Posts Tagged ‘crack’

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group3

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13 September 2012

This morning the sun was shining and Joy seemed in good spirits.

“How did you sleep? Were you outside on the balcony?” I asked.

“No, it was a bit too cool for that, but I slept okay. I took the sheet off my air mattress and made sure that none of me touched the carpet. The bed bugs didn’t seem to have been able to climb up the shiny plastic. I didn’t get any bites during the night. I have a chalk line of powder around where I sleep.

“When I was in the bathroom I saw something move. I squished it. Sure enough, it was a bed bug. I could tell by the rotting wood smell. I’ve never known of bed bugs to crawl across tile.”

I said, “I’m still pissed off with Chester.”

“Why is that? What’s he done now?”

“I just think it’s very selfish of him to turn the exterminator away. He knows how much the bed bugs bother you. Just because they aren’t bothering him, that’s no reason not to have them exterminated. It’s not a safe, healthy environment for you.”

“Yeah, I was pissed off about that, alright. I stayed out until 9:00 last evening. He was upset that I came home so late. I said, ‘I’m forty-six years old. Are you saying I have a curfew? I wasn’t planning to come back at all.’ I told him, ‘I can’t live like this.’ He said, ‘I’m sorry. I’ll phone the Health Department and have them come another day.’ I said, ‘They’re not going to drop everything and come here, when they’ve already been turned away once. They may charge you for the visit.’

“I do the cooking, the cleaning. Before I moved in he said he kept his place very clean. It was a mess. It took me an entire day to wash the floors, the fridge. There was some kind of dairy product that had gone bad in the sink. That nearly made me sick. I bought groceries. He was supposed to buy some, but he hasn’t. We’re down to our last slice of bread.

“He doesn’t do anything, but make messes after I’ve cleaned up, and piss on the toilet seat. He said that if I’m concerned with the bed bugs he’ll share his bed with me. ‘No, thanks!’ I said. ‘I have no interest in sleeping with any man.’

He said, ‘Oh, Joy, I would never touch you. You don’t have to worry about that.’ I said, ‘I’ve heard that before.’

“I wish Chester would bathe more often. I have a shower every morning. He has one a week. All the guys are smelling a bit ripe now.

“I’ve heard from Rodent that Jake wants me to write to him. Why would I do that? I still love him, but I don’t have a death wish.

“I heard that Silver is at the Mission Hospice recovering.”

I said, “I know that he had an appointment with his doctor, last Thursday, to see about the swelling in his ankle. I haven’t seen him since.”

Joy said, “Chili may have to have both of her legs amputated. I’m so angry with her. I told her months ago to have the swelling in her knee taken care of. She’s been smashing cocaine into her arm and it’s become infected. The infection has spread to both legs as high as her hips.”

At noon I met my friendsat the curb near the park. Joy was waiting for her worker. We saw a Salvation Army van pass by and stop near the park. Joy walked over, but the van left before she arrived. Shortly after, her worker arrived. They were gone for about twenty minutes.

While Joy was away I talked to Jacques. He said, “I’m looking for a new apartment also. They raised my rent in June by three percent. It was $685., now it’s $710. I can’t afford that. I’ve had to cancel my cable. I tried to fix up an antenna using wire, but now I only get a few channels and they aren’t very clear. I saw an ad in this newspaper — on Donald Street I can get an antenna for $6.99. That’s not too bad if it works. I’m going to go there this afternoon to talk to them about it.”

“You’re going to miss living by Dow’s Lake.” I said.

“Yes, it’s a great bachelor apartment, but it has bed bugs. I’ve told the landlord about them, I suggested that he remove the carpet. It doesn’t matter what kind of floor is underneath. He isn’t interested in having it removed. I’m not paying $710. for a place with bed bugs. I hear that Chester has them too. They’re everywhere.

“I talked to Serge yesterday about us sharing a two bedroom apartment somewhere. He seemed interested, but today he isn’t here. I think he’s staying at his friend William’s place, while he is away. He has his own key.”

When Joy came back she said, “That was a waste of time. I still can’t see a doctor until they get my identification sorted out. They’ve moved the viewing of the apartment to two o’clock tomorrow. At least that’s something to look forward to.”

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bench

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12 September 2012

Joy was in good spirits this morning. The sun was shining.

“Hi Joy,” I said, “you have an appointment with your worker today, don’t you?”

“Yeah, I’ll be meeting Janice and Darla at the park at 10:30. I have the same workers as Andre.”

“What will they be talking about today?”

“Just details of the place I’ll be moving into.”

I said, “You must be excited. This is the first time since I’ve known you, that you’ll be having an apartment of your own. You’ve always shared with somebody.”

“Yeah, it’s exciting and scary. It’s been so long since I’ve lived alone, I’m not sure how I’ll cope.”

“It has to be better than living with bed bugs, and you won’t have to put up with Chester’s noises. You’ll be able to watch English television, whatever programs you choose. There’ll be no one to beat you.”

“Yeah, that will all be good. I just worry about my mind. The last time in prison I was in the psych ward, under suicide watch because I kept stabbing myself with pencils. That was when they put me on Seroquel, it’s an antipsychotic for schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. When I’m on that I don’t hear the voices. Lately, it’s been television commercials that are going around in my head, like the one for Yop. It has kind of a reggae beat:

When I wake up in the morning I’m still asleep
I really don’t want no toast
I want no water, no tea, no cereal
give me a yogurt drink I’m wanting first.

Ooooooh! Give me Yop! me mama oh
Yop! me mama when the morning come.

Give me Yop! me mama
Yop! me mama
Yop! for when the morning come…

I said, “Andre was really wild yesterday.”

“Yeah, he was being a real asshole.”

“He said he got rolled. Where did he get $140.00”

“The workers arranged that for him. It was his street allowance. On Monday he got a check for $150.00. With the last of his money he bought three bottles. Little Jake invited him over to his new place. Andre didn’t even have bus fare. Jake, of course, is all proud because he has a bus pass.

“Andre is going to get the shit kicked out of him, or else he’ll be exiled. I’d rather take the beating. Being exiled is hell.

“I saw Hippo this morning. He’s been hiding out with Jacques at Dow’s Lake. He’s afraid of Bearded Bruce.”

I asked, “How did that all come about?”

“Hippo was drunk. he was ten feet tall and juiced to the gills. He was in Starbucks performing when someone called the cops. They knew he was staying behind the dumpsters so that’s where they went. They recognized Bruce because of his record, and were holding him up against the fence. Bruce was upset with Hippo. He said, ‘I could have been breached.’

“That doesn’t make sense to me. Bruce said he took jail time instead of probation, because he knew he’d never show up for appointments. For missing appointments they’d put him back in jail. If he’s not on probation he couldn’t be breached.

“There’s something funny. Bruce tried to sell crack to an undercover cop and he gets probation? Crack is a narcotic, that’s automatic jail time. I know. He does the same thing again and they only give him 180 days. That’s unheard of! I think he’s a chatter, someone who will rat out his friends. It’s the same with Weasel.

“The exterminators are coming today. I just hope that Chester remembers to tell them about the day bed. The stuff they spray will completely soak the mattress. I’ve been sleeping in the middle of the room on an air mattress. I was thinking, there’s no way they’ll be able to hold onto plastic, but sure enough they were there. I could feel a bump in my sheet, and it moved, so I squished it and smelt my fingers. It had that rotten wood smell of bed bugs. In the morning I saw a streak of blood where I squished it.

