Posts Tagged ‘Christianity’

1 June 2012

Labatt Logo

Labatt Logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The weather today was uncertain; It was overcast, but not quite raining. At the park were ten of the usuals and one dog.

“Hi Hippo, How have you been?” I shook his broken hand very gently.

“My head hurts.”

“How is your hand?”

“It hurts too. Jake and I slept at ‘the heater’ last night — not together, just in the same place. The streets aren’t safe anymore.”

“Hi Jake, How are you?”

“I’m drunk. Hippo and I started early.”

“I guess that’s a good thing.”

Shakes was sitting on the lawn and was having trouble getting up. “I’ll use this wine bottle and this container as a crutch to help me up.” He made it half way then tumbled over. Jacques stood up and took Shakes’ arm to help him to his feet. “Did you know that Rocky got jumped last night. It was the same guys that jumped me. He’s in about the same shape as I am.”

“Do you know why they jumped Rocky?”

“Because they’re assholes.”

“Hi Donald, how are you?”

“I have my methadone treatment at one o’clock. Everybody hates me. I don’t know why. They make fun of me.”

“I’ve never heard anybody say anything against you.”

“I appreciate you being my friend.”

“Hi Shark, how is Irene feeling today?”

“She’s with Anastasia. They’re drunk to the tits. They bought a case of Labatt Maximum Ice. It’s 7.1 % alcohol. I bought myself a 26 ounce bottle of watermellon vodka. It’s 37% alcohol. I thought I should get something to catch up. You don’t need any mix with it. Have a swig.”

“That’s smooth. I’ve never tasted that before.”

“I had to kick Irene out at eleven o’clock last night. She was drunk. When she gets like that her mind goes on retard. She’ll have about five conversations going and she keeps repeating them. I guess she forgets that she’s said the same thing five minutes before.

“We’re planning to get an apartment together, the problem is she wants to go through the Salvation Army. I want to get something through my landlord. He has a bunch of buildings. If we get these workers involved, one group doesn’t talk the same language as the other group. I’ve been in the Welfare system for twenty years. I know what to say to them, so they’ll understand it, and I’ll get what I want.

“Maybe it would be better if Irene and Joy got an apartment together. The only problem is that Irene drinks more than Joy. Joy has her drinking fairly well under control.

“Anastasia wants us to go with her to her mother’s house near Goderich. It’s on Georgian Bay, so there would be boating, swimming, fishing. The water isn’t very deep but you can still catch bass. The only problem is Anastasia is a bit nuts. You must have noticed that yesterday.

“I have to be back every week to see my doctor and pick up my meds.”

“How old is Anastasia, and how old is her mother?”

“I guess Anastasia is about 61, her mother is in her 90’s.

“The problem would be getting back. I guess we could arrange something with the bus. It’s a long trip. Something to keep in mind though.”

Chester and Outcast were going over Chester’s bank statement. Outcast said, “We were playing cards last night and then I left. What’s the last thing you remember buying.”

“I bought beer at the Beer Store.”

“Okay, that’s listed here. Then, there’s a purchase in Gatineau. Did you go to Gatineau?”

“No.”

“There’s also a purchase at an Exxon gas station. You don’t drive a car, so that’s not you. There are withdrawals of $200., $300. These are since you lost your card. Do you remember giving your card to anyone?”

“No.”

Silver said, “Look at Donald, he’s never going to make his methadone appointment. I’ve been drinking since 4:30 this morning and I can stagger straighter than that. I get up at 4:30, have a shower — yes, I drink beer in the shower. It’s okay as long as I don’t fall and hurt myself.”

“Hello Wolf” I said.

“Have a look at my dog.”

“Is that a different dog? That doesn’t look like Shaggy.”

“That’s Shaggy, they clipped her, did all kinds of stuff to her. I brought her blanket and her bed so she’ll get acclimatized. Is she breathing?”

“Yes, I can see her chest going up and down.”

“I was just joking. I guess I haven’t known you that long. You haven’t seen Shaggy when she’s been clipped? I have her done once a year.”

“No, I only met you in January, so it’s been about five months.”

Donald didn’t make his methadone treatment. He was too drunk to walk. Even if he had made it there, they wouldn’t have taken him in his condition. The adventures will continue tomorrow; same time, same place.

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30 May 2012

This morning I was happy to see Hippo, he had stopped to talk to Silver at his usual spot. Hippo had a bandage on his forehead.

“Hi Hippo. What happened?”

“I got into a little scuffle.”

Hippo was having problems obtaining a copy of his birth certificate, because he is adopted. I downloaded the appropriate application form for ‘Post Adoption Birth Information’ from the internet. I also gave him forms to apply for a Social Insurance card and an Ontario Health card. I offered to help him to fill in the blanks and to mail them. He was happy to receive the information.

Silver had a plastic box for me to sit on as we chatted. He said ‘After we left the park yesterday Hippo and I went to my place at the Lafayette, had a few beer and ordered pizza. The rest of the time we spent watching television. They have live music every Tuesday and Wednesday night. ‘Lucky Ron’ has a regular gig there. When I hear a good song being played, I turn the television down to listen. It’s a great place to live. I get along great with the landlord. I’ve been there about four years now. It’s now the oldest hotel in Ottawa, they’ve torn all the others down.”

“From classy tavern and hotel to restaurant, pub, dive and everything in between, Lafayette first opened its doors in 1849 and although it’s never closed since, this Ottawa establishment has gone through many changes. The current inception is The Laff: a comfortable pub and tavern in the heart of Ottawa’s Byward Market.

