Posts Tagged ‘prison’

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salvationarmy

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5 October 2012

At 10:15 this morning I entered the Kelly Funeral Home, Somerset Chapel, to attend the viewing and memorial service for Silver. Most of the viewing rooms were empty. I heard voices and walked into one of the rooms. I didn’t know if I was in the right room until I saw, at the front, two boards of photographs with Silver lettered on top. There must have been a dozen photos on each board. Many of the photos I wouldn’t have recognized. They were from Silver’s childhood, teenage years and as the adult that I had considered my friend for the past nine months. As I was looking, I was approached by a woman with blond hair, and a welcoming smile.

She asked, “Did you know Silver well?”

“Yes,” I answered, “I sat and talked with him nearly every day. In the mornings, in front of Starbucks, and at noon at ‘the benches’ at Confederation Park.”

“I’m Silver’s’s sister, Cathy, by the way.”

“Silver spoke fondly of you,”

“Did you also know that he has three brothers, a son and a grandchild? Did Silver mention that? I’ll introduce you to them when I see them.”

“Silver may have mentioned the rest of his family. The last time I saw him was about two weeks ago. He showed me the swelling of his ankle and varicose veins he was worried about. He said he had an appointment with his doctor that same day. Jacques mentioned that Silver’s stomach was swollen. We all noticed that he had lost weight, especially in his face, and were worried about him. Sometimes, he would sit alone and just gaze into the distance. It just seemed to be his way. It was a great shock to hear that he had passed away.

“What was given as the cause of death?”

“Liver failure. Swollen ankles and abdomen are symptoms of liver failure. Luckily the whole family was able to be at his bedside for the last week. His son and granddaughter, of course, his mother and father, his brothers, his nephew. We all had lots of stories. It was good to see Silver laugh.”

“Here’s Cody now, Silver’s son, and Cody’s daughter Jennifer, Jenny for short.”

“Hi, Cody, and Jenny. I knew your father well. I’m so sorry for your loss. You have a striking resemblance to your dad.”

“I know. I’m proud of it.”

Cathy said, Dennis have you met Steve?”

“Hi Steve.”

Linda said to Dave, “You saw John fairly regularly too, is that right?”

“Every day or so we’d go for a beer together. I lived next door to him at the Lafayette.”

Cathy said, “We’d lost contact with Silver. We didn’t know he was so close. He didn’t have a phone. If we’d know where he was we would have whisked him away.”

“Steve, how long was Silver at the Lafayette, about four years?”

“Nearly five years.”

“Dennis,” asked Cathy, ” what was your impression of Silver?”

“He was the sweetest, kindest, gentlest man. He always had a smile to greet me. It was always a pleasure talking with him.”

Cathy said, “He was a glass-half-full kind of person, wasn’t he?”

“Yes,” I said, “He was always cheerful and optimistic.”

I saw Danny, Outcast, Spike, Shark and Irene. Outcast walked over to the photographs and said, “Here’s me with Silver, this other one is of me also, but my head is cut off.”

I said, “Outcast I’d recognize your crotch anywhere.”

Shark said, “We’re not staying for the service. We just came to pay our respects to Silver’s family, then we’ll raise a few glasses to Silver.”

Irene and I walked over and signed the visitor’s book. I saw Danny sitting down, so I went over and sat with him.

“I’m just on my way to Thunder Bay,” he said. “After I leave here I’m, going to the bus depot to pick up my tickets.”

I asked, “Is that where you’re from. Do you have family there?”

“My mother’s in hospital, so I want to spend time with her. She has had part of her colon removed. Now they’ve found more polyps in the remaining colon. Doctors want to remove another two inches. She doesn’t want to go through that again. She said, ‘I’m ready to go. Why won’t they just let me die at home.’

“She’s had a hard life. My dad passed away a while back. He was on life support. The family was asked for permission to stop the machines that were keeping him alive. I was talking to my mom, on my cell phone, when they pulled the plug. I heard laughing in the background. The family thought that after he was removed from life support that he would die immediately. He drifted off to sleep for about ten minutes, then he awoke. He said, ‘I must be in heaven, I see all the angels of my family around me.’ Everyone laughed. I think he was trying to hold on until I arrived, but he didn’t last long enough for me to see him alive. At least I got to talk to him, and tell him that I loved him.

I met Silver’s brothers and his nephew. I also met Spike. I introduced myself. I said, I think we’ve met before at ‘the benches’, or at the ‘heater’. “Maybe, he said, I go to those places.”

Shark said to Spike, “What do you think of this place?”

Spike said, “It’s handy to the Somerset Street Beer Store.”

It was time to go upstairs for the memorial service. I’m guessing there were about fifty to seventy-five people in attendance. The Minister, who hadn’t met silver, started the service with a reading from  the Book of John:

14 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God[a]; believe also in me. 2 My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 4 You know the way to the place where I am going.”

 

Jesus the Way to the Father

5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”

6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you really know me, you will know [b] my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”

The minister added a personal note. “I am getting on in years. I know that when my time comes that my Lord will have prepared a room for me, even though in my life I have made mistakes. I am human. We all make mistakes. The dead are not gone, they live on in our hearts and memories, and in the genes of Jesse and Abbie.

He then went over and blessed Silver’s cremation urn with holy water.

A family member read a poem she wrote for John.

