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Rated: 18+ · Book · Emotional · #1847352
The plight of the homeless.


Life on the Heater (2000)

From Homelessness to Home

Homelessness in Ottawa

Throughout the past year I have come to know many people, now friends, who for various reasons, are or were homeless. Giovanni, sleeps on a park bench and was beaten, had his teeth kicked out, for no other reason than his choice to sleep outdoors. He is a small, gentle man who has a phobia about enclosed spaces.

Greg, sleeps on the sidewalk in the freezing cold. I see him every morning and am never sure if, when I lift the corner of his sleeping bag, I will find him dead or alive. Sometimes, he confided, he would prefer never to awake.

Mo, is a close personal friend who fell on hard times. She has slept behind a dumpster in back of Starbucks. I have seen her with blackened eyes, bruised legs, cracked ribs, cut and swollen lips. I usually see her sitting on the sidewalk 'panning' for change.


In the past six months I have witnessed an upturn in Mo's fortunes. She now has the proper credentials to obtain medical assistance for her epileptic seizures, bouts of schizophrenia, pneumonia, fibromyalgia, kidney failure and mental disorders. Through diligence she has saved enough money to share, with several other people, a warm, clean, safe house.

I can't do much for these people except to show them love, compassion, an ear to listen, a hug to comfort, perhaps a breakfast sandwich and a coffee. I would like to do more. To know them is to love them. What has been seen cannot be unseen. I have started to write an account of their daily lives. I intend to turn this into a book and have it published. That is my goal.

I am writing articles and biographies of Mo and other street people. They have been informed that they don't have to use their real names, that any profits would go back to the homeless and that it could be a vehicle to say whatever they want to the population at large.

22 December 2012

An Update:

Giovanni is apparently staying with a friend in an apartment in the west end of the city. He is almost never seen downtown. By all accounts he is happy, has his own room and seldom ventures far from his building.

I've seen Greg only once or twice in the last year. He has parents in the suburbs, who will only invite him home if he is taking his medication.

Mo is presently in the General Hospital. She has been hospitalized for the past three weeks, suffering from fibromyalgia, epilepsy, kidney problems and high blood pressure. She has lost strength in her right side causing her to require a walker and wheel chair. Even with the walker she drags her right foot. In physiotherapy she is able to walk up four steps, but has difficulty walking down. I have visited her three times in hospital as have many of her friends. She was very disappointed that she would not be allowed home for Christmas. She now has her own apartment, but has no furniture; hopefully that will be corrected in the new year.

Frank, Darrell, Sparky, Scottish Dave,and Rhino all have their own apartments. Emile is scheduled to have his own apartment January 1. Erwin and Dave are both in alcohol recovery programs. Nobody, that I know, is currently sleeping on the street. 2013 looks positive.

I continue to write biographies of these friends who I see on an almost daily basis. I have gained their trust and friendship. Dave invited me to his place for Christmas dinner. My family obligations have prevented this, however I look forward to visiting his place in the future.

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January 17, 2013 at 12:58pm
January 17, 2013 at 12:58pm

A final home for the homeless

By Bruce Deachman, Ottawa Citizen, February 24, 2013

Read more: http://www.ottawacitizen.com/news/final+home+homeless/8004833/story.html#ixzz2MJ...

OTTAWA — Ottawa police detective Tim Nolan takes it personally if he can’t track down someone’s next of kin.

Although most deaths around Ottawa don’t require a lot of legwork to find family members — they’re often sitting in a chair beside the deceased when he dies — some are more difficult, and Nolan will scour databases and search engines the world over to find a blood relative.

And with five of his six years in a patrol car spent in the ByWard Market, he’s familiar with those living on the street and in shelters.

“I have a real soft spot for those guys.” he says. “They’re just victims of their vices, and I want to carry out my investigation with empathy and make sure my I’s are dotted and my T’s crossed, because at the end of the day, I want to be able to walk away from this investigation — or any investigation — holding my head up and saying, ‘That’s what I did, and I did it right.’”

The death of a homeless person can bring with it distinct challenges — finding family members, for example, or someone willing to claim the body. The resources devoted to seeing that a transient’s final sendoff is in keeping with what he or his family would want are considerable, and can involve the City, coroners, funeral directors, police and social agencies.

In the event that death occurs on the street, a coroner first rules on whether it is suspicious. If it is, then the police investigate accordingly. If not, then the next step is for the police to find and notify the deceased’s family.

“There’s a tremendous sense of failure if we can’t find someone’s next of kin,” says Nolan. “That said, there’s a tremendous sense of elation when we do find the next of kin.”

Sometimes, he says, people on the street might carry a note indicating whom to contact in the event of an accident, or worse. A bank card or library card, cellphone, expired driver’s license or piece of mail can also help locate family. In some cases, the funerals are prearranged. In others, however, information is scarce.

If a deceased has been arrested before, their sheet may include the name of a family contact. If he has a criminal record, an address will be listed. If necessary, Nolan will contact Interpol for assistance.

“But something as easy as Googling his name can help,” he adds, “or Facebook.”

Nolan tells of a particularly vexing case last summer involving the death of a 50ish Ottawa man, living in community housing and estranged from his family. According to the Canadian Police Information Centre database, a man with the same name and date-of-birth was linked to an address in Guelph. A phone call to Guelph police confirmed that the deceased’s mother lived at the address, but when police arrived, they discovered that she, too, had died.

But the Guelph police passed along a Kingston address where the woman’s name was once linked to a police report. Kingston police, meanwhile, told Nolan that the woman had another son who, in the 1980s, lived in Ingleside, near Cornwall. OPP in Ingleside had no information, so Nolan looked on Canada411.ca and started calling people in that area with the same surname.

“Lo and behold,” says Nolan, “one guy said, ‘Check with my brother, he’s the genealogist of the family.’”

Nolan did, and within a couple of days later learned that the deceased was a distant relative, and that he had a brother in Bowmanville. Nolan eventually found the brother — a transport truck driver — and reached him on his cellphone on the Trans-Canada Highway outside Fredericton, N.B.

“Our goal is to have an officer give that death notification face-to-face,” Nolan says, “but that just wasn’t the case this time.

“But when I hung up the phone,” he adds, “it was like solving a major case. It was that gratifying.”

It’s rare that a death leads down such a convoluted path, and Nolan says most cases are resolved in a matter of hours.

“In my two years here, I haven’t heard of a body we had to bury without finding the next of kin.”

But most homeless deaths in Ottawa don’t involve the police to such a degree. The Ottawa Mission, for example, has run its own 14-bed hospice since 2001, with most of its patients previously living in marginal housing — rooming houses and shelters — before being referred to them by a hospital.

Unlike other hospices, such as Maycourt, where patients typically have family they can stay with until the last few weeks of their lives, the average stay for patients at the Mission’s hospice is between four and six months.

“They’re much younger,” notes Marg Smeaton, the Mission’s manager of health care services. “So apart from the fact that they have a disease that’s killing them, the rest of their body is still young.

“And they’re tough. They’ve lived tough lives out in the cold.”

Most of their patients at the Mission hospice have a do-not-resuscitate order in place, so a coroner need not be called when one dies. Instead, many of the downtown organizations whose clients are largely transient call Kelly Funeral Home on Somerset Street West.

“There’s a natural tendency to want to help people,” says Kelly funeral director Gordon Walker. “That’s always been the foundation of funeral service, and the business side is quite separate.

“So our relationship with organizations, and people who are less fortunate, perhaps, than ourselves, has always been very strong. It doesn’t have to be someone who is homeless; it could be someone who is just down on their luck.”

Covering the costs of a burial depends on a number of factors. Certainly family may wish to claim the body and take control of the situation, but often it can’t or won’t. If the deceased received income from either the Ontario Disability Support Program or Ontario Works, or contributed to the Canada Pension Plan, then some of that money will go to pay for associated costs of burial.

If the family can’t or won’t cover the costs, then they must apply to the municipal government, in this case the City of Ottawa, to pick up the tab, although the remuneration the City offers doesn’t necessarily cover all the costs.

Funeral homes, for example, are paid $1,400 from the City for each such funeral, while its costs — including an inexpensive casket and cremation — typically run closer to $3,500, leaving the funeral home to make up the difference.

“We’ve always had our front-line staff care for needs of the individual and the family,” notes Walker. “In the case of some people who are homeless, their family are actually street people, so we’re happy to provide visitation and the opportunity to collectively say goodbye, whether here at the funeral home or the Mission, and usually they’ll have some sort of ceremony.

“Our job is to connect the dots,” he adds.

Kelly’s will also help find family members, and it’s not uncommon, says Walker, for a body to remain in their care for upwards of six months while they look.

“We might find someone who worked with them years ago, or who was a neighbour. Many times we’ve had success like that, and it’s led to a family member.”

And while families may claim ashes and remains for funerals elsewhere, area cemeteries all have land devoted to burials of the homeless, who are often interred without a marker. The Mission maintains a group plot at Beechwood Cemetery where 40 or 50 cremated remains are buried and names and dates added to a common headstone as needed. Additionally, as cemeteries run out of real estate, they’ll secure space at other graveyards.

The rarest of homeless deaths is one in which no family or friends can be found. In her 11 years at the Mission, during which a little more than 200 deaths have occurred, Smeaton says it’s only happened twice that a deceased body remained unclaimed. And while she doesn’t have the resources that the police do, she’ll exhaust every corner of the Internet before giving up.

“There’s almost always someone I can find,” she says. “We have time.”

In the event that no family member can be found, however, the body is governed by the Anatomy Act, in which case the coroner switches hats and becomes an Inspector of Anatomy. It’s his job to ensure that every investigative lead has been exhausted and then issue a warrant — Warrant to Dispose of an Unclaimed Body — to the municipality where the death occurred.

“The municipality is then obligated to bury the body,” says regional coroner Dr. Roger Skinner. “So they will often, through their own social services department, do their own search to see if there’s anyone they know of to claim the body, in addition to whether the decedent was in receipt of social benefits that might help cover the costs of burial.”

It’s then the municipality’s responsibility to have a funeral provider inter the body, usually in a very basic manner — likely no service or marker, and the most inexpensive container. Unclaimed bodies are not usually cremated, in the event that family members are eventually found and have their own wishes for the disposal.

Dr. Skinner estimates that these sorts of burials number only in the dozens each year in Ottawa.

“It’s quite a process, and it’s something we try to do well because obviously there are situations where people don’t have apparent claimants, but in fact there are people out there who are interested and do want to provide this last service to a family member or a friend. So we do diligently try to find any claimants that we can.”

Read more: http://www.ottawacitizen.com/news/final+home+homeless/8004833/story.html#ixzz2MJ...


My lungs ached, as frost hung in the bitterly cold December morning air, making breathing difficult. I trudged in the falling snow toward Place Bell where I work, in the city's gray, concrete, office tower canyon. I dodged other pedestrians, also trying to get to work on time, I noticed a woman seated cross legged on the sidewalk with her back against the wall of the library. A snow covered Buddha wrapped in a sleeping bag, shivering in the below freezing temperature. I guessed her to be in her forties. Everything about her seemed round. She had the most angelic face, sparkling blue eyes and a beautiful smile. A cap was upturned in front of her. I thought, There but for the grace of God go I. Her smile and blue eyes haunted me all day.

In the past I've been unemployed, unable to pay my mortgage and other bills, went through bankruptcy, lost my house, my truck. Being in my fifties, my prospects looked dim. It could have been me, on the sidewalk, in her place.

I've been told not to give money to pan handlers because they'll just spend it on booze. I thought to myself, What should I do, if anything? What would you do? I asked for advice from a friend who has worked with homeless people. She said, "The woman is probably hungry. Why don't you ask her if she'd like a breakfast sandwich and maybe a coffee?"

That sounded reasonable, so the next day I asked, "Are you hungry? Would you like some breakfast, perhaps a coffee?"

"That would be nice," she replied.

When I brought her a sandwich and coffee she said to me, "Thank you so much, sir. You're so kind. Bless you." I truly felt blessed.

This has become a morning routine for the past two years. The woman (I'll call Joy) and I have become friends. Often I'll sit with her on the sidewalk. We sometimes meet her companions in the park. They have become my closest friends. I think of them as angels. My life has become much richer for the experience.
January 17, 2013 at 4:45pm
January 17, 2013 at 4:45pm

18 December 2010

I was accepted for an orientation session for volunteers at the Shepherds of Good Hope. I trained for the Drop-In Program from 5:00 to 9:00pm. This is the evening meal open to everyone without charge. First I had to learn the Rules for Food Handlers.

They served a very good meal with choices of roast chicken, mashed potatoes, peas, gravy, barley soup, salads (green, couscous and pasta), muffins, cakes, donuts and sandwiches (some to go, if they wished).

I wiped tables, gathered dishes and served soup. It was five hours on my feet after a long day at work, but I enjoyed it. There was a sweet lady from England who served beside me. She was full of stories, was worried about her son who is an alcoholic. She loves peanut butter and was very interested when I told her that for breakfast I eat toast spread with peanut butter, covered by scrambled eggs (mostly whites). This lady seemed to know most of the guests and said to them how much she had missed them, worried if some didn't show up, worried if they were sitting all alone and not smiling as usual. The guests and the staff were very nice. The dishwasher, who sings in a choir, sang Christmas carols as he sprayed the dishes, and everyone joined in.

A native man gave me two drawings. I didn't want to accept them, but he insisted. He said that he likes to pay his own way. He showed me his biography that indicated he had exhibited widely and had many gallery exhibitions of his work. The drawings were signed Rain Dog. I was truly blessed by the gift of these drawings. In response I wrote a poem for him:

Inside a broken clock
Splashing the wine with all the rain dogs
Taxi, we’d rather walk
Huddle a doorway with the rain dogs
For I am a rain dog too

Tom Waits

Rain Dog

** Images For Use By Upgraded+ Only **

What brings you to the shelter?
Where will you sleep tonight?
Where will you wander tomorrow?

You have blessed me with your gifts,
giving of your art, your soul.
Blessing others with your smile.

I'd love to hear your tales
of places you have traveled,
of things you've seen and done.

I hope to see you again
so that I may learn from you.
Rain Dog, you write on my heart.

A Rain Dog is a dog caught in the rain, with its whole trail washed away by the water so he can't get back home. A stranded dog, who wants nothing better than to get home.

People who live outdoors, people who sleep in doorways, loners knit together by some corporeal way of sharing pain and discomfort.
(The Urban Dictionary}

22 December 2010

I sat with Joy this morning. Her eyes were blackened and she had a gash across the bridge of her nose. She was weeping. I asked, "What happened, Joy?"

"My boyfriend punched me in the face. I'm covered in bruises, my ribs are in bad shape and I've been coughing blood."

"Did you phone the police?"

"No, if the police come again, we'll be kicked out of the place we're staying. It's not the first time he's beaten me. I've had broken bones, cracked and separated ribs. We've been together four years now. He's okay when he's sober, but when he drinks he gets crazy. I've kicked him out for good, but he always comes back saying he's sorry and that it'll never happen again.

"Also, I'm on probation. I served time at the Prison for Women for assaulting this same guy. I shouldn't have been charged. There was a lot of blood, but it was all mine. Another time in prison, I was raped by a male guard and gave birth to his son. My probation officer is trying to arrange an appointment with a mental health counselor because, as a child, I was molested by my father, grandfather and uncle. Depending on the results of this interview, I may be eligible for better assisted housing."

"I wish there were something I could do."

"What I need is some girl stuff. I'm just starting my period."

"I'd love to help, but there aren't any stores nearby and I'm already ten minutes late for work."

"It's okay, I'll ask one of my regular women friends who will be dropping by."

"I'll see you tomorrow, Joy. Take care."

I made a decision that I would try to help Joy and other people like her. I don't have any special qualifications, but I registered as a volunteer with The Shepherd's of Good Hope. I expect to start work soon.

23 December 2010

"Hi Joy, how are you feeling today? Your eyes are looking better"

"Right now I have a headache, a cold, a sore throat and I can't seem to stop crying. On top of that, yesterday, going down the stairs I tripped over my roommate's dog, Harley, and broke my tail bone. The pain is unbearable.

"It's not just that. I was thinking about one of my friends, Leeanne. She was murdered three months ago on September 5th. She lived at the Shepherd's. She was a prostitute. They found her body, with her pants pulled down, between a fence and the hydro substation on King Edward Avenue, between York and George. Who does that kind of thing? He didn't even have the decency to cover her body.

"Six women, prostitutes or drug addicts, have been murdered in Ottawa since 1990, and the cops think it may be a serial killer.

"In 2006, Jennifer, was 36 years old, native, a mother of four who worked the streets for 20 years to pay for her crack habbit. She was found in a parking lot on Alice Street near the Gamelin Street entrance to Gatineau Park. She was face-down, lying in the dirt, naked and bleeding. She died in hospital and an autopsy showed she had been stabbed at least a dozen times while trying to fight off her attacker. She had stab wounds to her head, legs and wrists.

"Pamela was 39. She was murdered in 2008. Her body was found partially nude and beaten, near a bicycle path in Lincoln Heights Park. They found a pair of men's reading glasses at the scene. It's believed that they belonged to the killer and that he's over forty.

"Carrie was 32, in 1995, last seen in her Lafontaine Avenue apartment in the early morning with man in late 20s/early 30s — he had short brown hair, tattoos on both arms, wore a light-coloured kilt. I've kept all the newspaper clippings.You'd think a guy dressed like that would be easy to spot. She was found strangled.

"In 1993 there was Sophie, she was 24, she turned to prostitution to support her children and unemployed boyfriend. She was last seen alive getting into a white van near Kent and Laurier. She was found strangled, her body found stuffed into two garbage bags in a Westboro parking lot.

"Melinda, was only 16, in 1990. She was beautiful and had only been working the streets for three weeks. It was a Saturday night, she'd been in the Cafe Deluxe on Dalhousie Street. People saw her jump into a car. She was found strangled in the Byward Market, her body in a parking lot dumpster on Murray Street. One snake-skinned stiletto heel was missing. Over twenty years later, it's still missing, so is her killer.

"I don't think the cops are even trying to catch the guy. Prostitutes are considered scum. The cops are more likely to beat them than to help them. The women are just trying to survive from day to day. They do what they do for food, drugs or alcohol. Most of them don't see any way out. Just because they're prostitutes, or addicts, is no reason to kill them. None of us on the street are safe.

"I used to do that, but I no longer have an expensive habit to maintain, so I don't do it any more."

I hugged her and said "I'm glad you don't do it any more."

As I sat with Joy, some ladies in a nearby office building bought her a large frozen turkey. She also had a bag of presents. I could see crackers, to go with the turkey and a pair of socks. A lady stopped by and dropped her $20.00 since she wouldn't be seeing her again until after the holidays.

"I'm going to cook this turkey, freeze some and share it with my neighbors who aren't doing very well."

I said, "If your interested, you're welcome to come to the Shepherd's of Good Hope, Christmas Eve. They're putting on a turkey dinner with all the trimmings."

"Thanks, I won't promise that I'll come. I don't do well in crowds, I'm agarophobic, but I'll see. Thanks again for inviting me.

25 December 2010

I spent this evening at the "Shepherd's of Good Hope" I was wiping and clearing tables, then I was I was assigned to wash dishes. It involved placing the cups, plates and cutlery in the stacking tray, so they could be rinsed with the pressure sprayer, before sliding the tray into the washer.

I didn't see my favorite people there, but all the guests were helpful and polite. They brought their trays to the counter, scraped their plates and said, "Thank you very much sir, have a merry Christmas."

The volunteers were also very nice; much nicer than the people I work with on a paid basis. I was asked if I was doing okay, if wanted to sit down, if I wanted a drink of juice, or something to eat. At the end of the shift was thanked for the work I did.

All in all it was a very pleasant evening.

March 11, 2013 at 11:59am
March 11, 2013 at 11:59am

8 April 2013

Mo was in good spirits this morning. She has an appointment at 2:00 with her workers to get furniture for her apartment.

"I just hope they show up this time. Twice in the past I waited around all day for nothing. I hope I can get a DVD player, then I'll be able to return the one I borrowed from Mimi. I'm going over to Albert's later to borrow some DVDs. I'm tired of watching Transformers, the Godfather and Bladerunner over and over and over. I thought I'd never get tired of Bladerunner, but now I have the entire dialog memorized.

"Emile has a new couch for me. He's got it in storage along with a big table. It'll have room on it for my TV and some of my nick nacks. He invited me over for supper, but why should I go there when I have plenty of food at home."

I saidd, "I was talking to Emile last week. He said he'd been sober for three months."

"Well, he got drunk this past weekend.

"This morning I'm going back to tidy up, not that there's much to tidy, just my air mattress and some laundry.

Albert and Grant stopped by to chat, so I said good bye and headed off to work.

5 April 2013

It snowed last night, so the sidewalks were damp. Mo was sitting on her plastic box, I sat on my back pack.

"I'm really cold," said Mo. "Under this blanket and coat I'm wearing a wind breaker, but I tell you, it's not breaking any fuckin' wind. Every time I lean over a breeze whips up my back. When I woke up this morning I noticed that I had a starter of fourteen dollars. I didn't think I had that much left from yesterday. I was going to stay home, but I figured, I'm up, there's nothing else to do, so I might as well go to work.

"Emile was over last night. I cooked supper for him. At 10:30 I was getting tired, I told him, 'Look, you've got to go. I have to be up at 4:30.' He asked, 'Can't I just sleep on the floor.' I said, 'I wouldn't feel comfortable.' He said, 'You look comfortable, sitting there in your long johns and sweater.' I said, 'If you weren't here I'd be in my boxers and tee shirt.' I don't have to worry about Emile, apart from his usual groping, but I don't like men staying over. I like my privacy.

"I have to piss like a race horse. Can you watch my stuff. I'm going to have to go to the library. I wen't into Lorenzo's this morning and he was waiting for me at the bathroom door when I came out. He said, 'You can't just come in and use the washroom. It's for customers only.' I said to him, 'A lot of your customers are buying coffee and breakfast for me.'

"Emile and I ate breakfast there last week. They serve too much food. I had to stuff the sausages in my pocket, to eat later. It must have cost us about thirty bucks, but it was sure good. I love sausages.

"I'm really feeling cold. I'm waiting for one of my regulars, the Australian guy. He comes every Friday if he's in town. I'm going for forty dollars this morning, so far I've got thirty-four. If he doesn't show I'm going to leave."

I said, "Last time I was at the point. I had a long talk with Mimi. She seems really nice."

"Yeah, she is. I f you look at her sideways, and imagine a wart on her nose, you'd swear it was the Wicked Witch of the West from The Wizard of Oz. Just think about it.

"Emile told me that she was a nympho, so I asked her about it. She said, 'Yeah, I am.' I said, 'But, you don't have a man around. She went to one of her drawers and pulled out a bunch of toys and told me how she used them. That was too much information. She's not into women though, either am I.

"Hi sweetie," Mo said to a man I recognized. "I was just telling Dennis here that I was waiting for my Australian friend."

"Actually, I'm not Australian, I'm Dutch."

"I'm sorry, I'm not good at accents." He handed Mo a folded bill.

"Thanks, that just made my day. You've been traveling haven't you?"

"Yes, I've been away."

To me she said, "That's it, I'm out of here!"

4 April 2013

This morning was finger numbing cold. Mo was wrapped in her blankets, sitting on a plastic box.

I asked, "Is this the first time you've been here this week?"

"Yeah, I've had a cold and have been staying inside lately. I'm really glad that you came along; I really have to pee. I'll have to go to the library this time. Can you watch my stuff?"


When Mo returned she said, "My legs are really bothering me today."

I asked, "Do you have your health card and your prescriptions yet?"

"No, I haven't seen my worker for a while. The one day she came by my apartment, I wasn't home. I'm entitled to go visit my friends sometimes, especially since I still don't have any furniture. I didn't know she was coming. She said that I should get a phone, I said, 'Okay, you pay for it.' I'm damned if I'm going to pay for the expense of having a phone, or paying fifty cents to use the pay phone.

"I was over at Emile's place yesterday. Boy, you should see it. It's fully furnished. He's got a land line and a cell phone.Sparky, Bert and Rhino were there. I didn't stay there long. He said I could sleep on the couch, but I didn't want to, not with my own bed at home. I even forgot my groceries in the fridge."

"I hope you got them back."

"Yeah, I cooked them a nice dinner of spare ribs, potatoes and corn. They really appreciated it."

I asked, "Have you seen Claude lately? The last time I saw him was when he had his head and beard shaved."

"That's when he escaped from hospital. All he was wearing was a hospital gown. The guys brought him some clothes. He went back to hospital after that. Craig and Jordan, from 501, told me that they didn't expect him to come out of hospital alive.

"I get a kick out of the clothes some of these people wear. I wonder who dresses them. It couldn't be their mothers. Yesterday I saw this guy, with his pant legs rolled up, wearing nylons. I've heard of men wearing support hose, but these were nylons."


At noon I met Peter and Scruffy, Mo, Bert and Frank. As I approached Scruffy started barking. Bert handed me a folded yellow towel to sit on, Peter handed me Scruffy's folded blanket. "I'm lending this to you on one condition," said Peter, "you have to feed Scruffy." He handed me a tinfoil package of Lamb and Lavender dog treats. I put a handful in front of Scruffy.

"Peter?" asked Mo, "what's the lavender for. Does it make her breath sweet?"

I sniffed the opened bag, but couldn't smell lavender.

Mo said, "That's the first time I've seen anybody smelling dog food."

Peter said, "I didn't know there was lavender in this. I just saw Lamb. What is lavender, anyway?"

"It's a flower." said Mo.

Peter read from the bag, "It says the ingredients are all natural, no fillers, so it's all good stuff."

Mo said, "I'm reading this book by Justin Cronin, it's from The Passage Trilogy. I'm just about finished it, the second book is The Twelve. It takes place in the future. They talk about 2013 as being about a hundred years from now. What would that make it? Anyway, a government scientific project goes wrong and all these vampire bats are released.
They got into a maximum security prison and started biting the inmates.anyone bitten becomes a vampires. Their fingernails glow yellow and they sleep hanging upside down. They escape and wipe out most of the world. I can't wait to see what happens next."

Peter said, "Speaking of books, have you read any of the Ed McBain books? Here it is Killer's Wedge. There are about fifty of them in a series with Steve Carella and his fellow detectives of the 87th Precinct. Some of the cops are dirty, some are drunks, you know the type. I don't have to tell you. Anyway, they're an easy read. That's all I have to say about that."

Scruffy started barking at a woman passing by. Peter said to Mo,"You're friend sure jumped this morning when Scruff started barking."

"She's not my friend, she's my worker. I told her she didn't have to worry, but she said Scruffy bit Craig in the van. I said, 'She's bitten lots of people, me included.'

Peter said, "I've got a really good way of getting Scruffy home. I let Mo walk in front and Scruffy starts to chase her, but I have her on her leash. We're home in no time; no in and out of the cart, she just follows and chases Mo."

I said, "So you saw your worker this morning? Did she arrange for your health card and your prescriptions?"

"I've got a new validation number. I think I can take that to a doctor to get my prescriptions. The problem is I switched to Frank's doctor, and now he's got about sixty custys, so I can never get an appointment. Maybe I can take it to my old doctor. He kind of gave me the creeps, he's one of those turban heads. I've got some female stuff that needs checking and I'm not sure I want him down there. I wish I could find a woman doctor."

I said, "I know of a female doctor, but she's quite a distance from where you live."

"I don't want that. My old doctor was just down the street and I hardly ever went to him.

"They've got me set up to get furniture next Tuesday. I hope that works out. I fucked it up last time.

"Uncle Peter, can I trade you eight brown (native) cigarettes for four white ones? Here's nine."

"That's not nine!" said Peter.

"Well, that's not four," said Mo.

I said, "I'm glad you guys aren't getting into higher math, or you'd have a problem."

28 March 2013

As I approached the park I could see Peter rummaging around in Scruffy's 'caboose'. Beside him were Frank, Bert and Albert. I handed a Ken Follett book to Peter.

"What's this about?" asked Peter.

"Espionage, the kind of stuff you like."

"Yeah, Ken Follett, I've read some of his stuff. He's good. Thanks, Dennis.

"Can I get you to fill Scruffy's water dish. I'd do it myself, but she wants it right now. There, see, she's trying to drink it before it even comes out of the bottle.

"I didn't even go to work this morning. Do you know what time Scruffy and I got up? Eight o'clock, imagine that. Usually, I get up at 4:30 to get ready for 5:30, but not today, no siree. I had to come down here because I owed Frank forty bucks, otherwise I would have stayed home. Now, I'm drunk.

"Did you see the game last night? Boston against Montreal. At one point Montreal was behind four to two, then in the last thirty seconds they tied it up, and won in overtime. That's why I have my Montreal sweater on. See what I'm wearing under this, another Montreal sweater. I got my Mntreal cap and I'm sitting on a Montreal cushion. Just wait until some Boston fan comes by. I've got everything covered. It was really a fans game. I'm just waiting for Darrell to come by, he's a Boston fan. He's probably hiding from me."

Bert was feeding Scruffy some pieces of his sandwich. Peter said, "At least give her a piece with meat. She smells the cheese in your pack."

'Dennis," said Bert. "You like cheese? Look what I got this morning at the Metro store." He showed me a plastic container of garlic spiced, creamed cheese. Two of these for five dollars, that's about half price. When they're near the expiry date they put them on sale. Smell this! You like limburger? I love it, me. Again, two for five dollars. I had some brie, but already I ate all of it. It's better warmed up a bit. It was cold this morning so it didn't have much taste."

Peter said, "Bert and his exotic cheese. Yesterday I boiled some big chicken drumstics with carrots, onion and celery. Just like my mother used to cook. She'd say, "Now you boil it for an hour and a half, so it absorbs all the flavor from the carrots and celery. It was delicious, of course Scruffy got some of it."

Frank said, "Bert, do you want to come over to my place for some surf and turf? I'm really a good cook. I've got steaks, a bag of shrimp. I spent fifty bucks. My arm is sore from carrying two plastic bags of groceries all the way home. I really pigged out yesterday.

"Thanks for getting my bus pass, now everything is taken care of."

Bert said, "I can't go to your place, I still have to get my pills."

"Shit, that's something I forgot to do, get my pills."

Albert got up to leave. "I'll be back." he said, "I just have to pay my Rogers bill."

"Dammit!" said Frank, "I got a Rogers bill at home that I haven't paid. I forgot all about that. I hope they don't cut off my T.V."

27 March 2013

As I approached the park I could see the Salvation Army van parked beside the traffic island. About a half dozen people were milling around. I couldn't make out their faces.

On the opposite curb were Peter and Scruffy, Sparky and Glen."

Glen said to me, "Mo's over there."

Shortly after, Mo came limping across the street. "I'm sorry I haven't been around much. My legs are really giving me trouble."

I asked, "Have you talked to your worker about getting your health card and your prescriptions?"

"I was just asking these ladies to pass a message along to her. I better go back, there's still some stuff I have to discuss with them."

"I'll come with you."

At the traffic island were Emile, Albert Mimi, and Bert."

"Emile!" I said, "I haven't seen you for months, and you shaved this morning."

"I not only shaved, I've been sober for three months now. I've just been staying around home. I havent been down here for ages."

"How is your stomach feeling?'

"A lot better now. I've still got problems, but not nearly as bad as before."

I shook hands with Bert, Mimi and Albert. Albert said, "Dennis, remember those bus tickets you gave me a while back. I think I gave them to Mo or somebody. Do you have any more?"

"Sure, Albert, I've got extra."

Albert said, "Thanks, Dennis, I'm going to be leaving now."

Mimi said, "He's just going to the Mission for his lunch. Mo and I were over at his place yesterday. Mo brought some steaks. Mina was there. Mo was really polite to her. She said to me , 'This is Albert's place, he can have any one over that he wants to. I just wish he'd stay away from the people who are just after his money.'

"I don't know why he invites her over. She probably lets him play with her a bit, I don't know how far it goes.

"Anyway, Mo was cooking the vegetables and had the steaks in the frying pan. Mina comes over and starts fussing with the meat and flickng her hair. Both Mo and I got pissed off. Mo said, "Just why are you here? Were you invited, or did you just decide to drop by? I'm trying to cook dinner for my friends." Mina got the hint and left. Albert didn't say anything.

"I don't go out very often. I like to be alone and I have a certain reputation, being that I've lived there for four years. When ever there is a vacancy the landlady always asks me if I know them, and what kind of a person are they. There was a real problem with the guy who used to be in the basement. He was a real nut job. I probably had something to do with getting him to leave. He destroyed that apartment. The landlady sued him, but he must have had a really good lawyer, because he didn't have to pay for any damage."

"What kind of damage did he do?"

"The kind of flooring, that he had, came in a roll, but it had lines on it. Do you know the type I mean?"


"Something like that, anyway, when it's flat it looks like tiles. He used duct tape over every one of the lines, every place he thought a draft might come through. He took a hammer to the counter, left that in pieces, ripped the cupboards down. For some reason, he threw a bucket of water at the door. Like I said, he destroyed the place."

"I like to smoke every once in a while, when I lived at the back I could never see the landlady coming. I'd hear her in the hall yelling, 'I know somebody's smoking here.' I'd get out the Fabreze and some other things I use to clear the smell from the air. Now, I live in the front so I can see her car pull up. She told me once, 'I know you smoke, but I've never seen you.'

"Yesterday, I invited Mo to come up. Lonely Heart came over and they went back to her place for a while. He didn't stay long. She came back up and we listened to music, danced a bit, smoked, had a few beer.

"Every once in a while I have my concerts in the evening: The Eagles, another night it might be Santana, what ever I'm in the mood for. Around 10:30 I lower the volume. I don't want to get in trouble with my neighbors, but they all know me."

It was time for me to leave, so I said my good byes and crossed the street. I said good bye to Frank and Peter. Peter said, "Dennis, if you're coming by tomorrow, could you bring me a book. You know what I like, a spy story, espionage, that sort of thing. I've gotthe whole Easter seekend and no book to read."

"Sure, Peter."

26 March 2013

Today, Bert, Peter and Scruffy were sitting on the curb. A short while later Mina joined them. Peter asked me, "Dennis, did I see you here yesterday?"

"Yes, Peter, I was here."

"I thought you might have been, but I couldn't be sure. I'm a bit foggy about yesterday, it being Frank's birthday and all. It was my job to take care of him, so to speak. All I remember is being woken up at 'the heater' at 11:00 by the police, saying I couldn't sleep there. It took me another two and a half hours to walk home. I stopped at Tim Horton's 0n the way. I left Scruffy's blanket behind. I left her water dish behind...

"It's a good thing you didn't forget Scruffy."

"No, I'd never do that. She'd remind me. We've been through a lot together.

"So, Dennis, do you have a cigarette for me?"

"No, Peter, I havent had cigarettes for thirty years."

"You're no help!

"Excuse me, Ma'am, could I buy a cigarette from you?"

"Sorry I only have a few left."

"Mina, I hate to ask you since you just sat down, but could I have a cigarette?"

"Yes, Peter, here you go. Bert will you pass this down?"

"Thanks, Mina. I hate asking. I don't mind panning. I can get ten bucks that way, but asking for a cigarette? Some of my regulars wont even give me money if they see me smoking.

Frank asked , "Mina, do we get our checks today?"

"I got mine, Mo got hers. Yours should be in the mail today."

I asked Mina, "Have you seen Mo lately?"

"Yeah, I saw her earlier today at Albert's. I decided not to stick around, Mo and I aren't on good terms lately."

25 March 2013

At the park, sitting on the curb, were Frank, Peter and his dog, Scruffy, Little Albert, Rhino, Bert, Roger and Guy. Frank asked me, "Dennis, do you know what day this is? It's my birthday. I turn 42 again. Ha ha ha! I'm half in the bag now, thanks to Peter, and I got some pot from Bert."

"Happy birthday, Frank!"

I walked over to Rhino, who I hadn't seen for about six months. "Hi Rhino, it's been a long time. How is everything going?"

"Fine, same old, same old. I got a picture on my phone here that I want to show you. It's a D-11 dozer, the kind I drove in B.C."

"That looks like an expensive phone."

"Yes, it is, very expensive.

"Do you have any plans to go back there?"

"No, they're getting me set up on disability allowance. I'll wait to see how that works out."

Peter called me over, "Dennis, I'm a bit wasted,but I wanted to tell you about a book I'm reading. It's written by a guy..."

Little Alberrt interupted, "Hi Peter!"