Your server will gladly take your order and bring your sub back to your table for you. Wood floors, tables and chairs that are scuffed and worn; and a long vinyl bench along one wall provides a little extra padding for the delicate customer. There are live bands every Tuesday and Wednesday night as well. In the absence of live entertainment, the tavern has a huge jukebox in the back so you can hear your favourite song as often as you like.”

“I’ve had jobs near by at the market, in some of the flower stalls. They open at 5:30 am and close at 5:30 pm. I’ve also worked on construction and at a fruit and vegetable store. My shift there was from 11:00 pm to 7:00 am. I’d have to count everything coming in, then sort it for the various clients it would be delivered to. Toothless Chester got me that job.

“Joy invited me to a barbecue at their place Saturday, but Chuck still owes me $20.00. I didn’t want to go there and get paid off with a few hot dogs or hamburgers. I want my money. Joy was pissed off. She was ready to take a swing at me. I’d never hit a woman, but I’d get one of my ‘street sisters’ to. I guess I can kiss that money good-bye.

“Joy went off with Chester yesterday. I hope she doesn’t rip him off for money the way Sara did.”

“Joy was upset with the way Sara treated Chester. As far as I know, she’s always paid her way, and more, with Toothless Chuck and with the other Chuck before.

At noon, on my way to the park, I met Irving and Hippo. I asked Irving how he was making out. “I’m still on the streets, still sleeping in the ATM kiosk of a bank. Last Wednesday, Shakess woke me up there and asked me if I wanted a drink. I said, ‘Sure!’. He slept there that night as well. There is a new lady manager who kicks Sabrina in the foot to wake her up. I don’t like that. Does she treat her customers like that? I don’t think so. The other lady manager would sometimes bring me coffee. She’d say, ‘Okay Irving, time to get up.’ I’d say, ‘Okay, just let me get my eyes open. I’ll clean up my butts, then I’ll be gone.’

“I’ve been having trouble with my back from the time the cops threw me down the concrete steps of the church. Just the other day, I climbed over a wall and jumped to the other side. When I landed I could feel something crunching in my back. I went to the hospital, to get an x-ray and to have my eyes checked. They said I need glasses, but they wouldn’t do the x-ray. I had my health card and my status card. I don’t know why they wouldn’t check my back.

“I’m going to see the doctor that was in charge of my alcohol recovery program. I’m sure he can give me a prescription for an x-ray.”

I left Irving and Sabrina and proceeded to the park where I met Andre, Little Jake, Chester, Hippo, Rocky, Joy, Toothless Chuck and his dog V.

I was especially glad to see Andre, who I haven’t seen for several weeks. I asked, “How have you been, Andre?”

“I’ve been in hospital. I kept getting acid reflux. Bile would come up and burn my esophagus. I felt a lump in my throat. It became infected and then I had trouble breathing. I went to the Sally and by that time I could barely breathe. I could breathe in, but not out. They rushed me to the hospital. I was worried that it might be a tumor, because my dad had tumors. I’m on antibiotics now. I may have to have my tonsils out. There are a lot of things they want to do to me, but I don’t want an operation.

“I’ve had problems with my lungs since a guy stabbed me in the side at a party. I held a towel against the wound and fell asleep. When I awoke, I yelled for someone to help me. One of my friends from the party heard me. He said, ‘Party’s over, Andre, time to go home.’ I said, ‘Man, I need to get to the hospital.’ He said, ‘No problem. You want to go right now, or can we smoke a joint first?’ I said, ‘I’ve been like this since last night, so waiting a little longer isn’t going to make a difference.’ When I inhaled the joint, smoke came out of my side. I figured then that I better get to the hospital right away. At the hospital they told me that my lung was collapsed. Now, I only have partial use of it. I’m prone to getting pneumonia — too many nights sleeping outside in the rain. Apart from that, I’m the same fun-loving guy I always was.”

I said, “We’ll have to go panning together again. That was a blast!”

“On Easter I panned in front of the Cathedral. They had two masses. I panned through both of them. My buddy and me made $44.00. After that, I said, ‘That’s it. No more panning today.’ ”

I sat next to Joy and scratched V’s neck. She rolled over and let me scratch her belly. Joy petted and Z bit her arm. “I don’t like that dog,” she said.

“Chuck has invited Steve and Coreen over for a barbecue. He wants to buy steak. I told him, ‘I can’t afford to feed these people. Let’s save the steak until it’s just me and you. We’ll have a nice meal, some baked potatoes.’

“I’ve paid all my bills, paid the debt I owed to Jacques, now I’m free and clear. I’ll do my little dance now. Later, I think I’m going to shop for something nice for myself, maybe a ring. I got this gold nose ring last week. Do you like it?”

“It looks great, Joy.”

“How about some macaroni salad?” asked Chuck.

“Fine,” said Joy, “buy anything you like. I’m not cooking it.” To me she said, “I may not even come home that day.”

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31 May 2012

At noon there were cloudy periods, with a cool breeze blowing. In the sun it was warm, in the shade it was cool. Yesterday was check day for all the people on government assistance. At the park were Serge,  Heartless, Loretta, Mariah, Anastasia, Little Jake, Andre, Hippo, Shark and Irene.

Today there was a motorcycle parade from Parliament Hill down Elgin Street in view of the park. RIDE to REMEMBER “say never again” Ottawa 2012. Motorcycle clubs from around the world are riding from Ottawa to Toronto in remembrance of veterans and to say “never again” to the Holocaust.

Some Jewish and Christian bike clubs have made the trip from as far as the UK and Australia to remember those lost in the Holocaust and to support Israel.

