Posts Tagged ‘compassion’

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Psycho

20 June 2012

“Hi Joy, how did everything go after I left yesterday? Was there any more trouble with Daimon and Lucy?”

“No, Andre walked Chili and me down to where she had to go, then I took the bus home. When I was on the bus I realized that I didn’t have my phone. I had it tucked into the cuff of my jeans. It must have fallen out when I was helping Chili. I tried phoning the number and it sounded like a kid that answered. I said, ‘Look, I’ve just gotten off the number fourteen bus. I really need my telephone. Would you do me a really big favor and bring it to the mall’ Then the phone went dead. I tried calling the number later, but it wasn’t in service.

“A guy gave me a phone, but I have to pay a thirty-five dollar activation fee. I’m going to check around and see if I can get a better deal than that.

“I swear that I’m going to give Loretta a shot in the head today.”

“What did she do?” I asked.

“She was panning in front of Tim Horton’s. I said to her, ‘You can’t stay here, you’re cutting my grass.’ I sent her over to see Silver. He sent her over to Hippo’s spot. She’s probably only got about ten minutes before the woman from the hotel asks her to move.

“Chuck has been real pissy lately. He’s always talking down to me. Last night when I came home I still had a piece of steak in the fridge. I nuked it, then put it in a bun with Philadelphia Cream Cheese. It tasted just like one of those Philly Steak and Cheese sandwiches that you can get at Arby’s. I worked at Arby’s one time. It was mostly a front for a drug operation. I used to call it Garby’s. I left just before they got raided.

“Nicholas was really getting on my nerves. He just kept talking and talking about everything. He even followed me into my room. I said to him, ‘Nicholas, you may know about some things, but you don’t know everything. If you don’t shut the fuck up, I’m going to do you right here.’ ”

“But, I have a girlfriend.”

” ‘I didn’t mean that I wanted to have sex with you. I meant that I was going to punch you in the head.’

“Chuck was barbecuing and asked me if I wanted a sausage. I said, ‘No’ He got all pissy about that and I really lost it. I packed all my things, put them in my bag and walked out. I slept behind Starbucks. I had my blanket under me, a soft pile of cardboard underneath and another blanket that I pulled over my head.

“Hippo and Andre came by sometime in the night. Andre peeked under the corner of the blanket and said, ‘Hey, it’s Joy.’ Later on he said, ‘I may accidentally put my arm around you in my sleep.’ The first time he did it, I just moved his arm. The second time, I gave him a shot in the head. I didn’t want any spooning going on. I was all snugly, Andre and Hippo shivered all night. I don’t know why they don’t get some blankets or a sleeping bag. There are lots available now.

“Hippo had a shower the other day and he’s acting all different like, ‘I’m King Hippo’. He’s still wearing the same dirty pants that are nearly worn through. He said to me, “Joy we should go down to Queen Street now.” I don’t need him telling me where I should and shouldn’t go.

“I have to see  my probie today. She wants me to move to a womens’ shelter. I don’t even know where it is. I’ve talked to a few women who’ve lived there. They say there are a lot of rules, like doing daily chores; not coming in drunk; once a week having to cook a meal for the entire floor. I don’t even cook for myself. If I can’t throw it in the nuker, I don’t buy it.”

I said, “How about sharing a place with Chili? You seem to get along fine with her.”

“The only problem is that she has a place In Scarborough. I don’t want to stay somewhere it takes three busses to get downtown. The only person I would consider living with is Pierre. He’s invited me over sometimes on the weekend. He has a twelve-year-old son that he talks to on the telephone. I hear him saying, ‘I love you, son.’ I can here the son saying, ‘I love you dad.’ That’s really special.

“Pierre says he’s not interested in a relationship. He’s interested in a friend with benefits. He’s a bit older than I am, but it’s something to think about.”

I said, “I met Pierre yesterday. He seems nice. I think he’d probably treat you well. Why don’t you give it a try?”

Before getting ready to leave I asked, “So, what’s going to happen with Daimon and Lucy. Are they going to just keep on jumping, beating and robbing people?”

“Yeah, until Daimon goes back to jail again. I felt so bad when I saw that you weren’t wearing your watch yesterday. It’s really bad when friends can’t visit friends without stashing their stuff.

….

Before I left work I had taken the precaution of putting my watch in my pocket. Noon at the park was very hot and humid. Everyone felt drained of energy. Asleep on the grass was Shakes. Sitting in a circle were Daimon, Lucy, Chili, Hippo, and Andre. In another group were Little Jake, Chester, Wolf and his dog Shaggy. The police had been by earlier and said that any groups larger than five people had to disperse.

I sat next to Hippo. Someone had found a newspaper photo of a hippopotamus. The photo was being passed around and someone was teasing Hippo that it was an image of his father. Hippo said, “Yeah, he’s famous. He got his picture in the paper and he’s being fed by a prince or something.”

“I remember one time going to the Clayton fair. It’s a tiny town but they have a big fair. That’s where I got driven over by a car. Another guy drove his truck straight into the swamp. He was just sitting there in the cab, he thought he was still driving. Somebody was there with a big winch truck. Nobody wanted to jump into the swamp to hook up the chain, so I did — ‘bloop.’  ”

I was surprised to see Chili sitting next to Lucy and Daimon. Her bruises still haven’t healed from the last time she was with them.

“We went to pan this morning,” said Daimon, “There was a guy in our spot. I said, ‘Get the fuck out of here! This is our spot.’ He didn’t move so I kicked him in the head. Then he moved.”

Hippo said, “I had to ask Loretta to move. She was in my spot.”

“What if she hadn’t moved?” asked Andre.

“Then I would have asked Lucy to move her.”

Daimon said, “There is someone else that’s looking for a beating. It’s Alphonse and Magdalene.”

Gene said, “Daimon could take Alphonse, Lucy could take Magdalene.”