At noon the regular crew was at the park. As soon as I sat down Shakes asked me, “Dennis, how do you like my shades?”

“Very nice Shakes! Are they yours? I guess they’re yours now.”

“My worker took me shopping for clothes today. They didn’t have everything I wanted, but I did get a nice winter coat and a belt. Now, I don’t have to wear this dog leash to hold my pants up. When we got to the cash the guy said, ‘Shakes, you need some sunglasses, don’t you?’ I asked, ‘Can I have these?’ He said, ‘Go for it, Shakes.’ ”

Joy sat next to me. I asked, “How did it go with your worker today?”

“Really great!” she said. “Friday I go to see a place. Janice said it was the biggest bachelor apartment she’s ever seen. The guy who owns the building is friendly to homeless people. I guess one of his family was homeless and they died.

“I asked what I should wear. She said, You don’t have to dress fancy, but lose the bandana.”

“I told her that I had paid all my bills and didn’t have any money left. She said, ‘Don’t worry. We’ll cover it.’ ”

I asked her, “Are they any closer to getting you a health card?”

“They’re going to take me to a clinic doctor tomorrow. I said to her, “Things aren’t right in my head. I hear voices and they keep me awake all night. With them and the bed bugs I’m not getting much sleep at all.

“I told her that when I pee, there’s blood. I cough up blood, then my nose starts bleeding. I’m bleeding everywhere. That’s not right. I’ve got no energy. I can’t keep food down.

“If I get this place, and it could be as early as September 20, I’m going to cut back on the drinking. She asked me, “Why do you drink?’ I said, ‘I drink to pass out, to get away from the pain in my legs. My hip feels like it’s burning. I’m having seizures. I’m glad I haven’t had any here. Yesterday, I had two at Chester’s place. He didn’t even notice. My eyes just rolled back in my head and my mind went blank for a while.

Jacques answered a call on his cell phone. He handed it to Joy. “Chester,” he said.

I heard Joy ask, “Did the Health Department guy come by to spray. He said he would… You told him what? I’m going to be coming home soon.’

Joy handed the phone back to Jacques. She said, “That stupid, stupid man.” Then she started sobbing. The sobbing turned to gasping. She reached into her backpack and pulled out her inhaler. After four puffs, the gasping stopped. Tears were still falling from her eyes.

I asked, “Did something go wrong with the exterminator?”

“Chester wouldn’t let him spray. He said it would be an invasion.”

“It is an invasion,” I said, “an invasion of bed bugs.”

Joy said, “After we sprayed Chester’s room the first time, they don’t seem to have gone back there. We found their nest under his bed and we soaked it with spray. Maybe they bite him and he doesn’t react, but I see him scratching. I’m going to have to sleep on the balcony. That’s the only way I can get away from them. They don’t like the cold.

“That really pisses me off. I paid him $400. for rent, I filled the fridge with groceries. He was supposed to buy more but he hasn’t. He says he has no money. He shouldn’t be spending it on the muk muks. I clean, I cook, I just can’t take it anymore.”

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group3

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10 September 2012

I wore my Autumn windbreaker today. The sky was overcast and there was a cool breeze blowing. The congregation was at the far end of the park. Joy walked toward me and we met at the sidewalk.

“I didn’t know whether or not you’d be coming,” she said. “I was about ready to leave when I saw your head above the bushes. I’m feeling sick. I cooked some chicken from Loblaws and I’ve been throwing up all night. It didn’t affect Chester, but it’s the second time I’ve gotten sick after eating their chicken. I’m always careful to cook it thoroughly, same with pork, I know how sick it can make you. I’m going to leave now. I just want to lie down and take it easy today. I can’t even drink.

”You wouldn’t happen to have some extra bus tickets for Chester would you?”

“No, I’m sorry. I’m all out. I’ll have to get more at the convenience store.”

“I just thought I’d ask. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Take care, Joy. Get lots of rest, I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Hey,” said Andre, “Don’t I get a hug?”

“If I bend over, I might puke all over you.”

Andre put his wide-brimmed hat upside down on his head and said, “Okay, I’m ready. How about my hug?”

The grass was still wet from the overnight rain. Sitting on the curb, near the railing, were Timmy, Clint and Chester. On the lawn were Andre and Shakes. I sat between Timmy and Shakes who, as usual, was lying on his side, resting on one elbow.

“Shakes,” I said. “I haven’t seen you for a while. How are you?”

“I just got back into town from Kingston. I spent the last week there. A friend took me. He wanted to get out of Ottawa for a while, just to have a change of scenery.”

“Did you enjoy yourself?”

“The first day was awful. A dog died, some women were fighting and one guy tried to commit suicide; but that was just the first day.”

“Were these friends of yours? Did the dog belong to one of your friends?”

“No, I didn’t know them.”

“I spent seventy dollars on food, but mostly I had meals, home cooked by friends I met.

“Since I got back, I lost my wallet. Could you give me another of those Tim Horton’s cards? The one you gave me before was in the wallet I lost.”

“Sure, Shakes.”

Timmy put some Kleenex in Andre’s wide brimmed hat. “That’s for Shakes, he’s drooling.”

“He’s just drunk, that’s all.“

“Andre,” I said, “you’ve got a couple of fancy hats, since I saw you last.”

“Yeah, I’m starting to get a collection. This one has feathers around the brim. If I ever get lost in the woods, I can use them to tie flies for fishing. I lost most of my clothes at the Salvation Army. A friend, who’d been sleeping at the hut with us, was leaving town. He made a pile of all the stuff he couldn’t carry with him. There was a pair of size twelve work boots. I was going to bring them to Clint. There was also a pair of size ten, Gortex winter boots with Kevlar toes, heels and shanks. They were insulated and Thinsulated — do you know what I mean? — two layers of insulation. They came up to my knees. I’m guessing they were worth about $400.00. I stayed at the Sally Ann one night. The next day, I left my things in storage. They were locked and were supposed to be secure. I stayed at Katrina’s for two nights.

“When I came back to the Sally, I went to bed 245, where I thought I had slept; but the locker was empty. It looked like my bed, same color blanket, made up like mine. I always make my bed after I get up in the morning. I went to the desk and asked the guy, ‘What bed was I sleeping in? I thought it was 245.’ He checked and said, ‘You were in 295.’ I checked that bed and again, an empty locker. I was really pissed off. I figure the guys at the desk cut the lock and took my stuff.

“I went down and yelled at them, ‘I had two brand new pairs of boots in there, and a bottle and a half of sherry.’ One guy said, ‘Andre, are you ratting yourself out, telling us you brought liquor on the premises?’ I said, ‘I’m just being truthful.’ They said, ‘It shows on our record, that the contents of that locker were signed out.’ I said, ‘Well, I didn’t sign anything out. I don’t believe that. You guys cut the lock and took my new boots. They were so new they didn’t even have dirt on the treads. You don’t want to see any of us building up a stock of anything.’ I stormed out.” I was living outside for four months and after one night at the Sheps and one night at the Mission I’ve lost everything.

