Posts Tagged ‘probation officer’

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bench

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1 October 2012

I walked toward the park. I recognized Jacques’ bushy white beard and waved to him. While I was still about a dozen feet from the group an attractive, young woman, with long black hair, approached me.

She said, “We haven’t met before. My name is Doreen.”

“I’m Dennis,” I said.

“Do you happen to have a cigarette?”

“No, sorry, I don’t smoke.”

“Good for you. I wish I didn’t smoke. It’s bad for you and it smells bad.” Doreen then sat on the curb.

I shook hands with the woman beside her and said, “Hi, I’m Dennis.”

“We’ve met before, “she said, “I’m Jenny.”

I shook hands with Chester, “Joy will be here shortly, ” he said.

The rest of the group were either sitting on the curb or standing nearby. I sat between Shakes and Doreen.

“How was your weekend, Shakes?”

“I’ll tell you in a minute.” He was counting coins and putting them in a plastic pill bottle. “My weekend was good, except for the rain on Sunday. I was walking in that. My leathers didn’t dry until about three this morning.”

“Have you been sleeping behind Starbucks, or inside somewhere?”

“Both, it all depends on who kidnaps me, ha ha ha ha.”

“I guess you mean that in a good way?”

“I stayed at Danny’s place last night. He lives in Little Italy.”

Doreen asked me, “Where did your family come from?”

“My grandparents came from Iceland in 1902.”

“I know people from Iceland. I’m from Baffin Island, not far from Iceland.”

I said, “My mother didn’t learn to speak English until she went to school.”

“Where I went to school,” said Doreen, “If we spoke Inuk to anybody we got a slap on the head. When I went home, if I spoke English, even to someone who spoke English, I’d get a slap on the head. I got it from both sides.

“Do you know whose land were on?”

I said, “I was told it was Algonquin land.”

“There is a dispute about that. It’s Huron and Algonquin land. It makes me so mad to think about it, but this land was a native burying-ground. How would you like it if they built over the place where your grandmother was buried?

“I may live in the city, but I still make my stamp on the ground.” She demonstrated by hitting the sidewalk with the side of her fist.

To some women passing on the sidewalk, Doreen yelled, “Will you please give me a smile?”

The women turned and smiled. Doreen, replied, “Thank you, you did give me a smile. That makes me so happy.”

To me she said, “I just want to be happy. I think that is what most people want, just to be happy.”

I agreed, “If everybody expressed love to each other, the world would be a happier place.”

I could see Joy walking up the sidewalk. She didn’t look happy.

“Hi Joy, how was your weekend?”

“It was okay — quiet. I’m so fuckin’ pissed off right now. I haven’t been able to get my check yet. It was supposed to be ready Friday, but my worker said that because I switched to the Salvation Army it was going to be delivered to a different office. I phoned this morning. They said, ‘Your check will be ready any time you want to come down and pick it up.’ ‘Great,’ I said. I used my last bus ticket to come down to the office. When I got there they said, ‘Come back at two o’clock.’ What a run around.”

Jenny stood up and tried to give Joy a hug. Joy said, “Jenny I’ve had a bad day and I’m not in the mood for a hug. I just want to be left alone for a while.”

Jenny said, “Joy, don’t be like that. I just want to be friendly.”

“Jenny, what did I just say? Now, sit down or I’ll knock you down.”

Danny said, “Joy, that’s no way to talk to your friends. Whether you’ve had a bad day or not, there’s no excuse for taking it out on the rest of us. I’ve talked to you about that before.”

“Danny, keep your mouth shut, before I come over there and smack you.”

“Come on over. I’ll smack you right back.”

Joy was quiet for a while, then she said to Minnie, “I’m sorry for talking to you like that. I had no right. I apologize.”

“It’s alright, Joy, I understand.”

“Danny, I apologize to you too.”

Minnie, walking with a cane, stopped and asked Doreen, “Aren’t you cold, with bare arms?”

Doreen said, “Since the accident, I’ve lost all feeling of heat or cold, in my arms and legs. If I wear too many clothes I get itchy all over.” (major spinothalamic or spinal cord injury)

“Let me give you a hug,” said Minnie.

Doreen stood up and they hugged. Jenny said, “Can I have a hug too, Skinny Minnie?”

Minnie hugged her and said, “Jenny, you’re skinnier than I am.”

It was nearly time for me to go. I walked over to Jacques to shake his hand. He said, “You know, I woke up in the middle of the night with such a sore throat. Then I had to go to the bathroom. An hour later I had to go again. It was back and forth, back and forth, all night long. You better not get too close to me.”

I said good-bye to Joy, she said, “Do you have to go already?”

“Yes, but I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Not in the morning. I have a meeting with my P.O. (Probation Officer), but I’ll see you here at noon.”

