll share what ever I have, with whoever is here, but I take care of myself.”

I said to Trudy, “I saw you last Wednesday. I was on the bus. I waved, but you didn’t see me.”

“Was it near the Dollarama? Was I standing, or sitting down?”

“Yes, and you were standing.”

“I was panning then. It was after hours. Barry (her brother) was on the other side of the street. We did pretty good that day. We made the price of two bottles of wine, a pack of smokes and supper.”

Barry was feeding chips to Dillinger. “Don’t give him too many,“ said Buck, “they’ll go right through him. Yesterday, right in the middle of an intersection, he stopped to take a shit. Cars were honking, people were cursing. I was pulling on his leash, but he just kept shitting.”

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9 May 2012

“Hi, Joy, how’s it going? I didn’t know whether or not to expect you today because the weather channel forecasted rain.”

“Yeah, it did rain a little bit, earlier. I did my little rain dance, you know, ‘Rain, rain go away, come again another day’, I brought Bruce’s raincoat, just in case, but it was nothing to be concerned about. I don’t mind light rain, it’s those huge raindrops that I hate.”

“How are you feeling?”

“Last night my stomach was doing flip flops. When I got out of bed I threw up. I try to eat a bland breakfast, so I had a poached egg on toast. As soon as I got it down, I puked it up.”

“Have you heard anything from Nick, since the paramedics took him away?”

“He was fine once they got some insulin into him. Yeah, he’s back. He’s really pissed off with the cop, Constable B. Slovak. He even tried to prevent Chuck from phoning 911. Nick is in bad shape with his diabetes and cancer. I’m not sure, but I think it’s all through his internal organs. He’s on massive doses of oxycontin. The cop apologized, asked if there was anything he could do and handed him his card. Nick just flicked it back at him. He’s going to press charges.”

“The cop kept poking Jake with his baton. I don’t know what that was all about.

“Jacques told me that yesterday the R.C.M.P (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) rousted everyone from under the Laurier Street bridge. They’d gone there to get out of the rain. Everyone was given liquor violations. I’m glad I wasn’t there. That’s the first time I’ve heard of the R.C.M.P getting involved. I’ve always acted like, ‘Nya, nya, nya, can’t touch me.’ I guess they can.

“I have an appointment on the 15th at Bronson Centre to meet with an anger management counselor. It’s better than going to Horizon House and being in a classroom full of women. I’d probably go nuts and kill someone. I don’t like being around a lot of women, especially Inuit women who used to hang around the bench. The yapping would never stop. And they’d keep asking me for a drink out of my bottle. I had to learn to say, ‘No, get your own. This is all I’ve got.’

“Chuck and I were talking about getting an apartment together, but the more I think about it, the more I think I should get a place of my own. Chuck has a heart of gold, he’ll help anyone, but it costs a lot in groceries. Like the barbecue we had on Saturday. I can’t believe the amount that Chuck eats. That’s why he’s so fat. He says, ‘I have a big appetite.’ I say look dude, that doesn’t mean you have to eat fifteen times a day. When he serves me a plate of food it’s enough to keep me going for three days.

“We’ve got a problem with mice. Chuck keeps bugging the landlord about it. I said to Chuck, ‘Make sure he knows that you’ve got a dog.’ V gets into everything. He’s supposed to bring some traps over. He said to Chuck, ‘If you keep bugging me I’m going to throw you out.’ Chuck said, ‘I’m not going anywhere. I’m staying right here.’ We’ll see what happens.

A man stopped and put an apple in Mo’s cap. Mo asked me, “Do you want an apple? I usually give them to Jacques, but he’s getting too fat. He doesn’t need any more to eat.”

“Sure, thanks, I’ll take it.”

“I’ve made over forty bucks today. That’s more than I’ve made for a long time. You must be good luck for me.

A tall, good looking black man passed by, smiled and said hello to Mo. “Hi, handsome, gimme five.” He slapped Mo’s hand and mine. “One day he threw some folded bills in my cap. I spread them out. It was four twenties. I said, ‘Hey man, this is too much.’ He just kept walking and said, ‘You keep it.’ That’s the most money I’ve ever got at one time.

