Posts Tagged ‘compassion’

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sonny

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3 December 2012

It was rather quiet at ‘the heater’ today. In attendance were Shakes, Little Jake, Amigo, Donny with the motorized wheelchair and Loretta.

I said to Shakes, “How do like your new place?”

“It’s fine. I got robbed there on Saturday night.”

“Shakes, how did you get robbed in your own place?”

“I was drinking with a guy who lives downstairs, in the same building I’m in. I gave him money to go out and buy me two bottles. I left my door open so he could get back in. He didn’t show and when I woke up, my other bottle was gone. I’ll make sure I get those bottles next time I see him.”

Loretta said, “Do you see the boots that guy walking by is wearing? My boyfriend, Vance wears that kind of boots. He has to, he’s a roofer. He’s working his last day today. The season is over. He can’t roof in the snow. This hat I’m wearing is from the company he works for, Reliable Roofing.”

Jake said, “What does he do when he’s not roofing?”

“He goes on unemployment insurance, so I’ll have him all to myself.”

“Jake said, “He doesn’t come around here very much. Doesn’t he like us?

“It’s not you that he doesn’t like. He doesn’t like me drinking with you guys, because that’s when I get into trouble.”

Jake said to me, “These antibiotics I’m taking make my face itch and my ankles swell. I have to keep taking them until the end of December. I see my doctor this afternoon. He’s putting me on a special diet. I took the menu to my worker. She says that I’ll qualify for an extra two hundred dollars a month.

“Did you hear that Debbie was hit by a bus last week? She had bags of groceries in both arms and was running to catch the bus. She was banging on the side trying to get the driver to stop. She slipped, groceries went flying and the bus ran over her arm. I told her to go to the hospital, but she didn’t want to. Her upper arm is all purple now.

“I should bring my mountain bike down and sell it. Right now I’m using it to hang my clothes on.”

I asked him, “How is your new apartment working out?”

“I won’t be getting my furniture until January — it’ll be better then.

“It’s nice here, in the sun. I don’t want to get up at all. How about you, Shakes?”

“I just want to sit here.”

A security guard wearing a reflective vest walked by. He looked at us, but didn’t say anything.”

Jake said, “That’s the nice one. He doesn’t care if we’re here. It’s the old guy who tells us to move along. Shakes got a ticket the other day for trespassing.”

I asked, “Did he get the ticket here?”

“Yeah, right here. He wasn’t charged for alcohol, just trespassing.”

Jake asked Loretta, “Are you going to the World (World Exchange Plaza) today?”

“No.”

Jake asked, “Are you barred from there?”

“No, just from the Rideau Center.”

“I can’t find anyone to go for a run. I guess it doesn’t matter. I’ve got no money anyway.

“Shakes, have you got any money?”

“I’ve got five dollars and five cents.”

“Loretta, have you got any money?”

“I don’t even have enough to buy a pack of smokes, but I’ll buy a cigarette off you for a dollar.”

“I’ll buy one too, Jake,” said Amigo. Shortly after he left.

Jake said, “Well, we’ve got enough for a bottle, we just don’t have anyone to go for a run.”

I said, “You could have asked Amigo.”

“I don’t know him well enough, at least not well enough to trust him with seven bucks. He might not come back.

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sonny

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After leaving work I met Sunny James.

He said, “Did you hear that I was kicked out of a city council meeting. Not only that, two goons, that’s what I call them, escorted me out of the building. The police arrested me for trespassing. How can I be trespassing in our city hall? Tell me that! The police roughed me up in the car and again when we got to the jail.

“I appeared before the judge the next morning. I told him how I was treated and mentioned that our mayor is in a conflict of interest situation. He also sits on the board of Ontario Hydro. I was at the council meeting expressing my concerns about the city not adopting my idea of a solar-powered mono-rail, similar to ones they have in Europe. Of course, the mayor was against the idea because it’s going against what Ontario Hydro wants.

“The mayor of Toronto, Bob Ford, was fired. I think our mayor should be fired as well. Did you hear that Joe Fontana, mayor of London, Ontario, was charged with fraud and breach of trust? Our Chief of Police, Charles Bordeleau, what do you think of him? I don’t know how good your Spanish is, but ‘bordello’ in Spanish means whore house.

“Gerald Tremblay, Montreal’s former mayor, quit amid multiple corruption allegations last month. Did you hear what his severance package is worth? It’s more than $216,000.

“Have you seen my website?”
http://www.youtube.com/user/sunnynewswire
http://www.123people.ca/s/sunny+newswire
http://sunnynewswire.blogspot.ca

“Yes, I have, Sunny. It’s very impressive.”

“Did you see my presentation to city hall? What did you think of that?”

“Yes, I thought you put your ideas forward very effectively. Are you still sleeping outside?”

“Oh, yes, I always do. I don’t mind it. There was a lady who offered to let me leave some of my stuff in her backyard. Now, she says I can’t. Do you know of any place I could store my grocery cart? Someone mentioned a place near the bus depot. Maybe I’ll try there.”

“That sounds like a convenient location for you. It’s within walking distance.”

“Did I tell you that I’m building a solar-powered ship? A friend of mine from Newfoundland, an engineer, is working on it with me. It will have condos aboard, the world’s largest dance floor, swimming pools. We’re looking for investors. Are you interested?”

“Not now, Sunny, but let me know how it is progressing.”

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30 November 2012

It was cold at noon (minus four Fahrenheit) and windy. The only person at ‘the heater’ was Shakes. Beside him was a sports bag, a purple plastic shopping bag with a globe sitting on top — all his worldly possessions.

“Dennis,” said Shakes. I’ve got a favor to ask you.”

“What is it, Shakes?”

“I need a bottle.”

“Sorry, Shakes, I don’t have any cash on me.”

“That’s not what I asked.”

He pulled an envelope out of his pocket and handed me a twenty-dollar bill. “Would you please go to the World Exchange for me? Get a coffee for yourself.”