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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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bench

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1 October 2012

I walked toward the park. I recognized Jacque’s bushy white beard and waved to him. While I was still about a dozen feet from the group an attractive, young woman, with long black hair, approached me.

She said, “We haven’t met before. My name is Doreen.”

“I’m Dennis,” I said.

“Do you happen to have a cigarette?”

“No, sorry, I don’t smoke.”

“Good for you. I wish I didn’t smoke. It’s bad for you and it smells bad.” Doreen then sat on the curb.

I shook hands with the woman beside her and said, “Hi, I’m Dennis.”

“We’ve met before, “she said, “I’m Jenny.”

I shook hands with Chester, “Joy will be here shortly, ” he said.

Standing near the curb were Little Jake, Danny, Hawk and his dog Dillinger. Seated were Shakes, Doreen, Jenny, and Jacques. I sat between Shakes and Doreen.

“How was your weekend, Shakes?”

“I’ll tell you in a minute.” He was counting coins and putting them in a plastic pill bottle. “My weekend was good, except for the rain on Sunday. I was walking in that. My leathers didn’t dry until about three this morning.”

“Have you been sleeping behind Starbucks, or inside somewhere?”

“Both, it all depends on who kidnaps me, ha ha ha ha.”

“I guess you mean that in a good way?”

“I stayed at Danny’s place last night. He lives in Little Italy.”

Doreen asked me, “Where did your family come from?”

“My grandparents came from Iceland in 1902.”

“I know people from Iceland. I’m from Baffin Island, not far from Iceland.”

I said, “My mother didn’t learn to speak English until she went to school.”

“Where I went to school,” said Doreen, “If we spoke Inuk to anybody we got a slap on the head. When I went home, if I spoke English, even to someone who spoke English, I’d get a slap on the head. I got it from both sides.

“Do you know whose land were on?”

I said, “I was told it was Algonquin land.”

“There is a dispute about that. It’s Huron and Algonquin land. It makes me so mad to think about it, but this land was a native burying-ground. How would you like it if they built over the place where your grandmother was buried?

“I may live in the city, but I still make my stamp on the ground.” She demonstrated by hitting the sidewalk with the side of her fist.

To some women passing on the sidewalk, Doreen yelled, “Will you please give me a smile?”

The women turned and smiled. Doreen, replied, “Thank you, you did give me a smile. That makes me so happy.”

To me she said, “I just want to be happy. I think that is what most people want, just to be happy.”

I agreed, “If everybody expressed love to each other, the world would be a happier place.”

I could see Joy walking up the sidewalk. She didn’t look happy.

“Hi Joy, how was your weekend?”

“It was okay — quiet. I’m so fuckin’ pissed off right now. I haven’t been able to get my check yet. It was supposed to be ready Friday, but my worker said that, because I switched to the Salvation Army, it was going to be delivered to a different office. I phoned this morning. They said, ‘Your check will be ready any time you want to come down and pick it up.’ ‘Great,’ I said. I used my last bus ticket to come down to the office. When I got there they said, ‘Come back at two o’clock.’ What a run around.”

Jenny stood up and tried to give Mo a hug. Mo said, “Jenny I’ve had a bad day and I’m not in the mood for a hug. I just want to be left alone for a while.”

Jenny said, “Joy, don’t be like that. I just want to be friendly.”

“Jenny, what did I just say? Now, sit down or I’ll knock you down.”

Danny said, “Joy, that’s no way to talk to your friends. Whether you’ve had a bad day or not, there’s no excuse for taking it out on the rest of us. I’ve talked to you about that before.”

“Danny, keep your mouth shut, before I come over there and smack you.”

“Come on over. I’ll smack you right back.”

Mo was quiet for a while, then she said to Minnie, “I’m sorry for talking to you like that. I had no right. I apologize.”

“It’s alright, Joy, I understand.”

“Danny, I apologize to you too.”

Minnie, walking with a cane, stopped and asked Doreen, “Aren’t you cold, with bare arms?”

Doreen said, “Since the accident, I’ve lost all feeling of heat or cold, in my arms and legs. If I wear too many clothes I get itchy all over.” (major spinothalamic or spinal cord injury)

“Let me give you a hug,” said Minnie.

Doreen stood up and they hugged. Jenny said, “Can I have a hug too, Skinny Minnie?”

Minnie hugged her and said, “Jenny, you’re skinnier than I am.”

It was nearly time for me to go. I walked over to Jacques to shake his hand. He said, “You know, I woke up in the middle of the night with such a sore throat. Then I had to go to the bathroom. An hour later I had to go again. It was back and forth, back and forth, all night long. You better not get too close to me.”

