Posts Tagged ‘mental health’

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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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bench

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11 September 2012

Today on the curb, by the park, were six of my friends. I sat on the sidewalk in front of Joy. Shortly after, Andre came staggering up the walk, followed by Sharron. The sides of his track pants were unsnapped, his shirt was off. He had a four-foot length of gold chain with two-inch links, a padlock attached to the end, wrapped twice around his neck.

“What do you mean I’m acting like an asshole?” asked Andre? He started swinging the chain. Joy said, “Andre, if you hit Jake in the back of the head with that padlock, I’m going to kill you. You know I mean it.”

Andre sat down, “I’m sorry for being an asshole. I’m just waking up. I passed out in a park last night. You all know what that’s like.”

Joy said, “Been there, done that, couldn’t afford the tee-shirt.”

Shakes, who was surprisingly sober, said, “I think Andre’s still upset about being rolled last night.”

I asked, “Is that right Andre? How much did they take? Was it a gang?”

“No,” said Andre, “It was just two guys. They got a hundred and forty bucks, but I did quite a bit of damage to one guy. I had him in a head lock and was punching him in the face, when the other guy kicked me in the side of the head. Things are a bit confused after that.”

Shakes asked, “Do you have my radio? I lost it twice yesterday.”

I said, “That means you must have found it once.”

“Yes, I did.”

Debbie said, “Have you seen Jake’s new apartment? I was there last night. It’s gorgeous. The walls are freshly painted, the floors have been varnished. Jake’s bedroom is as big as his living room.”

Jake said, “They even gave me fifty bucks for groceries. Tomorrow they’re going to see about getting me some furniture, even a television.”

Joy said, “I’ve got an appointment to see an apartment in Vanier. It’s six hundred a month.”

I said, “You saw one on Beechwood didn’t you?”

“I had an appointment, but my worker cancelled at the last-minute. They wanted seven ninety-five for that one. I’d only have fifty dollars left, after I cashing my check.”

Two workers from the Housing Outreach Program of the Salvation Army came by. One said, “Shakes, can we meet with you tomorrow around 10:30.”

“Sure.”

Joy said, “I’ll make sure he’s here, because I have an appointment with my worker tomorrow at the same time.”

After they left Joy said, “I got four dollars. Has anybody got any change? Andre, in the mesh pocket of your backpack I can see some change.” Andre threw over two quarters and a dime.

Joy said, “Okay, I’ve got $4.60. I still need forty-five cents.” Everyone checked their pockets and came up with the needed change.

To Chester, Joy said, “Honey, would you mind going to the World Exchange and picking me up a bottle?”

“Sure,” said Albert, “and if they don’t have Imperial? I’ve been there sometimes when they’ve been out.”

“If they don’t have it, don’t bother getting anything. It would only make me sick.”

“Jake,” I asked, “Are you moving into the apartment that Irene moved out of?”

“No, it’s the next building on Moriset — different apartment, different building. I’m really going to make it work this time.”

Joy said, “Every Fall the workers try to get us off the street and into apartments, that way they don’t have to bury so many of us.”

Shakes pulled a new bottle of sherry out of his backpack. He cracked the seal, poured some into the cap and threw it over his shoulder. Then he handed the bottle to Joy, who poured some into her coke bottle, then passed it back to Shakes who took a sip from the bottle. Joy then reached into her backpack for a large Sprite bottle of partly frozen water. She added water to the sherry then took a drink.

Jake said, “I’m going to get some sweet grass to smudge my apartment.”

Joy said, “Sweet grass has a beautiful smell, especially when it’s mixed with sage, burnt properly and wafted with an eagle feather. It’s so relaxing and peaceful.”

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bench

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30 August 2012

At noon the temperature was 87 degrees Fahrenheit. On my way to the park, I stopped to talk to Serge and William.

“How are you, Serge?”

“I’m tired, I didn’t get much sleep last night. I slept over there (he pointed north-west), outside.”

“You didn’t sleep at the Shepherd’s?” I asked.

“No.”

William said to me, “I forgot your name.”

“I’m Dennis,” I said. “I’m just on my way to the park. I’ll check on you on my way back. William, try to make sure that Serge doesn’t fall down.”

They both laughed, “See you,” said Serge. I waved at both of them.,

Sitting on the curb at the park were four of my friends. Buck and his dog, Dillinger stopped for a while then walked on.

“Hi, Loretta” I said, “You haven’t been coming around as much as you used to.”

“I live way out past Orleans. Do you know where Mer Bleu is? That’s where I live, Mer Bleu Road.

“Joy’s feeling a bit better than she was yesterday. She’s with her worker, viewing apartments. There’s one she could get for August 15, if she likes it.”

“I said, “That’s great. She’ll love having a place all to herself.

“How have you been?” I asked.

“Fine, I’ve been working.”

The sandwich ladies came by offering juice, granola bars, sandwiches and socks. Danny took a peanut butter sandwich, Shakes asked for something with meat. Miles explained that he had severe allergies to mustard, mayonnaise and onions. He showed me the EpiPen (epinephrine autoinjector) that he always carries.