Andre said, “The problem is, Magdalene is five months pregnant.”

“I don’t have a problem with hitting a pregnant woman, ” said Daimon.

“It’s a shame,” said Gene, “that someone would beat and rob Shakes. All you have to do is ask him for something and he’ll either say, ‘Yes!’ or ‘No!’ That’s not complicated.

“If it’s, ‘No,’ ” said Daimon, you can wait until he passes out, then take it… I was just kidding!”

  ~~~

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Chili Beaten

19 June 2012

This morning was overcast and becoming muggy. It had rained overnight and we’re expecting a heat wave over the next few days.

Joy said, “I was late getting down here because of the rain, but once it stopped, I hopped the bus. I was here about seven thirty. It was too hot for me to come out yesterday.

“We had a barbecue on the weekend with Toothless Chuck’s parents. Chili had smashed some coke and was swinging on the pipes above Chuck’s mom’s head. Chuck was not impressed. He threw her out.

“She told us that Daimon and Lucy had jumped her for her drugs. Her eye is black and swollen now. I told her to keep away from people like that. Lucy is psychotic around women. The other day she saw my phone hanging out of my pocket and she asked to borrow it. I said, ‘I have no time left on it. it isn’t working.’ Then, of course, it rang. She grabbed the phone, we were struggling for it when Daimon came up behind me and smacked me in the head.

“Stealing from panhandlers is bad. Friends double teaming friends is just sick.

“I have to get away from people — into the woods somewhere.”

I said, “Shark and Irene  have mentioned vacationing someplace near Georgian Bay. I think Anastasia also has a place on a lake somewhere.”

“I’d love to go somewhere with Irene or Anastasia, but Shark and I would be at each other’s throats after a few days.”

“Daimon and Lucy are bound to be at the park today, because this is the day that Shark gets his meds. I don’t think that Irene will come down again. She’s too scared.”

“Shark said that Anastasia is a bit crazy.”

“Irene and Anastasia like to drink together. Usually Anastasia has gone through a bottle of vodka before she even comes to the park. She’s so pretty, but she can get weird.”

“So, is there any news about your birth certificate or your other cards?”

“No, I’m going to go to The Womens’ Center to see if I can find out what’s holding things up.”

At noon the sky was threatening rain, but it held off. Finally, the sun came out. There was palpable tension at the park. Three groups had formed. Daimon, Lucy, Jake, Hippo and Andre were sitting on the lawn in one group. Joy, Chili  and I were sitting on the curb. Facing us, on the opposite curb, were Outcast, Chester, Silver and Rocky.

Chili’s right eye, cheek and chin were bruised and swollen.

Joy asked, “Does it hurt when you smile or laugh?”

“Yes, it does.”

Joy said, “One time I was on the floor when Big Jake hit me in the cheek with a billy club. I had a bruise in the shape of an “L”. The cops asked Jake if he had done it. He said, ‘One of your finest did that.’

“I’m going to phone Toothless to see if he’ll change his mind about letting you stay at our place.”

“Hi Chuck, I’m sitting with Chili. She’s sorry for what happened on the weekend. She knows she fucked up, but she has no other place to stay and I’m trying to keep her away from Daimon and Lucy. Chuck, don’t hang up okay? Chuck… He hung up.”

“He’s still pissed about that thing with his mother.”

“I know I fucked up.”

Andre came over and gave the women a hug. “Andre,” said Joy. “How can you sit with that pair of assholes after seeing what they did to Chili?”

“It’s just that I’ve known Daimon for over twenty years. I used to hang out with his older brother who is three times his size.”

“Has Daimon always been an asshole?”

“Yeah, he’s always been the same.”

“Will you come with us to the bank? Chili needs to deposit some money, and she’s afraid that Daimon and Lucy are going to jump her again.”

“Sure, I’ll ride shotgun.”

“Thanks, Andre, you’re someone I know I can trust.”

Daimon and Lucy eventually walked away together.

Joy said, “I really wish someone would boot fuck those assholes until they were just twitching. Then, maybe, we’d call 911 — sorry too late.

“I’m really the matriarch around here. Jacques and I are the last two left from the old group, now that Rip is dead.”

  ~~~

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18 June 2012

Algonquin Land

Noon at the park was sunny and warm. Serge was sitting in his usual place.

“Hi Serge!”

“Hi.”

“How have you been feeling?”

“I’ve been feeling sick the past few days.”

“What kind of sickness did you have?”

“Too much booze. I’m taking a break for a while.”

“It’s good to take a break every once in a while.

“Are the others up top?”

“They’re all up there.”

“I’ll see you on my way back, Serge.”

“See you.”

There were several groups of people on the lawn. I talked first to Debbie, Little Jake, Wolf and Shaggy, who was very friendly. She rubbed against me, slid her head under my hand to be scratched and patted.

“Jake,” I said, “Friday you mentioned that You had a dream about me. Do you remember the dream?”

“No, it wasn’t sexual though. I think I may have dreamed that you gave me a hundred dollars. I don’t know.”

I moved to another group that included Shakes, Daimon, Lucy In The Sky, Hippo, Andre and Ian.

Ian was talking to Andre, looking very sombre. He had been sitting with his girlfriend Marlena and had touched her breast. The police saw it and charged him.

“You’re a marked man, Ian,” said Andre. Even if she goes to court and tries to have the charges dropped, you’ll have a stay on your record. If you get charged for anything else, you’ll go straight to jail, and as a sexual offender expect a lot of beatings. They’ll probably put you in P.C. (Protective Custody), but even there you won’t be safe.”

Ian handed Andre the summons. “I thought you just got a domestic, this says you’re charged with sexual assault. You’re fucked! If you go within fifty feet of her you can be charged.

“Don’t get me wrong, Ian, we’re family. We know you didn’t do anything wrong. We’ll always have your back. It’s just the police.”