Anastasia, white-haired, probably in her sixties was jumping up and down. “There’s one with ‘ape hangers’, one with a side car, some BMW’s, a few Indians, on the trailer is a 1939 Knucklehead Bobber. I’ve ridden one of those.

Little Jake said, “This is Harley heaven, man. Listen to that rumble. There must be hundreds of them.”

“Settle down you two”, said Andre, wearing a women’s, hot pink, peaked cap. You’re going to have an orgasm.”

I talked first to Irene. I knew that she had been to the doctor, so I asked how she was feeling. “Not so good. I’m on antibiotics, but they gave me the wrong kind. I’m menopausal, borderline diabetic, I have cirrhosis, hep. c, cancer. From the head up I’m okay, the rest of me is falling apart. Yesterday, I didn’t even get out of bed. I needed a beer to get me feeling level. Shark with AIDS is in better shape than I am. He’ll far outlive me.

Shark  said, “You’re going through alcohol withdrawal. That’s the way I feel when I haven’t had my morphine. I take medication for AIDS, but I only take two tablets a day. Some people take about nine pills and they have to be at different times during the day. I’ve been this way for about seven years.”

Irene said, “We’re looking for another apartment, a two bedroom. We can afford it, and it doesn’t make sense us each having our own places. We’re either at one or the other. I want something closer to downtown. I can’t take the long bus rides from where I am now.”

“How about a place near where Joy is?” I asked.

“In the market? No, I know too many people there. Maybe in Vanier, but I know too many people everywhere.”

“Did I tell you that Joy, Donald and I, all lived on Lacasse Street in Vanier? It’s quite a coincidence. I was two blocks from Montreal Road, Joy lived a few blocks further down, and Donald lived further still near Blake Boulevard.”

“I’m giving my two months notice where I am, so we have quite a while to look for a place. I want to make sure it’s in a nice neighbourhood.”

“That’s important.” I said.

Little Jake came up to me, “Do you see how everyone is broken up into little cliques today.” Shark, Irene and Heartless have moved away because they think this is the place where the police will come first.”

Silver said, “I’m not sitting with those women, they’re the ones that took Chester’s money. They got him drunk and then went through his pockets. He had an $8,000 inheritance that they went through in a month. Now that he’s run out of money they won’t have anything to do with him.”

Loretta was holding on to Matches. “Can you give me a hand?” she asked.

“What’s he trying to do? Get up, or sit down?”

“He says it’s slow motion.”

I held Sparky’s hand and he gradually lowered himself to a sitting position.”

I asked him,”How did you get the cut on the bridge of your nose, Matches?”

“I was jumped by two guys on Rideau Street last night. I’ll remember their faces. They even wanted to press charges against me. It was them that started it.

“I’ve lost something. Can you help me? I’m looking for two brown envelopes.” He pointed to a plastic grocery bag. “Whenever I go to the bank, I put my money in a brown banking envelope.”

“I’ll have a look, Matches. You’ve got lots of brown paper napkins, packs of pepper, plastic knives and forks, a muffin, your bottle of wine. Here’s one brown envelope. I can’t find a second one. I’ll put your bag near the fence.”

Loretta said to me, “Did you hear my good news?”

“No,” I said, “what’s your good news.”

“I’m going to be moving to Gatineau. I have permission from my probation officer. I came here today to collect my clothes from all my friends. Tomorrow, I move. My roommate is going to be a woman I’ve lived with before. She’s six months pregnant. We’re getting a two bedroom apartment.”

“Congratulations!” I said, “You must be excited.”

“Yes I am. Have you seen Joy today?”

“No, she wasn’t on Metcalfe Street, but I wasn’t expecting her. She usually stays away for a few days after she gets her check. She likes to be on her own for a while, where it’s quiet.”

“There’s nothing wrong with that. That’s the way you get to know yourself.”

“I agree. It’s a good idea. I enjoy doing that as well.”

I walked over to where Hippo was standing alone. I shook his hand, he winced. “Did you break your hand?”

“Yes.”

“Shouldn’t it be in a cast like Nick’s?’

“No, they said it wouldn’t help.”

“I see that you have stitches above your eyebrow.”

“Yeah, they stitched it on the inside then on the outside. I can’t wait to get my hands on the guy who did this to me. He was a crack head.

“I also got barred from the Sally again. I was eating my dinner, when a guy came and said, ‘You can’t eat here. You’ve already eaten.’ I said, ‘Okay, you eat it then!’ I tossed it into the bubble (the information desk).

“I really liked the poem you wrote. I made copies and gave them to all my friends. Some people think I’m kinda slow, but here I am.”

“I love you, man,” and gave him a hug.

“I don’t want to cry, but I feel it coming. Someone still loves us.”

“Take care, Hippo. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

As I was leaving, a man came up to me. I shook his hand and said, “Hi my name is Dennis.”

“Yeah, we’ve met before. I shaved off my beard.”

“I haven’t seen you for a couple of months.”

“Yeah, I’ve been away. I bought beer for the guys. Would you like a beer?”

“Thanks, but I have to get back to work.”

“Do you need any money?”

“No, I’m good, but thanks anyway.”

“You’ve always treated me like gold, man. I appreciate it.” He gave me a hug and I returned to work.

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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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21 June 2013

Joy was all smiles this morning. She was seated on her box, but any minute I expected her to break into dance.

“How did it go with getting your furniture?”

“Great, The place is huge. I got a new sofa, a shelf that will go on one of the tables I have. I took the legs off my bed because of the seizure I had, but I wanted to get a wicker headboard that I saw there. I didn’t get it. I also wanted a silver frame in the shape of three hearts. I didn’t get that either. My worker was so impatient. I wanted to look around to make sure I got things I wanted to live with, but she kept checking her watch. I think we were only there half an hour.