I said good-bye to Joy, she said, “Do you have to go already?”

“Yes, but I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Not in the morning. I have a meeting with my P.O. (Probation Officer), but I’ll see you here at noon.”

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cops

Psycho

20 June 2012

“Hi Joy, how did everything go after I left yesterday? Was there any more trouble with Daimon and Lucy?”

“No, Andre walked Chili and me down to where she had to go, then I took the bus home. When I was on the bus I realized that I didn’t have my phone. I had it tucked into the cuff of my jeans. It must have fallen out when I was helping Chili. I tried phoning the number and it sounded like a kid that answered. I said, ‘Look, I’ve just gotten off the number fourteen bus. I really need my telephone. Would you do me a really big favor and bring it to the mall’ Then the phone went dead. I tried calling the number later, but it wasn’t in service.

“A guy gave me a phone, but I have to pay a thirty-five dollar activation fee. I’m going to check around and see if I can get a better deal than that.

“I swear that I’m going to give Loretta a shot in the head today.”

“What did she do?” I asked.

“She was panning in front of Tim Horton’s. I said to her, ‘You can’t stay here, you’re cutting my grass.’ I sent her over to see Silver. He sent her over to Hippo’s spot. She’s probably only got about ten minutes before the woman from the hotel asked her to move.

“Chuck has been real pissy lately. He’s always talking down to me. Last night when I came home I still had a piece of steak in the fridge. I nuked it, then put it in a bun with Philadelphia Cream Cheese. It tasted just like one of those Philly Steak and Cheese sandwiches that you can get at Arby’s. I worked at Arby’s one time. It was mostly a front for a drug operation. I used to call it Garby’s. I left just before they got raided.

“Nicholas was really getting on my nerves. He just kept talking and talking about everything. He even followed me into my room. I said to him, ‘Nicholas, you may know about some things, but you don’t know everything. If you don’t shut the fuck up, I’m going to do you right here.’ ”

“But, I have a girlfriend.”

” ‘I didn’t mean that I wanted to have sex with you. I meant that I was going to punch you in the head.’

“Chuck was barbecuing and asked me if I wanted a sausage. I said, ‘No’ He got all pissy about that and I really lost it. I packed all my things, put them in my bag and walked out. I slept behind Starbucks. I had my blanket under me, a soft pile of cardboard underneath and another blanket that I pulled over my head.

“Hippo and Andre came by sometime in the night. Andre peeked under the corner of the blanket and said, ‘Hey, it’s Joy.’ Later on he said, ‘I may accidentally put my arm around you in my sleep.’ The first time he did it, I just moved his arm. The second time, I gave him a shot in the head. I didn’t want any spooning going on. I was all snugly, Andre and Hippo shivered all night. I don’t know why they don’t get some blankets or a sleeping bag. There are lots available now.

“Hippo had a shower the other day and he’s acting all different like, ‘I’m King Hippo’. He’s still wearing the same dirty pants that are nearly worn through. He said to me, “Joy we should go down to Queen Street now.” I don’t need him telling me where I should and shouldn’t go.

“I have to see  my probie today. She wants me to move to a womens’ shelter. I don’t even know where it is. I’ve talked to a few women who’ve lived there. They say there are a lot of rules, like doing daily chores; not coming in drunk; once a week having to cook a meal for the entire floor. I don’t even cook for myself. If I can’t throw it in the nuker, I don’t buy it.”

I said, “How about sharing a place with Chili? You seem to get along fine with her.”

“The only problem is that she has a place In Scarborough. I don’t want to stay somewhere it takes three busses to get downtown. The only person I would consider living with is Pierre. He’s invited me over sometimes on the weekend. He has a twelve-year-old son that he talks to on the telephone. I hear him saying, ‘I love you, son.’ I can here the son saying, ‘I love you dad.’ That’s really special.

“Pierre says he’s not interested in a relationship. He’s interested in a friend with benefits. He’s a bit older than I am, but it’s something to think about.”

I said, “I met Pierre yesterday. He seems nice. I think he’d probably treat you well. Why don’t you give it a try?”

Before getting ready to leave I asked, “So, what’s going to happen with Daimon and Lucy. Are they going to just keep on jumping, beating and robbing people?”

“Yeah, until Daimon goes back to jail again. I felt so bad when I saw that you weren’t wearing your watch yesterday. It’s really bad when friends can’t visit friends without stashing their stuff.

….

Before I left work I had taken the precaution of putting my watch in my pocket. Noon at the park was very hot and humid. Everyone felt drained of energy. Asleep on the grass was Shakes. Sitting in a circle were Daimon,  Lucy, Chili, Hippo, and Andre. In another group were Little Jake, Chester, Wolf and his dog Shaggy. The police had been by earlier and said that any groups larger than five people had to disperse.