Daimon said, “I’ve had domestics before. Even if you’re just arguing with your old lady, they can kick you out of your house or apartment. They won’t do a thing to her, but if you leave, they figure there’s no more problem.”

Andre said, “I’ve served twenty-five years in jail, in and out. If there’s one thing I know, it’s the law. Since it was the cops who laid the charges against you, it’s them you’ll have to deal with.”

“I have witnesses too,” said Irving.

“That could help. One time I was charged with uttering death threats against my wife, her parents and my kids — five counts I was charged with. I spent eleven months dead time before I went to court. When I finally did to court the judge said, ‘Is there anything wrong with this picture? Here’s a man pleading innocent, after eleven months, and he still hasn’t had a trial. I’m throwing this out for time served. Andre, you’re free to go.’

“Six-up to my left.”

One male and one female bicycle police officers rode up. The female officer said, “Hi Andre, Ian. Are you guys keeping out of trouble?

“You over there,” she said to Outcast. “Did I just see you kick a beer can over the railing?”

“No, but I wouldn’t be surprised if you find some empties down there.”

“Shakes,” she said, “you’re sober. What happened?”

“What happened is you made me pour out all my booze last night. I have nothing to drink.”

“I’m going to lay it out for you guys. If you’re just up here shooting the shit that’s okay, but this is private property. Do you understand? If we see any liquor, you’re going to be charged. You got that?”

“Yes, officer,” said Andre. “You wouldn’t happen to have a smoke would you?”

“No, Andre, I don’t smoke.”

After the police left Ian said, “This is Algonquin land. I’m Algonquin. There’s no way they can keep me off my own land.”

 ~~~

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15 June 2012

Millhaven Penitentiary

Joy was quiet this morning, “I didn’t have much sleep last night. Chuck had the television on loud until eleven thirty. The crack heads next door were so loud that he phoned the police. He woke me at five this morning. I said, ‘You didn’t need to wake me. I’ve been awake most of the night.’

“He’s getting lazier and lazier. He got the dog for exercise, but he hardly takes him out. I’ll be damned if I’ll pay for any dog food. He hasn’t been doing any panning, he just lies on the couch watching TV.  That means when I get home I don’t have any time to myself. He wants to have a barbecue tomorrow. His parents are coming over. I’ll have to check with him later to see if he wants me to get any groceries at the store on my way home.”

“I tried to check on Big Jake,” I said, but the information is only available to immediate family.”

“How did you check?”

“I Googled Jake’s name, but nothing came up. I Googled Millhaven and got a directory, but that’s as far as I could go. They don’t have any listing of inmates. They have instructions as to what to do if you want to visit.”

“No, I don’t want to visit. I don’t want anything to do with him.”

“Hippo and Andre were by earlier. They’ve been sleeping behind the dumpsters in back of Starbucks. I guess Hippo had been panning, across the street from Andre, and had only made a quarter. He came over to get a cigarette. He saw a woman reach down toward his hat. He thought she was dropping money, but she took his quarter. They seem to have been eating pretty well according to what they tell me.”

“You mentioned yesterday that your youngest son is still in school. Who is he living with?”

“He lives with my oldest, who is twenty-eight now. He takes really good care of him. The second youngest was adopted out. I guess I wasn’t a very good role model. Of course, I didn’t have good role models myself.”

“Chester hasn’t been doing too well lately. He had an inheritance of eight thousand dollars and it was gone in a month. He asked me to do a run for him one time and gave me his bank card and number. I asked him, ‘How many people know your bank number?’ He said, ‘I don’t know.’ He’s been like that ever since he fell down that flight of concrete steps and split his head open. He forgets a lot of things, and people take advantage of that.”

Noon at the park was sunny and mild. Serge was lying down asleep on a park bench. Shakes was lying on the lawn.

Debbie borrowed Joy’s phone to check her bank balance. She didn’t know how to open Joy’s phone. She threw it back.

“Thanks for throwing it, Debbie!”

Joy said to me, “My mom was sort of a swamp lady. She’d catch bullfrogs and deep fry them in batter. She’d also make squirrel stew. It tasted a bit gamey. We also had deer and elk, that taste pretty much the same, we had buffalo, bear, rabbit —  pretty much anything.

“Jake’s parents live in Rockland. They never approved of me. We stayed at their cottage one time, they left to go back to Rockland, we were to stay there and cut firewood for the winter. Jake got into his mom’s codeine pills and spent all his time on the couch. I was the one who went into the woods with the chain saw, cut the trees, hauled them out, cut and split them for firewood.

“I said to him, “What kind of support is that. I don’t know what I’m doing up there. What if a tree had fallen on me?”

Little Jake had staggered away to lie on the grass with his head on his backpack. Debbie said, “Joy, I’ve got lots of newspapers here. Why don’t you sit on these instead of your blanket. I think Jake should have something over him.”

“First of all, Debbie, this blanket is going home with me, to go on my bed. I don’t want to be sharing it with Jake . Second, the weather is warm. he doesn’t need anything covering him.”

Debbie left to drape some newspapers over Jake. Silver yelled, “Will you just leave him the fuck alone? Jesus!”

Joy said, “Silver, you don’t get your balls up very often, but when you do, it sure is entertaining.”

Andre said, ‘Whatever kind of food I want to eat, that’s the type of restaurant I pan in front of. Last night Hippo and I had roast beef, maybe tonight it will be sushi.”

Hippo said he has been gaining weight since teaming up with Andre.

~~~

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14 June 2012

Hobophobia 

This morning the weather was perfect. The sun was shining, the temperature was not too cool, not too hot, humidity was moderate. I was welcomed by Metro.  Silver gave me a wave from across the street. Joy was smiling and waving. Soon, Hippo and Andre stopped by to chat.