"Albert, will you give us a few minutes. I'll lose my train of thought. Now, where was I? If I get distracted the little mice, running around in their wheel in my brain, get confused and go in every which direction, then I never know what will come to mind. Anyway, the book was written by somebody Sandford. I can't remember his first name (John). The title has 'Prey' in it, there is a whole series of them (Eyes of Prey, Winter Prey, Naked Prey, Silent Prey, Night Prey). The main character is Lucas Davenport, a so-called detective from Wisconsin. One of the ladies gave the book to me. I was surprised -- it's a bit raw for their tastes. Anyway, you'd like it -- a real shoot-em-up. You know the type. It's about this ninety-one year old man, with dementia, who still thinks the Cold War is still going on. He believes he's in some kind of a sleeper cell working for the C.I.A. He engages his grandson to do his dirty work. He gets him to shoot an envoy from the Russian Embassy; of course the grandson screws it all up. You get the idea."

Scruffy was getting restless and started barking. Peter said, "Scruffy, stop pacing in circles. Pick someone, anyone, and bite them. How about Bert over there? No, it's just Bert's shoes you like to bite. How about Frank, or Albert? Okay then, just lie down on your blanket and be quiet. Here's a doggy biscuit. Dennis you give her a biscuit. She'll love you for life."

I asked Frank, "Do you have your furniture yet?"

"No, not yet. I'm hoping to get some things soon.

Frank asked Roger, "Do you guys ever come across used or discarded furniture?"

"Sometimes we do. What is it you need?"

"I really need a microwave."

"We'll see what we can do."

"Thanks, man, I'd appreciate that."

22 March 2013

At the traffic island today were Sparky, Bert and Frank. We greeted each other and I was about to sit on the sidewalk. Frank said, "Be careful, Dennis, don't sit on that metal plate. You'll freeze your ass off."

Bert handed me a folded hoodie, I sat on that. When I was settled Sparky said, "Thanks Dennis for giving me those bus tickets yesterday. I paid my fare and they took me home in handcuffs."

"How did that happen, Sparky?"

"I wasn't even drunk, I was just tired. I fell asleep and when I woke up I was in the bus garage at the end of the line. The driver called security. They drove me home in hand cuffs.

"I still don't have my hydro. I phoned my worker this morning. She said, 'I don't think we'll have time to see you today, Sparky.' I said, 'You mean I'm going to have to go all weekend with out hydro. How would you like to go all weekend without hydro?' Then she said, We'll try to make room for you some time this afternoon."

"Where is their office? Where do you have to go to meet them?"

"Their office is on Preston, but they know where I'll be. Where I am every day -- at my office."

Frank asked, "Is everything turned off? When I had problems with hydro a guy took me to the basement. He flipped a breaker switch and everything was okay after that."

Sparky said, "My heat isn't on, my stove doesn't work, my fridge doesn't work, my radio doesn't work, my lamp doesn't work, my microwave doesn't work, my dish washer doesn't work..."

"Sparky, you don't have a dishwasher!" said Frank, "but you've got a hell of a lot more than I have."

Bert was paging through a flyer from the Metro grocery store. He said, "I have to buy some margarine. They have
Beycel here for $3.79, but that's too expensive. Here they have the meat pies I like. They're so good. Three Meat Pies they call them for $3.50 each. If someone had hydro, he could buy some of these. They're frozen, you just heat them up in your oven or microwave."

Frank asked, "When you're finished with that, Bert can I have a look at it.

"When do we get our check this month?"

"This month we get it on the Thursday, because the next day is Good Friday."

"My birthday is on Wednesday. You mean I get my check the day after my birthday. For four days my younger brother and I are the same age. I get that extra $200. for my special diet. I'm spending it all on food this time. I'm going to stock my freezer full."

Bert Said, "Don't forget your bus pass. It's only thirty-five dollars. I always buy mine on check day. That way I don't forget."

Frank said, "Okay, Bert you remind me and we'll both get them at the same time."

Bert said, "I don't mind buying yours if you promise to pay me back."

"Thanks, Bert. I'll pay you back. I'll be able to pay everybody back, as long as I don't celebrate too much on my birthday.

"Look over there, Uncle Peter is really drunk. Scruffy is rolling in the snow."

Bert said, "She wants to go home. She's been out all morning. Look who else is there, Billy and Troll, the biggest leeches in town. I bet they rob him blind. They know Peter always makes lots of money on Friday, because people know he won't be panning on the weekend. If Peter sends Troll on a run, he probably won't come back."

21 March 2013

I saw Mo huddled in her blanket, hood pulled up, with another blanket wrapped around her legs. Under the blanket she was wearing white and pink striped socks over her summer shoes.

After we greeted she said, "Where were you yesterday? I was worried about you. I even asked Grant if he had seen you. I guessed that you drove to work."

I said, "Yesterday I was running late and took another route down Elgin Street. Because it was snowing I didn't think you'd be here."

"Yeah, I was here. I'm freezing now. This cold weather is really hard on my fibromyalgia. My legs are stiff. At least at home I have the heater that a friend gave me. I even take it into the bathroom with me. What I'm looking forward to now is a nice hot soak in my bathtub. At home I'm fine. I wouldn't be here if I wasn't running short of money.

"I see these chicks wearing miniskirts up to here, nylons and pointy heeled come-fuck-me-boots. I want to say to them, Put a pair of pants on. When you get to work you can peel off in the washroom and come out looking fly. Who are you trying to impress out here on the street... me?"

"Do you have your health card and your prescriptions, yet."

"No, I'm still trying to get in contact with my worker. I've left all kinds of phone messages for her. I told her, 'Either I'll be here, panning, or I'll be at home.' How complicated is that?

"There is an apartment opening up on the main floor. I'd be beween the guys that stomp around -- there's a third one now -- and the crazy lady that screams all the time, but I could take care of that."

"I don't think I'll be at the traffic island at noon. It's just too cold.


At the traffic island were Sparky, Bert, Glen with his dog Capone and Darrell with his dog Muff. The two dogs didn't get along, so Darrell tied Muff to a fence on the far side and Glen kept Capone on his leash. There was still some barking, growling and howling. Darell said, "Muff thinks he's the boss, Capone thinks he's the boss. It's better just to keep them separated. Capone is just a pup."

Darrell asked Sparky, "How's it going, Sparkles? Everything okay at your place?"

"No, I haven't had a drink."

Darrell said, "I can help you with that." To the rest of us he said, "Sparky and me are the only ones of us who can't function at all before we've had a couple of drinks. I can't even make it from my couch to the fridge, and I live in a small bachelor apartment."

Sparky said, "Besides that, they've cut off my hydro. I phoned my worker about it. They're supposed to take care of that. She said, 'Just take your last bill to the bank. They'll look after it for you.' I said, 'What's the point of me taking it to the bank. I don't have any friggin money. I didn't even have money for the bus yesterday. I got on with Glen, he showed them his pass and I just sat down. The driver said to me, 'This bus isn't leaving until you get off.'"

I asked, "Did you get off?"

"No, I just sat there. Other people were getting off. They were asking, 'How long do we have to wait here?' The driver said, 'Until this guy gets off, or the police come, whichever happens first.' Eventually the transit security guys came. They took me off, then gave me a day pass so I could catch the next bus to get home."

Darrell said, "So security didn't mind you bothering another bus driver. They just didn't want you bothering that one."

"I guess so.

"Another problem I'm having is my phone doesn't work. It exploded."

Darrell said, "Don't give me that, Sparkles! You threw it against the wall. We've all been there, done that."

Bert asked, "Did you hear that Johnny, in the electric wheel chair died. It happened just last Friday. They amputated both his legs, but the gangrene went higher. He died in hospital.

"His brother came down from Toronto. Johnny had already died by then. The first thing the brother did was to contact Johnny's worker, then he had the locks changed. That's strange, isn't it? Johnny had a roommate. Now the roommate can't get in, get his stuff out or anything. The brother went back to Toronto.

"I saw Mo earlier. She and Albert went over to his place. They asked if I wanted to come, but they both smoke. I don't want to breathe that stuff. I'd rather stay out in the fresh air. I'd go home, but my window is boarded up and it's dark in there.

I asked, "Has anybody heard anything more about Louis?"

Bert said, "You mean guitar player Louis? Last I heard, from somebody here, was that Louis had been beated up and was taken to hospital. He wasn't expected to live through the weekend."

I asked, "Does anybody know his last name? Maybe I could look him up on the computer."

Darrell said, "John Jobe. His real name is John Jobe."

I said, "He goes by Lewis, but they call him John for short."

"Something like that."

6 March 2013

This afternoon I found Darrell and his dog, Muff panning on the sidewalk. I stopped to talk to him and the first thing he asked was, "Have you heard anything about Mo?"

I said that I hadn't and mentioned that I had phoned the hospital today with no result.

I said, "She has her own place now. She has friends nearby if she has any problems."

"She has to stop drinking. For the past year she's been watering her wine down to almost nothing, but she still gets sick. Her kidneys are ready to shut down. She may have been on dialysis again. I don't know. Do you have her phone number?"

'No, I've never had a phone number for her."

Darrell said, "I have a phone, but I don't have any numbers on it. I barely know how to use it."

"It's hard to quit drinking, I just got out of the hospital myself. I was dehydrated. The doctor said, 'I don't want to state the obvious, you should quit drinking, but if you have a glass of juice or water, between drinks of alcohol, that will help.'

"The people at the Shawarma Restaurant here kind of mother me. Mia will come out on her break and bring me a bottle of vitamin water or Gatorade. She'll say, 'Now, Darrell, I want you to drink this to keep your electolytes up. I'm going to stand here until you drink it.' Another waitress will bring me a bottle of something when her shift has ended.

"Frank, Uncle Peter and I were talking a while back and we counted fourteen of us who have gone this past year. That's really sad. I'm not going to last much longer."

I asked, "Have you seen anything of Claude, lately?"

"No, I haven't seen him for three or four months. I don't know what's happened to him."

I said, "I visited him in hospital when he had his last fall..."

"Yeah, he said it was a fall, but nobody falls that much. He was beaten, probably by some of those young punks. He was a nice guy, always quiet, minded his own buisiness, kept to himself."

7 March 2013

This morning Grant asked me if I had seen Mo lately. I saw somebody sitting in her spot. I asked, "Who's that?"

"That's Mark, he doesn't know anything. I already asked him."

I introduced myself to Mark. He said, "They call me Markus the Carcass (he does look a bit like a cadaver, with hollow cheeks, deep circles beneath his eyes. You're a friend of Mo's aren't you?"

"Yes!" I said, "Have you heard anything about her?"

"I don't know her very well, but what I know as a pan handler is, if you're not out panning over Christmas there must be something terribly wrong. I heard that she was down here for a few hours in January, but that's it."

I said, "I visited her three times in the hospital, she was released, then went back in again. Maybe I'll try the hospital again."

I phoned the General Hospital and they don't presently have her on record, so, looking on the positive side, I guess she's been released. I'll wander down to 'the heater' at noon to see if anyone is around. I haven't talked to any of my friends in weeks. I really miss them.

11 March 2013

This morning Grant said to me, "Your friend is back. I think she's still there. I didn't see her pass this way."

"Thanks, Grant."

Sure enough, Mo was sitting in her usual place. She said, "I was wondering if you sitll came by this way. I've been out of hospital for thirteen days, but it was just too cold to come down here. I'm using a cane now, so I have to be careful walking on icy sidewalks. They gave me a walker to use at home, but I can't carry it up the stairs. I've been put on a list for subsidised housing. Theyre going to try to find me a place with no stairs.

"Darrell was worried about you, I talked to him last week."

"Darrell should be worrying about himself. Did you hear what happened to him?"

"He mentioned that he had been in hospital."

"He went really crazy. They had him in the Psych. Ward. He thought that people were shooting at him. He was sitting there dodging bullets. I guess they have him on meds. now."

"Do you have your Health Card now?"

"No, they seemed to have lost it at the hospital. I don't have my prescriptions either. I thought they would be in the envelope they gave me, but they weren't there. I was just anxious to get out,

"Before I went into the hospital I had portions of food in baggies. I forgot to put them in the freezer. When I got home there was a horrible smell and a real mess in the fridge.


I walked to the park at noon. It had started raining, so I wasn't expecting to see any of my friends there. At the benches were Peter and his dog Scruffy, Frank, Big Albert, Little Albert, Hoover and Glen. As I approached Peter said to me, "You just missed Mo, she just left."

"I didn't think she'd stay out in the rain."

"How are you Frank, Do you have your furniture yet?"

"No, I fucked up again. I was supporsed to have seventy dollars for the delivery. You don't get anything for free. I'd spent the money, so they put me on the list again. Maybe, next month."

I said, "I heard that Darrell was in hospital."

Peter said, "He was out with me. We were both over at Hoover's place doing some mushrooms. It was about 1:30, I guess Hoover wanted to go to bed, he asked us to leave. That's why I don't like to have people at my place, you can never get them to leave. Anyway, Darrell and I staggered back to my place. He was in rough shape, We'd both been into the Cosmo thing (if you know what I mean) I think he'd been snorting some dummy dust. I put him in the bedroom, then I heard crashing noises. I went in, he'd torn my metal table in half and was hiding in the closet saying that people were shooting at him. I was pissed off, so I told him to leave. Half an hour later he came back with three cops. I told them that I had to putt the two dogs in a room, so I had plenty of time to stash my pot and anything else I had out.

I opened the door, invited the cops in. They asked me about shooting. I told them, 'There's been no shooting here. It's all in Darrell's head.' I showed them the mess he made. Showed them some photos of him and me together with the dogs, so that they knew we were buds. I asked them to take him somewhere. They said, 'We don't operate a taxi service.' I said, 'Do what you like then, but he's not coming back in here.' He was in the hospital about five days. When he came back to get Muff he apologized, but he didn't offer to pay for any of the damage. If he'd offered me a hundred bucks, I wouldn't have turned him down."

11 March 2013

It was raining this morning until about nine o'clock. At noon I went to the park, not expecting to see any of my friends. Peter and his dog Scruffy were there along with Little Albert.

Peter said, "Hello, Dennis, I hope you're going to help me beat up Bert today. He really pissed me off. The number of years I've been around I don't need anybody telling me where to sit. I've been downtown since six this morning. I was at my spot until nine then came here. I'm soaked, Scruffy is soaked and our caboose is soaked. I got something here, but don't tell anyone." He pulled out a bottle of sherry from under Scruffy's blanket and took a drink. Scruffy prefers to lay in the mud. Then he took out a can of Old Milwaukee and poured it in his drinking bottle and down his leg.

"Sit down Albert. Oh, I forgot, we had this conversation yesterday, you prefer standing."

"Yeah, I like to stand. I'm short enough anyway. The only way I get to look down on people is if they're sitting and I'm standing."

I asked, "So, how's it going, Albert?"

"About five feet, one and a half inches. Standing on the curb makes me a bit taller."

"No, I meant how are things going for you?"

"I'm doing okay, I only think about what's going on right now. I don't think about the future."

"That's a good attitude. We don't know what's going to happen tomorrow. We don't even know what's going to happen in the next hour."

January 20, 2013 at 4:16pm
January 20, 2013 at 4:16pm

24 January 2013

When I got off the bus this morning I was greeted, as usual by Grant and Steve. Grant said, "Hey, Mo was here yesterday. She's using a cane now. She only lasted about ten minutes because of the cold."

"It's great to hear that she's out of hospital."

"Yeah, she's looking good."

Steve was wearing a balaclava. I asked him, "Are you going to rob any banks after your shift?"

"Yes, as a matter of fact, five of them: the Royal, the Imperial, BMO, TD and another one. I can't remember the name."

"Well Steve, you don't need to know the name of a bank to rob it. Good luck with that."

"Have a good day, Dennis."

"You too Steve, Grant. Stay warm."

23 January 2013

This morning on the 176 bus I met Irwin. I hadn't seen him for a long time. He said, "I have to go to Kanata to see my probation officer. I told you, I got six months probation with community service. I'm at the Oaks Residence where they have a 'Managed Alcohol Program.' I'm doing really well."


"I can see that. You look good. You must be anxious to get back to work moving furniture?"

"Yeah, going to work would be good."

"How about plans to move back to British Columbia? Do you think that will ever happen?

"No, I like it here."

"Even in this cold weather?"

"Yeah, I can put up with it."

18 January 2013

Friday night, as I was returning from work on the bus, I heard a commotion at the front. There sere people standing in front of me so I couldn't see what was happening. I heard, "Jesus Christ, can't you give a guy a break. He's been hit by a car and just wants to get home. He doesn't have any money."

Things settled down and gradually people exited the bus and, to my surprise, sitting across from me were Frank and Sparky. We greeted each other then Sparky said, "Dennis, did you hear what happened to me? Last Wednesday night I was hit by a car at the corner of Merivale and Moriset. The woman driving said she didn't see me. The piggies drove past and didn't even stop."

Frank said, "Sparky, you were dressed in all black with your hood pulled up. That's probably the reason she didn't see you."

I asked Sparky, "Did you go to the hospital, or see a doctor?"

Frank said, "No, Sparky doesn't like hospitals or doctors, but you should see his knee, it's swollen like a grapefruit."

I said, "Maybe he needs a brace for his knee or crutches."

Frank said, "He doesn't want that, he'd rather lean on me. By the way have you heard from Mo?"

"I went to see her in hospital before Christmas. She seemed okay, I pushed her in her wheelchair downstairs so she could go for a smoke. I know she has issues about staying alone, especially without furniture."

Frank said, "I have issues about staying alone. I trashed my apartment last week. I went to see Debbie, my worker, and she's going to send a cleaning team Monday morning. She's really great. They're going to bring mops and buckets and cleaning supplies. I told her she didn't have to do that. I'll have the place cleaned by Sunday, but she wouldn't listen. She's arranged for me to see a doctor as well. I'm going to be going to the General Hospital, where Mo is. I know she doesn't like people to just drop by on her, but if I have a reason to be there, it should be okay."

"Frank, do you have your furniture yet?"

"No, I was supposed to contact Debbie the first week of January, but I just wasn't up to it. I don't have a phone, so she wasn't able to contact me. I've still just got the bed and the air conditioner, still in its box that I use to sit on. I don't have any money, except for a few tim Horton cards. I go there, have a coffee and watch TV. I pick up butts, that's all I have to smoke."

Sparky had his head on his knees and his eyes closed. I said to Frank, "Is Sparky asleep?"

Sparky opened his eyes, "I'm not asleep, it's just that I'm in pain because of my knee."

I said, "I've been to the park a few times, but nobody has been there except for Maryam. I talked to her one day. I've had a cold, so I haven't been going out much at noon. I heard that Emile has an apartment now."

Frank said, I haven't seen anybody since before Christmas. The last time I saw Emile, he was bumming off us. We didn't part on very good terms."

Their bus stop was coming up, so Frank said, "Come on Sparky, let me help you up. We have to get off soon." Sparky put his arm around Frank and they hobbled off the bus. I was surprised at how much I had missed them.
January 2, 2013 at 1:41pm
January 2, 2013 at 1:41pm

7 January, 2013

Tonight I met with one of the housing outreach workers. All but two of my friends are now housed.

2 January, 2013

The temperature at noon was 1 degree Fahrenheit with a 13 mph wind, making it feel like -17. Last night it went down to -5. The only person at 'the heater' was Maryam.

Maryam said, "Hi, my boyfriend, Ambrose is in hospital."

"I'm sorry to hear that, which hospital is he in."

"He's in the Montfort. He's been there for a couple of days now. He has pneumonia. Also, he's had paranoia. He thought he saw people standing around his bed, but there was nobody there. He thought they were trying to kill him. He ran outside. The police brought him back in. They said that if he stayed outside, he would die.

"When he got back to his hospital bed they gave him a glass of whiskey, because he's an alcoholic."

I said, "Irwin is on a program at The Oaks. They give him a glass of wine every hour. Gradually he'll be able to stop drinking. He wants to get back to work. He does furniture moving, but it's hard for him while he's an alcoholic."

Maryam said, "We've been sleeping outside lately. We are on a list to get an apartment, but nothing has happened."

"Where, exactly, have you been sleeping?" I asked.

"On York street. If you go to the end, there is a little boutique there, turn left into the alley. There's a place with a heater that blows down on you. We have a covering that goes around us.

"For a couple of days he wasn't able to eat. His face was getting very thin. That's when he decided that he should go to the hospital.

"Have you thought of staying at some place like the Mission?"

"After Ambrose gets out of hospital, we may have to. I don't like those places. They're rough , noisy, crowded and stuff gets stolen there."

I said, "Sparky told me that every time he sleeps at the Mission, Shepherd's or the Salvation Army, things are stolen from him: his backpack, money, bottles, pot even his clothes."

"I'm going to see Ambrose at the hospital this afternoon, but first I have to go to Welfare to see if I can get my bus pass. Ambrose has a check waiting there but only he can sign for it. I'm going to talk to them and see if they can release it to me. I'm listed on all his forms. I don't even have his phone number at the hospital"

I asked, "When you visit your worker at Welfare, can she help you to get an apartment? She should be able to help you get the phone number for Ambrose at the hospital."

"Maybe, I don't know, they were looking for us, but we haven't been back there for two weeks. Maybe they found someplace.

"Ambrose has an appointment with his probation officer, tomorrow morning at 8:30. He's going to have to cancel. I don't know the phone number, I hope he's awake, so I can get the number from him.

"This morning I ate at McDonald's. I didn't think I had any money, but I found four dollars and twenty-five cents. I was so hungry.

"Next week I start at New Directions. They're going to help me."


December 16, 2012 at 12:36pm
December 16, 2012 at 12:36pm

31 December 2012

Snow was lightly falling at noon, the temperature was around the freezing point with no wind. Bert, Jacquie, Mimi, Peter and Scruffy were standing at the heater.

Peter said to Jacquie, "Is your name like Downtown Jackie Brown? I think that was a movie."

"No, it's like Jacquie Kennedy.

"Hi Peter," I said, "Did you and Scruffy have a good Christmas?"

"It was quiet, I haven't been back here since I saw you last. I dropped over to Emile's new apartment. It's actually Darrell's old apartment in the same building as Lonely Heart.. They had to gut it when Darrell left. I'm not sure what kind of infestation he had. They replaced the walls, put in a new wooden floor. He has new appliances. I had a few beer with Emile. I sure hope he takes care of the place. It's like a palace.

"I'm worried that Frank is going to be evicted. He has a hydro bill of two hundred dollars that he hasn't paid. They've cut off his power except for his stove. Two hundred dollars seems a lot for three months. I only pay about thirty-one. He has electric baseboard heaters. I'd never get a place with them. They're expensive. Frank's got to get that sorted with his worker. I'm surprised that they aren't covering his hydro."

I said to Peter, "Darrell has a nice place too, doesn't he?"

Peter said, "Well, it's smaller, it has carpet. He has a dog. That's hard on a carpet. It's not just the dog hair, but the wet, muddy feet. Darrell's not much of a housekeeper.

"I've had my place over three years and I wouldn't be embarrassed to invite you over. It's reasonably tidy and well taken care of."

I asked Bert, "Have you heard from Mo, lately? Has she phoned you?"

"No, but Dave's supposed to go visit her. I guess she's still depressed."

"So, how was your Christmas, Bert?" I asked.

"Same old, same old. I was here on Christmas with my Santa hat on, but I left. Everybody has apartments now, so they didn't come down here. I was looking for the chicken man, but I didn't see him either."

I asked, "Has the security guard been by yet?"

"No, not yet. He doesn't usually come by. Now it's the city cops giving out tickets for trespassing. They have them all made out ahead of time. They gave one to Sparky. It was just written out to 'Sparky'. I don't think that will hold up in court.

"How about you, Mimi?" I asked, did you have a good Christmas?"

"It was just me an my son, so it was quiet."

Jackie asked, "Didn't you have Anthony with you?"

"No, I kicked him out two and a half months ago."

"I'm so sorry," said Jacquie.

"I'm not," said Mimi, "He was someone who could just suck the energy out of a place. Do you know what I mean?"

Peter said, "I know what you mean. It can really affect your health when you live with someone like that."

"Yeah, I was tired all the time, was getting colds. I was tired of being in debt. I'm a bit lonely now. It was nice to have someone to snuggle up to, but I can live with being alone.

"Another thing, when I lived with Anthony I was always cold. Mind you, we had our bed on the floor, that can make a difference. Now I sleep on a bed that folds into a couch, when I don't need it for sleeping. I think just being a foot higher makes a big difference."

Peter pulled his toque off and said, "Has everybody seen my new haircut? I went to the barber shop on Montreal Road, across from the bank. There's a little Lebanese lady that runs it. Just twelve dollars for a haircut. She asked me, 'How do you want your hair to look?' I said, 'Do anything you want.' That put a smile on her face. When I left I said, 'See you again next year.' It's been a year since I last had it cut."

Mimi said, "I've stopped having my hair cut. I think the last time I had it done was 1994. It's long, but it doesn't grow any more. I don't have it colored or anything. If I get split ends I use some of that beef marrow shampoo. That seems to repair all the damage."

I said, I like the grey in your hair. It looks a lot more interesting than if you had it dyed all one color. If you had to pay to have your hair colored, like you have it naturally, it would cost a fortune."

Mimi said, "They say that when men have gray hair they look distinguished. When women have gray hair they just look old."

"I don't agree, I think your hair looks beautiful."

"It really does," said Peter.

Bert pulled off his sheepskin hat to show off his bald head. I have a set of clippers. Every couple of months I cut Hoover's hair, just cut it all off. I'll do the same with mine one day."

Jacquie said, "Bert, Your hair is really long at the back, but it's so little."

"It's so little," repeated Bert, "that's the story of my life."

28 December 2012

The sun was shining at noon. The temperature was 16 degrees Fahrenheit. It was pleasant as long as one stayed in the sunshine and out of the shadows. At the traffic island were Rhino, Frank, big Albert, Bert and small Albert.

I asked Rhino, "Did you have a good Christmas?"

"Yeah, it was good. My mom, my dad and my sister came over. They brought me a coffee table and two end tables."

"How about you, Frank? Did you have a good Christmas?"

"I had a shitty Christmas. On Christmas day they turned my hydro off, so I have no lights. I've been there three months, I haven't even seen a hydro bill. My stove still works. I guess they aren't allowed to let people freeze in the winter. I've got three outlets on my stove, so I can plug in my coffee maker, my toaster and my radio. That's all I really need. My worker is out of town now. I hope she can get this sorted out.

"I got a money order for four hundred dollars. I hid it in my closet. I'm saving that to pay the rent."

Rhino said, "Hey, Frank, do you need a dresser?"

"No, thanks buddy, but the first week of January I'm supposed to get my new furniture. I'll have to tidy up a bit. When I found out the hydro was off I went a bit crazy. Can you blame me? I broke my broom, my lamp and kicked a lot of other stuff around.

"On top of that, I was over at Sparky's place drinking with him and a friend of his. They asked me to go out for a smoke run. They gave me fifteen bucks and I went to Mac's Milk. I bought the smokes and brought them back the change. The next morning I saw my loose change on the window sill, but I didn't see any bills. There should have been eighty bucks. I went through all my pockets, but there were no bills. I thought back and the only thing I can think of is that it fell out of my pocket at Mac's. I was drunk, so I may have missed my pocket. The guy in line behind me must have been happy. That's the first time I've lost money in a long time. I lived on the street. If there is one thing I take care of it's money."

"How about you, Bert?" I asked, "How was your Christmas?

"I was at 'the heater' with Scottish Dave. I was wearing my Santa hat. A guy came by and wanted to take my picture. He had one of those collector cameras that you look down into. He turned a lot of funny buttons, then 'click.' He said he'd come by and give me a sample. You've never seen me in my Santa hat?"

"No, Bert, I haven't

"Albert," I asked, "did you have a good Christmas?"

"Yes I did. My daughter took me out to Mother Tucker's in the market. We had dinner, then she took me to the Chateau Laurier. She's only twenty-three years old and she has her own fitness business."

"Do you get to see her often?"

"Whenever she can fit me into her schedule."

Big Albert Asked, "Have you seen Mo lately?"

"I was at the hospital two weeks ago. I hope to go there this weekend. How about you?"

"I haven't seen her. I don't have any bus tickets." I gave him four.

Frank said, " Did I tell you about my cat?"

"Yes, I knew you had a cat named Spaz. You have a cat too, don't you Rhino?"

"I had one, he came mewing at my door at 2:30 one morning. I took him in. When he shit on my floor I threw him out."

Frank said, "This cat of mine likes to sleep on the pillow next to me and purr. I've never had that before. She also likes to smell my breath."

I said, "She must like sherry."

"Yeah, I guess so. She was running around, so I fed her some Tender Vittles and she settled right down. She's just a kitten but she has sharp claws. See these marks on my arm? Those aren't from bed bugs, they're from my cat. I think I've also got a scratch by my ear. Can you see it?"

"Yes I see it," I said.

"I've got a cat now," said big Albert, "But he doesn't scratch."

Bert said,"Did you see that! The bus just ran over that bicycle! I don't know if there was anybody on the bicycle, It doesn't matter. It may have been pointing the wrong way, but that's no reason to run over it."

Frank Said, "Bert, you're drunk. Nobody listens to you when you're drunk."

"I may be drunk, but I know what I see."

"Frank," I asked, "did the bus run over the bicycle?"

"No," said Frank, "That's Oscar's bicycle. The bus didn't run over it. Oscar stopped to talk to someone on the sidewalk. He's picked up his bicycle and ridden away."

20 December 2012

At noon the weather was pleasant. At 'the heater' were Bert, Sparky, Uncle Peter and his dog Scruffy.

"Dennis," Peter said, "I was at my usual place panning this morning and from seven o'clock to ten thirty I made more money than I usually make in a week, I made three hundred and forty dollars -- in just those three and a half hours. It only happens at Christmas, that's the only time people feel generous."

Bert said, "That was the same with me, when I first came to town. I was panning with my dog, near Christmas time. I made seven hundred dollars. It's never happened since."

"Bert, do you have any plans for Christmas?"

"No, I'll be here. For me it's a day like any other."

I asked, "Will you be going to any of the special Christmas dinners at the Shepherd's or at the Mission?"

"The Shepherds had their big meal last week, and the one for the Mission was yesterday. I always hear about them a day too late. I may go to the Mission for breakfast on Christmas, that's all. When Pikpik was around we used to celebrate, but he's not around any more. Maybe we'll go to Sparky's new place. It's big. I only have a room and I don't like cigarette smoke. All these guys smoke. I don't even have a window that I can open. There's plywood where the window used to be. Sparky has a big patio door that he can open. The smoke has a way out then."

"Bert," Sparky asked, "If you smoke pot, why is it that smoke doesn't bother you?"

"It's just different. I don't know why. Maybe it's because I smoke it from a pipe."

Sparky said, "When I was fourteen, I was in a juvenile home. The guy who ran it had a collection of Mary Jane pipes, really nice ones. I stole one of them one time. He knew exactly who took it. He came knocking on my door. 'Sparky,' he said,'I know you stole my pipe. Now give it back.' I never gave the pipe back to him, ha, ha,ha."

Bert said, "I used to have about twelve pipes, but with all the moving around I lost most of them. I make them out of river rock. I find the nice smooth ones, then I drill them until they break. All I have is a drill. To make the sides smooth I rub it against a concrete wall. It acts just like sandpaper.

"You see here, a pot pipe has a larger hole in the stem. Resin collects there. even after the last of the pot has been smoked, holding a flame to the bowl will light the resin. You can get a buzz just from that. This pipe has been broken, see the crack, so I fixed it with glue. It works fine."

"Dennis," said Sparky, "Will you do me a big favor? When you're ready to leave, will you walk with me to the World Exchange and buy a forty of J.D. for me. I'll give you the money."

Sparky is barely able to walk at the best of times. His knees give out on him, so I agreed. When it was about twenty minutes before I had to be back at work I said to Sparky, "Are you ready to go now, Sparky?"

"Dennis, would you mind going by your self and bringing the bottle back to me?"

"I guess I have time. Sure, Sparky."

Peter said, "Are you going to the World Exchange? Would you mind bringing me back six cans of Old Milwaukee?"

I hadn't thought about the Christmas line ups I'd have to face in the liquor store. I made the run and was only five minutes late for work.

19 December 2012

At noon the weather was mild, slightly above freezing, with no wind. The streets were slushy, but most of the snow had either been cleared, or it had melted. At 'the heater' I met Scottish Dave, Frank, Sparky, Troll, Sela, Peter and his dog Scruffy.

I said to Peter, "I downloaded the James Ellroy trilogy, the one that ends with Suicide Hill."

"You say you downloaded it? How did you do that?"

I said, "I have an electronic reader, a Kindle, and I downloaded the book from the internet."

"I didn't know you could do that. It's a great series. It really gives you a feel of what life was like in Hollywood in the 1950's. They didn't have cameras everywhere like they do now. No cameras in the holding cells. The cops could do anything they wanted. Don't tell anybody I said this, because some of these guys, criminals, gangsters, think they're tough by spitting on the cops and calling them names. Not me, it's, 'Yes officer, no officer." If I'm drunk and they take me to jail, which they've done a few times, I'm polite. I say, 'I don't want to cause any trouble.' We have it good now. I'm glad you got those books, you'll enjoy them.

"Does anyone want a chocolate covered muffin?" Peter passed the plastic container to Bert who took one. He broke off a piece and asked Peter's permission to give it to Scruffy.

"Sure, Bert, Scruffy likes chocolate." To me Peter said, "Now if it was Darrell, he'd have a fit if anyone offered chocolate to Muff. He'd kill them. But, I figure, a little piece of chocolate, just a little one, mind you. I wouldn't give her a whole chocolate bar, but one square of a Cadbury's Caramilk, or something like that, isn't going to hurt her. I know I shouldn't smoke or drink beer. I shouldn't use pot or the other stuff, that we don't talk about, but I'm healthy. I don't have stomach problems. I enjoy a drink and a smoke with my friends every once in a while. It's a treat for me. Scruffy needs a treat sometimes too."

I saw Scottish Dave. He walked over to me and shook my hand. He said, "I haven't been around here for the past four months, but I was hoping I'd see you. I have my own apartment now. I've been there about three weeks now. I still can't believe the words coming out of my mouth, but I have my own place on Scott Street, my own brand new oven and fridge, a new floor. I still sleep on the floor in my sleeping bag, but gradually I'm getting some furniture. I've got a couple of chairs to relax in.

"Debbie from 507 approached me a couple of times. She said, we have spots for ninety people in our program and we want to choose you to be a part of it. I said I wasn't interested, then she visited m in jail, when I did the five months. I was in there with thirty guys. When she came we were allowed to go to a big empty room to talk. Just being in a room with so much space got me thinking about how much I was missing. Anyway, when I got out I started on this program, she found me the apartment, got me on O.D.S.P. (Ontario Disability Support Program). They cover part of my apartment rent, the rest comes directly out of my monthly check. I haven't even cashed my last Welfare check. Debbie asked me about it. I said, 'I've still got some of my start up allowance.'

"I'm cooking Christmas dinner, it'll be Darrell, and some of the homeless people. If you don't have any plans, you're welcome to come. I got a fourteen pound, Lilydale, grain fed turkey. I''ll be cooking that on Christmas day. I'll be getting a ham Friday. I'll cook that Christmas Eve, because my oven isn't big enough for them both. We'll have mashed potatoes, stuffing and all the trimmings. I'm a certified chef you know. I'm qualified to work at the Chateau Laurier.

"I have a good resume, good qualifications, it's just the five year gap when I was into drugs and alcohol. I've been to a few interviews, and I'm straight forward about my time in jail. I just have to find an employer who's been there, who knows where I'm coming from."

"It'll come, Dave. Just give it time."

"I've also joined A.A., but I don't like it. I may find another group I like, but at this one there's too much talk about God. I'm not a God person. I was when I was little and I may be later on, but not now, so that puts me in conflict with a lot of the steps in the twelve step program. I have cut my drinking back to about eighteen beer a week. I smoke more pot, but no crack, no other drugs. I won't even allow them in my house.

"Have you seen Rhino?"

I said, "Not for the last week or so."

"Tell him that I want to see him. He owes me money, but he doesn't have to worry. I'm not going to beat him up. I wouldn't beat up that lovable, fat bastard. I forgive him the debt and I want to forgive him in person. It's a Scottish tradition that on New Year's Eve I put on new clothes, new socks, new underwear, and forgive all those people who have wronged me, or who I have wronged."

"That's a good tradition. Have you seen Mo, she's in hospital?"

"I mean to go see her. She may not want to see me. We had kind of a falling out a while ago. I said some bad things to her. I wan't to apologize and set things right."

