Posts Tagged ‘unconditional love’

panhandlers-topper

18 June 2013

As I was approaching the park, Danny came running to meet me. “Dennis, I hate to ask, but could you spare me some bus tickets? Yesterday, Shakes jumped the bus and I was left walking, but it turned out for the best. I ran into a lady I know and she wants to buy two of my paintings. She offered to drive me to where I was going to visit a friend, so that worked out. When I got to my friend’s place, he wasn’t home, so I ended up walking the rest of the way.”

“How long did it take you to walk home?”

“About three hours, but I didn’t mind walking. I’m a fast walker. I’ve got a painting that I’m working on. I’ll bring it out” The image, outlined with a wood burning tool, was of an eagle in flight. “See the way its wings are up and his claws extended. He’s swooping. I’m going to put a rabbit over to the side here.  He won’t have caught the rabbit, but he will. That’s the way they hunt; they swoop and grab.”

Shakess said, “The same thing happened to me a few days ago. The bus driver wouldn’t let me on the bus because I didn’t have the full fare. I walked to the mall and tried a few different buses.  I told the driver, ‘Look, I’ve only got $1.63 and I’ve got no other way to get home.’ Luckily one of them let me ride. I started at 5:30 and didn’t get home until 10:30.”

I sat near Joy. She was going through her purse, then called Chester over. “Have you got any money?” Chester checked his pockets and said, “I’ve got $3.60.” Joy said, “That will just make it. Hippo, can you make a run for me?”

“Sure!”

Joy waved the money at him. He indicated that she should bring it to him. Finally, he came over to get it.  Joy said, “Look, if  it’s too much trouble, I can try to get in there myself.”

“No, it’s okay.”

“You say it’s okay, but you’re not moving.”

Hippo said, “What? You want me to run there? I can run.”

Gaston said, “Yes, show us the Hippo trot.”

Hippo said, “If you think I’m fat. Look at the guy coming down the sidewalk.”

Joy said, “It’s not his fault. He doesn’t eat much. It’s some kind of eating disorder.”

Gaston said, “Yes, it’s glandular.”

Hippo headed toward the liquor store. Joy said, “I swear, when he brings that bottle back I’m going home, alone. He’s been over four times in the last week. Sunday he came over at 4:30. I was already in my boxers, ready to settle in and watch TV. I was cooking supper and I’d only cooked enough for myself.  I hate eating when there is somebody looking at me, drooling, so I told him to help himself. That didn’t leave very much for me. I told him, “Look man, don’t come over at such weird hours.’  The next morning he came over at 10:30. I was just sweeping up. I said, ‘I really don’t want company now. I’ve got things to do.’

“I have a hard time affording food for myself,  let alone feeding someone else. He has his mommy to put money in his bank account, but I never see him then; only when he wants something.

“If  I weren’t waiting for Hippo, I’d be outa here. The cops are sure to come, especially with so many people and Frank being as loud as he is. Bearded Bruce came by earlier with  bottles of vodka, sherry and some kind of dark beer in a green can. He mixed them all together and called it a brucinator. Frank had most of it and you know how obnoxious he gets when he’s wasted.”

A cell phone started ringing. Jacques said, “That’s an incoming call! It shows that I’m important!” He spoke a few words then brought the phone to Joy, he said, “It’s Chili, for you.”

“Hi sweetie, how are you doing… What do you mean you’re a hop, skip and a jump from here… You’re at the mall?… Are you coming here?… If you are I’ll stick around, otherwise I’m leaving… I’ll see you tomorrow then… I better not see any smash marks on your arms and legs, or I’ll slap you silly. I’m also going to check between your toes… Okay, good-bye.  Stupid chick. There are three buildings there. She has her own apartment, but she has half the complex staying at her place. They’re all getting high.”

I asked, “Is she still in a wheelchair?”

“They’d put her in a walker, but she got fucked up again. She went to hospital and is back in a wheelchair.”

I asked, “What is the problem with her legs?”

“She doesn’t take care of herself. She’ll get a small cut, or damage an artery with a hypodermic needle. It’ll get infected, then she gets blood clots. If it’s not taken care of,  it causes death of tissue in the limb. It also affects the immune system.  The same thing happened to me. See this scar below my knee? It was a cut that got infected.  They gave me a powerful antibiotic and said, ‘If this doesn’t work, we’re going to have to amputate your leg.’ That’s the position she’s in.”

“We’re you on crack then?”

“No, just on booze.”

 

 

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panhandeling-women
 
18 June 2013

This morning after getting off the bus, greeting Metro, I noticed Joy’s feet sticking out from behind a pillar. I fished in my wallet for bus tickets,  Joy always  needs them, or else she’ll try to hop the bus from the back door.