“Where did you sleep, Hippo?” I asked.

“Behind the dumpsters in back of Starbucks.”

Andre said, “I woke up and one of the waitresses came out and asked me if I wanted a coffee. ‘Sure,’ I said.”

Hippo said, “Andre and I both made our price (for a bottle of sherry) today.”

“I’m still short a quarter,” said Andre.

“Here you go,” said Hippo as he handed him a quarter.

Andre said, “I’ve got a peanut butter and jam, and a tuna sandwich, if anybody wants one.”

Joy said, “Neither of those appeals to me.”

“Me neither,” said Andre, “that’s why I still have them.”

“Hey!” said Hippo, “what about me!”

“Hippo,” said Joy, “you’re a human garbage can.”

“I know.”

Andre and Hippo wandered off, probably going to the park to relax and have a drink.

Joy said, “I wonder how long that tuna sandwich has been in Emile’s backpack.” She looked in her cap, “I’ve been here since six o’clock and I’ve made exactly four twenty. That’s depressing.

“There he goes , he’s the one with the sign that says, ‘Help Put An End To Hobophobia’. What does that mean?”

I said, “A homophobe is a person who doesn’t like homosexuals. A hobophobe is a person who doesn’t like hobos.”

“Hobos?” asked Mo, “People like me?”

“Yes, a misogynist is a person who doesn’t like women.”

Misogynist / Misogyny: is the hatred or dislike of women or girls. According to feminist theory misogyny can be manifested in numerous ways including sexual discrimination, denigration of women, violence against women and sexual objectification of women.

“That’s Jake. I’ll have to remember that.

“You have access to a computer, don’t you? I’d like the address of Millhaven Penitentiary. I want to write Big Jake a nasty note using the word ‘misogynist’.”

Millhaven Institution
Highway 33
P.O. Box 280
Bath, Ontario
K0H 1G0

telephone: (613) 351-8000

fax: (613) 351-8136

“I’m trying to get Fran away from Gene. I said to her, ‘Look at me. You’ve seen me with black eyes, a broken nose, cracked and broken ribs. I could hardly walk because of the chest pain. My legs have been black and blue, all because of Jake. I’ve seen you with black eyes. If Gene hit you once he’ll hit you again. I know what I’m talking about. If you’re ever worried or in trouble, promise you’ll phone me. Even if you just want to talk, give me a call.’ ”

Just then a pigeon, sitting on the roof of the library, shit. It landed on the knee of my pants. Joy laughed as she handed me some paper napkins and her bottle of water.

“That’s considered good luck. I’m morbid, but it reminds me of a place I lived – Laurel something or other. There were two apartment towers, one higher than the other. It was mostly elderly people living there. One day a friend and I were just leaving the building when I heard a ‘thud’ and noticed some blood on my leg. At first I thought I had scratched myself on something. Then I saw an old lady lying on the pavement. She actually lifted her head, then died. She’d jumped from the twenty-fifth floor. I guess she felt she’d lived long enough. Why would a person want to end their life like that? Her head made a dent in the pavement. They had to scrape her face up with a spatula. That’s really getting morbid.

“While I was living there, maybe five years, about fifty people jumped to their death. Usually they’d hit the railing. You can imagine what a mess that made.”

I said, “ There are also a lot of subway jumpers. In the first five months of this year, seventeen people jumped into the path of oncoming subway trains.  Nearly once a week, the subway shuts down because someone jumped in front of one of the subway cars.”

Joy said,“One time I was waiting at the bus platform. There was a woman beside me who looked like she didn’t have a care in the world. When the bus came she threw herself in front of it. I can still remember the sound of her scream. She wasn’t killed. They had to amputate one arm and one leg. I’m not sure what other injuries she had.

“I’m just babbling away here. I’m like dinner and a movie without the dinner. You can have this apple. I can’t digest the skin. I’ve also got a banana. I don’t eat much fruit. I’ll probably give it to Jacques or Hippo.”

At the park this after noon there were about ten people and one dog.

“How are you feeling, Rocky?” I asked.

“I’m okay. I have to see my probation officer at one o’clock. I think he’s going to breach me.”

“Why would he breach you?”

“I was supposed to quit drinking and I haven’t.”

“Have you been in any programs to help you quit drinking, like Alcoholics Anonymous or the Wet Program at the Shepherd?”

“I’m banned for life at the Shepherd and the Mission. I have six tokens from A.A.”

“What are the tokens for?”

“They give you a token for every meeting you attend.”

“Do you enjoy the meetings?”

“I do enjoy some of them. Some of the speakers are really good. Others take and hour and a half for what could be said in five minutes.”

“Have you been eating? Do you need money for food?”

“I had breakfast. It’s Thursday, so the ‘sandwich ladies’ will be coming by shortly.”

“Excuse me, Rocky, I’m going to sit down.”

I sat between Andre and Gaston. I mentioned to Gaston that I had visited his  website. He manages a  drop-in center for victims of AIDS.

“I’ve started several drop-in centers. One in Montreal and one in Ottawa for children who have been physically or sexually abused.”

“How do you go about starting a drop-in center?”

“First of all, I’m a very confidant person. Before starting any venture I know I will succeed. For funding, I approach groups such as the Wives of Lawyers Auxiliary group. I make my presentation to them and they convince their husbands to invest money.”

I noticed that Andre was eating his peanut butter and jam sandwich (pb & j was written on the plastic wrap). “I thought you didn’t like peanut butter and jam, Andre.”

