Posts Tagged ‘charity’

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.”

 

foo

 
7 May 2013

The first person I met, after getting off the bus, was Chester.

“Hi, Chester, have you heard any news of Joy?”

“Only that she’s home from hospital. She’s got a lot of stitches across her head. Mariah lives in the same building, so she’s been checking on her. That’s all I know.”

“Do you have any idea of how she was hurt?”

“All I know is that she was with Andre (he grimaced) and Hippo. They haven’t been seen around since.”

“Thanks, Chester, take care.”

In Joy’s spot for the second time this week was Clark, sitting quietly on top of his backpack. In front of him was his usual sign HELP CURE HOBOPHOBIA. Above it was another sign, KEEP OFF THE CRASS. As I sat down I could see a third sign, hidden behind the first, WILL YOU MERRY ME? I asked, “Clark, how are the signs working for you?”

“I get various responses from smiles, to laughter to hostility.”

I said, “Why hostility? Why would these signs invoke any hostility?”

“It’s partly the season; protest season is coming up. It seems to start in the universities. They’re always protesting something, then it spreads to the smaller colleges. I think they watch to see what the reaction will be, then they follow the lead.

“There seems to be a hierarchy. There are leaders and there are those who follow, but I’ve seen other groups called volunteers. Some of them are like nazis, most are white, anglo saxon.”

“Do you mean like white supremacists?”

“Yeah, something like that. They don’t seem too organized. We had an incident at my building a while back. My building houses a lot of people on disability pension. Not me, I pay my own way. I saw one of my neighbors holding this guy by the throat. He was saying to the other guy, ‘You don’t grab me by the throat. You don’t grab my mother by the throat. Understand?’

“Then the police showed up. All they did was get out of their car, put their arms across their chests and shout, ‘Volunteers!’ a bunch of guys from other building came out and there was mayhem. I didn’t stick around. I see us falling into, sort of, a police state. ”

I said, “You seem well informed, what is your background?”

“I went through the separate school system, under the Roman Catholics, then high school, then university. University really opened my eyes. I studied a lot of biology, anthropology and sociology. It wasn’t what the professors taught me, but I learned how to learn. After that I didn’t see the need to pay tuition, so I left.

“I guess my biggest influence was Abraham Maslow. He developed the hierarchy of needs. He extended the idea to include his observations of humans’ innate curiosity. I read a lot of his books. I stay away from psychology, and psychiatry; that’s mostly Freud and Jung.”

I said, “Maslow was the greatest mind of the past century. I’m now reading a book that refers to his theories often.”

Clark said, “I see a slow disintegration of democracy, I call it global swarming. You can see it with the kids on the streets. We’re moving away from the idea of the individual, except for celebrities and sports heroes. We seem to want to know everything about them; what they eat, what they wear. These people are just fronts. They’re told what to say by their publicity managers.”

“How would you define yourself, your ideas?”

“I think of myself as a stoic epicurean and a sceptic. The world always needs sceptics. This is based on the Aristotelian belief that ‘the sort of person one is and the lifestyle one adopts will have an immediate bearing on the actions one performs.’ Epicureans argue that the path to securing happiness comes by withdrawing from public life and residing with close, like-minded friends. That’s me.”

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homeless family L
 

6 May 2013

Wolf and his dog Shaggy were sitting under a tree. At the other end of the park, near the war memorial, was another group leaning against the rail.

“Wolf,” I said, “you’re sitting all by yourself.”

“I just don’t think it’s right, for those people to be setting their beer down on the war memorial. I have family who died in the war. I don’t think it’s respectful. They even have a motorcycle parked there.  Can you imagine if a woman and child came to pay their respects to a loved one. They’d be afraid to approach. Those people would scare them off, don’t you think? My son served in the Korean War, if he saw that he’d take them all on.”

“I agree with you, Wolf. My brother fought in the Korean War. I know that he’d be upset.”

“They all followed Jacques up there. I know he wants to stay in the shade, but there’s shade in other places, so I picked a place that’s about half way. That’s the best I can do.

“Did you see the hockey game last night. I’d have my Senators hat on now, but it’s too hot for a hat. I’m wearing my Montreal shirt because it’s the only one I have with short sleeves.

“That young guy from Gatineau — I think he’s only nineteen — pulled off a hat trick, and his team is in the playoffs. That’s something! It’s funny too. When growing up his favorite team was probably Montreal. Now he’s scored three goals against them.”

Troll and a friend sat down and were discussing the hockey game. I thought I saw Joy with Jacques, so I wandered up there. It turned out to be Debbie.

“Hi Jacques, it’s a beautiful day.”

“Yes, I have to keep out of the sun, because I already have a burn. Have you seen Joy?”

“I saw her Friday, I think she was going to Toronto. Her sister died.”