“I talked to Jacques on the phone this morning. He said, ‘So, little one — he calls me little one, because I used to be a lot bigger — are you going to come down and visit us today?.’ I owe him thirty bucks, but he’s going to have to wait until the end of the month. That’s what I was talking to Jake about. He’s owed me seventy for about a year. I asked him about it and he said, ‘I thought you said to forget about it. “Dude, I didn’t say forget about it, I said, shove it up your ass. That’s not the same thing.”

“Do you go to the library?” I asked.

“I used to go there to use the washroom. My eyesight is not so good any more. I’m near sighted, I can see things far away, but up close everything is blurry. Jake is farsighted. When we’d be waiting for the bus together, he’d ask, ‘Is that our bus coming?’ ‘No,’ I’d say, ‘not that one, the one further down the street.”

“Did you get to spend a night in the motel?”

“No, I should have. Maybe I will next month, but who knows what’s going to happen next month?

It was muggy today at ‘the curb’. As I was approaching, Barry came up to me and asked, “Hey, can you spare two bucks, that’s all I need.”

“I said, I don’t have any cash, but I can give you a Subway card worth $5.00.”

“Would you be offended if I sold it for two bucks?”

“Do whatever you like.”

“It’s tempting, but I wouldn’t do that to you, bro.”

Sitting or standing on the sidewalk were  about a dozen of the regulars. Handshakes all around.

I said, “We can all just pretend there is a bench here.”

Jacques said, “They take away our bench, we’re still here, They take away the garbage container, we’re still here. They mow down our trees, we’re still here. What are they going to do next? Are they going to mow us down?”

I sat between Jacques and Joy. “I’m really buzzed.” Said Joy. “Look at all the people here. Some of them I just can’t put up with any more. Shakes was a good friend a couple of years ago, but he can’t even speak sense now. He’ll be asleep before you know it. Makes us all look bad. The last thing we need is to attract attention.

”This is one of those days when I’d rather not be alive.” Joy was crying and started coughing. “Tomorrow I’m going to Oasis to get my forms filled out. They say it will take two or three weeks for me to get my medical card. They’ll want me to quit drinking.”

“What kind of symptoms do you get with alcohol withdrawl?”

“I throw up a lot, lose my appetite — what little I have — get the shakes really bad, sweats, nausea, headache, anxiety, a rapid heart beat, increased blood pressure, halucinations. Last time it looked like the ground beneath my feet was crawling with bugs.”

“I smell something burning,” said Jacques. “Has Ellen fallen asleep with a cigarette? Maybe her clothes are burning.”

Joy checked, “No, she doesn’t have a cigarette.”

Jacques said, “I smelled something, but maybe it was over there. I don’t know. There is something falling. Is it snow? No, it’s coming from the trees. It’s green. Is that what they call pollenization? These green things fall on the earth and they grow. If they fall in the leaves over there there’s not enough light. If they fall on the grass they get mowed. Is it the maple leaves that fall like helicopters?”

Ellen awoke and said, “Did somebody mention something about maple bacon?”

“That sounds like something that Chuck cooked the other day. Maple, anything, is just wrong. I don’t even eat pancakes any more. French toast I’ll do, but with only a tiny bit of syrup.”

“They’ve got Honey Jack Daniels now,” said Ellen. “That’s good.”

Joy whispered to me, “I’d like to kill her.

“See my rings? This one on my thumb is a spinner ring. The inside stays still and the outside spins. On my other thumb is Jake’s twelve step ring. Well, it’s mine now. We were in Trillium Jewelry when he bought it. He said, “Do you see anything you fancy?’ I said, “No, not really.” He said, ‘I saw you looking at a ring over there. Do you want it?’ I said, ‘Okay.’ They’re so big, I have to wear them on my thumb. Jake wanted me to put it on the fourth finger of my left hand. This other one, was given to me by a girlfriend, Joanne. She’s passed on (Joy crossed her heart). It’s my birthstone, amethyst.

“When I’ve been panning people have said t me, ‘If you want money, sell your jewelry!’ These are only silver. They’re not worth anything to anybody else.”

