Posts Tagged ‘poverty’

Photograph of The Great Wall of China from 1907.

Photograph of The Great Wall of China from 1907. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

13 June 2013

I had left work and was heading for my bus stop. In his usual spot, in front of Starbucks was Craig. I handed him a Subway card. He asked, “Do you know what time it is?”

“It’s six thirty, Craig.”

“Oh, I thought it was a lot later. Thanks for the card, by the way.”

I walked further along the sidewalk and saw Bearded Bruce. He said, “I saw you coming, so I pulled out a piece of cardboard. Would you like to sit for a few minutes?”

“Sure, Bruce, I’m in no rush. It’s a beautiful evening for sitting outside.”

“I hate summer. It means I have to work three times as long for the same money.  I started at six this morning — I just get up, shower, brush my teeth and out the door. I worked three different spots today. Here it is thirteen hours later. I made forty dollars. In the winter I would have made that in three hours. Then, of course, I spent twenty-two dollars at Tim Horton’s for food, so that leaves me with eighteen, less the six-pack I bought.

“Do you know why I do this? Because I can get everything I need. In winter, if I need mitts,  someone gives me mitts. If I need a sleeping bag, someone will come along with a sleeping bag.  If I need a back pack, I’ll find a back pack. There aren’t too many days that I haven’t eaten. Now I have an apartment I don’t need to worry about sleeping outside.

“I was hoping you’d come along because I’ve got a bit of a conundrum.  Inuk and I;  we’re not so good right now. She’s in hospital. I love that woman, more than I’ve ever loved anybody in my life, I’d crawl over broken glass just to be near her, but she vexes me. The last time she was in hospital I visited her every night for three weeks. That takes a lot of time out of my day. When she got out she stayed at my place for two nights then took off. I didn’t see her for two weeks. Then one morning she appears in my spot, like nothing’s happened. I’ve always told her that if she ever heeded anything to give me a call. Well, Chuck came over yesterday. He said, ‘Inuk called. She wants you to visit her in hospital.’ I gave my word, so I have to go. I’ve just got two rules; follow them and we’ll never have any problems: don’t lie to me and don’t steal from me.

“Sure I lie to people on the street, and to the government, but to my friends I never lie, never steal. You can count on that.

“Anyway, like I said, I have this conundrum. Do I visit her or not. If I go there I’ll have to act all nice as if everything is alright between us, but it’s not. What I want to say is how pissed off I am about her disappearing like she did. She doesn’t deal well with confrontation. Me, I like to get things off my chest, then I’m done. We can be friends again. So, right now I’m just killing time, trying to decide what to do.”

Craig walked towards us. “Dennis, I hope this doesn’t offend you.” He shouted at Craig, “Have you eaten?”

I said, “I already gave him a card.”

Craig said, “Hi, I’m just going to go to Subway, then buy a few beer and head for the river. Will I see you later? I won’t be here tomorrow.”

“It’s okay, you go on your way. I’m leaving soon. Are you sure you’re going to eat?”

“Yeah, but will I see you tomorrow?”

“I don’t know, if you see me, you see me.”

Another man approached from the opposite direction. Bruce said, “Hey man. I haven’t seen you for a long time.”

“Yeah, I’ve been away. You’re looking good.”

“I’ve put on a few pounds due to good eating,  if that’s what you mean. I’ve cut back on the booze.”

“Well, this is me on drugs.”

“Are you hungry?”

“Yeah, I’m hungry.”

“Take this Subway card and get something to eat. Don’t try to sell it to get more drugs.”

“Okay Bruce, I appreciate that. I’m going to go there right now.”

The man left.  Bruce said, “I’ve known him for a long time. He’s part Inuit, part native. He’s also schizophrenic. He hears voices. He spends every cent he has smoking crack. I’ve been there, that’s how I got into dealing, but I’m off it now. I still smoke weed. I can’t understand why I can go across the street, buy a bottle of scotch, drink it and act totally obnoxious, yet if I’m caught with less than thirty grams of weed, that’s only going to make me happy, I can be fined $1000 or 6 months in jail, or both.

“I hope you don’t mind that I gave your card away, It’s just that I hate to see somebody worse off than I am…  if I can help them.”

“I understand, Bruce.”

“Now, I know that Joy prefers Subway cards to Tim Horton’s, but they’re not as good. I’ll tell you why. For two Tim Horton’s cards and eighty-six cents I can buy a can of their coffee. I’ve been doing without my coffee lately. For one card and twenty-six cents I can buy their hash browns, a sausage, egg and cheese on an English muffin, with a tall glass of milk. Besides that Subway is run by a bunch of ignorant immigrants. I can say that because I’m an immigrant.