It was time for me to go. I shook hands with Peter and Bert. Peter had been to the food bank. Dave asked him, "Peter, will you sell me those eggs for two dollars?"

"Sure, I'll even throw a loaf of bread in for free. Sorry I don't have any cheese, you could have made an omelette."

Dave said to me, "See, Peter knows I cook and Sela's tasted my cooking. Sela, tell Dennis what a good cook I am." Sela nodded.

"Sela, you're welcome to come over to my new place. I won't sleep with you, but you're welcome to visit."

We all said good bye.

17 December 2012

This morning, on the number fourteen bus, I met Irwin. He's now clean shaven with short hair. We haven't seen each other since the summer.

"How've you been Irwin?"

"Okay, I've been staying at the Oaks for the past few months. I've been trying to get in there for five years. Finally my name got to the top of the list. Both me and my friend, Guy started at the same time, so that's good. I'm in a no smoking building right now. I'm trying to transfer to a building where they allow you to smoke in your room.


"They've got me on a program where I get an ounce of wine every hour. I'm not allowed to drink anyplace else.

"I went to court and the best my lawyer could do for me was six months probation and sixty hours community service. Also I'm not allowed to be anywhere near any place they serve or sell alcohol. Right now I heading to a meeting with my probation officer.

15 December 2012

It's Saturday. I visited Mo in the hospital, she's been moved to the Ottawa General. I went to her room and and elderly lady said, "She may be in the sun room down the hall to your right, or she may have gone to the cafeteria, or outside to have a smoke, she may be anywhere."

I thanked her and headed to the sunroom. I hardly recognized Mo. She looked so small. She was crying. I sat next to her.

"I'm glad you came. I wasn't expecting you. Why did you come?"

"I just came to see how you are. Why wouldn't I come? Bert told me about visiting you yesterday. He said you were upset about the possibilty of not getting out before Christmas. He also said that sometimes they let patients out for Christmas day."

"I don't know what's going on. I hate it here, especially on weekends. It's like a morgue, and I can tell that the nurses don't like being here on weekends either. I guess you met Emily. She moved in yesterday. She's okay, but sometimes I want to smother her. She didn't know how to flush the toilet. I don't mean just after she peed. I'd come into the bathroom and there would be poo floating in the toilet. I asked her about it. She said, 'I pushed all the buttons, but nothing made the toilet flush.' I showed her which handle to press. She must have gotten up five times last night to use the bathroom. I guess she didn't close the door before she flushed the toilet, because it woke me every time. After the injection they give me at night I'm usually gone to the world.

"She thinks she's getting out Monday. She needs help from the nurses for everything, even to put a pillow between her knees. There's no way she's getting out soon. I've even talked to her daughter. They live about a mile and a half apart, but the daughter has a family of her own. She doesn't have time to look after Emily.

"So how's everybody? Bert just sort of came, dropped off some stuff for me, took me down for a cigarette, then left."

"I saw Nancy on the bus on Tuesday. On Wednesday I saw Emile and Frank. Frank is pissed with Emile. He said he owes him money, owes him a bottle and Frank has paid for all the food."

Mo said, "The Monday, before I went to hospital, it was raining, so we were all down by the river under the Laurier Street Bridge. I told you that Emile had punched red-haired Cathy. Nancy walked up to him and punched him in the face. Then she punched him again. He had blood trickling from his mouth and he sat down on the grass away from the group and started crying. Nancy said, 'You think you're such a big man, but now you're crying like a bitch.' He said, 'I'm crying because I can't hit you back.' Nancy said, 'You can't hit me back because there are other people around. If we were alone you wouldn't have a problem, just like you didn't have a problem with Cathy.' Emile is on the outs with everyone, he owes Frank, he owes Bert, he owes Glen. You can't keep taking from people and not giving back."

"I guess you heard that Sparky has his own place now."

"Yeah, not only that, but it's completely furnished. Frank has been waiting for two months and still doesn't have any furniture, except for a bed."

"He also has an air conditioner, still in the box."

"Yeah, that he sits on. They promised me furniture on the Tuesday after I was brought in here. I hope Albert still has my other stuff. My workers were in to see me when I was at the Civic. They checked my place, said that the heat was really on now. They asked me what I wanted for Christmas. I said, 'Having an apartment full of furniture would be nice.' I've been telling my physiotherapist about how difficult it is for me to get down on my air mattress, and it leaks so I wake up on the hard floor.

"I'm practising going up and down stairs. There are four of them. I can go up alright, but my right leg is too weak for going down, that's why I have to use this walker and a wheel chair. I seem to have to drag my right leg, and can't use my right arm very well."

I asked, "How would you feel if you had a walker when you left here?"

"I don't know. I haven't got my head around that yet.

"I just don't want to be in here. I had planned to get a turkey, cook a Christmas meal, have my friends around. It would have been nice. The doctor said I might be able to get out just for Christmas day, but what good is that to me. I have no family, no place to go, no furniture. My friends have their own things to do."

I said, "Albert was saying that you were fine during the five months that you lived with him. it's just since you moved out on your own that you've been having problems."

"Albert's had Mimi over for most of the time that I've been gone. He owes Bert money, he owes everybody.

"I hear that Lonely Heart has been talking trash about me. Telling people not to feel sorry for me, that I brought this all on myself."

I said, "Lonely Heart talks trash about everybody. When Nancy was by last, she said to him, 'Peter, it's not always about you.' He said, 'Of course it is. It's always about me.'"

Mo said, "He's pissed with me because whenever he's come over he's tried it on. I said to him, 'Peter, you're living with another woman. You sneak over here and expect that something's going to happen. It doesn't work that way."

I said, "Did you hear that Cathy had her arm run over by a bus?"

"No, how did that happen?"

"She was drunk, holding on to bags of groceries, running beside the bus, pounding on the side to get the driver to stop. She slipped. The groceries went flying and she fell with her arm under the bus. The rear wheels ran over it. Frank said her upper arm is purple and misshapen, but she won't go to the hospital or to a doctor."

Mo said, "She's stubborn like that. I've been in pain for a long time, but as soon as I saw that my pee was brown, I knew that my kidneys weren't working properly. It's lucky that the emergency numbers on my cell phone still worked. The paramedics had to chair lift me out of my apartment. It turns out that my problems are mostly due to epilepsy, not drinking. Now, I'm getting medication for that. One of the reasons they won't let me out is because I get a pain injection morning, night and when I need it during the day. I wouldn't have access to that if I left. I get ten pills in the morning, twelve with lunch and another fourteen before bed."

I asked, "Couldn't they arrange for you to have injections at a clinic, close to where you live?"

"My doctor doesn't seem to want to go along with that. I said to him, 'Couldn't I just have the injections in pill form?' He said that because they're narcotics he didn't recommend that. I guess he thinks I'd sell them.

"Another thing, Emily is in because of cervical cancer. I haven't had a pap smear for decades. I asked the nurses about it. They said that, if I wanted one, it would be my doctor here that would be doing it. There's no way I want that slime ball down there.

"I've even got hemorrhoids now. I've had five children. I've spent most of the past ten years sitting on the cold sidewalk. So, why do I have hemorrhoids? The nurse said it's probably because I've been constipated. They've given me fiber, laxatives, suppositories. I was doubled over in pain, so finally they had to give me an enema. It was worse than giving birth. I think I'm still constipated, but I haven't been able to eat for nearly a week. I keep throwing up. They keep telling me to have some toast. I don't want toast. The food here really sucks."

I asked, "What about feeding you through an intravenous tube?"

"They took the tube out a few days ago. See the marks all over my arm? I don't want to get any more needles than I have to.

"I want to go for a smoke, I'll bring this walker back to my room and grab a wheel chair. Do you want to drive?"

"Sure, I'll push, you give directions."

Before we left, Mo called for the nurse. She said, "Sweetie, can you give me an injection for my arm. The pain is really bad."

When we got outside Mo said hello to a couple, who were also having a cigarette. Mo said to me, after they passed, "It's sad, she had a baby a week ago. It's left lung isn't fully developed. They don't know when the baby will be released. They have other kids at home."

I asked, "Was the baby premature?"

"No, it was full term. They don't know what went wrong."

We went back into the hospital. An Inuit couple stopped to talk to Mo. After they left Mo said, "Could you smell the sherry? I could smell it as soon as they came into view. I know all the muk muks from downtown. They hang out on Rideau Street."

Another woman said hello as we passed. Mo said, "She looks familiar, but I don't know where I've seen her before. Did you notice, she's still wearing prison shoes."

November 28, 2012 at 10:09am
November 28, 2012 at 10:09am

14 December 2012

The weather at noon was warm and sunny. There are still patches of ice on the sidewalk, but for the most part walking was easy. At the traffic circle were Bert, Frank, Albert, Mimi, Issa and Rosie.

Frank was hopping about weaving in and out of the group. I asked, "What are you pretending to be, Frank, a Christmas Elf or a Christmas Grinch?"

"I'm a Christmas Mouse. I'm a sneaky little muthufukka."

Frank was putting a cigarette in his mouth backwards. Mimi yelled at him, "Turn it around the other way."

I said, "You're picking up bad habits from Emile. He stayed at your place the other night, didn't he?"

"Yeah, the night we saw you on the bus. It was the night he hit the old lady up for four hundred dollars. She left her card in the cash machine and he was able to get into her account.

"I really don't like Emile much. He owes me cigarettes, he owes me a bottle, he owes me pot. I spent money on groceries. Wait until he gets his place, we'll all come over and sponge off him."

Mimi said, "I guess I can kiss good bye the twenty that he owes me. I'm never going to see that again."

Bert said, "Frank, you're standing too close to me."

I said, "What's the matter Bert, are you afraid of a Christmas Mouse?"

Albert said, "I haven't been to see Mo yet, but I hope to before Christmas. I've been invited to a party at the Montfort. There's going to be singing, dancing and they'll be serving a Christmas meal."

Someone asked Albert for a cigarette. He held up a clear plastic bag full of cigarette butts. "This is all I have." To me he said, "I go for a butt run every morning. I just pay for rolling papers. It costs me hardly anything. I smoke all I want to."

Frank said, "I can't wait until January when I get my furniture."

Issa said, "Frank, you shouldn't always be thinking about the future. Appreciate what you have here and now. The sun is shining, it's warm, you're with friends. I try to think of the present, not the past where the pain is. (She crossed herself and blew a kiss into the air.) This is all we have." Issa is an attractive woman, but the scar across her nose indicates a violent background.

Mimi said, "I won't be going to see Mo. I've nothing against her, but I just don't do hospitals anymore. Remember, Bert, when Billy was in the hospital at the same time as my old man. I was at the hospital all the time. Billy could be moved around, so he was always wanting to push him in his wheel chair outside to have a smoke. My old man, the one I dumped ten months ago, was hooked up to all kinds of tubes and wires, so he couldn't get out of bed. It was back and forth, back and forth all day. I'm just not going to do that any more. I need to take care of myself."

At that point two bicycle police pulled up.

"What are you people doing here?"

Bert said, We're just enjoying the warm weather, the sun, the fresh air."

Rosie said, "Don't worry, we don't have any booze or drugs."

One officer pointed to a clear drinking bottle, filled with an amber liquid. "What's that? Is it beer? Shake it for me."

A patrol car pulled up at the curb. Officer McCabe was driving. The two bicycle patrol officers said, "Your friends are here, we'll leave you to them."

The patrol car left and a police van with another patrol car pulled up. Two male and two female officers got out. One of the males walked over to Bert and started writing a ticket.

One of the female officers said, "We've got a zero tolerance policy for alcohol now." The other female officer said, "Would someone please pick up that newspaper and the other junk on the ground."

Albert picked up the newspaper, I picked up a chip bag. The officer said, "There's a garbage container at the next corner. You can dispose of it there.

Rosie asked, "Are the rest of us being charged?"

"No," said one of the female officers, just this gentleman here. The rest of you are free to go."

13 December 2012

Bert, Peter and Scruffy were the only ones at the park today. The sun was shining and Bert was enjoying the warmth.

"I'm always happy, me, especially when the sun is shining. I come down here, where else am I going to go? I was looking in the Loblaws flyer today, they got the big lasagna and the big cabbage cabbage roll, the five pound one for seven dollars. I love that, but living alone I can't eat that much. Even Rhino he can't eat that much. At the market I buy Caemembaert and Brie, the round ones. At Loblaws it costs four seventy-five -- me, can't afford that, but at the market they sell the ones near the expiry date that they can't sell in stores, two for five dollars. I leave it at room temperature for two days and spread it on crackers. That's my favorite."

Peter said, I don't like cheese that much. The only kind I buy is mozzarella, and on a hamburger I'll have cheddar."

"You like mozzarella, that stuff they shave? It tastes like puke."

"I like it, okay? I know, I'm German, they make lots of cheese, but I just like Mozzarella. You don't have to like it, but it's what I like.

"Bert is supposed to be watching his cholesterol. I've heard of beef stew, chicken stew even rabbit stew, but have you ever heard of someone making bacon stew? If his doctor knew that he'd flip.

"I eat bacon every day. I like to fry it and then cook my eggs in the grease. That's what gives them the good taste."

Bert said, "In my place, you're not supposed to cook after ten o'clock, but at one thirty I woke up and smelled grease. The young guy was frying something. He's not a very good cook, but the smell of that grease frying sure smelled good. He left his frying pan and dishes in the sink for another day."

I asked, "Has anybody heard anything from Mo lately?"

Bert said, "I went to the hospital to see her this morning. She was looking okay. She's moving around a bit."

I asked, "She isn't walking yet, is she?"

"She uses a walker. She seems weak on her left side. Her left foot she kind of drags. They told her that she can't drink any more, but already she told me that she has two bottles of sherry in her fridge at home. They want to keep her over Christmas. She say she want to be out to spend it with friends and have a few drinks. The drinks might kill her."

Peter said, "Sometimes they'll do that, let patients out for Christmas, but in her case it isn't such a good idea."

I said, "When the doctors told her she wasn't allowed to drink, she said, 'You told me that last time and I got ten months, with out coming back here.' So she has no intention of quitting."

Peter said, "People are different, what hurts one, may not hurt another. It's the same with animals. Darrell really gave me shit for giving Scruffy a little piece of chocolate. I can't see the problem of giving her just one little chunk. It's not like I'm giving her a whole chocolate bar."

Bert said, "I saw on TV, a doctor was saying that for some dogs, the sweetness of the chocolate turns into a poison inside the dog, but it's not all dogs."

"Well, Scruffy's had chocolate before and it didn't kill her, so I guess she's not one of those dogs."

12 December 2012

At the park I met Bert, Mimi, Frank, Robert, Troll, Darrell and his dog Muff, Uncle Peter and his dog Scruffy.

Bert said, "I was talking to Mo this morning. She was a bit weepy, because she thinks they're going to keep her in hospital until after Christmas. I think they want to keep her so she doesn't start drinking again. If they let her out, she's going to visit her friends and they will all be drinking, so she'll start again. She drinks that wine, eh? That's bad. Me, I just drink a few beer, so far it hasn't caused me any problems, except for a big belly."

Mimi said, "I'm a reformed alcoholic. I went right down hill. I was a falling down drunk. Now I can buy a small bottle of cognac and it will last me a week. I just have a few sips a day. I cut out smoking and drinking when I was pregnant."

Bert said, "People tell me that maybe I'm pregnant. I hope not.

"I like to have a bit to drink, just beer, with maybe some pot every once in a while. With some people it's beer, with some wine, with some pot, with some crack -- something different for everybody.

"I'm still looking for my bunk beds. I'm going to have to get out of the place I'm staying. Frank said I should talk to his worker, but she's been sick. When I talked to her last she said she could get me an apartment, a start up allowance and arrange for me to get O.D.S.P. (Ontario Disability Support Program). I don't have any of that now. Maybe she could even get me into one of those over sixty places. I'm only fifty-six, but if I could get into a place like that I'd avoid a lot of the crack heads.

"You should see where I am now. It's just a room. I share a kitchen with two native guys across the hall. There is a double sink, both sides are filled with dirty dishes. There is a table that is filled with clean dishes. I have no place to sit to eat my food, no place to wash my dishes. I went to turn on the stove, but first I had to move the cock roaches. I don't have them in my room, just the kitchen. Me, I shut up about that. That's how I lost my place in Vanier. My neighbor said there were mites. When the inspector came I let him in. He took pictures over here, over there. When he came back he had a notice saying the place was condemned. I don't want that to happen again.

"I don't need a big place. I live alone. My last place was a bachelor. There was just room enough for my fridge and a table with about this much space in between. I think that the bathroom was bigger than the rest of the apartment, but I didn't mind."

Two police cars stopped at the curb. I decided to move over to talk to Peter, so there would only be two groups of four. We've been told before that they don't like to see groups larger than four people. Nobody was blocking the sidewalk, there was no alcohol visible and nobody was drunk.

"Hi, Peter," I said, "what are you reading now?"

"It's a book about Hollywood in the 1950's. It's called Suicide Hill. I forget who wrote it (James Elroy). It's like that book The Choirboys by Joseph Wambaugh. If these guys think they have it bad now, it's nothing like it was in the 1950's. This detective, Lloyd Hopkins, goes after bad guys and what he does to them isn't exactly legal. The cops would do 'wino runs' where they'd pick up winos and addicts.

"I'm an alcoholic and I smoke a bit of crack. Maybe it's the German in me, but I respect authority. I respect what the police do. I'm polite to them, not like some of these guys. Rick has beated up Hoover, he beat me up. If it weren't for the cops who would protect us?

"In the book they wouldn't give out tickets to the winos like they do here. If they wanted information, they'd beat them, and believe me they'd talk. Sometimes, either before or after they talked, they'd kill them, for no reason. Suicide Hill was a place in Hollywood where the police would dump the bodies.

"I guess you've heard about Mo. Bert was talking to her on the phone this morning. He asked her if she wanted to talk to me, She said, 'No.' What am I going to do? I've never been her boyfriend, or anything like that, but I let her stay at my place when she was beaten by Frank. I don't get involved with women very much any more. I live alone, pay for the odd hooker once in a while. There was a woman who stayed at my apartment last night. I sent her out to buy me a case of beer. She said that when she got back she had a surprise for me. I like surprises, but she didn't come back, so I put her bag and clothes out in the hall.

"Mo has to quit drinking. We've all told her that, but she won't listen. Maybe she'd listen to you."

I said, "I don't think so. When I saw her last, the doctors had told her to stop drinking or she'd die, She said, 'You told me that the last time, and I had ten months out on the street.'"

"I know," said Peter. "I've been in hospital, for injuries. I was in that car accident, I've had my cheek bone smashed when I was beaten up. I've broken my arm when I fell, but nothing internal. When your kidneys or your liver starts going, you have to quit drinking, there's no way around it. Look what happened to John, just a few months ago. Anyway, if you can talk sense to Mo, it might save her life."

Two outreach workers came by. One of them was carrying a backpack. He said to Peter, I've got some dog biscuits. Would you like some for your dog?"

Bert said, "I wouldn't mind some for me."

The outreach worker said, "I've also got a sleeping bag in here. Would you be interested?"

Peter said, "Sure, I'd like it."

The outreach worker said, "Can you use the backpack as well?"

"Than you very much. I really appreciate this."

11 December 2012

On the number fourteen bus I met Nancy, Emile and Frank. Nancy asked, "Have you heard about Mo?"

"I heard that she was in the Civic Hospital. I visited her a couple of times."

"Yesterday, she was transferred to the General, that's what Bert told me. She's able to move around a bit now in her wheel chair."

I said, "That sounds like good news. How have you been? I haven't seen you for a while."

"I'm okay, my mom (Ruth) has been sick. She hasn't been out lately. Rick and I have been staying in. It's just been too cold to do anything. My brother (Harry) has gone back to Iqualuit." Nancy got off the bus at Booth and Gladstone.

I moved closer to the front of the bus and met Frank and Emile. They were going to Frank's new apartment.

"Hi Emile, Frank, it's good to see you."

"Have you heard about Mo?"

"I heard that she'd been moved to the General, but I don't know why."

Emile said, "I think it's because there are tests that they can do at the General, that they aren't able to do at the Civic. I also think that she's been moved out of intensive care and they needed her bed. When I was at the General, they gave me an intravenous drip, because I'm alcoholic. Towards the end they were just bringing me glasses of brandy once an hour. I'd save them, so I could drink them all at once and get a bit of a buzz.

"A bunch of us are going to get a taxi and visit her. I hope that she lets me in her room. I'd hate to pay that money and have her say I couldn't come in."

Frank said, "I'm sure she'll let you in."

Emile said, "Guess what? I'm getting my own apartment by the first of January. It's going to be in Vanier. They took me to see it. It's really nice." It was coming to their stop so we shook hands and they got off the bus.

3 December 2012

It was rather quiet at 'the heater' today. In attendance were Sparky, Frank, Buddy, Johnny with the motorized wheelchair and Marilyn.

I said to Sparky, "How do like your new place?"

"It's fine. I got robbed there Saturday night."

"Sparky, How did you get robbed in your own place?"

"I was drinking with a guy who lives downstairs, in the same building I'm in. I gave him money to go out and buy me two bottles. I left my door open so he could get back in. He didn't show and when I woke up, my other bottle was gone. I'll make sure I get those bottles next time I see him."

Marilyn said, "Do you see the boots that guy walking by is wearing? My boyfriend, Lance wears that kind of boots. He has to, he's a roofer. He's working his last day today. The season is over. He can't roof in the snow. This hat I'm wearing is from the company he works for, Rainbow Roofing."

Frank said, "What does he do when he's not roofing?"

"He goes on unemployment insurance, so I'll have him all to myself."

"Frank said, "He doesn't come around here very much. Doesn't he like us?

"It's not you he doesn't like. He doesn't like me drinking with you guys, because that's when I get into trouble."

Frank said to me, "These antibiotics I'm taking make my face itch and my ankles swell. I have to keep taking them until the end of December. I see my doctor this afternoon. He's putting me on a special diet. I took the menu to my worker. She says that I'll qualify for an extra two hundred dollars a month.

"Did you hear that Cathy was hit by a bus last week? She had bags of groceries in both arms and was running to catch the bus. She ws banging on the side trying to get the driver to stop. She slipped, groceries went flying and the bus ran over her arm. I told her to go to the hospital, but she didn't want to. Her upper arm is all purple now.

"I should bring my mountain bike down and sell it. Right now I'm using it to hang my clothes on."

I asked him, "How is your new apartment working out?

"I won't be getting my furniture until January -- it'll be better then.

"It's nice here, in the sun. I don't want to get up at all. How about you, Sparky?"

"I just want to sit here."

A security guard wearing a reflective vest walked by. He looked at us, but didn't say anything."

Frank said, "That's the nice one. He doesn't care if we're here. It's the old guy who tells us to move along. Sparky got a ticket the other day for trespassing."

I asked, "Did he get the ticket here?"

"Yeah, right here. He wasn't charged for alcohol, just trespassing."

Frank asked Marilyn, "Are you going to the World (World Exchange Plaza) today?"


Frank asked, "Are you barred from there?"

"No, just from the Rideau Center."

"I can't find anyone to go for a run. I guess it doesn't matter. I've got no money anyway.

"Sparky, Have you got any money?"

"I've got five dollars and five cents."

"Marilyn have you got any money?"

"I don't even have enough to buy a pack of smokes, but I'll buy a cigarette off you for a dollar."

"I'll buy one too, Frank," said Buddy. Shortly after he left.

Frank said, "Well, we've got enough for a bottle, we just don't have anyone to go for a run."

I said, "You could have asked Buddy."

"I don't know him well enough, at least not well enough to trust him with seven bucks. He might not come back."


After leaving work I met Sunny James.

He said, "Did you hear that I was kicked out of a city council meeting. Not only that, two goons, that's what I call them, escorted me out of the building. The police arrested me for trespassing. How can I be trespassing at our city hall? Tell me that! The police roughed me up in the car and again when we got to the jail.

"I appeared before the judge the next morning. I told him how I was treated and also mentioned that our mayor is in a conflict of interest situation. He also sits on the board of Ontario Hydro. I was at the council meeting expressing my concerns about the city not adopting my idea of a solar powered mono-rail, similar to ones they have in Europe. Of course the mayor was against the idea, because it's going against what Ontario Hydro wants.

"The mayor of Toronto, Bob Ford, was fired. I think our mayor should be fired as well. Did you hear that Joe Fontana, mayor of London, Ontario, was charged with fraud and breach of trust? Our Chief of Police, Charles Bordeleau, what do you think of him? I don't know how good your Spanish is, but 'bordello' in Spanish means whore house.

"Gerald Tremblay, Montreal's former mayor, quit amid multiple corruption allegations last month. Did you hear what his severance package is worth? It's more than $216,000.

"Have you seen my website?"

"Yes I have, Sunny. It's very impressive."

"Did you see my presentation to city hall? What did you think of that?"

"Yes, I thought you put your ideas forward very effectively. Are you still sleeping outside?"

"Oh, yes, I always do. I don't mind it. There was a lady who offered to let me leave some of my stuff in her back yard. Now, she says I can't. Do you know of any place I could store my grocery cart? Someone mentioned a place near the bus depot. Maybe I'll try there."

"That sounds like a convenient location for you. It's within walking distance."

"Did I tell you that I'm building a solar powered ship? A friend of mine from Newfoundland, an engineer, is working on it with me. It will have condos aboard, the world's largest dance floor, swimming pools. We're looking for investors. Are you interested?"

"Not right now, Sunny, but let me know how it is progressing."

30 November 2012

It was cold at noon (minus four Fahrenheit) and windy. The only person at 'the heater was Sparky. Beside him aere a sports bag, a purple plastic shopping bag with a globe sitting on top -- all his worldly posessions.

"Dennis," said Sparky. I've got a favor to ask you."

"What is it, Sparky?"

"I need a bottle."

"Sorry, Sparky, I don't have any cash on me."

"That's not what I asked."

He pulled an envelope out of his pocket and handed me a twenty dollar bill. "Would you please go to the World Exchange for me? Get a coffee for yourself."

"Sure I'll go, Sparky, but I don't need a coffee. We get it free at work."

"Don't say I didn't offer."

It's only about a five minute walk to the World Exchange Center. I didn't mind making a run, and Sparky's barred for life. "Okay, Sparky, I'll be back in a few minutes."

When I came back Sparky was talking to Brad. I looked at the globe and asked, "Sparky, are you planning to do some travelling?"

He laughed. "How about Australia?" I asked. "Would you like to go there?"

Brad said, "I have a friend who came from New Zealand."

I said, "I've seen pictures of New Zealand. It's really beautiful."

"Yeah," he said, "they also have seventeen women to every man. I asked my friend if it was true, and why he left. He said, 'They have a lot of women alright, but they're all ugly.' I don't think any women are ugly. Every one of them has something beautiful about her."

I asked Sparky, "Have you heard anything about Mo? Did she phone Bert?"

"First things first. I lost my glove."

His yellow glove was just a few feet back, near where we were standing before. Every time the sun moved farther behind one of the tall buildings, Sparky moved out of the shadow and into the ssunlight.

"Where have the others gone?"

"They had places they had to go. Bert, Emile and Louis were here. Do you guys know Louis."

I said, "I know Louis. He talks a lot."

'Yeah, he not only talks a lot, but it's what he says. Sometimes I just have to say, 'Louis, go away. I don't want to listen to you.

"I'm waiting here until two o'clock. My workers are coming by in the van, to pick up me and my stuff. They're going to be giving me the keys to my apartment on Moriset."

Albert and Johnny in his motorized wheelchair came over to where we were standing. He picked up the globe and looked at it. I pointed out Iceland, where my grandparents came from. He pointed at Newfoundland. "This is where I came from. They're the same color."

I said, I've always wanted to go to Newfoundland, It's really beautiful."

"No, it's not. I lived there for twenty-four years. I couldn't wait to get away."

"I hear the economy has really picked up since the oil discovery."

"I've been hearing about that for forty years. I don't think anything has happened yet.'

I asked, "Were you a fisherman?"

"My mother said I had lazy bones. I've always had lazy bones. I snared rabbits. Once me and some friends were out in the bush. We had a cable and made a lasso out of it. We hung it between two trees. A moose came running along, right into the snare. My friends hauled it up in a tree. We had meat to last us all winter. Lots of people have heard of snaring rabbits, not too many have heard of snaring moose."

I said, "I've eaten moose, It's really good."

Sparky said to Albert, "Get the fuck out of my sun!"

"I don't understand you, Sparky. What did you say?"

I said, "I think he means you're making a shadow on him. You're standing in his sun."

"Oh, I didn't know what he wanted. Sure, Sparky, I'll move down."

29 November 2012

As I arrived at 'the heater' I could see that the security guard was already there. He was smoking a cigarette, but had already told the group to move along. Bert, Albert (Bert), Johnny with the motorized wheelchair, Marilyn and I walked across the street to the traffic island. Bert spread a folded blanket on the cold cement ledge to make it slightly more comfortable. Jimmy arrived shortly after.

"Hi Jimmy," I said, "You're not riding your bicycle today."

"No, it's too slushy."

"How did it go with your workers. Did they visit the apartment yesterday?"

"I went to see them this morning. They had the date wrong. It's today they'll be viewing the apartment. Tomorrow they'll let me know when I can pick up the keys.

Two workers from the Salvation Army came by, "is Sparky around?" they asked.

Bert said, "He just left with his daughter Pam. We should be able to get a message to him some time today."

"Will he be on the bridge later?"

"Should be."

"If you see him, would you let him know we have the keys for his apartment?"

"We'll tell him."

I asked Bert, "Have you heard anything from Mo? Did she phone this morning?"

'Yeah, she phoned. She sounded better, but you never know. Some people don't say much on the telephone. Maybe she's worse. Mimi was supposed to bring me keys, but she didn't come down today. Mo's check should have come in the mail today. I guess Mimi picked it up for her.

"I was going to visit Mo this afternoon, but I don't have her check. Maybe I'll go tomorrow."

I said, "Mo said to me that when her check arrived she'd try to go to Money Mart to have it cashed, but now they have her attached to too many tubes and wires."

Bert said, "There's a bank in the hospital. She could cash her check there. There may be a small fee, but it's a government check, there shouldn't be any trouble cashing it."

Marilyn was feeling emotional. "I get so fed up. My old man is nice to me sometimes -- I really love him -- but then he'll call me names, tell me to go back to where I came from."

I asked, "Where did you come from?"


Kugluktuk (Inuinnaqtun: Qurluktuk, "the place of moving water"; Inuktitut: ᖁᕐᓗᖅᑐᖅ, formerly Coppermine until 1 January 1996) is a hamlet located at the mouth of the Coppermine River in the Kitikmeot Region of Nunavut, Canada, on Coronation Gulf, southwest of Victoria Island. It is the westernmost community in Nunavut, almost on the border with the Northwest Territories.

"I'm a bit wasted now. Do I look alright? Will I be okay to get on the bus?"

I said, "You look fine."

"Did Mo tell you when she came to visit me in my place in Orleans? I have a past like Mo's, that's why we get along so well."

"Mo told me that she drinks to forget her past, to help her with the pain and to help her sleep."

"I'm the same way. sometimes I'll hear somebody say something and it brings it all rushing back.

"Yes, she told me."

"I moved from there to a place next door. I've applied to go to a mission, especially for Inuit women. They told me it was okay to move, but now they say that because I'm already in a 'safe house' I can't go to the mission. I was so mad. It was October 30th. I got drunk, got arrested and spent Hallowe'en in jail."

28 November 2012

I was expecting Nancy to be visiting Darrell and Muff today, so I took my lunch hour at ten o'clock. At 'the heater' were Nancy, Darrel and Muff, Bert, Peter 'Lonely Heart, Emile, Inusik and Mimi.

Nancy greeted me with, "Mo just phoned. She sounds a lot better, complaining as usual. She called Bert, then he passed the phone to the rest of us."

I said, "I visited her last night."

"Yes, she mentioned that. I don't think that Mo is good at living alone. She needs people to make descisions for her. I don't think she's had to do that before. I love to have free time to myself, but I've had practise."

I shook hands with Inusik, but I couldn't remember his name. "Hi," I aid I'm Dennis."

"I'm Inusik."

I said, "I remember, you're Nuisance."

"That's right, you remember!"

"Dennis, said Peter, "I talked to Mo this morning and I gave her shit. I wasn't like some of these people saying, ''Poor, Mo, I'm sorry you're in hospital, sorry you're sick.' I told her she had it coming. She didn't listen to the doctors last time and she probably wont listen to them this time. She has to quit drinking; never mind watering it down, she has to quit entirely. You can only damage your kidneys so many times then they shut down. She's had her last wake up call. She's stubborn, thinks she can do anything she wants and it won't have any effect on her health.

"I went to her place on Saturday with a bag of groceries. I could see her moving around in there, but she wouldn't answer the door to me. If she wants to be like that, it's the last time I bring groceries. I hear she let Glen in. I don't know what's up with that.

"By the way, did you nitice my new boots. They're really warm. Fifty nine bucks at WalMart. They had thirty-nine, forty-nine all the way up to a hundred, but those were really heavy. I do a lot of walking, when I picked these up, I couldn't believe how light they were.

"I won't be going to the hospital. Cathy went for a colonoscopy last week and I stood outside for three hours. Any virus that's around I'll pick it up. I can't take the chance."

I said, "Mo mentioned that she was quarantined when she first came in. It's a virus that she picked up at the hospital last time. She didn't mention the name."

Peter replied, "That's enough reason for me not to go. Have you heard that we're getting more smow this afternoon?"

"I know we had some between nine and ten o'clock."

"That was nothing. They're predicting seven feet. We won't even be able to see Emile. He'll have to get one of those reflecting rods that they use for the snow plows.

"By the way, I get my new dentures next week. It's all covered by the government. I thought I'd have to get all my teeth pulled because of pyorrhea, but they filled two cavities and said I was good to go. The reason the government paid for my dentures is because I said I couldn't eat, which isn't exactly true. I have two molars. That's all I really need for chewing. I'm missing my front teeth so I can't eat corn on the cob or apples."

Nancy said, "Peter, it's not all about you."

"Of course it's all about me. It always is."

Bert said, "I really miss eating corn on the cob. I have to cut the corn off with a knife then add salt and lots of butter."

Emile said, "That's the same with me. You should see when I try to eat corn on the cob. Because I'm missing my top front teeth, I leave a strip in the middle about an inch wide. Only a few niblets on the edges get into my mouth, so, like Bert, I cut it off with a knife then add lots of butter and salt."

Peter said, "That sounds good for your cholesterol level. I'm not supposed to eat salt because of my blood pressure, but I eat it anyway. I've heard that sea salt is better for you."

Nancy said, "Yes, I've heard that too. It tastes better and is a bit coarser."

I said to Mimi, "You're in the same building as Mo. How long have you lived theree?"

"Three years."

"You must be relatively happy there to have stayed three years."

"The first couple of years were with my old man, but he's gone. I didn't mind the company, but he kept running us into debt. I don't miss that.

"I've gone to the hospital for Billie, and George. I don't do that any more. I feel bad that Mo's in hospital, but she has to take care of herself. I'm not going to do it."

Peter was on the phone to Albert, "Are you coming down today? Remember you owe me twenty bucks. No, not from last week, from the week before. I don't want to come all the way to your place. Okay, you'll be down for sure tomorrow? I'll see you then. Don't forget! Don't spend it all tonight!

"That's the problem with lending money to people. They either forget they owe it to you, or you just don't see them. He's drunk already and I could hear another voice in the background. He said I could pick it up at his place, Maybe I'll do that."

27 November 2012

At noon at the traffic island were Dean, Sparky, Johnny in his motorized wheel chair, Bert, Emile and Jimmy. The first person to greet me was Bert, "Have you any news?"

"Yes," I replied, "I visited Mo last night at the hospital."

"How she?" asked Emile."

I replied, "She is in a lot of pain from her fibromyalgia. The pain was previously just in her legs, but now it has moved into her back and neck. She was first given an injection of delaudid. She threw up, but felt better later. Then they started giving it to her in pill form and it just made her nauseous. She's hoping to get morphine, but in that case she'll need Gravol."

"She'll get a good buzz from that," said Bert. "This is the third time in hospital for her this year. That's not good. I don't know how much time she has left."

Emile said, "That's a wake up call from the man upstairs. She has to quit drinking altogether."

I said, "At least she has her own place now."

Bert said, "Yes, that's good, but you can't stay all by yourself, all the time. I can't. She'll want to come down and talk to her friends sometimes, even when it's cold out."