Miles said, “Did you know that apple juice is poisonous? It contains cyanide and arsenic. Over a long period it can cause organ damage and cancer.

“I just came back from San Francisco. I have my own landscaping business there. When we first moved to the States we lived in Ocala, Florida. Later, we moved to San Francisco. I got a real break there. I got a job with a landscaping company. There was nobody to look after my daughter, so I brought her with me. My boss really liked my work and would always call for me if she needed something special done.

“One of our clients was Arnold Schwarzeneger. It would take a crew of us about three days to do his property. He would always give my daughter some money. He’d say, ‘Don’t tell your Daddy.’ She’s grown up now and has kids of her own. She lives with her boyfriend in Anchorage, Alaska. She’s studying accounting, business and something else she won’t tell me about. It has to do with the land.

“I have a proposal to build a three floor complex for homeless people. There would be the lower floor with facilities for storage, because that’s a problem for the homeless. We’d also have bunks for sleeping on that floor. Food facilities would be on the second floor and the top floor would be for games. My daughter and I would be partners. She would have her own apartment, on the third floor, for whenever she comes to town.

“It would be a safe place for alcoholics and the homeless. Even if people were drunk we’d let them in, but they wouldn’t be allowed to drink on the premises. I estimate the total cost would be about 1.3 million dollars. I even have a location picked out, near the river.”

Shakes said, “I’m going to be getting my own place soon.”

“Do you know the location, yet?” I asked.

“Right in the middle of ‘Crack Haven’, behind the Sally Ann. After I’ve been there for a while, I’m going to ask to be relocated. After I get my place they’re going to take me shopping for clothes. I’ve got a television set at my daughter, Betty’s apartment. I also have a DVD player put aside. The guy said, ‘As soon as you have your place, Shakes, we’ll deliver it.’ ”

“That sounds great, Shakes. It will be better than sleeping on the street.”

“I think I’ll sleep outside, sometimes.”

“I said, “At least you’ll have the choice of where to sleep. If it’s raining, or if it’s cold, you can come inside.

“It’s time I got back to work. Your plans sound great, Miles. Maybe we can work together.

”I’ll see everybody tomorrow,” I said as I waved good-bye.

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panhandeling-women

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28 August 2012

This morning, when I approached Joy, I noticed that she had her blanket wrapped around her legs and her hood pulled up.

“Hi Joy, you’re all bundled up.”

“I’m not feeling well. I was throwing up all weekend. I couldn’t keep anything down. Chester asked me if I wanted him to call for a doctor, but I said no. This morning I had toast and tea. I thought that would stay down, but it came back up again. Cathleen was by earlier, she brought me a cup of tea, two cream, three sugars. I only drank half of it and I’m starting to feel queasy.”

Alphonse and Magdalene came by, said hello and shook hands, then carried on. Joy said, “I don’t like Magdalene. Usually, I don’t have anything to do with her. It was weird shaking hands.”

Bearded Bruce came along, “Hi Dennis, I just wanted to see how grumpy here was doing today.”

Joy said, “I’m grumpy alright, feeling sick doesn’t help.”

“What kind of sickness do you have?” he asked.

“Just nauseous,” she said.

Bruce said, “I just saw Alphonse and Magdalene. They seemed happy.”

“I’ve got no use for her,” said Joy.

“Why is that?”

“I’ve got no use for someone who drinks alcohol and smokes crack while they’re pregnant. I never did that and I’ve got five sons. If she’d stayed clean they’d probably still have their baby.”

“Bruce, “ I asked, “how did it go with your housing appointment yesterday?”

“Great, they’re going to have a list of places for me to look at tomorrow.

”I was panning yesterday and a guy handed me a five dollar bill. He said, ‘I guess you’re going to spend that on beer, are you?’ I said, ‘As a matter of fact, I’m going to use this to dry my sleeping bag. With all the rain we had last week it got wet.’ Later on he saw me in the laundromat. He said, ‘I didn’t believe you, but I guess you were telling the truth.’ There’s nothing worse than trying to sleep in a wet sleeping bag. I probably spend half to two-thirds of the money I make on food. That way I’m not throwing up every morning and don’t have the shakes.”

Joy asked, “Where’s Inuk?”

“I don’t know,” answered Bruce. “she didn’t come home last night. I’m just on my way to have breakfast, then it’s to work. Maybe, I’ll see you both at noon.”

After he left Joy said, “That’s quite a relationship. They’ve been together three years and he doesn’t even know where she is.

“Bruce really does eat a lot. When he was staying at Chuck’s he’d cook huge meals. Two strips of bacon would be plenty for me. He’d put twice as much on my plate as I could eat, but between him and Chuck they finished everything left on my plate. In the morning I’d see him drinking a glass of milk then a Pepsi. I’d ask him why he was drinking that. He’d say, ‘It’s to coat my stomach.’ I can see drinking the milk, but the Pepsi?”

I asked, “How are you making out with housing?”