“I’ve been getting these bites all around the waistband of my track pants.” He pulled his pants down to expose his hip and to show the red marks. “They’re some kind of mites, I think. I threw all the clothes I was wearing in the garbage, then took a shower. When I came out all I had to put on was a towel. The guy at the desk asked, ‘Why are you walking around like that, Andre?’ I said, ‘I need new clothes. My old ones were full of bugs.’ He said, ‘We can’t help you with that until 7:45.’ ‘Well,’ I said, ‘I guess I’ll be walking around in this towel until 7:45.’ ”

I said, “I haven’t seen Hippo for a while.”

Andre said, “You’re not likely to, either. He’s probably in hiding. Jake was drunk and Hippo came up and punched him four times in the head for no reason. Then he was causing trouble at Starbucks. They called the police. The police knew we were staying out back. Bearded Bruce said the police ripped down our hut and threw all our stuff into the dumpster. Later, someone set fire to it.”

Shakes said, “I lost my brand new sleeping bag.”

Andre said, “Those women at Hope Recovery are really saints.”

Clint asked, “Do you mean at the Sheps?”

“Yeah” said Andre. “They all know me there. It’s funny though. I went downstairs and they said I was too drunk, so I went upstairs and they said I wasn’t drunk enough. One of them  even asked me, ‘Andre, do you have any more booze? Go out, have a few more drinks and we’ll let you in.’

“I went out back to, what we call, the pig pen. A sister came by and asked me, ‘Do you want to buy a twenty-six of rye for $13.00?’ ‘Yes,’ I said. That’s a pretty good price. I just happened to have $13.70. I’d already drunk two and a half bottles of sherry. A guy sat next to me, pulled out a fancy crack pipe and put a forty in it. His buddy, sitting next to him, said, ‘Be careful.’ The guy looked around for cops then lit his pipe. I drank more and more of the rye, straight up. Then I smacked the guy in the back of the head. The pipe flew out of his mouth, the forty went rolling across the parking lot. Some sisters picked the stuff up, but the pipe was fucked. The guy’s buddy said, ‘I told you to be careful. When Andre gets into the hard stuff, he gets crazy, especially around crack smokers.’

“I went back upstairs and they let me in.”

Timmy said, “That reminds me — we should have walkie-talkies. Then I could six you if I saw the cops coming from my direction, and you could six me if you saw them coming from where you were.”

Andre said, “They’ve got this new fangled invention now. It’s called a cell phone. That’s what people use them for.”

Clint said, “You know, one time a cop was really nice to me. I was up in North Bay. I asked him if there was any place I could set up a tent. He said, ‘Sure, get in.’ He let me sit in the front seat. He didn’t pat me down or anything. He took me behind this gas station, where some empty rigs were parked. He said, ‘You should be safe here.’ Then he left.”

Timmy said, “I’ve been given rides by the cops before, but they always frisked me. They even apologized, said it wasn’t anything personal, it was regulation. If a guy was in the back seat with a gun, he could shoot the cops and steal the car. They left the sliding window open so we could chat back and forth. I’ve never ridden in the front seat of a cop car. Sometimes, they even have shotguns mounted on the console, on a swivel.”

Sample my books for free — To date, $1945.00 has been donated to the homeless:
Gotta Find a Home: Conversations with Street People
http://buff.ly/1SGzGCY ($.99 Download)
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group3

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21 August 2012

Joy was in her usual spot this morning. The weather was cool with the threat of rain. Joy asked, “Is that the girlfriend of Alphonse, in the next block?”

“Yes, it’s Magdalene. I spoke to her last week after she lost her baby. Later in the week I talked to Ambrose. He said it was a ‘crack baby’ induced prematurely. He had a hole in his heart and his lungs weren’t able to supply oxygen to his other organs.”

“I’m sorry,” said Joy, “but she should be charged. Every kid I’ve brought into this world has been clean. I quit crack, cigarettes and alcohol while I was pregnant. That way, they at least had a fighting chance in the world. The night before my oldest was born, I smoked a joint. It showed up in the baby’s blood tests. They were ready to take him away from me. I said, “You’re going to take my baby away, because I smoked one joint? Over my dead body!

“My sister had a ‘crack baby’. You couldn’t even look at him or he would spaz out. Can you imagine what kind of  life is in store for that kid?

“Alphonse is on the skids with a lot of people right now. He and Magdalene have been sleeping in the hut with  Andre, Hippo,  Little Jake, Weasel and his dog Bear. Bear sleeps by the door, as a guard. Everyone knows that you have to be careful opening the door because Bear is behind it. Ambrose came by one night falling down drunk and just pushed in the door. It scraped Bear’s paw and she had to get five stitches. Nobody’s seen Alphonse since. Bear is still limping and has to have special ointment put on her paw twice a day.

“I just love Bear, she’s really a sweet dog, but has horrible breath. Weasel said to me, ‘I feed her Dentabone.’ I said, ‘That’s for removing plaque and tartar from her teeth. For her breath you have to give her Doggie Mints. If those don’t work she should be taken to a vet. That probably won’t happen, because all Weasel’s money goes on crack. I gave Doggie Mints to my dog, Roxie; she was a boxer and had great breath. She used to sleep with me every night. I didn’t even mind if she put her paw on my face when she slept. I couldn’t tolerate that with any of the men I’ve lived with.

“Like me, she was epileptic. If I had a seizure, she’d pat my face until I came out of it. I’d do the same for her. One time she had a prolonged, grand mal seizure and died before I could get her to the vet.”

I said, “I saw Bearded Bruce last Thursday. He and Inuq have applied for housing.”

“Yeah, I met them at Chuck’s new place. They were staying there. Maybe I should have held out at Chuck’s a while longer. His new place is a huge two bedroom. I don’t know about Inuq. She and Bruce have been together three years now, but while he was in prison she was living with other guys. I met her one day with her oldest son. He isn’t of legal drinking age, but he was staggering drunk.”

I said, “Bruce and Inuq are each getting their own apartments. That way Bruce said, ‘When we get into a fight we’ll each have our own place to go home to.”

Joy said, “I don’t know what’s happening with Fran. They’ve called her into court about three times. She’s so afraid of Gene, she doesn’t even want him to see her. It was just January that he got out of prison for beating her the last time. He was in a holding cell with my Jake, before they moved him to Millhaven.”

Chester stopped by to say hello. To Joy he said, “I didn’t hear you leave this morning.”

“If I’d stopped to make the bed, you probably would have heard me. Is there anything you want me to bring home?”

“I wouldn’t mind some pot. Do you know where I could get some?”

“You could try the Mission. I could give you some phone numbers, but I don’t know if anyone is coming downtown this afternoon. I saved some roaches. You might be able to get one joint with what’s in the can on the kitchen table.

“Chester, I want to use your phone later. I want to make an appointment with the Elizabeth Fry Society.

To me she said, “I’ve been thinking of looking into some kind of employment. I couldn’t do nine to five, but I’d like landscaping, maybe with flexible hours — of course, I’d want to be paid under the table… I’m good at growing flowers and plants. A neighbor, one time, had a couple of rose bushes that never bloomed. He was going to dig them up and toss them out. I said, ‘Let me try to do something with them. I dug them up, replanted them somewhere else, and within a couple of months they had pink and white blooms on them.

Noon in the park was quiet. Weasel was asleep with Bear under a tree. Andre was drunk, professing his love for Joy. “We could make such a great team,” he said to her.

“Yeah, sure we would,” said Joy.

