Posts Tagged ‘kindness’

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11 May 2012

The sun was shining this morning and Joy was in better spirits. I said, “I see that you don’t have V with you today.”

“This morning Chuck said to me, ‘V needs to go out for a pee.’ I said to him, ‘Dude, she’s your dog. It was you that wanted exercise, so you walk her, you feed her, you train her, or you get rid of her.’ I was so angry yesterday that I didn’t say more than five words to him.

“I’ve got to get away from Chuck. He woke me up at 12:30 in the morning with the sound of him smacking his lips as he ate. He’s always swearing, it’s pussy this, asshole that, blow job something else. I said to him, ‘Dude, if you want any woman to come anywhere near you, you need to do something about your hygiene, and brush your teeth.’

“He’s a red-head, as you’ve noticed. I’ve never liked the smell of red heads. Even after he showers he has an odor about him.”

I said, “I was talking to Luther yesterday. I’ve met him, on at least four previous occasions where we talked at some length. He had me mixed up with a priest; a radio talk show host; a judge, before whom he’d appeared; and a guy, in some bar, who ignored him.”

“Yeah, I talked to him yesterday. I found that he was acting weird. That’s what happens when you drink Listerine and rubbing alcohol, and the smell stays with you for days. He came on to me, he said, “Joy, I’ve always found you attractive. Since Jake is in prison, do you think we could get together?’ I said to him, ‘Dude, I’ll tell you the same thing I told you last time you asked me that. No, never, nada, it’s not going to happen.’

“I saw Shakes, Fran and her asshole boyfriend yesterday. Did you see her eye? It was bruised and nearly swollen shut. That’s why she was wearing the shades all day. She said, ‘I fell.’ I said to her, ‘You’re talking to a woman who was beaten on a regular basis. Don’t tell me that you fell. I know what a bruise from a punch looks like.’ Then she admitted that he’d hit her. It’s a shame she’s such a sweet girl.”

I said, “I’ve heard people say that they ran into a door knob.” Joy laughed, “Yeah, you’d have to be on your hands and knees for that to happen.

“I have to see Buck,  so I may see the guys this afternoon, maybe not. Lately, I’m turned off with all of them.
The only one who doesn’t try to touch me is Chuck. Jacques is the worst. He said, ‘Little one, why don’t you come over to my place. You could even spend the night.’ I said, ‘No, dude, I’m not interested.’

“I have to pee again. That’s another reason I can’t have a dog here. I can’t just leave her here alone while I go to the restaurant to use their washroom. I’m going to leave soon, so will I see you at lunch?”

“I’ll be there. If you’re there fine, if not, that’s fine too. Do what feels good for you. Take care of yourself first.”

At noon the sun was still shining, I didn’t wear a jacket, but found it a bit cool with the wind. The first person I saw was Serge. He said, “You know, yesterday I thought I saw you. I went up to shake your hand, but when I got up close It wasn’t you.”

I said, “There must be someone else in town that looks just like Kenny Rogers.”

“Like Kenny Rogers, yes.”

When I got to the lawn there was a big crowd. The first to approach me was Hippo. “Dennis, how you doin’?”

“I’m good Hippo, how about you?”

“You know, I’m okay, I’ve been around. I found this lawn mower. It was just sitting there. It does mulching, side discharge or rear bagging. It runs. I started it, but it ran out of gas. I’m going to try to sell it.”

I met Juan, who I haven’t seen before. He was wearing a cowboy hat with plastic flowers around the brim. He said, “I have my name tattooed on my wrist in case I forget it. I’m sixty-five and my memory’s not so good.”

“I’m sixty-five as well.” I said. “I have difficulty remembering names, so I may have to check your wrist the next time we meet.”

“I go to a lot of Karaoke bars. I love to sing. I was in the Pro-Life parade yesterday. I don’t have an opinion, one way or the other, but I love to sing and dance. They had some great music.” He move on to talk to Joy. They’d met before.

Barry said to me, “I see you’re having problems with your leg.”

“Motorcycle accident,” I said. “I had seven breaks in my right leg. I have a steel rod from my hip to my knee.”

“Do you still ride?”

“No. Do you?”

“I’ve had a lot of problems, starting when I was nine months old. I’ve got a bad back. I had learning difficulties in school. I have some mental problems. Now, I’m alcoholic.”

Joy came up to me and said, “Dennis, could you do a big, big favor for me. I know it’s your lunch hour, but I owe Bert $40.00 and he’s watching me like a hawk. If I give you the money could you buy me two bottles of Imperial sherry? It’s $7.49 a bottle.”

“Sure, no problem.”

When I returned the group was standing on the corner of the street. Joy motioned to me in the direction of the lawn. “Police!” Joy whispered, “Someone yelled six up (the police are nearby, so whatever you are doing that is illegal you’d better hide it) and everyone took off. Most, because they were carrying either liquor, pot, pills or cigarettes smuggled from the U.S.”

Most of the cigarettes come from the American side of the Akwesasne Mohawk Territory, the reserve straddling the borders of Quebec, Ontario and New York state. The cigarettes are removed from their packages and put in clear resealable plastic bags. Natives, or someone driving for them, will load the trunk of their car with illegal cigarettes for sale in other parts of the province or central Canada. Legal cigarettes would have a government seal on the packaging to prove that Canadian taxes had been paid, and they’d have a cancer warning.