I sat next to Hippo. Someone had found a newspaper photo of a hippopotamus. The photo was being passed around and someone was teasing Hippo that it was an image of his father. Hippo said, “Yeah, he’s famous. He got his picture in the paper and he’s being fed by a prince or something.”

“I remember one time going to the Clayton fair. It’s a tiny town but they have a big fair. That’s where I got driven over by a car. Another guy drove his truck straight into the swamp. He was just sitting there in the cab, he thought he was still driving. Somebody was there with a big winch truck. Nobody wanted to jump into the swamp to hook up the chain, so I did — ‘bloop.’  ”

I was surprised to see Chili sitting next to Lucy and Daimon. Her bruises still haven’t healed from the last time she was with them.

“We went to pan this morning,” said Daimon, “There was a guy in our spot. I said, ‘Get the fuck out of here! This is our spot.’ He didn’t move so I kicked him in the head. Then he moved.”

Hippo said, “I had to ask Loretta to move. She was in my spot.”

“What if she hadn’t moved?” asked Andre.

“Then I would have asked Lucy to move her.”

Daimon said, “There is someone else that’s looking for a beating. It’s Alphonse and Magdalene.”

Gene said, “Daimon could take Alphonse, Lucy could take Magdalene.”

Andre said, “The problem is, Magdalene is five months pregnant.”

“I don’t have a problem with hitting a pregnant woman, ” said Daimon.

“It’s a shame,” said Gene, “that someone would beat and rob Shakes. All you have to do is ask him for something and he’ll either say, ‘Yes!’ or ‘No!’ That’s not complicated.

“If he says, ‘No,’ ” said Daimon, you can wait until he passes out, then take it… I was just kidding!”

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English: Ryan Hobson joins Michael Ignatieff f...

English: Ryan Hobson joins Michael Ignatieff for food bank photo op. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

At the park, I sat between Little Jake and Joy. I asked Joy, “How are you feeling today? Sick? Sore? Tired?”

“All of the above. Jake is coming over tonight.”

“How do you feel about that?”

“Okay, I guess. He came over Monday. He’s quit drinking. He’s in a wheel chair.”

“Did you beat  the shit out of him?”

“No, maybe that will come tonight.”

“He phoned this morning, on Jacques’ phone. He asked to come over. I said, ‘I’m cooking chicken, will that be alright?’ What a stupid cow. I shouldn’t be feeding him after what he did to me.”

“I hope it goes okay.”

“I hope so too. This morning I got on the bus, put in my ticket, walked to the back and sat down. The driver yelled, ‘Hey lady!’ I didn’t know who he was talking to. ‘You, lady with the blue back pack, would you come to the front please?’ I look to see what color my back pack is — blue. So I walk to the front. He asked, ‘What’s in the bottle that you’re drinking?’ I said, ‘It’s bubble tea with ginger ale. You know, bubble tea? Usually it’s made with tea and sparkling water, but I use ginger ale.’ He said, ‘Okay, you can sit down.’

Little Jake said, “Didn’t he ask to smell it? The cops always ask to smell my bottle.”

“No, bus drivers don’t do that. They wouldn’t want their nose anywhere near my bottle.”

Jake said, “I’ll have to remember that one.”

Mariah  said, “I went to the Food Bank today. I could only get a few things. They allowed me three cans: one of vegetables, one stew and one tuna. They also gave me a tiny plastic container of margarine and a few other items.”

“What kind of stew did you get? Is it the one that tastes like dog food — Gravy Train?”

“Yeah, that’s the one.”

“Which Food Bank did you go to, Gatineau or Marier Street?

“I never go to Gatineau. It means I’d have to get there three hours before they open, even then there’s  a line up. By the time I get in, there’s hardly anything left.”

“Didn’t you get any meat or eggs?”

“When I had kids, they used to give me meat and eggs, but not as a single.”

Matches asked, “Mariah, would you help me to get my groceries some day.”

“I can’t do it Friday, but maybe Saturday.”

“Saturday is fine. The doctor has me on a special diet.”

“Dennis, ” said Matches, “you know me?”

‘Yes, I know you.”

“I know when it’s coming and I know when it’s going — right?”

“That’s right Matches, you’re The Man.”

4 June, 2013

When I arrived at the park the only friend I saw was Little Chester. He was standing in the middle of the sidewalk. He took a few unsteady steps forward. I was worried that he would fall into traffic, so I suggested that we sit on the curb.

“Do you know where I spent last night?” he asked.

“No, where did you spend last night?”

“In the hospital.”

“Why were you in the hospital?”

“I was drunk.”

“Did you pass out someplace?”

“Yes.”

“Where did you pass out?”