I didn’t notice Chester approaching. He asked, “Are those for me?”

I declined, “No thanks, Chester, you hang on to them.”

When I approached Joy she was huddled over, her sweater pulled over her knees. “I’m definitely under dressed for this weather.”

“How have you been feeling?”

“Not so good, I’ve got a pain like something I swallowed didn’t go down right; but I get that pain if I swallow spit. It’s because of this cage I’ve got in my chest. It deems to be going away now. I’ve still been having dizzy spells, like I get before I’m going to have a seizure. It happened yesterday at home. I was watching television, then this wave of dizziness came over me. I looked around my apartment for my medication. I usually keep a stash somewhere, but couldn’t find it. I lay down on the bed. I  must have passed out because I woke up on the floor.

“The torn rotator cuff I have, has turned purple. I can’t lift my arm. Have a look at this.” She lifted her bandana to reveal a split in her eyebrow. “I took the legs off my bed, so next time I won’t have as far to fall.

“This afternoon I have an appointment with my women to see about furniture. I hope I don’t have to pay for delivery, because I’m strapped. These people are supposed to help people without money. They aren’t offering much help.”

I commented, “You moved into your apartment seven months ago? And you still don’t have furniture?”

“I moved in November ninth.”

“How has it been going with Jake? You mentioned that he would be coming over.”

“Yeah,  he was over on the weekend. I fixed him supper. He was over again last night. He’s really fat. He’s in a wheelchair and doesn’t know how to use it very well —  I used to be able to do wheelies in mine. He says he’s two hundred and thirty, but he’s way more than that. He’s really getting it at the Sally. Guys will just come up to him and give him a shot in the back of the head, or a one, two, three combination. I said to him, ‘Well, in the past, you shouldn’t have been such an asshole, to so many people.’

“He noticed the condoms in my drawer. He asked, ‘Who are these for?’ I said, ‘For you, if I ever decide to fuck you.’ There’s no way I’d let him do it without a condom. Who knows what diseases he’s carrying. He asked, ‘Have there been any other guys you’ve been with?’ I said, ‘No, I’ve been waiting for you.’ There’s no spark though. Nothing at all. He asked if he could come over today, but I said, ‘I’ve got an appointment with my women. I don’t know how long that’s going to take.’ He said, ‘Well, I can’t come Wednesday, because I’ve got my piss test.’ It seems crazy. He’s got a condition on his parole that he doesn’t drink, but they warn him before he’s tested. He has plenty of time to get it out of his system.”

I said, “You mentioned that he had been sober for a while.”

“All the time he’s been inside, but there’s the jailhouse hooch. Everybody drinks that. It’s easier to get drugs there than it is on the outside. He was drinking and smoking pot on the weekend.

“He’s acting really dependent, like I should be catering to him or something. When I told him it was time for him to go home he asked, ‘Will you push my chair to the bus stop?’ all whiny like. I said, ‘There’s a slight hill from here to the bus stop, you can make it there yourself. Maybe when I can afford to get a cell phone, you can phone me from the bottom of the hill and I’ll come and push you.’

Chester came back with only one coffee. He said, “They aren’t taking the coupons any more. They’d only give me one coffee.”

“Don’t worry about it, they’ll be having another roll up the rim to win soon. ” Joy showed me a clear plastic box with dozens of torn coffee rims. “A woman just dropped these in my hat. I guess she didn’t want to wait until the next promotion.”

 

 

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14 June 2013

Tim Hortons Coffee & Bake Shop

Tim Horton’s Coffee & Bake Shop (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I approached Shakes, sprawled as usual, on the sidewalk. I noticed that he wasn’t wearing his trademark hat, leather with a shell band. I asked, “How is your day going?”

“Terrible!”

“What’s wrong?”

“I was robbed. They took everything: my three grams, my bottle, my pack, my wallet, my house keys. They even took my hat.”

“How did it happen? Were you jumped?”

“No, I passed out. When I woke up everything was gone.”

“You mentioned that your wallet was missing. Did you have your health papers in there?”

“I don’t know what I had in there. You know how it is, I don’t look in there unless I need to.”

“Will you be able to get into your apartment?”

“I got an extra apartment key. I’d left it at the convenience store that gives me credit. What I don’t have is a key for the main door. They say they’re going to charge me fifty dollars to get a new one. Steve, over there lives in the same building that I do.”

“So, he’ll be able to let you in.”

“I don’t know. Maybe I’ll  have to climb up the balcony.”

“Do you think you could do that?”

“I don’t know. We’ll have to see. Forty years ago I could shimmy up any tree there was.”