“When I got home and we got everything set up I did a little dance. I’ve waited seven months for this stuff, now I’m going to enjoy it.

“I haven’t seen many of the guys lately, not even dickhead.”

I asked, “Who would dickhead be?”

“Jake, he’s been over a couple of times. He wanted me to push him from the Salvation Army to the park. I said, “No way!”

“Has he apologized for beating you?”

“Yeah he has, he was even crying. He said, ‘Joy, I’ll never hurt you again. I’ve learned my lesson. I don’t want to go to prison again.’ I said, ‘Yeah, I bet you learned a lot in prison. I don’t want to hear about it. Instead of being sorry now, you should have thought before you broke my ribs, especially since you’d broken them just two weeks before.

“‘You’re whining like Antonio.’ He asked, ‘Who’s Antonio? Is that someone you’ve had living over here? I said. ‘No, you dumbass, it’s Mariah’s boyfriend! She kicked him out six months ago. For the last twenty-two months I’ve enjoyed living by myself and sleeping by myself. Jake said, ‘I could help you with that.’ I said, ‘For now just consider us friends. We’ll see how it goes.”

I said, “You mentioned that he had to have a piss test as a requirement of his parole. How did that go?”

“It was funny. There was a new parole officer there, who didn’t know Jake’s, medical history. After the test he came back and said, ‘You’re in trouble, Jake. The test came back positive.’ Jake said, ‘Positive for morphine, right?’ The guy says, ‘Yeah.’ Jake pulls out of his pocket a piece of paper and waves it at the guy. ‘Prescription!’ he says.

“His regular parole officer is a really hard case. He can pounce on Jake anytime  and have him tested. If Jake has any advanced warning, all he has to do is drink a cup of vinegar. That’ll get any trace of drugs or booze out of his system. My brother was in prison. He had the same booze and drug prohibition on his parole. He used to carry a bottle of vinegar with him all the time.

“What time is it now?”

“Eight thirty.”

“That means I’ve been here two and a half hours. I even made sure I got the early bus. So far, I’ve made four dollars and twenty-six cents.”

I said, “On Wednesday, two cruisers pulled up on the sidewalk. The male cop demanded that Debbie give them her last beer. She was pissed off and shoved it into his chest. She was handcuffed and thrown into the back of the cruiser.”

“Was she arrested?”

“No, they let her go with just a ticket.”

“That’s assault, and she’s been in and out of jail a dozen times. If that had been me, I would have gone straight to prison.

“I’ve got no use for that stupid, loud-mouthed bitch. When we were up at the bridge one time she was going on and on about something. I was ready to throw her off the side. I had her back to the railing. She was whimpering, ‘Please, Joy, please don’t push me over.’ Sometimes I think I should have.”

“Maryjane just got out of jail.”

“Yeah, that was because she had three no shows at court. She’s been charged with assault. There again, if that was me I’d be in prison.”

 
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I sat on the sidewalk beside Shakes and in front o f Debbie, Little Jake and Joy. Wolf had gone for a piss. I gave a used copy of the book “Women Who Run With the Wolves to Joy. It seemed appropriate since she was wearing a sweatshirt with a wolf on the front.”

She thanked me and said, “Sorry I have to run, but I have an appointment with my landlady to fix my toilet.”

I pulled out another book, Mob Rule, that I intended to give to Wolf. Matches looked at it and asked, “Are you going to give this to Wolf?”

I said, “Yes.”

He said, “I like to read too, you know, especially since I don’t have television.”

I said, “You take it then, Shakes.”

Shortly after Wolf returned. He saw the book Shakes was holding. “That looks interesting. Mind if I read that after you’re finished?’ ‘Sure,’ said Matches.

I said, “It’s about Paul Volpe, the boss of the Toronto Mafia from the early-1960’s up to his death in 1983. It mentions his bootlegging days as a young man, to his initiation into the Mob, his stints in jail, and then the details of his death. Maybe you’ll recognize some of the names.”

Jake said, “We don’t remember names, we remember faces.”

I said, “There are pictures, too.”

Wolf reached into Shaggy’s cart and pulled out three books. One was by Danielle Steele, “We all know what this one’s about. This one’s by Catherine Cookson, I don’t know her. This last one is a murder mystery. Doesn’t look like there’s much shooting, but it’s more my style. Anyway, I got lots to read for the weekend. I’m going to Tim Horton’s, have a coffee, a couple of donuts and read my books.”

Debbie asked, “Dennis, how do you like my new summer haircut?”

“It looks very nice. It suits you.”

“Jake cut it. We were both stoned, but it came out alright, didn’t it.?”

I said, “It looks professional. Nobody would ever know that it wasn’t done at a salon.”

Jake said, “Yeah, it’s a lot better than the haircut that Jacques gave me.”

Wolf, whose white hair is almost to his shoulders said, “There’s no way that any of you guys are going to cut my hair.”

Shakes asked me, “Dennis, are you going to the Rib Fest?”

“No, ” I said, “are you?”

“I’ve been two times already and I’m going again tonight. I should do pretty well I always go to the Blues Fest, the Jazz Fest and the Folk Fest. My favorite is the Blues Fest. I can’t get past the gate, but people always give me booze and get me stoned.”

Shakes was wearing a pair of shorts. Debbie asked, “What’s that scar on your leg?

“Which one?”

“The one that runs from your knee to your hip?”

“That’s where I got shot. The bullet went in here,” pointing to a circular scar, “it broke my femur and came out here.” He lifted his leg to show the scar from the exit wound.They had to cut me open to put the rod in.