“I was talking to Outcast the other day,” said Silver. “He feels like he’s being pushed out of the group.”

“Well,” said Joy, “if he’d quit stealing from us… There’s nothing worse than someone who would steal from his friends. Well, a jailhouse thief is worse. Everybody has their tiny ration of coffee, or toothpaste. It really sucks when somebody takes it on you. If they get found out they end up, a pile in the corner, beaten by somebody’s bitch.”

Shark said, “Outcast was at Irene’s the other day. He drank six of her beer and every time he went through the kitchen he took some of my pot and put it in his cigarette pack.”

“Joy said, “I was at Jacques’ place when Outcast was there. Jacques went to the bathroom and Outcast grabbed a stack of DVD’s and was going to put them in his pack. I said, ‘No you don’t!’

Jacques said, “It was the next night that he stole pot from me.”

It was time for me to go. I said to Joy, “They’re forecasting rain for later on.”

“I’m okay, I’ve got Bruce’s raincoat. It even covers my feet. When I pull the hood up I’ll stay nice and dry. He’s so big that it fits me like a tent. Before he went to prison, I told him to ask for the high protein diet. He’s going to really gain weight there. That’s what I’ve asked for whenever I’ve been inside. You get a lot of different kinds of meat, peanut butter. I used to put that in my pocket and save it until later, when I was back in my cell.”

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7 May 2012

On a low concrete wall, facing Elgin Street, were Rocky, Shark, Irene, Loretta and Joy.

I walked up to Irene and said, “Hi neighbor!” She and Shark laughed.

I said to Joy, “On Friday Shark, Irene and I took the number 14 together. It turns out that Irene lives about four blocks from me, and Shark, Shakes and I all lived a few blocks from each other in Cabbagetown, Toronto.

I said to Joy, “Irene also mentioned that she had lived near Lacasse Avenue in Vanier. That’s the street I lived on.”

“You lived on Lacasse? So did I! I was in the pink house, nearer to Blake Boulevard.”

“I was in the basement of a four-plex, in the second block from Montreal Road.”

“So, we lived about three blocks apart, cool. It’s a small world. Maybe, we walked right by each other.”

Shark  said, “Did you see what they’ve done, ‘the bench’ is gone. We’re stuck with sitting here in the sun. Even the wrought iron garbage container is gone.”

Joy said to me, “Nick passed out due to insulin shock, so Chuck phoned 911. Nick should carry extra insulin with him, but he doesn’t. Also, he hasn’t eaten. He was more concerned with having a joint. The same thing happened at the barbecue Saturday. He has cancer and has pretty well given up on life. I’d never do that, no matter what condition I was in. I’m too much of a bitch.”

The paramedics arrived with an ambulance. They loaded Nick onto a gurney, into the ambulance, then he was gone.

The police arrived and complained to Jake about garbage near where the bench used to be. There was one plastic soft drink container, that some one had used to carry water for their dog. He said to the police officer, “For one thing, it’s not our garbage. For another thing the garbage container has been taken away and there’s nowhere for us to put the garbage.” The officer responded by pushing Jake across the sidewalk. He staggered and nearly fell.

Everyone was wondering what Chuck was saying to the police. Joy said, “That dude has verbal diarrhea. It starts first thing in the morning and doesn’t end until he goes to sleep. I’m going up there to get V. That’s all I need is for Chuck to go to jail and I’ll be stuck with that dog. I don’t even like him.”

Joy went up to get V. Chuck said, “I’m not going to jail!”

Chuck phoned 911 again and said, “Officer B. Slovak pushed my friend, and I’m scared he’s going to hit me with his billy club. I wish to make a formal complaint. Yes, I’ll stay on the line.”

Joy said to the officer, “Look dude, my friend is on a lot of pain medication for AIDS. That’s why he’s staggering. He’s very sick.”

“And how would you know that?” said Officer Slovak.

“Because he’s my friend, dude. I know the medical histories of all these people here.”

“Why is it you’re not messed up like this guy?”

“Because, I choose not to be, dude!”