Jake said, “Dennis, I’ve got something funny to tell you. It was around Christmas time. I went over to Shakes’ place, because he owed me something. I forget what it was. Anyway, it was three o’clock in the morning. I parked my self — my back against his door — and started pounding with my elbows and yelling ,’Matches, let me in!’ He opened the door, grabbed my jacket by the hood, dragged me down the hall and threw me down the marble stairs. I was so drunk I couldn’t feel anything. I found it so funny I just lay at the bottom of the stairs laughing. Shakes said, ‘Merry Christmas!’ Then walked back to his apartment. The hood was ripped off my coat. I managed to crawl home, somehow. I don’t remember that part.

“Do you know what I wake up to every morning? A photo of Bear after Animal died. Bearded Bruce had it framed and gave it to me. It’s just Bear, and part of Bruce. It makes me smile every time I look at it.”

Wolf said, “I’m having a great day. A lady came by — I may have seen her before. She gave me a bag with a bandanna for Shaggy. See, it has paw prints on it. She also gave me two Tim Horton’s cards worth five dollars each, some dog treats and this book, “A Bird in the House” by Margaret Laurence. I don’t know who she is, but I started right in reading it. Some women came by and told me about the story. I like it.

“Margaret Laurence is a very good writer,” I said. “I’ve read, The Stone Angel and The Diviners by her. I’m sure you’ll like the book.”

“I liked the horse book you gave me. I didn’t think I would,  so, maybe I’ll like this too. I was just so impressed that the lady thought about me and took the trouble to put this bag together.  She’s a good person. It really made my day. I’m still happy — but now I have to take a piss. When I get back we can talk more about books. There’s no point trying to talk to to Shakesor Jake. They wouldn’t know what I was talking about.”

Deaf Donald came by and, pointing to an empty spot on the curb, asked, “Is any body here?… Is anybody here?”

Little Jake said, “No, sit down.”

“What did you say?”

“I said, sit the fuck down.”

“What’s your problem? I just asked if anybody was sitting here. I’ll remember what you said. What did I do wrong? I don’t know what it is that I did.”

“Donald, come here and sit down.  You didn’t do anything wrong.”

Donald sat on the blanket where Wolf had been sitting. Wolf came back and said, “What the fuck are you doing on my blanket!  Did I give you permission to sit there. You don’t just sit down on someone’s blanket. Now, get the fuck away from here!”

Donald, with tears in his eyes, said to Frank, “You told me to sit there. Why did you do that?”

“I told you to sit down. I didn’t tell you to sit there.”

Donald said, “I’m having a really bad day. Last month my grandma died. I’ve just learned that my mom’s dying of cancer and she’s kicked me out of her house.”

“Donald, for Christ’s sake, I’m sorry, man!” said Wolf. “I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings. I’m just a cantankerous, grumpy old man. You know that.  Ask anybody.”

I said, “I agree with that. How about you Jake, do you agree? Shakes? Is Wolf a cantankerous, grumpy old man?”

There was a resounding, “Yes!” Wolf and Donald shook hands and Wolf returned to where he was sitting.”

Gaston said to me, “I read that this location is rated number ten in the city as far as homeless people are concerned. The Mackenzie Bridge is rated number one.”

I asked, “Who establishes these ratings, and what’s the criteria?

“I don’t know. I’m wondering how we can get moved up the scale. I hate that we’re coming in last. What does that say about us?

“I’ve been working on the book I’m writing. It’s been twelve years since I started. It’s finally coming together.”

“Have you published any other books, in English?”

“Yes, in 1992. It didn’t do much. The title is, Tu Parles , To Speak. All my books have something to do with psychology. In this book there are four characters who live in the same apartment. They each have girlfriends. The conflict comes when someone hasn’t contributed to the rent. They don’t know who it is, but one character pleads his case to get the others on his side…”

 

 

Buy my book for $0.99 — proceeds feed the homeless:
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panhandler

11 June 2013

This morning I sat beside Clark. He said, “I was told that Joy doesn’t use this spot when it’s raining, even though, with the overhang from the library, I’ve been able to keep quite dry.”

“That’s right,”  I said “Or for a while after check day.”

“Yeah, I can see that.” Within minutes a dark-colored pigeon jumped up on Clark’s knee. He looked me up and down, from side to side, then hopped back down.”

“He seems friendly,” I said.

“Yeah, at my other spot I feed them. This is the alpha male. I’ve seen him mating with four or five of the females around here. That gray one over there is distinctive as well. Notice, she has only two toes on her left foot.”

I asked, “How do you think that happened — maybe a fight with a cat?”

“More likely a snare of some kind. I was talking to a lady who works at a bird sanctuary. She said they’ve noticed a lot of birds like this. They’ve yet to pinpoint where the snare is located, but they’re looking for it. They’d like to introduce a humane trap that wouldn’t injure the birds.