“I find out Wednesday. My worker is going to check with Oasis – that’s the place Bruce went yesterday – and try to find out what’s taking so long to get my identification and health card. My worker asked, ‘Do you know who you talked to at Oasis last time?’

I said, ‘No.’

‘Can you describe her?’ she asked.

‘She had an attitude and I didn’t like her.’

‘That applies to a lot of the staff over there.’

‘I can’t remember if it was a man or woman, if they were tall or short, thin or fat — they all look the same to me. I see thousands of faces each day. It’s hard to pick out just one.’ ”

A lady dropped some change into Joy’s cap. A man, one of her regulars, handed her a five dollar bill.”

“Allright!” said Joy, “Thanks!”

To me she said, “Things are looking brighter now.”

Chester stopped by. Joy held out her clenched fist to him. He held his cupped hand out. “Pennies!” said Joy. Chester pocketed the pennies and moved on.

Motioning to a woman passing, wearing a black dress Joy said, “That woman should start thinking of using a dry cleaner or getting rid of her cat. She’s covered with hair.

“That guy that handed me the five – I see him most mornings. Usually he says, “Hi!” but if he’s with his friends, he just keeps his head down.”

At noon, at the park, were Chester, Shark and Jacques. Joy had been there earlier, but Chester mentioned, “She’s having lunch, with Cathleen at Tim Horton’s.”

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

“No, I’ve been at Dow’s Lake. There is always a breeze there, so even on the hottest days it is cool by the water. The cops don’t bother me there. I can drink my home-made wine and relax.

“Tomorrow they’re coming to spray for bed bugs. I have air conditioning which seems to slow them down, but I pay by the month and I don’t want to pay for September. We do get some warm days and there will be the humidity. The bed bugs will be jumping in the carpet then.

“It’s so easy to get them, they can jump onto your pant leg, you carry them home, they bury themselves in the carpet and lay eggs. Soon you have thousands of them. I wrap a towel around my pillow. Every morning I unwrap it and find one or two bed bugs. I pick them up and put them in a container.

“I’m looking for a new place. Near where I live, at Beech and Champagne, I’ve seen lots of For Rent signs. Maybe this week I’ll take a look at them. The only problem is, if I move, where am I going to make my brew. Another problem in my neighborhood is that there aren’t many convenience stores, and no wine stores. The closest is at Westgate. There’s Di Rienzo butcher shop and grocery store. They make good sandwiches, but I don’t buy my bread there, it’s too expensive. Also, they’re not open late.”

“Shark,” I asked, “are you all settled in your new apartment?”

“Almost, we’ve still got some things to rearrange. We found a plastic Mickey Mouse with his hand out. We stapled him to the kitchen wall and put our change in his hand.

“Elaine’s still at home in bed. I phoned her and asked if she was coming down. She asked, ‘Is it one o’clock yet?’ She can’t get her meds until one o’clock.”

“So, how long were you able to keep off the booze?”

“About ten minutes. I was down here last week and Shakes gave me a sip of his wine. Then I decided to get a six-pack of beer. What really did me in was the twenty-six of vodka. I’m going to pick up some beer for Irene on the way home. I don’t know who I was trying to fool. I am the way I am.”

Shark said to Jacques, “That was quite a sentence they gave to Shakes — six months probation. He won’t be able to do anything. If he spits on the sidewalk, he could get arrested. If he smokes a cigarette in the park, he could get arrested. That would be a breach on top of a breach. He’d do jail time.

“Danny was with him when he got out. A cop stopped Shakes and said, ‘I could arrest you right now.’ Shakes asked, ‘What am I doing wrong?’ The cop said, ‘You’ve been pan handling and you’ve been drinking.’ Shakes said, ‘I’m allowed to drink.’ The cop said, ‘You’re allowed to drink inside a house or a bar. You’re not allowed to drink outside.’ Shakes was ready to argue, but Danny told the cop that he was taking him to the Shepherd’s. The cop let it go.

“Friday is check day. We should have that spent by the end of the weekend. I don’t know how these people on welfare can live. They get $450. a month and the cheapest price for one room is $400. Landlords prefer to rent to students — even though they make a lot of noise — because their parents are footing the bill and they leave at the end of the school year, which means that the landlord can jack up the rent. Try to pay all your food and other expenses out of the remaining $50.”

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Gotta Find a Home: Conversations with Street People
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http://buff.ly/1qLHptc ($.99 Download)
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salvationarmy

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27 August 2012

This morning I went over to see Silver, panning in front of Starbucks. He was sitting on a plastic box. When I said hello, he was startled, he may have dozed off. “Hi Dennis, you snuck up on me.”

“How are you feeling, Silver?”

“Fine.”

“How is your stomach?”

“I’m going to see my doctor on Wednesday. I still don’t have any appetite and haven’t been sleeping well. Look at my ankles. See how swollen they are. Those aren’t my ankles at all.

“I think I’m getting what my mother had, varicose veins. See, beside my knee and down my calf.”

“How did it go, panning at the church yesterday?”

“Not good.”

“Is that the one on Kent or on Sparks?”