“She didn’t go to Toronto. She left here Friday to go drinking with Hippo and Andre. There was some kind of a fight. Joy got a big cut on her head. They took her to hospital to have stitches. She also has a shiner. I don’t think she’s going to be coming out of her place for a while. She looks too ugly.

“I wish I knew more details. I know that Hippo wouldn’t hurt her.”

I said, “He’s scared of Joy.”

“Yeah, he wouldn’t hit a woman. I remember that Nora slapped him twice in the face. Do you know what he did? He cried. That big guy had tears running down his face. Now, every time Nora walks by she slaps him, because she knows he won’t hit her back.

“Me, I’d do something different. I wouldn’t hit a woman, but I wouldn’t let her hit me.”

Debbie was looking over the rail. She said, “The white lilacs are out. Soon the purple ones will be in bloom. Don’t you love that scent?”

“It’s beautiful, ” I said. “I haven’t seen you for a long time. How have you been?”

“You know, so so. I’m alright. Actually, every day is good if you look at it the right way. I’m not religious, but I try to see the good.”

I said, “Every day is a chance to make a difference.”

Jacques said, “Do you know what I miss? Kentucky Fried Chicken. I can’t eat it. The skin is too salty. Since my last heart attack I’ve had to cut back on salt.”

I asked, “When was your last heart attack?”

“February 8. I was hospitalized for three weeks. I need a double bypass operation, but they said, ‘We know you’re a very sick man, but because you’re alcoholic, we can’t operate on you.’ They gave me pills instead. They told Joy the same thing.”

Debbie said, “Are you sure it’s not because of the money?”

“I don’t think so, but maybe if I won the lottery… I can’t win the lottery because I don’t buy tickets. I don’t think I could handle winning a lot of money. I’d think everyone would want to kill me.”

Debbie said, “Or, everyone would want to be your friend.

“If I won a big lottery, I know what I’d do.  First of all, I’d get out of here, go into the woods somewhere until I could plan everything. Then I’d set up my communication centers — places where poor, sick people could go. There would be doctors, a cafeteria, pool tables, a place to stay. Nobody would be turned away.

“I have the proposal all written up. I put on a dress, wore heels,  and presented it to City Hall. This university professor, a fat guy with bald head and a beard,  shot the idea right down. He made me feel so small.”

I said, “Gaston has a similar idea. You should talk to him.”

It was time for me to go back to work, so I shook hands all around.

Jacques asked, “Will you be here tomorrow?”

“I’ll be here, Jacques.”
 
 

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foo

 
6 May 2013

Sitting in Joy’s spot this morning was Clark with his sign, HELP FIGHT HOBOPHOBIA. He has other signs, but this is the one he uses most frequently. I asked him how his weekend had been. He said, “I spent a lot of time moving. I’m now in a bachelor apartment in New Edinburgh. I had to get out of the place I was in. It was really bad, a lot of crackheads. I didn’t even feel safe using the stairs. There would be groups of them hanging around the stairwells.

“The only complaint I have with the new place is that I’m right above the door to the underground garage. I hear it every time someone drives their car in or out.”

I said, “I guess that’s a noise you can get used to. I’ve lived beside highways before.”

“Yeah, after a while the highway can sound just like the ocean. It can lull you to sleep.”

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

“Here, about four years, but I’ve been other places, like Vancouver. It’s a really violent place. I used to work security there. I was in a large highrise. There were two entrance doors. I was behind the desk. One time a guy rushed in the first door, saying that he had been doused with gasoline and somebody was trying to set him on fire. All we could do is electronically lock the outside door, so he was trapped between the two doors. We couldn’t let him in, in case he decided to ignite himself inside the building. We just waited until the cops arrived.”

I said, “I know I’ve lived there. I moved in with my brother, on Hornby, near the Vancouver Art Gallery. My first night, there was somebody stabbed to death on our corner.

“Toronto can be violent as well. You know Shakes, don’t you? He pans on Jarvis near the underground car park.”

“Does he use a cane and carry a piss bag?”

“Yeah, that’s him. He was doused with gasoline and set on fire one time. He has massive scars on his left leg. There was another guy, Buddy, he was wearing a plastic raincoat when he was set on fire. The plastic became embedded in his skin. He died three days later.

“I can’t understand how humans can do that to one another. Animals aren’t cruel or malicious like that. They kill their prey and eat it — that’s nature — but to deliberately torture another animal. I don’t think they do that.”

Clark said, “Sometimes, I think animals are treated better than humans. The government will house us, and will ring the Pavlovian bell allowing us access to the Food Bank every so often, but that’s it. The SPCA treats animals better.”

“What other kind of work did you do, Clark?”

“Mostly, I’ve been a cook at construction camps in James Bay and Vancouver. I’ve also been a tree planter in British Columbia. I liked that. I like to keep to myself.”

“I’m the same.”

“I read in government studies that the brain works best when you’re alone. There are fewer distractions. That’s my understanding, anyway.”
 
 
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