Weasel awoke and asked, “What time is it?”

Bearded Bruce said, “It’s only twelve ten. Go back to sleep for another hour.” Later Weasel said, “I don’t remember coming here.”

Bruce said, “We started out up the hill. Then we came down here.”

“Weasel,” said Joy, “you missed a great fight. That big native guy and Andre were scrapping. He pushed Andre down on his ass. Andre got into that karate stance he uses, but he was so drunk that he couldn’t keep his balance. I kept egging him on saying, ‘You shouldn’t let him get away with that.’ Andre took a swing, missed, and the big guy pushed him on his ass again. The cops were strolling through the park and didn’t do a thing. I was sure someone would get a ticket.”

Weasel walked over to Hippo. I overheard him say, “If you even try to get up, I’ll knock you back down.” He then walked down the line to Bruce who said, “Well, didn’t we wake up with a gut full of grumpy juice?”

“What?” said Weasel, “Can I have a cigarette?”

“Of course you can,” said Bruce.

I asked Bruce, “How are the arrangements coming for housing?”

“Monday, I got my first Welfare check for $300. I’m waiting for my program (Ontario Disability Support Program) to kick in. Nothing can happen until that’s in place. Then we’ll sign the papers for housing. Hopefully, we’ll have a place in September.”

William came by with a two-wheeled cart. “I got this from a bar that was being refitted. One wheel was off the cart, but I took it to the Shepherd’s and a guy helped me to get the wheel back on. We inflated the tires and it’s good as new. The bar was throwing out a mini freezer, a fridge, all sorts of stuff. I saw some empty beer bottles in the garage and asked if I could have them. They gave me six cases of two fours, so I got $14.40 for those.

“Hippo, don’t throw that wine bottle away. I’ll take it.”

“Come get it yourself.” William rooted through the garbage container for the wine bottle and also pulled out a large paper coffee cup with a plastic lid.

Joy said to me, “I hate it when he does that.”

“William,” said Joy, “you’re not going to drink out of that are you?”

“It’ll be fine. I’ll swish a little beer in it first, to clean it out. I forgot my cup at home.” He pulled out a can of beer and filled the paper cup, so it looked like he was drinking coffee.

He said to me, “Would you like to know what I did with the Tim Horton’s card you gave me? I didn’t sell it to buy beer. I bought two coffee, a bagel with cream cheese — did you know that Tim Horton’s ran out of meat? I was in there at 10.00 pm, they close at 11:00, they didn’t have any meat. I went in the next day, a bit earlier. I still had about $1.50 on the card, and got some kind of meat wrap. I made good use of the card.

“I met a woman in the park once. I was sitting on a bench, shaved, dapper looking. We started talking. It turned out that we had both previously lived in Montreal. We talked about that for a while. She said, ‘You’re a very interesting man.’

“I was straight forward with her. I said, ‘I left my wife because she had been cheating on me. I lost my job, my unemployment insurance ran out and now I’m homeless.’ She said, ‘I left my husband because he had been cheating on me.’ She was a beautiful woman, had lots of money, ran her own business. She said, ‘I have some errands to run. Will you wait for me here, for about twenty minutes?’ I said, ‘I won’t wait right here. I was planning to go to the liquor store to buy a couple of bottles of beer, but that will only take about fifteen minutes, so I’ll be here before you get back.’ She said, ‘Can I give you money to buy a six-pack? Then we can share a few beer.’ I said, ‘You don’t have to give me any money. I’ve got a cheque on me for $547.00. I’ll buy a six pack.’ She said, ‘You’re so generous.’ When I got back with the beer she had two huge bags with her. She said, ‘I’ve bought you a gift.’ There were clothes in there, chips, chocolate bars. She even bought me a return ticket to Toronto and back. She said, ‘If things don’t work out for you in Ottawa, come visit me in Toronto. The tickets are good for a year.’ She gave me her address and phone number. I said I’d call her.

“My apartment was robbed. They took my back-pack with the address and phone number in it. She’d told me where she lived, but I couldn’t remember. I couldn’t even remember her last name, so I couldn’t look her up in the phone book. That’s the way it goes. Perhaps, we’ll run into each other some other time.”

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.

bench

20 August 2012

The weather at noon was pleasant. Sitting in the shade, on a park bench, I met Sylvain and Serge. Neither of them ever has much to say, they are both French-speaking, and their knowledge of English is as limited as is my knowledge of French. Sylvain is rather gaunt and pale, while Serge looks like a gnarled Santa Claus. We always exchange greetings and I look forward to seeing them. I can depend on Serge being there, being Serge.

“Hello, Sylvain, Serge,” I said as I shook their hands. “It’s a beautiful afternoon. Are you enjoying the cooler weather, after the heat wave we had?”

Serge said, “Yes, It’s very nice, especially sitting here in the shade. How have you been? I haven’t seen you for a couple of days.”

“I’ve been sick with a cold.” I said. “That’s why I wasn’t here on Thursday or Friday. You haven’t fallen again have you?”

“No, I haven’t fallen.”

“I’m going to check to see who is at the park. I’ll see you on my way back.”

“See you.”

On the side-walk, where the benches used to be, sat Hippo, Little Jake and Andre.

“Hi Hippo,” I said, “how is it going with your application for housing?”

“It’s going good. This afternoon I get to see a few places and if everything works out I’ll be able to move September first.”

“That’s great,” I said. “do you have any idea of which neighborhood you will be moving to?”

“It’ll be somewhere in Vanier. I’m not sure where.”

“That sounds good. I’ve lived in Vanier. It’s just a short walk to downtown. There are lots of stores, good bus transportation.”

“Yeah, I’m looking forward to it. It’ll be a bachelor, but that’s big enough for me. It beats living behind a dumpster.”

“How have you been feeling?”

“I’m starting to feel better now, but I was sick all weekend with a summer cold.”

“There’s a lot of that going around. Jake had it, I had it.”

“Andre,” I asked, “how have you been feeling?”

“I wasn’t feeling so good this morning. The first sip I took, I started throwing up and coughing. When the Salvation Army Outreach Workers came around they asked, ‘Are you okay?’ I said, ‘No, I’m not okay, I’m coughing up a lung here.’ Getting all that phlegm out of my lungs felt good though. Back when I had my heart attack, I had double, walking pneumonia. It was like I had a rock in my chest, I could only take shallow breaths, or it would burn my lungs.

“I’ve had my first bottle now and I’m feeling great. It’s great being me.”

“That’s good,” I said, “because everyone else is taken.”

Emile said to a woman walking by, “Can I have a smile, please, just one. I’m sure you’d look even prettier if you smiled.” Some people walking around look so grouchy. Don’t they know, that if you want to be happy, you first have to act happy. Say, ‘Good morning,’ to people, smile, say, ‘have a nice day.’ I’m always happy. Even at the liquor store. Most of my friends get served once then they’re cut off for the rest of the day; not me. I go in with a smile on my face, say hello to the staff. When I’m at the check-out, I look the cashier in the eyes. And, I don’t steal; except this morning. There was only one employee there and she was doing something on the computer. I stuck a bottle in the inside pocket of my jacket, picked up another and paid for that at the cash.