“On Sparks, the one on Kent is where I was assaulted last spring. I didn’t even have to phone the cops. Two women from church were witnesses and there was a cop right on the corner. I was going to get up and talk to the cop, but the two women said, ‘Silver, you stay right here. We’ll deal with this.’

“When they came back they said, ‘Silver, you need to go to the hospital for stitches.’ I said, ‘No, just give me a couple of band-aids. It’ll heal better that way.”

I said, “I see you have a scar in your right eyebrow. Is that where you were hit?”

“That’s it.”

“So, what happened Sunday?”

“Where?”

“At the church on Sparks, you said it didn’t go well.” I said.

“No, I didn’t have a problem.”

“I’ve been taking a bit of a break lately. Trying to catch up on my sleep. On the weekend I watched a bunch of Clint Eastwood and John Wayne movies.”

I said, “I’ve always enjoyed those. ‘Pale Rider’ with Clint Eastwood is one of my favorites; another, is ‘Rooster Cogburn’ with John Wayne.”

“’Pale Rider’ is one of the ones I watched on the weekend.”

“I guess you’ll be getting your check soon.”

“Yeah, Sally will be around with it on Wednesday. I also want to get some laundry detergent and some socks from her.

“Were you up on the hill, Friday?” asked Silver.

“Yes I was.”

“Did the piggies come by?”

“Yes they did. They didn’t give out any tickets or ask us to move. Willy dumped part of his beer and Wolf had his hidden.”

“I was in the market. I saw them ride by and decided not to go to the park. I stayed at the loading dock where I often go. I’ve never been hassled there.”

On the way to the park at noon, I stopped to talk with Serge, “How are you doing today, Serge?”

“I’m fine.”

“On Friday you said you weren’t feeling very well.”

“When did I say that?”

“You were sitting on the bench, on Elgin Street, with William. I asked how you were. You said, ‘Not so good.’ ”

“I was tired,” he said. “I went beneath the bridge, where it was quiet, and I slept for a while. I felt better after that. Yesterday, I went up the stairs at the Art Centre and had a sleep up there.”

“So, your feeling better now?”

“Yeah, I got my booze,” he chuckled.

“I’m going up to the park. I’ll see you on my way back.”

“See you.”

At the park, sitting on the curb were seven of my human friends and a dog.

“How are you, Dennis?” asked Bruce.

“I’m fine, how about you?”

“I’m waiting here for my worker. She’s taking me to fill out the forms for housing. I’ll also have to get my picture taken – my health card has expired.

“Apart from that, it’s been a slow day. I was panning since 6:00 this morning and made 87 cents. I’m going to lose the busiest part of my working day, getting forms filled out, but it has to be done.”

I said, “Joy doesn’t do Mondays.”

“Wolf,” asked Bruce, “can I have a cigarette?” Wolf pulled out a clear plastic bag and threw him a cigarette. Bruce casually caught it in one hand. He lit it and said, “Shakes, can I have a sip from your bottle?” Shakes tossed the bottle and Bruce plucked it out of the air. He took a sip then tossed it back to Shakes who easily caught it in one hand.

Bruce said, “If that had been a sandwich or a ball I would have fumbled it, but a cigarette or a bottle, I never miss.”

I said to Silver, “You mentioned that you didn’t have a good day at the church on Sunday.”

“Did I say that? I think I meant to say, I didn’t make as much money as usual. Normally, I get from thirty to forty bucks. Yesterday, I think I got about twenty. At Christmas, one of my regulars dropped me five twenties. When he gave it to me I said, ‘This feels like more than a twenty.’ He didn’t say anything. I folded it, put it in my pocket. I didn’t count it until I got home.

”It has been slow lately. I blame it on the drifters — these people who live with their parents in the winter. When it comes spring the parents give them a hundred bucks and tell them to live somewhere else for a while. When winter comes they’re crying to their mommies and daddies to let them come home again.”

Bruce said to me quietly, “I could never pan in front of a church. I have nothing against those who do, but to me it seems wrong.”

Shakes said, “This morning I was just twenty cents short, to buy two bottles. Darren was going for a run, so I said to him, ‘Just bring me one for now.’”

Wolf motioned for me to move closer, “Don’t worry about Shaggy. She’ll be fine as long as you don’t touch her, or be aggressive.

”I was listening to these guys talking about panning, five or six days a week and getting maybe seven dollars. I couldn’t do that. Panning is hard work. Shaggy and I go out maybe once a week.

“I went to court Friday. Did I tell you about that? I was charged , a few months ago, with animal cruelty. Can you imagine that? Two women — I don’t know who they were — reported me to the police. It was just in the parking lot, behind where I live. I guess these women didn’t like the way I was putting Shaggy in her cart. They said I was too rough. I was walking along the sidewalk, pushing her cart, when three police cars screeched to a stop. They took my dog.

“You know, that dog means everything to me. I got her back the next day. I talked to my lawyer about it. He said I could plead guilty, or ask for a trial date. He recommended going to trial. Friday, they set the date for February 24. He said to contact him about two weeks before the trial. Last time, I got over a hundred signatures, from my friends and regulars, saying that I had never mistreated Shaggy.