Cathy talked about stories from their childhood, stories that they had recounted at Silver’s bedside:

In the winter, Silver loved ‘bumpering’. To go bumpering, you grab the bumper of a moving vehicle and allow it pull you as it careens along the icy roads. This is dangerous and not at all recommended.

Silver enjoyed board games such as Monopoly and Clue, and playing cards. He and his older brother, Don, played a game called Hi-Lo. The loser of each hand would have to do push ups. What Silver didn’t know was that Bob was stacking the deck against him. Don was ahead in the short run, but Silver developed massive shoulders, that gave him the advantage in wrestling.

Our father died when Silver was nine years old. The three oldest siblings had to take turns minding the two youngest. Silver wanted to go riding on his bike, but it was his turn to care for his younger brother. Silver found a way to do both things at the same time. He tied his brother to the front stair railing and hopped on his bike. He rode around and around the block, waving at his brother each time he passed.

Cathy read the following poem by Mary Elizabeth Frye,

 

Do not stand at my grave and weep

Do not stand at my grave and weep,
I am not there; I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glints on snow,
I am the sun on ripened grain,
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning’s hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circling flight.
I am the soft star-shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there; I did not die.

The service ended, and as the congregation arose and left the chapel the following song was being played:

 

Spirit in the Sky

by Norman Greenbaum

When I die and they lay me to rest
Gonna go to the place that’s the best
When I lay me down to die
Goin’ up to the spirit in the sky
Goin’ up to the spirit in the sky
That’s where I’m gonna go when I die
When I die and they lay me to rest
Gonna go to the place that’s the best

Prepare yourself you know it’s a must
Gotta have a friend in Jesus
So you know that when you die
He’s gonna recommend you
To the spirit in the sky
Gonna recommend you
To the spirit in the sky
That’s where you’re gonna go when you die
When you die and they lay you to rest
You’re gonna go to the place that’s the best

Never been a sinner I never sinned
I got a friend in Jesus
So you know that when I die
He’s gonna set me up with
The spirit in the sky
Oh set me up with the spirit in the sky
That’s where I’m gonna go when I die
When I die and they lay me to rest
I’m gonna go to the place that’s the best
Go to the place that’s the best

At the door leaving the building I had a chance to speak with Stella, who has known Silver and the rest of his friends for the past sixteen years. I hope to collaborate with her and share information. She had the following to say about Silver:

I met Silver at the beginning thru Tom, who used to pan at the Metcalfe & Albert corner. They both decided they would hitch-hike up to Timmins for some reason, but only got to Carp and came back. Guess there weren’t many beer stores along the way. Very funny. Tim passed away a few years ago. 

This was a very emotional service. Over the past nine months silver had become one of my family — my street family. It filled a void in me where my own family once was. They have all passed away, or are living in different parts of the continent. I too am a father and a grandfather.

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group3

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4 October 2012

Sitting on a curb near the park was the regular congregation. Serge, who had been sleeping on a park bench on Elgin Street, came walking up the sidewalk with William.

I asked, “Does anybody know any details about Silver’s funeral? I’d like to attend if I can.”

Andre said, “From what I’ve heard, it’s at Kelly’s Funeral Home on Somerset. The viewing of the body is at 10:00, and the service is at 11:00. You won’t see me there. I’ve been to too many funerals, dozens of them. I want to remember Silver the way he was, not the way they’ll have him in his casket. I can’t take that.”

I said, “Hi Serge, William. Serge, have you seen the doctor yet. You mentioned that you wanted to see him about your stomach and your shoulder.”

“My stomach is okay. I have an appointment with the doctor next Thursday. It was arranged through Center 507, with a doctor at the Clinic on Cooper Street. William and I are just going for something to eat now.

“Shakes, how are you today? You didn’t look too good yesterday when the fire truck and the paramedics arrived.”

“I’m fine, I’m just tired that’s all.”

“How are you Andre?”

“Last night Joy, Jake and I were drinking at Jake’s new apartment. Joy and I got into a little tiff. We were both drunk. I decided to leave and I woke up in somebody’s garden. I was eating carrots, some kind of squash. I used a Tim Horton’s card to slice a tomato. That worked really well. I killed a pumpkin, a big sucker. I just wound up and ‘kapow’. Now, I got all these stains on my pants.”

I asked, “Did Joy find out when she’s going to be able to see a doctor?”

“Yeah, she’ll be going tomorrow.

“I’m just waiting for my worker, she’s supposed to be here at 12:45. She’s going to take me to see an apartment. Next week she’ll take me to see a doctor. She asked me, ‘Do you have any medical problems?’ I said, ‘How much time do you have? I can keep you writing for an hour with all my medical problems.’

“I walked into a clinic one time, there were all kinds of people in the waiting room. I walked up to the counter and said, ‘I’m in the middle of one of my mood swings. I want a doctor NOW! I guess I looked real freaky. The doctor saw me right away and gave me some medication. It was potent stuff. I felt like a zombie for three days. I don’t want to take that again, I couldn’t do anything but sleep. When I was awake, it was like I was in a fog. I smoke pot instead. It keeps me mellow. If I don’t have any for about three days, I start to get wired up.