“I didn’t mean to be nosey,” said Debbie, “I was just wondering.”

“I got it at a house party. I knew there was going to be trouble so I went to my street sister and asked for my nine millimeter. She didn’t wasn’t to give it to me. She said, ‘If I give you this gun, you’re going to get into trouble. I just know it.’ I said, ‘That’s why I need my gun.’ I was at the party, there was lots of booze, drugs, but I decided to leave. My bro asked for my gun. I took it out of my pocket, took the clip out, but forgot there was still a shell in the chamber. It had a hair-trigger, much too sensitive. When my bro took my gun, he accidentally shot me in the leg.

I asked, “Why did your friend want your gun?”

“‘Cause he wanted to shoot the guy.

“The last time I was in prison was in 1995. I was in Collins Bay for nearly five years.”

I asked, “What were you in for?”

“Bank robbery. I was just seventeen, selling drugs, robbing banks, boxing. That’s when I was sparring with George Chuvallo and Shawn O’Sullivan. I still got it.”

I said, “I guess it’s just like riding a bicycle. You never forget it.”

“I don’t get into fights any more, but if I’m backed against a wall, watch out, the fists are going to fly.”

 

 

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The_Mammoth_Hunters_cover

20 June 2013

The park was empty today except for Little Jake and Debbie.  “Are you going for beer?” Jake asked Debbie.

“Yeah, I’m going. I’ll leave my jacket here.”

Jake commented, “You’re going the wrong way.”

“I can’t go to that liquor store, they won’t let me in. I have  to go to the mall. Is there anything else you want?”

“No, just beer.

“I don’t know where everybody is today. Wolf and Shaggy were here this morning, but Wolf got too drunk. He had to go home. I think they got scared by the cops.  After you left yesterday two cruisers pulled right up on the sidewalk.”

Debbie said, “Yeah, they had me in handcuffs. This cop wanted my last beer, so I shoved it in his chest. That’s when they grabbed me and put me in the back of  the cruiser.”

“Did they let you go?” I asked.

“Yeah, after a while they gave me a ticket and let me go.”

Jake said, “They were going through our bags and everything. They aren’t allowed to do that —  are they? I said, “Get the fuck out of my bag. You got no business going through my things like that.” I get mouthy when I’m pissed off.  That’s just me.  I walked away after that. A cop chased me. He gave me a ticket. This is going to be a bad summer, man. They’re really down on us.”

An attractive woman, looking slightly lost, came over to us and asked, “Do you know what time it is?”

“Yeah, it’s 12:20.”

“Oh, thanks.” She started to walk away, Frank asked, “Can you spare some change?”

“No, sorry.”

“Well be that way, then.” To me Frank asked, “What time did you say it was?”

“12:20.”

“Are you serious? I thought it was about five o’clock. What day is it?”

“The twentieth, summer starts tomorrow.”

“No, I meant the day of the week. Is it Wednesday or Thursday?

“Thursday.”

“I wonder why nobody’s around. Maybe there’s something going on that I don’t know about.

“I’m glad that Deaf Donald isn’t around today. I can only take him in small doses. I guess that because he’s deaf  he doesn’t realize how fucking loud he is. His trick is to ask people for money so he can replace the batteries in his hearing aid. One time the cops came up to me and said they’d had complaints about somebody yelling. It was a couple of the regular guys. I said, ‘You guys know me. I don’t yell.’ After they left, I heard Donald, down the stairs in the park. Then I figured it out. He was cutting my grass.”

“So how are you doing today?”

“I made sixteen dollars,  so far, but  I spent some of it.”

“Did you ever get your furniture?”

“No, I was talking to my worker yesterday. You saw her. She’s always good to me, but still no furniture. I got a bed a table and a TV that doesn’t work. I got a radio and one lamp. The only thing for me to do is read. Bearded Bruce lent me a book, it’s part of a series of six. It’s called The Clan of the Cave Bear. He said I had to start with that one, but I’ve already read The Mammoth Hunters. It’s the third book, so I already know what’s going to happen. Now, I’m reading what went before.

“It takes place about thirty-five thousand years ago. There’s this five-year-old girl, Ayla, who gets lost because of an earthquake. She comes across another tribe called the Clan of the Cave Bear. The medicine woman feels sorry for her and takes care of her. When the clan gets a new leader he throws her out — she’s considered one of the ‘Others’, the tall ones who have blond hair and blue eyes.

“She changes the course of history. The Clan of the Cave Bear hunted horses for food, but Ayla traps a foal, raises it and learns to ride him. She befriends  a wolf and a saber-toothed tiger. Ayla  also discovers how to make fire. That’s as far as I’ve got,  so far…

“I got to tell you —  I always tell the truth; that’s something my mother taught me…”

I said, “I’m the same way. I don’t have a good enough memory to lie. I’d never remember what I said the time before.  When Joy got busted for jumping the bus, they wanted her name. She asked, “What name did I give last time?”

“Anyway,  I went to Metro last night and stole two pork chops. I took them over to Bruce’s place, cooked them with lemon  juice,  garlic, oregano and pepper. They were delicious.  Sometimes Bruce and I try to outdo each other with our cooking… I’m a good cook. I grew up in a restaurant… I got to be maitre d at a five-star hotel.   We served Austrian and Canadian food… I wore a tux and everything.

“For some reason I ended up at Steve’s place with half a bucket of ribs. I think some girl gave them to us.

“You heard that Shakes got robbed, eh? Yeah, he passed out… They took his pack, his three grams, his bottle, his change and his hat. Anybody who knows him would recognize that hat… I think I know who did it. His name is right on the tip of my tongue… What is it?… I hate when this happens… Anyway, the guy just got out of jail.”

