Posts Tagged ‘psychology’

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group3

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13 September 2012

This morning the sun was shining and Joy seemed in good spirits.

“How did you sleep? Were you outside on the balcony?” I asked.

“No, it was a bit too cool for that, but I slept okay. I took the sheet off my air mattress and made sure that none of me touched the carpet. The bed bugs didn’t seem to have been able to climb up the shiny plastic. I didn’t get any bites during the night. I have a chalk line of powder around where I sleep.

“When I was in the bathroom I saw something move. I squished it. Sure enough, it was a bed bug. I could tell by the rotting wood smell. I’ve never known of bed bugs to crawl across tile.”

I said, “I’m still pissed off with Chester.”

“Why is that? What’s he done now?”

“I just think it’s very selfish of him to turn the exterminator away. He knows how much the bed bugs bother you. Just because they aren’t bothering him, that’s no reason not to have them exterminated. It’s not a safe, healthy environment for you.”

“Yeah, I was pissed off about that, alright. I stayed out until 9:00 last evening. He was upset that I came home so late. I said, ‘I’m forty-six years old. Are you saying I have a curfew? I wasn’t planning to come back at all.’ I told him, ‘I can’t live like this.’ He said, ‘I’m sorry. I’ll phone the Health Department and have them come another day.’ I said, ‘They’re not going to drop everything and come here, when they’ve already been turned away once. They may charge you for the visit.’

“I do the cooking, the cleaning. Before I moved in he said he kept his place very clean. It was a mess. It took me an entire day to wash the floors, the fridge. There was some kind of dairy product that had gone bad in the sink. That nearly made me sick. I bought groceries. He was supposed to buy some, but he hasn’t. We’re down to our last slice of bread.

“He doesn’t do anything, but make messes after I’ve cleaned up, and piss on the toilet seat. He said that if I’m concerned with the bed bugs he’ll share his bed with me. ‘No, thanks!’ I said. ‘I have no interest in sleeping with any man.’

He said, ‘Oh, Joy, I would never touch you. You don’t have to worry about that.’ I said, ‘I’ve heard that before.’

“I wish Chester would bathe more often. I have a shower every morning. He has one a week. All the guys are smelling a bit ripe now.

“I’ve heard from Rodent that Jake wants me to write to him. Why would I do that? I still love him, but I don’t have a death wish.

“I heard that Silver is at the Mission Hospice recovering.”

I said, “I know that he had an appointment with his doctor, last Thursday, to see about the swelling in his ankle. I haven’t seen him since.”

Joy said, “Chili may have to have both of her legs amputated. I’m so angry with her. I told her months ago to have the swelling in her knee taken care of. She’s been smashing cocaine into her arm and it’s become infected. The infection has spread to both legs as high as her hips.”

At noon I met my friendsat the curb near the park. Joy was waiting for her worker. We saw a Salvation Army van pass by and stop near the park. Joy walked over, but the van left before she arrived. Shortly after, her worker arrived. They were gone for about twenty minutes.

While Joy was away I talked to Jacques. He said, “I’m looking for a new apartment also. They raised my rent in June by three percent. It was $685., now it’s $710. I can’t afford that. I’ve had to cancel my cable. I tried to fix up an antenna using wire, but now I only get a few channels and they aren’t very clear. I saw an ad in this newspaper — on Donald Street I can get an antenna for $6.99. That’s not too bad if it works. I’m going to go there this afternoon to talk to them about it.”

“You’re going to miss living by Dow’s Lake.” I said.

“Yes, it’s a great bachelor apartment, but it has bed bugs. I’ve told the landlord about them, I suggested that he remove the carpet. It doesn’t matter what kind of floor is underneath. He isn’t interested in having it removed. I’m not paying $710. for a place with bed bugs. I hear that Chester has them too. They’re everywhere.

“I talked to Serge yesterday about us sharing a two bedroom apartment somewhere. He seemed interested, but today he isn’t here. I think he’s staying at his friend William’s place, while he is away. He has his own key.”

When Joy came back she said, “That was a waste of time. I still can’t see a doctor until they get my identification sorted out. They’ve moved the viewing of the apartment to two o’clock tomorrow. At least that’s something to look forward to.”