“I went there , a few days ago, with my own card.  I’d filled it up the day before with twenty dollars.  I gave it to the guy, he put it through the machine and he said, “It shows that you only have one cent on this card.” I said, “That’s impossible, I just filled it up last night.” I wasn’t going to argue with this lout, so I went a couple of blocks to another Subway. I asked, “Can you tell me how much money is on this card?” The guy checked and said, “Twenty dollars.” Needless to say, I don’t go to the place down the street any more.

“The cards are a good idea, because it encourages people to eat, and that’s a good thing;  but they can take those same cards to Shark and he’ll give them five dollars — even trade.”

I said, “I don’t mind what people do with them. I want them have the opportunity to eat,  if they’re hungry;  but I don’t want to force anything on them.  It’s their choice.”

“So, I still have this conundrum with Inuk. I know I’m just putting it off, maybe until it’s too late to go. I’ll have another beer and think about it.

“I’ve been to twenty-three different countries, so far Canada is the one I prefer. With the charge of dealing on my record I can’t get a passport for seven years, but one day I’d like to visit Peru, because of the history, or China.

“In Canada there are far fewer fights. Where I grew up, near Glasgow, we’d go to the pub; not to drink, but to fight.  You’ve heard the Elton John song,  Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting. That was us. I’m not afraid of anybody. I was brought up by an alcoholic dad who was six-foot four, weighed two hundred and sixty pounds. There’s nobody who could give a beating like he could.

The school yards were just as bad. There was always one group against another, Catholics against Protestants, city kids against country kids, it didn’t matter. I kept, for the most part, to myself. I hate bullies. I saw this one bully beating a smaller kid, so I stepped in. The bully went to hospital for three days. I was charged with assault and could have gone down for it, but my mom stood up for me, and the step-mom of the bully stood up for me. That was a welcome surprise. Anyway, instead of reform school, I was sent to an old folks home. I loved it there. This was the seventies. I was a pseudo hippy. The men would have all these war stories from the Second World War, the Korean War. I was reading about the Vietnam War, so we would have these intense discussions.

That was a good place for me. I still had my school work to do. I remember my auntie. If she saw I was daydreaming — I did that a lot — she’d knock me on the side of the skull with her fist. That really hurt. She’d say, “Wake up Brucie, pay attention!” When it came to write my exams I got really good marks. If I ever started daydreaming I’d think of that sharp knock on the skull.

“My mom was in a wheelchair. I was born at home with two mid-wives. I weighed thirteen pounds seven ounces and was a ‘blue baby’.

“I’m used to being around wheel chairs. There was this one guy around here who’d drive around in one of those motorized chairs. He’d bump into people, swear at them. I said to him, ‘Get out of that wheel chair and I’ll beat the shit out of you.’ I guess nobody had ever talked to him like that before. When he came back he gave me ten bucks.

I’d love to go to China. Do you know that they were writing in the third century BC. Their original alphabet was based on the tracks of birds. That was  before we’d  even defined the concept of  God that we believe, or don’t believe in  now. We were still running around, living in caves. They were building the Great Wall of China.  Hundreds of thousands, if not up to a million, workers died building the Qin wall. Every third son had to work on it for free. He still had his chores to do in the fields, but during the day he’d be shaping and placing stones for  that wall.  Do you know how long it is ? 5,500 miles. It’s one of the largest man-made structures in the world.

“Why was the Great Wall built?”

“To keep out the Manchus’  the Mongols and other warlike tribes from the north. Some Chinese guy, thinking he’d be rewarded with a high rank, led them through a secret passage way. As soon as they were on the other side of the wall they slit his throat and took over the country.”

Somebody rode by on a bicycle. Bruce yelled, “Hello Asshole!”

“Was that Chris?” I asked.

“Yeah, but ever since Weasel died I call him asshole. It’s because of something he said to me. He knew that Weasel and I were close friends. When I told him that he had died he said, ‘Good riddance! I never liked the guy anyway. I’m not going to his funeral.’

“I’d be a lot better off if I didn’t like people, or rather love them. I’ve had four close friends die this past year, five if you count Weasel’s dog Blackie. Every time it tears away a piece of my heart. Inuk nearly died during  her last time in hospital.  The infection is back.  She could die without me even seeing her. I wouldn’t want that on my conscience.”

We caught the bus together and Bruce did get off at the stop for the Civic Hospital.

 

 

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homeless family L

 

12 June 2013

The park was welcoming today. The sun was shining the weather was warm and the regulars were sitting on the curb. “Shark, ” I said, “I haven’t seen you for a long time.”

“No, I don’t come here very much any more.”

“How are you feeling?”

“I’m okay. My feet hurt — that’s because of the HIV.”

“How is Irene?”