“Sure I’ll go,  Shakes, but I don’t need a coffee. We get it free at work.”

“Don’t say I didn’t offer.”

It’s only about a five-minute walk to the World Exchange Center. I didn’t mind making a run and Shakes is barred for life. “Okay, Shakes, I’ll be back in a few minutes.”

When I came back Shakes was talking to Fred. I looked at the globe and asked, “Shakes, are you planning to do some world traveling?” He laughed.

“How about Australia?” I asked. “Would you like to go there?”

Fred said, “I have a friend who came from New Zealand.”

I said, “I’ve seen pictures of New Zealand. It’s really beautiful.”

“Yeah,” he said, “they also have seventeen women to every man. I asked my friend if it was true, and why he left. He said, ‘They have lots of women alright, but they’re all ugly.’ I don’t think any women are ugly. Every one of them has something beautiful about her.”

I asked Shakes, “Have you heard anything about Joy? Did she phone Jacques?”

“First things first. I lost my glove.”

His yellow glove was just a few feet back, near where we were standing previously. Every time the sun moved farther behind one of the tall buildings, Shakes moved out of the shadow and into the sunlight.

“Where have the others gone?”

“They had places they had to go. Jacques, André and Travis were here. Do you guys know Travis.”

I said, “I know Travis. He talks a lot.”

“Yeah, he not only talks a lot, but it’s what he says. Sometimes I just have to say, ‘Travis, go away. I don’t want to listen to you.’

“I’m waiting here until two o’clock. My workers are coming by in the van, to pick up me and my stuff. They’re going to be giving me the keys to my apartment on Moriset.”

Little Chester and Donny in his motorized wheelchair came over to where we were standing. He picked up the globe and looked at it. I pointed out Iceland, where my grandparents came from.

He pointed at Newfoundland. “This is where I came from. They’re the same color.”

I said, “I’ve always wanted to go to Newfoundland. It’s really beautiful.”

“No, it’s not. I lived there for twenty-four years. I couldn’t wait to get away.”

“I hear the economy has really picked up since the oil discovery.”

“I’ve been hearing about that for forty years. I don’t think anything has happened yet.”

I asked, “Were you a fisherman?”

“My mother said I had lazy bones. I’ve always had lazy bones. I snared rabbits. Once, some friends and I were out in the bush. We had a cable and made a lasso out of it. We hung it between two trees. A moose came running along, right into the snare. My friends hauled it up in a tree. We had meat to last us all winter. Lots of people have heard of snaring rabbits, not too many have heard of snaring moose.”

I said, “I’ve eaten moose, It’s really good.”

Shakes said to Chester, “Get the fuck out of my sun!”

“I don’t understand you, Shakes. What did you say?”

I said, “I think he means you’re making a shadow on him. You’re standing in his sun.”

“Oh, I didn’t know what he wanted. Sure, Shakes, I’ll move down.”

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29 November 2012

As I arrived at ‘the heater’ I could see that the security guard was already there. He was smoking a cigarette but had already told the group to move along. Jacques, Chester, Donny with the motorized wheelchair, Loretta and I walked across the street to the traffic island. Jacques spread a folded blanket on the cold cement ledge to make it slightly more comfortable. Timmy arrived shortly after.

“Hi Timmy,” I said, “You’re not riding your bicycle today.”

“No, it’s too slushy.”

“How did it go with your workers. Did they visit the apartment yesterday?”

“I went to see them this morning. They had the date wrong. It’s today they’ll be viewing the apartment. Tomorrow, they’ll let me know when I can pick up the keys.

Two workers from the Salvation Army came by, “Is Shakes around?” they asked.

Jacques said, “He just left with his daughter Fran. We should be able to get a message to him sometime today.”

“Will he be on the bridge later?”

“Should be.”

“If you see him, would you let him know we have the keys for his apartment?”

“We’ll tell him.”

I asked Jacques, “Have you heard anything from Joy? Did she phone this morning?”

‘Yeah, she phoned. She sounded better, but you never know. Some people don’t say much on the telephone. Maybe she’s worse. Mariah was supposed to bring me keys, but she didn’t come down today. Joy’s check should have come in the mail today. I guess Mariah picked it up for her.

“I was going to visit Joy this afternoon, but I don’t have her check. Maybe I’ll go tomorrow.”

I said, “Joy said to me that when her check arrived she’d try to go to Money Mart to have it cashed, but now they have her attached to so many tubes and wires that she can’t leave her bed.”

Jacques said, “There’s a bank in the hospital. She could cash her check there. There may be a small fee, but it’s a government check, there shouldn’t be any trouble cashing it.”

Loretta was feeling emotional. “I get so fed up. My old man is nice to me sometimes — I really love him — but then he’ll call me names, tell me to go back to where I came from.”

I asked, “Where did you come from?”

“Coppermine.”

Kugluktuk (Inuinnaqtun: Qurluktuk, “the place of moving water”; Inuktitut:   formerly Coppermine until 1 January 1996) is a hamlet located at the mouth of the Coppermine River in the Kitikmeot Region of Nunavut, Canada, on Coronation Gulf, southwest of Victoria Island. It is the westernmost community in Nunavut, almost on the border with the Northwest Territories.

“I’m a bit wasted now. Do I look alright? Will I be okay to get on the bus?”

I said, “You look fine.”

“Did Joy tell you that she came to visit me at my place in Orléans? I have a past like hers. That’s why we get along so well.”

“Joy told me that she drinks to forget her past, to help her with the pain and to help her sleep.”

“I’m the same way. sometimes I’ll hear somebody say something and it brings it all rushing back.”

“Yes, she told me.”

“I moved from there to a place next door. I’ve applied to go to a mission, especially for Inuit women. They told me it was okay to move, but now they say that because I’m already in a ‘safe house’ I can’t go to the mission. I was so mad. It was on October 30th. I got drunk, got arrested and spent Hallowe’en in jail.”