Everyone from the lawn relocated to the low concrete wall at the edge of the park. I walked to Irene, she said,  “The cops were just talking, they didn’t take anyone away. When I was leaving, the woman cop said to me, ‘Don’t forget the bag with your beer.’ Actually I’d hidden my beer, but I had cigarettes in my pack. Since I’m native I’m allowed, but it looks suspicious having them in clear plastic bags. I’d just say, ‘I bought them at the mall.’ You can get anything at the mall. Right?” (The mall is a meeting place where illegal substances, and services, aren’t regulated by the chain stores or the law.)

There was sadness as the news circulated that Dennis ‘Fingers’ had passed away. The regulars had known and loved him for over fifteen years. I never met him, but I know that he will be missed.

Joy, V and Chuck we’re sitting together. V snuggled up to Joy. “Now you’re being friendly.” Joy reached around to pet her and V bit her arm. “Did you see that? She bit me. She bit one of my regulars yesterday.”

Joy said to Chuck, “Why are you being so cheesie?”

“Oh, now you’re going to talk to me. You haven’t said more than five words to me since yesterday.”

“So, why are you in a bad mood?”

“I’ve only had a six-pack of beer this entire week. I’ve got no pot, no money, nothing to drink.”

“We’ve got pot.”

“You mean, you’ve got pot.”

“I mean, we’ve got pot and I’ll buy you some beer later. Now, stop pouting. Do you want a sip from my bottle?”

“That goof, no thanks!”.

“It’s just watered down, it tastes the same.”

“I got a bottle coming.”

“If you’d get your sorry ass out of bed in the morning you could come down with me and make some money.”

“I will tomorrow.”

“I’ll hold you to that. Come 4:30 I’m going to be flipping the lights on and off. I’ll be yelling, “Chuck, get the fuck up!”

Two young women came by from the Salvation Army. Joy said, “I hate those bitches, especially the blonde one. When I was sleeping behind the dumpsters, behind Starbucks, with Jake. Trying to bathe in the washroom of the restaurant. They said to me, ‘We can’t help you, because you’re not a man.’ They helped Jake. They helped Irene and they helped Loretta. I think it’s because Irene is native and Loretta is Inuit. I don’t have my status card that says that I’m metis.”

Loretta came over. She is a small pleasant woman, always polite, always smiling even though she has no teeth. Joy said, “You talk to that bitch.” Loretta said, “Sheena? I have to, she’s my worker.”

Joy said, “The Salvation Army is the biggest fucking organization in the country and they do nothing. That blonde one is the worst. You see, she stays away from me. She knows what she’ll get.” Joy bared her teeth, hissed and snarled at the woman, gnashed her teeth. “Of course, if I hit her I’d go straight to jail. She’d better keep her distance.”

Loretta said to Joy, “I heard that you’re getting your own place. Would you like a roommate?”

“That would be great. I would have asked you, but I thought you were still with your old man.”

“No, I kicked him out. I said,’ Until we can go for six months without an argument, I don’t want to live with you.’

“Thank you, thank you thank you. I’m so looking forward to moving in with you.”

I thought they were going hug each other,  jump up and down and scream, but that my have attracted too much attention, especially with the police so near. They were parked on the curb, near the lawn to see if people came back.

Joy said, “It will be so nice, for a change, to have a place that smells feminine, instead of one that’s full of men’s farts.”

I said, “Oh, I forgot. Women don’t fart.”

“Not as much as men do  (it’s been scientifically proven that men and women fart the same amount), we don’t pee on the toilet seat, or leave the seat up.”

“Women rule!” I said.

“You got that right, mister!” said Loretta.

“Joy said, “I just know that we’re going to get along great. There are none of these other women that I’d want to share with, and definitely none of the guys.”

“My boyfriend won’t even be sleeping over.”

Joy said, “I don’t care if he does. With Jake in prison, I can’t see anyone staying over with me, except perhaps Outcast.”

“Aren’t you worried about him stealing from you?” I asked.

“I’ve nothing to steal, except my bed.

“I’ll go to the Mission tomorrow to see if there are any listings.”

“I’ll go to Shepherd’s,” said Loretta. “Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.” then walked away. Joy said, “You know, she reminds me of myself when I was with Jake. I was always saying, ‘I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry.’ With Loretta it’s, ‘Thank you, thank you, thank you.’ I’ll have to get her to stop that, it’s getting on my nerves.”

I said, “I’m glad to see you happy, Joy.  I’ll see you Monday.”

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7 May 2012

On a low concrete wall sat Rocky, Shark and Irene, Loretta and Joy.

I walked up to Irene and said, “Hi neighbor!” She and Shark laughed.

I said to Joy, “On Friday Shark, Irene and I took the number 14 together. It turns out that Irene lives about four blocks from me, and Shark, Matches and I all lived a few blocks from each other in Cabbagetown, Toronto.

I said to Joy, “Irene also mentioned that she had lived near Lacasse Avenue in Vanier. That’s the street I lived on.”

“You lived on Lacasse? So did I! I was in the pink house, nearer to Blake Boulevard.”