“One time, I had just come out of the liquor store, and stopped to talk to some friends, who were drinking. A cop came by and made everyone dump their bottles. I said to him, ‘I just bought this. It isn’t even cracked.’ He said, ‘Yeah, but can you prove you bought it, and didn’t just steal it.’ I said, ‘I didn’t keep the receipt, why would I? What am I going to do return a used bottle of sherry because I didn’t like it? I bought it because I intended to drink it.’ I walked back into the store and spoke to the manager, the guy that served me. I told him the situation. He came out and said to the cop, ‘This gentleman bought and paid for a bottle of sherry. He refused the receipt, because he was on his way out and had no need for it. He’s a regular customer and he’s never stolen from this store. I’ve watched him.’ The cop let me keep the bottle.

“That’s a nice electric bike going by,” said Andre. “They cost over $800. My mother would never let me have a motor bike, not even an off-road one. My dad and brothers were race car drivers. If you want to know why I’m so crazy, you should see the rest of my family. All of us really like torque. Whatever we drive, we take it to the absolute limit. My dad rebuilt a Mustang and put a big Firebird engine in it. Everything had to be changed around to make the engine fit. When he first got it running, the hood wouldn’t close. So he could go for a test run, he got me to stand on the front bumper. He chained my feet so they wouldn’t slip, then he had me lie down on the hood. I grabbed onto the drip rails with my fingers. When he’d go a round a corner, he’d grab my wrist with one hand and shift with the other. This was on a gravel road, I’d be looking over the roof, feeling the car go one way, while the road behind was going another. I don’t know what speed we were going, but it was fast. I saw my life pass before my eyes. I was only eight years old, so it didn’t take very long. I hadn’t had much of a life to that point. He was a great guy, my dad. God bless his soul. (Emile made the sign of the Cross on his chest and looked up).

“My old man was crazy. He had this pickup truck, he got some sheet steel and welded it to the undercarriage. We didn’t know what he was up to, but it turned out that he was making a skid plate. He had the idea that he wanted to jump the neighbor’s fence with the pickup. He built sort of  a ramp leading up to the fence. Like I said, I didn’t know what he was up to, so when he started the truck I hopped in the back. There was no tailgate. I held onto the roll bar. All of a sudden, ‘whoosh’ we were airborne. He took out a whole section of the fence, but the skid plate kept any fence posts from coming through the floor, into the cab. The truck wasn’t damaged at all.

“Another time he had an old Bombardier snowmobile that he rebuilt with a bigger engine. He had leather straps around the hood. I’d never seen anything like that before. The straps, it turned out, were to hold his shotgun. He’d go moose hunting with that. He’d be cruising at full speed with one hand on the throttle, reloading the shotgun with the other. I saw him get a moose. He had just crested the top of a hill and was coming down, when he shot the moose in the back of the head. A perfect shot.

“We rented a house on eight acres of land. Back then, I think we were paying about one hundred dollars a month. My mother had a half-acre garden in the front of the house. Our neighbor’s cows were always getting loose, trampling and eating the leaves of the vegetables.

“My dad said to the neighbor, ‘My wife puts a lot of time and effort into planting and caring for that garden, she doesn’t appreciate your cows coming over and ruining it. The next time I see your cows stray, even one foot, into our yard, I’m taking one.’ Sure enough, it happened. Before we even knew what was happening my dad had that cow slaughtered, hung by chains from a beam in the garage, and was butchering it — cutting it into pieces. He had to go out and buy a twenty-five cubic foot freezer to hold that cow. The neighbor came over and said, ‘One of my cows is missing. You haven’t seen it have you?’ My dad said, “No, I haven’t, but you’re welcome to take a look around the property. It might be out there somewhere'”

Chester, Loretta and Joy arrived. They’d been on a run to the liquor store.Joy’s backpack was stuffed to the brim, probably with Chester’s beer. Chester’s cell phone rang. In his French accent he answered, “Hello? Yes he’s here.” He handed the phone to Hippo. “Hello, oh, he never gave anything to me. Okay, thanks.”

I asked, “Was that someone calling about your housing?”

“No, it was Loon. He said that he gave Animal ten bucks to give to me. He was checking to see if I got it. I told him that I didn’t get it.”

Mo said, “Yeah, if Loon gives money to someone to hold for someone else, he always follows up to see if they got it. I do the same. So when did he give Weasel the money?”

“Friday? This is Monday. Weasel is your friend, he lives with you guys. That’s just wrong to hold out on a friend. This morning he was off to pan at the church. There are women there who bring him food and clothes. He sells the clothes to the crackheads and buys more crack. Hippo, you’ve got to do something about this.”

Andre said, “Yeah, Hippo, stop being such a pussy. He’s half your size, you can take him. I’m half his size and, just last night, I didn’t like something he said, so I popped him one.”

Joy said, “I’ve hit him, when he’s gotten out of line.” He’s said, ‘I can’t hit you back because I’m not a woman beater.’ I said, ‘I dont fight like a woman, so you don’t have to worry on that score.”

“Yeah,” said Hippo, “I’ll do it soon. Right now I’m going to the Lord Elgin on a butt run.”

“You’re going on a butt run Now?” asked Andre incredulously.

“Well, I also have to take a dump. I’ve been trying to hold it in, but now I have to go.”

Hippo returned with his hand full of cigarette butts. He dumped them on the sidewalk in front of Andre. “Hippo, these are menthol. Haven’t you got any class?”

“It’s all they had,” he said. The Lord Elgin Hotel has sand ashtrays in their lobby. The cigarette butts are extinguished, but not crushed, like they would be in another type of ashtray.

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.

dumpster2

.

14 August 2012

This morning I met Andre in front of Starbucks. “Hi Andre,” I said,”How was your weekend?”

“It was rough, man. I woke up Sunday morning and I had the shakes so bad I couldn’t do anything. I just lay there in the hut all day. I drank plenty of water, but couldn’t eat a thing.

“Monday morning, Shakes came over with a bottle. That made me feel a bit better — helped with the shakes a bit. I couldn’t even work. If you’re panning and someone sees you shaking, like I was, they know any money they give isn’t going for food.

“One good thing happened though. The Salvation Army came by and gave both Hippo and me sleeping bags. It’s been three months that I’ve been sleeping in this thin jacket. They also signed us up for housing and O.D.S.P. (Ontario Disability Support Program). They’re going to line up some places for us to see. From the O.D.S.P. they’ll put $450.00 towards the rent each month. I asked, ‘So, where do I go to meet you guys?’ They said, ‘You don’t have to go anywhere. We’ll come to the park tomorrow and should be able to arrange something.’ Imagine that, they’re coming to see me!”

I said, “I see Alphonse across the street. I guess you heard that he and Magdalene  lost their baby.”

“Yeah, he’s trying to show a brave face. Imagine, trying to smile, when you’ve lost a kid. He’s really broken up.”

I said goodbye to Andre and crossed the street to talk to Alphonse. “Hi , I spoke with Magdalene last week. She told me that you and her lost your baby. I’m so sorry to hear that. You must be heartbroken. I wish there were words to express to you how sad I feel. You both looked so happy the last time I saw you together.”

“Yes, it’s very sad, but what can I do? It’s out of our hands. The baby was induced early because Magdalene was using crack. We stayed at Ronald McDonald House while the baby was in the incubator on life support. After a week they told us that he had a hole in his heart and his lungs weren’t developed enough to supply his organs with oxygen.”