“One time the cops were chasing me and I pulled myself over a five foot fence. What I didn’t realize was there was a thirteen foot drop on the other side. I broke some ribs that time. I had a floating rib for a while. That really hurt. Sometimes, I wouldn’t be able to catch my breath.

“Another time I jumped out a second story window. There was a wooden shed below that broke my fall and my ribs on the other side.”

Wolf said, “Did I tell you that Shaggy bit me this morning. That’s why she’s over there in front of Nick. She started the day well, she walked all the way down here on her own. For a thirteen year old dog that’s pretty good. These guys get her all wound up. I reached in front of her and she chomped down on my wrist. It didn’t break the skin, but it’s so sore.

“That’s all I got to say to you.

“Andre, can I have a drink from your bottle?”

Andre said, “Yes.”

“You know, I don’t often ask you for anything, do I?”

“No, you don’t, Wolf. I don’t remember the last time you asked me for something.”

“Alright then, just so we have that straight.”

A skateboarder went by and Shaggy started barking and chasing him. Andre grabbed Shaggy’s leash, just in time. He said to the frightened kid, “She doesn’t like skateboards.”

Andre said to  a woman passing by, “That’s a beautiful shawl you’re wearing, sister. Has anybody told you today, that you’re beautiful too?”

To me he said, “See how tall she is, she must be six one or two. I love tall women. They can wrap their legs around you twice.”

Nick was chattering away to nobody in particular, mumbling something about, “I know how to survive. I’ve even slept in a snow drift with a piece of cardboard, newspaper inside my pant legs and in my sleeves. I was fine until the cops kicked me in the face.

“Can somebody throw me that bottle?”

Wolf said, “It’s not mine. I’m not going to throw it to you.”

It was time for me to go. I said my good byes and said that I would see everyone tomorrow.

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jesus

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7 August 2012

Monday mornings have always been considered unproductive days for panning. The reasons given are that office workers, returning after the weekend, tend to be tired, grumpy and not particularly generous to those in need. Therefore, I wasn’t surprised to see the spots usually occupied by Joy and Silver were vacant. I looked farther up the street and saw Magdalene.

“Hi, Magdalene, do you mind if I sit down?”

“Hi, sure, sit.”

“He died two days ago.” Baby Alphonse Jr. would have been eight weeks old. I had talked with Magdalene last week. Social Services had found a nice place for her and her husband Alphonse to live, near the hospital. The last time I saw them as a couple was before the birth. They were both excited about their expected son. I was shocked to hear that their baby died. I never know what to say at times like this.

“I’m terribly sorry to hear that. You must feel devastated.” I put my hand gently on Magdalene’s shoulder, knowing that she doesn’t like to be hugged.

“I’m okay.”

“How is your husband, Alphonse taking it?”

“I don’t know.” she replied.

“I’m asking too many questions. You have my deepest sympathy.”

“Do you have a cigarette? No, I remember, you don’t smoke. I’ll see if I can find one.” She stood up and walked to an outdoor ashtray, near the door to Starbucks. She picked out a couple of butts and returned to her spot.

“Perhaps, I’ll see you at noon, Magdalene. Once again, I’m so sorry. Remember, you are loved by many friends.”

At noon I walked to the park. Sitting on the curb, hiding under a baseball cap and behind a bushy gray beard, was Serge.

“Hi Serge. I haven’t seen you for the past week. Have I missed anything while I was away?”

“No, every day the same thing.” I noticed that he had a black eye.

“Serge, did you fall again?”

“Yes, I fell. I was walking between two cars to have a pee, and I fell.” This is Serge’s standard excuse for black eyes. A few weeks ago he had two, probably from beatings. He doesn’t want to cause any trouble for anybody. Also, he’s afraid of repercussions.

“I’m sorry to hear that Serge. You take care. I’ll see you later.”

Walking further up the sidewalk I met Trudy. “Hi, I was so sorry to hear that Magdalene’s baby died.”

“I didn’t know that. When did it happen?”

“She said it was two days ago.”

“I saw Alphonse this morning, but he wasn’t talking to anyone.”

“That’s the reason. I’m sure he’s very upset. He wanted so much to be a father.”

“Dennis, do you have any more of those Tim Horton’s cards? I was just talking to Nick. He said he was hungry.”

“Sure, I’d be pleased if you gave it to Nick. I really admire what he does to help people.

”If you see Larry, tell him that I’ve finished the first three volumes of ‘Confessions with God’. He recommended them to me. I really enjoyed them, so if he has any more recommendations I would be interested in hearing them.

“I’ll see you later.”

“Bye, Dennis, thanks.”

I next went to what Shakes calls his ‘office’, a curb beside an underground parking garage on Laurier Street near Kent. “Hi, Shakes, I have a pair of track pants for you (50% off, at Goodwill). Do you want to try them on?”

“Thanks, Dennis, I’ll try them on later, after I’ve had a shower.

“You know, Dennis, I’ve been in this spot for seventeen years. At first it was just a dirt parking lot. The owner asked me if I’d pick up any trash. I said, ‘Sure!’ He gave me five bucks a day. Now it’s become a condo city.”

The parking lot attendant came over and asked Shakes if he would mind moving over about a foot, because he was in the path of cars entering the garage. He obliged.

“Yesterday, I went to visit my daughter, Bettie and my grandson. It was Bettie’s birthday. She was in bad shape. Her boyfriend had beaten her up.”