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28 November 2012

I was expecting Stella to be visiting Weasel and Bear today, so I took my lunch hour at ten o’clock. Nancy greeted me with, “Joy just phoned. She sounds a lot better, complaining as usual. She called Jacques, then he passed the phone to the rest of us.”

I said, “I visited her last night.”

“Yes, she mentioned that. I don’t think that Joy is good at living alone. She needs people to make decisions for her. I don’t think she’s had to do that before. I love to have free time to myself, but I’ve had practice.”

I shook hands with Inuvik but I couldn’t remember his name. “Hi,” I said I’m Dennis.”

“I’m Inuvik.”

I said, “I remember, you’re Nuisance.”

“That’s right, you remember!”

“Dennis,” said Outcast, “I talked to Joy this morning and I gave her shit. I wasn’t like some of these people saying, ‘Poor, Joy, I’m sorry you’re in the hospital, sorry you’re sick.’ I told her she had it coming. She didn’t listen to the doctors last time and she probably won’t listen to them this time. She has to quit drinking; never mind watering it down, she has to quit entirely. You can only damage your kidneys so many times then they shut down. She’s had her last wake up call. She’s stubborn, thinks she can do anything she wants and it won’t have any effect on her health.

“I went to her place on Saturday with a bag of groceries. I could see her moving around in there, but she wouldn’t answer the door to me. If she wants to be like that, it’s the last time I bring groceries. I hear she let Buck in. I don’t know what’s up with that.

“By the way, did you notice my new boots. They’re really warm. 59 bucks at Wal-Mart. They had $39, $49 all the way up to $100, but those were really heavy. I do a lot of walking, when I picked these up, I couldn’t believe how light they were.

“I won’t be going to the hospital. Debbie went for a colonoscopy last week and I stood outside for three hours. Any virus that’s around I’ll pick it up. I can’t take the chance.”

I said, “Joy mentioned that she was quarantined when she first came in. It’s a virus that she picked up at the hospital last time. She didn’t mention the name.”

Outcast replied, “That’s enough reason for me not to go. Have you heard that we’re getting more snow this afternoon?”

“I know we had some between nine and ten o’clock.”

“That was nothing. They’re predicting seven feet. We won’t even be able to see André. He’ll have to get one of those reflecting rods that they use for the snow plows.

“By the way, I get my new dentures next week. It’s all covered by the government. I thought I’d have to get all my teeth pulled because of pyorrhea, but they filled two cavities and said I was good to go. The reason the government paid for my dentures is because I said I couldn’t eat, which isn’t exactly true. I have two molars. That’s all I really need for chewing. I’m missing my front teeth so I can’t eat corn on the cob or apples.”

Nancy said, “Outcast, it’s not all about you.”

“Of course it’s all about me. It always is.”

Jacques said, “I really miss eating corn on the cob. I have to cut the corn off with a knife then add salt and lots of butter.”

André said, “That’s the same with me. You should see when I try to eat corn on the cob. Because I’m missing my top front teeth, I leave a strip in the middle about an inch wide. Only a few niblets on the edges get into my mouth, so, like Jacques, I cut it off with a knife then add lots of butter and salt.”

Outcast said, “That sounds good for your cholesterol level. I’m not supposed to eat salt because of my blood pressure, but I eat it anyway. I’ve heard that sea salt is better for you.”

Stella said, “Yes, I’ve heard that too. It tastes better and is a bit coarser.”

I said to Mariah, “You’re in the same building as Joy. How long have you lived there?”

“Three years.”

“You must be relatively happy there to have stayed for three years.”

“The first couple of years were with my old man, but he’s gone. I didn’t mind the company, but he kept running us into debt. I don’t miss that.

“I’ve gone to the hospital for Willie and John. I don’t do that anymore. I feel bad that Joy’s in hospital, but she has to take care of herself. I’m not going to do it.”

Outcast was on the phone to Chester, “Are you coming down today? Remember you owe me twenty bucks. No, not from last week, from the week before. I don’t want to come all the way to your place. Okay, you’ll be down for sure tomorrow? I’ll see you then. Don’t forget! Don’t spend it all tonight!

“That’s the problem with lending money to people. They either forget they owe it to you, or you just don’t see them. He’s drunk already and I could hear another voice in the background. He said I could pick it up at his place, Maybe I’ll do that.”

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26 November 2012

Monday morning and Joy isn’t in her usual place. I wasn’t surprised, Mondays are noted as being bad days for panhandling. People tend to be grumpy because of having to come back to work after the weekend.

At noon I met Jacques and André at the traffic island. Jacques said, “Did you hear about Joy? She’s in hospital. They take her there by ambulance yesterday to the Civic. She phoned me this morning. It’s about her kidneys, she said that they were so sore she couldn’t get up. She didn’t have a room yet. They had her all night in the corridor.”

I said that I’d phone the hospital and see if I could get any information. André said, “Me, I don’t go to hospitals, but because it’s Joy I’ll see if I can visit her sometime.”

Jacques said, “It’s bad for her. This is the third time in a year that she’s been hospitalized for the same thing. The doctors told her she should move somewhere else and stop drinking; but, it’s hard to leave your friends, go to someplace where you don’t know anybody, but it’s her body telling her that she can’t drink anymore. It doesn’t matter if she waters it down, she has to stop completely.”

I said, “She’s been waiting so long for her health card. She drinks to forget her past. She drinks because of the pain in her legs and she drinks to get to sleep at night.”

I asked André, “Where have you been staying?”

“At the Sally. It hasn’t been too bad. I’m in bed 256, in a room with just one other guy. When he starts snoring it’s not just sawing wood it’s like a Husqvarna chain saw. He’s a big guy and makes a lot of noise just rolling over on those plastic covered mattresses.