“I don’t, but when I’m hungry it’s better than nothing. Here Shaggy, see if you like this?” Andre fed small pieces to Wolf’s dog who was hesitant at first, then decided that she liked it.

~~~

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13 June 2012

The sun was shining, but there was a moderate breeze that caused it to be chilly in the shade. At the park were Buck and his dog Dillinger, Loretta, Deaf Donald, Silver, Andre, Joy and Jacques. We were sitting in a circle. Joy had a blanket spread out. The others were sitting on newspapers.

Buck went on a run, leaving Dillinger with Loretta. “We’ve decided that Dillinger is getting confused with so many people telling him what to do, so only Buck and me are allowed to pet him, or give him commands. I don’t even let Jake pet him, and I’ve known him for ten years.”

Joy is agoraphobic and was feeling crowded, “This is getting a bit close for me,” she said.

Deaf Donald said to Joy, “Loretta said that I’m not allowed to pet the dog.”

Joy tried to explain, “Don’t worry, it’s not about you, they’re trying to train the dog.”

Donald said to Joy, “I’m having a barbecue at my place this afternoon. Do you want to come?”

“Sure, I’m up for it. Make sure you have some Imperial sherry. I don’t drink beer.”

Silver said, “A barbecue sounds good. Me, I hate cooking. I like to put something in the microwave, go have a joint and when I’m finished, I eat. Right now, I have a joint rolled, on my television set, just waiting for me.”

Loretta asked, “Am I invited too?”

Donald didn’t answer. When Loretta turned her back he made a hand sign indicating that she talks too much.

Silver said, “I’ll go along with that. In fact I’m going to sit beside Hippo to get away from all the racket.”

Donald asked Jake, “Do you want to come to my place for a barbecue this afternoon?”

“Sure.”

Andre said to Joy, “Do you know what’s going to happen? At the last-minute he’s going to tell Jake that he’s not invited, so it will be just you and him. He did the same thing to me last week with Loretta.”

“In that case I’ll give it a pass. I don’t need any of that shit.”

Today is Chester’s sixty-fourth birthday. He was wearing a tee-shirt with a slogan, ‘I’m 29 (this is an old shirt)’.

Loretta asked Joy, “Do you have any kids?”

“I’ve got five boys. They’re all doing well, living in Toronto. They don’t smoke, drink or do drugs. Three are working and two are still in school. I promised myself I wouldn’t cry, but here I am crying. My youngest was the result of a rape. After my mother told him about it he asked me, ‘Why did you keep me?’ I said, ‘Your asshole father was just a sperm donor.  I carried you, I nursed you, I raised you. Most of all I love you.’ He was happy with that.”

Loretta said, “I have a daughter who’s sixteen now. She has the second highest marks in her class at school. I’m so proud of her. I had a tubal ligation. That hurt more than having a baby.”

Joy asked me, “Are you cold?”

“No,” I said, “I’m fine.”

“Liar!”

“Really, I’m fine.”

“Liar!”

“Okay, I’m a bit chilly.”

“Here, put my sweatshirt on.”

“No, I couldn’t do that.”

Andre said, “I’m not wearing my jacket. Here, put it on.”

“Thanks Andre, I appreciate that.”

~~~

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11 June 2012

The weather at noon today was ninety degrees and sunny. Typically, everyone was complaining about the heat. I met Serge sitting on the curb. We shook hands.

“How are you doing, Serge?”

“Not bad. I’m just drinking my lunch. The others are up top.” He was sipping from an innocent looking clear plastic water bottle that also contained rubbing alcohol.

“I’ll see you later, Serge.”

“See you.”

At the park were Loretta, Silver, Chester and Outcast.

Loretta said, “I’m sad today. It’s my birthday, I had to appear in court on an assault charge and I met my ex. We had a big fight right in the Court House. They think I may get jail time. I hope not.”

“Hey,” said Silver, “my birthday is coming up this month. What kind of present are you going to buy me, Outcast.”

“How be I give you a kick in the ass? My birthday was in January. What did you give me?”

“Well, could I have a smoke?”

“I’ll throw it over the railing. Will you get it?”

“Sure I’ll get it.”

“How be I throw you over the railing?”

“How old will you be, Silver?” I asked.

“On the 23rd I’ll be fifty-two. Outcast is a couple of months older than I am.”

“How old are you, Chester?”

“I’m sixty-four.”

“How are you feeling. Are your toes still black  from being run over by the the bus?”

“Yes they’re still black, but they’re getting better.  I’m still in a lot of pain. I usually don’t take pills. The only thing I take is demerol. My doctor gives it to me for migraines. They get very bad. I get them about once a month.”

“Have you seen Joy today?” asked Loretta.

“No,” I replied, “she wasn’t panning on Parliament this morning.”

“She was here yesterday,” said Silver. “Maybe she panned large and doesn’t need to come out today. I’m just staying around until the pigs come. Then I’m taking off. I hid my backpack with my beer in it, so if they come, all I can lose is this can on the railing.”

“Friday, they were here nearly every hour,” said Outcast. “I kicked over three cans.”

Loretta said, “I left my beer on the railing, right where it was. They didn’t say anything.”

“Debbie’s computer crashed today,” said Heartless. I had some savings put away, so I bought her this laptop. It was regularly four hundred, I got it for two.”

Silver said, “Sorry, Dennis, for my smoke getting in your face. It’s getting so we’re not allowed to smoke in parks, on public patios, or any public places.

“I nearly burnt my bed the other night. My mattress is on the floor. The end of my cigarette fell off and I guess it rolled under the edge of my mattress. I kept asking my roommate, ‘Do you smell something burning?’ I flipped over my mattress and there was a plate sized, smoldering hole. I got two or three pans of water from the sink and doused it. Then I had to sleep on the floor.”

“Silver,” said Outcast, “you’re dropping ashes on Chester’s backpack. Soon, it’s going to be on fire.”

“Chester,” said Loretta, “come over here and stand in front of me. I want to take off these long pants and put on my shorts. I’m too hot in these.

“I’m really being stupid. I have asthma, I’m smoking and I don’t have my puffer with me.”