I asked, “Would I know him?”

“No, he did about two years for something… I can’t remember… It’ll come to me…”

 

 

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feller   Caterpillar Feller Buncher

19 June 2013

It was crowded in the park and tempers were short.  Alphonse yelled, “Dennis, aren’t you going to say hello to us?”

I replied, “I’m working my way in that direction, just be patient.”  I made my rounds, shaking hands, asking how people were feeling, what had happened since Id seen them last.”

I came to Alphonse and Magdalene. I said, “I hear that you have a new apartment now. How do you like it?” Alphonse said, “We like it there. It’s far from downtown, but it’s nice. Dennis, I’d like you to meet my friend Manisee.”

We shook hands. He said, “Do you want to know an easy way to remember my name. Just think of Man I See, Manisee.”

“I’ll remember that, Manisee.” I sat down near Little Jake, Wolf and Jacques. “I see you have a new hat, Jacques. It looks good on you.”

“Thank you. It keeps the sun off.”

“How are you doing, Jake?”

“Not so good. Those people over They’re drinking straight vodka. They’re getting too loud, especially Magdalene. Her screeching in my ear is driving me nuts. I’m about ready to swat her.”

Alphonse yelled over, “Jake, what’s that boo-boo on your lip? It looks pretty bad.”

“It’s just a cold sore. I’ve been smoking too many butts.” To me he whispered, “See what I mean.”

Wolf said, “I woke up here at six thirty yesterday evening. Shakes woke me up. It took about two hours to walk home pushing Shaggy’s cart. When I got to my apartment building I saw Outcast and some others sitting on the curb so I gave them my drunk talk. I didn’t have my teeth, in so I don’t know if I made any sense.

“After I got unpacked I was ravenously hungry. I didn’t trust myself to use the stove, so I went to Subway. I gave the guy my card and he said, ‘I know just what you want. I gonna make you something special.’ He did. I don’t know how he knew what I wanted, I didn’t know what I wanted, but he did good. It was really delicious. I still got half in the fridge.

“Yesterday I wanted to tell you about the new book I got. I was too drunk last night to do any reading. I didn’t even crack it open. I don’t even remember the title. I guess I must have read the back cover, but I don’t know. I don’t remember very much, just little bits and pieces, of last night.

“Jake, have you got a dollar twenty-five?”

“Sure,”

“If I give you ten bucks will you do a run for me and get a case of beer? I don’t want to move. I’ll give you one.”

“Will you give me two?”

“Sure, Jake. You look like you could use them.”

Wolf said to me, “I can see that Jake is getting grumpy. That’s why I don’t mind giving him two beer.”

Magdalene sat next to Wolf and put her hand on his shoulder. He said, “Hey, watch the fingerprints!”

“I just wanted to say hello.”

“Saying hello is one thing; touching is another. Just keep your hands off me.”

Someone in white pants and a white jacket came along and called to Magdalene. She went over to talk to him. He said, “You ran out on me yesterday. I gave you money to buy a bottle of vodka and you never came back.”

“Yeah, I got delayed. I was talking to someone. See, I just got out of jail and this person was looking after my stuff. I was worried about my stuff, but don’t worry I’ll pay you back for the vodka as soon as I get some money.”

“Alphonse entered the conversation, “You don’t have to worry about your money, my friend. We’re good for it. Just give us a few days. You’ll see us around.”

I asked Hippo, “Have you gone to court yet?”

“Yeah, they remanded it to sometime in July. I was told that they’re going to drop the charges. I have to go back to be fingerprinted.”

“Don’t they have your fingerprints?”

“No, I guess I was too intoxicated. I’m not allowed to drink, smoke pot or carry any weapons, especially hammers. If I get caught it’s straight to jail. I don’t mind, it’s just until my court date.”

I asked, “Have you been home to see your family lately?”

“My mom came by yesterday, bought me some groceries, gave me some money. She’s going down to Kitchener this weekend to visit her brother, my aunt, my nephews, my nieces.”

“Do you ever get down there to visit your relatives?”

“No, I don’t get along with her brothers.

“Jerry here just got back from B.C. where I’d eventually like to go. He operates a feller buncher.”

feller buncher is a type of harvester used in logging. It is a motorized vehicle with an attachment that can rapidly cut and gather several trees before felling them.standard heavy equipment base with a tree-grabbing device furnished with a chain-saw, circular saw or a shear – a pinching device designed to cut small trees off at the base. The machine then places the cut tree on a stack suitable for a skidderor forwarder, or other means of transport (yarding) for further processing (e.g., delimbing, bucking, loading, or chipping).

Jerry said, Hippo, you could operate one of those. It’s no more complicated than the skidders you’ve operated. I was working at a dry camp. The only liquor was what you brought in, otherwise nothing. After two months I came into a bar in the city and was mixing, vodka, whiskey, rum; anything I could get my hands on. The waitress said to me, ‘Man, it looks like you haven’t had alcohol for months.’ I said, ‘That’s exactly it.'”

 

 

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panhandlers-topper

18 June 2013

As I was approaching the park, Danny came running to meet me. “Dennis, I hate to ask, but could you spare me some bus tickets? Yesterday, Shakes jumped the bus and I was left walking, but it turned out for the best. I ran into a lady I know and she wants to buy two of my paintings. She offered to drive me to where I was going to visit a friend, so that worked out. When I got to my friend’s place, he wasn’t home, so I ended up walking the rest of the way.”

“How long did it take you to walk home?”