“Yesterday I was at the Library. I knew I couldn’t get back in time to sign for my bed, so I phoned them. They said, ‘No problem, André, we’ll put you down for another night.’ When I got there they had cut my lock and were hauling my stuff out of the room. They told me, ‘You can’t sign in until seven o’clock, so I had to sit in the lobby with all of my stuff until then. Meanwhile, there’s another guy sitting across the room. They ask him if he’d like a bed. I said, ‘Hey, I’m waiting for a bed, now you’re giving my bed away to someone else.’ The guy said, ‘I was here first.’ I said, ‘What do you mean you were here first. I’ve been here for six years. I’ve grown roots in the cracks of the floor here.’ Anyway, they gave him a bed in the basement and where do you think they put me? In the same bed they just kicked me out of.

“I’m thinking that I should talk to my workers about getting me a room until an apartment becomes available. I’ve got to get something started because they’re cutting off the start-up allowance in the new year. It’s one of the government cutbacks.”

“Hey, hey,” said Jacques, “The last start-up check is going to be issued December 15, so you have to apply before that. If you apply later there is a good chance you’ll be rejected.”

I asked Jacques, “You’re in a bachelor apartment aren’t you?”

“No, I’m in a room for now, but I’d prefer to be in a bachelor. We share a kitchen with two sinks, one side is always full of dirty dishes. I don’t like that. I like to have my own place, so I can keep it tidy, or not — whatever I want.

“They didn’t want to give me a start-up allowance, because I was coming from a bachelor to a room. They thought that I should have everything I needed. I told them that I had to throw away most of my things because of the bed bug. They said, ‘There’s no report of you having the bed bug.’ They sprayed three times, but my landlord didn’t give me a paper saying that. I could have gotten two hundred dollars if I had that paper.”

Timmy stopped by on his bicycle. I asked him, “How was your weekend, Timmy?”

“It was okay, quiet. The chicken man was by yesterday morning.”

“I asked, “Was he handing out five dollar bills?”

André answered, “No, just fried chicken. He only hands out five dollar bills on special occasions, like Christmas, Easter — on Mother’s Day he’ll give one to the ladies; on Father’s Day, the men get one. Last year the owner of Gabriel’s Pizza came to ‘the heater’ with four large pizzas. I was the only one there. He said, ‘Make sure you share these.” Did he think I was going to eat four large pizzas? I said, ‘Don’t worry, I’ll share them.’ If I didn’t I’d probably get my head kicked in.

“I haven’t seen Little Jake today. I wonder how he’s doing?”

I said, “He seemed to be feeling a little better on Friday.”

André said, “He’s taking a powerful dose of antibiotics, but he’s still drinking. I said to him, “Jake if you drink, you’re canceling out the benefit of the antibiotics.” He’s taking other daily medication every day as well. He sees his doctor every day.”

I asked, “How are you feeling, André?”

“I’m feeling okay now. When I had walking pneumonia I had a pain in my chest like a red-hot, iron rod going through my lung. I was in real pain. I could only take shallow breaths. I still don’t have full use of my lungs. Jake may have something different from what I had, I don’t know.”

I phoned the Ottawa Hospital – Civic Campus. I was informed that Joy was doing okay. She is still in the Emergency Department, Medicine Service. They are still waiting for a bed for her. I will try to visit her tonight.

It’s about 6:30 pm. I took the number 6 bus to the Civic Hospital. I went to the Emergency desk, was given a pass and told to follow the green dots on the floor. The receptionist at the Medicine Department desk directed me to bed 116. The curtains were closed, so I asked a nurse what I should do. She said, “Just call her name, she’s resting.” I called and heard a faint, “Dennis?”

I stuck my head behind the curtain. Joy said, “I thought I heard your voice, but I thought, That can’t be. I wasn’t expecting you to visit.”

“I said I would, if you were ever in the hospital again, and here I am.”

“Have a seat over there. Just move my stuff to the other chair. I’m in so much pain. These doctors — there have been five of them, so far — they keep asking me the same questions. I asked one of them, ‘Don’t you guys talk to each other?’ The guy said, ‘We do, but we have to hear it first hand.’ They keep asking, ‘When did you have your last drink?’ I said, ‘Friday.’ They asked, ‘How often a day do you drink?’ I said, ‘Once.’ They asked, ‘How much do you drink each day?’ I said, ‘A bottle, a bottle and a half, two bottles, it depends on how I’m feeling.’

“I was feeling sick on Sunday. I went upstairs to Mariah’s place. It must have taken me forty-five minutes to climb the stairs. She said, ‘You look like you’re in pain!’ She gave me two Tylenol 3’s. They didn’t do anything. She said, ‘Go back downstairs and try to get some rest.’

“Then Buck and Dillinger came over. (Joy rolled her eyes.) He brought me some Ensure and some pears. We smoked a joint together and he left me half a gram. I’ve still got it in my bag.

“I just kept feeling worse and worse. Finally, I couldn’t stand it anymore. My cell phone didn’t have any time on it, but the emergency numbers still worked. They asked me for my phone number. I couldn’t remember it.

“When I first came in they gave me a shot of Dilaudid. I threw my guts up but felt better after that. Then they gave it to me in pill form. That didn’t do anything for the pain, but made me feel nauseous, caused my mouth to dry up. I need morphine, but I told them I’d also need some Gravol. I tried to eat some of the meatloaf they served for supper. I took two bites, that’s all I could handle.

“I can’t sleep. I’m not even on a proper hospital bed. This mattress is thin and hard. I ache all over, my legs, my back, it’s even into my neck now. They had me out in the corridor for a long time before bringing me in here. The guy beside me coughs all the time. They have me in some kind of quarantine, because of a virus I picked up the last time I was here. It’s contagious for people with a low immune system.”

Al, a male nurse came in to take Joy’s blood pressure. It was 188 over 113. He said it’s coming down. It was 244 over 113. He said, “They have a bed for you now. You’ll be moved soon. I’ll try to get them to hurry with your meds. It’s medical students who are working on it. They can be slow.”

Joy said, “Thanks, Al.”

” To me, she said, “He’s cool. He lets me know what’s really going on.

“I want to go out for a smoke. Is it cold outside?”

“It’s been snowing.”