“I don’t know. On the sleeping bench. The police were by earlier. They asked if I was drunk . I said, ‘Yes.’ They left me alone. They came by an hour later and asked me if I was drunk. I said, ‘No.’ They left me alone.”

I asked, “How long have you been on the street?”

“I’m not really on the street. I have a place to stay, with my daughter. She’s twenty-seven. She’s into fitness. She has her own studio.”

“You told me where you’re from, but I’ve forgotten.”

“Newfoundland.”

“That’s  a  beautiful province . I’ve never been there, but I’ve seen it  featured on television.”

“They make that all up. It’s not beautiful; it’s ugly.”

“I like rocks and being near the ocean.”

“They’ve got plenty of that.”

Maryjane came by and asked, “Is anyone else here?”

I said, “Chester said it was just him and me. The police were by a couple of times.”

“I’ll go take a look.”

Heinz came down to the sidewalk, “Dennis, we’re over here! What do you think of my girl?” Shaggy had been clipped and groomed.

“She looks great, Heinz. It will be a lot cooler for her.  I see she’s not panting. ”

“No, she likes it. She’s still got a head like a lion, and a funny tail, with nothing in the middle.” Shaggy started barking. Matches took her tail and pretended he was winding her up. She lunged and nearly bit his finger.

“That’s it Shaggy, take another bite. She’s acting like she’s hungry, but I’ve run out of biscuits. It’s not like she’s on starvation rations, she ate a whole bag this morning.”

Matches said, “You know Dennis, since I’ve had my apartment I’ve slept outside two nights. Both nights it was friggin’ pouring friggin’ rain.”

I said, “You’re lucky the police didn’t find you. They would have taken you to Hope Recovery.”

“Yeah, but they would have released me the next day. There was only one time that they kept me for three weeks. I was on probation and had a stipulation saying that I wasn’t allowed to drink. When I was in jail they asked me, ‘Matches, why do you keep drinking when you know it’s not allowed?’ I said, ‘I didn’t listen to my parents either.’ The piggies have only been to my apartment once. It was the time I was jumped and the other guy said I had stolen money from him, can you imagine that?

“It was at King Edward and Rideau. I was on the ground, but I kept fighting. It was like a turtle on it’s back, my fists were going, my feet were kicking. Ha, ha, ha.

“I guess they believed your word over his. Was that it?”

“The police said to me, ‘Matches, show us your money.’ It had been in a banking envelope in the inside pocket of my jacket. The guy couldn’t find it. I gave the envelope to the police. There was two hundred and twenty dollars there. They said, ‘Matches we’re going to keep this and return it to the man you stole it from.’ I said, ‘You’re not taking my money. I’m the victim here.’ They let me keep the money.

“Sammy gave me a lighter and, you know, I lost it. This morning I was going through the pockets of my leather jacket. Do you know what I found — my lighter. The only thing I need to get before I go home is two bottles of wine and some shit paper. Sammy bought some groceries, so we got food.  I’ve got a gram.’

Heinz asked, “Has any body seen my little buddy Jake? He wasn’t around yesterday and I didn’t see him Friday. You live close to him, don’t you Matches?”

“Yeah, we live on the same street. There’s four buildings in a row. I live in one, he lives in the end one. I went over to his place Sunday at eight in the mornin’. I was afraid of making too much noise,  it bein’  Sunday and all.  He was sick — pukin’ all mornin’. I brought four bottles and two grams. I said, ‘Let’s have a drink!’ H e said, ‘No man, I’m too sick.’ I said, you mean I have to drink these four bottles all by myself.”

I said, “That doesn’t sound like Jake.”

‘Then I said, ‘How be I roll us a joint?’  He said, ‘No man, I’m too sick.’

Heinz said, “That certainly doesn’t sound like that Jake I know. Here’s a little song that my dad used to sing:

Well, I walked round the corner
and I walked round the block,
and I walked right into a bakery shop.

I picked up a doughnut
and I wiped off the grease,
and I handed the lady a five cent piece.

Well, she looked at the nickel
and she looked at me,
and she said “Hey mister, you can plainly see.

There’s a hole in the nickel,
there’s a hole right through.”
Said I, “There’s a hole in the doughnut too!
Thanks for the doughnut, good-bye!”

I went by Little Chester on my way back to work. He was passed out, laying on the curb. The police will be taking him to Hope Recovery,  if he can walk, otherwise it will be to the hospital.

 

10 May 2012

The weather this morning was cold and damp. I saw Joy sitting on her plastic storage container with Bruce’s raincoat wrapped around her knees and V tied up to a meter attached to the library — neither looked happy.