“I was in the basement of a four-plex, in the second block from Montreal Road.”

“So, we lived about three blocks apart, cool. It’s a small world. Maybe, we walked right by each other.”

Shark  said, “Did you see what they’ve done, ‘the bench’ is gone. We’re stuck with sitting here in the sun. Even the wrought iron garbage container is gone.”

Joy said to me, “Nick passed out due to insulin shock, so Chuck phoned 911. Nick should carry extra insulin with him, but he doesn’t. Also, he hasn’t eaten. He was more concerned with having a joint. The same thing happened at the barbecue Saturday. He has cancer and has pretty well given up on life. I’d never do that, no matter what condition I was in. I’m too much of a bitch.”

The paramedics arrived with an ambulance. They loaded Nick, onto a gurney, into the ambulance, then Nick was gone.

The police arrived and complained to Jake about garbage near where the bench used to be. There was one plastic soft drink container, that some one had used to carry water for their dog. He said to the police officer, “For one thing, it’s not our garbage. For another thing the garbage container has been taken away and there’s nowhere for us to put the garbage.” The officer responded by pushing Jake across the sidewalk. He staggered and nearly fell.

Everyone was wondering what Chuck was saying to the police. Joy said, “That dude has verbal diarrhea. It starts first thing in the morning and doesn’t end until he goes to sleep. I’m going up there to get V. That’s all I need is for Chuck to go to jail and I’ll be stuck with that dog. I don’t even like him.

Joy went up to get V. Chuck said, “I’m not going to jail!”

Chuck phoned 911 again and said, “Officer B. Slovak pushed my friend, and I’m scared he’s going to hit me with his billy club. I wish to make a formal complaint. Yes, I’ll stay on the line.”

Joy said to the officer, “Look dude, my friend is on a lot of pain medication for AIDS. That’s why he’s staggering. He’s very sick.”

“And how would you know that?” said Officer Slovak.

“Because he’s my friend, dude. I know the medical histories of all these people here.”

“Why is it you’re not messed up like this guy?”

“Because, I choose not to be, dude!”

Jake was forced to walk to the opposite end of the bridge.

Joy, Chuck and V. returned to the rest of the group sitting on the wall.

Outcast said to me, “You should complain to the National Capital Commission about the removal of the bench and the garbage container. As it is, the closest place to put garbage is at the far end of the bridge. Also, the remaining benches are all in direct sunlight. You should tell them that you work in the area and like to sit in the shade to eat your lunch.”

“I could do that.” I said.

“How are you Rocky? Where are you sleeping now?” I asked.

“I’m staying at the Mission.”

“You’ve really got a great voice. Has it always been like that? I wish I had a deep voice like yours. Do you sing?”

“A lot of people have said I should be a blues singer, but I don’t sing that well. I just sing for fun, when I’m alone.”

“How was your weekend, Joy?”

“It was good. Saturday, at Chuck’s place, we had a barbecue for Noreen’s birthday. She’s Inuit. We didn’t know that her birthday wasn’t actually until Sunday, but it didn’t matter. Her boyfriend, Nicholas came and Chuck’s’s dad. Chuck cooked some delicious pork chops. We had macaroni salad and regular salad. I can’t believe how much I ate. Usually I just pick at my food, but this was so good that I licked my plate.

“I have a real bed now and V sleeps with Carl. Saturday, Chuck will be leaving for a few days and he’ll be taking V. I’m looking forward to having the whole place to myself. I’m looking forward to the quiet.

“On the 29th of this month, I have a court appearance for the breach I got while I was in hospital. My P.O. (Probation Officer) wants to meet with me after court, but she’s going to be the duty officer that day. I could wait forever to see her. I said to her, ‘Why can’t you tell me in court, what it is you have to say?’ I’m going to phone her and say I’ll come in the following day.

“I’m going to the Women’s Center to have counseling for my anger management. I’ll be seeing a counselor one on one. It’s the place where chicks go for addiction treatment.”

At 6:00 pm, as I was waiting for my bus home, I saw Alphonse walking towards me.

“Good evening, sir,” he said.

“Alphonse, it’s so good to see you! How’ve you been? How’s Magdalen?”

He put his fist to his forehead. Lines appeared between his eyes that welled up with tears. “I’m so agitated! Not frustrated, agitated! Magdalen is four months pregnant and tomorrow she’s going to see about an abortion.

“That’s why I’m drinking. That’s what we do, where I come from, when things get to be too much.”

“I understand, Alphonse, drinking helps to numb the pain.”

“It doesn’t though. I hurt so bad inside. I don’t know how she can do that to my child. I’m hoping that tomorrow, they tell her she’s too far along, they refuse to give her an abortion.”

“Alphonse, perhaps that will happen. I’m sure that will happen.”

“I’ll take care of the child myself if I have to.”

“I’m a father myself, Alphonse, but I can’t even imagine how much pain you are feeling right now. I’ll say a prayer for you, that everything works out as you wish it to. You’re a good man, Alphonse. You’d make a good father.”

“It’s helped a lot being able to talk to someone about it. Thank you, my friend.”

“Take care, Alphonse. My heart goes out to you. Perhaps, I’ll see you tomorrow.”

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2 May 2012

Noon was damp and overcast. It had rained earlier. At ‘the bench’ were about a dozen of my friends.