“I don’t care. Can you bring my wheelchair over and help me to the front entrance. While I’m outside could you do me a big favor? I’d really love a Tim Horton’s steeped tea, with one milk and two sugar. The stuff they serve at Starbucks is garbage. I’ll meet you back here at my bed.

After the cigarette and tea, another nurse came in to check Joy’s heart rate. I felt that she needed some privacy, so I said that I’d come back tomorrow.

“I need some stuff from home, especially a tooth-brush. I don’t know how to get them.”

I said, “If Mariah can pack some things and bring a bag downtown, I’ll bring it to you here at the hospital.”

“We’ll work something out. Thanks for bringing me the tea. I’m going to try to get some sleep now. I’ll see you tomorrow?”

I said, “I’ll be here.”

” I’ll see you then. Hopefully, I’ll be better at making conversation.”

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……

25 November 2012

It’s Sunday, I don’t get to see my friends until tomorrow, but I miss them. I wonder where Shakes slept last night. Was it in a bank kiosk? I also wonder where André slept last night. Perhaps, it was behind the dumpsters in the back of Starbucks. I wonder if Joy slept last night since the temperature went below freezing. I’ve slept in a tent in those temperatures and know that it isn’t life threatening if one has the proper sleeping bag and warm clothing. I can also remember shivering so much that I couldn’t get to sleep. There wasn’t anything I could do to improve my situation at the time.

When I read over my previous entries I realize just how important my friends are to me. Despite their addictions, their choices and what life has thrown at them; they are doing the best they can with what they have. Can any of us do any better? They are always entertaining and a joy to be with.

Several colleagues at work have seen me sitting with Joy before I go to work in the mornings. They ask about her story. I give them a condensed version of the facts as I know them. They ask, “Do you believe that what she says is the truth?” I have known Joy for two years now. When she tells her stories there are variations, perhaps due to memory, perhaps due to the amount she’s had to drink, the amount she wishes to reveal; but in essence, what she has told me is consistent and I don’t believe her to be a great actress who can pull tears out of nowhere.

I’ve been asked, “Are these people dangerous?” I know that several have committed murder. Two have served sentences of twenty and twenty-five years in prison. Another wasn’t charged but has lived with the guilt, even attended the dead man’s funeral and met his family. These people, my friends, are capable of murder. I am capable of murder. Most people, in certain situations, especially under the influence of drugs or alcohol, are capable of murder.

I know that if I was in a desperate situation, any of my friends would do their best to protect me, or help me, with whatever resources they had. They’ve offered food, drink and protection on many occasions.

I don’t really know why I am drawn to the park at noon hours. I say that the conversations there are more interesting than what I hear at work. That is certainly true. More than that I see raw life, without a safety net. Like Silver, who died September twenty-ninth, at the age of fifty-two, most of my friends are only too aware that they won’t see sixty. Many are surprised and sometimes disappointed, that they made it through the night. I enjoy sharing the time they have left. I am honored to have made their acquaintance.

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……

22 November 2012

As soon as I arrived at Joy’s spot she said, “Sit on my crate. I have to go to the bathroom and I’m not allowed in Severino’s (Pizza). They say that I’m bad for business. Go figure.”

When she came back I asked, “Did I miss anything yesterday, after I left?”

“No, nothing much happened. Weasel showed up.”

“Yeah, I saw him on the sidewalk as I was leaving. Any word about your health card?”

“I think it’s all going to happen next week when they bring my furniture.”

I said, “I can’t believe that it’s taking so long.”

“I know, I’m not too happy with one of my workers. The young one with all the stuff about love and crap. She’s the one that was crying yesterday. I told her, ‘I need someone who can keep it together. The other worker has been to sessions at E. Fry with me where I’ve really spilled my guts. I’ve told things that I’ve never told anybody before. If you start crying, I’ll start crying.’ She said, ‘I just want you to know that you’re loved and that we care for you.’ Anyway, I don’t need that shit. The sooner I’m done with them the better.”

I said, “Outcast said something strange to me yesterday. It was when André was talking to the worker in the van. Pointing to André he said, ‘There’s something fishy going on. If I’d been charged like André, I’d be behind bars. Instead, he’s free as can be, doesn’t even need to report to a probation officer.”

“I don’t trust anyone anymore. Of the original crew, there’s only Jacques — Digger’s around but he’s in a home — there are Snake and Irene, but she’s sort of new. Shakes, I’ve known since I was about twelve years old. He’s seen me grow up.

“André has a cousin, five times removed, that’s on the police force. Maybe, she’s doing something for him. I don’t know.

“He was pissed yesterday that I left with Outcast. I got a hammer and nails from Chester and wanted some help hanging a quilt on my wall. André’s shorter than I am, so he’d be no use.”

At noon the weather was unseasonably warm at fifty-two degrees Fahrenheit. At the Traffic Island were Donny with his motorized wheelchair and a half dozen other friends.

Hippo was reading a grocery flyer. “What are you looking to buy, Hippo?”

“Cat food.”

“I didn’t know you had a cat.”

“I didn’t until last night. It was mewing at my door at 1:30 am. I opened the door and in he came. He’s awfully scrawny.

He said to Jacques, “Here are the sausages I like. $3.00 for a three pack.”

“That’s pretty good.”

I said to Jacques, “You showed me your winter boots from Stella. Is there anything else you need for winter?”

‘No, I think I have everything. Instead of longjohns, I like to wear jogging pants. They hold more warm air next to your skin.”

I said, “I have the kind of tights they use for skiing.”

“Yeah, for sports they need something that will stretch when they move. Us here, we don’t move so much. Just raise our arm to drink a beer, that’s all.”

I noticed that Shakes was wearing a white watch. I asked, “Is that watch new, Shakes?”

“Yeah, I just got it yesterday. I bought it for two or three dollars from Danny. I stayed at his place last night. I got a new bag, ’cause my old one was stolen. Look what else I got!” He pulled a giant plastic beer bottle, meant for storing change. He put it to his mouth as if he was drinking. Ha, ha, ha, ha.”

I said, “The cops are sure going to be surprised the next time they stop by.”