“I rough house with her, but she always comes out on top. I’ve got the scars to prove it.”

Bruce’s worker came by. “Is Jake here?” she asked.

“No,” said Bruce. “I don’t know where he is.”

She said, “If any of you see him, tell him that I’ll be by here at noon tomorrow, to pick him up. Tell him that it’s very important.”

“Bruce, are you ready to go?”

“Yeah, just let me refill my bottle,”

Silver asked, “With apple juice?”

Bruce said, “Yeah, with apple juice.” The worker smiled. He pulled an Old Milwaukee out of his backpack and filled his bottle.

“Is anyone collecting?” asked Bruce.

“I’ll take it,” said Wolf. Bruce threw him the empty can. Wolf crushed it and threw it in Shaggy’s cart.

Hippo said, “Andre has gone over to Debbie’s. He asked me if I wanted to go. I thought about it and said, ‘No, I think I’ll just stay here.’ I really don’t like Debbie.”

It started to rain, and it was time for me to go back to work, so I said my good byes. I said, “I’ll see you tomorrow.”

Then, at the park bench, I said good-bye to Serge and William.

“See you tomorrow, Dennis,” they said.

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.

ipara4

.

23 August 2012

This morning I could barely see Joy’s feet beyond the concrete partition. “How’s it going today?” I asked.

“Horrible! I’ve been here since 6:00 am and I’ve hardly made a cent. It’s worse than Mondays. I guess a lot of my regulars are on holidays.”

“I’ve noticed that where I work, the volume declines over the summer, then picks up in September when staff return from vacations.”

“Metro’s going to get picked off one of these days.” We both watched, as he walked through the line of cars to hand a driver a newspaper.

I said, “You get a great view of the world from down here.”

“Yeah, I see it all. some men have their flies undone, with their willies flapping in the breeze. If I mention it to them they say, ‘Well, look somewhere else.’ I say, ‘Hey, man, it’s right in my face, and it’s not a pretty sight. Where am I supposed to look?’

“Sometimes, I see guys with their shoelaces undone. Sometimes, I tell them, but if it’s the crusty ones I just wait to see if they fall.

“Brad was by earlier. He’s all stitched up. I asked him what happened. He said, ‘Angeline stabbed me with a kitchen knife. She’s serving thirty days.’

‘Thirty days for stabbing someone, that’s ridiculous. Are you going to take her back when she gets out?’ He said, ‘Yes.’

“Angeline can be nice, but she’s schizophrenic. If she’s off her meds, and on the booze, she can’t be trusted with kitchen utensils.

“Chester has taken his pennies to Loblaw’s. They have a change machine that will convert them to bills and other change. Usually, he gives them to one of his French ladies. They donate them to C.H.E.O. (Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario). This time though, he needs the money.

“There was a guy hanging around this morning, snapping pictures of me. I said to him, ‘Hey, I didn’t give you permission to take my photo.’ He said, ‘Well, may I have your permission?’ I said, ‘No, but it’s a bit late now.’ I don’t want someone I don’t know walking around with pictures of me. It’s creepy.

“Outcast is pissed with me because I wouldn’t go with him yesterday afternoon. I said to him, ‘I distinctly remember you telling me that we were over, which seemed kind of ridiculous since we never started anything. Now, you’re pissed off because I don’t want to got to your girlfriend’s place, when she’s coming home at five o’clock?’

“I’m going to have to ask the guys to spring for some cash so I can get a bottle. I wonder what I’m going to have to do for that. Andre owes me money. Little Jake has owed me money for two years. I heard that yesterday Hippo was giving away twenties to everyone, but he didn’t give me anything.”

At noon, seated on the curb, were Andre, Little Jake, Joy, Silver and Hippo. Jake kept tipping over on his side. Andre said, “Jake, will you get up. I don’t want your nose in my ass.”

Joy said, “Jake, you stink. I’m moving away from here.” We moved closer to Silver and Hippo, Andre followed. Little Jake had passed out in the bushes.

“Silver,” I said, “I haven’t seen you in a while. You’ve lost weight.”

“Yeah, I have lost weight. I haven’t been eating enough. I’ve got an appointment with my doctor. I’m having problems with my stomach.”

Andre said, “I made twenty bucks yesterday. Do you want to know how?”

Joy said, “Andre, I’m sure we don’t want to hear about what you did to make twenty bucks. It’s probably disgusting.”

“No,” said Andre, “a guy bet me a twenty that I couldn’t do a one-handed hand stand and hold it for thirty seconds. I did it and that was after eight bottles. He paid me.”

Minutes later, three cops on bicycles stopped in front of us. They probably had a complaint about Jake. They kicked the bottom of his foot, trying to wake him. Joy walked over and told the cops that he has HIV and is very sick. Andre shook him and helped to get him standing and walking. Andre and Jake walked as far as Elgin Street, then sat on a low concrete wall.

The police came over again. The sergeant said, “Jake, do you have any place to go? You can’t stay here. How much could he have possibly drunk, this early in the day? What’s in the bottle, Jake? Hand it over.” He opened the lid and took a whiff, “That’s awful! Is that a Jakenator, beer mixed with sherry?”