“About three hours, but I didn’t mind walking. I’m a fast walker. I’ve got a painting that I’m working on. I’ll bring it out” The image, outlined with a wood burning tool, was of an eagle in flight. “See the way its wings are up and his claws extended. He’s swooping. I’m going to put a rabbit over to the side here.  He won’t have caught the rabbit, but he will. That’s the way they hunt; they swoop and grab.”

Shakess said, “The same thing happened to me a few days ago. The bus driver wouldn’t let me on the bus because I didn’t have the full fare. I walked to the mall and tried a few different buses.  I told the driver, ‘Look, I’ve only got $1.63 and I’ve got no other way to get home.’ Luckily one of them let me ride. I started at 5:30 and didn’t get home until 10:30.”

I sat near Joy. She was going through her purse, then called Chester over. “Have you got any money?” Chester checked his pockets and said, “I’ve got $3.60.” Joy said, “That will just make it. Hippo, can you make a run for me?”

“Sure!”

Joy waved the money at him. He indicated that she should bring it to him. Finally, he came over to get it.  Joy said, “Look, if  it’s too much trouble, I can try to get in there myself.”

“No, it’s okay.”

“You say it’s okay, but you’re not moving.”

Hippo said, “What? You want me to run there? I can run.”

Gaston said, “Yes, show us the Hippo trot.”

Hippo said, “If you think I’m fat. Look at the guy coming down the sidewalk.”

Joy said, “It’s not his fault. He doesn’t eat much. It’s some kind of eating disorder.”

Gaston said, “Yes, it’s glandular.”

Hippo headed toward the liquor store. Joy said, “I swear, when he brings that bottle back I’m going home, alone. He’s been over four times in the last week. Sunday he came over at 4:30. I was already in my boxers, ready to settle in and watch TV. I was cooking supper and I’d only cooked enough for myself.  I hate eating when there is somebody looking at me, drooling, so I told him to help himself. That didn’t leave very much for me. I told him, “Look man, don’t come over at such weird hours.’  The next morning he came over at 10:30. I was just sweeping up. I said, ‘I really don’t want company now. I’ve got things to do.’

“I have a hard time affording food for myself,  let alone feeding someone else. He has his mommy to put money in his bank account, but I never see him then; only when he wants something.

“If  I weren’t waiting for Hippo, I’d be outa here. The cops are sure to come, especially with so many people and Frank being as loud as he is. Bearded Bruce came by earlier with  bottles of vodka, sherry and some kind of dark beer in a green can. He mixed them all together and called it a brucinator. Frank had most of it and you know how obnoxious he gets when he’s wasted.”

A cell phone started ringing. Jacques said, “That’s an incoming call! It shows that I’m important!” He spoke a few words then brought the phone to Joy, he said, “It’s Chili, for you.”

“Hi sweetie, how are you doing… What do you mean you’re a hop, skip and a jump from here… You’re at the mall?… Are you coming here?… If you are I’ll stick around, otherwise I’m leaving… I’ll see you tomorrow then… I better not see any smash marks on your arms and legs, or I’ll slap you silly. I’m also going to check between your toes… Okay, good-bye.  Stupid chick. There are three buildings there. She has her own apartment, but she has half the complex staying at her place. They’re all getting high.”

I asked, “Is she still in a wheelchair?”

“They’d put her in a walker, but she got fucked up again. She went to hospital and is back in a wheelchair.”

I asked, “What is the problem with her legs?”

“She doesn’t take care of herself. She’ll get a small cut, or damage an artery with a hypodermic needle. It’ll get infected, then she gets blood clots. If it’s not taken care of,  it causes death of tissue in the limb. It also affects the immune system.  The same thing happened to me. See this scar below my knee? It was a cut that got infected.  They gave me a powerful antibiotic and said, ‘If this doesn’t work, we’re going to have to amputate your leg.’ That’s the position she’s in.”

“We’re you on crack then?”

“No, just on booze.”

 

 

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14 June 2013

Tim Hortons Coffee & Bake Shop

Tim Horton’s Coffee & Bake Shop (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I approached Shakes, sprawled as usual, on the sidewalk. I noticed that he wasn’t wearing his trademark hat, leather with a shell band. I asked, “How is your day going?”

“Terrible!”

“What’s wrong?”

“I was robbed. They took everything: my three grams, my bottle, my pack, my wallet, my house keys. They even took my hat.”

“How did it happen? Were you jumped?”

“No, I passed out. When I woke up everything was gone.”

“You mentioned that your wallet was missing. Did you have your health papers in there?”

“I don’t know what I had in there. You know how it is, I don’t look in there unless I need to.”

“Will you be able to get into your apartment?”

“I got an extra apartment key. I’d left it at the convenience store that gives me credit. What I don’t have is a key for the main door. They say they’re going to charge me fifty dollars to get a new one. Steve, over there lives in the same building that I do.”

“So, he’ll be able to let you in.”

“I don’t know. Maybe I’ll  have to climb up the balcony.”

“Do you think you could do that?”

“I don’t know. We’ll have to see. Forty years ago I could shimmy up any tree there was.”

Jake said, “Dennis, I’ve got something funny to tell you. It was around Christmas time. I went over to Shakes’ place, because he owed me something. I forget what it was. Anyway, it was three o’clock in the morning. I parked my self — my back against his door — and started pounding with my elbows and yelling ,’Matches, let me in!’ He opened the door, grabbed my jacket by the hood, dragged me down the hall and threw me down the marble stairs. I was so drunk I couldn’t feel anything. I found it so funny I just lay at the bottom of the stairs laughing. Shakes said, ‘Merry Christmas!’ Then walked back to his apartment. The hood was ripped off my coat. I managed to crawl home, somehow. I don’t remember that part.