“Yeah, they sure will.”

Mariah’s cell phone rang. She checked to see who was calling then said, “I don’t want to talk to him. I’d rather be in the sun and fresh air, not stuck inside somewhere.”

I asked Jake, “How are you feeling today?”

“Better than yesterday. I was panning today, made six dollars. I go to my HIV doctor tomorrow and my other doctor next week. I have to find out what’s going on in my head.”

“Are you having headaches?”

“No, seizures. I had one yesterday. I think it’s due to all the medication I’m taking. I have to make sure I eat when I take the antibiotics, otherwise, I feel really sick.”

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……

21 November 2012

Joy was in her usual spot this morning, talking to Delmar the garbage man.

“Hi Delmar,” I said.

“Hello, Dennis.”

Joy said to him, “So handsome, when are you coming over to visit me in my new place, or would your wife object.”

“I think she’d object.”

I had a newspaper to sit on, but instead, I knelt beside Joy, “How are you making out today?”

“So, so, I came down with seven dollars, I’ve had drops of three dollars plus some jingle for my cap.” I was there for about ten minutes and half a dozen people dropped change into her cap. “You’re lucky for me, Sunshine, I was doing lousy before you came along.”

“Do you have heat?” I asked.

“No, the landlord came down with a plastic card that looked like a fridge magnet. It was a thermometer. He waved it around, looked at it and said, ‘It’s a balmy eighty-six degrees in here.” I took the card and put it on the heater it registered eighty-two. I kept the card overnight and put it in the hall to the outside. There is no heat in there at all, it’s the same as the outside temperature. The thermometer read seventy-seven degrees. Last night it went down to freezing. So, I’m done with that. I’ll be getting a space heater from my worker and until then I’ll leave the oven on.”

“How about your neighbor, is he still noisy?”

“I talked to him last night. He was stomping around so I got a shovel and banged on my ceiling. He came down a few steps and kicked on my door. He said, ‘What’s the idea with all that banging?.’ I said, ‘That’s what I hear every time you walk across the floor. So, you can either walk more quietly or you’ll get the same in return, your choice.’ I told the landlady about it. He said, ‘Maybe we should let the police decide.’ I said, ‘Sure,’ and rhymed off the number for him. ‘When you’re on the line ask for McQuaid, Curzon, Santorini, Warrington, Harris. Just tell them that you were talking to Joy, they’ll know who you mean.’ He asked, ‘So, you’ve been in trouble with the police?’ I said, ‘No, man, these are family. They’re married to my sisters.’ That shut him up.

“Here comes trouble.”

Andre was scowling as he approached. “I’m so pissed off. Alphonse and Magdalene sat down beside me. Alphonse asked me for a smoke, then he asked if I had anything to eat. I gave him some pizza, He said, ‘I don’t like it.’ Then he said, ‘You’re sitting in my spot, would you mind moving on.’ Can you believe that? He’s lucky I didn’t kick him in the head.”

Since there were already two people talking to Joy I decided to head to work. “I’ll see you at noon, Joy, André.”

“We’ll see you, Dennis.”

At noon I stopped to talk to Wolf and to scratch Shaggy. Wolf said, “Hello, Dennis. See the leather coat some lady gave me. This will have to be my Sunday coat, not my going to the store coat. I certainly won’t wear it when I’m panning.”

Outcast didn’t have his dentures in, so he was a bit hard to understand. “Isn’t this a beautiful day we’re having? Forty-six degrees Fahrenheit, the sun is shining. Tomorrow is supposed to be the same, then we get snow on Saturday. I guess we should appreciate days like this when we have them. Today we’re blessed. I’m going to go for a whiz, so I’ll see you later.”

At the traffic island, the Salvation Army Outreach van was parked. Joy was standing on the passenger side leaning in the window talking to her worker. André was standing on the driver’s side talking to his worker. They were also handing out socks and purple print underwear.

Seated, hunched over was Shakes. Outcast brought him a pair of underwear. Shakes said, “These are large, I need a medium. I don’t want to have to be hitching them up as I walk down the street.”

Jacques said, “They gave me these socks. I think they’re nylon. They won’t be warm for the winter. See the nice boots that Stella brought for me this morning — real winter boots. I’ll put some oil on the leather so they’re waterproof and I’ll be all set.

“See this paper I got.” It was a letter from Jacques’ former landlord claiming back rent of fifteen dollars a day for eight days and a storage fee for his belongings of ten dollars a day.

I said, “You’re in your new place now, aren’t you?”

“Yes, he handed this to me when I was picking up the last of my stuff. Some people stay fourteen days and he doesn’t charge them. I’m not going to pay this.

“Oh, Oh, here comes Willy. He’s staggering. When he’s drunk he likes to fight. You know, he served twenty years for murder.”

When Willy came across the street Joy started singing:

Oh, where have you been,
Willy Boy, Willy Boy?
Oh, where have you been,
Charming Willy?

Shakes asked, “Have you ever been to sea, Willy?” He was referring to an old Captain Highliner commercial. He said to Willy, “Over at the van they’re giving out socks and underwear if you want some.”

“No,” said Willy, “I don’t want anything to do with those bastards.”

Outcast came over, “Dennis, I got an invoice from the city for unpaid liquor violations from December 2010 to now. The total amount is $5,600.00. They’re going to be waiting a long time for that.”

Joy came back from talking to her worker. Outcast said, “Tell Dennis about the problem you’re having with your neighbor, and who you saw today.”

“I told my landlady about the problem I was having with my neighbor. I said to her, ‘When he walks across the floor my cabinet doors shake.’ She doesn’t speak very good English and thought that my cabinets had fallen off the wall. When I came up here, snow fences were being put up across the street. Guess who was installing them … My neighbor. I went over to talk to him. He asked me, ‘Why did you rat me out to the landlady?’ I asked him, ‘Why do you think, you stupid fuck?’ Then I gave him the finger, smiled and said, ‘Your turn will come.’ He doesn’t know who he’s messing with.