“I’m so sorry, Shakes. I also heard that your daughter Fran was beaten, and her boyfriend, Gene is now in prison. I heard that she has hairline fractures in her spine from when he jumped her.”

“Yes, Fran was there too. They’re both in rough shape. I can’t understand these guys.”

“Dennis, would you mind doing me a favor? Would you buy me a salad from the restaurant behind us? Maybe, cole slaw, or potato salad, whatever they have… and pepper… and don’t forget a fork.”

“Sure, Shakes.” I came back with his salad and said, “Perhaps, I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Sure, I’ll be with the rest of the congregation.”

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ottawacops

19 July 2012

This morning was cool and breezy. Joy was wearing a hoodie, with her hands in the pocket, and hood pulled over her head.

“You’re looking good, Joy,” I said.

“Thanks, it was too hot to drink yesterday. I didn’t sleep much. The people downstairs were out on their balcony, talking loud. They were also smoking pot.”

“Are they the neighbors directly below you?”

“Yes.”

“You could always spill something on them.”

“I thought of that. Chester’s also being a real pain, especially when he’s drunk. I was doing the laundry yesterday, he came in and said, ‘I’m hungry. Will you make me something to eat?’ I said, ‘Dude, you know where the fridge is, make something yourself.’ I’m not his housekeeper.

“Outcast was over last night. He brought twelve beer and gave Chester six. After a while Chester came to me and said, ‘I want him out of here, and he’s not sleeping over.’ ‘Look dude,’ I said, ‘If you want him out, you tell him, and tell him why.’

“Later on he said to me, ‘Joy, will you sleep with me? I won’t do anything. I just want to be close to you.’ ‘Chester,’ I said, ‘we’ve been over this before. I’m not sleeping with you. It’s not going to happen, not now, not ever.’ Guys always try that. They say they just want to sleep next to you, then they start touching you. I hate that.”

“You can see why Anne left him,” I said.

“I sure can, but he still goes on about her, ‘I miss my Annie,’ he says. She’s never going to take him back.”

“There’s nothing worse than jealousy, to spoil a relationship,” I said.

“That’s for sure. Outcast isn’t getting along with Debbie. She wants to up his rent because her daughter is pregnant again. Why that should affect his rent, I don’t know. I told him that, if things with Chester get any worse, we could find a two bedroom somewhere and share it.

“I saw Little Jake this morning, he’s over at Silver’s spot. He’s got a huge bump on his forehead. Fran’s new boyfriend head butted him last night. Jake was wasted, he doesn’t know what happened, or why.”

“Fran’s new boyfriend? Isn’t she with Gene any more?”

“Gene is in prison. He jumped Fran and she has two hairline fractures in her back. The doctors are going to monitor it for a while to see what happens. She may need surgery. This new guy may be the father of one of her sons. He’s a big guy. Sounds a lot like Daimon. I can’t wait to meet him to see how tough he is.”

“How is it going with Pierre?”

“I don’t know. He sent me a text at eleven thirty last night. I just read it this morning. He says he won’t be coming by the park. I know why he hasn’t been coming to the park, it’s because he owes Outcast a hundred dollars.

“I also saw Weasel this morning.”

I said, “You know why Silver hasn’t been using his spot, don’t you?”

“Yeah, because Weasel accused him of stealing two beer from him. Weasel is a real mess. His eye and the whole side of his face is a massive bruise, with strange marks across it. He said he was boot fucked. He doesn’t remember who it was, or why. Probably some of the crack heads at the Sally Ann.”

Sitting on the curb near the park were some regulars and and Levi from Arizona – just passing through. Andre arrived on his bicycle shortly after. Hippo said, “Six up, coming up the hill.” I turned to see two bicycle patrol officers stopping.

One of the officers asked, “What are you people doing, just congregating?”

“Yes, officer,” said Shakes.

“Does anyone have any booze?”

“We can’t afford it,” said Shakes.

One of the officers got off his bike. I could read his name tag, Budmiester. He walked around the group and noticed an open can of Old Milwaukee behind Serge. He picked it up and emptied the contents on the sidewalk. “I’m going to have to charge you with this. What’s your name?”

“Serge Martin, just like Steve Martin. You can write me a ticket, but I’m not going to pay it. You might as well save the paper. I’ll just throw it out.”

“You can do as you wish, but the courts have been giving thirty-day jail sentences, depending on how many outstanding charges you have.”

Andre said, “I’m looking at your name tag, does it say Budweiser?”

Officer Curtis said, “We’ve had a complaint. You’re going to have to move somewhere else.” We all stood except Jake who said, “I’m supposed to stay here to meet my worker. I have to appear in court this afternoon.”

“On what charge?” asked officer Curtis.

“Panning. I was charged by officer Lang.”

“You’d better appear then.”

We walked to the far end of the park and sat on the grass. It was still damp from the sprinklers. Andre reached into his backpack and pulled out a bottle of sherry and threw it to Shakes who opened it and passed it around. When it got to Levi, he said, “I don’t drink, I only smoke.” Shakes reached into his pocket and pulled out a small round can. He threw it to Joy. Andre handed her a rolling paper. Soon, a joint was being passed around.

Levi asked, “What are the laws concerning marijuana in Ontario?”