“Do you know what I wake up to every morning? A photo of Bear after Animal died. Bearded Bruce had it framed and gave it to me. It’s just Bear, and part of Bruce. It makes me smile every time I look at it.”

Wolf said, “I’m having a great day. A lady came by — I may have seen her before. She gave me a bag with a bandanna for Shaggy. See, it has paw prints on it. She also gave me two Tim Horton’s cards worth five dollars each, some dog treats and this book, “A Bird in the House” by Margaret Laurence. I don’t know who she is, but I started right in reading it. Some women came by and told me about the story. I like it.

“Margaret Laurence is a very good writer,” I said. “I’ve read, The Stone Angel and The Diviners by her. I’m sure you’ll like the book.”

“I liked the horse book you gave me. I didn’t think I would,  so, maybe I’ll like this too. I was just so impressed that the lady thought about me and took the trouble to put this bag together.  She’s a good person. It really made my day. I’m still happy — but now I have to take a piss. When I get back we can talk more about books. There’s no point trying to talk to to Shakesor Jake. They wouldn’t know what I was talking about.”

Deaf Donald came by and, pointing to an empty spot on the curb, asked, “Is any body here?… Is anybody here?”

Little Jake said, “No, sit down.”

“What did you say?”

“I said, sit the fuck down.”

“What’s your problem? I just asked if anybody was sitting here. I’ll remember what you said. What did I do wrong? I don’t know what it is that I did.”

“Donald, come here and sit down.  You didn’t do anything wrong.”

Donald sat on the blanket where Wolf had been sitting. Wolf came back and said, “What the fuck are you doing on my blanket!  Did I give you permission to sit there. You don’t just sit down on someone’s blanket. Now, get the fuck away from here!”

Donald, with tears in his eyes, said to Frank, “You told me to sit there. Why did you do that?”

“I told you to sit down. I didn’t tell you to sit there.”

Donald said, “I’m having a really bad day. Last month my grandma died. I’ve just learned that my mom’s dying of cancer and she’s kicked me out of her house.”

“Donald, for Christ’s sake, I’m sorry, man!” said Wolf. “I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings. I’m just a cantankerous, grumpy old man. You know that.  Ask anybody.”

I said, “I agree with that. How about you Jake, do you agree? Shakes? Is Wolf a cantankerous, grumpy old man?”

There was a resounding, “Yes!” Wolf and Donald shook hands and Wolf returned to where he was sitting.”

Gaston said to me, “I read that this location is rated number ten in the city as far as homeless people are concerned. The Mackenzie Bridge is rated number one.”

I asked, “Who establishes these ratings, and what’s the criteria?

“I don’t know. I’m wondering how we can get moved up the scale. I hate that we’re coming in last. What does that say about us?

“I’ve been working on the book I’m writing. It’s been twelve years since I started. It’s finally coming together.”

“Have you published any other books, in English?”

“Yes, in 1992. It didn’t do much. The title is, Tu Parles , To Speak. All my books have something to do with psychology. In this book there are four characters who live in the same apartment. They each have girlfriends. The conflict comes when someone hasn’t contributed to the rent. They don’t know who it is, but one character pleads his case to get the others on his side…”

 

 

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English: Ryan Hobson joins Michael Ignatieff f...

English: Ryan Hobson joins Michael Ignatieff for food bank photo op. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

13 June 2013

At the park, I sat between Little Jake and Joy. I asked Joy, “How are you feeling today? Sick? Sore? Tired?”

“All of the above. Big Jake is coming over tonight.”

“How do you feel about that?”

“Okay, I guess. He came over Monday. He’s quit drinking. He’s in a wheelchair.”

“Did you beat  the shit out of him?”

“No, maybe that will come tonight.”

“He phoned this morning, on Jacques’ phone. He asked to come over. I said, ‘I’m cooking chicken, will that be alright?’ What a stupid cow. I shouldn’t be feeding him after what he did to me.”

“I hope it goes okay.”

“I hope so too. This morning I got on the bus, put in my ticket, walked to the back and sat down. The driver yelled, ‘Hey lady!’ I didn’t know who he was talking to. ‘You, lady with the blue back pack, would you come to the front please?’ I look to see what color my backpack is — blue. So I walk to the front. He asked, ‘What’s in the bottle that you’re drinking?’ I said, ‘It’s bubble tea with ginger ale. You know, bubble tea? Usually it’s made with tea and sparkling water, but I use ginger ale.’ He said, ‘Okay, you can sit down.’

Little Jake said, “Didn’t he ask to smell it? The cops always ask to smell my bottle.”

“No, bus drivers don’t do that. They wouldn’t want their nose anywhere near my bottle.”

“I’ll have to remember that one.”

Mariah  said, “I went to the Food Bank today. I could only get a few things. They allowed me three cans: one of vegetables, one stew and one tuna. They also gave me a tiny plastic container of margarine and a few other items.”

“What kind of stew did you get?” asked Joy, “Is it the one that tastes like dog food — Gravy Train?”

“Yeah, that’s the one.”

“I had to get there three hours before they opened, even then there was a line up. By the time I got in, there was hardly anything left.”

“Didn’t you get any meat or eggs?”

“When I had kids, they used to give me meat and eggs, but not as a single.”

Shakes asked, “Mariah, would you help me to get my groceries some day.”

“I can’t do it Friday, but maybe Saturday.”

“Saturday is fine. The doctor has me on a special diet.”

“Dennis, ” said Shakes, “you know me?”

‘Yes, I know you.”

“I know when it’s coming and I know when it’s going — right?”

“That’s right Shakes, you’re The Man.”

 

 

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