Jimmy said, "I saw my workers this morning. I've been leaving messages, this morning I decided to go to the office and they were there. They're going to look at a place for me in Vanier. If it looks alright they'll show it to me tomorrow. They have to check it out first, to see if it's livable. I don't mind Vanier, I grew up in a worse place than that. Do you know Lachine?"

I said, "No."

"I've got to get off the street. I'm losing my patience with people in Ottawa, they way they treat us. One day, I'm just going to flip out. I'll need Valium just to pan.

"I have some skills, I'm a specialized gas fitter, but there's not much work in that field. I'm a welder, but I don't have my ticket. They offer a seven month course in welding at Algonquin that I might qualify for. It costs about five thousand dollars. The government will cover one time re-training. It's sort of like a student loan.

"It's a vicious cycle living in shelters. In order to get a job they want me to have an address where I can receive mail and phone calls. If I'm living at a shelter it's sometimes difficult to get any sleep, so I'd either miss work, or be so tired that I'd get fired. In order to get an apartment, they want me to have a job. I can't win."

I asked, "How long have you been on the streets, Jimmy?"

"For a while, in Montreal, then Vancouver, but I really can't count Vancouver, because I was working there."

I said, "You'll never freeze to death in Vancouver, but it costs a lot to live, doesn't it?"

"It depends on how you live. I had a bachelor apartment with an adjoining bathroom. They call it a Jack and Jill. I didn't mind. I just had to make sure that when I went to the bathroom I locked both doors. It cost me four hundred a month."

I asked Emile, "How was your day after I saw you at noon."

"It was cold. I tried panning in a few places, but there was nobody out."

Bert said, "I talked to Mimi, she's coming down here tomorrow. She will bring Mo's keys, or some of Mo's stuff. We'll work it out."


I went to the Civic Hospital tonight. All the information desks were closed. I asked two paramedics if they knew where the Acute Recovery Area was. They'd never heard of it. "They keep changing the names around here." I showed the paper where I'd written the room number -- 505. "Take the main elevator in the old section and go to the fifth floor, maybe someone there can direct you."

I went to the fifth floor and asked a nurse (or an orderly -- someone in scrubs) where the Acute Recovery Area was. He said, "Go straight down the hall until where you can see the single door open. Turn left, pick up the telephone receiver and tell them the name of the patient you're here to see."

I managed that. Looked around, couldn't find a bed or room number. A voice behind me asked, "Sir, can I help you?"

I answered, "I'm looking for bed number 105."

"Right here, sir," said a nurse with blond wavy hair in the style of Madona or Lady Gaga.

Mo said, "I saw you go past my bed. I tried to call to you, but I've lost my voice. I'm susceptible to pneumonia and this is the way it usually starts."

"I could tell right away that Mo was feeling better. The pained look was off her face. She said, "I wasn't expecting you to come tonight."

"I said I'd be back."

"I know, but I thought you meant later in the week. Now they have me on Dilaudid and Morphine. My skin is really itchy, I can't help scratching. It's a good thing I dont have long fingernails or I'd be cut to shreds. I'm also on Heparin so my blood doesn't clot. I talked to my doctor about getting back on Seroquel. He said, 'Why do you think you need Seroquel?' I said, "My mind feels like its traveling a hundred miles an hour in a ten mile an hour zone. Can you wrap your head around that?" He said, 'Yes, we'll put you on Seroquel.' I can now look forward to a good nights sleep. They don't give it to me until ten o'clock. I don't know why they wait until ten o'clock. Where I was before they gave out all the meds at nine.

I heard a banging sound on the other side of the curtain. Mo said, "Sometimes I think that woman is posessed. She makes the strangest sounds." Soon, I heard a wailing noise, 'Piro, Piro!'

"It wouldn't be so bad if she spoke English, but I have no idea what she's saying. She was at the other end of the ward. I don't know why they put her beside me. Sometimes I feel like strangling her, or holding a pillow over her face. The nurses also lose patience with her, especially the blond one."

I asked, "Do you have ear plugs with you?"

"No, but the dark haired nurse said she'd get me some. I'm going to need them. Now that they 've got me hooked up to all these wires and tubes I can't go anywhere. When I was just on the intravenous, I could get into my wheel chair and pull the intravenous stuff along with me. I was told not to leave the area, but I slipped past them five times already. I needed to have a smoke and I wanted to go to Tim Horton's for a decent cup of tea. The last time it was security guardds that brought me back. They asked, 'Are you Maureen?' I said, 'Who wants to know?' They said, there's a nurse up on the fifth floor who thinks you may have gone AWOL.'

"The nurse made me a cup of tea. It tasted like garbage. I asked her, 'What did you do to destroy this tea?' I couldn't drink it. I left it on the table and asked Al to dump it when he came in. They asked me if I wanted a nicotine patch. I said, 'I had one of those the last time I was in. I was throwing up for three days.' She asked, 'Do you want to try a Nicorette Inhaler?' I said, 'I'll try it.' All it does is give me a sore throat.

"Good news is I was able to eat a piece of toast, mind you it was after taking Gravol. When they brought in this heart rate and blood pressure monitor I thought I was getting a TV. At least I have something to look at as the numbers go up and down. It's good now, 127 over 113. It had gone as high as 180. They were worried that I might have a stroke."

I asked, "Have you had high blood pressure before?"

"Yeah, when my son Michael was born. I've always know I had high blood pressure, but it didn't bother me."

I said, "I notice that you have a phone now."

"Yeah, I tried phoning Bert, but all I gotis his voice mail. He's probably drunk by now. I'll call him tomorrow."

I said, "Emile told me that your workers know you're in hospital."

"Yeah, they're going to visit me sometime. My check should be coming tomorrow. I have to find someone to bring it to me, then find a way to get to Money Mart.

I noticed that Mo had difficulty even lifting a paper cup full of tea. She said, "The nurses told me to ask for help going to the comode, but I told them, "It's only two feet. I can manage that. I don't like that thing. I'd rather go to the washroom, but I'm too wired up. Earlier, when I snuck away, I just pulled out the intravenous needles, but I got shit for that. The nurse said, 'We have enough trouble getting blood as it is. Every time you pull the needle out we have to flush the vein.'

The blond nurse came in to take a blood sample, but was unsuccessful. She flushed the vein, still no luck. "We'll try to find another vein. It's not going to be easy. She tried three or four times with Mo saying, ''ouch' and 'oh, that hurts' each time.

Mo said, "I'm a real wuss when it comes to needles. I always have been."

I asked, "Is all this due to your fibromyalgia?"

"It's caused by a combination of factors, lack of exercise, poor diet and drinking. I'm guilty on all three counts."

It was approaching nine o'clock, the end of visiting hour, so I said good bye. I'll tryto get back later in the week.

November 19, 2012 at 2:52pm
November 19, 2012 at 2:52pm

26 November 2012

Monday morning and Mo isn't in her usual place. I wasn't surprised, Mondays are noted as being bad days for pan handling. People tend to be grumpy because of having to come back to work after the weekend.

At noon I met Bert and Emile at the traffic island. Bert said, "Did you hear about Mo? She's in hospital. They take her there by ambulance yesterday to the Civic. She phoned me this morning. It's about her kidneys, she say that they were so sore she couldn't get up. She didn't have a room yet. They had her all night in the corridor."

I said that I'd phone the hospital and see if I could get any information. Emile said, "Me, I don't go to hospitals, but because it's Mo I'll see if I can visit her sometime."

Bert said, "It's bad for her. This is the third time in a year that she's been hospitalized for the same thing. The doctors told her she should move somewhere else and stop drinking; but, it's hard to leave your friends. Go to someplace where you don't know anybody; but it's her body telling her that she can't drink any more. It doesn't mater if she waters it down, she has to stop completely."

I said, "She's been waiting so long for her health card. She drinks to forget her past. She drinks because of the pain in her legs and she drinks to get to sleep at night."

I asked Emile, "Where have you been staying?"

"At the Sally. It hasn't been too bad. I'm in bed 256, in a room with just one other guy. When he starts snoring it's not just sawing wood it't like a Husqvarna chain saw. He's a big guy and makes a lot of noise just rolling over on those plastic covered mattresses.

"Yesterday I was at the Library. I knew I couldn't get back in time to sign for my bed, so I phoned them. They said, 'No problem, Emile, we'll put you down for another night.' When I got there they had cut my lock and were hauling my stuff out of the room. They told me, 'You can't sign in until seven o'clock, so I had to sit in the lobby with all of my stuff until then. Meanwhile, there's another guy sitting across the room. They ask him if he'd like a bed. I said, 'Hey, I'm waiting for a bed, now you're giving my bed away to someone else. The guy said, 'I was here first.' I said, 'What to you mean you were here first. I've been here for six years. I've grown roots in the cracks of the floor here.' Anyway, they gave him a bed in the basement and where do you think they put me? In the same bed they just kicked me out of.

"I'm thinking that I should talk to my workers about getting me a room, until an apartment becomes available. I've got to get something started, because they're cutting off the start up allowance in the new year. It's one of the government cutbacks."

"Hey, hey," said Bert, "The last start up check is going to be issued December 15, so you have to apply before that. If you apply later there is a good chance you'll be rejected."

I asked Bert, "You're in a bachelor apartment aren't you?"

"No, I'm in a room for now, but I'd prefer to be in a bachelor. We share a kitchen with two sinks. One side is always full of dirty dishes. I don't like that. I like to have my own place, so I can keep it tidy, or not --whatever I want.

"They didn't want to give me a start up allowance, because I was coming from a bachelor to a room. They thought that I should have everything I needed. I told them that I had to throw away most of my things because of the bed bug. They said, 'There's no report of you having the bed bug.' They sprayed three times, but my landlord didn't give me a paper saying that. I could have gotten two hundred dollars, if I had that paper."

Jimmy stopped by on his bicycle. I asked him, "How was your weekend, Jimmy?"

"It was okay, quiet. The chicken man was by yesterday morning."

"I asked, "Was he handing out five dollar bills?"

Emile answered, "No, just fried chicken. He only hand out five dollar bills on special occasions, like Christmas, Easter -- on Mother's Day he'll give one to the ladies; on Father's Day the men get one. Last year the owner of Gabriel's Pizza came to 'the heater' with four large pizzas. I was the only one there. He said, 'Make sure you share these." Did he think I was going to eat four large pizzas? I said, 'Don't worry, I'll share them.' If I didn't I'd probably get my head kicked in.

"I haven't seen Frank today. I wonder how he's doing?"

I said, "He seemed to be feeling a little better on Friday."

Emile said, "He's taking a powerful dose of antibiotics, but he's still drinking. I said to him, "Frank, if you drink, you're cancelling out the benefit of the antibiotics." He's taking other daily medication every day as well. He sees his doctor every day. "

I asked, "How are you feeling, Emile?"

"I'm feeling okay now. When I had the walking pneumonia I had a pain in my chest like a red hot, iron rod going through my lung. I was in real pain. I could only take shallow breaths. I still don't have full use of my lungs. Frank may have something different than I had, I don't know."

I phoned the Ottawa Hospital - Civic Campus. I was informed that Mo was doing okay. She is still in the Emergency Department, Medicine Service. They are still waiting for a bed for her. I will try to visit her tonight.


It's about 6:30 pm. I took the number 6 bus to the Civic Hospital. I went to the Emergency desk, was given a pass and told to follow the green dots on the floor. The receptionist at Medicine Department desk directed me to bed 116. The curtains were closed, so I asked a nurse what I should do. She said, 'Just call her name, she's resting.' I called and heard a faint, 'Dennis?'

I stuck my head behind the curtain. Mo said, "I thought I heard your voice, but I thought, That can't be. I wasn't expecting you to visit."

"I said I would, if you were ever in hospital again, and here I am."

"Have a seat over there. Just move my stuff to the other chair. I'm in so much pain. These doctors -- there have been five of them, so far -- they keep asking me the same questions. I asked one of them, 'Don't you guys talk to each other?' The guy said, 'We do, but we have to hear it first hand.' They keep asking, 'When did you have your last drink?' I said, 'Friday.' They asked, 'How often a day do you drink?' I said, 'Once.' They asked, 'How much do you drink each day?' I said, 'A bottle, a bottle and a half, two bottles, it depends on how I'm feeling.'

"I was feeling sick on Sunday. I went upstairs to Mimi's place. It must have taken me forty-five minutes to climb the stairs. She said, 'You look like your in pain!' She gave me two Tylenol 3's. They didn't do anything. She said, 'Go back downstairs and try to get some rest.'

"Then Glen and Capone came over. (Mo rolled her eyes.) He brought me some Ensure and some pears. We smoked a joint together and he left me half a gram. I've still got it in my bag.

"I just kept feeling worse and worse. Finally I couldn't stand it any more. My cell phone didn't have any time on it, but the emergency numbers still worked. They asked me my phone number. I couldn't remember it.

"When I first came in they gave me a shot of delaudid. I threw my guts up, but felt better after that. Then they gave it to me in pill form. That didn't do anything for the pain, but made me feel nauseous, caused my mouth to dry up. I need morphine, but I told them I'd also need some Gravol. I tried to eat some of the meat loaf they served for supper. I took two bites, that's all I could handle.

"I can't sleep. I'm not even on a proper hospital bed. This mattress is thin and hard. I ache all over, my legs, my back, it's even into my neck now. They had me out in the corridor for a long time before bringing me in here. The guy beside me coughs all the time. They have me in some kind of quarantine, because of a virus I picked up the last time I was here. It's contagious for people with a low immune system."

Al a male nurse came in to take Mo's blood pressure. It was 188 over 113. He said it's coming down. It was 244 over 113. He said, "They have a bed for you now. You'll be moved soon. I'll try to get them to hurry with your meds. It's medical students who are working on it. They can be slow."

Mo said, "Thanks, Al."

" To me she said, "He's cool. He lets me know what's really going on.

"I want to go out for a smoke. Is it cold outside?"

"It's been snowing."

"I don't care. Can you bring my wheel chair over and help me to the front entrance. While I'm outside could you do me a big favor? I'd really love a Tim Horton's steeped tea, with one milk and two sugar. The stuff they serve at Starbucks is garbage. I'll meet you back here at my bed.

After the cigarette and tea another nurse came in to check Mo's heart rate. I felt that she needed some privacy, so I said that I'd come back tomorrow.

"I need some stuff from home, especially a tooth brush. I don't know how to get them."

I said, "If Mimi can pack some things and bring a bag downtown, I'll bring it to you here at the hospital."

"We'll work something out. Thanks for bringing me the tea. I'm going to try to get some sleep now. I'll see you tomorrow?"

I said, "I'll be here."

"Thanks for getting me the tea. I'll see you tomorrow. Hopefully, I'll be better at making conversation."

25 November 2012

It's Sunday, I don't get to see my friends until tomorrow, but I miss them. I wonder where Sparky slept last night. Was it in a bank kiosk? I also wonder where Emile slept last night. Perhaps, it was behind the dumpsters in back of Starbucks. I wonder if Mo slept last night since the temperature went below freezing. I've slept in a tent in those temperatures and know that It isn't life threatening, if one has the proper sleeping bag and warm clothing. I can also remember shivering so much that I couldn't get to sleep. There wasn't anything I could do to improve my situation at the time.

When I read over my previous entries I realize just how important my friends are to me. Despite their addictions, their choices and what life has thrown at them; they are doing the best they can with what they have. Can any of us do any better? They are always entertaining and a joy to be with.

Several colleagues at work have seen me sitting with Mo before I go to work in the mornings. They ask about her story. I give them a condensed version of the facts as I know them. They ask, "Do you believe that what she says is the truth?" I have known Mo for two years now. When she tells her stories there are variations, perhaps due to memory, perhaps due to the amount she's had to drink, the amount she wishes to reveal; but in essence, what she has told me is consistant and I don't believe her to be a great actress who can pull tears out of nowhere.

I've been asked, "Are these people dangerous?" I know that several committed murder. Two have served sentences of twenty and twenty-five years in prison. Another wasn't charged, but has lived with the guilt, even attended the dead man's funeral and met his family.
These people, my friends, are capable of murder. I am capable of murder. Most people, in certain situations, especially under the influence of drugs or alcohol, are capable of murder.

I know that if I was in a desperate situation, any of my friends would do their best to protect me, or help me, with what ever resources they had. They have offered food, drink and protection on many occasions.

I don't really know why I am drawn to the park at noon hours. I say that the conversations there are more interesting than what I hear at work. That is certainly true. More than, that I see raw life, without a safety net. LIke John, who died September twenty-ninth, at the age of fifty-two, most of my friends are only too aware that they won't won't see sixty. Many are surprised, and sometimes disappointed, that they made it through the night. I enjoy sharing the time they have left. I am honored to have made their acquaintance.

23 November 2012

Mo was sitting with Sparky when I arrived.

Mo said, "Sparky's here to keep my spirits up. I'm sure glad you guys are here. Do you see the short guy with the orange vest across the street. He keeps staring at me. I see him taking bags of cement into the underground parking garage. I had to go to the bathroom and I asked him if he'd keep an eye on my stuff. When I came back there was a coffee, a cranberry explosion muffin and a breakfast sandwich on my box. I asked the guy where it came from. He just shrugged his shoulders. I gave the coffee and sandwich to Sparky, I'll save the muffin for Bert."

"Sparky," I said, "Mo tells me that you two have been friends for a long time."

"Yeah, since she was thirteen or fourteen. I used to take care of her. I took care of other people too, ha,ha,ha."

I said, "That would have been when you were in your prime fighting shape, in Toronto."

"Yeah, I was in my prime then."

Mo said, "Remember when we ran through Allan Gardens, chasing all the drug dealers away?"

"Yeah, I remember that, ha, ha, ha."

I said, "I lived just a couple of blocks away, near Parliament and Carlton."

"Dennis, I slept last night at the Bank of Nova Scotia kiosk, where they have the banking machines. I'd been sleeping when a friend, Eddie came in. He said, 'Hi, Sparky.' He did his businesss at the automated teller machine, he gave me two dollars then he left. I heard a beeping coming from the machine. He'd forgotten to take out his receipt and bank card. I ran after him but I couldn't find him anywhere. I looked at the receipt, he had seven hundred and thirty-five dollars in his account. I've still got his card, so if I see him, I'll give it back to him."

I said, "You could turn in the card to the bank. They'll make sure it gets back to him."

Mo said, "Sparky's hoping to get a reward."

Sparky said, "Maybe he'll buy me a bottle.

"You know, I may have been a thief sometimes, but I'm an honest thief."

Mo laughed and said, "Sparky, you kill me. That's an oxymoron if I ever heard one."

"What's an oxymoron?" asked Sparky.

Mo said, "It's two words used together that have opposite meanings, like jumbo shrimp, alone together or honest thief. If you're a thief you can't be honest. If you're honest you can't be a thief."

I asked Mo, "If you could have three wishes what would they be?"

"I'd like a house in the country, all to myself, close to nature. I'd like just enough money to get by, and I'd like to be healthy."

I asked Sparky the same question. He said, "I'd just like to be me." He gestured with his hands as if to say, All this is mine.

Mo said, "You are YOU, Sparky, or maybe there is a real you and an imaginary you. I don't even want to think about that."

One of Mo's regulars stopped by and said, "How are you, Mo?"

"I'm great. Two weeks ago I got my own place."

"That's great. How do you like it?"

"I'll like it better when I have furniture and heat."

The woman asked, "You don't have heat? Won't they fix that for you?"

Mo said, "I asked twice, I don't want to ask any more. First thing in the morning, I turn the oven to 500 degrees with the oven door open. Once the place warms up I turn it down to 150 degrees. It turns off automatically. I don't pay for electricity. I'm on an air mattress now and the floor is cold, but once I get my bed I'll be up where the heat is. Also, my worker is supposed to bring me a space heater."

The woman said, "Just make sure you don't fall asleep with the oven on. That could be dangerous."

Mo replied, "I always turn it off when I go to bed or if I'm going out for a while."

22 November 2012

As soon as I arrived at Mo's spot she said, "Sit on my box. I have to go to the bathroom and I'm not allowed in Gabriel's (Pizza). They say that I'm bad for business. Go figure."

When she came back I asked, "Did I miss anything yesterday after I left?"

"No, nothing much happened. Darrell showed up."

"Yeah, I saw him on the sidewalk as I was leaving. Any word about your health card?"

"I think it's all going to happen next week when they bring my furniture."

I said, "I can't believe that it's taking so long."

"I know, I'm not too happy with one of my workers. The young one with all the stuff about love and crap. She's the one that was crying yesterday. I told her, 'I need someone who can keep it together. The other worker has been to sessions at E. Fry with me where I've really spilled my guts. I've told things that I've never told anybody before. If you start crying, I'll start crying.' She said, 'I just want you to know that you're loved and that we care for you.' Anyway, I don't need that shit. The sooner I'm done with them the better."

I said, "Lonely Heart said something strange to me yesterday. It was when Emile was talking to the worker in the van. Pointing to Emile he said, 'There's something fishy going on. If I'd been charged like Emile, I'd be behind bars. Instead, he's free as can be, doesn't even need to report to a probation officer."

"I don't trust any one any more. Of the original crew there's only Bert -- Digger's around but he's in a home -- there's Hoover and Elaine, but she's sort of new. Sparky, I've known since I was about twelve years old. He's seen me grow up.

"Emile has a cousin, five times removed, that's on the police force. Maybe, she's doing something for him. I don't know.

"He was pissed yesterday that I left with Lonely Heart. I got a hammer and nails from Albert and wanted some help hanging a quilt on my wall. Emile's shorter than I am, so he'd be no use."


At noon the weather was unseasonably warm at fifty-two degrees Fahrenheit. At the traffic Island were Johnny with his motorized wheel chair, Rhino, Albert Mimi, Sparky, Bert and Frank.

Rhino was reading a grocery flyer. "What are you looking to buy, Rhino?"

"Cat food."

"I didn't know you had a cat."

"I didn't until last night. It was mewing at my door at 1:30 am. I opened the door and in he came. He's awfully srawny.

He said to Bert, "Here are the sausages I like. $3.00 for a three pack."

"That's pretty good."

I asked Bert, "You showed me your winter boots from Nancy, is there anything else you need for winter?"

'No, I think I have everything. Instead of longjohns I like to wear jogging pants. They hold more warm air next to your skin."

I said, "I have the kind of tights they use for skiing."

"Yeah, for sports they need something that will stretch when they move. Us here, we don't move so much. Just raise our arm to drink a beer, that's all."

I noticed that Sparky was wearing a white watch. I asked, "Is that watch new, Sparky?"

"Yeah, I just got it yesterday. I bought it for two or three dollars from Sammy. I stayed at his place last night. I got a new bag, cause my old one was stolen. Look what else I got!" He pulled a giant plastic beer bottle, meant for storing change. He put it to his mouth as if he was drinking."

I said, "The cops are sure going to be surprised the next time they stop by."

"Yeah, they sure will."

Mimi's cell phone rang. She checked to see who was calling then said, "I don't want to talk to him. I rather be in the sun and fresh air, not stuck inside somewhere."

I asked Frank, "How are you feeling today?"

"Better than yesterday. I was panning today, made six dollars. I go to my HIV doctor tomorrow and my other doctor next week. I have to find out what's going on in my head."

"Are you having headaches?"

"No, seizures. I had one yesterday. I think it's due to all the medication I'm taking. I have to make sue I eat when I take the antibiotics, otherwise I feel really sick."

21 November 2012

Mo was in her usual spot this morning, talking to Levar the garbage man.

"Hi Levar," I said.

"Hello, Dennis."

Mo said to him, "So handsome, when are you coming over to visit me in my new place, or would your wife object."

"I think she'd object."

I had a newspaper to sit on, but instead I knelt beside Mo, "How are you making out today?"

"So, so, I came down with seven dollars, I've had drops of three dollars plus some jingle for my cap." I was there for about ten minutes and half a dozen people dropped change into her cap. "You're lucky for me, Sunshine, I was doing lousy before you came along."

"Do you have heat?" I asked.

"No, the landlord came down with a plastic card that looked like a fridge magnet. It was a thermometer. He waved it around, looked at it nd said, 'It's a balmy eighty-six degrees in here." I took the card and put it on the heater it registered eighty-two. I kept the card over night and put it in the hall to the outside. There is no heat in there at all, it's the same as the outside temperature. The thermometer read seventy-seven degrees. Last night it went down to freezing. So, I'm done with that. I'll be getting a space heater from my worker and until then I'll leave the oven on."

"How about your neighbour, is he still noisy?"

"I talked to him last night. He was stomping around so I got a shovel and banged on my ceiling. He came down a few steps and kicked on my door. He said, "What's the idea with all that banging?. I said, 'That's what I hear every time you walk across the floor. So, you can either walk more quietly or you'll get the same in return, your choice." I told the landlady about it. He said, 'Maybe we should let the police decide.' I said, 'Sure,' and rhymed off the number for him. "When you're on the line ask for McCabe, De Los Santos, Santorelli, Warren Davis. Just tell them that you were talking to Mo, they'll know who you mean.' He asked, 'So, you've been in trouble with the police?' I said, No, man, these are family. They're married to my sisters.' That shut him up.

"Here comes trouble."

Emile was scowling as he approached. "I'm so pissed off. Ambrose and Maryam sat down beside me. Ambrose asked me for a smoke, then he asked if I had anything to eat. I gave him some pizza, He said,'I don't like it.' Then he said, "You're sitting in my spot, would you mind moving on. Can you believe that? He's lucky I didn't kick him in the head."

Since there sere already two people talking to Mo I decided to head to work. "I'll see you at noon, Mo, Emile"

"We'll see you, Dennis."


At noon I stopped to talk to Uncle Peter and to scratch Scruffy. Peter said, "Hello , Dennis. See the leather coat some lady gave me. This will have to be my Sunday coat, not my going to the store coat. I certainly won't wear it when I'm panning."

Peter didn't have his dentures in, so he was a bit hard to understand. "Isn't this a beautiful day we're having? Forty-six degrees Fahrenheit, the sun is shining. Tomorrow is supposed to be the same, then we get snow on Saturday. I guess we should appreciate days like this when we have them. Today we're blessed. I'm going to go for a wiz, so I'll see you later."

At the traffic island the Salvation Army Outreach van was parked. Mo was standing on the passenger side, leaning in the window, talking to her worker. Emile was standing at the driver's side, talking to his worker. They were also handing out socks and purple print underwear.

Standing around were Bert, Albert, Albert (Bert), Frank, Wild Bill, Lonely Heart and Johnny in his motorized wheel chair. Seated, hunched over was Sparky. Lonely Heart brought him a pair of underwear. Sparky said, "These are large, I need a medium. I don't want to have to be hitching them up as I walk down the street."

Bert said, "They gave me these socks. I think they're nylon. They won't be warm for the winter. See the nice boots that Nancy brought for me this morning -- real winter boots. I'll put some oil on the leather so they're water proof and I'll be all set.

"See this paper I got." It was a letter from Bert's former landlord claiming back rent of fifteen dollars a day for eight days and a storage fee, for his belongings, of ten dollars a day.

I said, "You're in you new place now, aren't you?"

"Yes he handed this to me when I was picking up the last of my stuff. Some people stay fourteen days and he doesn't charge them. I'm not going to pay this.

"Oh, Oh, here comes Billy. He's staggering. When he's drunk he likes to fight. You know, he served twenty years for murder."

When Billy came across the street Mo started singing:

Oh, where have you been,
Billy Boy, Billy Boy?
Oh, where have you been,
Charming Billy?

Sparky said, "Have you ever been to sea, Billy?" He was referring to an old Captain Highliner commercial. He said to Billy, "Over at the van they're giving out socks and underwear, if you want some."

"No," said Billy, "I don't want anything to do with those bastards."

Lonely Heart came over, "Dennis, I got an invoice from the city for unpaid liquor violations from December 2010 to now. The total amount is $5,600.00. They're going to be waiting a long time for that."

Mo came back from talking to her worker. Lonely Heart said, "Tell Dennis about the problem you're having with your neighbour, and who you saw today."

"I told my landlady about the problem I was having with my neighbor. I said to her, 'When he walks across the floor my cabinet doors shake.' She doesn't speak very good English and thought that my cabinets had fallen off the wall. When I came up here, snow fences were being put up across the street. Guess who was installing them ... My neighbour. I went over to talk to him. He asked me, 'Why did you rat me out to the landlady?' I asked him, 'Why do you think, you stupid fuck?' Then I gave him the finger, smiled and said, 'Your turn will come.' He doesn't know who he's messing with.

The landlady phoned my worker, the one I just spoke to. They both had been in a panic. My worker drove down here to meet me. She was crying. So, we have that straightened out. I asked her, "So, I'm not being kicked out am I?' That was my big concern. 'No,' she said, 'You're not being kicked out.' I'm going to lay low for a while. I've asked the landlady for more things in a week, than I've asked other landlords in years. I don't want her to think that I'm a nuisance. I'll just see how it goes."

20 November 2012

At noon on the traffic Island were Mo, Bert, Norm, Sparky and Jimmy on his bicycle. Mo was layered. She pulled up the cuff of her pants to show the pajama bottoms she was wearing for extra warmth. She also wore a tee shirt, heavy sweater, hoodie, then her army parka.

She said, "I look like the Michelin Man, but that's okay. I like guys to think I'm fat, then they leave me alone. We don't have any chubby chasers around here. The only one I have trouble with is that one (pointing to Emile), but he's learning. Then there's Darrell. Yesterday, I saw him talking to Peter across the street. I heard him call me a goof. Peter said to him, 'Mo heard you say that.' I walked over and said to Darrell, 'Whenever I have anything to say to you, I've got the guts to say it to your face, you goof.' I was hoping to see him today, but he didn't show."

I asked her, "Have they turned on your heat yet?"

"No, I talked to the landlady last night. She's nice, but she doesn't speak very much English. She thought I was complaining that her TV was too loud. I said, 'No, it's your husband walking so heavily on the floor.' She said, 'I told him about that.' Then I heard her yelling at him. I keep the oven on at a hundred and fifty degrees with the door open. It shuts off by itself. The top of the room gets warm, but it's still cold near the floor. My worker said that she's going to bring me a space heater."

From across the street came Frank, wearing a surgical mask. Mo asked, "So, masked man, what did the doctor tell you?"

"It's either a lung infection, pneumonia or TB. They've doubled my antibiotics. I'm wearing this mask so I don't infect any of you guys."

Mo said, "What did I tell you? I said, 'It's either a lung infection, pneumonia or TB.' I was right."

I asked Frank, "How are you feeling? Do you have pain in your lungs?"

"Yeah, it's worse in the morning. You should see what I cough up. It's disgusting."

Jimmy said, "I was talking to my worker this morning, she said, 'We might have a place for you soon.' I asked, 'Should I call you back in a couple of days?' She said, 'Call me first thing tomorrow morning.' While I was in her office I saw an email. It had Mo's name on it. There was a list of furniture items: table with two chairs, arm chair...'

Mo said, "I hope they had a futon on that list."

"Yeah, a futon was on the list." I heard her say, 'Now we have Mo taken care of.'"

Mo said, I don't know where I'm going to put a table. I guess I'll use it to put my toaster on. I also need a TV so I can see Coronation Street. I've already missed two episodes. That Tracy sure needs a bullet between the eyes. Albert was saying something about a gay guy and a girl getting together, but I didn't know what he was talking about.

"Does anybody know where I can get a TV? Even one of those small black and white portables would be better than nothing."

Emile said, "They'll take you to their warehouse. They have hundreds of TVs there."

"All they gave me was a coupon for a hundred dollars and it has to be used at either their Vanier, or Somerset store. I don't think I'm going to find anything there I wan't."

Mo said, "Yesterday, I saw Erick holding hands with Shannon. I asked him, 'When are the wedding bells going to be ringing?' He didn't say anything."

Jimmy said, "I really don't like that Shannon. I had a party one time. I bought six cases of twenty-fours. I asked her if I could have a sip from her bottle. She didn't exactly say no, but she put the bottle in her bra, like she does. After that I didn't want a sip.

"One time, early in the morning, I was walking under the bridge. On the hill was a woman with her pants pulled down to her ankles and her shirt up over head. I went closer and saw that it was Shannon. I kicked hir in the foot. She woke up. I said, 'Get yourself dressed.' She said, 'I promised myself that I wasn't going to do this any more.' Later, I saw Walter. I told him what I'd seen. He said, 'Yeah, that's the way I left her last night.'

"She's so young. She should be in school or something, not getting drunk every day like we do. Does she think that when whe's forty-five she's going to be able to get any kind of job? I don't think so."

Mo said, "Yeah, I see so many of these kids. Some of them could be at home, Like Peru, she's only twenty-four and look at the shape she's in. She phoned me from the hospital and asked if I would come visit her. I yelled at her, 'No, I'm not coming over, because if I did I'd probably punch you in the mouth. You were doing so well when you visited your family in P.E.I. Now, your doctor has you on medication and your also smashing crack into your arm. You're going to kill yourself.'"

Jimmy said, "The last time I saw her she was in a wheel chair. I think she has to have a hip replaced, and she's having trouble with her knees.

"Someone that really likes her is Gideon. I was at his place a couple of weeks ago. He has a really nice place."

Mo said, "Gideon really gives me the creeps. A couple of years ago me, Gideon, Bert and Sparky were drinking in the park. Bert and Sparky passed out so it was just Gideon and me. He said to me, 'I'm horny.' I said, 'Dude, that's a personal issue. It's got nothing to do with me.' He said, 'No, I mean I want to have sex with you, right here, right now.' Frank was down at the market with Earl, so I said to Gideon, "I'll tell you what. You go down to the market and ask Frank's permission to have sex with me. If It's okay with him, it's okay with me.' Gideon had this look in his eyes like, I'm going to take what I want now. I just got up and walked away. I've never trusted him since. He's just too creepy."

Jimmy said, "That surprises me. Gideon's had girl friends. He seemed to treat them right. I guess you just never know."

Bert said, "Has anybody seen the article in the Sun about the Salvation Army? I have a copy here:

Salvation Army says it's victim of massive fraud

By Doug Hempstead ,Ottawa Sun
First posted: Monday, November 19, 2012 01:23 PM EST | Updated: Monday, November 19, 2012 11:13 PM EST

Ottawa’s Salvation Army has fired its executive director following an internal audit.

Toronto-based Major John Murray of the organization’s public relations and development division, said $240,000 has gone missing from the George St. Booth Centre’s administrative resources account.

“We anticipate that is going to be all,” said Murray, who called it a “rather sophisticated fraud.”

The missing funds isn’t money that was donated, but that which came from government funds and partners, Murray said. He said the amount gone missing wasn’t immediately noticeable because the Salvation Army is a multi-million dollar organization in Ottawa. For the same reason, the money won’t impact the operation of any of the Salvation Army’s programs.

It’s not known how long money has been disappearing, but Murray said the executive director had held the position for eight years, so that is the period being examined.

He said “financial irregularities” were first noticed at the Booth Centre about two weeks ago. The executive director was placed on a paid leave of absence while a 12-day internal audit was done by Salvation Army staff, brought in from Toronto.

Following the internal probe, the executive director was “terminated” and the information was given to Ottawa police fraud investigators.

Police say they can’t comment on, confirm or deny an ongoing investigation.

In the meantime, Salvation Army has hired auditing firm KPMG to do a “parallel” investigation of its own. Murray said the costs of this should be covered by insurance.

The Salvation Army was in damage-control mode Monday, just as its most important fundraising season approaches. The Christmas Kettle campaign launched Nov. 15 and the organization was keen to demonstrate that is was being forthcoming and transparent.

“It’s a difficult time for the workers at the Booth Centre,” said Murray. “It’s disheartening, disappointing.”

He said the Salvation Army is a compassionate organization, even towards the person they’ve accused.

“Our heart goes out to him and his family,“ he said.

Connie Wolloschuk, a former executive director at the Booth Centre, will serve in the position until a replacement can be found. Murray expects that will happen around June next year.

“She will help us through this period,” he said.

The position of executive director had been held by Perry Rowe, who could not be reached for comment.

Rowe is a member of the Ottawa Alliance to End Homelessness steering committee and was a former chair of that committee.

Executive Director Lynne Browne said the committee will discuss Rowe’s future with the organization at its next meeting, Dec. 7.

19 November 2012

This morning I noticed that Mo was wearing the army parka that Nancy had given her last week. She also had two garbage bags with her, filled to overflowing.

"Someone dropped these blankets off for me, but how am I going to carry them? My back pack is already full with my blanket and other stuff."

I said, "Perhaps, Emile will come by."

"He's already been here, I told him to move along. He said, 'People are used to seeing me here. I'm not going to scare off any of your traffic.' I said, 'Yes you are, Mondays are slow enough without you hanging around.' Anyway, he has his court appearance today."