Jake was forced to walk to the opposite end of the bridge.

Joy, Chuck and V. returned to the rest of the group sitting on the wall.

Outcast said to me, “You should complain to the National Capital Commission about the removal of the bench and the garbage container. As it is, the closest place to put garbage is at the far end of the bridge. Also, the remaining benches are all in direct sunlight. You should tell them that you work in the area and like to sit in the shade to eat your lunch.”

“I could do that.” I said.

“How are you Rocky? Where are you sleeping now?” I asked.

“I’m staying at the Mission.”

“You’ve really got a great voice. Has it always been like that? I wish I had a deep voice like yours. Do you sing?”

“A lot of people have said I should be a blues singer, but I don’t sing that well. I just sing for fun, when I’m alone.”

“How was your weekend, Joy?”

“It was good. Saturday, at Chuck’s place, we had a barbecue for Noreen’s birthday. She’s Inuit. We didn’t know that her birthday wasn’t actually until Sunday, but it didn’t matter. Her boyfriend, Nicholas came and Chuck’s’s dad. Chuck cooked some delicious pork chops. We had macaroni salad and regular salad. I can’t believe how much I ate. Usually I just pick at my food, but this was so good that I licked my plate.

“I have a real bed now and V sleeps with Carl. Saturday, Chuck will be leaving for a few days and he’ll be taking V. I’m looking forward to having the whole place to myself. I’m looking forward to the quiet.

“On the 29th of this month, I have a court appearance for the breach I got while I was in hospital. My P.O. (Probation Officer) wants to meet with me after court, but she’s going to be the duty officer that day. I could wait forever to see her. I said to her, ‘Why can’t you tell me in court, what it is you have to say?’ I’m going to phone her and say I’ll come in the following day.

“I’m going to have counseling for my anger management. I’ll be seeing a counselor one on one. It’s the place where chicks go for addiction treatment.”

At 6:00 pm, as I was waiting for my bus home, I saw Alphonse walking towards me.

“Good evening, sir,” he said.

“Alphonse, it’s so good to see you! How’ve you been? How’s Magdalen?”

He put his fist to his forehead. Lines appeared between his eyes that welled up with tears. “I’m so agitated! Not frustrated, agitated! Magdalen is four months pregnant and tomorrow she’s going to see about an abortion.

“That’s why I’m drinking. That’s what we do, where I come from, when things get to be too much.”

“I understand, Alphonse, drinking helps to numb the pain.”

“It doesn’t though. I hurt so bad inside. I don’t know how she can do that to my child. I’m hoping that tomorrow, they tell her she’s too far along and they refuse to give her an abortion.”

“Alphonse, perhaps that will happen. I’m sure that will happen.”

“I’ll take care of the child myself if I have to.”

“I’m a father myself, Alphonse, but I can’t even imagine how much pain you are feeling right now. I’ll say a prayer that everything works out as you wish it to. You’re a good man, Alphonse. You’d make a good father.”

“It’s helped a lot being able to talk to someone about it. Thank you, my friend.

“Take care, Alphonse. My heart goes out to you. Perhaps, I’ll see you tomorrow.”

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31 May 2013

Last week the temperature was below freezing (28 degrees F) today it’s hot (90 F) with the humidex reading it feels like 110. Nobody in the park had much energy. Hippo had a bad sunburn on both of his legs.

I said, “I heard of Hippo’s adventures last night. What else happened?”

Joy said, “It was hilarious, I got a phone call from Mariah, she said, ‘You’ll never guess, but Hippo phoned. He just got out of jail.’ I said, ‘I’d wondered what happened to him. He was in my apartment, I went out to get some honey garlic wings, when I came back he was gone. I ate four and put the rest in the fridge.’ ”

“How can someone, going from point A to point B, end up in jail?”

Hippo said, “It was because of that bitch.”

“What bitch? You mean that crazy Portuguese woman down the hall?”

“No, the bitch cop. Sorry, I meant woman cop.”

I said, “Hippo, you could have been shot.”

“She had her gun out, alright. She said,  ‘Get down!’  I got down. They put the hand cuffs on and dragged me to the back of the cruiser. That’s how I got these scrapes on my arm.”