“Chuck has an appointment with his dentist and his probation officer, so I’m dog sitting V. I’m not happy. V chewed a hole in my sleeping bag and generally wrecked the house. Right now, I’m ready to kill her. She’s driving me insane with her barking. I told Toothless he should get rid of her. She’s a biter.”

Joy’s telephone rang. “Chuck your dog is driving me nuts. She’s eaten all her dog food, all her treats and she’s just knocked over her water dish for the second time. Oh, you find that’s funny do you? She’s scaring people away. I’ve only made two dollars this morning. So where are you now, and when will you be back? Hurry up will you? You’re still laughing! Oops, she ran away. She pulled the knot loose and she’s running down the block. How do I know where she’s going?

“Okay, she didn’t run away, but she’s your dog! You walk her! You take care of her!

Joy wasn’t wearing her spinner ring today. I asked her why she didn’t have the ring from Jake resized, so it would fit her finger. She said, “I’m not ready for that. I think I’m better off living alone. This other ring is from Joanne, she died of AIDS.

“I’m going to Oasis today, to have the forms filled out for my medical card. Perhaps, I’ll see you at lunch. I’m not sure what I’m going to do.

At noon, at the low concrete wall, I met with Sean, Luther, Irving and Marlena, Matches and his daughter Fran, who is an attractive young woman, friendly, happy and sober.

Irving said, “How are you doing, man? It’s been a long time. My best friend just died, that’s why I’m messed up like this.” Marlena was concerned about the time, so they left.

I’ve met Luther at least three times before, but he mistook me for a priest, a judge, a radio talk show host and someone who ignored him at a bar. He is alcoholic, but he seemed fairly sober.

“I have ADHD, that’s what they tell me. My mother is in hospital on a ventilator. I lied to her. I said I was coming home to visit her. I tried, but I was thrown off the bus, because I was drunk. She wants to die naturally, like my grandmother did, but they have her hooked up to all these tubes.

“I’m from Regina, 1409 Retallack Street. I haven’t told that to anyone, not even the police. Do you see them over there, across the street. They’re just waiting to try to arrest me for something (in fact, they were there to supervise an anti-abortion rally).

“I’m a demon, I’m the devil himself. Will you hear my confession?”

“Luther, I’m not a priest, I’m not even an expert on Christianity, I practise Buddhism. I’ll hear your confession if you want. I’ve heard lots of confessions.”

“Father, I don’t know how to start. It’s been such a long time. I’ve killed people.”

“Luther, that’s in the past, it’s a memory. It’s time to forgive yourself. I can see that you’re a good man. You care for people. Now, is the time you can do the most good for others.”

“I can’t forgive myself. I want to be an artist. I am an artist. I made a dream catcher and took it of Beaded Dreams to sell it. The owner said it was no good, so I spat on it and left it. The next night his front window was kicked in. The owner thought I did it. The police came over and checked my shoe size. They said, ‘No. it wasn’t him.’

“I have spiritual powers, I’ve studied to be a shaman for my people, but I’ve lost my way. I need to be on the radio for an hour to explain my theories about how the system should be changed. Can you arrange that for me? We need a school for aboriginal children. Do you agree with me?”

“I agree with you, Luther, but I don’t know anyone in radio. I’ll do some research I’ll try to come up with some names.

“You take care, Luther. You’re a good man.

“How are you, Matches?”

“You know me. I’m always the same.”

I said to Sean and Fran, “Matches, Shark and I used to be neighbors in Cabbagetown, Toronto.”

“Actually, I was more in Parkdale,” said Matches.

“Where did you Sleep, Matches. Do you have a regular place where you go?”

“I sleep wherever I choose. If I feel tired I lay down and sleep wherever I am.”

I gave Matches some bus tickets, “Make sure you share those with Fran.”

Fran said, “If he doesn’t, I’ll just wait until he’s asleep and take them.”

“You know your father well.” I said and then I left.

7 May 2012

On a low concrete wall, facing Elgin Street, were 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.”

Mo 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.

Bleeding Heart 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 Bronson 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.

“Ambrose 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.”

The first person I met, after getting off the bus, was Chester.

“Hi, Chester, have you heard any news of Joy?”

“Only that she’s home form hospital. She’s got a lot of stitches across her head. Fifi lives in the same building, so she’s been checking on her. That’s all I know.”

“Do you have any idea of how she was hurt?”

“All I know is that she was with Andre (he grimaced) and Hippo. They haven’t been seen around since.”

“Thanks, Chester, take care.”

In Joy’s spot for the second time this week was Clark, sitting quietly on top of his backpack. In front of him was his usual sign HELP CURE HOBOPHOBIA. Above  it was another sign, KEEP OFF THE CRASS. As I sat down I could see a third sign, hidden behind the first, WILL YOU MERRY ME? I asked, “Clark, how are the signs working for you?”