"How about Bert?" I asked.

"I'm going to give some of these to him anyway, but I don't know if he'll be coming by."

"I can take a bag to work and bring it to you at lunch, if that will help."

"That would be great. I didn't get a lot of sleep last night, so I'm not in a very good mood. The guy in the apartment above me was stomping around, up the stairs, down the stairs. I think he gets up to eat about once an hour. I can hear him get up from the couch, walk to the fridge. There will be silence for about a minute, then he walks back to the couch."

I asked, "Have you tried ear plugs?"

"No, but I don't think I should have to. I left a note on his car windshield. I'll see what happens after he reads that."

I asked, "How was your weekend?"

"It was quiet, for the most part."

I knew that Mo wasn't much in the mood for company, so I said, "I'll let you get back to work and I'll bring this bag to Bert at noon."

"Thanks, I'll see you at noon."


At noon, Bert, Peter and Scruffy were at the place where the benches used to be. I gave the bag to Bert. He thanked me then headed across the street.

Peter said, "Can you help me up. I was lying around all weekend reading my two books. I took Scruffy for her walks, but I guess I need more activity, or calisthenics. When I woke up this morning, my back was so stiff I could hardly get out of bed.

Right now, I have to go for a pee, so I'll see you a bit later."

I walked across the street to where Mo, Mimi, Rhino, Mike and Scott were. Sparky was by 'the heater' dozing.

"How has your day been, Mo?"

"I made enough for a bottle, that's about all."

Mo said to Mimi, "I was kept awake last night by the guy upstairs stomping around."

"Yeah, I heard him too. He's been told about it. I don't know how somebody can eat as much as he does. I know I couldn't."

Mo said, "I'd think he'd be fatter than he is. It must go right through him."

"I've caught him with his clothes off, he has a round belly, but your right, he must have a fast metabolism. That's probably why he can't seem to stay still. I wouldn't want to have to pay their bill for toilet paper."

Mo said, "I wouldn't want to pay their grocery bill."

Emile came across the street, beaming. "I went to court this morning on the charges of stealing meat from Loblaws. My worker gave me a really good character reference, saying that prison time would undo all the progress I've made in the past six months. The judge asked me, 'Why did you steal the meat, Emile?' I said, 'Well, your honor, I had no money and I was hungry. I know that I could have gone to the Mission, but I was trying to be self sufficient.

'I'm an alcoholic. If I'm prohibited from drinking I'll be back in court next month. I've tried, but I can't stop drinking.'

"The judge said, 'One year's probation with no reporting, and stay away from Loblaws.'

"I was just standing there with my head down, shaking. I couldn't believe my good luck."

Rhino said, "I got one year probation with reporting. At first I had to see my probation officer once every two weeks, then they reduced it to once a month. I think I've still got about six months left."

I asked Rhino, "How is your apartment. Have they fixed the leak?"

"No, they sent an Housing Support worker. He said, 'It's dripping alright, but I can't do anything about it. We'll have to send a plumber.' That's what I told them in the first place."

November 9, 2012 at 12:10pm
November 9, 2012 at 12:10pm

16 November 2012

This morning Steve handed me a newspaper and said, "Mo's up there."

"Thanks, Steve, have a good day."

There was a large yellow garbage truck parked in front of Mo, who was talking with the driver. I walked up to him and said, "Hi, I'm Dennis. I always say hello to you, but I don't know your name."

"It's Levar, I don't give my name out to too many people. It's a habit from my past."

Mo said, "That's a nice name. I'm the same. When someone asks my name I ask, 'What do you think it is?'

I said, "Or you say, 'What name did I give last time.' I generally don't carry a wallet, or identification. I just don't trust people."

Lervar said, "It's time to get back to work." I held out my hand to shake his. He said, "You probably don't want to shake this hand, because of where it's been."

Mo and I sat down. I asked, "So, how was your night? Are you getting used to the place?"

"Now, that my workers have me in an apartment, it seems they want to forget about me. Rhino got a brand new bed from Sears when he moved in, so did Frank. I want a new futon, so I can fold it up during the day. My worker offered me a hundred dollar gift certificate for their store. She said, 'Maybe you can get a futon there.' I don't want someones used bed that they've cleaned up a bit. I've had enough trouble with bugs.

"I've never liked the Salvation Army. They've never helped me before, so I never donated money to them, or the Mission either.

"They fixed my bathroom sink. They checked the heating and said that the pressure was low. He adjusted it, but I've still got no heat. I'll call my worker again. I turn on the oven to low. That keeps the apartment warm, but at night, because of menopause, I get night sweats and have to open the door, from my apartment to the hallway, to get some cool air in. That works fine."

I asked, "Aren't you worried about security, leaving your apartment door open?"

"No, there's another door to the outside. Only me and my landlord have a key to that door.

"I haven't been sleeping too well. I've been sick, throwing up every morning. I asked Emile to get me a bottle of sherry this morning to settle my stomach. I'm feeling a bit better now. I'm pissid off with him though. I've never led him on. I've told him I'm not interested in him and never will be; not if he were the last man on earth, but he keeps picking, picking. This morning he bent down to kiss me. I said, 'Go away, man.' He said, 'It was worth a try, anyway.' I said, 'I talked to Cathy and she told me how you treated her.' 'Yeah, well I got a cut on my cheek.' I said, 'You deserved it.' Here's a woman who has opened her door to this guy, she feeds him. After he gets out of the shower, he comes out stark naked, with a hardon, and says to her, 'Take your clothes off and lie down on the bed.' She said, 'No fuckin' way, man! Now, get out of here!' He punched her in the chest, then backhanded her. If it was me I would have knocked him out, dropped him in the hall and threw his clothes on top of him."

I said, "Apparently, he doesn't believe in romance or foreplay."

Mo said, "I asked her, 'Did he at least have the decency to put on a condom?' 'No,' she said. That was the day of the Dr. McGillicuddy's fiasco."

"What does that mean?"

"Emile and the boys were drinking Dr. McGillicuddy's Peach Schnaps. That stuff'll kill you. Albert was drunk too. He asked me why I was leaving, I said, 'It's cold. I want to go home and lie down. My legs are sore.' He said, 'Well, fuck you then. Maybe, I won't let you have the rest of your stuff back.' He staggered half way across the bridge and did a face plant. Somebody phoned the police and he was taken by the paramedics to Hope Recovery." If he did hold onto my stuff I'd feed his dentures to him piece by piece.

"I was always told to respect my elders. It doesn't seem like Albert and I are that far apart in age now, but he's nearly twenty years older than me. I take care of these guys, and they treat me like shit.

"I remember when my son Michael called my mom a crusty old bitch. I sat him down at the table and said, 'Don't you ever talk to your grandmother like that again.' He said, 'She pissed me off.' I said, 'Don't talk like that, and if she pissed you off it must have been something you did to cause it.' He said, 'So you can talk that way and I can't.' That's right, because I'm your mother.' He said, 'You lay a hand on me and I'll call 911.' I leaned over towards him and gave him a head butt -- knocked him out cold. My mother came in and said, 'What did you do?' I said, 'I just knocked him out. He's not dead or anything.' When he came to he asked, 'What did you do to me. That's not right.' I said, 'I didn't lay a hand on you. Now, I want you to apologize to your grandmother.' He went over to her and said, 'I'm sorry grandma, I won't talk to you like that again.' He never did either."


At noon on the traffic island I saw Mo, Sparky, Rhino, Bert, another Bert (He said people just call him Bert. His real name is Albert), Peter 'Lonely Heart', Ambrose, Maryam, Johnny in his motorized wheelchair, Jimmy on his bicycle, and Warren.

Warren said, "I see you nearly every noon hour. What brings you up here?"

I said, "The conversations here are more interesting that what I hear at work."

"Yeah, I guess that's true, eh? We all have a story. I went to my worker to try to get my rent money, but she wouldn't give it to me. She's going to hold onto it until the first of December, then give it directly to my landlord. I didn't fight it. She said to me, 'If I give you this money your going to spend it on booze. Am I right?' I wasn't going to lie to her, I'm an alcoholic, the first thing alcoholics think about is booze. For me it's beer and the occassional joint."

"I can understand that," I said.

Mo saw Ambrose and Maryam approach. She said, "Ambrose, the Salvation Army Outreach workers were looking for you this morning. You should call them." Ambrose borrowed Bert's phone and arranged that the workers would meet him and Maryam at the traffic island.

Emile passed Mo a joint, he said, "Don't give it to Frank, because he's been told he has a spot on his lung. It could be TB. He was honest about it, you've got to give him credit for that."

Lonely Heart said, "TB is the most contagious disease there is. You don't want to share a joint with a person who is even suspected of having TB. It's rough for Frank, but that's the way it is."

I sat next to Frank on the sidewalk. "How is it going in your new apartment? Do you have any more furniture?"

"I've got a bed and an air conditioner, still in the box. That's all. Scott has a TV for me. I just have to find a way to get it to my place and get the cable hooked up."

"It must be nice to have a place you can come home to, where you can lock the door, where you're warm. It was only a few months ago that you were sleeping behind the dumpsters in back of Starbucks."

"Yeah, it's good. I just wish I was feeling better. I've had a chest x-ray and a spot showed up on my lung. I don't know what that's all about. I'm throwing up every morning. I've got no appetite." Frank also has HIV.

I asked, "Have you been eating?"

"No, just the thought of food makes me sick. I'm on two thousand milligrams of some kind of penicillin. When the pharmacist saw the perscription he said, 'There must be a mistake here.' I said, 'That's what the doctor gave me.' He said, That's a very high dose."

"Rhino," I said, "How is your new apartment?

"I got a leak coming from the water main. It's dripping down my wall. They're going to have to replace the gyprock. Apart from that everything's fine. Tomorrow they're having the Santa Clause Day parade."

"Are you going to come down and see it?"

"No, I'll just watch it on TV. Bert, do you know when the Santa Claus Day parade starts?"

"I think it's ten o'clock, I'll have to check."

It was time for me to leave. I shook hands all around and Sparky asked me, "Dennis, are you walking towards Laurier Street?"


"Could you help me walk. I've been sitting too long and my knees are wobbly."

"Okay, Sparky, no problem." As we were walking I asked him, "Do you have problems with arthritis in your knees?"

"Yes, they get stiff." As we passed the Lord Elgin Hotel Sparky said, "I'm going to stop in here. I've got to go for a wizz."

"I'll see you next week, Sparky."

"Thanks, Dennis. I'll see you."

15 November 2012

This morning, as I got off the bus I saw Grant and Steve with their stack of newspapers.

"Good morning, Grant, Steve. I'll take a paper today." Grant smiled because he knew I would be using it, not for reading, but for insulation between my backside and the sidewalk -- not that it made any difference to him. When he's handed out his daily allotment of papers he gets to go home.


At noon Peter and Scruffy were sitting at the curb, while the rest of the group was on the traffic island.

"Hi Peter," I said, "you're all alone here."

"Yeah, well, I don't like to take Scruffy over there because there is traffic on both sides, twice as much chance of her getting killed. She's already been hit by a car, I don't want that to happen again. She's all I got. Even if some one calls Sparky she's ready to run across the street. She's crazy that way, just like the dog in the cartoon -- you know the one -- her head is just all over the place.

"It's cool today, isn't it. I don't know why those guys think it's warmer over there. They have to come across to my side of the street to piss, then Scruffy wants to follow them back. I should charge them a toll. What do you think?

"Look what I got this morning. A lady gave them to me, red, Olympic mittens, with the crest on the back and 2012 on the palm. I've already got gloves but I was really happy to get these.

"Tomorrow Nancy's bringing me some between seasons shoes. These sneakers have mesh on the top and sides that lets the cold in. I've got winter boots for forty below zero, but they're heavy and awkward. I don't want to wear them in this weather.

"It's time for me to take a leak. I'll probably see you tomorrow, since I'm coming to see Nancy, anyway. I have to get my fresh air and I like to have a couple of beer outside. I'll see you then."

"Bye, Peter."

I walked across the street where the group was congregated: Bert, another Bert, Johnny in his motorized wheelchair, Johnny's brother on his bicycle, Sparky, Claire, Mo, Ambrose and Maryam.

Everyone had filled the spaces on the low wall, so I sat on the concrete. Bert handed me a copy of the Metro to sit on.

"It's not much," he said, "but it helps."

"Thanks Bert, I had my own, but forgot it at work."

Mo said to Sparky, "I'll trade you seven for one... okay eight for one. Come on Sparky, my last offer nine for one. I can't believe he's saying no to me. Okay ten native cigarettes for one Pall Mall.

"No," said Sparky, "I'd have to walk all the way to Bank Street to get some more."

"Sparky, "said Mo, "you're going there anyway.

Johnny reached into his coat pocket and handed Mo a tailor made cigarette. She gave him ten native ones.

"Johnny, can you ask your brother to do me a big favor? Can you ask him if he'll go to the World Exchange and pick me up a bottle of Imperial Canadian sherry?"

Johnny said, "He says he'd go, but he has some errands to run first." Johnny's brother left on his bicycle.

Cathy asked Mo, "Why can't you go there?"

"I'm barred, ever since I punched Drew Carey in the head."

"You mean, Drew Carey the actor?"

"No the short, fat fuck with the glasses. We call him Drew Carey. One time a few years back when Digger and Andre were still here we went in. I was standing behind Digger. The guy behind the counter said, "You stink, why don't you take a shower?"

"I said to him, 'Hey man, just because these guys sleep outside doesn't mean they don't wash. What about you? You live with your mother, sleep in her basement. She makes your lunch every day.' After that I just lost it. I jumped over the counter and started pounding on his head. They have a picture of me in the back. All the staff have been told not to serve me.

"If you think you can get in, You can get yourself a beer on me. I'd really appreciate it."

"No problem. I could use a beer, then I have to go to work panning.

"So, how's your new place?"

"It's good. At least I don't have to listen to Albert coughing and complaining all the time. I've got some wood bugs, from when they cut the tree down in back. They threw all the wood down the stairs to where my apartment is. They took the wood out, but the bugs stayed. They're those kind that roll up into a ball when you touch them. I thought I'd swept them all up yesterday and could go out my back door with just my socks on, but there they were again. On the weekend, when I was drunk and stoned, I was playing marbles with them, flicking them against the wall. They would have been better off if they'd stayed with their brothers outside."

Sparky said, "I haven't played marbles in forty years."

Cathy said, "I know all about those bugs. When my kids were young, I used to go into the forest, find a rotting log and take the bark off. Some of the pieces were almost six feet long. I'd wrap them in a sheet -- that's the only way I could carry them -- bring them home and put them under my kids beds. Whenever they'd see me with one of those sheets over my shoulder they'd say, 'No, Mom, not the bugs again.' I'd brush off the bark, let it dry then hang them on my walls. They looked really nice.

"Now, I've got cockroaches. I didn't have them before, but the exterminators came to my door and said they were spraying the whole building. I said, 'You can't spray here. It would kill all my plants.' They said they could use a gel that wouldn't be harmful to plants. That sounded good, but this gel, I found out, attracts roaches. The exterminators brought roaches in on their clothes, now I have a problem.

Mo said, Peter has roaches, so did Frank in his old place, Darrell had them, but his place was so bad they had it condemned. He'd pulled all the plasterboard off the walls, the windows were broken and snow piled up inside. Earl's place was nearly as bad."

Cathy said, "I like Earl."

"Earl the Squirrel, he's the one sponsoring Frank, for a place to live, after he gets out of prison. He gives me the creeps. He came to Albert's place in the summer when me and Lonely Heart were there. We were all in the back yard. Albert was wearing shorts and had his shirt off. Earl sat right next to him. He was rubbing Albert's back, pinching his titties and touching his thigh. It nearly made me and Lonely Heart sick. Albert went inside and put on long pants and a shirt. He told me that Earl made him feel uncomfortable. Albert only had one beer and was working on his second. All of a sudden he's acting really drunk. I think Earl dropped some pills into his beer. I can only imagine what happened when Albert went to Earl's place alone."

Cathy asked, "Where is Frank now?"

"Collins Bay -- it was right around this time of year that he went into prison, so it's been fifteen months since I've been with a man. You remember my Frank don't you? Sometimes they used to call him Sasqwatch."

Cathy said, "I went seventeen years when my kids were growing up. Jimmy's just leaving. What do you think of him?"

"I wish he'd wear tighter pants, it looks like he's got a good bod."

14 November 2012

At noon, on one side of the street were Claude, Frank, Peter and Scruffy. As I approached Scruffy started barking. Peter said, She's okay, she just wants you to scratch her. She leaned against my leg and I scratched behind her ears and along her side.

It took me a few minutes to recognize Claude. He had new pants, shoes and winter jacket. His hair and beard are just starting to grow out since they shaved him. He still has a bump on his forehead and the left side of his face has some yellow bruising. I said to him, "It's good to see you Claude. Do you remember me visiting you in hospital?"

"Yes, I remember."

"Daniel said he was going to visit you. Did you see him?"

"No I haven't seen him since before I went to hospital. I have to go there every day. They put a needle in my arm."

I walked across the street to the traffic island. The congregation included Ambrose, Maryam, Albert, Sparky Mo, Bert, Jimmy, Emile, Johnny in his motorized wheelchair and Laura.

Eventually Claude walked slowly across the street to join the group.

It took a while for Bert and others to recognize Claude.

Bert said, "I saw that guy over there and I wondered to myself, who is that guy, he looks familiar. I wonder what he's doing there. Bert and Albert both spoke to Claude in French.

I said to Mo, "It must be nice having your own place to go home to."

"Yeah, except for the fact that I've got no heat. The bathroom faucet sprays all over me when I try to brush my teeth, so I use the kitchen sink. My air mattress leaks. They brought over some furniture: a wooden chair that looks like it's been used for painting, a three shelf bookcase with a hole kicked through the middle shelf and a lamp. The only think I like is the lamp. I phoned my worker. I told her that my fibromyalgia is really bothering me, so I need a decent place to sleep and a comfortable chair."

Bert said, "What you need is one of those folding garden chairs, the lazy boy recliners with a thick mattress on it."

"Do you have any extra?" asked Mo.

"No I only have the one. I had some other garden chairs, but they got all wobbly from people sitting in them crooked. I threw them out. What I'm looking for is bunk beds -- the metal kind. I'll sleep on the bottom and on the top I'll have plastic milk boxes. I wont need a dresser, I'll just put all my clothes and stuff in the boxes. It'll make it easier for moving."

Emile asked Mo, "So, when are you going to invite me over to your new place?"

"Never, can't you get the hint, Emile. I don't like you. We aren't friends. The only thing I'd like to do is take a gun to your head."

"Mo, I can just see you in army fatigues, holding a gun. You'd look so hot."

"How about I take a machette to you?"

"That image is even sexier."

"Emile, I'd rather do myself than have you anywhere near me. You're drunk. You think you're being entertaining, but you're not. You're just babbling and nobody's listening"

Emile said, "I guess I got told."

I said to Mo, "Your place must be quiet."

"Yeah, the only thing I hear is The Bear."

"What do you mean?" I asked.

"Mimi brought me down a radio. I've been listening to The Bear FM. They've got some good music."

I said, "You should try Dawg FM."

"Yeah, I have. They play some cool blues."

Ambrose said to me, "At three o'clock today we go to sign the papers for direct deposit. Housing Outreach will pay a third of our rent, directly to the landlord. We've already signed the application for the apartment, so we're one step closer. We'll also be getting O.D.S.P. (Ontario Disability Support Program) and will be getting bus passes.

"Thank you my friend, for helping us. We won't forget it."

Sparky said, "I'll be getting a place on December first. It'll probably be in the west end on Morisset Avenue. Around that time, I'll have to take a few days off from coming down here. I'll be refurnishing."

I said, "You'll be near Frank and me. Welcome neighbor!"

"I'll need to get a bus pass."

"Yeah," I said "I take the 176 to come downtown in the morning, and the 14 to come home at night. I think you'll like the neighborhood. My son lives on Morisset."

Laura walked across the street. Mo said to Jimmy, "She's got the hots for you."

"Yeah, I know, but she spells trouble with a capital T, make that three T's. I've been out with Inuit women before and when they drink they want to fight."

Mo said, "I don't know what it is with you white guys and these muk muks. The last time I saw that one she was an inch away from my face and she spit when she talked. I put my hand on her head and pushed her away. She went to take a swing at me, but Pudlo clocked her. She said, "You don't touch my Mo."

Frank came from across the street. He had been talking to Peter. Scruffy

I shook hands with Sparky, he was smiling. He held on to my hand and nodded toward Frank. "Frank," he said, "did you give that bottle to Emile?"

Frank said, "What bottle?"

"The one Dennis gave you to give to Emile?"


Sparky asked me, "What day was it, Dennis?"


"I don't know anything about a bottle."

13 November 2012

At noon, on the traffic island, were Ambrose, Maryam, Warren, Johnny in his motorized wheelchair, Sparky, Emile and Bert.

Warren said to me, “We’ve met before, haven’t we?”

“Yes,” I said, “I saw you yesterday and I also met you two years ago, across the street, where the benches used to be. You told me that you’d lived in Boston and that you'd been in the army.”

“It was the Marines. I was in Baghdad and Afghanistan. When we’d walk along the streets, there would be bodies just lying there on the sidewalks – dead bodies. We’d smell the rotting flesh.

“I’ve been getting these migraine headaches. It feels like someone hit me with a baseball bat at the back of my skull.”

I asked, "Was that because of your car accident?"

Ambrose said, “He’s had a tumor.”

“Yeah, where this missing patch of hair is. The surgery wasn’t so bad; it was the chemo that I really hated. I’d keep throwing up and wouldn’t be able to stop. It was every morning. I went to the doctor recently about the headaches. He ran some tests. I don’t want to go on morphine; I’ve already got one addiction, I don’t need another. I have to go back October thirty-first for the results, Halloween – I think it’s this Thursday -- to get the results.”

“Warren,” said Ambrose, “it’s November thirteenth, Halloween was two weeks ago.”

“Do you mean I missed my appointment?”

I said, “It’s no problem, Warren, phone them, they can make another appointment for you.”

"I've been staying in shelters, but I hate it. To wake you up in the morning they kick you in the foot."

I said, "I've heard that there are a lot of crack heads there, getting up every hour, walking around, keeping people awake."

"Not only that, but they smoke crack in the bathrooms. The smell makes me sick. It's like burning tires. My former wife used to be on crack. I'd wonder where all our money was going. We could never seem to get ahead. One day I came home and found two guys on top of her. One of them broke my leg. I took our two kids in the truck and they stayed with my mother. The next time I saw her she patted her backside and said, 'Kiss my ass.' That's the last time I saw her."

Ambrose said, "Maryam has been going to a women's shelter to have a shower and get cleaned up. She said there are always women smoking crack in the bathrooms."

"Yeah," said Maryam. This morning I saw a woman with a hypodermic needle to her throat. I don't know what she was shooting. I couldn't believe it."

Ambrose said, "We have some good news. We've applied for assisted housing and I think the've found us a place in Vanier. I think it's on Lavergne Avenue. They still have some other applications to go through, but I think we're going to get it. We'll also get a 'street allowance' because we're living on the street. We've also made application for O.D.S.P. (Ontario Disability Support Program, and will be getting a health card and a bus pass."

Warren said, “Congratulations! Lately, I’ve been sleeping outside. I really admire you guys -- sleeping outside for two and a half years.

"I was in court this morning for a pre-sentence hearing. Do you know old Alphonse?”

“No,” I said.

“Anyway, old Alphonse gave these two kids money to buy a bottle. It was a girl and a guy. They never came back. Later on I saw them. I grabbed the guy in a headlock and took him back to old Alphonse. He didn’t have the money, he'd spent it on crack, so I laid into him. I felt a hand on my shoulder and without thinking, I threw a punch. It was a cop. He didn’t identify himself. How was I to know? A couple of them jumped me, had me in hand cuffs face down on the ground. One had his knee on the back of my neck. The others put the boots to me. It was the fat blond woman who split my ear. I think they have metal plates on the toes of their boots.

“One lawyer told me I should sue. Another told me to let it go. I’ve got until January first to prepare my statement."

Alphonse said, “Something similar happened to me. Me and Maryam were panning on Metcalfe Street. A guy came along and lay down beside us. Maryam told him to move along. He got up to swing at her and I clocked him right at the back of the jaw. He fell into the street. The police and ambulance came. I told them what happened; that I was just defending my woman. There was a lady nearby who also witnessed it. The cop said, ‘Alphonse, you shouldn’t have done that, but I understand why you did. Just move along and we’ll forget about it.”

”So, Dennis, You seem to know what it's like for us. Have you ever slept on the streets?"

"No, but my brother did. He slept on the streets of Calgary. After not eating for three days, he was ready to jump off a bridge, when someone suggested that he join the army. He had to lie on his application, because he had been dishonorably discharged from the navy. When they found out that he'd given false information, he was already in Korea. Later, he became Eastern Canadian Boxing Champ. He was alcoholic and got into lots of fights. He's dead now -- asphyxiated on his own vomit, sleeping in a Toronto hotel. He'd also been robbed and beaten."

"I'm sorry to hear that," said Warren.

“We sure got wet last night,” said Ambrose. “I gave Maryam my inside pants because hers were soaked.”

I walked over to talk to Emile and Sparky. “Hi, Emile, how have you been?”

“So, now you decide to come over and talk to us. I thought we were being ignored.”

“No, Emile, it’s just that I haven’t seen Warren for a long time. How has it been going with your worker?”

“Thursday, I signed the papers for my health card. I filled out the application for housing. Now I’m just waiting. I see my worker again on Wednesday.

“Sparky and I slept outside last night. We were picked upon Bank Street. They phoned Hope Recovery. Shepherd’s said they had room for us. When we got there they said they were full, so they took us to the Sally. They said they were full – at nine o’clock they’re full. I think they were pulling something. I can’t believe that in buildings with four floors, that they couldn’t have found a space for us. I would have been happy to sleep on the basement floor. It would have been better than being in the rain, but they wouldn’t let us in.”

I asked, “Did Frank give you the bottle I brought you?”

“No, I saw him last night. He didn’t say anything about a bottle.”

“Friday, the afternoon you had the meeting with your worker, the police were writing tickets. You asked me if I could do you a favor and buy you a bottle. I said, ‘I’ll see what I could do.’ I knew that you guys would have had to pour out all your booze, so
I brought back a bottle of Imperial sherry from the Rideau Street liquor store. You weren’t there so I gave the bottle to Frank. I said to him that you’d probably want to share it, and to make sure Sparky got a drink."

“I didn’t know that. Thanks!” Actually I didn't pour out my booze. I didn't have any to pour out. I was sober Friday, Saturday and Sunday. I spent the weekend at my cousin's.

Sparky had his head down. With his hat on I could barely see his face. I bent down and looked into his eyes. “Hi, Sparky, how are you doing. Are you getting there?”

“Hi, Dennis, I’m getting there slowly but surely.”

"Sparky, I heard that you were robbed twice last week."

"Yeah, twice."

Emile said, "What happens is -- it doesn't matter if you have a pad lock on your locker or not -- guys will come in the middle of the night with bolt cutters and cut your lock. Everyone knows that Sparky will have a bottle, some pot and some change. I think it's the staff, they've got access to bolt cutters."

12 November 2012

On the traffic island were Mo, Peter 'Lonely Heart', Warren, Louis, Bert, Albert, Emile, Sparky and Animal. The first person to greet me was Lonely Heart.

"Hi, Dennis, how was your vacation?"

"It was great, Peter. I was in San Diego visiting my son, his wife and my granddaughter."

"Nice, did you have good weather?"


Mo said, "I moved to my apartment on Friday. My back is sore, because I don't have any furniture, just an empty room. I sat in the middle of the floor all weekend. Yesterday, Mimi brought me down two folding canvas chairs. She also brought me some kind of a quilt or comforter. I opened the bag and it stunk. I said to her, 'You brought me dirty laundry?' I took it to the laundromat nearby, they have only one double washer and no double dryers. They ate quarters like you wouldn't believe.

"Wednesday we go to Albert's place to pick up the rest of my stuff, mostly shoes.

"When they cut a tree down in my back yard, some of the bark got tracked downstairs. There were these little wood worms that curl up when you touch them. All morning I was flicking these with my thumb. It was just like playing marbles with my son Michael.

I said, "It must feel good to have a place to go to where you can lock the door, it's quiet and you can do whatever you want."

"It will take a bit of getting used to, but I have lots of security. There are three doors that have to be unlocked in order to get to my place."

I asked, "How about your health card, will you be getting that soon?"

"Yes, I really need to be on my meds."

I said, "That should make a big difference in how you feel."

"My fibromyalgia is really acting up in my legs and my arms."

"I don't know much about that, but I have restless leg syndrome. If I don't take my medication my leg twitches every fourteen seconds. It's really annoying and will keep me awake at night."

"I have the same thing."

Louis came over, "I'm sorry to hear about the son you lost (my son isn't lost). You have my condolences. I was telling you last week about my daughter that was lost, actually it wasn't my daughter it was my god-daughter. Her father is doing time in prison -- twenty years for murder. So, while he's in jail I'm responsible for her.

He showed me his birth certificate from Prince Albert, Saskatchewan. He said, "See, my name is actually Italian."

"I'm in trouble with my partner. I have addictions. I went to the casino -- I can count cards -- I made some money. The dealer said, 'I can see you're a card player.' I said, 'Take me to the Blackjack table.' I won ten thousand dollars, but the cops were standing at the door waiting for their cut. I walked up to them. I asked? ' Do any of you have a smoke?' One handed me a cigarette. I asked, 'Do you have a light?' He pulled out his lighter and lit my cigarette. I don't smoke. They asked, 'Did you have a good night?" I said, 'No, I lost.' Then I walked out the door with my case full of money. I spent it on my brothers. It all went on booze."

A police car pulled up with two police officers in it. Officer D. Los Santos said to Peter. "We saw you throw a can into the bushes. We're going to have to charge you." He pulled out his pad and wrote Peter a ticket.

Officer McCabe was writing a ticket for Animal.

He asked Emile, "Are you keeping out of trouble?"

"Yes officer, I'm sober. I have been for three days."

"How about you Louis? Why are you standing so close to me? Is this some kind of a confrontation?"

Mo said, "McCabe, don't stand too close to those dreadlocks. If you look close you can see little white things. It isn't dandruff."

Two more police cars pulled up. Female officers got out of each car. One said, "How's everybody doing?"

Mo said, "I've just moved into a place of my own, so I dropped by to visit some of the guys."

"That sounds good, Mo. You should be at home having a house warming, not down here."

"Most of these guys I wouldn't invite over. If I had one, Officer Miller, would you come?"

"I think I'd pass on that, but thanks anyway."

One of the female officers came over to Emile. She reached down and picked up his leather gloves. "Where did you get these?"

"I bought them at the Sally Ann."

"They look a lot like a pair I Iost." She examined them inside and out. There was a call on her radio, a group of twenty people were leaning aginst the wall at the Mission. They got back in their cars and left. McCabe and Los Santos left shortly after."

Emile said to me, "The reason she was looking at my gloves is because when she stopped me a few days ago I stole her SWAT gloves. She stopped me yesterday and I stole another pair."

Mo said, "I'm so glad they left, I'm on the last day of my probation and I've got pot in my back pack and a bottle under my sweatshirt. Those female officers could have searched me and my bag.

"Louis, why did you have to talk to them the way you did? Are you trying to get us all arrested?"

9 November 2012

When I walked past the park today a police car had pulled up and two officers were talking to the guys sitting on the curb. Bert waved at me. I waved back. Emile said to me, "I told them I'm just waiting for my worker. This is where she told me to wait for her.

"Dennis, could you do me a big favor. They made me pour out all my liquor. I need a bottle."

"I'm on my way to an appointment, so I can't go on a liquor run."

"I don't have any money."

"I don't carry any cash, but I'll see what I can do." I stopped in at the Transit Office to pick up my bus pass, then went looking for a liquor store. There was one in the Riceau Mall, but they didn't sell Canadian Sherry. I walked a few blocks down Rideau Street to another liquor store and was able to find a bottle of Imperial Sherry. I brought it back, but Emile had already left with his worker.

I said to Frank, "Emile asked me to pick this up for him, could you see he gets it? I know he'd want to share so, could you also see that Sparky gets a drink?"

Some people would think that what I did was unethical, but an alcoholic needs some alcohol in their system or they can't function. They also feel very sick.

8 November 2012

I've been in San Diego for the past ten days visiting my son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter. I went to the park at noon. In attendance were Mo, Bert, Emile, Sparky, Albert, Johnny in his motorized wheelchair, Peter and Scruffy. Muff was there, being tended by Peter, since Darrell had gone somewhere.

Mo said, "I don't think it's fair of Darrell to leave Muff with Peter like that. At least Peter has his teeth back now."

I asked, "Did Peter leave his teeth at Darrell's place?"

"Yeah, but I think Darrell was holding them for ransom.

"A lot has happened since you've been away. I'm so excited, I'm going to be moving to my new place tomorrow. This will be the first time that I'll be living on my own. Tomorrow, they're also taking me grocery shopping.

"I had a run in with Darrell yesterday. Muff was across the street. We were all worried that he'd bolt into traffic. Peter yelled to him, 'stay'. I shouted, 'Muff, stop!' Darrell got it into his head that I was trying to coax Muff into the traffic. I'd never do that to any dog, and I love Muff.

"Darrell even came to my spot this morning and started threatening me. I said to him, 'Darrell, this is something we discuss up top, not while I'm working.' He got in my face and I pushed him. He threatened me some more and I shoved him again. He said he's going to pay a woman to beat me up. I told him to go ahead and try, he'll only be wasting his money. The only person that's been able to beat me is Frank. He's six foot four and now weighs two hundred and eighty pounds. His reach is so long that he can hold me away by the head and I can't punch anywhere near him."

"He's not going to be out for a while, Is he?"

"No, not until May."

Emile said, "Mo, if Darrell gets someone after you. I'll go after him. I've taken him before, twice."

I asked, "Has anyone heard anything about Claude?"

"Yeah, some of the guys have been to the hospital to see him. He's doing really well. He's only speaking French now, but Emile and Bert can understand him."

I said to Bert, "I hear you have a new place. Where is it?"

"It's on Somerset near Lebretton, below Hoover and Elaine. It's eight sixty a month, everything included. I can handle that."

I need to find some people to help me move my things."

I asked Mo, "Will you be able to get your health card soon?"

"Next week. I have my birth certificate now, but I still don't have any picture id."

I said, "I'll be so happy once that's settled and you can get back on your medication."

9 November 2012

This morning was very cold. Mo and Emile were sitting together. Mo borrowed a cell phone from one of her regulars and requested that her appointment with the Salvation Army worker be moved up to 9:30 am.

"Albert had better be home when I go there to get my stuff. He's been a real asshole lately. He's drinking beer and mixing it with sherry. It's making him act really crazy. Last night he was opening and slamming doors all night long. I got even. When I got up four this morning I made sure that I opened and slammed every door at least twice. He asked me, 'You washed your dishes and left mine in the sink?' I said to him, 'Albert, you're just a hair away from having your face punched in, so watch what you say.' I'll be so glad to get away from that place. He's even started stealing my sherry. He snuck into my room and I saw him drink out of my bottle. I bought a carton of cigarettes, I haven't even opend the bag, but I can see there's a handfull missing."

"Did you hear that Muff bit Emile this morning."

I asked, "Were you sleeping outside last night, Emile?"

"No, I've been staying at the Sally for the past few nights. Darrel and I met up this morning. We were sitting on the sidewalk. I started to get up and Muff got his teeth into my arm -- right through my leather jacket, drawing blood.

"Darrell lets that dog lick his sores. Muff could have HIV. He could have infected me."

Mo said, "I told him, 'Darrell, if it weren't for Muff, nobody would have anything to do with you, not even Nancy. He said, 'That's not true.' I said, 'You don't look after Muff, you're always passing him off to someone else. You take advantage of people. Nobody likes you."

Emile said, "When I see him later, I'm going to ask him, "Do you know what a dog bite feels like? Then I'll pop him. It was the same when my step father would keep bugging me at the table. My mother could see that I was starting to shake, so she told my step dad, 'Keep that up and Emile's going to hit you.' He kept it up, I stood up and knocked him right out of his chair. He was laying on the floor and my mother bent over him and said, 'I told you.'

Mo said, "We have some good news about Claude. Some of the guys and I have been visiting him in hospital. He's looking a lot better. He looks strange with his head and beard shaved. They had to do that because of the lice, he had them bad. Apparently he's lost a lot of weight. They're giving him some beer and sherry, trying to get him off the Listerine. He said to me, 'Mo, could you get me a bottle?' I said 'No way, I can still smell that stuff on you.'