I was sitting on the curb beside Shakes. “How are you doing Shakes? Are you getting there?”

“When I woke up this morning I had three bottles of wine, some J.D., some mary jane and some food. Then I went for a walk. I’m doing all right.”

Mukluk was standing in front of me. She bent over, and an open beer, in a pocket inside her coat, started spilling out on the sidewalk. “I’m sorry about that,” she said.

She had been feeling down because Bearded Bruce had started his prison sentence today. When will Bruce be getting out?” I asked.

“He got four months.”

“Have you lived in Ottawa long?” I asked.

“I’ve been here about six years. I’m from Iqualuit, capital of Nunavut. It’s on the south coast of Baffin Island at the head of Frobisher Bay. It took three hours to fly here. I miss my family.”

Trudy had a new video game app on her cell phone. “I’m really addicted to this game. I played it all yesterday and started again first thing when I got up this morning. Sometimes when I look up, all I see is colored squares.

“I nearly got evicted last night. I came this close.” She pinched her thumb and index finger together to indicate about a half inch. “I was drunk, and broke two doors down.”

“Remind me not to be near you when you’re drunk,” I said. “I’d be afraid of what you’d do to me.”

“Don’t worry, when I get drunk I don’t fight people, only doors.”

“Hi Rocky,” I said. “How have you been?”

“Not so good. I have a hangover. I slept in Tom’s Bar last night. The bar closed at one. I fell asleep at eleven. Tom said, “You can have some wine, but don’t touch the beer.”

“Rocky,” asked Shakes, “Do you have a cigarette, or some wine?”

“No, all I have is this bag of chips from the Shepherd’s. They were giving them out to everybody.”

“Why is it that, whenever I see you, you never have any money, wine or cigarettes?

“Do you ever see me without money, wine or cigarettes?”

“No.”

“It’s because I’m independent. I take care of myself first. It’s not that I’m mean. I’ll share what ever I have, with whoever is here, but I take care of myself.”

I said to Trudy, “I saw you last Wednesday. I was on the bus. I waved, but you didn’t see me.”

“Was it near the Dollarama? Was I standing, or sitting down?”

“Yes, and you were standing.”

“I was panning then. It was after hours. Barry (her brother) was on the other side of the street. We did pretty good that day. We made the price of two bottles of wine, a pack of smokes and supper.”

Barry was feeding chips to Dillinger. “Don’t give him too many,“ said Buck, “they’ll go right through him. Yesterday, right in the middle of an intersection, he stopped to take a shit. Cars were honking, people were cursing. I was pulling on his leash, but he just kept shitting.”

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9 May 2012

“Hi, Joy, how’s it going? I didn’t know whether or not to expect you today because the weather channel forecasted rain.”

“Yeah, it did rain a little bit, earlier. I did my little rain dance, you know, ‘Rain, rain go away, come again another day’, I brought Bruce’s raincoat, just in case, but it was nothing to be concerned about. I don’t mind light rain, it’s those huge raindrops that I hate.”

“How are you feeling?”

“Last night my stomach was doing flip flops. When I got out of bed I threw up. I try to eat a bland breakfast, so I had a poached egg on toast. As soon as I got it down, I puked it up.”

“Have you heard anything from Nick, since the paramedics took him away?”

“He was fine once they got some insulin into him. Yeah, he’s back. He’s really pissed off with the cop, Constable B. Slovak. He even tried to prevent Chuck from phoning 911. Nick is in bad shape with his diabetes and cancer. I’m not sure, but I think it’s all through his internal organs. He’s on massive doses of oxycontin. The cop apologized, asked if there was anything he could do and handed him his card. Nick just flicked it back at him. He’s going to press charges.”

“The cop kept poking Jake with his baton. I don’t know what that was all about.

“Jacques told me that yesterday the R.C.M.P (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) rousted everyone from under the Laurier Street bridge. They’d gone there to get out of the rain. Everyone was given liquor violations. I’m glad I wasn’t there. That’s the first time I’ve heard of the R.C.M.P getting involved. I’ve always acted like, ‘Nya, nya, nya, can’t touch me.’ I guess they can.

“I have an appointment on the 15th at Bronson Centre to meet with an anger management counselor. It’s better than going to Horizon House and being in a classroom full of women. I’d probably go nuts and kill someone. I don’t like being around a lot of women, especially Inuit women who used to hang around the bench. The yapping would never stop. And they’d keep asking me for a drink out of my bottle. I had to learn to say, ‘No, get your own. This is all I’ve got.’

“Chuck and I were talking about getting an apartment together, but the more I think about it, the more I think I should get a place of my own. Chuck has a heart of gold, he’ll help anyone, but it costs a lot in groceries. Like the barbecue we had on Saturday. I can’t believe the amount that Chuck eats. That’s why he’s so fat. He says, ‘I have a big appetite.’ I say look dude, that doesn’t mean you have to eat fifteen times a day. When he serves me a plate of food it’s enough to keep me going for three days.

“We’ve got a problem with mice. Chuck keeps bugging the landlord about it. I said to Chuck, ‘Make sure he knows that you’ve got a dog.’ V gets into everything. He’s supposed to bring some traps over. He said to Chuck, ‘If you keep bugging me I’m going to throw you out.’ Chuck said, ‘I’m not going anywhere. I’m staying right here.’ We’ll see what happens.