“Cocaine use during pregnancy can affect a pregnant woman and her unborn baby in many ways. During the early months of pregnancy, it may increase the risk of miscarriage. Later in pregnancy, it can trigger preterm labor (labor that occurs before 37 weeks of pregnancy) or cause the baby to grow poorly. As a result, cocaine-exposed babies are more likely than unexposed babies to be born with low birthweight (less than 5.5 lb/2.5 kg). Low-birthweight babies are 20 times more likely to die in their first month of life than normal-weight babies, and face an increased risk of lifelong disabilities such as mental retardation and cerebral palsy. Cocaine-exposed babies also tend to have smaller heads, which generally reflect smaller brains. Some studies suggest that cocaine-exposed babies are at increased risk of birth defects, including urinary-tract defects and, possibly, heart defects. Cocaine also may cause an unborn baby to have a stroke, irreversible brain damage, or a heart attack.” (Wikipedia)

“There was no hope for him so we consented to have them pull out the tubes. I was holding him when they took him off the ventilator. His breathing became very shallow. He died in my arms forty-five minutes later. At the very end, as the doctor said would happen, he made little sounds like he was drowning. Then he was silent.

“Maggie asks me why I haven’t been sleeping with her. Since she’s been on crack she sells herself on the street. I try to watch out for her. I want her to be safe. I see her go away with men and come back about an hour later with a fistful of cash. She spends it all on crack. I’ve contracted syphilis and other sexual diseases from her. Luckily, they were treatable with antibiotics, but some diseases aren’t. I can’t risk my life to make love with her. I don’t know who she’s been with.

“My brother and sister came down from Labrador, to be with us, after the baby died. Maggie was jealous. She thought they had come only to comfort me. I told her, ‘No, Maggie they came for both of us.’

“I still love Madgalene. I don’t know what to do.” Tears were falling from his eyes. I put my arm around his shoulder and said, “I love you, man. Let it all out. I know you still love Magdalene, and so you should. She’s young, only twenty-four years old. She needs to mature. If she decides to get help, perhaps you can be together again like you once were. Perhaps, it can be a new start for you. No one knows the future. All we know is this moment.”

“I know I can’t control what she does. I just wish she’d get off the crack, before it kills her.”

I said, “I have to go to work now, Alphonse. Will I see you at the park this afternoon? You take care. I love you, man.”

At the park this afternoon were Andre, John, Joy, Outcast, Wolf and his dog Shaggy. Shakes was asleep on the grass. Nick arrived later. We shook hands all around. When I came to John I said, Don’t tell me your name… it’s John, like the toilet.”

John said to me, “That’s right.”

Wolf asked, “Dennis, do you have a cigarette?”

“No, I don’t smoke.”

“Outcast, do you have a cigarette?”

“No, but Debbie has some at her place. She’ll sell you some. Go ask her.”

“I’d prefer, if you could phone ahead, let her know I’m coming.”

“Phone, with what?”

“Phone with, I don’t know, fifty cents.”

“You expect me to spend fifty cents so you can get a smoke. I don’t think so.”

Wolf said, “It’s just like when you told me that Debbie would lend me her library card. She said to me, Wolf, pay your thirty dollars in fines, and get your own card.”

I asked Andre, “How has your day been since I saw you this morning?”

“It’s been good. A lady at Starbucks bought me a muffin and a large coffee with some kind of syrup in it. I couldn’t taste the syrup until I got to the very bottom, then I could taste it. I was really shaky after I drank that. I find Starbuck’s coffee really strong. I really didn’t need that. Someone else gave me an apple. I gave that to Al. I can’t eat apples. I don’t have enough teeth to chew them.

“See this space where my bottom tooth was. I pulled that myself at Innes (Ottawa-Carleton Detention Center, on Innes Road). The tooth was loose and wobbly. It hurt when I bit into anything, so I got a piece of string, tied one end to the tooth, the other end to my bunk, then pulled. I had a package of salt — that’s when they still let you have salt — put it in a glass of water and gargled. That’s supposed to help it heal and prevent infection. It healed fine.

“For the past twenty-five years I’ve been in and out of prison: Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes.”

I asked, “Which are the worst? Which are the best?”

“There isn’t anything good about prisons, but I’d say, of all them, the best were in Quebec. The very worst was the Don Jail in Toronto. They didn’t ask you to do things, they made you. I remember when I first arrived, a guard asked me to put my feet on these yellow footprints on the floor, and my hands on these hand prints on the wall. I guess my hand wasn’t quite in the right position. He took it and smashed it against the wall. If you mouthed off, the guards would take you to a locked room and beat the shit out of you.

“Millhaven is bad too. It’s a super maximum security prison. I’d done some bad stuff to get sent there. I’d been high on coke, acid, ‘shrooms and my nerve pills. I got into a fight with this guy over something, I can’t remember what. I slammed his face into a painted concrete wall, again and again and again. It left red face prints all over this yellow wall. When he came to court his entire head was bandaged, except for his left eye. He had one of those casts on his right arm that held it perpendicular to his body. His left wrist and right ankle were also in casts.

“When I was in Maplehurst, I worked in the kitchen and on maintenance. I walked into a store-room and found two empty five gallon, plastic pails. I thought to my self, home-brew. As I was walking down the corridor, back to my cell, I threw kites (messages) as I went along. I tried to get them under the cell doors, but some fell just outside. That wasn’t a problem; with the flick of a towel they could pull them in. Everybody was pretty excited about this brew. I had access to everything in the kitchen including a couple of fingers of yeast.

“The brew was coming along really well, it was aging nicely when the head cook found it. He poured in some dish detergent, then dumped it down the drain. He said to me, ‘What do you think of your brew now?’ That got us really mad. I got some salami from the kitchen — some was whole, some was sliced. I stuffed it into one of the toilets as far as it would go. I stomped it with my foot. Some of the round part was still sticking out, but the toilet was really blocked. We had all agreed to flush our toilets at a specific time. When we did, water shot out everywhere. It was four inches deep in the kitchen, they couldn’t use it because of the electrical appliances. The guards changing room was flooded — everywhere.

“I asked the head cook, ‘Does it still seem funny that you spoiled our brew?’ Mind you, I was also on maintenance. It took me until one o’clock in the morning to mop up that mess, but we showed them.”

It was time for me to leave, Nick said, “I’m making up to eighty sandwiches a week that I hand out to homeless people. I start below the Rideau River Bridge. There’s a group of homeless people who gather there, just like they do here.

“Andre,” he said, “I walked past here his morning, but I didn’t see you.”

Andre and John were wondering what to do with Shakes, since it appeared that it was going to start to rain.

I walked with Nick towards my work. I asked, “What kind of sandwiches do you make?”

“Egg salad, peanut butter and jam, meat with mustard and tuna. I’m up at about four in the morning. I use about two loaves of bread; pack them in my rucksack with my bible, and distribute them until I run out. As people are eating I read God’s word to them. After that I panhandle to get the cash to do the same thing next day.

“Yesterday, I was panning on Bank Street, where I’ve panned for fourteen years. I was sitting on the sidewalk with my hat out when a cop came along. He said, ‘You’ve got your cap out. Are you panhandling?”

I said, “Yes officer, my cap is out. Do you see the cross on it, and my bible? I give food to the homeless and spread the word of the Lord. I read from my bible, and if somebody is hungry, I give them a sandwich. I don’t sell it to them. Those don’t come cheap. They cost me money. I’m just trying to get enough change to carry on my work.”