“A lot of restaurants serve it on their menu. Bought locally it goes for about three dollars a pound.”

I said, “You’ve mentioned that you’ve done tree planting in British Columbia. Would you rather live in the city or someplace in nature.”

“I’d far rather live in nature. Every time I come back to the city I can feel this wave of stress come over me. ”

I said,  “I have a small cabin that I get away to most weekends. It has no heat, electricity or running water.”

“Have you ever thought about solar power. They’ve done studies that show it’s much less expensive than hydro. They’ve developed a new  solar heat conduction vacuum tube in glass or metal. They’re also called evacuated heat pipes. You should give them a try.”

“I will.”

“I’ve heard that the government is cracking down on marijuana production.”

I said, “That seems silly, since people are licensed to grow marijuana for medical purposes. Why doesn’t the government just take over production. Then, there would be quality assurance and tax money coming in. With drugs on the street, you never know what you’re getting.”

“When I was tree planting a lot of guys used to grow pot or hallucinogenic mushrooms. They put the mushrooms into brownies. A guy from another camp came over, ate too many brownies, along with lots of liquor and nearly died.

“When I was in university I studied Psychology. I was mostly interested in Humanism.   That’s an ideology that promotes reason, ethics and justice, while specifically rejecting supernatural and religious ideas as a basis of morality and decision-making. It makes sense to me.”

I said, “I like to keep an open mind. I listen to all ideas; accepting the ones with merit, rejecting the others. I’ve developed my own personal philosophy.

 

 

Buy my book for $0.99 — proceeds feed the homeless:
Gotta Find a Home; Conversations with Street People
http://buff.ly/1wyjiKS

 

English: 尖沙咀亞士厘道Subway (restaurant)

English: 尖沙咀亞士厘道Subway (restaurant) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

10 June 2013

After leaving work I noticed Craig sitting in his usual spot on the sidewalk. I handed him a Subway card and he asked, “Is that change I hear jingling in your pocket?”

“No,” I said it’s keys. I never carry change.”

“I could sure use some change right now, but thanks for the card.”

On the next corner, sitting beside a Metro newspaper box was Bearded Bruce. When He saw me coming he opened the door of the box and pulled out a paper. “Have a seat, if you’ve got  a few minutes.”

I positioned the newspaper and sat down. “I haven’t seen you for a while, Bruce.” I handed him a Subway card.”

“What’s this, you used to hand out Tim Horton cards?”

“Joy requested a change of menu.”

“So, I’ve got her to blame for this. Next time I see her I’m going to demand my money back. Seriously, thanks for the card.

“I don’t go to the park much any more. It’s always the same people, they’re always whining the same things, and I’m trying to control my drinking. This is a drinking day. I was up there at noon, so was Little Jake, Jacques, Wolf and Shaggy. Joy wasn’t there.”

“I haven’t seen Joy for a while.”

“She’s doing okay.”

“How is Jake?”

“Jake is Jake. He’s supposed to meet me here, then we’ll take the bus to my place. He asked if he could stay over. I told him, ‘Sure, man, I’ve got pork chops, chicken, anything you like.’ I’m guessing that he jumped the bus and is at my place waiting for me. What can I say? He’s not taking his meds. Sometimes he won’t even come over to my place because he knows I’m going to nag him about it.

“I got caught jumping the bus the other day. A security woman came up to me and said, ‘I’m going to have to put you in handcuffs.’ I said, ‘Look little girl, do you see the size of me, do you really think I’m going to let you put handcuffs on me? You’d better call for backup.’ So, two more security officers showed up. I said, ‘You caught me. I didn’t put in a ticket. That’s three dollars and fifty cents. I’ve got my Welfare check right here. I’m just trying to get downtown to cash it. If you like I’ll come back and put in two bus tickets. Do you think handcuffs are really necessary?’ They wrote me up a fine for a hundred and thirty-five dollars, then gave me a day pass. I said, ‘Don’t you think this is a bit foolish.  I’m not going to pay the fine, but if I get a day pass every time I jump the bus, I’m never going to put in a ticket. You’ll see me back here tomorrow.’

I asked, “doesn’t O.D.S.P. (Ontario Disability Support Program) cover bus passes?”

“I’m not on O.D.S.P. I have the papers filled out, my doctor’s signed them, buy I haven’t handed them in. I qualify, because of my back injury and my addictions, but I don’t think I deserve it. I feel I can get along without it. It’s just the way I am.

A gorgeous woman passed within a few inches of us, “Beautiful!” She turned and gave each of us a warm smile, then moved on.

“Sometimes,” said Bruce, “I think I have the best job in the world.”