Andre said, “You know him well.”

The sergeant said, “Write him up.” Andre, Chester and I moved away to the other side of the wall. Joy had walked across the street, to the Lord Elgin Hotel, to use the washroom. Andre, yelled, “Jake, will you learn to shut your mouth?”

Chester said to me, “They’re going to write him another ticket that he isn’t going to pay. That’s what they always do.”

I heard one of the cops mention, ‘Hope Recovery Centre’. I expect they’ve called for the paramedics to transport Jake to detox. I expect to see him back here tomorrow.

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.

sunny wheels august 2012

.

22 August 2012

This morning I spoke with Sunny, of Sunny’s Newswire. “Hi, Sunny.”

“Hi, I’m glad to see you. Did you visit my website? What did you think?

“It’s great. I also listened to your proposal to the Ottawa City Council. It was very well presented.”

“Thanks! Yesterday, I was on the Lowell Greene Show, on talk radio, but he blew me off. I have a recording of the program, if you’d like to hear it.”

“Sure!”

“I’ll rewind this. Anyway, what I was proposing was that Ottawa investigate the building of a solar monorail, like they have in Bologna, Spain.”

Solar Monorail Proposed for Bologna

“Did you hear that we lost Phyllis Diller? She had a great laugh. I was talking to a friend about which celebrity we would most like to meet. My choice would be Doris Day. You’re old enough to remember her. She’s an animal activist (founder of Actors and Others for Animals, the Doris Day Animal League and the Doris Day Pet Foundation). I sent her an email saying that I’d like to meet her, but I didn’t get an answer.

“See that guy, sitting on the sidewalk, with his hat out (referring to Francis). I don’t know what that’s all about. I find it disgusting. Doesn’t he have any sense of dignity?”

“There’s something coming up on the radio that I want you to hear. Maybe, you’ve already heard it. President Obama’s ratings have gone up four points because of a gaffe made by the opposing party. The remark has angered a lot of people, especially women. It’s coming on now:

Missouri Rep. Todd Akin, who is running for the Senate against Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill, stated in a television interview on Sunday that “women’s bodies are able to prevent pregnancies if they are victims of a LEGITIMATE rape”. This is the dumbest statement I have heard a man make about women’s bodies since an 18-year-old kid told me once years ago that women can only get pregnant if they have an orgasm during sex….but that was a dumb 18-year-old warehouse stocker…..Akin is a member of the United States House of Representatives and is running to unseat Senator McCaskill of Missouri.

“What do you think? I’m sure that’ll cost Romney the women’s vote.

“Here’s that recording from the Lowell Green Show. I went by the name of Steve. Don’t put it too close to your ear, I have it turned up loud.”

“We have Steve on the line from Ottawa. Hi Steve, what would you like to talk about?”

“Hi Lowell, I understand that our mayor is interested in saving money on our proposed light rail system. I suggest that we investigate the possibility of a solar monorail, like the one they have in Bologna, Spain.”

“A solar monorail? There’s just one problem with that, Steve. What do we do when it’s dark?”

“We sleep… Actually the solar energy is stored in cells, and is released as necessary.”

“They don’t have storage cells that big. Steve, have you heard about Spain’s financial crisis?”

“Yes, I have. That’s the reason they opted for solar power. Energy from the sun is free.”

“Steve, I think you’ve been out in the sun too long. I think your brain is a bit fried.

“Next caller.”

“Well, so much for that. I still think it’s a good idea. With the help of an engineer friend of mine, from Newfoundland, we’re designing a solar-powered ship. It would be huge: with ballrooms, swimming pools and luxury condos.”

“Sounds great Sunny. I wish you all the best with it.”

Wednesday at noon was pleasant. The sky was sunny, the temperature warm, but not hot. As I was walking up the sidewalk to the park, I saw Serge laying on his side. “Hi Serge, are you alright?”

“I think I passed out, but I’ll be alright.”

“Are you sure? I’ll check on you later.”

“See you later.”

On the curb were Shark and Jillian. Shark said, “Elaine was here earlier, but she had to see her worker, so I’m alone, free and loving it. We got cable and satellite in our new place. Elaine is paying for the satellite, I’m paying for the cable. I’m going to drill a hole in the wall of my room, so I can watch both.”

Joy was on the lawn. Outcast and Hippo were talking at the railing.

Outcast said to me, “Were you away for the weekend?”

“Yes, I was at the lake. It was great.”

“How about the long weekend? Will you be away then?”

“I’m not sure. I had planned on visiting my granddaughter in Toronto, but my sons are going to be in Renfrew, visiting friends. They used to live there.”

“I used to live in Renfrew. Actually, I was there on an alcohol recovery program. It’s a nice little town.”

“Yeah, it is,” agreed Hippo. I lived nearby in Almonte. I went to Renfrew a lot.”

Joy came over to me and said, “I need to sit down. Let’s go over to the curb with Andre.”