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bwgroup

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4 September 2012,

Today is the first workday after the Labor Day, long weekend. I had a relaxing time at the lake and was anxious to hear any news from my friends. Metro was handing out newspapers as usual. “Good morning, Dennis. Did you have a good weekend?”

“It was great, Metro. How was yours?”

“Good! Are you hoping to see Joy this morning? I haven’t seen her. Maybe she’s still recovering from the weekend.”

I didn’t see her in her usual spot. I looked across the intersection for Silver, but his spot was vacant also. Pat was nowhere to be seen. I was surprised at how disappointed I felt. I wondered about the results of Silver’s appointment with his doctor. I wondered how Joy’s viewing of an apartment went on Friday. Even Shakes, who I sometimes see in the morning, is getting a new apartment. I wonder if he’s moved yet. Sleeping outdoors is so dangerous, I can’t help but worry. Hopefully I’ll see them at noon.

Sitting on the curb near the park, all alone, was Silver. “Hi,” I said, “How was the appointment with your doctor?”

“It was fine. He took some blood tests, but I won’t get the results until next week. I have another appointment for a week Thursday. He should be able to tell me something then. I showed him how swollen my ankles were. He didn’t tell me what was causing the swelling.”

“You were telling me that you had varicose veins, perhaps it’s a circulation problem.”

“That’s what I think it is, but I won’t know for sure until next week.”

“How are you sleeping?” I asked.

“I’ve been sleeping okay. I woke up at 6:30 this morning, did what I had to do, then went back to bed and slept for another couple of hours. I didn’t bother panning today.”

“How was your weekend?”

“It was quiet. My neighbor, Don and I ordered a pizza and watched some movies. That’s about all.”

“I’ll talk to you a bit later, Silver. I’m just going up to say hello to the rest of the guys.” Sitting on the lawn was Little Jake. Standing at the park railing was Shark, Andre, Jacques and Danny who had a guitar case strapped to his back.

“Hi Danny, I said, “I didn’t know you played guitar.”

Shark said, “Either did he, but he knows how to hock it.”

Jacques said, “Maybe it’s not a guitar in the case. Maybe it’s a gun, like in a movie I saw a while ago. There was an Elvis convention and these five guys, dressed in Elvis costumes, robbed a casino. Kurt Russell was in it and another guy with long hair in a ponytail. He was a mean one, shooting into the crowd with a machine gun.”

Jake said, “That was Kevin Costner. The movie was called 3000 Miles to Graceland.”

Shark said, “Dennis meet your new neighbor, Jake. He’s moving into Elaine’s old place, if the landlord ever gets around to fixing it up. He’s supposed to change the carpet, but he didn’t do that when Elaine moved in. He’s drunk most of the time. He knows all the people in the building who drink and will come to the door and ask, ‘Can I have a beer?’ I’ll say, ‘No, but you can take these empties, since you’re here.’ Otherwise the maintenance man will go rooting through the trash for them. You’ll see the landlord drinking on the front steps. If not there, he’ll be on the back steps. The maintenance guy moves things from one apartment to another. When you view the place everything looks all nice and new, then they switch the nice furniture for crap.

“It took Irene ten months to get out of that place. The landlord said that she would be on probation for the first three months, then he was supposed to have her sign a lease, but he never brought it around. When she was moving out he said, ‘You know you’re breaking your lease.’ I said to him, ‘She never signed a lease you drunken bastard. There’s no lease to break.’ He said, ‘You don’t have to get nasty about it.’

“Eventually, we’re going to get all new furniture. Irene and I have a difference of opinion when it comes to buying things. She always wants to buy what’s cheap; like her mattress, she paid $125.00, I paid $300.00, but mine is twice as thick as hers. I don’t want to be sleeping on something that has pieces of metal sticking out. If I want something I pay for it, I don’t care what it costs.”

“So, when are you moving, Jake?”

“They’re supposed to get back to me, but I think it should be next week or the week after.”

Jacques said, “Those Salvation Army people, they don’t look very hard for an apartment for you. It’s okay if you find one yourself, then they’ll help you with moving. Otherwise, they’re useless.”