A man stopped and put an apple in Mo’s cap. Mo asked me, “Do you want an apple? I usually give them to Jacques, but he’s getting too fat. He doesn’t need any more to eat.”

“Sure, thanks, I’ll take it.”

“I’ve made over forty bucks today. That’s more than I’ve made for a long time. You must be good luck for me.

A tall, good looking black man passed by, smiled and said hello to Mo. “Hi, handsome, gimme five.” He slapped Mo’s hand and mine. “One day he threw some folded bills in my cap. I spread them out. It was four twenties. I said, ‘Hey man, this is too much.’ He just kept walking and said, ‘You keep it.’ That’s the most money I’ve ever got at one time.

“I talked to Jacques on the phone this morning. He said, ‘So, little one — he calls me little one, because I used to be a lot bigger — are you going to come down and visit us today?.’ I owe him thirty bucks, but he’s going to have to wait until the end of the month. That’s what I was talking to Jake about. He’s owed me seventy for about a year. I asked him about it and he said, ‘I thought you said to forget about it. “Dude, I didn’t say forget about it, I said, shove it up your ass. That’s not the same thing.”

“Do you go to the library?” I asked.

“I used to go there to use the washroom. My eyesight is not so good any more. I’m near sighted, I can see things far away, but up close everything is blurry. Jake is farsighted. When we’d be waiting for the bus together, he’d ask, ‘Is that our bus coming?’ ‘No,’ I’d say, ‘not that one, the one further down the street.”

“Did you get to spend a night in the motel?”

“No, I should have. Maybe I will next month, but who knows what’s going to happen next month?

It was muggy today at ‘the curb’. As I was approaching, Barry came up to me and asked, “Hey, can you spare two bucks, that’s all I need.”

“I said, I don’t have any cash, but I can give you a Subway card worth $5.00.”

“Would you be offended if I sold it for two bucks?”

“Do whatever you like.”

“It’s tempting, but I wouldn’t do that to you, bro.”

Sitting or standing on the sidewalk were  about a dozen of the regulars. Handshakes all around.

I said, “We can all just pretend there is a bench here.”

Jacques said, “They take away our bench, we’re still here, They take away the garbage container, we’re still here. They mow down our trees, we’re still here. What are they going to do next? Are they going to mow us down?”

I sat between Jacques and Joy. “I’m really buzzed.” Said Joy. “Look at all the people here. Some of them I just can’t put up with any more. Shakes was a good friend a couple of years ago, but he can’t even speak sense now. He’ll be asleep before you know it. Makes us all look bad. The last thing we need is to attract attention.

”This is one of those days when I’d rather not be alive.” Joy was crying and started coughing. “Tomorrow I’m going to Oasis to get my forms filled out. They say it will take two or three weeks for me to get my medical card. They’ll want me to quit drinking.”

“What kind of symptoms do you get with alcohol withdrawl?”

“I throw up a lot, lose my appetite — what little I have — get the shakes really bad, sweats, nausea, headache, anxiety, a rapid heart beat, increased blood pressure, halucinations. Last time it looked like the ground beneath my feet was crawling with bugs.”

“I smell something burning,” said Jacques. “Has Ellen fallen asleep with a cigarette? Maybe her clothes are burning.”

Joy checked, “No, she doesn’t have a cigarette.”

Jacques said, “I smelled something, but maybe it was over there. I don’t know. There is something falling. Is it snow? No, it’s coming from the trees. It’s green. Is that what they call pollenization? These green things fall on the earth and they grow. If they fall in the leaves over there there’s not enough light. If they fall on the grass they get mowed. Is it the maple leaves that fall like helicopters?”

Ellen awoke and said, “Did somebody mention something about maple bacon?”

“That sounds like something that Chuck cooked the other day. Maple, anything, is just wrong. I don’t even eat pancakes any more. French toast I’ll do, but with only a tiny bit of syrup.”

“They’ve got Honey Jack Daniels now,” said Ellen. “That’s good.”

Joy whispered to me, “I’d like to kill her.

“See my rings? This one on my thumb is a spinner ring. The inside stays still and the outside spins. On my other thumb is Jake’s twelve step ring. Well, it’s mine now. We were in Trillium Jewelry when he bought it. He said, “Do you see anything you fancy?’ I said, “No, not really.” He said, ‘I saw you looking at a ring over there. Do you want it?’ I said, ‘Okay.’ They’re so big, I have to wear them on my thumb. Jake wanted me to put it on the fourth finger of my left hand. This other one, was given to me by a girlfriend, Joanne. She’s passed on (Joy crossed her heart). It’s my birthstone, amethyst.

“When I’ve been panning people have said t me, ‘If you want money, sell your jewelry!’ These are only silver. They’re not worth anything to anybody else.”

“I was talking to Outcast the other day,” said Silver. “He feels like he’s being pushed out of the group.”

“Well,” said Joy, “if he’d quit stealing from us… There’s nothing worse than someone who would steal from his friends. Well, a jailhouse thief is worse. Everybody has their tiny ration of coffee, or toothpaste. It really sucks when somebody takes it on you. If they get found out they end up, a pile in the corner, beaten by somebody’s bitch.”