Marujuana posession laws in Ontario:

Currently, it is against the Criminal Code to possess any amount of marijuana anywhere in Canada, unless you have received a medical exemption from Health Canada.

For a first conviction, if you had less than 30 grams of marijuana, the maximum penalties are a fine of $1000 or 6 months in jail, or both. But the penalty for a first offense is usually much less.

In practise, police agencies are reluctant to charge individuals for simple possession preferring to target dealers and grow-ops, and the courts would prefer not spending time prosecuting these cases. Even if one is charged, it is very easy to have the case dismissed in exchange for a charitable donation. There does however continue to be convictions in Ontario courts for simple possession.”

Joy said, “It all depends on the cop who stops you. You just saw Serge get a liquor violation ticket, while Sparky had a bottle right in front of him. Frank got a ticket for panhandling, I’ve been panhandling for fifteen years and never got a ticket.

“If a cop stops you and you’ve got five grams of weed, he’ll probably just throw it out on the ground and grind it with his heel. He may give you a warning, he may give you a ticket.”

“Dennis,” said Jake, “what time is it?”

“Twelve, forty-five.”

“Court starts at one, my worker hasn’t shown up. I’m never going to make it. It’s all the way across town, even if I took the bus I wouldn’t get there in time.”

“Sounds like a failure to appear,” said Joy.

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group2

18 July 2012

Noon at the park was pleasant. The weather was warm with a refreshing breeze. Many of the regulars had gone to the Don River, near where Jacques lives. On the sidewalk were Jake, Loon, Hippo, Andre, and Danny.

“How do I get to the Don?” asked Loon.

“Fastest way,” said Andre, “is to take any of the long busses  on Queen and get off at Bayview. Make sure you don’t try to jump any of the short busses.”

Loon said, “What if I take the streetcar. Won’t that take me there?”

“For one, “said Andre,”The streetcars are harder to jump.  Two, it’s a two hundred and thirty-five dollar ticket if you get caught.”

Jake said to me, “I can’t panhandle any more.”

“Yeah,” I said, “You told me that yesterday.”

“No, I got charged again last night. I don’t know why they have such a hard-on for me, but I was at my usual spot and a cop car pulls up. He writes me a ticket and says, ‘This is the last time, Jake. I know that as soon as I’m gone you’re going to be panning again. I won’t be back, but the next time I catch you, you’re going to jail.’

“I asked, ‘Was anyone following him?’

‘No, not as far as I knew.’

“It wasn’t ten minutes before a cop on foot patrol came and wrote me up. He said, ‘Next time, Jake, you’re going to jail.’ It all started with Peterman, that’s what we call him. Now, I’m on probation and have two breaches against me. I’m going to start fighting back.”

“What are you going to do, Jake.”

“Spit on them!”

“Don’t do that Jake,” I said, “You’ve got AIDS, the charge will be assault with a deadly weapon. Because of Joy’s hep c, she did eighteen months for spitting near a cop. It didn’t even hit him.”

“What am I supposed to do? It’s still two weeks to check day and I’ve got no money. None of us have been doing very well, except for the Jazz’n Blues Festival. I’ve got a hearing tomorrow. That’ll just be in and out. Then I’ve got a court appearance on the twenty-ninth, I think. I’ve got it written down someplace. I’m going to fight it.”

Hippo said, “When you go to court, Jake, ask for legal aid. At the legal aid office, get an appointment with Sherry. Tell her you’re an alcoholic and that you’re living on the street. She’s an alcoholic herself.”

Andre said, “I don’t know why they bother you guys. I’m at my usual spot in front of Tim Hortons. I’ve got some regulars. One buys me a large coffee every morning. Today, I shared it with Hippo. There’s another who buys me a bagel or an English muffin. A cop came by and asked me what I was doing. I said, ‘Officer, I’m eating my breakfast.’ He said, ‘You’ve got your hat out.’ ‘Yes I do,’ I said, ‘I live on the streets. What else am I supposed to do?’ He left me alone.

“I worked at this bar in Calgary once. I was the cook, the maintenance guy, the bartender and the bouncer. When customers would come in I’d tell them, ‘We only got one rule here — don’t piss off the cook. If you piss of the cook, you won’t get anything to drink, and you’ll be thrown out.”

Danny said, ‘I have a regular who brings me heart-shaped cookies every morning. She calls them love cookies. This morning she said, “I’ve never given you money before, so take this.’ She dropped a twenty. She’s cute too.

“I found a lot of booze at the Jazz’n Blues Festival. I brought my flashlight to look for empties and I came across a bag behind a curb. In it was half a twenty-six of V.S.O.P cognac. It wasn’t Remy Martin, or anything special, but it sure was good. I almost threw the bag out when I noticed this can of weed. I also found sixteen full beer cans that people had stashed in the bushes and the hedge.”

Andre said, “Shakes and I didn’t make it through the gate until the last night. It’s a bit harder when you’re riding a bicycle. You can’t just jump the fence. Anyway, we were coming by one of the back trails and I saw an empty bottle of vodka. Nearby was a water bottle, but it had something orange in it. I thought to myself, That’s odd, what do people usually mix with vodka?. I put two and two together and took a sip. It was powerful.”

Jake said, “People think I’m lucky because I get to sit in the sun and get a good tan. The only reason I do is because I have to sit for hours, in the sun, waiting to get my price.”