Emile said, "It's just like when I was in hospital last with my heart attack. I lost a lot of weight."

I said, "I remember that Emile, you were pale, weak, your face was gaunt."

It was time for me to go to work, Both Emile and Mo said, "If we don't see you this afternoon, we'll see you Tuesday."

October 22, 2012 at 12:03pm
October 22, 2012 at 12:03pm

26 October 2012

I saw Mo this morning. As I approached, she started getting up. "Go ahead," I said, "I'll watch your stuff." She headed off to the library.

When she returned I said, "I visited Claude, yesterday. His breathing tube is out, he was sitting up, muttering away in French. He didn't recognize me or the names of his friends, except Daniel. He scowled and his blood pressure went from 130 to 180. What do you think that was all about? Do you think Daniel pushed Claude?"

Mo said, "I've never liked that guy. I'd rather punch him in the face than talk to him. I told Claude that his bruises looked more like they had been caused by a fist, rather than a fall. I've had a lot of experience in that area. I'm going to have a talk with Daniel."

"Did you sleep at home last night?"

"Yeah, I was tired. I walked in, took one look at the kitchen, and lay on my air mattress. I slept until about three o'clock. Albert came home, I said, "Look at this mess. Didn't you tidy up at all while I was away. I looked in the cupboard and you've eaten my last can of soup. What am I supposed to eat?' He said, 'Well, I don't have anything to eat either.' I said, "Take some of the change you've got on the table and buy yourself something. His check comes tomorrow, maybe he'll buy some groceries, but I'm not counting on it. I've even thought of going back to Cornerstone, just untill they find me a place.

A woman stopped and handed Mo a huge lollypop. "What flavour is this?" asked Mo.

"I don't know, all the other ones have been really good."

"Through the wrapper it smells like strawberry. Thanks!"

To me she whispered, "This is the last thing I need. Look at all the food I got: Chocolate bars, a club sandwich with chicken, lettuce, bacon and tomato, some kind of bagel, an apple, a banana. Here, you take the banana, it hasn't even touched the sidewalk. After my stomach operation my doctor told be not to eat bananas, too much potasium, it could kill me. In the winter when I'd get a banana, I'd put it on the sidewalk and when I'd pick it up, half of the peel would be stuck to the concrete. The apple I'll give to Bert. What I really want is a drink."

"How was you appointment with your probation officer?"

"I'm so happy. I asked her, 'So, when do I come back next? Do I have to report twice a week, Once a month?" She said, 'You're done. No more visits, although I would like you to meet with Christine from the Elizabeth Fry Society. You seem to have made some progress with her.' I agreed, I said, 'She's away for a week or so, but when she's back I'd like to see her, but nobody else.' I didn't like the way that other woman talked to me on the phone, let alone sitting in a room with her and spilling my guts. Christine even lets me drink there. I told her, "If I'm sober, I'm not going to say a word. If I can drink, I'll relax a bit and will feel more comfortable. Some of the shit I went through is still upsetting.'

"I got a letter from Michael and Cassidy. Cass calls me Aunt Mo, but he was really close to my mother -- I don't mind that. They're both doing well. I'm going to write back to them. Finally, I have contact with two of my sons again."


At noon I met with Albert, Bert, Mo, Barfly, Curly with his skate board, and Johnny in his motorized wheelchair. Mo looked very relaxed.

I said, "You must be happy, with no probation to worry about."

"I'm happy alright, I'm also drunk. As long as I don't get arrested before November 11, I'm free and clear. This afternoon I just want to go home and sleep. I have to switch keys with Albert because he's staying out. When I have his keys, with the electronic card for the outside door, I feel like I've got the keys to Fort Knox. I can do anything I want, eat whatever I want, watch whatever I want on TV.

"Albert, when I get home, do I have dishes to do?"

"No," said Albert, "I did them."

To me Mo whispered, "I'm going to have to do them again. He's lousy." She counted her change and gave Albert enough to buy a couple of beer.'

"Sometimes I wish I looked more like a woman. A guy asked me why I wear a do rag. I took it off and asked him, 'Would you give me money if I looked like this?' He said, 'No, I guess not.' 'Well, there you go.' Some people think I look like a dyke. I like men, it's just that I don't want to be somebody's property. I like my independence and privacy.

"Hey Barfly, do you know you've got a cigarette burn in the crotch of your sweat pants?"

"Yes, I know. These are my court clothes. I was in court this morning."

I asked Bert, "Have you found an apartment, yet?"

"No, I'm going to be homeless at the end of the month."

"Are you going to get a locker, and take a room for a while?"

"I checked on the lockers this morning, first thing at nine o'clock. They want you to keep it a minimum of two months, and it costs seventy dollars a month. I can't afford that. I'm going to talk to Hoover, maybe he has a little place in a corner where I can store my stuff. I dont have much, me: my fridge, my microwave, my George Foreman grill and my cooking pot. That's all. If I need anything else I might find it in the garbage. Every week people throw stuff out. I found a toaster, I took it home, plugged it in and it worked great. Did you see my new bike?" He pointed to a new looking bicycle with front shock absorbers. I bought that for five dollars. It's no good to me. Can you see me riding something like that. Imagine Sparky trying to ride that. He can't stagger straight, let alone ride a bike, same with Frank. He might start off sober in the morning, but in the evening he's all over the place. I sell it for what I paid for it.

"In the place that I'm in now I pay five hundred and ten. That's with everything. That's a good price. I don't need anything big. I threw out my old mattress because of the bed bugs. Every time I move I throw away about seventy percent of my stuff. I don't like to pay for movers, so I just take what I can carry on my back and what will fit in my cart.

"I spoke to Hoover's landlord. He had a place that I really liked but it was eight hundred a month. I can't afford that. There was another that I liked -- he rented it. There may be something in Vanier. I like where Rhino is living. He could only get a single bed, the place is so small, but that would be okay for me."

I mentioned to Bert, "I visited Claude yesterday."

"Yeah, you went? I hear he's sitting up in bed, looking much better. Daniel is going to visit him later today. They are good friends, they both speak French."

I said, "When I mentioned Daniel's name, Claude scowled and his blood pressure went from 130 to 180. He was clenching his fists and pulled out his intravenous needle."

"That's strange," said Bert.

25 October 2012

This morning I met with Mo and Emile. Janine, one of Mo's regulars dropped two dollars and squatted down to chat. Mo asked her, "How did it go with your dentist appointment?"

"They took xrays and found all sorts of cavities. In the old days, you'd have a cavity, it would be painful, then you went to the dentist. Now, it seems, they're always filling something. I don't know what they're doing in there."

Mo waved at Maryam and Ambrose across the street. They came over. Very excitedly, Ambrose said, "Maryam is pregnant again. She went to see about an apartment yesterday. She has been put on first priority. We find out today if she will be accepted."

I asked, "When is the baby due?"

Maryam said, we're not sure. I took a home pregnancy test and it showed two pink crosses. I'm not taking any drugs or alcohol now."

Ambrose said, "Same with me." He looked longingly at a gram of pot Mo had in her cigarette cases. "That looks so good," he said. They walked off together to have breakfast.

Mo handed Emile a cigarette paper and the pot. He said, "You want me to roll it?"

Mo said, "Well, how is it going to look if I'm panning and rolling a joint?"

Emile went into a nearby alcove for a few minutes, then came back with a joint that Mo put in her cigarette case.

I asked Mo, "Where did you sleep last night?"

"At Uncle Peter's. I'd been at Lonely Heart's until Cathy came home, then all hell broke loose, so I left. I was walking past Peter's place and saw Scruffy on the balcony. I called to him and Peter came out. He asked, 'Where are you going?' I said, 'I'm going downtown to sleep behind Starbucks.' He said, 'Come on up.' He threw me the keys. 'You can stay here.' His place is in more of a mess than I've ever seen it." He said, 'I know Mo, I'm going to get around to that, sometime.' Also, he has cockroaches. At least they don't bite."

I asked, "Were you able to talk to Nancy abvout menopause?"

"Yes, she said she could talk to me until my ears bled, but it wouldn't do aany good, because every woman is different. My being bi-polar and schizophrenic just makes it all the worse.

I go to see Audrey, my probation officer, today at ten o'clock. Hopefully, I'll find out how many more visits she wants me to have. November 12 is the day my probation is supposed to end, but I may have to see her after that. I don't know if it will be once every two weeks, once a month.

"I've had three sessions with Christina, from the Elizabeth Fry Society. It's probably more time than I would have had if I'd been with a group. She's going to be away for a couple of weeks. They said it's no problem, we're all trained, others here are familiar with your case. We can arrange an appointment with someone.' I said, 'I signed a confidentiality agreement with Christina, nobody else. I don't want to start from the beginning again, with a new person.'

"I don't want anybody to know that I've started cutting myself again, either. Andrea asked, 'Why do cut yourself?' I said it's hard to explain, but when my mind is going a hundred miles an hour, in a ten mile an hour zone, I don't know where I'm going to stop. I need something to distract myself. Cutting does that for me.' Mind you, the second time I cut myself I was thinking, hey, this hurts. I don't want to be doing this. Albert nearly freaked when he saw me coming out of the bathroom with a towel wrapped around my arm. It was a deep cut too. It was gaping open. I didn't want to go to the hospital this time. I used bandaids to pull the skin together."

I asked, "Where will you sleep tonight?"

"I have to go home to get the rest of my clothes. Albert doesn't want me to leave. I don't know what I'm going to do."

I arrived at work and phoned Craig Martin from the 507 Center. He has been in telephone contact with the hospital concerning Claude. I said to him, I understand that you're trying to contact Claude's family. I've talked every one I know and even his closest friend, Daniel said, 'he's either from Vancouver or Toronto, I cant't remember, and he may have a sister in Montreal.' I didn't learn anything more definite than that.' Craig said, 'I've heard the same stories, probably from the same people.'

"The latest news from the hospital is that they've taken the breathing tube out. He's still in ICU, but seems to be doing fine. Later tests will determine if he'll have any lasting effects from his fall."

I hope to visit Claude in the hospital this evening.


At noon I met Emile, Marilyn, Bert, Frank, Scott, Albert, Mike in his motorized wheelchair, Peter and Scruffy. They were all in their usual place.

I asked Emile, "How was the rest of your morning?"

It was okay. I had to fill out another form for my O.D.S.P. (Ontario Disability Support Program). They lost the last one. This is four times I've filled in the same form. Mo and I have the same worker, Janique. She's been busy lately so we're going to be switched to Sunita. I've known her from before. She guaranteed that Mo and I would have our own apartments before December first. I hope so, because once it gets close to Christmas it'll be hard to get things delivered. I'll be getting an eight hundred dollar start up allowance to buy furniture. I'll be able to get a new double bed from Sears. I don't want to spend Christmas sleeping on a bare floor. I'll also get a hundred dollars for groceries."

I asked, "Do you know when your court date is?"

"November second. It'll probably be in Courtroom Five, but to find out for sure, all I have to do is check the dockets. I think I'll have it remanded until I'm able to contact my lawyer. He works between Cornwall and Kingston. He's sometimes hard to get a hold of."

Peter called me over. "I appreciate you helping me out the other day. I drank too much, I couldn't make it home, so I slept outside. I wasn't here yesterday because I was too hung over. At my age I can only drink for two days, then have to take a day off. I don't know how these guys like Darrell do it. He came to my panning spot at seven in the morning and he was drunk already. I had to tell him to get lost. My regulars know that I'm an alcoholic, but they don't want some stumbling, incoherent drunk hanging around. He was pissed off when I told him to go, but we're okay now. I'm going to his place this afternoon. Scruffy can play with Muff and I'll cook supper. It'll be chicken or some kind of fowl, that's what I like.

"I got a surprise the other night. At nine o'clock at night someone is banging on muy door. They'd managed to get through the lobby door. Usually I don't let anybody in. If any of these guys came over, I'd tell them to fuck off. If I was expecting somebody, they'd yell and I'd throw the keys down. I looked through the peephole, it was Mo.

"I guess you heard how Albert was trying to paw her. I can't understand these guys. You don't touch a woman without her permission. They can't seem to get that through their heads.

"I asked her, "Tell me the truth now. Lonely Heart invited you over to his place, then when Cathy came home he threw you out. What's that all about. That's no way to treat a friend. I've got no use for him anyway. He's living with one woman and invites another woman over when he's alone. That doesn't seem right.

"Anyway, I invited Mo to stay the night. I gave her the sofa and I slept in my room with the door locked, but first I told her, 'I wanted to watch Law and Order, C.S.I. and Criminal Minds. Those are my favorite programs and I'm going to miss them.' I've only got one channel, CJOH, and with rabbit ears, sometimes the signal doesn't come in too clear, but that night the reception was good. Some people need HBO and all the movie channels, but with CJOH I get a hockey game Saturday night, a NFL game on Sunday and all my favorite shoot-em-up shows. It's all I want, besides, I can't afford the hundred dollars a month. If I wanted them badly enough I could afford them -- like if I quit drinking.

"I spent a lot of my time reading. If you saw my place you'd see books laying all over the floor. I always have a few going at a time. Every so often I like to come down here, have a drink with my friends. I take Scruffy for walks. She's getting old so she needs to go out five or six times a day.

"Mo asked me, 'Does anybody else have a key to this apartment? Now, what do I look like? Would I let other people come and go as they please in my place? You know me better than that. I like my privacy, but Mo was paranoid. I said to her, No, there is nobody that has a key to my apartment. She relaxed after that. She was up at five thirty in the morning, off to her panning spot."

I mentioned that I would be away in San Diego, visiting my son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter.

Peter said, "I've never been to San Diego. I've been to Florida, Philly, Detroit. I haven't been to Chicago or New York. If I was to go there I'd turn right, right again, right again, another right and I'd be back where I staerted. I wouldn't want to find myself in some dangerous neighborhood and not know my way out.

"I have a brother in Virginia. There are a lot of red necks down there. The confederate flag is flying every where. If you get caught with a doobie you get tossedin prison and they throw away the key, but, and this is a big but, You can carry two loaded guns, it's in the constitution, and you can buy your beer and amunition at a gas station.

"I don't know how I feel about that. On the one hand you know everybody is armed, so you don't cause them any unnecessary agravation. You know what I mean? On the other hand, having a psycho on the loose, carrying a loaded gun is a scary thought.

"I'm on a pension. After I pay my rent I've got three hundred dollars for eveerything else. It's not much. I'm an alcoholic -- my drug of choice is beer. I may have an occasional blast, but I'm not on percocet, percodan, perco-this, perco-that. I pan to get extra money, I live a quiet life with Scruffy, enjoy my books, my tv and my beer... that's it."

I asked Bert if he had found an apartment yet. "No," he said, "I was talking to Hoover's landlord. He had a bachelor for five sixty. I could have managed that, but he rented it to somebody else. If I can't find a place by the end of the month I'll store my stuff in a locker and rent a room for a while -- not too long.

I asked, "How much does a room cost?"

"About five hundred a month. A bachelor is six hundred and up, a one bedroom, seven hundred and up, a two bedroom, eight hundred and up. I thought of getting a two bedroom and sharing with someone, but who would I share with?


Tonight I visited Claude again. They've moved him from bed 29 to bed 1. He didn't seem to recognize me, spoke only French and didn't respond to names of his friends that I mentioned, except Daniel. He scowled and said, "Daniel!" and his blood pressure shot up from 130 to 180. He seemed agitated and pulled out his intravenous tube. The nurse said his confusion is probably temporary, due to his concussion. His blood pressure eventually returned to normal. He sipped from a can of Labatts Blue, then hid it under his hospital gown.

24 October 2012

This morning, as I approached Mo, she waved, got up and headed towards the library. When she returned she said, "I've been waiting for you. I had to pee so bad. I slept outside last night."

"Why?" I asked.

"Albert's drinking again. When he does, he gets all touchy feely. I'd had enough, so I packed my bag and slept behind the dumpsters, in back of Starbucks."

"Do you have a sleeping bag?" I asked.

"No just this blanket, it was cold." (35 degrees Fahrenheit)

"You have an appointment with your worker today, maybe she could get you a sleeping bag."

"I'm just so fed up!" she cried, "My legs are aching. I'm half in the bag. There is a commercial on TV that says, 'It's now time for that second talk' -- referring to menopause. I need to have that second talk, but I have nobody to talk to. I remember my mother going through it. She was all over the place. I'm just losing it, man!"

"Perhaps you could talk to your worker about that. Also, Nancy is coming down this morning."

"I sure hope so."

"She sent me an email. She wants to celebrate Muff's fifteenth birthday. She has a card and a big bone for him."

"I hope she bring the coat she promised me."

"I saw Claude in the hospital last night. He was asleep the whole time I was there. He had a breathing tube in his throat and oxygen going in his nostrils. The nurse said they may take the breathing tube out either today or tomorrow, depending on how he responds. He had a slight fever so they had a cooling blanket, that looked like an air mattress, on top of him. That's common with head injuries. He was lightly sedated and had been given Tylenol for pain. The nurse had been talking to him earlier and he said the pain wasn't too bad. She said he's a long history of being admitted to hospital for falls. He sure looks younger with his head shaved."

"They would have done that for the lice. When he was picked up last time, by Hope Recovery, they shaved off his beard. I'm glad it's not more serious. I can't take any more deaths right now."

Emile stopped by and said to Mo, "I see Frank is at John's old spot."

Mo said, "Frank is family. I had to kick Al out of there this morning. Later I saw his girlfriend, Micheline. Her arm was in a make shift sling and was all purple. She said, 'Al did this to me.' I said, 'I hope you got him back.' She said, 'After he had punched me three times in the head, I stabbed him in the side. That slowed him down.' Al is going to be on a lot of shit lists. These guys got to learn not to treat women that way."

I said to Emile, "How's your day going so far?"

"Lousy, I'm barred from every McDonalds in town, the World Exchange liquor store, Hartman's and Loblaws grocery stores. The list of places I can go is getting shorter and shorter."

"What happened at McDonalds?" I asked.

"I was panning out front of the one on Bank Street. The district manager was there at the time -- he barred me. He said, 'I never want to see you in front of any of our stores. If I do, or if any of my staff does, the police will be called immediately.' That was a good spot for me.

"I stole a cooked chicken, and some other meat, from Loblaws. I was hoping to have a real feast, So much for that idea."

Mo started getting restless. She said, "I've had about enough of this place, and I've got to get my legs moving. I want to get drunk."


I had agreed to meet Nancy at the statue of the soldier, near where the group usually meets. Sparky, Troll, Frank, Peter 'Lonely Heart', Bert, Duck, Nancy, Darrell and Muff the birthday dog were all there. Frank and Darrell were near coming to blows.

Frank shouted, "Why did you have to hit me the head?' Darrell said, 'I didn't hit you in the head today!' Frank said, I didn't mean today, you moron, last night!' Darrell said, 'Well, last night you deserved it, you were being an asshole."

Sparky said, 'Will you guys keep the noise down. Soon the cops will be coming."

"Shut up, Sparky", said Darrell.

"I won't shut up. I'll talk as much as I want to. Nobody's going to stop me."

I said, "I'm glad we got that settled, Sparky!" He laughed.

Duck was drunk, has no teeth, and was talking non stop over the din of the arguing.

Peter asked me, "Do you understand a word he's saying?"

"No," I said.

Peter said, "I've just come from Hoover and Irene's place, I think Duck was there earlier. They were nodding off, so I left. Soon, Duck will be doing the same.

"Dennis, you coming at ten o'clock throws my whole schedule off. I think I should be having lunch now."

"Sorry, Peter, but I came to see Nancy, not you."

Mo said, "I've known some of these guys for twenty years. I've known Albert for a long time too. It really hurts, for him to treat me, and talk to me the way he does. Do you see the scar above Duck's right eye? I gave that to him. One time he grabbed me by the crotch and I decked him. His forehead split open like a tomato. He's never tried that again -- the piece of shit. I'm really surprised that I haven't got into a fight yet, today. There's still time."

Emile was sitting quietly. He said to me, "Sometimes it's safer to not open your mouth."

I asked Bert, "Do you know if Claude has any family?"

"I don't know. I've known him for a long time. He's never mentioned any family to me."

I said, "I wonder if his friend Daniel knows about his family. Claude stayed with him for a while."

"No, I ask him that. He said, 'I think, maybe, he came from Vancouver or Toronto. I can't remember which. I think he has a sister in Montreal.' Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal -- that's a lot of people there, and Martin is a common name. Daniel has been kicked out of his place. When Claude stayed there, a neighbor complained. He said that Claude was dealing drugs. Can you imagine, Claude dealing drugs? I've never even seen him smoke a joint. He just sits quietly. I like that. I talked to Claude about maybe sharing a two bedroom apartment, but now he's nearly dead. I also thought about sharing a place with Daniel, but he was given notice, the first night he was at his new place, that he was making too much noise. If you're given notice three times, you're out. That's what happened. I don't want to be in the middle of a situation like that, not me. I'll just get me a bachelor apartment, it doesn't matter how small, just someplace quiet. That's what I want.

"Yesterday I found a tent in the garbaage. It looks brand new. I set it up in my living room. I've never seen a tent so small. It would only fit one person. There is no way that two people could get in there. If I don't find a place by the end of the month, maybe I'll be sleeping outside. I don't think for too long. Who knows?"

Frank sat next to me. He said, "I've blown my three hundred and fifty dollor startup allowance. Now, they're asking for receipts. DOES ANYBOBY HAVE ANY RECEIPTS? I NEED SOME RECEIPTS."

Mo asked, "Did you punch Darrell?"

"No, but I spit on him.

"I went to my HIV doctor and he wouldn't give me my needles."

I asked, "Why?"

"I don't know."

Two Outreach Workers with the Salvation Army came to talk to Sparky. "How are you coming along with my housing arrangements?" asked Sparky.

"Were looking at a few places, the problem is they become available December first, so we'll have to find someplace temporary for you, from the first to the end of November. Don't worry, we're working on it."

Darrell and Nancy were getting ready to leave. Nancy showed me the card she had made. It had pictures of Muff as a pup, with his original owner Andre.

Mo said, "I remember when Andre first got Muff. There were two puppies in the back seat of a car. Andre was to choose which one he wanted. Muff jumped out the door and came straight to him. The other dog just sat there. That decided it. They were together until he died."

Muff wandered over to me. I held my hand out -- he bit it.

23 October 2012

This morning, Emile was standing beside Mo's spot. I said to him, "Don't tell me, Mo had to pee."

"You got it."

"How's your morning going, so far, Emile?"

"Lousy -- twice, while I was panning, the cops pulled up and told me to move along."

"How about trying someplace near Sparky's office?"

"That's where I was."

"How about John's old spot?"

"Frank's there." Mo returned. "I guess I should move along, let Mo get to work."

After he left Mo said, That's the third time he's been by here. I finally had to tell him that he was interfering with my business."

I asked, "Did he tell you when he'll be going to court?"

"No, he didn't show me the paper. He has two charges against him. One for the bottle of sherry, and one for three hundred dollars worth of meat from Loblaws. They found it in his backpack. He could hardly carry it.

"Have you heard about Claude?"

"No, I haven't seen him lately."

"He fell and hit the back of his head. I told him that he should go to the hospital to get it checked, but these guys are stubborn. The same with John, he had a swollen leg -- instead of going to a hospital he went to the Shepherds, now he's dead. Anyway, Claude had another fall. This time he hit his forehead. One side of his face is all bruised. He's in Intensive Care at the Civic Hospital."

"Are you sure it wasn't a beating?"

"That was my first thought, but Albert was in contact with 507, the medical staff at the hospital say that blood from his forehead is pooling in his cheek. The only thing keeping him alive is life support. They don't know how to contact his family. There are so many Claude Martins in the phone book."

Albert came by, but didn't stay long. He saw a bag of mini chocolate bars that somebody had dropped for Mo. "Are those for me?" he asked. Mo just scowled. He left to talk to Frank, in John's old spot.

"That asshole, yesterday I came home to find that he had invited Roger and Guy over. They had eaten all the soup. I had half a roast beef sandwich, from Tim Horton's, that I put in the fridge. Albert asked, 'Is that my supper?' I said, "No, dude, you get your own. I'm tired of buying all the groceries for everyone else to eat.

"Last week, I bought a dozen eggs, I got two. Of the pot of soup I made, I got one bowl. I stashed some bologna, Albert found it and ate that too. I said to him, 'Albert, I haven't eaten for days. Do you think of me at all?'

"I'm feeling so frustrated, and with Albert coughing all night I'm not getting any sleep."

I said, "You have an appointment with your worker tomorrow. Do you think anything will come of that?"

"Yesterday, she was supposed to meet with Emile at ten o'clock. She didn't show. I'm going to ask for a new worker. Janique is teaching this new girl. I thought they'd know what to do before they hire them. The time she's taking for training, is time she's not working on finding me a place.

"Chris and Danielle are the ones who found places for Rhino and Frank. I don't like Chris, but if he can find me an apartment that's all that matters. Otherwise, I'm thinking of asking them for a sleeping bag, and go back to sleeping behind Starbucks. I'd leave my stuff at Albert's.

"Sometimes, I just don't want to be here."

"Do you mean pan handling?"

"I used to be able to take a break, when I got my check, but now I can't. I just don't want to be on this earth."


I phoned the Civic Hospital to enquire about Claude's condition. Telling them that I was his brother, I was able to speak to the nurse in the Intensive Care Unit. She said, "He was doing okay, but he kept losing consciousness, so we brought him into ICU to keep an eye on him. He has a breathing tube now. He's suffered a cerebral hemorrhage -- bruising and bleeding to the brain. We're hoping to take the breathing tube out tomorrow, see how he is then. We'll just take it one day at a time."


At noon sitting on the curb were Mo and Bert on one side, Lewis, Troll, Frank, Peter and Scruffy on the other. Shortly after, Emile rode up on his bicycle with a large bottle of water for Mo. Lewis, by all accounts, has been sober and living in Orleans with his girlfriend.

He said, "Dennis, I told you I'd get my guitar back, and here it is. I had an electric, but I sold it.

"Do you know what happened to my baby? They chopped her up. I saw the body. It was her sixteenth birthday party. They got out of control with booze and drugs. That's why I drink. How do I forget about something like that?

"I'm also evil, especially when I drink, that's what my girlfriend says. The doctors say I have psychotic tendencies."

I said, "Don't worry, Lewis, that can be treated. I know your a good man."

"I'm not Ojibwa," he said, "I'm Dene. Do you know many Dene people?"

"Some," I said.

"Do you know them to be honorable people?"

"Very honorable."

"Would you give me money to buy a beer?"

"I don't carry cash, but I can give you a card for a sandwich."

"Okay," he said. I handed him the card.

"Actually, I have another of these. I could sell them for $2.50 each, enough for a bottle."

"It's your choice, Lewis."

"No, I'll give it back to you. Give it to someone who is hungry."

"What was that all about,?" asked Mo.

Lewis said, "I don't mind accepting money, but I don't want to be told what to spend it on."

I asked Mo, "How have things been since this morning?"

"Okay -- I'm not too happy about Lewis and Troll being here."

Emile said, "It wouldn't take much for me to ask them to leave."

"I don't mind asking him to leave, don't worry."

Lewis said, "Ugly Rambo sitting with the pretty indian woman."

"Lewis," said Mo, "I don't appreciate you making remarks about my friend, Dennis!"

"Mo," said Emile, "he's referring to my uncle. They used to call him Rambo. He was going out with Lewis's sister. It's a long story."

"Well," said Mo, "I don't want to hear it."

Emile asked Mo, "Can I bum a cigarette?"

"Okay, this time, but that's it. I apreciate you getting the bottle of water for me and doing a liquor run before that, but you're becoming too much of a burden to carry. That goes for all these guys."

Emile said, "I understand, Mo."


Later in the day I phoned Centre 507, the outreach program that had taken Claude to the hospital. The outreach workers had already left for the day, but I left my phone number in case I could be of any help in finding Claude's family. I hope to visit him in the hospital, but they may have visiting restricted to immediate family only.


Claude is now in the Intensive Care Unit of the Civic Hospital, bed 29. He's had a cerebral hemorrhage. Because he kept losing consciousness he now has a breathing tube.They expect to remove the breathing tube tomorrow or the next day. They don't have plans for any surgery. He has been admitted previously for falls.

I visited him tonight, but he was asleep the whole time. He is under light sedation and is being administered Tylenol for pain. His head has been shaved, he has a bruise on his forehead and his right eye is black, apart from that he appeared to be resting comfortably. I was surprised that they had his age listed as 55.

The hospital was having trouble contacting his family. There are so many Martins in the phone book that it would be difficult to phone them all.

22 October 2012

When I arrived at Mo's spot this morning, she said, "Man, am I glad to see you. Have a seat on my cushion, it's warm. I'll be back in a few minutes."

When she got back I asked her, "How was your weekend?"

"It was quiet. I don't know what was going on with my stomach, but I couldn't keep anything down. I made some really good soup in my crock pot. We had left over chicken, I added veggies, rice and noodles, but I couldn't even keep that down. Most of the weekend I slept or watched TV from my bed."

"How has Albert been?" I asked.

"He was okay Saturday until he went to the Mission for his supper. When he came home he started coughing. I said to him, 'Albert, now is the time to cut back on the cigarettes for a while.' He chain smokes, one right after another. When he coughs he makes a really loud noise, like a dog barking, so I didn't get much sleep last night.

"This morning, he got up just after I did. First thing, he had a cigarette, then the coughing started again. I said to him, "Have some chicken soup and rest for the day.' He said he would. He may come down and visit with the boys for a while."

"Did anything happen after I left Friday," I asked.

"Not much, I got into it with red-haired Cathy."

"It was funny -- some of the government ladies, who come out for a smoke, saw us. They were talking to me today. They asked, 'What was going on between you and that woman? We thought you were going to kill her. It was hilarious.' I said, 'I'm glad I was able to provide you some entertainment. I wouldn't have killed her, but I would have come close.' They asked, 'What did you have against her?' I said, 'Do you mean besides the fact that she's a fuck puppet for all the guys, and has a big mouth?' They asked, 'What do you mean by that?' I said, 'She's slept with Albert, Emile, Frank --I don't know about Bert -- anyone else that's been around. She has AIDS and doesn't use condoms. Frank had HIV, but he must have full blown AIDS by now.'

"I said to the ladies, 'You should see me with the guys. I don't take shit from anybody. If someone gets smart with me they'll get either a punch or a kick in the head. I can take care of myself, believe me.' They said, they thought I could."

"By the way, Emile may be in jail now. Albert saw him coming out of the liquor store. As soon as he cracked his bottle, two security guards grabbed him. I've told him before, "If you boost a seven dollar and forty-five cent bottle of sherry and lose your freedom, is that a good trade?'"

I said, "He told me he never boosted from liquor stores, well, only once."

"It was more than once, believe me."


At noon the curbs were crowded. On one side was Troll, Bonnie, Brenda, Sparky, Emile and Animal. On the other side was Rhino, Bert, Mo, Albert and Frank.

Mo made room for me on the curb and Bert gave me a copy of the Metro to sit on. Mo was talking to the group, "I was told by a lady cop that, in their opinion, one of Ottawa's finest is a serial killer, responsible for the murders of prostitutes over the last ten years. It would make sense -- a person with power and authority, armed."

"How about the cop that beat you up, Mo?" asked Emile.

"I didn't report it. I went through that in Toronto, I didn't want to go through it again."

I asked Mo, "What happened with Emile?"

"He was charged. He'll have to appear in court."

"I grew up with this guy. His name was Luke. He was a handsome guy, but he became a tranny -- called himself Lucy. He made a gorgeous woman, but a guy can never hide his adam's apple. He was out with a guy who thought he was a chick. When the guy found out, he killed him.

"I knew a lot of transvestites in Toronto. They were really nice to me -- invited me to all their parties. I was a fat chick, but I was cute. The apartment they lived in was beautiful, draped fabric in the living room, like a tent. It was really over the top, but nice. Someone handed me a pellet shaped lump of hash. I said, 'What do I do with this?' The guy said, go into the bathroom and take it like a suppository, up your ass. It will give you a body high as opposed to a head high.' I went into the bathroom, but I put the hash in my purse. I didn't want to be any more fucked up than I was. When I came out of the bathroom the guy asked me, 'How does it feel?' I said, 'It feels a little uncomfortable.' He said, 'You must be a virgin.' People kept handing me this stuff. They were stoned, but I put it all in my purse. By the end of the evening I had a half ounce of hash. I didn't need to hook at all."

Animal said, "Do you remember that cop we called Sasquatch? I met this woman at the Mission, we started getting it on, then she invited me over to her apartment. A while later we heard a loud knock on the door. I'm standing in my underwear. She opens the door and it's Sasquatch, all seven foot two of him. The woman was his former girlfriend. When he got through with me, even my socks were soaked with blood. Has anyone seen him around?"

Emile said, "He's in Cornwall. He's my uncle. I can remember we were at a party one time. He leaned on the apartment door -- the whole thing came down and went through the door opposite. He was standing there looking sheepish. The people from across the way were dumbfounded. He said, "I guess I shouldn't lean on doors any more."

Mo yelled across the sidewalk to Brenda, "What are you drinking?"

"Wiser's, Devil's Cut."

Mo said, "Would you mind keeping it under your sweater, or in your bag. The cops come here regularly. I wouldn't want to see you to get a ticket and have to pour out your whiskey."

To me she said, "Look at Sparky, he's laying in the middle of the sidewalk. This crowd is just asking for trouble. In a few minutes, I'm moving down about twenty feet to where the benches used to be.

"Brenda, Bonnie and Troll drank all Sparky's sherry, smoked all his cigarettes and all his pot. Now that they have whiskey, do you think there going to share with Sparky? No way! Brenda asked me where the liquor store was. I told her, 'Go straight down Albert, two blocks to Metcalfe. You'll see the World Exchange on your right. Go inside, it's the first store on the left. You can't miss it.' She asked, 'Will you come with me?' I said, 'No, for one thing I'm barred, for another I have everything I need, besides that, don't know you.' With her size she'd be slow getting up. I should be able to get a few shots in, but if she caught hold of me I'd be in trouble. What do you think?

"Actually when I look around, there aren't too many people here I would trust. Frank may remember something, sometime, and just blurt it out. Rhino is too soft. Emile and Bert, I don't know. Sparky, I'd trust him with my life, in fact I have. He stood up to Frank to protect me, until I told him to just stay down. There was no point in both of us taking a beating. Nobody could take on Frank."

To Albert Mo said, "When you leave, I'm going to give you my cigarettes to take home. Emile's been bumming off me all day, so has Sparky."

October 11, 2012 at 10:38am
October 11, 2012 at 10:38am

19 October 2012

This morning Steve said to me, "Good morning, Dennis. Mo's here. Have a good weekend."

"Thanks, Steve, you too."

Mo had been talking to the garbage man, in his early twenties, handsome, in fact she'd often say, 'Hi, Handsome, how's your day going?' He only handles the recycled paper, he can't take the smell of the other trash. I waved at him.

"So, how long are you working today?" she asked him.

"It depends on how fast I work. I could finish at two, if I ran at every stop. I'd be exhausted. If I take it easy, it takes a couple of hours more."

"Have a good day, Sunshine!" Mo shouted as the truck pulled away. He gave us a wave.

As I approached, Mo stood up from her storage box, a folded blanket on top, "I'm glad you came -- I have to pee. I can't go into the pizza place, because the guy is there who gives me dirty looks. I'll go to the library, instead. Have a seat, it's warm."

Mo returned shortly after. I said, "So how was everything, yesterday, after I left?"

"It was fairly quiet. The cops were around a couple of times, McCabe and Santini came first. After that two bicycle cops rode up. I said, 'You're too late. Your friends already got us to pour out our booze. We got nothing here you can give us a ticket for. Sorry.' Pinard, the big guy with the tattoos said, 'Mo, why is it you always know what's going on?' I said, 'It's because I pay attention.' I'm also one of the few people who's never been caught with booze. I always make sure it's in my bag, and the male cops aren't allowed to search it.

"Yesterday, I'd collected hardly anything. A big lady stopped to chat and stood right in front of me. I kept wishing she'd step to the side, in case anyone wanted to make a drop. She left and then came back about twenty minutes later. I said to her, 'It's been a really bad day and I'm five dollars short, to buy a box of tampons.' The lady pulled out her wallet and it was stuffed with bills. I saw a five, but beside it was a wad of twenties. I kept hoping, and thinking to my self, Come on green, come on green. (Canadian twenty dollar bills are green, fives are blue.) Sure enough, she handed me a twenty.