Joy said, “I’d rather be shot that tazed. When they get you down they always give you a few extra zaps to increase the pain.

“Let’s back up a bit, Hippo, I don’t mind you calling her a bitch. I got no problem with that, but you chased a woman with a hammer?

“I guess I did. I don’t remember.” Joy smacked his left sunburned thigh, Mariah smacked the other.”

Joy asked, “How do I know that some time you won’t hit me with a hammer?”

“I’d never do that, Joy.”

“You just keep talking and I’ll do to you what I did to Brian yesterday. He just wouldn’t stop talking.

“Yesterday, you and me went to the bank. You could only get $120.00 out.”

“Yeah, that’s all the bank machine would let me take. We’ll go back today and I’ll talk to a teller.”

Joy said, “You mean go inside the bank, just like humans?”

“Yeah, just like humans.”

“Then we’ll go to my place and finish those wings.

“Before this night’s out I’m going to get your PIN (Personal Identification Number) for the bank machine.”

Hippo said, “What year was the first Harley built?”

“1903?”

“That’s my PIN.

“People always say I’m full of shit, but down a quart.”

Joy was looking beyond the railing into the park, “Jacques, take a look. Doesn’t that dog look just like Harley; you know, Rosie’s dog — Big Titties Rosie?”

“Ah, yes, I remember her. Harley looked something like that but didn’t have the white on his nose. Also, he was skinnier.”

“I know it’s not the same dog, but the same breed.”

“Yes, maybe you’re right.”

Deaf Donald was sitting beside me. He’s been deaf since birth, so he sometimes has trouble communicating. He said, “I can read lips, you know. Even if two people are across the street I can tell what they’re saying. It nearly got me in trouble one day. I walked across the street and repeated word for word what these people had been saying. The guy got really pissed off.

“I’ll show you. I’ll go over to the fence and you mouth something. I’ll tell you what you said.”

I mouthed, “Hi Donald, are you having a good day?”

“You said, Hi Donald, you’re deaf. Is that right?”

“No, I said, ‘Hi Donald, are you having a good day?”

“You move your lips too fast. Let Joy try it. Say something to me, Joy.”

You said, “I’ve got shit stains on my underwear?”

Joy said, “That’s right. That’s what I said.”

Donald said, “I got news for you. I’m not wearing underwear.”

Joy said, “I’m not sure if I really want to go there, but why aren’t you wearing underwear?”

“Because I’m wearing white pants and I’m clean.

“I have to go for my methadone treatment, but after that I’ll buy some chicken and maybe Hippo and I could come over to your place for supper?”

“That ain’t hapennin’, dude. You’re never coming to my place. I’m down here, dude. Look at me.”

Donald left, Joy said, “That guy gives me the creeps, especially when he does that thing with his eyes. I think he was dropped on his head too many times when he was a baby.”

I said, “He told me that — while his mother was pregnant with him, his father beat her up and threw her down a flight of stairs.”

“Yeah, I heard that. Just before my second son was born, my ex beat me something fierce. The baby was born with a broken leg and two broken ribs. Jay did two years for that.

“I can also read lips and sign. When I was a kid I had lots of ear infections and got a perforated ear drum. I can’t hear with my right ear. It’s handy sometimes even with Donald. I watch his eyes, and can say things when he’s not looking.”

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homeless family L

 

16 May 2013

Today the park was cool and breezy.  I had two books for Heinz, one by Ken Follett, Winter of the World and one by Dick Francis, Comeback. From reading the backs they seemed like the type of shoot-em-up books that he would enjoy. Shakes was seated on the curb, lying back into the bushes, sound asleep.

Jacques said to me, “I don’t think you’ll see Joy today. She hasn’t been panning for the past few days. Today is the day that Big Jake gets out of prison.”

I said, “I wonder how that’s going to work out. She already has broken ribs.  Jake may be upset that it was her testimony that sent him to Milhaven. Also, he’s going to be upset with Andre, who will be no match for him.”