Outcast said, “I’ve got lung problems too. Now, it’s turned into cancer. In the 1980’s I was working on the Post Office building, removing asbestos. We weren’t wearing masks. We didn’t even know it was dangerous back then. Of the twenty-seven guys I worked with only thirteen are still alive. The rest of us are still waiting for a settlement from the government.

“At least I have insurance so my kids are taken care of. My brother was a fire fighter during 9/11 in New York. His lungs are so badly corroded, from the dust and the smoke, that, he can’t do anything. I come from a family of eleven boys and one girl. I’m the youngest.”

“That’s a big family,

“How was your weekend, Silver?”

“I panned in my usual place on Saturday, at the church on Queen and the other on Power, in four shifts from ten in the morning until one. I always do well there.

“This morning I went for breakfast at the Salvation Army. Mondays they always have a full breakfast. I had a three egg sandwich. They have really good sausages there. Tuesday, at the Mission, they’re having their full breakfast.

“On Father’s Day the ‘chicken man’ will be coming by. He came into a lot of money, now he’s spreading it around. On Father’s Day and on Mother’s Day he gives away chicken and turkey hot dogs, and with them he hands out five dollar bills. He must know we’ll buy booze with the money. From the fumes of our breath alone, he could get drunk.”

~~~

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8 June 2012
At noon the sky was threatening rain. It had rained earlier and the streets were still wet. The first friend I came across was Serge.

“Hi, Serge, how’s everything today?” He mumbled something that I couldn’t quite make out.“Did you say, ‘not bad?’ ” I asked.

“Not yet,” he replied and chuckled.

“Take care, Serge, I’ll see you on my way back.”

“The others are all up there,” he pointed up the hill.

Sitting on the lawn were a dozen of the regulars. Lying on the grass, sound asleep, was Shakes.

Joy came over and said, “I wasn’t panning today because Chuck and I had a big fight. Chili has been staying with us. This morning before she left for school, she took some pills and drank half a twenty-six ounce bottle of Bacardi. We got into an argument and Chuck took her side. She isn’t the one paying half of the bills; I am.

“I packed all my stuff into my bag and set it by the door. Anyway, Chuck got mad and threw my bag across the room. I said to him, ‘I’ve got breakable stuff in there. If anything is broken, you’re in big trouble.’ I checked and everything was okay.

“He phoned me later and asked, ‘Are we through?’ I said, ‘You’re the one who hasn’t been talking’. So, I don’t know what’s happening. I just know that he’s there, and I can’t have the place to myself like I do some afternoons. I could really use some peace and quiet right now.”

I asked, “How is it going with getting your medical card?”

“I don’t know. I’m going through the system, so however long it takes. I really need my meds. I’m psychotic, schizophrenic and I have all these voices going around in my mind. I can never get a good nights sleep.”

I sat down between Ian and Andre who said, “Don’t sit on the grass, it will stain your clothes. Sit on my jacket. It’s dirty anyway.”

“Thanks, Andre.”

Silver said, “Dennis, are you sitting on the grass. Here’s a newspaper. It’s free.”

“He’s not sitting on the grass. He’s sitting on my jacket.” said Andre.

“Oh,” said Silver, “I didn’t see it. I guess you don’t need this then.”

“Thanks, anyway, Silver,” I said.

“Andre,” I asked, “How did everything go, yesterday, after I left.”

“I went to check on Little Jake. There were two bicycle cops talking to him. One was a big muscular guy with tattoos on his arms. Jake kept mouthing off to them. He was charged, the cop gave me a carton of smokes.”

“He gave you a carton of smokes?”

“Yeah, then I got up to leave and he said, ‘You don’t have to go, if you don’t want to, but this guy, meaning Jake, has to move on. You stayed quiet when we asked you to, so we’ve got no problem with you.”

Rocky was throwing up blood in the bushes. Joy said, “Rocky, stop drinking and eat something. I know you haven’t been eating. Here’s a bagel you need something in your gut.” He ate the bagel.

“This is the first thing I’ve eaten in five days,” he said to me.

Ian said, “You know, I inherited a twenty-seven thousand dollar commercial fishing boat. I don’t own it any more. I kick my self for that. My sons will inherit it when they turn eighteen. It’s working now. It brings in about seven hundred thousand a year. I don’t see any of that.

“Marlena wants me to quit drinking, but I explained to her. ‘I can’t just quit like that. It takes time and I need some help, but I’m working on it.”

“You seem to be doing well, Ian,” I said. “You seem to be sober now. Even at Alcoholics Anonymous they stress one day at a time. You’ll get there, if that’s what you want.”

Ian said, Marlena and I were sitting on the sidewalk yesterday. I had just opened a beer when a cop stopped at the curb. I said to him, ‘Officer, this is my first drink of the day. Can I please have another swallow before I pour it out?’ He said, ‘You lift that beer and I’ll kick your teeth in.’ I said, ‘Okay, if you’re going to give me a ticket, go ahead. If you want to go (fight), we can go. It’s fine with me. You put your gun down and we can go right now.’ He just gave me the ticket, but I’m going to see my lawyer. He threatened me and Marlena is my witness. I’ve got a good lawyer. I don’t know why the cop couldn’t have just been polite. We weren’t causing any trouble. He could have said, “Excuse me sir, would you mind pouring out that beer. It’s against the law to drink in public.

“Another cop said to me, ‘Ian, if you shave off that beard and moustache we won’t charge you next time.’ I said, ‘What do you mean? Do you mean that I can walk past you, drinking a beer, and you won’t give me a ticket.’ He said, ‘Yes, that’s what I mean.’ ”

Andre said, “The other night — well I guess it was four thirty in the morning — Shakes and I were wandering around. We went to the Toronto Dominion Bank. Ian, Marlena and Hippo were asleep on the floor. Ian was closest so I said, ‘Ian’. There was no answer so I said it a little louder ‘Ian’. I kicked his pack sack under his head, no response. I kicked a little harder, still no response. Shakes said, ‘Ian, you want a drink?’ and his hand shot up. ‘What do you think? Of course, I want a drink.’ Hippo just said, ‘Fuck off, I want to sleep.’ ”

~~~

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7 June 2012

Noon at the park was sunny and warm. Hippo and Andre were arguing over forty-five cents. They were short that amount to go to the liquor store. Hippo threw a nickel at Andre. Andre threw a quarter at Hippo.