“This morning she was puking her guts out. It’s a reaction to the new medication. She hasn’t been outside since winter;  just doesn’t have the energy. There is always an excuse, ‘It’s too hot? It’s too early. It’s too cold.’ When she does invite me out with her, it’s evening, and I’m drunk by then. I keep telling her, “Let’s do our shopping in the morning when it’s cool and the crowds aren’t as large. I have to stop by Wal-Mart for groceries on my way home. I’ll be leaving shortly.”

This is a selfmade image from the english wiki...

This is a selfmade image from the english wikipedia. The photographer has uploaded it as GFDL (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Joy has been staying at Chuck’s place, just around the corner from me. She wouldn’t come over to our place because of me.  Irene didn’t want to go to Chuck’s place, so they didn’t get to see each other.”

Loretta came down the sidewalk and stopped to talk.

“Loretta, ” I said, “Shark and I were just discussing how complicated women are. They always invent new rules and forget to tell us about them.”

Loretta said, “Yeah, I can’t even figure myself out.

“Shark, did you hear that I finished a two month program? I’ve been sober for over five months.

“Congratulations, Loretta! I said. “You mentioned that you’re going back to school. When does that start?”

“In another month. I have to finish my grade twelve first, then I’m going to secretarial college.”

“Buck has quit smoking. He’s got two patches and a puffer. It’s been four days now.”

“Yeah,” said Shark, “I saw him this morning to buy some smokes. He told me all about it. He’s been sober four years, hasn’t he?”

“Five.”

“Good for him, ” said Shark. “I should quit smoking. It would save me a lot of money. Mind you, I’ve been saving money not buying diapers. I get a two hundred-dollar allowance for those. This morning, at Buck’s place I let a wet fart, I said, ‘Oh, oh, I better go home.'”

Loretta said, “Nothing a shower and a change of clothes can’t fix.

“I had his dog Dillinger all day yesterday. He loves to chase a ball.”

Shark said, “He can play with it all by himself. He bats it with his paw, then runs after it.

“What’s happening with that asshole you went out with?”

“He’s in detention now.”

“Has he been bothering you lately?”

“Not since they put the restraining order against him.” To me she said, “This all has to do with to when I was raped.  It’ll be a year ago July seventh.  I went to the hospital immediately after, so they have evidence and were able to charge him. There’s been a preliminary hearing. The official court date has been set for September.

“This is the first time I’ve been able to charge a guy with rape. At home it used to happen all the time.

“See what I made?” Loretta showed me a lighter that had a red, beaded cover. “A guy in the recovery program showed me how to do it. It’s made with seaweed beads and clear fishing line. I want to try to make cell phone covers.”

Wolf said, “Dennis, I read that horse book you gave me. I didn’t think I’d like it. I don’t know anything about horses. I always thought it was a sport for rich people;  but I didn’t have anything else, it was on the top shelf,  so I started reading. I really dove into it. I couldn’t put it down.  I had to find out who was killing the horses. Have you read the book?

“No, I haven’t read it.”

“Then you won’t mind me telling you that the vet was behind it. He was poisoning them. I wouldn’t give the book a first rank, but it was still good. I prefer the shoot-em-up detective kind.

“I’ve been sober for the past five days. Because of the rain, I didn’t feel like going out;  but after a while — even with the books — Shaggy and I get bored, so we come down here.  I don’t like everybody here. I told Jacques to fuck off the other day.

“Jacques, I’m sorry about the other day. Are we okay?”

Shamus  and Brent from the Innercity Ministries stopped by. “Would anybody like a sandwich?”

Shark said, “Yeah, I’ll take one. Do you have any razors? How about Chapstick, or lip gloss, or something like that. Irene wants me to get her some.”

Shamus said to Shakes, “How have you been?”

“I’ve been trapped in my apartment. I didn’t want to leave with the door unlocked,  so I had to stay there for two days.  I haven’t paid my cable bill, so I didn’t have television. I haven’t paid my phone bill so I didn’t have a phone. I had nothing.”

I asked,  “Did Sammy have your keys?”

“Yeah, Sammy had them. Yesterday he came back and apologized. He said, ‘I forgot I had your keys. I brought you a bottle.'”

I asked, “So, everything is good now?”

“Yeah, everything is good.”

 

 

Buy my book for $0.99 — proceeds feed the homeless:
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5.0 out of 5 stars Very insightful book that I would recommend to everyone to remind them that we all belong …, August 3, 2014
This review is from: Gotta Find a Home: Conversations with Street People (Kindle Edition)
I think we often forget that the people we pass on the street, the homeless men and woman all around us are just that, men and women that had something happen in their life to land them there. Many of us are one step away from joining them and author Dennis Cardiff brings light to the reality of living on the streets and how people get there. Very insightful book that I would recommend to everyone to remind them that we all belong to one group, the human group and none of us are all that different. Excellent look into a problem most turn their heads from.