Shark said, “Outcast was at Irene’s the other day. He drank six of her beer and every time he went through the kitchen he took some of my pot and put it in his cigarette pack.”

“Joy said, “I was at Jacques’ place when Outcast was there. Jacques went to the bathroom and Outcast grabbed a stack of DVD’s and was going to put them in his pack. I said, ‘No you don’t!’

Jacques said, “It was the next night that he stole pot from me.”

It was time for me to go. I said to Joy, “They’re forecasting rain for later on.”

“I’m okay, I’ve got Bruce’s raincoat. It even covers my feet. When I pull the hood up I’ll stay nice and dry. He’s so big that it fits me like a tent. Before he went to prison, I told him to ask for the high protein diet. He’s going to really gain weight there. That’s what I’ve asked for whenever I’ve been inside. You get a lot of different kinds of meat, peanut butter. I used to put that in my pocket and save it until later, when I was back in my cell.”

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7 May 2012

On a low concrete wall, facing Elgin Street, were Rocky, Shark, Irene, Loretta and Joy.

I walked up to Irene and said, “Hi neighbor!” She and Shark laughed.

I said to Joy, “On Friday Shark, Irene and I took the number 14 together. It turns out that Irene lives about four blocks from me, and Shark, Shakes and I all lived a few blocks from each other in Cabbagetown, Toronto.

I said to Joy, “Irene also mentioned that she had lived near Lacasse Avenue in Vanier. That’s the street I lived on.”

“You lived on Lacasse? So did I! I was in the pink house, nearer to Blake Boulevard.”

“I was in the basement of a four-plex, in the second block from Montreal Road.”

“So, we lived about three blocks apart, cool. It’s a small world. Maybe, we walked right by each other.”

Shark  said, “Did you see what they’ve done, ‘the bench’ is gone. We’re stuck with sitting here in the sun. Even the wrought iron garbage container is gone.”

Joy said to me, “Nick passed out due to insulin shock, so Chuck phoned 911. Nick should carry extra insulin with him, but he doesn’t. Also, he hasn’t eaten. He was more concerned with having a joint. The same thing happened at the barbecue Saturday. He has cancer and has pretty well given up on life. I’d never do that, no matter what condition I was in. I’m too much of a bitch.”

The paramedics arrived with an ambulance. They loaded Nick onto a gurney, into the ambulance, then he was gone.

The police arrived and complained to Jake about garbage near where the bench used to be. There was one plastic soft drink container, that some one had used to carry water for their dog. He said to the police officer, “For one thing, it’s not our garbage. For another thing the garbage container has been taken away and there’s nowhere for us to put the garbage.” The officer responded by pushing Jake across the sidewalk. He staggered and nearly fell.

Everyone was wondering what Chuck was saying to the police. Joy said, “That dude has verbal diarrhea. It starts first thing in the morning and doesn’t end until he goes to sleep. I’m going up there to get V. That’s all I need is for Chuck to go to jail and I’ll be stuck with that dog. I don’t even like him.”

Joy went up to get V. Chuck said, “I’m not going to jail!”

Chuck phoned 911 again and said, “Officer B. Slovak pushed my friend, and I’m scared he’s going to hit me with his billy club. I wish to make a formal complaint. Yes, I’ll stay on the line.”

Joy said to the officer, “Look dude, my friend is on a lot of pain medication for AIDS. That’s why he’s staggering. He’s very sick.”

“And how would you know that?” said Officer Slovak.

“Because he’s my friend, dude. I know the medical histories of all these people here.”

“Why is it you’re not messed up like this guy?”

“Because, I choose not to be, dude!”

Jake was forced to walk to the opposite end of the bridge.

Joy, Chuck and V. returned to the rest of the group sitting on the wall.

Outcast said to me, “You should complain to the National Capital Commission about the removal of the bench and the garbage container. As it is, the closest place to put garbage is at the far end of the bridge. Also, the remaining benches are all in direct sunlight. You should tell them that you work in the area and like to sit in the shade to eat your lunch.”

“I could do that.” I said.

“How are you Rocky? Where are you sleeping now?” I asked.

“I’m staying at the Mission.”

“You’ve really got a great voice. Has it always been like that? I wish I had a deep voice like yours. Do you sing?”

“A lot of people have said I should be a blues singer, but I don’t sing that well. I just sing for fun, when I’m alone.”

“How was your weekend, Joy?”

“It was good. Saturday, at Chuck’s place, we had a barbecue for Noreen’s birthday. She’s Inuit. We didn’t know that her birthday wasn’t actually until Sunday, but it didn’t matter. Her boyfriend, Nicholas came and Chuck’s’s dad. Chuck cooked some delicious pork chops. We had macaroni salad and regular salad. I can’t believe how much I ate. Usually I just pick at my food, but this was so good that I licked my plate.

“I have a real bed now and V sleeps with Carl. Saturday, Chuck will be leaving for a few days and he’ll be taking V. I’m looking forward to having the whole place to myself. I’m looking forward to the quiet.

“On the 29th of this month, I have a court appearance for the breach I got while I was in hospital. My P.O. (Probation Officer) wants to meet with me after court, but she’s going to be the duty officer that day. I could wait forever to see her. I said to her, ‘Why can’t you tell me in court, what it is you have to say?’ I’m going to phone her and say I’ll come in the following day.