Danny said, “I nearly had a place lined up last week. I told the landlord that my disability pension would cover the first $450.00 of the rent. If there were any extras my mom would pay them. He could just give her the bank information and she would deposit a check every month. She’s an elder and a Clan leader. She’s been handling my finances for the last twenty years because of my addiction problems.”

“Andre, how was your weekend?” I asked.

“The weekend was pretty wild, but I’m trying to keep it cool today. I have to see my worker to arrange for my identification and my health card, again. This time I’m going to have them keep a copy on my file in case I lose them.

“Here are my workers now.” Two women walked into the park and Andre met them.

Jacques said, “Who are those two? I thought it was a big guy and a girl who came around. Maybe they fired him because he wasn’t doing his job.”

I asked, “Jacques, did you hear if Joy got her place?”

“I saw her Saturday, no it was Friday. She went with her worker, then she was going to 507 to pick up an air mattress.”

“Yes, she didn’t want to bring bed bugs into her new place.”

“It’s best if you don’t have carpets. They make nests everywhere in carpets. I found a big spider web with lots of dead bed bug husks. I love the spiders, me. I don’t mind how many I have of them as long as they keep eating the bed bugs.”

Jake said, “I saw Chester having breakfast at the Mission, but Joy wasn’t there.”

Shark received a telephone call, “Yes, Elaine?” he said. “What’s Hippo doing there? Tell him to get out. Tell him anything — tell him you and Kat have to go out. Tell him you have to go to the doctor. That’s what we had to do last night. We were at Buck’s playing Bingo. Trudy wanted to wash the floors. So Buck said, ‘Okay, Hippo, time to go.’ He left with no problem.

To me he said, “We’ve got Kat with us now.”

“You have a cat?”

“No, Kat is a person, a friend of Elaine’s. She’s over there now. She’s small, doesn’t take up much space — not like Hippo. When we sweep, we can just ask her to lift her feet, there’s no problem.

“Silver hasn’t moved in the last twenty minutes. Is he okay? I don’t think he’s drinking today, is he?”

“Yeah, “ I said, “he has a beer on the go. He’s not feeling too well.”

“I know he went to the doctor last Thursday. Elaine said to me, ‘Make sure he goes to his appointment.’ Our doctors are both in the same direction. He goes to Sandy Hill Clinic, my doctor is further up, but my appointments are Mondays and Wednesdays. Thursday he’s on his own.

I want to go to Brantford to visit my son, but my dad said, ‘It’s not a good time.’ I’d like to go for two weeks but I have to arrange it with my doctor. I said to him, ‘You phone my dad and arrange it. I can’t get anything out of him.’ ”

It was time for me to go. I said good-bye to everyone and headed on my way. Danny was walking ahead of me with the guitar case on his back.

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bench

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30 August 2012

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

“How are you, Serge?”

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

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

“No.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“How have you been?” I asked.

“Fine, I’ve been working.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sample my books for free — To date, $1945.00 has been donated to the homeless:
Gotta Find a Home: Conversations with Street People
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group3

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29 Aug 2012

This morning Joy’s spot was vacant. I looked north on Metcalfe Street towards Parliament Hill. Hippo was on the west side, Silver was on the east, in his usual spot in front of Starbucks.

I sat beside Hippo. “How’s it going with your housing application?” I asked.

“Great,” he said. I got a place on Charlevoix Street, or some French name like that. It’ll be ready for the first of October. They’re completely renovating the building, including new parquet flooring. There won’t be any carpets – I’m glad of that. I won’t have to worry about bed bugs.”

I said, “I was talking to Bruce yesterday. He had to take his sleeping bag to the laundromat to have it dried. Have you had any problems with water seeping in where you are?”

“No, we’re just over there, on the other side of Starbucks, behind the dumpsters. We put up a roof. It’s nice and dry. We just pile up the cardboard and go to sleep. I found it really cold last night.”

“Have you seen Andre, lately?” I asked.

“No, the last time I saw him, he was going to visit red-haired Debbie. He asked if I wanted to come, but I said no. I really don’t like her, but Andre seems to like her fine.”

“Andre was telling me that Sharon was out of prison. Have you seen her?”

“I saw her once. We call her the super bitch, but not to her face. She fights like a man.”

I said, “That’s what I heard from Andre. She’s the one who punched Magdalene. I’m going across the street to talk to Silver. Will I see you at noon?”