“Hi Andre, you haven’t been fighting with any big natives today, have you?”

Andre laughed and said, “James and I made a truce. This morning I brought him a bottle and we drank together. There was no point in us hurting each other every day. I’d rather have him at my back than have him facing me. This city can be dangerous.”

Joy said, “I’ve told Dennis about that.”

“That reminds me, Joy, You’ll never guess who I saw last night… Sharon, the former girlfriend of Ambrose.”

“She’s out of prison?”

Andre continued, “I was panning on Elgin, in front of Bridgehead. Sharon was inside having a coffee. I got Inuvik to sit with my cap on the street and I went in to talk to her — I was inside when it started raining, Inuvik got soaked — I went back outside, as soon as I sat down, somebody dropped me ten bucks. Inuvik was pissed. I saw Magdalene walking towards us. Sharon came out to continue our conversation. I knew they both liked to scrap, so I said, ‘You’re both my friends, I don’t want any trouble between you.’

“Magdalene was drunk, acting like a smart ass. Sharon punched her right in the mouth. Here I am in the middle. Magdalene looked at me as if to say, Who are you going to side with? I said, hold on, whatever you two have to work out, go ahead, but I’m staying out of this.”

Joy said, “You should have sided with Sharon, she’s the better fighter. The last time we got in a fight, I had a broken ankle and was walking with a cane. She kicked my cane and punched me in the side of the head. I took the bus home.

“I told Big Jake about it. He didn’t say a word. He walked into the bathroom, took the plastic handle off the plunger and filled it full of dimes. Then, he untwisted a wire coat hanger and wrapped the open end of the handle. He sealed the opening, and wrapped the wire with duct tape. There was quite a weight to that.

“The next day, I was sitting in my usual spot when Sharon came by. She told me to move on. I said, ‘Make me!’ She bent down to take another swing at my head. I ducked and pulled out the club from my sleeve. I hit her, with all my might, on each side of her head. She was knocked out cold. I pushed her off the sidewalk, onto the slush of the street, and went home.

“She saw me a while later and said, ‘You pack a good punch.’ She didn’t give me any trouble after that.”

Fran rode up on her bicycle. Joy said, “Hi Fran, I haven’t seen your dad for a while. Is he okay?”

“He’s at Innes serving thirty days for a breach. He was panning in front of McDonald’s on Bank Street. That’s a red zone for him.”

Joy said, “They must really have him medicated. He’s probably on lithium; that’s what they put me on. The last time I was there was for assaulting Jake. Mind you, I was on suicide watch. I was kept in Observation. They kept giving me cheese sandwiches for breakfast, lunch, supper and snack. I didn’t have any appetite, so I made a pillow of them. I said, couldn’t you at least give me some soup in a styrofoam cup, or some meat?”

Three men approached. They shook hands with Andre then Joy, who introduced me to them, “Dennis, this is Tommy. He’s Jim’s brother, Hattie’s boyfriend.” We shook hands.

Tommy introduced his two friends, Hank and Dan. “We’re all from the same place. We used to call ourselves the ‘four horsemen’ but, one is in jail.  Jim is at Innes right now. He was sentenced to six months for assaulting Hattie. He’ll serve four… I know, he’s an asshole.”

Andre said, “So, he got 120 days. When I was there last, I was sick at first too. Then I got my appetite back. I was ‘fishing’ down the corridor for food. I’d pass my paper plate to the guy in the next cell. It’d get passed down the whole block. I’d always get something: fruit, a juice box, a muffin.”

Andre was wearing baggy shorts and Johnny noticed, what appeared to be, claw marks on his upper thigh. “Andre, did you get in a fight with a cat?”

“No,” said Joy, “he got too close to a pussy that he wasn’t supposed to get close to. He’s lucky that I have my fingernails rounded. When I was in prison I used to file them like claws. I’m talking flesh tearing claws. That reminds me of my days at P4W (The Prison For Women located in Kingston, Ontario).”

Tommy said to Joy, “How old are you?”

“How old do I look?”

“I’d say about fifty.”

“Oh, thanks! I’m forty-six.”

“It’s the lines around your eyes. Are you and Andre together?”

“No, we’ve known each other a long time. We’re not living together, we’re not going out together, he’s not fucking me. He tries to touch me and I don’t like it. Maybe now he’ll learn his lesson.”

I said, “I’m her father.” Everybody laughed. Tommy winked at Joy. He said, “We have to go now, but I’ll see you around.”

After they left, Joy said, “Why do guys always hit on me?”

“Because you’re pretty,” I said.

“It’s your charm,” said Andre.

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English: A SUBWAY Club 6" sandwich.

English: A SUBWAY Club 6″ sandwich. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

14 May 2012

The weather at noon was perfect. As I was walking the street I met Nick. He was panning in his usual spot. Nick is diabetic and was taken to the hospital by paramedics last week. I gave him a wave as I passed.

“How’s it going, bro?”

“Great, Nick!”

As I turned right on the sidewalk, toward the lawn, I saw Serge sitting by himself on the curb, in the shade. “Hi, Serge, How are you today?”