Jacques said, “I talked to Mariah,  she said that Joy hasn’t been home. She did mention going to Chuck’s place for some moose steaks. Maybe she stayed over there. Maybe she went to visit Outcast. I hope not, he’s not good people.”

Wolf added, “Yeah, what’s the point of going to his place if, ten minutes later, he throws you out.”

Shakes woke up, “Hello Dennis, I was just having a little cat nap. The blood suckers were after me this morning.”

“What do you mean the blood suckers were after you?  Do you mean the police?”

“No,  at my doctor’s, they took a whole lot of blood out of me. My arm is still sore.”

“Is Danny still staying at your place?”

“Yeah, he’s still there.”

“I bet he likes to clean and tidy things. Am I right?”

“Yeah, he likes to tidy things.”

Wolf motioned me over. “I want to tell you something in confidence.” I moved closer. “I went to my legal aid worker this morning. She’s really a nice person… You remember, when I was charged for treating Shaggy too rough. Well, that’s going to court soon. Anyway, what I wanted to tell you was, she said to me, ‘Wolf, you don’t have to wait until you have legal problems to visit me. You can come anytime, even if you just want to talk.’  I wanted to share that with you. I thought it was really nice of her.

“You know, I just found out today about Weasel’s death and his funeral. Jacques went. The place was packed. I couldn’t go. Anyway, I was too drunk. If I’d walked all the way here, then walked to the funeral parlor, I wouldn’t have had enough energy to walk home. I would have ended up sleeping at ‘the heater’, then I would have had the police to deal with.

“Little Jake went. He was drunk and caused a big scene. Trudy was there, she brought this new purple leash for Shaggy. That was nice.  Anyway, I’ve finished with you. Thanks for bringing me the books. I really appreciate it. I mean it. Now, go!”

It was time for me to leave for work, so I shook hands with the group.  When I approached Raven I said, “You’re looking really nice today. You’re beautiful.”

“Thanks, Dennis.”

 
 

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foo

 
8 May 2013

Clark was sitting in Joy’s spot again today. Still no word about her condition. I said, “Good morning, Clark. Joy has been injured. Someone punched her in the face, she fell and hit her head. She’s had a lot of stitches. Nobody seems to have much information.”

“Did she get in a fight with a woman?”

“No, it was a man. Joy will take on anybody. She brags that she doesn’t punch like a woman.”

“I’m sorry to hear that. I know her well. She can have her spot back any time she wants. I didn’t know what had happened to her.”

“Yesterday we were talking about your philosopy of being a Stoic Epicurean. I looked that up on the internet, and now understand more about it.”

“My philosophy, as you call it, covers a broad range from Mythology to Modernism. You could say from Zeus to Seuss, if you catch my meaning.”

I asked, “What books are you reading now?”

“I like to read historical fiction. the last book I read was Russka: The Novel of Russia, by Edward Rutherford. It spans 1800 years of Russian history, people, politics . It’s played out through the lives of four families who are divided by ethnicity but united in shaping the destiny of their land.”

I said, “I’ve read his book London. I really enjoyed it.”

“Russka is similar in that it’s played out through the lives of four families who are divided by ethnicity but united in shaping the destiny of their country.

“I don’t read very much since last March, or if I do I try to get the large print novels.”

“What happened last March?”

“Someone dropped some XTC , or possibly Xalatan in my coffee, or my food. Joy has had the same experience. At first I was disoriented, confused, paranoid. I had shortness of breath. I didn’t know what was happening to me. My vision is still blurry.”

“Why would somebody do that. It’s insane.”

“It could be part of some sort of initiation —  a fraternity or sorority prank. I have no idea. Somebody singled me out for some reason.

“These things are a lot more common in Vancouver.”

“Did you live for a long time in Vancouver?”

“I was there on and off. In the security field I wasn’t allowed to live within an hour’s drive of Toronto. The idea was that if I was being followed I had that much time to notice the tail, call for backup, change route, or whatever it was they wanted me to do. I never knew what I was carrying. I was in the Man and a Dog Program. I made fifty dollars an hour back in the late sixties. That was a lot of money.”

“How did you like working with a dog?”

“They’re a lot more dependable than humans.”