I said, “Sometimes, Bruce, you do.”

“I got a real scare the other day. said Bruce, “I thought I was having a heart attack. I got dizzy, I had tingling in my left arm and leg. I phoned an ambulance for myself. The lady on the line said, ‘Just go home and rest. We’ll pick you up at your house.’ I said, ‘I’m at a pay phone, this is where I’m having a heart attack. I can’t go to my house. I can barely stand.’ ‘Okay,’ she said, ‘wait there and we’ll have an ambulance pick you up.’

They took me to hospital and checked my heart. It was okay, but my blood pressure was through the roof. They gave me some medicine, then a doctor put on some rubber gloves and put his finger up my bum. I’ve had that before, but I said, ‘My heart’s over here. What are you doing back there?’ They checked on me in about forty-five minutes and asked me how I was doing. I said, ‘I feel fine.’ The medicine must have done the trick. I know my stomach’s bad. I haven’t been taking care of myself. Next week I have to go in for a gastroscopy, that’s where they put a tube down your throat to see your insides.’

“The doctor said, ‘Bruce, you’re going to have to quit smoking, drinking and eating fat. I told him, ‘I can use a patch to help me quit smoking. I’ve got the drinking under control, that’s not a problem, but there’s no way I’m giving up fat. I fry everything in bacon fat. Every time I cook a mess of bacon, I pour off the fat and store it in a can in the fridge. No, sir, I’m not giving up fat.’ ”

I said, “These people walking by, they don’t even look at us.”

“I know,” said Bruce, “it’s like we’re invisible, or else they’re blind. I wonder if they’re deaf as well? If I said, ‘There goes an ignorant asshole!’ Do you think he’d hear me? I do that sometimes, but it doesn’t get me any money. Usually, if it’s a woman,  I say, ‘You’re looking good this evening.’  If it’s a guy I say, ‘Good evening, sir.’ I’m usually polite.

There was a man with a bicycle waiting for the ‘walk’ light. Bruce said to him, “How’s it going, man?”

The guy said, “It’s been a long day.”

Bruce said, “It’s been a long day for me too. I was out here at six this morning, and I’m still here, nearly thirteen hours later. Don’t you think that deserves a bit of change?” The guy pushed his bike across the street.

I asked, “Do you know Craig, down the block?”

“Sure I know Craig. We’ve slept together. I don’t man together, but we’ve both slept on the street near each other, if you know what I mean.

“Of the three fights I’ve gotten into, he was the cause of them all. People think he’s stupid, but he’s not. One day some guys walked past him and kicked over his cup. He was scrambling around, chasing this change when I came up. I said, Greg, do you have the twenty you owe me? He pulled all the change out of his pocket and gave it to me.  Then I said to the guys, ‘Now what the fuck do you want? If it’s what I’ve got in my pocket, you’re going to have to go through me.’ The police arrived and I had to go to court. I told the prosecuting attorney exactly what happened and he agreed with me. Case closed. There was another time though, that I had to serve three months. That’s when I was still drinking heavy. It wouldn’t take much to set me off.

Bruce said to me, “You’re too well dressed to be a panhandler.”

I said, “I could always say to people, ‘I’m trying to top up my R.R.S.P. (Registered Retirement Savings Plan).”

“Yeah, that would work.”

 

 

 

Buy my book for $0.99 — proceeds feed the homeless:
Gotta Find a Home; Conversations with Street People
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homeless family L

5 June 2013

It was a wonderful day in the park today as, I suppose, it was in Mr. Rogers’ neighborhood. The usual suspects were there. I shook hands all around.  Wolf said, “Id get up, Dennis, but you know me. It’s one of those days.

I was about to sit down between Wolf and Gaston when Yves handed me a Metro newspaper. “Sit on this, it’ll keep your pants clean.” I said, “Thanks Yves.”

Gaston said, “Now, isn’t that a lot softer?”

“Yes, it is.”

Wolf said, “I’ve got something even better.” He reached into Shaggy’s cart and pulled out a thick, folded blanket. “Try this. I just got it this morning, rather Shaggy just got it this morning. A lady — maybe it was the Christmas lady for dogs — she brought a big bag filled with the blanket, a toy rubber boot, a stuffed dog and dog food, lots of dog food. Shaggy really  hit the jackpot. She gave me something too. I think I spent it.”

“This blanket is really soft and comfortable. Thanks.”

Wolf said, “This morning when I woke up, the first thing I saw was a six-pack of beer, so that’s when I started. If I hadn’t seen it I would have been alright, but if I see it I drink it. That’s why I’m the way I am now. You understand?

“Dennis,  tell those fucking Frenchmen to shut the fuck up! I’m having trouble concentrating. Let them go ahead and mumble to themselves.