“Everyone is up on the lawn. I’m not so good today. I have pains in my legs and in my hands. It feels good just to sit here and stretch my legs out. It’s because I drink too much. What I drink (rubbing alcohol diluted with water) costs me $2.35 a bottle. That’s all I can afford, but it’s not good for me. I think I have arthritis in my hands.” He stretched his fingers to show me how stiff and swollen they were. “In the morning, I have to hold my hands under hot, running water for a while, just to get my fingers moving.”

“Have you tried hot baths, for your legs?” I asked.

“I don’t have a bath tub. I’m staying at the Shepherd’s now, but I have to find a new place. They have me on the Wet Program. I don’t know why? I don’t like it. I used to be on the other side.

Wet Program: Shepherd’s of Good Hope

Partnering with Inner City Health, this area provides 12 beds for chronically homeless, alcoholic, high risk males. The Programs intent is to reduce harm to the individual and to the community by preventing binge drinking of alcohol and alternate stimulants. (mouth-wash, Purelle, Aqua Velva etc.) It also reduces emergency services (police calls, ambulance, hospital stays, cells etc.), decreases the number of incidents in the community (aggressive pan handling, passing out on the streets) and restores dignity and creates a sense of community. The Program provides ongoing health assessments, access to counseling, social and clinical services.

“There’s too much noise. One guy there, he opens and closes the door all night long: open, close, open, close. The man in the bunk beside me, he speaks French, so that’s good, but in the middle of the night, instead of going down the hall to the bathroom, he sits at the edge of his bed and shits on the floor, not once, but twice. That’s no way to act, shitting on the floor like that. I’m going to move to the Salvation Army. I think it will be better there.”

The next person I met, walking down the sidewalk was Hippo. “Hi, Hippo. How did you make out selling that lawn mower?”

“I took it down near the Mission. A taxi driver stopped and asked me if I wanted to sell it. I said, ‘Sure!’ He gave me ten dollars for it.

“Today, I got kicked off Bank Street. A cop gave me half of a Subway sandwich. Five minutes later, another cop came along and told me to move away from there. I only made $1.72, plus the sandwich.”

Sitting on the lawn were the usual group of about six people. I shook hands all the way around. Tracey said, “Dennis this is my friend, Richard. He’s deaf, but he can read lips.”

“Hi, Richard,” I said.

“God bless, he said.”

Standing near the railing of the bridge were Loretta, Outcast and Joy. Loretta borrowed Joy’s cell phone and walked away.

“Hi, Joy. How’s it been, finding a new place?”

“Loretta found a two bedroom apartment on Daly Street, close to downtown. She walked by, it looked good from the outside. She may be phoning about it right now. There’s also a friend of Chuck’s that would rent me a room for $450 a month.

“I’m not feeling so well today. Yesterday I was drinking vodka and cranberry juice. It didn’t agree with me.

“You couldn’t buy me a bottle of sherry, could you?”

“I’m sorry Joy, I don’t have any cash with me. I can give you some bus tickets, but I don’t have any Subway cards. They ran out and won’t have any more until next month.”

“I probably couldn’t handle the sherry anyway. The thought of it makes me feel sick.”

I asked Outcast, “Did you have a birthday on Friday?”

“No, it was Wolf, the one with Shaggy. We had a party at my place. Irene and Shark brought over some spaghetti sauce. We sat around playing dice. Wolf, Irene and Shark left early. I’ve been eating spaghetti since Friday. I’ve had so much It’s coming out my ass, literally.”

“Silver said, “I bet that Joy doesn’t remember the first time we met. I was panning in her old spot. Of course, I moved when she came along. That’s only right.

“I remember, you were with Crast Test at the time. You’d  throw hands full of pennies at him. One time you threw a pear. It splattered all over the wall, and all over Crash. The pigeons loved it, they were all over him pecking at pieces of pear. He said, ‘You didn’t have to throw it so hard.’

Silver started packing his bag to leave. “I’m concerned that the cops will come again and I’ll lose all my beer. I’ve got more to lose than anybody.” He walked back to say good-bye to Richard, Tracey, Jacques and Chester.

When he was out of earshot, Joy said, “That guy really annoys me. He talks even more than Chuck, and what he says doesn’t make any sense.” Fifteen minutes went by and Silver was still saying his good byes.

“Hey, Silver!” said Joy, “I thought you said you were leaving. Why don’t you quit saying good-bye and just go away.”

“In that case,” said Silver, “I’m not leaving, so ‘Liar, liar pants on fire, kissed the boys and made them cry.'”

“Silver,” I said, “I think you have your nursery rhymes mixed up.”

“Yeah,” he said, “I guess that was Georgie Porgie. Oh, well.”

Joy said, “Get out of my face, Silver, or I’ll kill you! Silver, I will kill you!

“Okay, Joy, take it easy.” Silver quietly left.

“Dennis,” said Bleeding Heart, some Saturday you’ll have to come over. All but two of us here have our own places, or else we share. We can have a couple of beer, smoke a few joints, maybe play some dice.

“Sounds good.”

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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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