Andre said, “I’ve still got a full bag of food left over from last night. I’ve got a slice of pizza, some steamed rice and half a sub.”

“I’m getting hungry,” said Hippo. I’m going to have to make another trip to Freshco. Yesterday, I got seventeen bucks worth of food and only paid a dollar for a bag of chips. That canned ham I brought over last night — that’s where I got it.”

“There’s the Farmer’s Market south of Dundas between Sumach and Sackville Streets.” said Danny.

Jake said, “I don’t have any batteries for my radio. I’m going to have to steal four double A’s.”

“You really are in a hurry to go back to prison,” said Andre.

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fatguy

 

31 May 2013

This morning, as I was waiting for the walk light to cross the street, I heard someone bellow, “Dennis!

I turned around, recognized who it was, and shouted, “Hippo!

His eyes were half-shut, his arm scraped. I asked, “Where did you sleep last night?”

“At the police station.”

“How did that come about?”

“I don’t know, I was drunk. I was with Joy last night.”

“I asked, “Is Joy alright?”

Yeah, she went home, then I went to my place.”

“Did you get into a fight?

“I remember going at a cop with a hammer.”

“What brought the cops in the first place? Were you making a lot of noise?”

“I remember that we were playing music. There was somebody else there. I remember who it was.”

“Was it someone I would know?”

“No.”

“Someone in your building?”

“Yeah.

I think I’ve got the papers here. Yeah, here it is, CAUSING A DISTURBANCE WHILE DRUNK and POSSESSION OF A WEAPON DANGEROUS TO PUBLIC SAFETY (highlighted in yellow). It says here that I have to appear in court on June 18th at 8:30.”

“That’s in less than three weeks!”

I asked, “Do they still serve those cold fried egg sandwiches on a paper plate, with lukewarm coffee, milk and sugar in a paper cup?”

“No, not even that. I would’ve loved to have a coffee. I had a slice of banana bread and a box of orange juice. I’m starved.”

“Do you have enough for breakfast?”

“Yeah I’m good.”

“If  there’s anything you need, let me know.”

“Thanks bro. I gotta stop drinking. In fact I’ve been ordered to stop drinking. If I get caught drunk, I go straight to jail.”

 

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homeless family L

 

22 May 2013

There had been a torrential rain shower earlier in the day, so at noon the sidewalks were damp and the weather was muggy. I sat on the curb nest to Katy.

Standing in front of Wolf was a portly, bald man, holding four lighters. He was shaking each one of them to see which had the most fluid. After he had decided, he put one in his pocket and left the rest. He said, “I can get a hundred bucks for this in prison. The only other way to light a cigarette is to spark two electrical wires together.” He looked at his watch and said, “I’m going to be late.” He hurried off and returned a few minutes later. He grabbed his jacket off Shaggy’s cart and said, “Now, I’m really going to be late.” Again, he hurried off.

Wolf said, “That’s Kenny, my neighbor. He’s also my connection, I should say my white connection, but he got caught trying to sell two bricks to a narc. They gave him two years. There’s good money selling drugs, but it’s illegal, you take your chances.  Now, he’s going to turn himself in with fifty pills and a lighter up his ass. He knew it was coming. He’d only been putting off the inevitable.

“What I worry about is the baby pit bull terrier he has. I guess his roommate will be looking after him. He’s a big guy who rides with a motor cycle gang.

“My cousin was up from Virginia. He couldn’t get over how we drink beer on the street and smoke joints. Mind you down there you could be sitting there cleaning your gun. That would be fine, but pull out a joint or a beer and you’re looking at a prison sentence.

“That’s Virginia. I’ve heard it’s even worse in places like Alabama. When his son turned sixteen the first thing he did was to enroll him in the N.R.A. He figured that if his son was going to be around guns, he better know how to use one.”

Debbie turned to me and asked, “Did I tell you that I presented a paper at the university, about a housing project for the homeless. This professor put me down, made me look like a fool. What would he know about the homeless? You can listen to my ideas or not — I don’t give a fuck.

“One day I’m going to write a book.”

I said, “That’s a good idea, to write about the homeless.”

“It’ll go way deeper than that. I’ll show where the corruption started. It’s been all down hill from there.”

I asked, “Do you think that the government is to blame?”

“Partly, with all the treaties they broke, but it’s more than that. I’m looking for a sponsor. Do you know anybody who would sponsor me?”

“What would be required of this sponsor?”

“I’d need office supplies, paper, a filing cabinet.”

“How about a computer? Do you think that would help?”

“I don’t know anything about computers. I do everything the old-fashioned way.”

“Have you thought of using a computer at the library? They’re free.”

“I can’t go to the library. I’m banned. There’s a book I never returned. I can’t get a library card until I pay for that book.”

 

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womanbox

17 April 2013

This morning was interesting, as in the Chinese curse, “May you live in interesting times.” Joy was on her box as usual, standing behind her was a powerful looking man and a small woman. I recognized them, but hadn’t seen them for about a year.

Joy said, “Dennis, you remember Nick and Lucy in the Sky”.

“Yes,” I said, “I haven’t seen you two for a long time.”

Joy whispered to me, “This is scary.”

Nick pulled out a bottle of sherry, took a swig and passed it to Joy. She hesitated, but Nick insisted.