“I get various responses from smiles, to laughter to hostility.”

I said, “Why hostility? Why would these signs invoke any hostility?”

“It’s partly the season; protest season is coming up. It seems to start in the universities. They’re always protesting something, then it spreads to the smaller colleges. I think they watch to see what the reaction will be, then they follow the lead.

“There seems to be a hierarchy. There are leaders and there are those who follow, but I’ve seen other groups called volunteers. Some of them are like nazis, most are white, anglo saxon.”

“Do you mean like white supremacists?”

“Yeah, something like that. They don’t seem too organized. We had an incident at my building a while back. My building houses a lot of people on disability pension. Not me, I pay my own way. I saw one of my neighbors holding this guy by the throat. He was saying to the other guy, ‘You don’t grab me by the throat. You don’t grab my mother by the throat. Understand?’

“Then the police showed up. All they did was get out of their car, put their arms across their chests and shout, ‘Volunteers!’ a bunch of guys from other building came out and there was mayhem. I didn’t stick around. I see us falling into, sort of, a police state. ”

I said, “You seem well informed, what is your background?”

“I went through the separate school system, under the Roman Catholics, then high school, then university. University really opened my eyes. I studied a lot of biology, anthropology and sociology. It wasn’t what the professors taught me, but I learned how to learn. After that I didn’t see the need to pay tuition, so I left.

“I guess my biggest influence was Abraham Maslow. He developed the  hierarchy of needs. He extended the idea to include his observations of humans’ innate curiosity. I read a lot of his books. I stay away from psychology, and psychiatry; that’s mostly Freud and Jung.”

I said, “Maslow was the greatest mind of the past century. I’m now reading a book that refers to his theories often.”

Clark said, “I see a slow disintegration of democracy, I call it global swarming. You can see it with the kids on the streets. We’re moving away from the idea of the individual, except for celebrities and sports heroes. We seem to want to know everything about them; what they eat, what they wear. These people are just fronts. They’re told what to say by their publicity managers.”

“How would you define yourself, your ideas?”

“I think of myself as a stoic epicurean and a sceptic. The world always needs sceptics.  This is based  the Aristotelian belief that ‘the sort of person one is and the lifestyle one adopts will  have an immediate bearing on the actions one performs.’ Epicureans argue that the path to securing happiness comes by withdrawing from public life and residing with close, like-minded friends. That’s me.”

To learn more about the Epicurean Life please visit the following:

http://oregonpilgrim.com/2013/05/07/week-19-guilty-of-the-epicurean-life/

4 May 2012

Today was muggy, overcast and warm. The fog of earlier had lifted, but the humidity remained. Sitting on ‘the bench’ were Matches, Andrew and Joy. On the curb were Little Jack, Loretta, Sparky’s daughter Fran, Ruth, her son Harry and daughter Nancy.

I approached the bench, “Hi Joy, did Matches tell you that he and I were panhandling together yesterday?

Matches turned to Joy and said, “Yes, we went to ‘my office’.

“Matches,” said Joy, “do you mind turning your head in the other direction, Your breath is foul. It smells like you’ve been chewing on a dirty sock all night. You really should consider brushing your teeth once in a while.”

“Okay, If you say so, Joy, I’ll turn my head.” He laughed.

“It’s not funny, Matches, you should start taking care of yourself, and change your clothes.” Matches got up and sat next to his daughter Fran. Before long he was laying back on the grass.

“Dad!” said Fran, “don’t go to sleep here!”

“How’s everything, Joy? Are there still a lot of people staying at Chuck’s?”

“Jeff is moving out today. Scottish Bruce signed himself into prison Wednesday morning. He and Inuk have been together three years and she didn’t even come home to spend their last night together. She owes Chuck money. She saw him Wednesday and didn’t mention anything about paying him back. She said she’s coming over tonight, but Chuck may have something to say about that.

“V is going as well. Carl is trying to sell him. He’s a biter. I reached under the bed to get my bottle of water and he chomped on my hand. I didn’t even know that he was under there. With my free hand I punched him right between the eyes.

“Barry, what was V’s name before Toothess got him?”

“Star,” said Barry.

“When I get home I’ll see if he responds to that. He doesn’t pay attention to anything else, especially V. I think that dog has been abused. He’s only six months old. He shouldn’t be vicious like that if he had been well treated. Chuck doesn’t have the patience for him anyway.

“He was talking to some guy yesterday from Kanata. Chuck is asking $100. If the guy is at all interested, but can’t afford the price, I think he should drop it to $50. It would be nice if the dog could go there. He needs fields and a place to run.

“You’d better be careful spending time with Andre  and Matches. That’s a sure way to get into trouble.”