“Yeah, I’ll be there. I’ll see you then.”

I walked across the street to talk to Silver, “How are you feeling? You have your doctor’s appointment today, don’t you?”

“Yeah, I’m going to the Sandy Hill Clinic at one o’clock. It’s on Nelson just off Rideau. That’s where my doctor is. I’ve been going to him for a long time. I asked my worker about him. She said he’s a good doctor, so I keep seeing him. It’s important to have a doctor that you can depend on. I know a lot of people who don’t have their own doctor.”

At the park were nearly a dozen of my human friends and Shaggy. Hawk and his dog Dillinger dropped by later.

“Silver,” I said. I guess you’re getting ready for your doctor’s appointment this afternoon.”

“No, I got that mixed up. It’s tomorrow. Today is ladies day.”

I walked over and shook hands with Outcast. “Hi,” I said.

“Dennis, what time is it?”

“It’s about five after eleven.”

“I don’t usually see you here until noon. You’ve thrown my whole schedule off. Don’t do that again.”

“Okay, Outcast, I’ll keep that in mind.”

I sat next to Joy, “How are you feeling now?”

“I’m really sick. I’ve been throwing up blood, and from the other end as well. My poo isn’t black it’s red. Don’t tell any one.” She was near tears. “I feel dizzy and have a full blown migraine. I just want to go home and lie down. I think it may be from the bed bug spray I’ve been using. I’ve got some powder now. I’ll see if that’s any better.”

Following are some of the side effects of common bed bug sprays:

Pyrethroids:
Inhalation: coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, runny or stuffy nose, chest pain, or difficulty breathing.
Skin contact: rash, itching, or blisters.

Long term effects: disrupts the endocrine system by mimicking the female hormone, estrogen, thus causing excessive estrogen levels in females. In human males, its estrogenizing (feminizing) effects include lowered sperm counts. In both, it can lead to the abnormal growth of breast tissue, leading to development of breasts in males and cancerous breast tissue in both male and females.

Neurotoxic effects include: tremors, incoordination, elevated body temperature, increased aggressive behavior, and disruption of learning. Laboratory tests suggest that permethrin is more acutely toxic to children than to adults.

Other: A known carcinogen. There is evidence that pyrethroids harm the thyroid gland. Causes chromosomal damage in hamsters and mice; deformities in amphibians; blood abnormalities in birds.

I said to Joy, “Shouldn’t you see a doctor?”

“I can’t. I still don’t have my health card. I talked with my worker this morning. She checked with Oasis – the woman I dealt with before, back in April, didn’t even submit my request. They have nothing on file. It’s been sent now. It’ll take about three weeks until I get it in the mail.

“They may have a place for me as early as August 15. I told them that I don’t want to be in a crack house. I want someplace safe with no bugs. An apartment would be ideal. I’d like to be on one of the lower floors, so I’d be able to climb over the balcony and drop to the ground if necessary.

“If that place isn’t available, or if I don’t like it, there’s another coming vacant September first. I get to take a look at them next week.

“I have to get away from Chester. He’s a nice man, but I’m tired of all the noises he makes. He grunts and groans when he sits down or stands up. I have no time to myself. It used to be that he would be asleep when I got up in the morning, then I’d have peace and quiet while I was drinking my tea. Lately, he’s been getting up when I get up. I don’t want to have to talk to people that early.

“I’m going to leave soon. There are some people here that I really don’t care to be around.

“I have to go by Chuck’s old place. My check may have been left in the mailbox. I’ll just sneak up and take a look.”

Joy left to talk to Silver, so I sat with Elaine and Outcast. “How is your new apartment, Elaine?”

“It’s great. We’re still moving things around.”

“Shark said you had a plastic Mickey Mouse stapled to the wall.”

“Yeah, that’s in Shark’s games room. Outcast came over with his tools yesterday to hook up our satellite and the cable TV. He used a three-way splitter so we have TV in the bedroom, living room and in Shark’s room. The TV is free.”

“How are you feeling today?”

“I feel better than I did yesterday. I just had a couple of beer today. I had a terrible hangover yesterday.”

Anastasia came over and sat by me, she said. “Elaine was telling me that you live in our neighborhood, or Elaine’s old neighborhood. I live on Silver at Dorchester. I take the number fourteen bus.”