Joy said to Nick, “I really appreciate you guys coming by, but I don’t want any of my regulars seeing me drinking. I’ve been out here since six o’clock and I’ve only made about two dollars. Have a look in my cap”

Nick said, “No problem, Joy, I’ll help you.”

A man walked past and Nick said, “Hey, don’t forget about the hat!”

Lucy laughed and said, “That’s what he does when we’re panning.”

Joy whispered to me, “Do you know what time it is?”

“No,” I said, “I don’t have my watch.”

“You hid it when you saw Nick and Lucy. Am I right?”

“No, I just forgot it at home

Joy said to Nick, “Have you been in any fights lately?”

“No, not for about a year.”

“Of course, you had your leg in a cast for most of that time.”

“No, it wasn’t that. I didn’t have the need to fight anybody.”

Joy asked, “How about you, Lucy.”

“No, I haven’t been fighting. I robbed a guy yesterday. It was his stupidness. He didn’t see Nick standing in the background. He asked if he could have anal sex with me. I said, ‘Sure, let’s go into the alley.’ Nick followed us in there. He said to the guy, ‘Give this woman all your cash, then fuck off.’ The guy ran. What was he going to do? Call the cops?

Joy said, “Something similar happened to me last week. A guy propositioned me. I said to him, ‘It’ll cost you eighty bucks and cab fare to my place. Cash up front, now.’ We hailed a cab, when we got to my building the guy was busy paying the driver, I hopped out the door — I can be pretty nimble when I have to. I ran across the parking lot, into my apartment and locked the door. The guy didn’t know where I went. Served him right.”

Nick and Lucy moved on toward the library. Joy said, ‘They told me they were feeling drug sick. Nick said he has a check coming, so they didn’t hassle me. When Jake was around, I got in a fight with Lucy. Nick punched me in the side of the head. Jake picked him up by the front of his coat and threw him right on his ass. He said ‘This is girl stuff. Let them fight it out themselves. If It’s man stuff you want, you can take me on.’ Nick just sat there in the middle of the street.”

Joy whispered to me, “Do you know what time it is?”

“No,” I said, “I don’t have my watch.”

“You hid it when you saw Nick and Lucy. Am I right?”

“No, I just forgot it at home.

“I’ll let you get back to work. Will you be at ‘the point’ later?”

“Yeah, the whole gang should be there.”

10:00 am, at ‘the point’ (the traffic island)

I sat between Joy and Chester. Chester said, The busses are free for seniors today, but do you have any spare bus tickets for tomorrow?”

“Sure, Chester. How are your legs feeling?”

“They’re okay. They hurt a bit. I’ve been sober for the last three days. I can do that. It gives my body a chance to recover.”

Joy asked Chester, “Can I borrow your phone? I want to call Buck to see if he can bring me some weed and some cigarettes.”

On the phone, Joy said, “Hi Sweetie, where are you? In bed? I’m sorry did I wake you. I was going to ask, Were you whacking off? But, you beat me to the punch. So, are you coming down? Okay, we’ll see you then.”

To me she said, “Poor guy, he walks all the time and he wonders why he gets tired.”

I asked, “How did the meeting with your worker go? Do you have furniture yet?”

“It was a joke. They took me to the Salvation Army Thrift store and gave me a voucher for sixty dollars. I was supposed to get a hundred. Anyway, I bought a comfy office chair and a foot stool that opens up at the top for storage. I also got two black fluffy mats. One I’m going to put under my air mattress. The other I’ll put in the hall. What I really wanted was a love seat they had, but the price was a hundred dollars, so I’ll have to make do with what I got. They will be scheduling a visit to the giant warehouse, that’ll be in about two weeks or so. I guess they’ll bump me to the top of the list. I’m not quite sure how that works.

“When this furniture deal gets settled I’m going to have a showdown with my worker. I want to find out why she treats me the way she does. I know she’s a dyke and I’ve got no problem with that. What people do in their private lives is up to them. What they do when they’re working for me is what I’m concerned about. I’m not the only one having trouble with her.

“By the way, when I went back to the library again, to use the washroom, I saw Nick and Lucy again. They were sitting on one of the top benches. Nick said, ‘We’re up here looking down on everyone.’ When I came back they were both asleep.”

I asked Chester if he knew the time. He pulled out his phone and said, “Can you read the numbers? They’re pretty small.” He shaded the phone inside his jacket. “It’s 10:45.”

“I should be going,” I said. To Joy I asked, “Will I see you tomorrow?”

“Maybe, It depends on how much it’s raining.”

I walked across the street to talk to Uncle Peter and Shaggy. “Hi Peter. I’ve got a book put aside for you. Do you like Ian Flemming?”

“The guy that wrote the James Bond books? Yeah, I like him.”

“I’ll try to bring it tomorrow. I’ll see you then.”
 
 

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quired=’1’/][/contact-form]

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wheel

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10 September 2014

“Hi Dennis, ” said Chuck, “Did you see that guy on the corner, is he still there.”

“There was a guy with a dog on the corner when I passed.”

“That’s where I pan at 6:30 in the morning. I told the guy it was my space and to move along, but he refused to budge. If he’s there tomorrow I’m going to send a friend to see him. She’s a big dyke, loves to fight. She and her partner have been together for the past twenty years. They’ve been married for the last eight. She wouldn’t care if she lost her job, she’d just go out and get another one.”