In unison Gaston and Yves said, “Ta Gueule!, colis, tabarnac.”

Jacques said, “Wolf speaks  perfect French, he just doesn’t like to use it.”

Wolf said, “I’m German not French!  Don’t make me get up!”  He laughed, then continued conversing with them in fluent French.

I said to Wolf, “You couldn’t get up if you tried.”

“I know,” he said, “I just like to stir the shit sometimes.”

I asked Jacques, “How are you liking your new apartment?”

“I love it. Did you know I have a balcony? Yesterday I bought a mattress, a futon. I think that is the good one. I don’t buy the most expensive, but not the cheapest either. I bought the next one up.  Me, I don’t like the coil mattress, because after a year, you get one coil sticking through into your back. I don’t want that.  In my other place I had been sleeping on the floor for the last four months, and I had no window.  This place is nice, and I can brew my wine again.

“It used to be that they would give you a start-up allowance when you moved and every three years,  but not any more. I had to pay for the mattress myself. I don’t mind.”

Shamus and Judy from  Innercity Outreach approached. They were wearing red vests with the crest of their organization embroidered in yellow. They had brought sandwiches, socks and a variety of other things to hand out.

Judy said, “Wolf, what kind of sandwich would you like? We have egg, minced ham and tuna.”

“This is my drinking day, not my eating day,” said Wolf. “I’m a shaving guy. Do you have any razors?

“No, sorry , Wolf.”

Jacques said, “I’ll take an egg, and leave me a minced ham for Wolf.  He’ll eat it later. Can I have some socks?” Judy handed socks to Jacques, Shakes and Wolf.

Shamus said to me, “Dennis it looks like you’re holding court.”

I said, “It may look that way, but Jacques is King”

Jacques said, “Shakes is King.”

I said, “Okay, we’ll go along with that.”

Judy asked, “Has anybody seen Serge? We haven’t seen him for a long time. I know he was in hospital, but then he was out.”

I said, “I visited him a couple of times in hospital, but he escaped, in his hospital gown. He was too sick and was taken back to hospital.”

Jacques said, “I was talking to Greg from 507. He got a message saying that Serge passed away April 7th. Nobody knew, otherwise we would have gone to the funeral.”

Judy asked, “He had cancer, didn’t he.”

I said, “I’m not sure. He didn’t talk much and when he talked it was in French.”

Judy said, “I hear that Outcast is in remission. Is that right?”

I said, “I knew that he had lung cancer. I didn’t hear that he was in remission.”

Jacques said, “I saw him a few days ago. He seems fine. He doesn’t come here any more.”

“How about Joy? How is she.?”

I said, I saw her Thursday, she seemed fine then.”

After they left Jacques said, “They gave me all these bars that I can’t eat. I don’t have enough teeth for things with nuts.”

Shakes said, “You, know, Dennis, I’ve known Wolf since ’95. I’ve always called him Pudding, because he looks like a pudding. I’m the one that got Bowser for him. He looks like Shaggy, but he’s stuffed. I remember bringing him home on the bus. I barked and pretended that he was going to bite people. Now, he sits on Pudding’s balcony.”

“Yeah,” said  Wolf, “People will say they passed my place, I must have been home because the dog was there, but he wasn’t barking.

“Shaggy loves Bowser, they lay beside each other all the time. One time when it was raining Shaggy went out on the balcony, grabbed Bowser with her teeth and brought her inside the living room. Isn’t that something?”

Wolf said, “Dennis, we should pick on you for a while.”

I said, “Go ahead.”

“I was going to get Shaggy to bite Jacques, but you’ve got some meat on your arms.  Shaggy, bite Dennis! She won’t bite you, she likes you.”

Shaggy wandered around and lay next to me, her warm side pressing against mine. I petted her. After being freshly clipped she felt like velvet.

 

 

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homeless family L

 
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.”

Wolf 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, Wolf. 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. Shakes 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.”

Shakes 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, ‘Shakes, 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 on the corner. He had me 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, ‘Shakes, show us your money.’ It was in a banking envelope in the inside pocket of my jacket. I handed them the envelope with two hundred and twenty dollars. They said, ‘Shakes 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. Danny bought some groceries, so we got food.  I’ve got a gram.”

Wolf asked, “Has anybody 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 Shakes?”

“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!’ He 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.”

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

Wolf 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 walked 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.

 

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homeless family L

31 May 2013

Last week the temperature was below freezing 28 degrees Fahrenheit. Today it’s 90 degrees with the humidex reading of 110 degrees. Nobody in the park had much energy. Hippo had a bad sunburn on both of his legs.