“Yes, that’s the same one I take. Once, on the bus, I met Shark and Irene. They got off three stops before I did. I live just off Kirkwood.”

“I’ve never seen you there. What times do you take it?”

“I leave for work at 8:00 in the morning and come home at 6:00 in the evening, unless I go to the gym after work, in which case I catch the 8:30.

“Those aren’t my times.

“They’ve just sprayed my apartment for bed bugs, but they didn’t get all of them. I phoned the exterminator, now he says they might be in the woodwork, or in my books. He didn’t tell me that before. He should have given me a full account of what he could do and what he couldn’t. He didn’t do that.

“I went to the Salvation Army to get some bed bug powder. They wouldn’t give it to me. They said that I had to be homeless. Well, I’m the next thing to it. I’m on disability pension. Sometimes, I think I’d be better off to just shut my door and move to the Sally Ann.

“I didn’t get to visit my family this summer. The other day I lost my upper front tooth. It just fell out. It was an implant, it cost me a thousand dollars. All my other teeth are fine. They can’t put a bridge there, but they can get me a ‘flipper’. Some people have told me that it’s difficult to chew when you have a ‘flipper’. They take it out when they eat.”

I said goodbye to everyone, and told Joy I’d see her in the morning.

Sample my books for free — To date, $1945.00 has been donated to the homeless:
Gotta Find a Home: Conversations with Street People
http://buff.ly/1SGzGCY ($.99 Download)
http://buff.ly/1qLHptc ($.99 Download)
https://buff.ly/2lUfp6Q ($.99 Download)
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Podcasts:http://buff.ly/1Pxlf9p
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panhandeling-women

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28 August 2012

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

“Hi Joy, you’re all bundled up.”

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

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

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

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

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

“Just nauseous,” she said.

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

“I’ve got no use for her,” said Joy.

“Why is that?”

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

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

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

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

Joy asked, “Where’s Inuk?”

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

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

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

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

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

I said, ‘No.’

‘Can you describe her?’ she asked.

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

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

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

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

“Allright!” said Joy, “Thanks!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

salvationarmy

.

27 August 2012

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

“How are you feeling, Silver?”

“Fine.”

“How is your stomach?”

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

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

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

“Not good.”

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

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

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

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

“That’s it.”

“So, what happened Sunday?”

“Where?”

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

“No, I didn’t have a problem.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yes I was.”

“Did the piggies come by?”

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

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

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

“I’m fine.”

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

“When did I say that?”

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

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

“So, your feeling better now?”

“Yeah, I got my booze,” he chuckled.

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

“See you.”

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

“How are you, Dennis?” asked Bruce.

“I’m fine, how about you?”

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

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

I said, “Joy doesn’t do Mondays.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Bruce, are you ready to go?”

“Yeah, just let me refill my bottle,”

Silver asked, “With apple juice?”

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

“Is anyone collecting?” asked Bruce.

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

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

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

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

“See you tomorrow, Dennis,” they said.

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.

ottawacops

.

24 August 2012

Even though it’s still August, the mornings have been cool but not jacket weather, yet. At noon it’ll be hot. Joy had a big smile for me when I arrived.

“How is it going this morning, Joy? Do you mind is I sit down, or will that interfere with your panning?”

“I don’t care. It’s been a good morning. I’m happy, surprisingly. My legs are sore from the fibromyalgia. My left hip is stiff and it feels hot to the touch. I guess that’s arthritis. I wonder if it’s the same thing that Big  Jake has. Rodent gets his letters from Millhaven. He also contacts him, through prison message boards, on the internet. He told me that Jake’s using a cane. He’s having trouble with the same hip I am. Rodent asked me if it’s catching.”

I asked, “How long do you think they’ll keep Little Jake at Hope Recovery?”

“Just overnight, he’s probably out now. I remember once, when I was staying at Cornerstone — the women’s shelter — I got really wasted. I couldn’t even ring the doorbell. I did a face plant against the front glass doors. At the desk they said, ‘It’s Hope Recovery for you tonight, sister.’ I said, ‘No, just help me to my room and I’ll pass out like I do every night; but no, they phoned the outreach workers and they came to pick me up.