I said, “I heard that Joy is out of hospital. They still don’t know what’s wrong with her legs. She’s in a wheel chair. She can shuffle around the house a bit with a cane.”

“She’s got to get off the booze, even watered down the way she drinks it. I was in a rooming house with an alcoholic. I was as well, but he’d drink anything. One morning I came down and found him at the kitchen table with an empty glass. He went through the motions of drinking from it. I phoned his ex-wife and his mother. They came and got him. I heard that he had to be sent to an institution. Even off the booze, he never recovered.

“It’s been six years now that I had my heart attacks.”

I asked, “Were you in the wheel chair before that.”

“Yeah, I’d been in the chair for a couple of months by then. I remember one of my last drunks. I’d already made my supper, when I thought, I’d like a fer beers.  I went to a bar a few blocks away, sat out on the patio, minding my own business.  Just inside the door was a table where three women were sitting. One of them came out and asked for a cigarette. I handed her one, lit it. She said, ‘This is a native cigarette. They’re against the law.’ She pulled a badge out of her pocket. Sure enough, she was a cop. She said.  ‘I also have the powers of a judge. I sentence you to join us at our table and let us buy you a beer.’ Well, one beer turned into two, and before I realized it they were closing the bar. We sure had fun. I had a hell of a time getting back home. I was wobbling all over the place.

“Another time I got into a fight. I served three years in prison for that. It wasn’t so bad. There was this guy we called Sargent. He was a Sargent. He headed a work party picking rocks from farmers fields. The farmers loved it, getting free labor. They had a stone boat pulled by three horses. I’ve told this story to some people, they had no idea what a stone boat was. Anyway, it was nice getting out in the fresh air. It wasn’t heavy work, a break in the monotony. At the end of the week he’d give us each a pack of smokes.

“There was a pit near the prison. Thee of the drug addicts pushed Sargent into the pit, then threw rocks at him. That was the end of our work party. They used the rocks for construction. We’d break them with a sledge-hammer. Again it wasn’t heavy work, just something to do. This big guy was put on our crew. The first thing he did was break the handle of his sledge. Then other guys started doing it. I kept at it, broke every rock in that pile.

“A  neighbor, about fifteen years old, mentally challenged, came home to find his father beating his mother. He went after his dad and injured him severely. He was sent to a juvenile detention center for nine years. Of course he was raped there. Beaten regularly and since he couldn’t keep his mouth shut he had to serve his full nine years; no time off for good behavior.

“A guy asked me this morning what I’d do if I won a million dollars. I said, ‘I don’t want a million dollars. All I want is enough to get by on. Enough so I wouldn’t have to sit here all day.

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wheel

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18 August 2014

“Good morning, Chuck. How was your weekend?”

“It was quiet. I came downtown to have a coffee with my friends, but nobody was there.  I held my cap out for a couple of hours. Made about ten bucks then went to the grocery store. I picked up a package of cabbage rolls, a piece of pie, then went home. After eating I lay in bed, pulled the covers over me and stayed there until about 4:30. I wasn’t sleeping. I just lay there with my eyes closed. After that I really felt refreshed.

“A while ago I saw this woman walking towards me on the sidewalk. I could see her for quite a distance. She was about twenty, wearing a tight black dress and gorgeous. When she got within about three feet of me, her cheap perfume overwhelmed me. I like a little perfume, but why do some women put on so much?

“Did you see that car cutting off the other one. That’s the way accidents happen. I remember one time my brother was driving my mother and I to the movie theater. It’s torn down now. We were getting near the theater, when a car cut in front of us and stopped. My brother ran into the back of him. It wasn’t his fault, but rear end collisions are always charged against the driver following behind. My dad was really pissed off. My mom told him, ‘It wasn’t his fault.’ Dad said, ‘I don’t give a damn whose fault it was. I’m the one who has to pay for the repairs.’ My brother got a beating for that. I’m surprised that my dad didn’t give me a beating for taking Mom to the movies. He could always manage to find a way to blame me for things.

“See that car stopped at the light? Do you see anything wrong?”

“No, I don’t notice anything wrong.”

“He’s over the line where he’s supposed to stop for the light. Even if he was right on the line it would be illegal. Same for pedestrians. If they’re between the cross walk lines and they have the walk light they have the right of way. If they’re outside, or right on the line, they don’t. I see people nearly getting killed every morning. Bicycle riders are the worst. They sail through red lights all the time. They think that the laws don’t apply to them.

“My lady friend has been in Cornwall for the past two weeks. She is supposed to be back today. I was hoping to go to lunch with her, but it doesn’t look like it’s going to happen.

“I guess I’ll go home. I have some bills to pay, but there’s one I’m not going to pay. It’s the one for $45.00, from the ambulance company.  I told them which hospital to take me to. Instead, they took me to another one. I’ll be damned if I’m going to pay for being taken somewhere I didn’t want to go. They can take me to court if they want to. I don’t mind. Even if the judge finds me guilty the court will have to pay my way home, maybe by wheelchair taxi. Rather than paying the fine I’d ask the judge, ‘How much jail time is that worth?’ It would cost them a hell of a lot more than $45.00 to keep me in jail. It costs around $100.00 just for processing.

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