Andre said to Hippo, “Do you want me to get up? Do you want me to get up?”

“No,” said Hippo, “I don’t want you to get up. Let’s be reasonable about this.”

I stopped to talk to Wolf who said, “If you wonder why I’m sitting with these wild men, it’s because that other group over there is too near the war memorial. That’s the first place the cops are going to stop. It makes sense, if someone has lost a friend or family member to the war, the last thing they want to see is a bunch of people standing around drinking beer. It’s not respectful. There used to be two benches there, but they took them out. That was the reason. Since then, they’ve taken two more benches out. They’re making a statement. Do you see what I mean?”

I wandered over to the other group. Joy was talking about an incident that happened yesterday. “Lucy punched Irene in the face and broke her nose. Then Daimon grabbed Shark and took his cell phone. He gave it back later. I said to Lucy today, ‘I don’t appreciate what you did to my friend. Shark was good to you, he sold you drugs at half the price he could have charged. Is this is the way you repay him? That’s not the way that friends treat friends. Does Daimon want to go back to jail so soon? Anyone walking by, seeing someone putting the boots to someone on the ground, could have called the cops.’

“That’s what happens when you’re dealing with addicts. They don’t think reasonably, they just think of their next fix.”

“Here comes Andre,” said Outcast.

“Little Jake has passed out on the bridge. The cops and the paramedics are sure to be here soon. Speaking of cops, there are four of them on bicycles talking to Hippo. One of them is riding in this direction. Dump your liquor!”

As he rode by, the officer on bicycle said, “Hi, Andre!”

Joy poured the contents of her plastic bottle on the lawn. “That should kill the grass,” she said. Outcast kicked over his can of beer that he had placed on the bottom rung of the railing. Andre started staggering to where the action was. “They probably won’t do anything to Little Jake because he has AIDS. He usually has a cut on his lip or something. They won’t want to go near him.

“Earlier they talked to me. I said, ‘anything you want to know is on my dossier. Just look me up. ‘Dossier?’ he said, ‘that’s a pretty big word for you.’ ‘Look dude,’ I said, ‘I’ve been in the system for as long as I can remember. If there’s one thing I know, it’s the system. You’ll find that I’m red flagged for violence and there’s a green C beside my name for hep.c. Anything else you want to know is in there.”

“Andre,” said Outcast, “stay here, you’re drunk! If you go over there you’re going to be charged! Stupid bastard!”

Joy said, “He rode right by. I wouldn’t have needed to dump my bottle.”

“That’s the third can of beer I’ve kicked,” said Outcast. “That’ll tell you how many times they’ve been here this morning. They’ve been coming every hour.”

“Dennis, I think you may have been lucky for us. You look respectable. They’d treat you decent. You should have seen the bicycle cop that was here yesterday. A red-headed guy with big muscles. I wish I’d had a video phone. He stood there, in front of the women, scratching his balls. He was really disgusting. He said, ‘They don’t make condoms big enough to fit me.’ and ‘I’m so big that I’m cramped by this bicycle seat’. If I could have recorded that I’d have been on the phone right away to the police. I’d say, ‘This is how one of your officers talks to the public.’ They think that, because we’re alcoholics, they don’t have to treat us like humans.”

“Dennis is always lucky for me,” said Joy. “Every time he stops by, I get two or three drops.”

Outcast said, “The Chief of Police was on T.V. the other night. He said they’re going to crack down on drugs in the Market. I guess that means here too. It’s because of the tourists. He said so. They don’t want tourists looking at people like us, hanging around drinking beer.”

“I’ll have to mix another drink,” said Joy as she reached into her backpack for her sherry and water bottles. “Are there any female cops over there? If there aren’t, they won’t be able to check my bag. I hope there aren’t, because I’m carrying pot.”

Outcast said, “I think Hippo has outstanding warrants against him, but that’s in British Columbia.”

Hippo came walking up, “They charged me with pissing against the wall. I got a thirty-five dollar fine. I couldn’t have held it any longer anyway.”

“May I see your ticket?” I asked. “I’m just curious to see what they wrote.”

“I threw it away. It didn’t have my real name on it anyway.”

“And even if it did, you wouldn’t pay it, would you?”

“No, but maybe I should have given it to Jacques. He could have taped it on his wall with all the liquor violations, and Joy’s ticket for jumping the bus.”

Hippo walked over to Outcast, “Can I have forty-five cents. Rocky is going for a run.”

“Will they let him in?” asked  Outcast. “Is he sober enough?”

“Well, he’s more sober than I am. I’m hammered.”

Joy reached into her bra and pulled out a change purse. She gave some money to Hippo, “Buy me a bottle too, will you?”

“Joy, I knew you stuffed your bra,” laughed Outcast.

“Earlier, Daimon saw me put money in my backpack and he kept eyeing it. I figured this way, he’d have to come through me to get it.”

“Charlie was by earlier, but he didn’t stay long. I guess nobody would give him anything.”

The police had left, so I wandered down to say good-bye to the other group. Shark had joined them.

“Hi Shark,” I said, “I’m sorry to hear about what happened to Irene. Joy said her nose is broken.”

“It’s not broken. It was just bleeding. She’d be here but she’s mad at me for not stepping in when Lucy punched her, but I couldn’t. First, I was in the middle of a drug deal with Daimon. Second, he said, ‘Stay out of it!’ He grabbed my arm and held me down. See the bruises?