“The next morning when I woke up I couldn’t remember anything about the night before. I had two hundred dollars in my jeans pocket, three bottles of sherry and a gram of weed in my backpack. I have no idea where I got the money. For days, I was looking over my shoulder. I thought maybe I had robbed somebody.

“I don’t know what happened to Little Jake yesterday. He seemed fairly sober when I went up there in the morning. Chester went on a liquor run, then Jake mixed one of his Jakenators — beer with sherry. All of a sudden he was wasted.

“It didn’t help that Andre was throwing his bottle around, and making comments to women passing on the sidewalk. They don’t want that on their lunch breaks. I’ve seen some women give him real dirty looks. I saw one stop at the bottom of the hill and make a call on her cell phone. Ten minutes later the police arrived.

“The last thing we need is someone drawing attention. Andre has been in town for five years. He knows the rules.

“I’m glad that Shakes’ is getting treatment at Innes. They probably have him on Lithium, Valium and an alcohol drip. That’s what I was on the last time I was there. It prevents the shakes from alcohol withdrawal. I was just there for the weekend. I slept most of the time. They just left the jug of tea outside my cell. I had no appetite, all I wanted was something warm.

I said, “Silver’s looking awfully thin. He says he has stomach problems and has made an appointment with his doctor. He says that he’s not eating enough.”

Joy said, “I think he’s back on crack. He gets a check every month, but he eats at restaurants. He has a small fridge, he could stock it with vegetables, and in his little freezer compartment he could have frozen meat. He’s alcoholic, he has to eat.

“Chester’s coming down later to have a coffee. He was by earlier, but I said, ‘Sorry, I don’t have a Tim Horton’s card yet.’ We’re going to the food bank at St. Jo’s later. We need to stock up for the weekend. I always make sure we have lots of vegetables in the fridge. Chester can’t carry very much, but I can get a lot in my backpack. Then we take the bus home.”

“Was Chester asleep when you left this morning?”

“No, I had a coughing fit. I tried to eat, but it came back up. He said it didn’t wake him up, but before that, I heard him snoring.

“When I finish here, I have to go wake up Andre. We both have an appointment at the Salvation Army. My worker is going to look into why it’s taking so long to get my identification papers. I’m going to get her to keep a set in my file, for the next time I lose them. She’s also going to help me get my meds. I really should be on them.

“Outcast was pissed with me last Saturday. He got it in his head that Chester phoned Debbie and told her that Outcast and I had been sleeping together. Chester said he didn’t call, and Debbie’s smart enough to figure things out on her own.

“She also thinks he’s been stealing her pot. He said to me, ‘Oh no, Debbie keeps that in a safe.’ I’m sure that Outcast has watched her open it, and knows the combination.

“Now, he’s got no money and he can’t borrow any because everyone knows he’s a thief – the worst kind of thief, who steals from his friends.”

After I left Joy, I saw Sunny at the pay phone in front of the library. He said to me, “Can you believe this, I’m trying to call the University of Ottawa, and nobody’s answering. Did you hear that I was on the Money Show?”

I said, you mentioned being on the Lowell Green Show. You played me the tape.”

“No, this was Wednesday evening, Lowell Green was on Monday. I was promoting my idea of the solar-powered monorail.”

“I read on the internet about the one in Bologna, Spain. It seems like a good idea. I think that’s the way we should go.”

“I’m glad to hear you say that. Here, I’ve got something for you. These green and purple ribbons are the colors of my Peace and Justice party. I’d be honored if you’d wear them. May I take your photo?”

“Sure, “ I said. “I have to go to work now, but I’ll talk to you next week.”

On my way to the park I saw Serge and William. “How are you today, Serge?”

“Oh, not so good.”

“I hope you’re feeling better soon. Have a good weekend, if I don’t see you later.”

At the park I met a half dozen of the regulars. Wolf was sorting things in Shaggy’s canopy-covered cart. When he turned around I was sitting on the grass beside Joy.

“Dennis,” said Wolf, “I didn’t mean to ignore you, well yes I did, I had some things to sort out first. Eventually, eventually, mind you, I was meaning to turn around and say hello to you. So, hello, Dennis.”

“Hello Wolf, I was sure you were going to say hello to me.”