“So, you’re like Robin Hood, collect from the rich, give to the poor. That’s a nice story, but you’re going to have to move along.”

“I’ll move along, but I’ll set up some other place.” I went to the next block. He came again and motioned me to leave. I moved three times before I decided to call it a day.”

We approached Elgin Street, when Nick said, “I left someone behind here.” I walked to a bench where Bearded Bruce was sitting.

“Hi, Bruce, I haven’t seen you for a long time.”

“I just got out to-day. I didn’t have to serve the full term of my three-month sentence, but I’m now free and clear. It’s the first time, in five years, that I’ve been able to say that. I can make a new start.”

I didn’t ask, but I suspect that reason that Bruce didn’t want to go to the park was because of the temptation of drugs and alcohol; the very things that got him in trouble in the first place (twice he’d tried to sell crack to an undercover police officer). I said to him, “I’m just on my way back to work, but you and Nick could probably use a sandwich. Am I right? Here are a couple of Tim Horton cards. Maybe, you’d like to have lunch together.”

“Thanks, Dennis,” they both said as I walked away and waved.

Nick said, “I’ll say a prayer for you.”

“Thanks, Nick, I’d appreciate that.”

From the Ottawa Citizen, July 22, 2012:

Acclaimed Inuit artist Annie Pootoogook pregnant and homeless, living on the street in Ottawa

OTTAWA — One of Canada’s pre-eminent Inuit artists, a woman whose work has earned huge acclaim in Europe and the U.S., spends her time on Rideau Street these days, peddling her pencil-crayon drawings to passersby for cigarette money.

Annie Pootoogook has fought demons all her life — beatings, sexual abuse, alcohol and drugs. Pootoogook has lived in Ottawa for the last five years and recently came off another binge of substance abuse, during which she largely ignored her craft. But she is finally drawing again, doing much of it on Rideau, where she has become something of a centre of attention — at least with those who know who she is and want to buy her work.

She usually produces one drawing a day. But it is sad to see how little the shy, diminutive artist accepts for a drawing — $25, maybe $30. Her earlier work, from her days in Cape Dorset, Baffin Island, sells for $1,600 to $2,600 per drawing at Feheley Fine Arts, the Toronto art gallery that kick-started her ascent a decade ago.

But even sadder is the thought of the destitute woman —currently five months pregnant — curling up at night in a bushy area overlooking the Rideau River. Pootoogook, 43, and her boyfriend, William Watt, 49, have been living outdoors in various secluded spots in and around Lowertown since spring after spending the winter in shelters for the homeless. They didn’t like the shelters because they had to sleep alone, in the segregated men’s and women’s areas.

At least outside, they can be together. Still, there are downsides. Bugs for one. Snide comments from those who sometimes spot them through the bushes. And recently, they were both issued $276 fines for trespassing on NCC property, their sleeping bags and meagre belongings hauled away.

Pootoogook can’t take the bugs anymore and says she’s losing her mind being bitten while she tries to sleep.

They are desperate to get off the street, even if it is just into emergency housing for now. With a baby on the way — a girl whose name will be Napachie Marie Pootoogook-Watt — the father-to-be says they are focusing on setting their lives straight. No more booze. No more crack cocaine, a drug on which Watt says he spent $3,000 over a few days last November.

When Watt and Pootoogook, who met in 2010, woke up from that crack binge, they lived in a tent for two months at the “Occupy” encampment at Confederation Park. Then it was homeless shelters for the winter, though Watt spent 32 of those days in jail for stealing booze from an LCBO store. He says he has been in jail a few times for petty crimes, and it was while he was incarcerated last winter that Pootoogook found out she was pregnant. She surprised him with the news when he was released.

Pootoogook is the birth mother of two boys, now 23 and 16, who were born in Cape Dorset. They were adopted by relatives. “There is no interest in having this one adopted,” says Watt, who has a son from a previous relationship.

The couple wants to get out of the Lowertown area, as they say they have too many acquaintances there who were a bad influence when they tried before to stop drinking and drugging. And with Pootoogook pregnant, Watt says his girlfriend has become fearful of those people.

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homeless family L

 

 July 10, 1965 – May 8, 2013. Outdoors-man, dog lover, storyteller, avid reader, sportsman, son, brother, stepson, brother-in-law, uncle, great-uncle, nephew, friend and faithful Boston Bruins fan. His was a sensitive and creative soul whose life did not follow a conventional path.

In his early years, David was an athlete who excelled at hockey and soccer. He also enjoyed a love of sailing.

He worked as a videographer, a tradesman and a nanny.

While David lived most of his life in Ottawa, he also lived in Vancouver and spent time in Ireland.

His last years were challenging and he spent much of his time on the streets of Toronto with his loyal companion, his dog Blackie. They were very grateful for the kindness of strangers.

David’s family and friends love him, miss him and wish him safe and happy travels.

A private celebration of David’s life has taken place. His ashes are now in Halifax and will be scattered on the Atlantic, as he wished.

 

 

18 May 2013

Wolf handed me Weasel’s obituary. He said, “I like the line, ‘His was a sensitive and creative soul.’ He was a good friend and I don’t want to get Little Jake upset, but just between me and you, it doesn’t say anything about how many times he punched Jake in the head when he was high on crack; or the time he kicked my door down, trashed my apartment and beat me. I know I shouldn’t speak bad of the dead, but I just had to say that. You understand?”

“I understand, Wolf.”

“Okay, enough said about that. I really enjoyed the book you gave me, the  one about the war;  not the one about the racehorse. Horse racing is for rich people. I didn’t think I’d understand the racing terms. I put it in my bookshelf and I’ll read it some day: but the other book, by Ken Follett, that was really great. It gave me something to read all weekend. Once I started it I couldn’t put it down. Did you like it?”

“I haven’t read it.”

“You haven’t? Do you want me to bring it back to you? Have you, at least, read the back of the book, so you know what it’s about?”

“Yes, I read the back, but no, Wolf, you hang on to it. I’ve got too many books on the go right now.”

“Okay, I understand, but just so you know, that’s the kind of book I can really get into. Did you know that it starts on the first day of the Second World War? They had some massive planes that could land on the sea, but then they built so many runways that these planes just weren’t practical. After all the whole idea was to use them for bombing and if they had to land near the shore that wasn’t so good.  Have you ever seen a big plane that could land on the ocean?”

“I’ve seen pictures of big sea planes.”

“At first, when I started reading, I thought the Germans were after a spy on the plane, but it turned out that they were really looking for a  scientist. If they caught him they’d put him in chains in some prison and would have interrogated him until they got all the information they needed to develop the atomic bomb. You know what would’ve  happened then.  We wouldn’t be here.”

I asked, “Has anyone seen or heard anything about Serge,  in the past six months?”

Little Frank said, “No, the last I heard, he was in hospital, on life support. He didn’t have any family, that anyone knew of. We didn’t even know his last name.  Another person we haven’t seen for a while is Blaine. I’m guessing that they’ve both passed on.

Mariah was sitting on the other side of me. I asked her, “How have you been feeling?”