"Last night, after Albert came back from Earl's, he opened the fridge and saw half a double sausage, double cheese sandwich that I'd bought at Tim Horton's. He said, 'Is that my supper?' I said, 'No, Albert, that's my supper. You can eat whatever you want.' He said, 'But, I paid ten percent on the hydro bill.' I said, Albert, 'I gave you a hundred and sixty dollars to pay the full bill. You spent the money on beer.' I had some balogna stashed away, but he always finds things I've hidden -- so that's gone.'

I said, "Albert can always pan handle, or is that beneath his dignity?"

"He talks about pan handling, but he's never done it. Did you see the expression on Frank's face, when Albert said he might take over John's spot? Frank was livid!"

I asked, "Do you think that Frank will take over John's spot?"

"I can't figure that out. Frank keeps saying that if he gets caught panhandling he'll go to jail. I thought that was all cleared up, when he went to court on the twelfth."

I said, "Well, I have to get to work."

"Will I see you at noon?"

"If it's not raining, otherwise I'll be going for a haircut. I go to Elgin Barbers, because they still have that revolving barber pole -- It just seems right."

18 October 2012

At noon I walked to the park. The weather was a balmy sixty-five degrees Fahrenheit. Sitting on the curb were Mo, Bert, Rhino, Peter 'Lonely Heart,' Peter and Scruffy. Albert and Eric walked by, but didn't stop.

Mo approached to greet me, "Dennis," she said, "we were so worried that something had happened to you. I didn't see you this morning and now it's 1:10, we always expect you at noon."

I looked at my watch, "Mo, it's 12:10, this is the time I usually arrive. I was running late this morning because it's garbage day. I came by your spot at about 8:50, but you weren't there."

"We must have just missed each other. I was probably in Tim Hortons, I had to pee."

Lonely Heart said, "All of us thought it was one o'clock. Yesterday, you came by early to see Nancy, but she didn't come. Today, she came by, but you missed her, you arrived late."

I wore a sweater, but after sitting in the sun for a while, I took it off. With the sun shining on the back of my black shirt I felt so hot I moved to the shade.

Mo said, "I didn't like the way that Darrell was snapping his fingers at Nancy. It's his dog, if she wants to come over to see Muff, she will. That Darrell is such an asshole."

Bert said, "Nancy has always been nice. She's been coming around for a long time, fifteen years maybe."

"Crash was around then," said Mo. "A lot of people have come and gone. Bert, it's only you, me, Hoover and Elaine who are the originals."

Somebody asked, "Where's Sparky?"

Mo said, "He's gone to his office."

There were three bees flying around Bert. He said, "What do you want from me? Is it my beer you're after? I may be stupid but not as stupid as that." As he was swatting at the bees he knocked his beer over with his knee.

"This morning," said Bert "the cops came by. They asked me to pour out my beer. I tipped it upside down and said, 'It's empty. I just save the can for recycling.' They didn't even check my travelling mug. It was full of beer."

Lonely Heart said, "I'd just opened a fresh beer, I took one swig. The cop said, 'Take one swallow and pour the rest out.' He still gave me a ticket."

Mo said, "Earl was by earlier. What a piece of work he is."

"Lonely Heart said, "I don't like him either."

Bert said, "You guys, nobody likes him, so why don't you just kill him."

I said to Bert, "That's a straight forward, simple solution. Why didn't anybody else think of that?"

Mo said, "That asshole, Albert, really gave me a hard time yesterday. He was drunk. He always gets abusive when he's had too much to drink. I phoned him this morning and asked him, 'Is everything alright with us? You were so angry last night.' He said, 'Everything's fine,' but he just walked by and waved. He said he's going to pay ten per cent on the hydro bill, so they don't turn the power off. I gave him money for hydro, he spent it all on beer. He's going to Earl's place now. Usually when he goes out, he leaves me the electronic key so I can get into the building, but this time he didn't. I have my own key for the inside door."

I said, "Couldn't Albert have a copy made for you?"

"He could, but I don't even want to go there. I should be able to get in. I'll just have to wait until someone unlocks the door; I'll slide in behind them. I hate doing that. I feel like a thief.

"Next week I go to see Janique, it's about getting my identification. I said to her, 'Frank, Emile and Rhino all needed their identification replaced. They only had to wait a few weeks. Why is it that I've been waiting since January?' She couldn't give me an answer. She said that she'd look into it."

17 October 2012

This morning, as I approached Mo, she was doing a jig and smiling with her teeth clenched.

I said, "Don't tell me, Mo. You have to pee."

"Like ninety," she said. "I'll be right back."

When she came back she said, "This morning, when I got to Tim Hortons, I had to get them to unlock the security washroom, because the ladies was being serviced. I told the woman, 'Either you unlock that door now, or I'm busting into the mens room. I really have to go."

"How are your kidneys now?"

"Good, obviously, although, sometimes in the night, I have to get up and only a dribble comes out. That worries me.

"Albert was saying that he thinks he has Alzheimer's. His memory is really bad. He fell backwards, down fourteen concrete steps. He was with Peter and Bert. One minute he was there, the next minute he was gone. He was in a coma for five days. That was two years ago. Sometimes, he thinks that he just recently got out of hospital.

"He was mad at me yesterday. I guess he expected that I would join him at the Shepherd's for lunch. I don't go into those places. People often ask me about that. There are too many people and a lot of them I just don't care to see. There are a lot of crack heads. You never know what they're going to do.

"Even at Thanksgiving I didn't go for the meal. For one thing, I don't like turkey; for another, I don't like crowds. I barbecued some ribs, roasted vegies and baked a potato. It was the best Thanksgiving meal I've ever had.

"Last year, Meg was working with the church ladies. She brought me a frozen turkey for the Christmas season. In fact, she brought something different for each of the twelve days of Christmas. She isn't there any more. I don't know what the church ladies will do this year.

Albert should be by soon. I want to use his phone to cancel my appointment with the lady from E. Fry (The Elizabeth Fry Society). My legs are so sore, I just can't take that much walking today. She's good that way. I've already had five appointments, probably more time than I would have had if I'd gone through the group anger management program.

"Which reminds me. I got a letter in the mail from Frank yesterday. That really freaked me out. He wasn't supposed to know my address. I phoned Earl, sure enough it was him that gave it to Frank. I said to him, 'I've told you before that I don't want Frank knowing where I am.' He said, 'But Mo, Frank wanted to write to you and didn't know where to send the letter. If you write him back, I can tell you the prison code, the inmates use, if you want him to phone you.' I said, Earl, I dont want a letter, I don't want a phone call. I don't want anything to do with Frank.

"Half the things Earl said to me were in prison code. He said Frank was teaching some kind of course to get points. He hasn't been on a detox program. I didn't know what he was talking about, or when Frank will be getting out. He hasn't been penetentiarized long enough to know all that stuff. One time he said he'd served twenty-five years; another time he said it was twelve. He said when Frank gets out, he's going to be staying at Earl's place. I wish them well with that. It sounds a little too cozy to me.

"I've served more time than most of the guys put together. I served three out of five for something I didn't even do. I just happened to be in the car.

"Here's Albert now. Albert, can I use your phone? This looks really great doesn't it? A panhandler using a cell phone."

I said, "A friend of mine mentioned that to me yesterday. He said he saw a panhandler at the corner of Bronson and Catherine talking on a cell phone. He said he wouldn't give money to the guy, and any he had given him, he wanted back."


I went to the park at ten o'clock. Wednesday, is the day that Nancy usually comes for a visit. Everyone was hoping she would come. Albert, Mo, Bert, Frank, Peter 'Lonely Heart' and Hoover were there.

Peter said, "Dennis, what are you doing here this time of day? Are you playing hooky from work?"

"Yeah," I said, "I'm confusing everyone. I was hoping to see Nancy,"

Mo said, "She has a coat for me."

"She hasn't been here yet,' said Peter, "maybe tomorrow; but they're forecasting rain for tomorrow, so maybe not. I haven't been here because I've been sick. I'm on a massive dose of antibiotics. Nearly everyone in my building is coughing and sick."

"Do you have pneumonia again?" I asked.

"Not pneumonia, emphysema. My lungs are full of infection."

Hoover handed Peter a sealed clear plastic bag.

"Thanks Hoover!" said Peter. He held up the bag and said, "My teeth! I was wondering whose house I had left these in. When I drink beer from cans I like to take my teeth out. Usually, I put them in my shirt pocket, sometimes they fall out. I lost my original teeth playing hockey."

Mo said, "It freaked me out the first time I woke up to find a set of teeth, on the bedside table, looking back at me."

Bert handed me a copy of the Metro newspaper to sit on.

"Don't you need this, Bert?"

Mo said, "Bert always has lots. He needs two copies for his fat ass."

"That's right," said Bert," I need two copies for my fat ass,

"I heard that they are changing O.D.S.P. (Ontario Disability Support Program) to separate the sick people from the addicts and alcoholics."

Peter said, "I qualify on both counts."

Bert asked, "What's going to happen when we get a new Premier of the province, now that Dalton McGinty has resigned?"

"He's the one who signs our checks. The next guy might cut us off completely.

"Bert, are you moving to Vanier?"

"No, that fell through. It was eight fifty a month. I can't afford that. I called Hoover's landlord, he has buildings all over the city. He's going to try to find me a place. I'm not sure if I believe him too much. He said he'll have something for me on twenty-two. I'll see. I've got 'till the end of the month. Otherwise, I sleep on the street, or at the Shepherd's."

Peter said, "You're not going to find much for under eight fifty."

Mo said to me in a whisper, "All aof these guys have had apartments before, but they were kicked out. I'm pissed off that Frank got a place before I did. Even Darrell has a nice apartment on Somerset. The last place he was in they condemned, it was that nasty."

16 October 2012

This morning, as I approached Mo, I could see that she was shivering, even though she had her blanket wrapped around her legs.

"Hi, Mo," I said, "don't you have any warm, winter clothing?"

"I'm wearing two pairs of long underwear under my jeans. This coat is warm, it's just sitting on the concrete that's making me cold. Albert is going to give me his winter pants. He doesn't want them any more. I said, 'If you're going to throw them out, I'll take them.'"
"I asked, "Did your worker come by yesterday?"

"No," she said, "she'll come today or I'll see her for my regular appointment tomorrow.

"Yesterday I hung out with Emile, Frank and Sparky. I went at Emile, he just won't get the message. I said to him, We've been through this before. I don't want you touching me. 'But, Mo,' he said, 'I'm clean now!' I said, 'Emile, you've got five days dirt under your fingernails. Don't tell me you're clean. Even if you were, I haven't been with a man for the past year. I don't intend to start with you.' Still he kept putting his hand on my thigh, as if it were some kind of joke. Even Sparky and Frank yelled at him, 'Emile, for Christ's sake, leave her alone, she's family!' Again he put his hand on my thigh and started moving it up, so I punched him in the side of the head. I said, 'Next time, I'll stand up and kick you in the head.' Can you believe it, he started crying. His eyes welled up and he said, 'Mo, I love you. We'd be good together.' I said, 'No, I don't think so.' I just want to be left alone.

"This morning, when I was in the bathroom, I saw a red spot on the wall. I thought to myself, That spot shouldn't be there. I took a piece of toilet paper, wiped the spot, sniffed it -- sure enough, it was a baby bed bug. Next time the guy comes to spray, I'm going to be there. I'll make sure he souses the carpet, the baseboards, anywhere else they like to hide.

"It was just getting to the point where I was sleeping through the night. Now, I have to worry again, about whether or not the sheets and covers on my air mattress are touching the carpet. Besides that, I think that the tube shaped air chambers are affecting my fibromyalgia."

15 October 2012

'Street sister' Nancy helps those less fortnate

by Gerry Sutherland of the Ottawa Citizen

This is a true story about someone I know who wants to do something to help those that are not in the mainstream of our society.

Her name is Nancy and she lives across the street from me. People in our comfortable adult community know her as the one who does so much work attending to the flower beds in the common property. But, on Wednesdays, and sometimes on other days, Nancy disappears from our street and goes to her other life in downtown Ottawa.

Go to the corner of Kent and Queen around 8 a.m. and there's a good chance you'll see Nancy. She's sitting with a panhandler on the side of the street, dressed in a T-shirt and jeans.

Nancy is now in her other life as friend to the drunks, drug addicts, and ex-cons that are panhandling as they sit in the doorways and the sides of streets.

Not only does she talk to these friends, but she brings them clothes and other necessities to make their lives a little more comfortable, especially during the cold winter months. And sometimes her husband, Jim, is there too, doing his part.

Nancy is trusted and loved by these street people. She arrives in the morning on a bus from her home. Driving her car there is not approplriate because buses are, what the street people use and she wants to act like an equal rather than someone from 'the right side of the tracks.'

Living in a foster home and then adopted by a well-to -do family in Winnipeg in the late 1950s was Nancy's early life. In her youth she liked animals. Later on in adult life she became interested in the lives of street people. This interest has lasted for over 15 years. When asked how long she intends to do this work she answers with a twinge of sadness, "I will continue until I can no longer physically manage." Nancy has multiple sclerosis.

His name was Angelo and he was a typical panhandler. He got stabbed by another panhandler and as a result of blood loss suffered permanent brain damage. Angelo now lives in supervised lodging and Nancy, often accompanied by husband Jim, goes to see him every week. This caring action demonstrates the love this lady has for her fellow humans, regardless of what station in life they might occupy. She knows that street people, in spite of their excess drinking, their addiction to drugs, or their past crimes have a basic need that we all have. They want someone that will treat them as equals, some who they can talk to, and especially someone who cares for them. Nancy meets those criteria.

As she sits and walks with her 'extended family' she is comfortable in presenting herself to them as an equal and friend. That's what they need and that's what they get from this grand lady.

I don't suppose Nancy will ever be officially recognized for her good work. In our society a person who is a friend of those that live on the streets is not usually a candidate for recognition. But that doesn't really matter to her. Instead, she is content to be accepted and trusted by her street friends.

Nancy knows there is respect and love inherent in the expression used when they call her their 'street sister.'


It had rained during the night. Sidewalks were wet. Mo was protected by a plastic cushion. I sat on the cold, damp concrete.

"How was your weekend, Mo?"

"It was quiet. I went out Saturday night and hung out with Frank and Emile. When I got home I got a frantic phone call from Toothless Carl, "Z's dead, He was hit by a car." I'm not sure how the accident happened but Carl has broken bones in his foot and refuses to go to the hospital.

"This may sound unkind, but Z's better off dead. Carl didn't train him properly and would kick him if he misbehaved. That's no way to treat a dog."

I asked, "Do you have any appointments coming up to obtain your identification?"

"My regular appointment is Wednesday, I'm so frustrated that I've started cutting myself again. I was so proud that I had gone almost a year without doing that. I need my medication. They say the most common reasons for cutting is Attention or Depression. My reason is definitely Depression. Albert makes it worse with all his noises. He had the temperature way up yesterday, to the point I was sweating, but do you think he would put it up this morning when I said that I was cold? No!"

Mental Health Issues: People suffering from mental illnesses such as bipolar disorder, chronic depression, eating disorder tend to hurt themselves in some or the other way. When they reach the highest level of sorrow, they stop feeling anything. This lack of emotions sometimes makes them suffer even from panic attacks, so they cut themselves. When they see their blood, and experience the pain they feel relieved as they are assured that they are still capable of having some feeling. However, this is not the case with everyone suffering from mental illnesses, this is more commonly seen in people who suffered from childhood trauma or abuse.

I said, "I was thinking back to this time last year. You were so happy. You'd recieved all your identification and your health card. You had moved into that nice house with Carl. You had your pet snake, the lizzards and Carl's dog, but you were stressed about the cop car parked in front of your house."

"Yeah, no chance of that now. Mind you, we had three cop cars in front of the apartment building yesterday. Albert said, 'Are they here for you, Mo?' I said, 'No, Albert, they're here for you.' He said, 'Me, I don't do any bad stuff.' I said, 'I don't either.' They were probably called because of the crack heads down the hall."

I said, "Even a place like Rhino's would be better for you. He has to deal with crack heads, but he has his privacy, he has cable, the choice to watch any programs he wants, and in English too."

"Yeah, my worker is coming to see Emile and I, at noon, about two apartments she's found. I sure hope that works out. I'm overdue for some good news."

That was before your kidneys failed.

"I asked, "Did you get your laundry done?"

"Yeah, most of it. I washed all Albert's winter clothes. There wasn't enough room for mine. Albert's going to give me his winter pants. They go with this parka. Hopefully, I won't get too cold this winter. My arthritis and fibromyalgia just wont take the cold."

"Albert isn't in the cold that much, is he? He doesn't pan."

"No, he just comes to the Mission for meals and visits with the guys for a while. If he's cold, he goes home."


At noon the temperature was a balmy 63 degrees Fahrenheit. I felt too warm in my down filled winter coat, so I sat on it instead. Scruffy greeted me at the sidewalk -- licking my hand and barking.

"She's okay," said Peter, "Go ahead and pet her. That's what she wants."

Sitting on the curb were Peter, Albert, Mo, Bert, Frank, Emile and Sparky. I was sitting on the sidewalk facing Mo. Marilyn was fidgeting, standing beside me. At one point she draped her coat over my shoulder, while sherooted through her purse looking for change to buy a cigarette.

I said, "Hey, what am I -- a coat rack?"

Mo said, "I wish that dog would shut up for a while."

I asked, "How did the rest of your morning go? Did your worker come by to show you the apartment?"

"Today is a typical Monday, although it is payday for the government. My worker should have been here hours ago, but I know that Friday she had a lot of shit on her plate. She'll come either later today, or tomorrow."

"Have you heard any more from Carl, about his broken foot?"

""No, I didn't go over. When I talked to him on the phone he said something about community service. He's not going to be able to do much with a broken foot."

Frank asked, "Is Carl still living in the same place?"

Mo said, "No, he has a really nice apartment on Stewart Street. I'm sure he won't have it for long. He has too many people living there. Every night there are twelve to fifteen people. They're loud, drunk -- the police get called there a lot.

"He says, 'I can't let people sleep on the street!' I said do him, 'Dude, yes you can! They aren't your problem!' It was the same when I lived with him. People would eat all our food, there was hardly any place to sleep. It was doing my head in. I had to get away from there.

"Saturday he had a party with a lot of muk muks. Maryam brought Mary, a friend of hers. This Mary chick got in my face as soon as she arrived. Within a few minutes I was on my feet. Carl had to hold me back. Somebody was holding Mary back. I said, 'Let her go. I can deal with her."

"Today Carl mentioned that Mary had phoned and asked him to apologize to me. She said she was out of control. I said, 'It's all water under the bridge to me.' The thing is, I'm sure she doesn't remember what I look like, but I sure as hell remember her. The next time I see her, I'll just walk up behind her and give her a snap at the back of the head. She won't know what hit her."

There was a demonstration taking place in the park. Emile said, "The R.C.M.P. (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) are there and some natives with a red flag, a yellow sunburst in the center, and the silhouette of an indian brave on that."

Mo said, "Emile, you're part native, you don't recognize the flag of the Mohawk Nation. There are a lot of them on Turtle Island, or Victoria Island. Don't you know about the land grant from Queen Victoria that gave the island in the Ottawa River, and the land were sitting on, to the Seven Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy. That included the Mohawks of Akwisasne, Kahnawake, the Hurons of Wendake and the Anishinabegs."

"Well, I'm sorry," said Emile, "I must have been sick when they taught that history lesson."

I noticed that Sparky was very quiet. Mo said, "He didn't get up until eight o'clock, he's sober and he doesn't have any pot. Usually by this time he's been panning long enough to get a couple of bottles."

I walked over to him, "How are you feeling Sparky?"

"I'm broke," he said. I stayed at the Shep's last night. Somebody stole, my bottle, my mary jane and my money."

"Make sure you eat, okay, Sparky," I said.

"I will, thanks, brother."

12 October 2012

The mornings are getting ever colder. Mo was wrapped up, rubbing her legs. Emile was sitting on a cushion.

Emile said, "This cushion keeps me dry, but it sure doesn't keep me warm."

Mo said, "I'm going to get one of those plastic storage boxes and stash it behind Starbucks when I don't need it. This cold really causes my legs to ache."

I asked, "What happened when the police came by, yesterday?"

"Nothing much -- the usual. They sent the Hope Recovery van for Claude. He was sleeping at 'the heater'. I didn't like the way they were treating him. I said, 'Hey, be careful with him. He's my friend.' One of them kept waving her hand in front of her face. I know he probably doesn't smell that good, but they must have dealt with worse than him. I found it disrespectful."

"How has Albert been?"

"He was better this morning. Mind you, I bought him a gram of pot yesterday. When I came home he said, "Mo, I saved you a joint.' I said, 'That's okay, Albert, I have my own."

"Do you have any plans for the weekend?"

"No, I'll probably be doing laundry. Some clothes I had just thrown on top of the bags I moved out to the balcony. They'll have to be washed and asshole probably has things he wants washed."

I said, "I'll have to be getting back to work now. Will you be at the park at noon?"

"We'll probably be at the island, or under the bridge. We're getting hassled too much at the park, especially if there are more than four of us.


It was snowing at noon. I passed Emile on my way to the park. He said, "Hi Dennis, I'll be back in a few minutes. I just have to get something."

I could hear Scruffy barking long before I could see anyone. It brought to mind a comment that John had made a while back, I don't want to go up there, Scruffy's barking his head off. On the curb on one side was Frank, on the other side was Rhino, Albert, Mo, Peter and a friend of his (I can't remember his name),

Rhino said, "My parents visited yesterday and brought some dvds, but they took them home with them. My dad brought a tape measure last week, but he took it back yesterday. I don't know what all that was about. I wish they'd left the dvds -- there were some good movies there. I have cable now. I just plugged it in and it's working."

Mo said, "He's been complaining like this all morning."

Rhino said, "I turned my tv on full volume this morning. It'll serve the crack heads right for keeping me awake all night."

Mo said, "Emile's gone to get a bottle of water for me, since he drank most of mine."

Emile returned with Mo's water, did a little dance then sat next to Frank. A woman was passing. He said, "Hey, beautiful, did you wash your hair with curly water today?"

Peter said, "This is only my second time out this week. I was here Tuesday. I haven't got my clothing figured out yet, for this weather. I'm warm on top, but I need warmer shoes. Can you believe this snow? Scruffy doesn't know what to make of it either."

Albert went on a run for Mo. After he left she said, "I bought a dozen eggs last night, I had one. I checked this morning, there were only five left. Albert ate six eggs in one day and he goes to the Mission for meals. I also bought some bologna, but I stashed that away.

"This afternoon I'm going to Carl's old place to see if my checks are there. I'm expecting one from Trillium for a hundred bucks and one from G.S.T. (Goods and Services Tax) for sixty. I'll check the mailbox, or if someone is at home, I can ask if any mail is there addressed to me. I'll just tell them that I was slow in getting my change of address filed. I hope they don't ask for Identification, because I don't have any. Last time the crack head gave them to me."

11 October 2012

I could see my breath this morning. Mo was wrapped in her blanket sitting next to Emile. I shook hands with both of them and sat next to Mo.

I asked Mo, "How did your appointment go yesterday?"

"She was messing with my head. She said, 'You've had quite a life, haven't you?' I said, 'It started with my grandfather, then my father, then his younger brother. I got into drugs, was kicked out of my home, joined a biker gang, was into prostitution, jail, then ended up on the street, sleeping behind a dumpster. So, yeah, I've had quite a life.'"

"Is she any closer to getting you in to see a doctor, or at least get you back on your previous medication?"

"She's working on it. I see her again next Wednesday. I'm just tired of this runaround. It's been going on since January."

I said to Emile, "I see you've shaved again."

"I'm trying to look respectable for a while." To Mo he said, "I guess I look better than I did last weekend. I still can't figure out how I ended up in that garden. I sure didn't get far from Frank's place."

Mo said, "The last time I saw you, you were sitting in the middle of somebody's lawn. I told you to come, but you said, 'I'm staying right here.'"

"I guess I can get pretty stubborn, sometimes."

"Sometimes?" I asked. "When aren't you stubborn?"

"That's more like it," said Mo.

"So, you left me there?"

Mo said, "I saw the fourteen coming from one direction, so I figured the one going the other way would be along soon. I wasn't going to miss my bus arguing with you. Yes, I left you there."

Emile said, "All I know is, I woke up with watermellon and squash all over me. I had tomato dripping down my chin. I was a mess."

I said, "You told me you remembered slicing a tomato with a Tim Horton's card."

"Yeah, I remember saying that."

Mo said, "I remember one time, sitting here, a guy wearing a six hundred dollar suit, and an even more expensive overcoat, threw a full cup of coffee at me. It burnt my face. I went after the guy with all I had. Some of my regular ladies came by and asked what happened. I said, "Look at me. This jerk threw a cup of coffee at me. They started hitting him with their purses."

"Did anyone call the police?" I asked, "That's assault! He shouldn't get away with that!"

"Somebody may have called the police. I didn't stick around. What I did to the guy probably would have gotten me charged. Can you imagine, someone going into a restaurant, buying a coffee with the express purpose of throwing it on somebody? He must be one sick fuck. It's not as if I even ask for money. I just sit here. I say good morning to some people that I know, apart from that I'm quiet as a mouse."

I asked Mo, "How are you and Albert getting along?"

"Last night we had another big argument. He slammed the door in my face. I said, 'Albert, I'm moving out. I can't put up with this bullshit any longer." I packed my bag, put it out on the balcony. It must have weighed more than me. I didn't have money for a cab. I had no place else to stay. I thought about going to the dumpsters behind Starbucks, but they've moved them close to the wall now. Nobody is staying there any more. I don't know where Scottish Dave is. I think he's with Darell.

"Albert said, 'Please Mo, don't leave. I love you.' So I stayed the night. He was a little better this morning."

Emile said, "Dave is trained as a chef, isn't he?"

"Dave is a good cook, but he serves beans with everything. He filled my plate until it was heaping. I couldn't finish half of it. Carl took some, but he couldn't finish his either."

I said, "I was talking to Sheldon yesterday. He was mentioning the Native Friendship Center on Rideau. He was saying that every Wednesday there is a free meal, story telling, dancing and drumming. Do you know anything about that?"

Emile said, "I went there once. A guy said to me, 'This is for native people.' I'm part Ojibway. I said, "Who are you to say whether or not I'm part native. I see a guy over there that looks white, and another over there. Did they have to prove they were native?' The guy says, 'I know they're native. You're lucky you got a bowl of cereal. Don't come back again.'"

Mo said, "I've had the same problem, my father was Ojibway, my mother was English. I'm metis, but I look white. I don't fit in anywhere."


At noon I was leaving the building, where I work, and ran into Glen, and his dog Capone. Glen said, "Mo, Emile and Sparky are together, sitting in the middle of the street.' I had no idea what that meant. I found them sitting on the concrete island with elevated flower grarden, that divides the Mackenzie King bridge, near Elgin."

I said to them, "Glen told me that you were in the middle of the street, I didn't know what he meant."

Mo said, "We're just trying to stay out of trouble. The cops were by earlier. They can't say anything about us sitting here. We're not talking to anybody, we don't have any alcohol visible." Then she looked at Sparky.

"Sparky, for Christ's sake, will you put that bottle under your coat or something. You don't have to advertise that you're drinking." Just then a police car passed.

"Just watch, he's going to turn around." she said. The car continued on and didn't return.

Emile said, "I haven't seen that big cop, Pilon, lately. The one with the muscles and all the tatoos."

Mo said, "I heard that he got promoted. He works in the building now."

"He sure doesn't like Frank," said Emile. "I remember the last time, Frank was sitting on the ground, Pilon was bending over him saying, 'Why don't you learn to shut up. If you say one more word, I'm going to take you behind that electrical shed and beat the shit out of you.'

"The other cop looked at me and said, 'If he gets into it with your friend, I'm not big enough to do anything about it. If you can talk reason to Frank, now would be a good time.' I bent down and said to Frank, 'This guy is the size of a tree. There's no way out of this. Just keep your mouth shut.' Frank said, 'Okay.' That was about the end of it."

Mo started sneezing, over and over again. She said, "I heard that a sneeze is like one tenth of an orgasm. I usually sneeze ten times. I don't need men at all.

"I'm not looking forward to going home. Albert is still acting pissy. He went to the Mission for lunch and was complaining about the food. He said, 'They were serving grilled cheese sandwiches. I told them it was garbage and threw it in the trash.' I've seen Albert cook grilled cheese sandwiches. He didn't throw it in the trash; he ate it, and didn't complain."

"Is Albert still upset about John's death?"

"I guess so, but he has to move on. I have."

"I need to be on my medication and I'm having a real problem with menopause. I've got more zits now that I've had at any time in my life. I like my face. I don't want to look like this. I'm whining, aren't I?"

I said, "You have good reason to be upset."

I had to return to work. I shook hands with Mo, Emile and Sparky then headed towards Elgin. A police car pulled up. The cop asked, "Are you guys waiting for your meal?" I'll hear the rest of the details tomorrow.

10 October 2012

This morning was even colder than yesterday. I gave a picture of John, from the funeral home, to Grant. He would have seen him every morning for nearly eleven years. Mo was wrapped in her blanket, rubbing her legs. I wore the wrong shoes today. These Pumas, given to me by Uncle Peter, are worth about a hundred and fifty bucks. People look at me and they figure, Why are you pan handling if you can afford shoes like that? I try to hide them, but I have to straighten my legs out to rub them every once in a while. They're really bad today."

"How are you and Albert getting along these days?"

"He got really drunk last night. I gave him some money and asked him to buy a bottle for me. He used my money to buy himself more beer. He went through an eighteen pack yesterday. Usually, after six he'll be asleep.

"He was saying to me, 'Mo, I love you. I wont mind if you stay after Christmas. Then he touched my leg. He hasn't done that for a while."

"I said to him, 'Albert, you dont like to be touched. I feel the same way, so keep your hands to yourself.'

"Later, he was banging around in the kitchen stark naked. He said, 'What's for supper?' I told him, 'I'm having this box of Kraft Dinner. I dont know what your having. When are you going to buy some groceries?' I've really spent a lot this month supplying him with cigarettes -- and he chain smokes, one right after another. I've bought all the food. He hasn't bought any.

"Well, I don't think I'm going to be making any more money this morning. I had a good day yesterday."

"I'll see you later, Mo. Nancy will be bringing pumpkin tarts."

"I'll give mine to Albert. I can't stand pumpkin. I dont mind the seeds, but that's all."


Later, at 10:00, I went to the park. Nancy and her husband Jim were there. Nancy loves to walk Darrel's dog, Muff. She's known him since he was a pup -- at that time he was owned by Andre, who has since passed away. Nancy had brought pumpkin tarts, with whipped cream, for everybody. She also brought me a package of photos and a photo copy of a newspaper article entitled, 'Street Sister.'

Mo said, "Janique, my worker, is meeting me here to take me to my Elizabeth Fry appointment." She poured some wine in her water bottle, added water and placed it in her bag. "Frank," she said, "can you roll me a joint?"

Janique arrived and said hello to the people she knew. Emile asked, "We're meeting tomorrow, right? You're coming here?"

"That's right Emile."

Mo asked, "How many busses do we have to take, and how far do we have to walk?"

"We can just walk down to Metcalfe and take an 85. That will take us right there."

Mo asked, "Can you just wait until I finish this joint? Then I'll be ready to go."

"Sure, we have time."

Mo hoisted her heavy backpack onto her shoulders and they walked down the sidewalk towards the bus stop.

I said hello to everybody I knew. Sparky introduced me to Sheldon.

He said, "So, you're Dennis the Menace! I'm Downtown Charlie Brown. I've been on the street for the past few days. Before that I was in a recovery program. I'm native Algonquin. I was born, on the Madawaska River, near Algonquin Park. I have a deep history. My grandfather was a guide for the Group of Seven, from 1920 to 1933, when they painted in the park. Phil Fontaine is my uncle. He served three terms as National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations. I'm also related to John Henri Commanda, President of the Odawa Native Friendship Center. My father is a millionaire, but he wont even answer the phone to me. He wont give me fifty bucks; wont even give the price for a bottle. My sister is the same, she has a great big house; I sleep on the street. She says, 'You got yourself this way, you get yourself out.'"

I said, "I'm really interested in learning about native culture. Is the Odawa Center a good place to go?

The best place is the Aboriginal Drop-In Center, at 510 Rideau. Every Wednesday the native ladies host a meal, story telling, chanting and drumming. You'll get to see Sparky dance, sing and play guitar."

"Sparky," I said. "I didn't know you sang and played guitar."

Sheldon said, "Sparky and I used to sing in the park, He taught me some boxcar Willie and other blues songs."

Boxcar's my home, railroad my friend
It's been that way since I don't know when
I'm here today, tomorrow I'm gone
Where I hang my hat is where I call home

Stars at night my roof over head
The ground below where I make my bed
Horizons you see, well that is my walls
When the sun comes up my hobo blood calls.

"I love Boxcar Willie, and all the old blues singers." I said.

Sheldon said, "When I think of native culture I get so angry. In school the nuns forced us to speak English. They called what we spoke, 'the devil's language'. If we were ever caught speaking Algonquin or any other native language we would be beaten with the edge of a ruler or a leather strap. Can you imagine if something like that happened today, especially to the children of white people. The nuns would be arrested.

"All this land we're on was given to the Algonquin by treaty, even the land where the Parliament buildings stand. The government decided that it was a good military location, so they just took it. The Rideau canal was built mostly with native labor. They were paid starvation wages, most of them had families to feed, so they'd feed their families first. Many were worked to death. There isn't even a plaque to commemorate the natives who died.

"Most native people would rather sleep outside, than in one of the shelters. Last night the guy in the bunk on my right kept saying, 'six, six, six, six, six...' all night long. He never stopped. The guy on my left was a crack head. Every twenty minutes he'd get up and walk around. I didn't trust him, so I was trying to sleep with one eye open. Whenever he got up, or went back to bed I woke up."

September 28, 2012 at 11:25am
September 28, 2012 at 11:25am

9 October 2012

Mo was huddled in her blanket with her hood pulled close to her face. She was rocking back and forth. When I came closer, I could see that she was shivering.

"I'm freezing, " she said. "I didn't see you on Friday."

"I was at John's funeral. I met his sister, his three brothers, nephew, son and granddaughter. She's a little sweetheart, just four years old."

"I know that Lonely Heart, Hoover and Elaine went."

"Yeah, I saw them there. They didn't stay for the service. Nancy was also there."

"We were too bummed out. Albert was crying. He got me crying. He took it really hard. He said, 'What am I going to do with the dvds that John lent me.' They'd often get together to watch movies, game shows, eat pizza and drink beer."

"How was your weekend?" I asked.

"Quiet, I went to visit Marilyn for the weekend. She's renting a room in a house near Mer Bleu. It's out in the country, a gorgeous house. Her landlord doesn't like her boyfriend, Lance. He's been really ignorant on the phone when the landlord has answered. He said, 'Why the fuck are you answering Marilyn's phone?'

"The landlord was away this weekend. Lance came to visit. I hardly saw Marilyn at all. When I woke up Sunday morning they were gone. I had no bus fare, because I'd given tickets to Marilyn. I had no cash, because I spent the last of it on a bottle for Marilyn. So, I was stuck. The landlord had change in a dish near the door. Without that I wouldn't have been able to get home."

"So, you and Marilyn are friends again?"

"Yeah, we're fine. It's just when she gets drunk that she acts crazy. When she's relatively sober she's okay. She has to go into rehab, sometime soon. She'd previously said, that she was going to come back to the house after she finished. Lance gave her an emerald ring on Friday. I could see that it was an antique ring. I talked to her landlord on the phone yesterday and he seemed really pissed off. Now, Marilyn is saying she's going to find a new place to stay after rehab. I wouldn't be surprised if Lance had stolen the ring from her landlord."

"Elaine was really upset Friday, after John's funeral. She had been going out with John for about six years. She dumped him for Hoover. She and Hoover have been together now, for about five years."

"John mentioned that. When I told him that Hoover and Elaine were going to share an apartment, he said, 'He'd better have a place to hide when she gets crazy.' He also mentioned that Elaine was the reason he started smoking again."

"It hit John really hard when Elaine left him. He didn't go out with any women since her. He'd say, 'I still love Elaine, I have no interest in other women.'"

5 October 2012

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

She asked, "Did you know John well?"

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

"I'm John's sister, Linda, by the way."