Willy said, “Dennis, are you really sure that Wolf was going to say hello to you?”

“No, Willy, I’m not sure of nothin’.”

Wolf had a bag of treats.  Joy asked if she could feed Shaggy. She put one of the treats on the lawn, about three feet from Shaggy, then moved her hand towards it, as if she were going to take it back. Shaggy lunged and nearly bit Joy’s wrist.

“Bitch,” said Joy

Shakes had been released from the Ottawa Carleton Detention Center, on Innes Road. I said to him, “Hi Shakes, when did they let you out?”

“Yesterday. I was inside for six days. The court screws saw that the sole of my shoe was flapping. They gave me new shoes.”

Willy asked, “What were you charged with, vagrancy?”

“No, it was a breach. I’m not allowed within five hundred feet of Mc D’s on Bank. I’m not sure how far that is, but it’s more than a foot.”

Willy said, “That was well put, Shakes.”

Two bicycle cops, one male, one female rode up. Shaggy barked.

The female cop did all the talking, “Jake, do you understand the conditions of your probation?”

“Yes, I understand – no pan handling.”

“Shakes, I see you have some court documents.”

“Yes, I’m now allowed within five hundred feet of Mags and Fags.”

“You say, you’re not allowed within five hundred feet of Mags and Fags.”

“I am allowed.”

“Okay, Shakes.”

“The rest of you, any alcohol? Are you staying out of trouble?”

Joy said, “Two of us are just leaving for St. Jo’s food bank on Cumberland.”

“What time does that open?”

“One o’clock.”

“Okay, we’ll leave you alone then.”

They left and everyone breathed a sigh of relief. Willy said, “I had about two inches of beer in my can, when I saw them coming. I just turned around and pushed it over the railing. I didn’t lose too much.”

Wolf said, “I’m glad they didn’t check Shaggy’s cart. I had my beer in there.”

Shakes said, “I’ve got a gram of pot in my underwear, but I can’t find it.” He then proceeded to pull down his sweat pants and search for the missing pot.”

Willy said, “Shakes, I hope you’re not intending to share that with anybody. I don’t want anything to do with pot that’s been in your underwear. It’s going to taste of shit and ball sweat.”

“It’s in a plastic bag.”

Joy said, “Shakes, for God’s sake, pull up your pants. I’m seeing way too much, and it isn’t pretty. The cops will be coming back.”

To me she said, “I’ve seen Shakes down and out before, but never this bad. He’s incontinent, he wears Depends. He’s so weak, he can barely get up by himself. He’s not taking care of his burn scars. He doesn’t care. It’s sad.”

As I was standing with the group — everyone packing their bags, picking up their cushions — I saw Wanda, a woman I work with. I waved. She looked at me, with a disapproving look, and walked on — she didn’t wave.

Sometimes, I question what it is I’m doing. I have arguments with health workers whose job it is to treat people with dementia and Alzheimer’s. They say, ‘I can feel empathy with people who are sick — not of their own doing, but alcoholics have brought this on themselves. With our health care system, everybody pays for their choices.’ I agree, the shelters cost money, welfare costs money, jails cost money, the police cost money; but looking at my friends, in their varying states of ability and disability, their personal motivations to struggle with addiction or give in to it, I know it’s more complicated. I don’t know the answers; day by day, I’m beginning to understand the situation.

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English: A SUBWAY Club 6" sandwich.

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

14 May 2012

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

“How’s it going, bro?”

“Great, Nick!”

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

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

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

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

Wet Program: Shepherd’s of Good Hope

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Hi, Richard,” I said.

“God bless, he said.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Sounds good.”

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.

11 May 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Like Kenny Rogers, yes.”

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

“I’m good Hippo, how about you?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Do you still ride?”

“No. Do you?”

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

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

“Sure, no problem.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“So, why are you in a bad mood?”

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

“We’ve got pot.”

“You mean, you’ve got pot.”

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

“That goof, no thanks!”.

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

“I got a bottle coming.”

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

“I will tomorrow.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Women rule!” I said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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7 May 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Because, I choose not to be, dude!”

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

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

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

“I could do that.” I said.

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

“I’m staying at the Mission.”

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

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

“How was your weekend, Joy?”

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

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

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

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

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

“Good evening, sir,” he said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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