“I’m okay today, otherwise I wouldn’t be here. I’ve got a pain in my hip caused by two slipped disks in my spine. I have two others  that have been fused since I was nineteen. I was having treatment for about six months.  At first,  I could hardly move.  My back was hunched over and I couldn’t straighten up. They gave me anti inflammatory pills, and put those little electric pads on me; but that’s all they could do for the first couple of months. They couldn’t manipulate my back,  have me do exercises, or anything. Eventually, it eased up and they got the disks back in alignment. That was a year ago. Now, when I feel a pain coming on. I just rest at home for a few days. That seems to take care of it.”

 
<p style=”text-align: left;”>Read about my friends here  <a href=”http://buff.ly/1wyjiKS”>http://buff.ly/1wyjiKS</a></p&gt;
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womanbox
11 May 2013

Joy was looking more cheerful this morning. I asked, “How did you sleep last night?”

“Not bad, I smoked a joint, then passed out for four hours. When I awoke, my heating pad was bunched up. I rolled over, then I heard my rib pop. It’s been hurting ever since.”

“Have you heard any details about Darrell’s funeral?”

“I haven’t heard anything. I seriously doubt that anyone would be attending anyway. I’m not aware that he has any family. I don’t get Jake blubbering about Darrell being his best friend. Darrell was a piece of shit and used to beat him on a regular basis. I never liked the way that he treated Blacky.

“Darrell was so messed up on crack that I think he lost every friend he had. He kicked the door down at Wolf’s place and trashed his own apartment. He was always mooching off somebody. I say, good riddance.

“As far as Jake looking after Blacky. Jake needs looking after himself. That dog is vicious. The only humane thing is to have him put down.”

Toothless Chuck’s younger brother dropped by. “Hi sweetie,” said Joy. “It’s good to see you. What are you up to?”

“I’m taking the bus to Montreal to visit friends. I want to get to the station early to line up. I’m hoping to get the back seat so I can stretch out and get some sleep.”

“You better be first in line then. That’s the seat that everybody wants.

“I’ve had it with Montreal. When I was there last week the cops said I had two outstanding charges of assault and battery. I asked, ‘Isn’t there some statute of limitations? Those charges were laid twenty years ago, but if you think you can make them stick, put me in cuffs right now, otherwise I’m out of here.’

“I don’t even know anybody there. I’m not about to start all over in another city.”

 

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homeless family L

 

9 May 2013
 
Loretta was sitting on a low wall near the bus stop. “Hi, Dennis,” she called.

“Hi Loretta, I haven’t seen you for a long time.”

“It has been a long time. Did I tell you that I finished a four month program? I’ve been over four months sober now. At the program I told them I was only there because of my addiction to alcohol, I didn’t want to give up weed. I never want to stop smoking weed. I need something to help me relax. I did buy some patches though. I want to stop smoking cigarettes.”

“Congratulations, that’s an amazing achievement. I know that addictions are very difficult to control. I’m proud of you. Don’t try to take on too much at once. Take things one step at a time.

“Andre only lasted two months and look where he is now.”

“I know, that business with Joy. It’s such a shame. I like her, she’s been a friend for a long time. She didn’t deserve that. Nobody does.”

“My heart goes out to Joy and to Andre. They’ve both been my friends for years. Now, Andre has thrown away everything that he worked so hard for. He spent his rent money on booze, so he may get kicked out of his apartment. Everybody wants to punch him out. He probably won’t be able to stay in the city. It won’t be safe for him anywhere.

“Is there anybody at the park?”

“Yes, but I don’t want to go there because I know that people will be drinking. I really want a drink right now. I’m just waiting for a bus. I’m planning to go to school.”

“What will you be taking?”

“First I have to finish my Grade Twelve, then I want to go to Secretarial School.”

“That’s a good choice. Where I work they’re always looking for Secretaries.”

“I see my bus coming. It was good to see you, Dennis.”

“Bye, Loretta.”

I walked up the sidewalk to the park and sat beside Jacques. “How are you feeling, Jacques?”

“Oh me, I feel fine. My body is healthy. When people see me they think I’m big and strong, but it’s like a car. The body can be good, but the motor is shot. My heart is in bad shape. People don’t know I’m dying, but I am. I tell them, but they don’t believe it.

“I’ve been shitting water for the past three days. I don’t know what that’s about. Maybe I picked up some kind of bug. I don’t know”

Jake came wandering up the sidewalk. Debbie said, “Well, let’s not all look at him.”

Jacques said, “That’s what we do. Where are we supposed to look.”

“I guess you’re right, I shouldn’t be telling everybody else what to do or how to act. It’s just the way I am, you know that.

“Has anybody got a joint? How about rolling papers? I got pot if somebody’s got papers.”

“You can use my pipe,” said Jacques. “I’ll fill it fresh.”

As Jake approached Debbie he said, ” Come here, I need a hug.”

Debbie took him in her arms and he started crying.

 

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wheel

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17 September 2014

While on my usual bus to work I noticed a woman with familiar face, walking with a cane. It took a few minutes to remember her name. Then I said, “Hi Chili!”

“Hi Dennis, I didn’t know you lived around here. I live with my boyfriend Spike, just a block from here. It’s handy to the methadone clinic and to school.”

I said, “You’re walking much better. The last time we met you were using a walker.”

“Yeah, I still use a walker sometimes. My surgery is coming up soon, so hopefully after that I’ll be able to walk on my own. I have osteomyelitis that caused a bone abscess. It needs to be opened, washed out, and drained. I may need a bone graft.

“This is my stop. It was nice seeing you, Dennis.”

“Bye, Chili.”

I arrived downtown and met Chuck. “Good morning, Dennis.”

“Hi Chuck, how is your day going?”

“Today is fine. I’m supposed to go to a wedding on the weekend.  I’d like to see my family, but every one will be dancing, smoking and drinking, all the things I can’t do. I think I’m going to give it a pass.

“Seeing Ghyslain down the street, reminds me of two brothers I went to school with. They were really good at track and field, track mostly. They were always racing each other. Then they got into drugs — I don’t know what exactly — but it fried their brains.  They still like to run, but it’s in slow motion, just like when you slow down a movie.

“I used to be on crack. I’d mostly just use it on the weekends. My girlfriend at the time had been an addict for a few years. We snorted back then, using a dollar bill. That’s when they had dollar bills. I started using more and more. You know how it is. One morning I woke up, my head was splitting, I couldn’t remember anything. I decided that I’d had it. She’d given me a key to her apartment. I took it, hung it up on the key rack and, without a word, just walked out. I never went back. A few weeks later I heard that she’d been picked up by the police. The guy she was with was her dealer. She was small and cute, he talked her into taking the rap.  She served seven years.

“I got a joke for you. I’m not allowed to tell jokes about blond women, so this is about a blond guy. Anyway, he’s driving downtown and he gets a flat tire. He pulls over, opens the trunk and takes out these life-size cutouts of two men and sets them up behind the car. They were both wearing trench-coats, holding them wide open, and were completely naked. The guy goes about changing his tire. Meanwhile traffic is slowing down, drivers are shaking their heads and looking at these cut-outs. Soon the traffic is backed up a bout a mile. A motorcycle cop at the back of the line roars up to see the cause of the hold up. He sees these cutouts and asks the blond guy.  ‘What’s this all about?’ The guy says, ‘I’m changing a tire.’ The cop says, ‘I can see that. What are these cut-outs?’ The blond guy says, ‘Doh! Hello? These are my emergency flashers.”

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