I said, “I heard of Hippo’s adventures last night. What else happened?”

Joy said, “It was hilarious, I got a phone call from Mariah, she said, “You’ll never guess, but Hippo phoned. He just got out of jail.’ I said, ‘I’d wondered what happened to him. He was in my apartment, I went out to get some honey garlic wings, when I came back he was gone. I ate four and put the rest in the fridge.

“How can someone, going from point A to point B, end up in jail?”

Hippo said, “It was because of that bitch.”

“What bitch? You mean that crazy Portuguese woman down the hall?”

“No, the bitch cop. Sorry, I meant woman cop.”

I said, “Hippo, you could have been shot.”

“She had her gun out, alright. She said get down. I got down. They put the handcuffs on and dragged me to the back of the cruiser. That’s how I got these scrapes on my arm.”

Joy said, “I’d rather be shot that tazed. When they get you down they always give you a few extra zaps to increase the pain.

“Let’s back up a bit, Hippo. I don’t mind you calling her a bitch. I got no problem with that, but you chased a woman with a hammer?”

“I guess I did. I don’t remember.” Joy smacked his left sunburned thigh, Mariah smacked the other.”

Joy asked, “How do I know that you won’t hit me with a hammer some time?”

“I’d never do that, Joy.”

“You just keep talking and I’ll do to you what I did to Brian yesterday. He just wouldn’t stop talking.

“Yesterday, you and me went to the bank. You could only get $120.00 out. ”

Rhino said, “Yeah, that’s all the bank machine would let me take. We’ll go back today and I’ll talk to a teller.”

Joy said, “You mean go inside the bank, just like humans?”

“Yeah, just like humans.”

“Then we’ll go to my place and finish those wings.

“Before this night’s out, I’m going to get your PIN (Personal Identification Number) for the bank machine.”

Hippo said, “What year was the first Harley built?”

“1903?”

“That’s my PIN.

“People always say I’m full of shit, but down a quart.”

Joy was looking beyond the railing into the park, “Jacques, take a look. Doesn’t that dog look just like Harley; you know, Rosie’s dog — big titties Rosie?”

“Ah, yes, I remember her. Harley looked something like that but didn’t have the white on his nose. Also he was skinnier.”

“I know it’s not the same dog, but the same breed.”

“Yes, maybe you’re right.”

Deaf Donald was sitting beside me. He’s been deaf since birth, so he sometimes has trouble communicating. He said, “I can read lips, you know. Even if two people are across the street I can tell what they’re saying. It nearly got me in trouble one day. I walked across the street and repeated word for word what these people had been saying. The guy got really pissed off.

“I’ll show you. I’ll go over to the fence and you mouth something. I’ll tell you what you said.”

I mouthed, “Hi Donald, are you having a good day?”

“You said, Hi Donald, you’re deaf? Is that right.”

“No, I said, ‘Hi Donald, are you having a good day?”

“You move your lips too fast. Let Joy try it. Say something to me, Joy.”

You said, “I’ve got shit stains on my underwear?”

Joy said, “That’s right. That’s what I said.”

Delbert said, “I got news for you. I’m not wearing underwear.”

Joy said, “I’m not sure if I really want to go there, but why aren’t you wearing underwear?”

“Because I’m wearing white pants and I’m clean.

“I have to go for my methadone treatment, but after that I’ll buy some chicken and maybe Hippo and I could come over to your place for supper?”

“That ain’t hapennin’, dude. You’re never coming to my place. I’m down here, dude. Look at me.”

Donald left, Joy said, “That guy gives me the creeps, especially when he does that thing with his eyes. I think he was dropped on his head too many times when he was a baby.”

I said, “He told me that, while his mother was pregnant with him, his father beat her up and threw her down a flight of stairs.”

“Yeah, I heard that. Just before my second son was born, my ex beat me something fierce. The baby was born with a broken leg and two broken ribs. Jay did two years for that.

“I can also read lips and sign. When I was a kid I had lots of ear infections and got a perforated ear drum. I can’t hear with my right ear. It’s handy sometimes even with Donald. I watch his eyes, and can say things when he’s not looking.”

 

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fatguy

 

31 May 2013

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

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

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

“At the police station.”

“How did that come about?”

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

“I asked, “Is Joy alright?”

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

“Did you get into a fight?

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

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

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

“Was it someone I would know?”

“No.”

“Someone in your building?”

“Yeah.

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

“That’s in less than three weeks!”

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

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

“Do you have enough for breakfast?”

“Yeah I’m good.”

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

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

 

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imgres-2

 

2 December 2015

Bearded Bruce, a hulk of a man, was sitting on the sidewalk, panning for change.

“Dennis, come down here. I want to give you a hug. Don’t make me stand up. I’m a bit drunk today.”