The landlady phoned my worker, the one I just spoke to. They both had been in a panic. My worker drove down here to meet me. She was crying. So, we have that straightened out. I asked her, “So, I’m not being kicked out am I?’ That was my big concern. ‘No,’ she said, ‘You’re not being kicked out.’ I’m going to lay low for a while. I’ve asked the landlady for more things in a week than I’ve asked other landlords in years. I don’t want her to think that I’m a nuisance. I’ll just see how it goes.”

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……

20 November 2012

At noon on the traffic Island were five of my friends. Joy was layered. She pulled up the cuff of her pants to show the pajama bottoms she was wearing for extra warmth. She also wore a tee-shirt, heavy sweater, hoodie, then her army parka.

She said, “I look like the Michelin Man, but that’s okay. I like guys to think I’m fat, then they leave me alone. We don’t have any chubby chasers around here. The only one I have trouble with is that one (pointing to Andre), but he’s learning. Then there’s Weasel. Yesterday, I saw him talking to Wolf across the street. I heard him call me a goof. Wolf said to him, ‘Joy heard you say that.’ I walked over and said to Weasel, ‘Whenever I have anything to say to you, I’ve got the guts to say it to your face, you goof.’ I was hoping to see him today, but he didn’t show.”

I asked her, “Have they turned on your heat yet?”

“No, I talked to the landlady last night. She’s nice, but she doesn’t speak very much English. She thought I was complaining that her TV was too loud. I said, ‘No, it’s your husband walking so heavily on the floor.’ She said, ‘I told him about that.’ Then I heard her yelling at him. I keep the oven on at a hundred and fifty degrees with the door open. It shuts off by itself. The top of the room gets warm, but it’s still cold near the floor. My worker said that she’s going to bring me a space heater.”

From across the street came Little Jake, wearing a surgical mask. Mo asked, “So, masked man, what did the doctor tell you?”

“It’s either a lung infection, pneumonia or TB. They’ve doubled my antibiotics. I’m wearing this mask so I don’t infect any of you guys.”

Joy said, “What did I tell you? I said, ‘It’s either a lung infection, pneumonia or TB.’ I was right.”

I asked Jake, “How are you feeling? Do you have pain in your lungs?”

“Yeah, it’s worse in the morning. You should see what I cough up. It’s disgusting.”

Timmy said, “I was talking to my worker this morning, she said, ‘We might have a place for you soon.’ I asked, ‘Should I call you back in a couple of days?’ She said, ‘Call me first thing tomorrow morning.’ While I was in her office I saw an email. It had Joy’s name on it. There was a list of furniture items: a table with two chairs, armchair…’

Joy said, “I hope they had a futon on that list.”

“Yeah, a futon was on the list.” I heard her say, ‘Now we have Joy taken care of.'”

Joy said, “I don’t know where I’m going to put a table. I guess I’ll use it to put my toaster on. I also need a TV so I can see Coronation Street. I’ve already missed two episodes. That Tracy sure needs a bullet between the eyes. Chester was saying something about a gay guy and a girl getting together, but I didn’t know what he was talking about.

“Does anybody know where I can get a TV? Even one of those small black and white portables would be better than nothing.”

André said, “They’ll take you to their warehouse. They have hundreds of TVs there.”

“All they gave me was a coupon for a hundred dollars and it has to be used at either their Vanier or Somerset store. I don’t think I’m going to find anything I want.”

Joy said, “Yesterday, I saw Evan holding hands with Sharon. I asked him, ‘When are the wedding bells going to be ringing?’ He didn’t say anything.”

Timmy said, “I really don’t like that Sharon. I had a party one time. I bought six cases of twenty-fours. I asked her if I could have a sip from her bottle. She didn’t exactly say no, but she put the bottle in her bra like she does. After that, I didn’t want a sip.

“One time, early in the morning, I was walking under the bridge. On the hill was a woman with her pants pulled down to her ankles and her shirt up overhead. I went closer and saw that it was Sharon. I kicked her in the foot. She woke up. I said, ‘Get yourself dressed.’ She said, ‘I promised myself that I wasn’t going to do this anymore.’ Later, I saw Gerald. I told him what I’d seen. He said, ‘Yeah, that’s the way I left her last night.’

“She’s so young. She should be in school or something, not getting drunk every day like we do. Does she think that when she’s forty-five she’s going to be able to get any kind of job? I don’t think so.”

Joy said, “Yeah, I see so many of these kids. Some of them could be at home, Like Chili, she’s only twenty-four and look at the shape she’s in. She phoned me from the hospital and asked if I would come to visit her. I yelled at her, ‘No, I’m not coming over, because if I did I’d probably punch you in the mouth. You were doing so well when you visited your family in P.E.I. Now, your doctor has you on medication and your also smashing crack into your arm. You’re going to kill yourself.’ ”

Timmy said, “The last time I saw her she was in a wheelchair. I think she has to have a hip replaced, and she’s having trouble with her knees.

“Someone that really likes her is Rocky. I was at his place a couple of weeks ago. He has a really nice place.”

Joy said, “Rocky really gives me the creeps. A couple of years ago me, Rocky, Jacques and Shakes were drinking in the park. Jacques and Shakes passed out so it was just Rocky and me. He said to me, ‘I’m horny.’ I said, ‘Dude, that’s a personal issue. It’s got nothing to do with me.’ He said, ‘No, I mean I want to have sex with you, right here, right now.’ Big Jake was down at the market with Rodent, so I said to Rocky, ‘I’ll tell you what. You go down to the market and ask Jake’s permission to have sex with me. If It’s okay with him, it’s okay with me.’ Rocky had this look in his eyes like, I’m going to take what I want now. I just got up and walked away. I’ve never trusted him since. He’s just too creepy.”

Timmy said, “That surprises me. Rocky’s had girlfriends. He seemed to treat them right. I guess you just never know.”