“I’m going to have counseling for my anger management. I’ll be seeing a counselor one on one. It’s the place where chicks go for addiction treatment.”

At 6:00 pm, as I was waiting for my bus home, I saw Alphonse walking towards me.

“Good evening, sir,” he said.

“Alphonse, it’s so good to see you! How’ve you been? How’s Magdalen?”

He put his fist to his forehead. Lines appeared between his eyes that welled up with tears. “I’m so agitated! Not frustrated, agitated! Magdalen is four months pregnant and tomorrow she’s going to see about an abortion.

“That’s why I’m drinking. That’s what we do, where I come from, when things get to be too much.”

“I understand, Alphonse, drinking helps to numb the pain.”

“It doesn’t though. I hurt so bad inside. I don’t know how she can do that to my child. I’m hoping that tomorrow, they tell her she’s too far along and they refuse to give her an abortion.”

“Alphonse, perhaps that will happen. I’m sure that will happen.”

“I’ll take care of the child myself if I have to.”

“I’m a father myself, Alphonse, but I can’t even imagine how much pain you are feeling right now. I’ll say a prayer that everything works out as you wish it to. You’re a good man, Alphonse. You’d make a good father.”

“It’s helped a lot being able to talk to someone about it. Thank you, my friend.

“Take care, Alphonse. My heart goes out to you. Perhaps, I’ll see you tomorrow.”

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3 May 2012

The weather today was overcast and muggy. I talked to Kenny from Iqualuit. “Could you help me out a bit?” he asked.

“Sure, Kenny,” I replied and handed him a gift card for a restaurant near by.

“Actually, I was hoping for some change towards buying a bottle.”

“Sorry, Kenny, I don’t carry cash or credit cards.”

The area of ‘the bench’ was deserted. Andre and Shakes approached me on the sidewalk. Andre said, “Shakes is going to work. I’m going to keep an eye on him.”

“Do you mind if I tag along?” I asked.

“Sure, come on along. We’ll show you how it’s done,” said Andre.

Manoeuvring the sidewalk with Shakes and Andre was an adventure. They were both staggering in different directions. “Drunk man walking!” shouted Andre in his gravelly, carny voice. “Don’t get in the way of my staggering!” followed by “White man on a program!” He spun around a sign post and did a pirouette. “You know you want to give some change to me.” he said, with his cap out and a sad, puppy dog expression on his face. “Could I have a bite of your sandwich?” Someone made a disparaging remark and Andre replied, “If you think you’re life is so good, why is it that I’m so happy?”

He walked between the cars with his cap out asking for change. He came to an empty car at the curb and said, “Hey, a free car! I wonder if they’ll want it back?” At an office building with an outdoor sand ashtray he picked out the longest butts and put them in a plastic ‘baggie’ that he kept especially for that purpose. He was wearing a metal necklace with ball bearing like beads. He pulled the necklace up tight under his chin and said, “Look, I’m a drain plug.”

Tom  had his art display on the sidewalk which included images of deer burned into wood and skateboarders burned into wood then painted. He also had some heart felt poems describing his lost childhood and abuse at the hands of a priest.

Shakes took me to ‘his office’, a doorstep near the entrance to a parking garage “I’ve been here since 1995. There used to be a tree there.” He pointed to a spot where now stands a ticket dispenser. “They had a parking lot, but it was in the open air. I used to clean up the paper and trash. They’d give me five or ten bucks every day. Then they put up this condo.

We sat, Matches’ hat was upturned on the sidewalk.

“Good afternoon, ma’am.

”Good afternoon, sir, have a nice day.”

A man stopped and put some change in Shakes’ cap. “It is a nice day isn’t it,” said the man.

“It’s a bit humid, but it’s nice. God bless you sir.”

“And you too,” said the man.

Andre was panning on the other side of the street, so I joined him for a while. “Hi, Andre, I haven’t seen you for a long time. Where have you been?” I noticed that he had a black eye.

“I was in hospital for a while. Also, I’m going out with seven women. They all know about each other.”

I said, “That’s good, to keep it honest.”

“Yeah, I sleep someplace different every night.

“Hi beautiful, I’d settle for just a smile.” he said to a woman walking by. She turned and smiled.

“Thanks, sweetheart!

“Thank you, gentlemen, for defending our country,” he said to some soldiers.

“You’re not ready to throw that cigarette away are you?

“Hey, I didn’t always look like this. I didn’t get to be a bum overnight.” To me he said, “That guy gave me a dirty look.

“Ma’am, that purse is so shiny, I can see my face in it.”

“Yes, it is shiny, isn’t it? You have a nice day,” said the woman, with a pleasant smile.

“Good evening ma’am. You’d look so much more beautiful if you smiled.

“Ma’am you’re just too beautiful. You make me look ugly.

To me he said, “I just love this, watching people. Every face has a different expression. This is like reality TV.”

I said, “A lot of them seem to be hard of hearing.”

“Yeah, it’s like we’re invisible. I’ll put my cap out a little farther.”