“I wouldn’t say this to Irene, but she had it coming. I’ve told you before that when she’s drunk her mind goes on retard. She just keeps repeating the same thing over and over. She was saying, ‘That person has sucked Sharks’s cock, that person has sucked Shark’s cock, and on, and on, and on …’ I said, ‘Irene, this may be of some concern to you, but it isn’t to anybody else, Now, shut the fuck up!’ That’s when Lucy popped her.

“She won’t be mad at me for long. I talked to my landlord and I have a two bedroom apartment arranged.”

“Where is it?” I asked.

“I don’t know, he has buildings all over the city, we can take our pick. I told him that I’d pay him the last months rent now and the first month’s rent, August first, when we move in. He’s willing to give me the last month, in my present apartment, for free. Not a bad deal, eh? I’ll have a room to myself, so when Elaine gets mad at me I can go there and play my games.”

~~~

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6 June 2012

As I was walking along  Parliament Street I was approached by Stan. “Hi, brother, he said, “do you think you could help me out. I’ve been panning, but I’ve only made a dollar so far. I collected some beer cans but had to walk across the bridge to get a refund on them.  I’ve been walking all morning. I’m beat.”

“Sure, I can help you, Stan.”

“I really appreciate that. I’ve got to get back in shape. I have to start eating properly. I should be drinking more milk, eating more meat and eggs. I also need to go to a detox center to get help. I’m having trouble with my liver and I’ve been puking blood.”

“Rocky and Hippo are having the same problem.”

“I know. Thanks again, brother.”

When I got to the park I first talked to Rocky. “How are you feeling today?”

“I’m feeling a little better.”

“You mentioned yesterday that you had an operation on your heart when you were four days old. Tell me about that.”

“They had me taken to the Children’s Hospital in Montreal. A valve in my heart had to be replaced. Two days later they operated on my kidney to fix a hole. I wasn’t expected to survive the operations. I stayed in the hospital for five years. They’ll have to operate on my heart again soon to put in a larger valve.”

“You mentioned that your mother and father didn’t want a son. How did that affect you?”

“I didn’t have a name for the first four days. It was my grandmother who gave me my name and raised me. They say that most of a child’s development happens in the first five years. I didn’t have that. I think that’s what made me the way I am. I had my first cigarette when I was four years old. I started drinking when I was six. You may have noticed that I don’t talk much to people, I just hang around at the edge of the group and watch.”

“I can understand that. I was in a similar situation when I was eighteen months old. It completely changed my personality.”

“My youngest sister wants to come down here, but I told her not to. My sisters are all up north.”

“Toronto can be a tough place to live.”

“I find it good where I am. I’m near the hospital. My father sometimes comes to the city, but he never wants to see me.”

Chester came over. I asked,  “How are you feeling today, Chester?”

“I still have a lot of pain in my lower right leg. My toes started to turn black, but that’s going away now.”

“So the bus must have hit you on the right side.”

“I don’t know. I don’t remember.”

“Take care, Chester.”

I walked up to the other group that included Joy, Irene, Shark, Jacques, Outcast, Chili and Gaston.

“Hi Joy, did you finish your shopping?”

“No, I still have a few things to get.”

“Are you going to be having a barbecue?”

“No, Toothless is checking out a new place on Spruce.”

“The street where Daniel, you, and I lived!”

“Yeah, I lived in the pink house.”

“I remember the pink house. I walked past it on my way to the shopping center.”

“It’s still pink.”

I wandered over to the railing where Gaston was standing by himself. “Hi Gaston, are you enjoying the warm weather?”

“Yes, it’s nice to see the sunshine after so much rain. I come here to get reacquainted with my friends. I’ll be going home soon to spend time in my garden. It’s small, but I have cabbages, carrots, lettuce, and tomatoes. In the house, I raise my own herbs. I get milk from a farmer in glass bottles, just like in the old days. He puts some aside for me. The cream rises to the top. I love that, I can make my own whipping cream.”

“Do you live in Toronto?”

“I live in Corktown, within walking distance of here. I have my own house, I take courses at the university, teach courses at the university and at the HIV drop in center on Gerrard. I also teach at another drop-in program on Markham Road  — that’s the place where they deal with people who have mental conditions.

“My main interest is psychology. We must first understand ourselves in order to understand others. We must understand our whole bodily system, how we are affected by nutrition, stress. Stress is a big concern. If we are stressed it affects our digestion, our thinking process, our internal organs and our ability to heal.

“I teach courses on HIV. Cleanliness is very important at every step. The first place people touch is the doorbell. I disinfect it after each person enters, the same with the door knobs. I’ve opened drop-in centers here and in and Ottawa.”

“That’s fascinating, Gaston. Do you have a website? How can I register for your courses?”

“It’s listed under The AIDS Committee of Toronto.”

“I’ll check that out, Gaston. It was a pleasure meeting you.”

I said good-bye to the congregation, including Nick, whose hand was in a cast up to his elbow.

“How is your hand, Nick. It must be feeling better having the cast on.”

Trudy said, “He was supposed to have an operation, but he declined it.”

“Did they want to operate on your hand?”

“No, on my liver. My friend died yesterday of the same thing. I decided to leave it in God’s hands.”

“I’m sorry to hear that, Nick. I truly am. How are you feeling about your situation?”

“I don’t know.”

“We’re all the same, Nick. None of us knows how long we have to live, It could be years, months, weeks, or days. We’re never sure. All we can do is take it one day at a time, one hour at a time, one moment at a time. I know you do a lot to help people. Just keep on doing what you’re doing. Supplying sandwiches to the homeless is very important. We’re here to help. That’s all any of us can do.”

“Yes, I panhandle to give to those who have less than I do.”

“Take care, Nick. God bless you. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

~~~

 

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