Jacques said, “Has anybody seen the article in the Sun about the Salvation Army? I have a copy here:

Salvation Army says it’s victim of massive fraud

By Doug Hempstead ,Ottawa Sun
First posted: Monday, November 19, 2012 01:23 PM EST | Updated: Monday, November 19, 2012 11:13 PM EST

Ottawa’s Salvation Army has fired its executive director following an internal audit.

Toronto-based Major John Murray of the organization’s public relations and development division, said $240,000 has gone missing from the George St. Booth Centre’s administrative resources account.

“We anticipate that is going to be all,” said Murray, who called it a “rather sophisticated fraud.”

The missing funds isn’t money that was donated, but that which came from government funds and partners, Murray said. He said the amount gone missing wasn’t immediately noticeable because the Salvation Army is a multi-million dollar organization in Ottawa. For the same reason, the money won’t impact the operation of any of the Salvation Army’s programs.

It’s not known how long money has been disappearing, but Murray said the executive director had held the position for eight years, so that is the period being examined.

He said “financial irregularities” were first noticed at the Booth Centre about two weeks ago. The executive director was placed on a paid leave of absence while a 12-day internal audit was done by Salvation Army staff, brought in from Toronto.

Following the internal probe, the executive director was “terminated” and the information was given to Ottawa police fraud investigators.

Police say they can’t comment on, confirm or deny an ongoing investigation.

In the meantime, the Salvation Army has hired auditing firm KPMG to do a “parallel” investigation of its own. Murray said the costs of this should be covered by insurance.

The Salvation Army was in damage-control mode Monday, just as its most important fundraising season approaches. The Christmas Kettle campaign launched Nov. 15 and the organization was keen to demonstrate that is was forthcoming and transparent.

“It’s a difficult time for the workers at the Booth Centre,” said Murray. “It’s disheartening, disappointing.”

He said the Salvation Army is a compassionate organization, even towards the person they’ve accused.

“Our heart goes out to him and his family,“ he said.

Connie Wolloschuk, a former executive director at the Booth Centre, will serve in the position until a replacement can be found. Murray expects that will happen around June next year.

“She will help us through this period,” he said.

The position of executive director had been held by Perry Rowe, who could not be reached for comment.

Rowe is a member of the Ottawa Alliance to End Homelessness steering committee and was a former chair of that committee.

Executive Director Lynne Browne said the committee will discuss Rowe’s future with the organization at its next meeting, Dec. 7.

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……

 

19 November 2012

This morning I noticed that Joy was wearing the army parka that Stella had given her last week. She also had two garbage bags with her, filled to overflowing.

“Someone dropped these blankets off for me, but how am I going to carry them? My backpack is already full with my blanket and other stuff.”

I said, “Perhaps, André will come by.”

“He’s already been here, I told him to move along. He said, ‘People are used to seeing me here. I’m not going to scare off any of your traffic.’ I said, ‘Yes you are, Mondays are slow enough without you hanging around.’ Anyway, he has his court appearance today.”

“How about Jacques?” I asked.

“I’m going to give some of these to him anyway, but I don’t know if he’ll be coming by.”

“I can take a bag to work and bring it to you at lunch if that will help.”

“That would be great. I didn’t get a lot of sleep last night, so I’m not in a very good mood. The guy in the apartment above me was stomping around, up the stairs, down the stairs. I think he gets up to eat about once an hour. I can hear him get up from the couch, walk to the fridge. There will be silence for about a minute, then he walks back to the couch.”

I asked, “Have you tried earplugs?”

“No, but I don’t think I should have to. I left a note on his car windshield. I’ll see what happens after he reads that.”

I asked, “How was your weekend?”

“It was quiet, for the most part.”

I knew that Joy wasn’t much in the mood for company, so I said, “I’ll let you get back to work and I’ll bring this bag to Jacques at noon.”

“Thanks, I’ll see you at noon.”

At noon, Jacques, Wolf and Shaggy were at the place where the benches used to be. I gave the bag to Jacques. He thanked me then headed across the street.

Wolf said, “Can you help me up. I was lying around all weekend reading my two books. I took Shaggy for her walks, but I guess I need more activity, or calisthenics. When I woke up this morning, my back was so stiff I could hardly get out of bed.

“Right now, I have to go for a pee, so I’ll see you a bit later.”

I walked across the street to where a half dozen of my friends congregated. Shakes was by ‘the heater’ dozing.

“How has your day been, Joy?”

“I made enough for a bottle, that’s about all.”

Joy said to Mariah, “I was kept awake last night by the guy upstairs stomping around.”

“Yeah, I heard him too. He’s been told about it. I don’t know how somebody can eat as much as he does. I know I couldn’t.”

Joy said, “I’d think he’d be fatter than he is. It must go right through him.”

“I’ve caught him with his clothes off, he has a round belly, but your right, he must have a fast metabolism. That’s probably why he can’t seem to stay still. I wouldn’t want to have to pay their bill for toilet paper.”

Joy said, “I wouldn’t want to pay their grocery bill.”

André came across the street, beaming. “I went to court this morning on the charges of stealing meat from Loblaws. My worker gave me a really good character reference, saying that prison time would undo all the progress I’ve made in the past six months. The judge asked me, ‘Why did you steal the meat, Andre?’ I said, ‘Well, your honor, I had no money and I was hungry. I know that I could have gone to the Mission, but I was trying to be self-sufficient.

‘I’m an alcoholic. If I’m prohibited from drinking I’ll be back in court next month. I’ve tried, but I can’t stop drinking.’

“The judge said, ‘One year’s probation with no reporting, and stay away from Loblaws.’

“I was just standing there with my head down, shaking. I couldn’t believe my good luck.”

Rhino said, “I got one-year probation with reporting. At first, I had to see my probation officer once every two weeks, then they reduced it to once a month. I think I’ve still got about six months left.”

I asked Rhino, “How is your apartment. Have they fixed the leak?”

“No, they sent a Housing Support Worker. He said, ‘It’s dripping alright, but I can’t do anything about it. We’ll have to send a plumber.’ That’s what I told them in the first place.”

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