“I’ll be careful. Joy.”

“So, this weekend Chuck and I may have the place all to ourselves.

“I have to go to court next week about my breach, but my lawyer says it will be thrown out. I have all the medical records showing that I was in hospital.

“I saw my probie this morning. She arranged for me to take the anger management course with a counselor one on one. That’s the only way I’d be able to take it. Audrey knows I can’t do another prison term. The last time, they had me in the psych ward, in solitary under suicide watch.

“You may have noticed that I can be a bit mouthy sometimes. When I go through alcohol withdrawal,  it’s worse. You don’t want to be around me then; I’m not a pleasant person. That would also cause me problems in prison.

“How is your pneumonia?” I asked.

“It’s still there. I’ve been procrastinating about going to Oasis, but I need to go there to get my medical card. I could go to my old doctor. He’d give me a prescription for antibiotics, but I have a hard time dealing with him. He’s one of those guys under a turban. Half the time I don’t know what he’s saying.

“He also checks my blood. If I go there after I’ve been drinking my levels are normal. If I go there when I haven’t been drinking my levels are high. Go figure?

“My kidneys have been kicking me, so after I finish this bottle it will be a dry weekend. Either that or I go back to hospital for dialysis. I don’t want that. As it is my sherry is so watered down, nobody else will drink it. Chuck calls it “goof”. He and Matches drink it straight. I couldn’t do that now.

“When Big Jake and I were drinking beer we got along fine. We used to drink Labatt Blue, which is 5% alcohol. Then we switched to Labatt Maximum Ice at 7.1%. That’s when our problems began. It was even worse when we switched to Imperial sherry at 20%. I could drink any of these guys under the table, but Jake just got mean and nasty. That’s when he started beating me.

“We’ll probably get together again. my probie said, ‘He’s not allowed within 1600 yards of you, or he’ll go right back to jail.’ I said, ‘When has a restraining order ever stopped him before?

“I don’t want to be in a relationship with anybody. To have Jake as a fuck buddy would be okay, but I don’t want to live with him again.”

At 6:00 pm I left work and caught my usual number 14 bus. I was surprised to see Shark  and Irene. They were going to Irene’s place, about four blocks from where I live. “I guess you missed all the excitement this afternoon. Matches  and Shamus were passed out on the lawn and somebody phoned the police. They sent three squad cars and the paramedics. They let Matches go, but they took Shamus away. He couldn’t even walk. They’ll probably take him to the Shepherd’s to let him sleep it off.”

“Joy has been after Matches not to pan handle at ‘the bench’, since it attracts attention, and when he lay down, she kept telling him to sit up. His daughter, Fran, was sitting beside him. I thought she would take care of him.

“I guess Fran went shopping. Everyone else just stood around, pretending like they didn’t know what was going on. I’ve known Matches for fifteen years,  since we both lived in Toronto, near Allan Gardens.”

I said, “Cabbagetown, That’s my old neighborhood too. I lived on Spruce Street near Parliament and Carleton. We used to be neighbors and didn’t know it.”

“Matches is slowly killing himself, but he doesn’t care. It’s his choice.”

“I spent my noon hour yesterday with Andre and Matches. They were both staggering in different directions. Andre was saying things like, ‘Drunk man walking,’ and ‘White man on a program’ and ‘Don’t get in the way of my staggering.’ We went to what Matches calls his ‘office’. I sat with Matches for a while, then went across the street and sat with Andre. He sure is a character. I don’t think he repeated himself once.”

“He must have had his rubber legs on. He’s been staying up in Vanier lately. Probably into that Chinese cooking wine. It’s 37% alcohol. It’s great for stir frying, but it’s powerful stuff to drink.”

“Do you miss living in Toronto.?” I asked.

“Toronto has changed so much I wouldn’t even recognize it. I’d prefer to live in the country. I studied horticulture for four years. I didn’t do well with the chemistry, all those symbols. I like to grow things. Mike, a friend of ours has a place in Quebec on a lake. You met Mike the other day. His double pneumonia has cleared up, but he’s still feeling very weak. He was looking white as a ghost. His mom is keeping a close eye on him. Anyway, he’s invited us to stay for the summer. It has a row boat, a boat with a small motor for trolling. The only problem is we couldn’t get any liquor up there. Maybe it would be good to dry out for a while. We’d still have our pot. We haven’t decided.

“When I grew up in Toronto, my grandmother had a farm a few miles out of town. If any of us kids misbehaved, my mom would threaten to send us to the farm. We preferred to stay in Toronto.”

By this time we had reached Irene’s stop. It turns out that we’re neighbors, living just five blocks apart. It’s a small world. We said good bye and agreed to see each other at ‘the bench’ on Monday.