Someone threw a cigarette butt on the street. Emile jumped up and grabbed the still smoking stub. “It’s about time! Will you look at that woman. Looking that good should be illegal”

“You’re so beautiful, ma’am, you made me look at you.

“Can you spare some change, sir.

“Ma’am that orange bag looks like a pylon. Can I borrow it so nobody steps on me?

“I’m a lawyer, ma’am. I’d be glad to take your case for you.

“I know you’d like to talk to me, but you have your mouth full.

“Sir, it takes a real man to wear pink. Gimme five!” The man slapped Emile’s hand in passing.

“Those are beautiful boots, ma’am.”

So passes the time of a pan handler. It was an educational experience. The adventures will continue tomorrow; same time, same place.

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2012 April 17

I wore a windbreaker to the park bench today. The weather was relatively warm and sunny, 48 degrees Fahrenheit with a 15 mile per hour wind. Shark was passing around a bottle of Fireball to Hippo, Longjohn, Katy, Jacques and Peter. Loretta was asleep on the grass. Serge was sitting off by himself.

Shark  said, “I took a demerol earlier, later I have to go to the doctor to get a morphine shot for my liver. I wonder how that’s going to mix with the Fireball?”

I was standing next to Peter, who has long blond hair and a guitar slung on his back. “I can’t believe that this still hurts so much.” he said to me. He he lifted his sweater to reveal a partially healed, two inch, stab wound in his side. “This happened over a month ago. The blade went in six inches, and just missed my vital organs, I saw the x-rays. I’ve got another up higher, but it was deflected by my rib cage.

“A crack head named Roy did this. He lived downstairs in the same building as me. He knocked on my door at 10:00 pm. I’d been sleeping. I answered the door and he said, ‘I’m going to buy some weed. If you give me $5.00 we can split a gram.’ I said, ‘Since I’m awake now anyway, I might as well.’ He never came back.

“The next morning I heard him trying to do the same thing to my neighbor. He was even bragging about ripping me off. I argued with him and said, ‘Since you ripped me off, I want $10.00, or a gram of weed. He refused and went into his apartment. I walked away and he came up behind me and hit me twice in the side. At first I thought he’d punched me. Then I felt something warm running down my side. My neighbor handed me a hammer and I started chasing after him, but then thought better of it. I decided to go to the hospital.

“Because I was a crime victim there was a cop posted in my room. I was hooked up to an I.V. I said to the cop, ‘Watch this!’ I pushed the bedside button and a nurse came in. ‘It hurts!’ I said. She gave me a shot of morphine. I saw a Doctor walking past, I said, ‘Doctor, it hurts!’ He gave me a shot of morphine. The cop said, ‘If you do that once more I’m going to have to report you.’

“The cop drove me home. Just as we were leaving the parking lot I said, ‘I forgot to get a prescription for pain medication.’ He said, “You’re probably going home to smoke pot anyway. I think you can do without a prescription.’

“Since then, Roy has been evicted from our building. There’s a sign by the front door saying he’s not allowed to enter. He’s being held in jail, pending his court appearance. I don’t know what’s going to happen next.”

“So, what kind of music do you play?” I asked.

“A bit of everything, Bob Dylan, the Beatles, Cat Stevens. If you mention a band I probably know at least one of their songs. If you mentioned the Eagles, I could play “Lyin’ Eyes’. If you mentioned Creedence Clearwater Revival, I could play ‘Proud Mary’. I can play for about six hours without repeating myself. As I get older my memory gets shorter. If I learn a new song; I forget an old one.

“Today I’ve been busking on the bridge, in front of the mall. I had to sing over the noise of the busses. My throat was getting dry so I stopped here for a few beer. I’m going to try a mall down the street later on.”

Peter had to rescue his bicycle from Shakes, who could barely walk; riding a bicycle wouldn’t have been a good idea. The adventures will continue tomorrow; same time, same place.

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1 June 2012

Labatt Logo

Labatt Logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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

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

“My head hurts.”

“How is your hand?”

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

“Hi Jake, How are you?”

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

“I guess that’s a good thing.”

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

“Do you know why they jumped Rocky?”

“Because they’re assholes.”

“Hi Donald, how are you?”

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

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

“I appreciate you being my friend.”

“Hi Shark, how is Irene feeling today?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I bought beer at the Beer Store.”

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

“No.”

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

“No.”

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

“Hello Wolf” I said.

“Have a look at my dog.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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30 May 2012

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

“Hi Hippo. What happened?”

“I got into a little scuffle.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“It looks great, Joy.”

“How about some macaroni salad?” asked Chuck.

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

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21 June 2013

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

“How did it go with getting your furniture?”

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

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

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

I asked, “Who would dickhead be?”

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

“Has he apologized for beating you?”

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

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

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

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

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

“What time is it now?”

“Eight thirty.”

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

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

“Was she arrested?”

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

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

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

“Maryjane just got out of jail.”

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

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

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

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

I said, “Yes.”

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

I said, “You take it then, Shakes.”

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

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

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

I said, “There are pictures, too.”

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

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

“It looks very nice. It suits you.”

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

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

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

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

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

“No, ” I said, “are you?”

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

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

“Which one?”

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

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

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

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

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

“‘Cause he wanted to shoot the guy.

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

I asked, “What were you in for?”

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

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

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

 

 

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