“Bruce, I haven’t seen you for ages.”

“Loretta said she met you a while back, so I’ve been hoping to see you. This isn’t my regular spot. It’s the first of December today, isn’t it? I get excited about Christmas approaching. I’m going to stop drinking so I can save money for a big Christmas meal. Tonight I put up my tree, the little one foot tree that Weasel brought over last year. I miss him and Blackie too.

“How’ve you been?”

“I’ve been fine, Bruce, no complaints. Loretta mentioned that she’d been staying with you.”

“Yeah, for a few days, for a few months, whenever she can get her legal troubles settled. They asked her if she had a place to stay and she offered my name. I was accepted. She takes care of me. She’s a beautiful woman, but she can be a fierce bitch.'”

I said, “She mentioned that she’d been drinking and had gotten into a few fights.”

“Well that pretty well sums it up. She’s staying with me until her court date when she finds out what’s going to happen. I was surprised that I’d been approved to be her guardian, but they checked me out and since I’ve been in my own place for three years they figured that I was stable. That’s why I’m a bit drunk today; I’m celebrating three years with a home. I’ve paid my rent on time. That’s another first for me.

“They cut me off Welfare, so I have to pan twice as long to get enough money to eat.”

“Why did they cut you off?”

“I wouldn’t go along with the silly things that they wanted me to do. For one thing, they won’t accept that panhandling is a job. If I was a hooker, I wouldn’t have a problem. That’s considered acceptable work.”

I said, “Have you thought of listing yourself as a hooker, but earn your living as a panhandler?”

“Believe me, I’ve given that a lot of thought, but it’s just not me.”

“The world is a crazy place,” I said.

“Yes, it was Socrates that said, “The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.”

“I’m glad to hear that Loretta has a place to stay.”

“Now, don’t you go looking at her through rose colored glasses, like you did towards Joy. She’s a beautiful woman, but an alcoholic, who has some serious charges against her and she can be a real bitch.”

I said, “I can appreciate that. I haven’t seen that side of her, but alcohol can turn the nicest people mean.

“Did you hear that Rick moved to his home town? I really admired him.”

Bruce asked, “What did you admire?”

“That he made and distributed sandwiches to other homeless people.”

“Yes, that’s admirable. Did you also hear that he did two years in prison for stabbing a guy in the lung.”

I said, “I hadn’t heard that, but I know that he broke his hand while trying to strangle somebody.”

Bruce asked, “Would you like to share a joint?”

I said, “Sure.”

“Do you have any cigarette papers?”

“No.”

“Well, I’ve got the pot, but no papers.

“In that case would you like a drink?” He pulled out a flask of vodka.

I looked around, saw that the coast was clear and said, “Sure.” I took a swig. It tasted good. I handed it back and Bruce took a swig.”

As people passed on the sidewalk Bruce would yell, “Hey, hey, can you help a fellow out. Have a good evening. God bless you.”

A while later he asked me if I wanted another drink, “I said sure.” I took a swig and handed it back to him. I said, “I could very easily become an alcoholic.”

Bruce said, “You already are.”

That jolted me a bit, but I said, “My father, brother and nephew were alcoholics. My niece was addicted to cocaine and her husband was on heroin. It probably runs in the family.”

Bruce said, “I heard that you’ve written a book. Is that right?”

“Yes I have. It’s about when I first met Joy about five years ago. I donate the proceeds of book sales to the Innercity Missions, Outreach Support Program. I also continue to help street people on my own.”

“That’s great. I like those Outreach people. Writing about what people say to you is one thing, but to understand this life you have to live it. I don’t mean for a week, but at least a month. I suggest from January 14 to February 14. Bring a warm sleeping bag, three pair of heavy socks and anything else you can fit in one backpack. You can’t rely on any money you have in savings accounts or credit cards. I’ll help you find a place, I’ll show you how to panhandle and I’ll be across the street, if you have any problems. That’s what I did with Loretta and now she’s independent. That means a lot.”

“I appreciate that, Bruce. I’m not ready to do that this year, but I agree that the only way to understand this way of life is to live it. On the street is real; it’s immediate. Either you make enough money for food or you don’t.”

“What is real? Wasn’t it Plato that asked that same question?

For Plato, in order for something to be real, it had to be permanent and unchanging. Reality and perfection for Plato were closely related.

“Have you managed to find any jobs as a chef. I know you have the qualifications.”

“Yeah, I worked as a chef for twenty-three years then I let alcohol and crack get the better of me. To tell you the truth, I don’t want to work. I enjoy what I’m doing. When the sun is shining, this is the best job in the world.”

Buy my book for $0.99 — proceeds feed the homeless:
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