"John spoke fondly of you,"

"Did you also know that he has three brothers, a son and a grandchild? Did John mention that? I'll introduce you to them when I see them."

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

"What was given as the cause of death?"

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

"Here's Jesse now, John's son, and Jesse's daughter Abigail, Abbie for short."

"Hi, Jessie, and Abbie. I knew your father well. I'm so sorry for your loss. You have a striking resemblance to your dad."

"I know. I'm proud of it."

Linda said, Dennis have you met Dave?"

"Hi Dave."

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

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

Linda said, "We'd lost contact with John. We didn't know he was so close. He didn't have a phone. If we'd know where he was we would have whisked him away."

"Dave, how long was John at the Lafayette, about four years?"

"Nearly five years."

"Dennis, what was your impression of John?"

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

Linda said, "He was a glass-half-full kind of a person, wasn't he?"

"Yes," I said, "He was always cheerful and optimistic."

I saw Sammy, Peter 'Lonely Heart', Mike, Hoover and Elaine. Peter walked over to the photographs and said, "Here's me with John, this other one is of me also, but my head is cut off."

I said, "Peter, I'd recognize your crotch anywhere."

Hoover said, "We're not staying for the service. We just came to pay our respects to John's family, then we'll raise a few glasses to John."

Elaine and I walked over and signed the visitor's book. I saw Sammy sitting down, so I went over and sat with him.

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

I asked, "Is that where you're from. Do you have family there?"

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

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

I met John's brothers and his nephew. I also met Mike. I introduced myself. I said, I think we've met before at 'the benches', or at the 'heater'. "Maybe, he said, I go to those places."

Hoover said to Mike, "What do you think of this place?"

Mike said, "It's handy to the Somerset Street Beer Store."

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

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

Jesus the Way to the Father

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

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

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

He then went over and blessed Joh's cremation urn with holy water.

A family member read a poem she wrote for John.

Linda talked about stories from their childhood, stories that they had recounted at John's bedside:

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

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

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

Linda read the poem Do not stand at my grave and weep by Mary Elizabeth Frye,

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

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

Spirit in the Sky

by Norman Greenbaum

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

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

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

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

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

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

4 October 2012

Sitting on the curb, at the park were Chris, Sparky, Emile, Frank, Billy, Peter and Scruffy. Claude, who had been sleeping on a park bench on Elgin Street, came walking up the sidewalk with Daniel.

I asked, "Does anybody know any details about John's funeral? I'd like to go if I can."

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

I said, "Hi Claude, Daniel. Claude, have you seen the doctor yet. You mentioned that you wanted to see him about your stomach and your shoulder."

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

"Sparky, how are you today? You didn't look too good yesterday when the fire truck and the paramedics arrived."

"I'm fine, I'm just tired that's all."

"How are you Emile?"

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

I asked, "Did Mo find out when she's going to be able to see a doctor?"

"Yeah, she'll be going tomorrow."

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

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

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

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

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

"That's all I got to say to you.

"Emile, can I have a drink from your bottle?"

Emile said, "Yes."

"You know, I don't often ask you for anything, do I?"

"No, you don't, Peter. I don't remember the last time you asked me for something."

"Alright then, just so we have that straight."

A skateboarder went by and Scruffy started barking and chasing him. Emile grabbed Scruffy's leash, just in time. He said to the frightened kid, "She doesn't like skateboards."

To a woman passing by he said, "That's a beautiful shawl you're wearing, sister. Has anybody told you today, that you're beautiful too?"

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

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

"Can somebody throw me that bottle?"

Peter said, "It's not mine. I'm not going to throw it to you."

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

3 October 2012

As I got off the bus this morning, I was approached by Grant. He had a grim look on his face. “Dennis, someone just told me that Mo is in hospital. I’d like to visit her, but I don’t know her last name.”

“It’s, Godard,“ I said, “Maureen Godard.”

“Thanks, Dennis, I’m not good at hospitals. There are too many sick people there, but I’ll try to get over to see Mo."

"Thanks for telling me, Grant, I really appreciate it."

"No problem."

Nearly beside me, sitting at a patio table outside Tim Horton's, drinking coffee from a paper cup, was Robert.

"Dennis, something really bad happened to me. I just got out of jail. The police, all they say is lies. My landlord phoned them last night. He said I was making too much noise (Robert is deaf). I wasn't making a lot of noise. It's just that my landlord doesn't like me. The police say I assaulted them. I didn't do that. They came to my door; when I opened it they grabbed me, put me in handcuffs and pushed me to the floor. I spent the night in jail. My mother posted bail for me. I have a ticket for disturbing the peace. It says I have to pay $350.00, within fifteen days, or I go to jail. On top of that, I'm not even allowed to go back to my apartment. My rent is paid until the end of the month, but my mother and some friends are going to have to move my things. I'm not allowed. That's not right.

"I've stopped taking drugs. I can't go to jail again. Do you know the name of a good lawyer?"

I wrote down, on a piece of paper, the name of a lawyer I've used in the past, and handed it to him. I said, "Contact this person, if she can't help you she'll refer you to someone who can. She's very pleasant. There's no charge for the introductory visit. She will explain the charges to you, and what your rights are. Any information needed for your court appearance can be collected by her office. If you want, she will represent you. Don't worry, you won't go to jail."

"Thanks, Dennis, I'll walk there after I go for my methadone treatment."

"Take care, Robert. Everything will work out."


At noon I was relieved to see Mo. I said to her, "I'm so glad to see you. Grant said that you were in hospital. He said that someone gave him the message to pass on to me. Are you alright? Grant didn't know your last name, but wanted to visit you in hospital."

"I'm fine, thank him for me when you see him next."

I shook hands with Albert, "How are you, Albert?"

"Not so good." He then turned and walked away.

"We did get some bad news," said Mo. "John Black is died on Monday at the Mission Hospice. He and Albert were really close. John checked himself into the Mission, they moved him to the Salvation Army, then he was moved to the Hospice. There's something not right there. He should have gone to the hospital, not the Mission. They have no trained medical staff there."

Bert pulled out a photo of a very healthy looking John, sitting by the canal. "I must have known him for ten, twelve years, maybe. It was strange. He had a swollen ankle, then his belly swelled up, his face became skinny. He died so soon. I think he must have had some sort of virus or an infection. I wonder if they'll do an autopsy. I'd like to know what he died of.

"We were just talking about all the peole we know who have died. Just in one year, Rip died..."

Hoover said, "Rip's still alive."

"Oh, I meant Tim, he died at Easter, Digger died on Canada Day and Hobo died on Labor Day, all in the same year."

I said, "I saw some of those people in a video."

Hoover said, "It was called 'Under the Bridge'. Most of those people have left town or are dead."

Bert said, "I had an uncle. He retired and stayed home with his wife. He had nothing to do, nothing to keep him busy. He died within two weeks of retiring. Me, I don't have to worry about that. I've never had a job, so I'll never die from stopping work."

I said, "That's good preventative medicine Bert."

Emile said, "I out drank Rhino, he's gone. I out drank Sparky, see he's going fast. He's giving me the evil eye, pretending he's not falling asleep, He's gone."

"Where is Rhino?" I asked.

"He's at his apartment," said Bert. "Didn't you know? I saw his place. It's a one bedroom, the size of a bachelor. The bedroom is so small, there's only room for a single bed. When they brought it to him he said, 'Hey, I wanted a double bed.' They said, 'There's no room.' He's over in Vanier. I was there but I don't know what street he's on. It goes in this way, out that way, before you know it, you're lost."

I said, "He told me he was moving to Lavergne Street."

"Yes, Yes that's the name, Lavergne Street."

Mo said, "That's the place I should have gotten. I know why I didn't get it, my worker told me. They thought I was a hooker. If I was a hooker, I wouldn't have been wearing that cheap, polyester dress.

"I told Albert I wouldn't be coming home tonight. Last time, he waited up for me. I said to him, 'Albert, I'm forty-six years old, nobody has to wait up for me. If something is going to happen, it'll happen. If I'm not home by eight o'clock, figure that I'm going to be gone for the night.

"He's invited Mina over, can you imagine? She's worse than Marilyn. At least I won't have to deal with getting her out of the apartment."

I asked, "Have you seen Marilyn lately?"

"Not since I threw her out, Monday. I took her down in the elevator, bounced her around the walls a bit. Nothing was broken. She was able to walk away from the building."

We saw a fire truck pull up. Bert said, "We better leave, soon the police will be here."

Firemen came over to Sparky and tried to wake him up. Shortly after, a Paramedic truck pulled up. It was time for me to be back at work. I expect that Sparky will be taken to Hope Recovery, at the Shepherd's of Good Hope. He'll be allowed to sleep the night, and will be back in his usual place tomorrow.

2 October 2012

At noon today I met with Claude, Paul, Mo, Frank, Sparky, Albert, Peter and Scruffy.

The first person to greet me was Claude, He said, "It's my old friend, Kenny Rogers."

"Hi Claude, how are you feeling today?"

"Not so good. I have an appointment with my doctor, this afternoon, at the clinic on Cooper Street."

"What are you seeing your doctor about? Are you having problems with your stomach again."

"Yeah, it's my stomach, and I have a pain in my shoulder."

"What's the pain in your shoulder from?"

"The cops came by. I smashed my bottle so I wouldn't get a ticket. They put my hands behind my back, put handcuffs on me, then pushed me to the sidewalk. It hurt something in my shoulder."

"I know what those cuffs feel like. They always put them on too tight, don't they."

"I don't know why they did that. I didn't get a ticket.

"This morning a guy saw me drinking out of my Listerine bottle. He said, 'I'll give you twenty dollars if you throw that bottle away.' 'No way,' I said. 'Keep your money.' He gave me the twenty anyway."

"So that worked out well for you. I hope everything goes well at the doctor's office this afternoon. I'll see you later."

I moved on to say hello to Sparky and Peter. Scruffy barked the whole time. "Don't pay any attention to her," said Peter, "she's just saying hello. She doesn't make much of a guard dog; she barks, but she's too lazy to lift her head off the sidewalk."

I sat on the sidewalk in front of Mo. Albert was just leaving to go for Chinese food, at the food court of the Rideau Center.

"How's everything going today, Mo?" I asked. She gestured with her head toward Albert and rolled her eyes.

"Dennis, I'm losing it. I met with my P.O. this morning. I didn't think that I was talking loud. All of a sudden two cops came in. They said, 'We thought there was a disturbance.' My P.O. was upset, she said, 'There's no disturbance. If there had been, I have a buzzer to press, or I would have called you.' After a while, I had to pee. When I got outside her door, sure enough, the two cops were on either side. They followed me to the bathroom and waited outside. I stayed an extra long time, just to piss them off. I also had a drink.

"When I was finished my appointment I took the elevator down. The two cops went with me. I said to them, 'What is it with you guys? Is it that you just don't like me? I wasn't put on this earth to be either liked, or disliked by you.' I said to the big one, 'I remember you. You're the one who smashed my cheek.'

"He said, 'You didn't lodge a complaint.'

"I know better than to charge one of Ottawa's finest. I learned that lesson in Toronto."

I asked, "How did he smash your cheek?"

"Feel both of my cheeks. See if you think they feel the same." I noticed that the bone structure felt different. "Part of my cheek bone was broken off. They were called to our apartment, when I was still with Frank. One cop was talking to Frank outside, the big one was with me in the kitchen. He opened the fridge and started taking out beer. I said, 'Excuse me.' Notice that I was being polite. I said, 'Excuse me, but those are my beer. You've no right to be taking them.' That's the last I remember. I woke up in hospital. I still have a scar, but it's nearly faded now.

"I also met with my worker this morning. She may have an apartment for me to see tomorrow. I just hope I get it. Albert is driving me crazy. I'd never hurt him, but I just don't know what I'm doing some times. I think I freaked out my P.O this morning. Hopefully, she'll get me back on my anti-schizoid medication. I haven't had it since I was in hospital last January."

"Mo," I said, "I can understand some of what you're feeling. If I wasn't on medication I'd be a mess."

"Last night," she said, "I was at a party at Carl's place on Stewart Street. I was having a good time. I'm entitled to have a good time, once in a while, aren't I? I'd been there about an hour when I got a phone call from Albert. Even though I told him not to, he invited Marilyn over for some muk muk loving. I don't think it worked out the way he planned. He was drunk and she gets crazy when she drinks. Albert said that she was hitting him and he didn't know how to get her out of his apartment.

'I said to him, 'Albert, go over to the fridge. The number for security is on a card there. Phone them and tell them you want someone removed from your apartment. They'll take Marilyn out. If you don't want to do that, dial 911 and the cops will deal with her.' I must have gotten half a dozen calls from him. I phoned security, told them that my father was having trouble getting someone out of his apartment. I said, 'I've seen you guys, you're big enough to handle a hundred pound woman. I've also seen that you have handcuffs, if she gives you any trouble.

"Albert called back again. He said that security had gotten Marilyn out of the apartment, but later he heard a knock and opened the door. It was Marilyn. She barged back in. Who in their right mind opens a door, when they don't know who's on the other side? It could have been thieves, ready to invade his home and take all he's got.

"I came home and Marilyn was passed out on the couch. This is my home. I saw red. I really laid into her. I'm not exactly sure what happened, I was fairly wasted at the time. I know I threw Marilyn out. This morning, I saw that there was blood on the couch. My knuckles are sore. My foot is sore, there was blood all over my white shoe, and I found teeth prints in the leather. Marilyn doesn't have teeth, but whoever removed them did a lousy job. She still has nubs. I don't know what kind of shape she's in.

"Tomorrow, I go for my second anger management counseling session with E. Fry (The Elizabeth Fry Society). I'll have someone messing with my head. I just can't take much more. I feel like I'm dying from the inside.

1 October 2012

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

She said, "We haven't met before. My name is Colleen."

"I'm Dennis," I said.

"Do you happen to have a cigarette?"

"No, sorry, I don't smoke."

"Good for you. I wish I didn't smoke. It's bad for you and it smells bad." Colleen then sat on the curb.

I shook hands with the woman beside her and said, "Hi, I'm Dennis."

"We've met before, "she said, "I'm Jacquie."

I shook hands with Albert, "Mo will be here shortly, " he said.

Standing near the curb were Frank, Sammy, Glen and his dog Capone. Seated were Sparky, Colleen, Jacquie, and Bert. I sat between Sparky and Colleen.

"How was your weekend, Sparky?"

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

"Have you been sleeping behind Starbucks, or inside somewhere?"

"Both, it all depends on who kidnaps me, ha ha ha ha."

"I guess you mean that in a good way?"

"I stayed at Sammy's place last night. He lives in Little Italy."

Colleen asked me, "Where did your family come from?"

"My grandparents came from Iceland in 1902."

"I know people from Iceland. I'm from Baffin Island, not far from Iceland."

I said, "My mother didn't learn to speak English until she went to school."

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

"Do you know whose land were on?"

I said, "I was told it was Algonquin land."

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

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

To some women passing on the sidewalk, Colleen yelled, "Will you please give me a smile?"

The women turned and smiled. Colleen, replied, "Thank you, you did give me a smile. That makes me so happy."

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

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

I could see Mo walking up the sidewalk. She didn't look happy.

"Hi Mo, how was your weekend?"

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

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

Jacquie said, "Mo, don't be like that. I just want to be friendly."

"Jacquie, what did I just say? Now, sit down or I'll knock you down."

Sammie said, "Mo, that's no way to talk to your friends. Whether you've had a bad day or not, there's no excuse for taking it out on the rest of us. I've talked to you about that before."

"Sammie, keep your mouth shut, before I come over there and smack you."

"Come on over. I'll smack you right back."

Mo was quiet for a while, then she said to Jacquie, "I'm sorry for talking to you like that. I had no right. I apologize."

"It's alright, Mo. I understand."

"Sammy, I apologize to you too."

Minnie, walking with a cane, stopped and asked Colleen, "Aren't you cold, with bare arms?"

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

"Let me give you a hug," said Minnie.

Colleen stood up and they hugged. Jacquie said, "Can I have a hug too, Skinny Minnie?"

Minnie hugged her and said, "Jacquie, you're skinnier than I am."

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

I said good bye to Mo, she said, "Do you have to go already?"

"Yes, but I'll see you tomorrow."

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

28 September 2012

Heading to the park I met Claude and Daniel. They were going for lunch. When I arrived at the park I noticed that there were a bunch of separate groups. Sammy and Sparky were sitting together, Mo and Albert were together. Emile, Earle ‘Animal’, Frank and Muff were together. In the back was Hoover, Peter ‘Lonely Heart’, Rose, Peter and Scruffy. If Scottish Dave had been there he would have said, Everyone must have got up this morning with a gut full of grumpy juice.

I could see that Mo was upset, “I'm so pissed off. I'm drunk too. My check hasn’t arrived yet. I phoned, Jen, my worker, she said that because information arrived after September 16, some checks would be delayed until Monday.’ I said to her, ‘Look, I owe one guy $200. I owe another guy $250. What am I supposed to do?’ She asked, ‘How did you get so far in debt?’ I said ‘I’m an alcoholic and a pothead. What do you expect?’ Right now I’m kind of in hiding. I guess I will be all weekend.

“Albert is supposed to buy groceries, but I know that isn’t going to happen. He ate this morning, so I won’t be eating. He was drunk for two days. He is sober today and drank about a dozen cups of coffee. He’ll probably be awake all night.

“Lonely Heart is picking on me because I had some of the guys over.”

“He picks on a lot of people,” I said.

“He thinks that he’s so superior. I’d like to walk over there and punch that smug grin right off his face. Of course, then he would go over the railing backwards. He’d probably break his neck, or his back, and die; or he’d be severely fucked up. He had the nerve to ask me, 'I suppose that means your not coming over to my {Cathy's) place?' I’m never having anything to do with him again.

”I think, right now, I’d just like to be alone for awhile.”

I walked across the sidewalk and sat beside Emile, Frank and Earle. “How did you sleep last night, Emile?”

“I was cold. I passed out across the street for a while, then I went downtown. Some guy was mouthing off to me so we got into it. He kept poking me in the mouth. When I didn’t get up, he went away. After that I went back to the hut. These other guys have been at it since this morning. I just woke up.”

I noticed that he was drinking a Smirnoff vodka cooler. “You’ve changed brands, haven’t you, Emile?”

“These were given to me.”

He rolled one across the sidewalk to Rhino, who said, “Thanks, man.”

Frank said, "I think that I lost the master key to my apartment. I don't know how that happened. Sometimes I black out. I guess I'll have to have the super buzz me in."

Emile said, "They're probably going to charge you for a lost key, especially one of those electronic ones."

Sammy said, "Mo just gave me the finger. She shouldn't treat us like that. We're family. You don't give the finger to family. I haven't done anything to her."

Sparky said, "Just leave it, man."

Mo asked, "Has anybody gone for a run yet?

Emile said, "As soon as I finish this, I'll go. It seems odd, me being the soberest one here."

I asked Rhino, “How is it going with your place?”

“I’m all moved in.”

“Do you have a bachelor apartment?”

“No, I’ve got a one bedroom, with kitchen, living room, bedroom and bathroom. It has hardwood floors.”

“Do you have any furniture?”

“I got a few bits of stuff, the rest I’ll have to wait for.”

Earle went back to talk to the other group. As he was coming back he said, “Peter, if you ever talk to me like that again, I’m going to punch your face in.”

Mo said, “Earle, I’d really like to see that. I’ve never seen you go against anybody in my life.”

“Is that so?”

“Yeah, Earle, that’s so. Go ahead, prove me wrong.”

27 September 2012

On the curb, near the park today were Sparky, Emile, Peter 'Lonely Heart', Bert and Rhino.

Peter said, "Dennis, before you sit down, here's a copy of the Metro to keep your cheeks dry."

"Thanks Peter"

"How's everything going, Rhino?"

"Great, I get the keys to my new apartment tomorrow."

"Where will it be?"

"Vanier, on Lavergne Street. It's really nice."

Peter asked, "That's in one of those projects, isn't it?"


"Where did you sleep last night,Rhino?" I asked.

"We all slept behind Starbucks, the old place."

"Were Dave and Darrell there?"

"Yeah, and Muff. I slept next to the dumplster, nearly underneath it. I was the windbreak."

Emile said, "You should have seen it, Dennis. Muff's nose was about an inch from Rhino's."

To Rhino he said, "It's a good thing you didn't make any sudden movements in your sleep. You could have lost part of your face. I don't know how you could have put up weth Muff's breath, or how he could have put up with yours."

"Muff and I are good," said Rhino.

"Don't get too friendly," laughed Emile.

A female police officer, followed by a male, rode up the sidewalk."

"Hello gentlemen, does anyone have any open liquor." Peter had kicked his can over the railing. She noticed an open can of beer between Rhino and Emile. "Who does that belong to? Is that yours Rhino?"

"Yes ma'am." He held up the can.

"If I dump it, do I still get a ticket?"

"If I don't see anything, you don't get a ticket" Emile put his cap in front of the can and took a swig.

Rhino said, "This is my last beer. I'll take the ticket."

The ticket was written and handed to Rhino. He took it, lolded it and handed it to Bert. "Another one for your wall, Bert."

Emile said, "You guys know that we don't pay these things. Does that bother you at all?"

The officer said, "We do our job, the courts do their job. We'll be back in fifteen."

After she left Emile said, "She's my cousin."

Peter said, "That's the second beer I've kicked over the rail today."

Emile said, "I'm just glad thay haven't changed the law, so we'd have to do jail time for unpaid tickets. I know I'm over $8,000."

Sparky said, "I'm over $10,000."

Peter said, "It would be ridiculous to have us do jail time. It costs over $70,000 a year to keep a man in jail. We've got no assets, no houses, no cars, no jobs. There's nothing they can take from us."

September 19, 2012 at 11:10am
September 19, 2012 at 11:10am

26 September 2012

Ottawa Citizen

Acclaimed Inuit artist comes to terms with her greatest work

Read more: http://www.ottawacitizen.com/entertainment/Acclaimed+Inuit+artist+comes+terms+wi...

Acclaimed Inuit artist Annie Pootoogook has given birth to a baby girl, a month before she was due, at a Lowertown shelter.

The premature child, named Napachie Marie Pootoogook-Watt, was born about 4 a.m. Friday in a washroom of the Shepherds of Good Hope on Murray Street. Pootoogook says she was in the washroom, experiencing labour pains. Suddenly, her water broke and out came the baby.

Pootoogook’s cries were heard by staff and others staying in the shelter, who rushed to help. They had her lie on blankets on the floor until an ambulance arrived to take the mother and baby to the Montfort Hospital.

William Watt, the baby’s father and Pootoogook’s boyfriend, says Napachie is only 1.64 kilograms (three pounds, 10 ounces) and is in an incubator at the Montfort, where she is expected to remain for a month.

“(But) she’s doing fine,” says Watt. “Her motor skills are fine. She’s a perfectly healthy baby. She’s just tiny.”

Pootoogook says she “feels good. I could go dancing.” Watt says his girlfriend doesn’t look any worse for wear. “She was in labour only five minutes.”

Pootoogook says she was released from hospital at 4 p.m. Friday, had dinner at a native drop-in centre on Rideau Street, and then stayed the rest of the weekend with friends, until she was reunited Monday with Watt. He had spent four nights in jail. That’s why Pootoogook went to the shelter late last week, he says, as “she didn’t want to be alone” because of her pregnancy. Coincidentally, Watt was in jail last January for theft when Pootoogook found out she was expecting.

Tuesday afternoon, Pootoogook was back on Rideau Street where the artist has been seen drawing during the past three months. The parents visited Napachie earlier in the day. It was the first time Watt had set eyes on his daughter.

“I’ll be (at the hospital) every day,” says Watt. “I heard on the Oprah show that you have to hold them, nurture them and show you love them.”

Pootoogook, 43, and Watt, 49, have a meeting with her social worker today. They think the possibility of giving up the baby to the Children’s Aid Society for adoption will be raised.

“The CAS is involved,” says Watt, who is optimistic they’ll be able to keep Napachie because “I’m a good fighter.”

CAS involvement was expected after the couple detailed months and months of homelessness as well as drug and alcohol abuse in a Public Citizen story in July. But the couple claimed they were cleaning up their lives for the baby’s arrival, and, at that point, had not had any drugs or alcohol for six weeks. They were also looking for a home.

The couple spent most of the summer sleeping outdoors in Lowertown and eating at shelters. A social agency recently found the couple a one-bedroom apartment near Bank and Walkley streets, where they moved on Sept. 15.

Watt is paying for the unit with income he receives from the Ontario Disability Support Program. Watt says rent and hydro will take most of his monthly cheque, so the couple will have to depend on food banks and shelter kitchens until they can get into a subsidized unit.

“It’s very nice,” Watt says of their new digs. “It’s an upper-class building.”

Pootoogook is considered one of Canada’s most pre-eminent Inuit artists and began her career in Cape Dorset, Baffin Island. She was discovered about 10 years ago by a Toronto art gallery that began buying her work through the West Baffin Eskimo Co-operative in Cape Dorset.

Pootoogook’s work, often depicting disturbing and chilling scenes of Inuit life, has been exhibited in major shows in Europe and the U.S. She was given glowing reviews by various American papers, including The New York Times, and honoured with the $50,000 Sobey Art Award in 2006. Her earlier drawings, done with coloured pencils, sell for as much as $2,600 at Feheley Fine Arts, the art gallery that help her raise her profile as an artist. Limited edition prints go for as much as a $1,000.

But Pootoogook, who has fought demons all her life — beatings, sexual abuse, alcohol and drugs — disappeared from view for the past few years. She has lived in Ottawa since 2007, with a variety of acquaintances and at homeless shelters. She started drawing again this summer, while awaiting the baby.

Passersby on Rideau had been paying her $25 to $30 per drawing when the Citizen caught up to her in July. The money paid for her cigarettes. She says she now receives upward to $300 per piece and was trying to sell a drawing Tuesday for $260. Many people just stop to say hello. Some give them a few dollars to help them by.

The couple say they do not expect to hang around downtown as they used to, mostly because they now have their own place and then a baby to look after once she’s released from hospital. But Watt says sleeping outside over the summer didn’t bother them.

“I know it sounds sad, but we slept good. In retrospect, it was nothing because I was with the love of my life.”

Accommodation was offered to the couple by Citizen readers. However, they turned down the offers.

They say their apartment is sparsely furnished. They have been sleeping on a couch left behind by the previous tenant. Watt says they expect to be getting a bed as early as today, and then they can start worrying about furnishings for Napachie.

Says Watt about his daughter’s birth: “It’s a happy ending to the story


This afternoon at the park, I sat with Emile, Sparky and Frank.

"Hi, Frank, how is everything at your new apartment."

"Fine, but I still don't have any furniture, just an air conditioner still in it's box. That's what I sit on."

"When will they be getting you furniture?"

"Around the first of November, that's what my worker said."

"So, you'll be without any furniture for over a month?"

"That's the way the system works. Yesterday, my worker -- you've met her before -- took me to the doctor. I've been having raging migraines, ringing in my ear, pain in my sinuses and behind my eyes. When I try to roll a cigarette, I notice that the skin on my fingers is very dry. I think I'm a bit dehydrated. The doctor had me close my eyes, stand with my feet together, with my arms straight out at my sides. I nearly fell over. He's going to send me for a CAT scan to see what's going on in my head -- I hope it's not a tumor."

"Did the doctor suggest to you that it might be a tumor?"

"No, he wants to see some pictures first, before he tells me what's wrong. Yesterday morning I took a Seroquel It was a drop. This guy said to me, I'm sorry, I don't have any money, but here's three Valium and two Seroquel. Mo and I shared the Valium, I took the second Seroquel before lying down for the night. That knocked me right out."

"I wouldn't jump to any conclusions about having a tumor. There may be a lot of reasons for balance problems. Perhaps, you have an ear infection. It may be something simple that can be treated with antibiotics."

"Sparky," I asked, "Did you find your bag?"


"What did you have in it?"

"My clothes, my bottle, my cigarettes, my weed, my house -- everything."

"How are you doing, Emile?"

"This is kind of an off day for me. I was drinking last night, then at 3:00 am I was wide awake. I drank a couple more bottles and slept until 5:00. I came down here and haven't moved more than six feet since. See that sweater on the curb? That's mine. It's there in case anybody wants to sit down. That's where I started this morning. I've been watching and thinking about people. I try to figure out where theyre coming from, what their motives are

"Mo said to me yesterday, 'if you point your finger at someone, you have three fingers pointing back at you. So, you shouldn't point at people. By the way, do you know where Mo is today?"

"She had an appointment with her worker. They were going to take the bus tothe Elizabeth Fry Society for Mo's anger management course."

A woman walked by. Emile said, "Hi darlin', blue really works well on you, it brings out the color of your eyes."

"Emile, " I said, "her eyes were brown."

"Doesn't matter. This is what I do all day long. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't."

A soldier in uniform passed by. Emile said, "Thank you sir, for protecting our country." The soldier waved.

To me Emile said, "I really mean that. I have a lot of respect for the military."

Lucy passed in her motorized wheel chair and waved. We all waved. Emile said, "Hi, sister, take care."

Sparky reached for Emile's insulated travel mug. "No you don't," said Emile. He threw Sparky an unopened bottle of sherry. A few minutes later he asked, "Did you honor it, before you took a drink?" (Honoring means to fill the cap of the bottle with liquor and to throw it over one's shoulder.)"

"Yes, I did"

"Good, " said Emile. "I don't know where I slept last night, but I have green stuff all over my pants. I've been picking it off all morning."

I asked, "Did you sleep outside?"


Frank said, "I'm going home now."

I asked, What are you going to do, Frank, watch your air conditioner?"

"I don't know what I'm going to do."

Emile said, "I'm just sort of floating right now. Everything is mellow. I don't have a plan. I don't know what I'm going to do for the rest of the day.

"Sparky, I'm going to take you someplace where we can get something to eat."

"That sounds good."

"Eating is good," I said.

It was time for me to go back to work. I shook hands with Emile and Sparky.

"See you, brother," they said, "see you tomorrow."

"See you, brothers."

25 September 2012

I saw Mo briefly this morning. Already packed up, she asked me to watch her backpack, while she went into Tim Horton's to use their washroom.

When she returned she said, "They were mopping the floor in there. They've got to change the brand of their cleaner. It smells like wet dog, even worse than Muff, it's horrible. The stuff they use first thing in the morning is even worse. I could never eat there with that odor in the air."

I said, "I'm sorry I didn't make it to the park yesterday. I had a dental appointment that took longer than I expected."

"What did you have done?"

"I got a partial plate, to replace three missing molars."

"I don't have any back teeth. It makes chewing difficult. I have my boyfriends to thank for that."

"Yesterday, everybody was asking, 'Where's Dennis?' We thought that maybe you had been in an accident, or that something had happened to you. You've hardly ever missed being at the park at noon."

I asked, "What did I miss?"

"Darrell was by earlier with Muff. Because of that dog, he collects more money than any of us. Now he has Frank caring for the dog while he goes off someplace. He's always getting somebody to stay with Muff: Peter, Emile, Rhino, and he never pays them, not even a beer. There's no way I'd look after that dog. For one thing, you never know when he's coming back, it could be days. Then you're stuck with feeding him, cleaning up after him.

"Not much, the usual. Bert was there, Albert, Sparky and Claude. Emile and Frank weren't there, thank God. I guess Sparky and Emile were together on Sunday. Sparky lost his backpack. He's hoping that Emile has it. Sparky said to me, 'Without my bag, where am I going to put my booze?' I said, 'Shove it up your sleeve, where you usually put it.'"

I said, "I'm heading off to work now. WillI see you at the park later?"

"I'll be there."


This afternoon, as I was approaching the group, I saw Rhino, standing head and shoulders above every one else. I gave him a wave and he waved back.

"Hi Rhino!" I said, "I haven't seen you around much."

"I haven't been around. I fucked up again."

"It's good to see you."

It's good to see you, Dennis."

I shook hands with Frank and Scott, sitting on one side of the sidewalk, then shook hands with Bert, Emile, Mo and Albert on the other side.. Mo and Emile were discussing the television program 1000 ways to die (now on YouTube) the ways that people have acidentally killed themselves -- winners of the Darwin Award.

Mo said, "This one woman was masturbating with a carrot. It tore her vaginal wall, she developed an air embolism and died. The title of the video is 'kill-do', that's hilarious. You'll never see me masturbating with a carrot."

Emile said, "I saw a television program about the stupid ways that some people have died. This one guy accidently touched his crotch with a live cable from a battery. He liked the feeling, so he wrapped his penis in tinfoil and plugged it into a live socket in the house. He was electrocuded and died."

Mo said to Bert, "Have you got any wine ready to be turned?"

"I don't have any wine. Oh, you mean at the house? Yes I have one batch ready to be transferred. I like to transfer a little at a time."

Scott came over to Bert and handed him a ticket, probably a liquor violation. "Another one for my wall?" asked Bert. "I must have over a hundred stapled to my wall now, and I have two stuffed envelopes to be put up. I want to take them to my new place. I hope I can get them all down."

Emile said, "What you need is one of those special staple removers. You're going to need to fill a lot of holes in your walls before you move out. You can fill the small holes with a bar of soap or a stick of deodorant. It can even be painted over. You've got to use the chalky stuff, not the gel."

Mo said, "The last time I was over at Bert's, I tried to find my name on that wall. I'm sure I must be there a couple of times."

"Emile, " I said, "you've shaved again."

"Yeah, I'm trying to clean myself up a bit. Nothing too drastic. I wan't to set little goals for myself. If I meet one goal, I can set another. If I tried to do it all at once, I'd screw up, for sure."

I asked, "Did Sparky find his backpack? Did you have it?"

"No, I was up on Greenwood, the opposite side of town to where Sparky was. I noticed earlier in the day that he seemed to be having trouble carrying his bag. Me and some others offered to carry it for him, but he said, 'I can carry my own damn bag!' You know Sparky. When you sleep outside, people will just come by and help themselves to your stuff. I know, it's happened to me."

Emile asked Rhino, "Where are you staying now."

"At a hostel in Gatineau. I'm going for a butt run now, then I''m going back across the bridge."

Mo said, " We call that Pepperville."

To Emile she said, "He said they were feeding him well over there, but he's lost weight."

Emile replied, "It's probably all the walking he's been doing. It's a long way from that hostel to here."

"Mo," I asked, "Did you mention to me, this morning, that you don't have any back teeth."

"Yeah, that's thanks to boyfriends. My teeth got punched out or broken. When I was in prison the broken, half teeth, got infected. It was considered an emergency,so I had them exrtacted right away."

"How are the dentists in there?"

"Some are good, but you can get some real butchers. I love the drugs you get when they put you in the medical ward. I was high all weekend"

Emile said, "I'll be able to get all my teeth extracted. I'm just going to get them to put me out. They're going to help me get some dentures, upper and lower. Most of mine have been knocked out in fights."

Mo said, "Tomorrow, my worker, Andree is going to be meeting me, to take me to Elizabeth Fry. She apologize that she couldn't get the Salvation Army van. We'll be taking the bus up to Bronson and Gladstone -- somewhere around there. I think we take the number 86. I prefer her to Janique -- she seems afraid of me, she's so uptight. It's probably because I say it like it is. I dont pussyfoot around. I'll tell you what time it is.

"They're going to be escorting me to every class, usually with the van, so I don't get breached. That's the only way I would go to that course. I shouldn't even be required to take anger management.

"Emile, you and I are going to have to chip in and buy Dennis a new pair of shoes. He could give you the ones he's wearing for panning shoes."

24 September 2012

From the corner of Metcalfe and Slater, I looked for Mo in her usual spot. I could see a folded blanket on the sidewalk, but no Mo. I waited to see if she had, perhaps, gone into Gabriel's Pizza, or the Library, to use their washroom. A large truck, stopped at the traffic lights, blocking my view. When it moved ahead I saw Mo. I walked over to her.

"Hi Mo, I was looking for you, but didn't see you here."

"Darrell and Muff passed by the corner, just before you got there. I didn't want him to see me. I saw you at there, leaning against the post. I couldn't figure that out."

"I asked, "Why didn't you want to see Darrell?"

"Not just Darrell, any of the guys. They make more money than me, sometimes they're out panning all day and evening. I'm only here for four hours. First thing in the morning, no matter how much they collected the day before, they come to me for a cigarette. Albert had a carton and supplied me all weekend, because I ran out, but that's rare. Usually, he'll come byi in the morning, on a butt run and will bum off me."

"How was your weekend?" I asked.

"Fine, quiet... I've got to get out of Albert's place by Christmas."

"Did the exterminator come to spray?"

"Yeah, he sprayed alright. We could smell that stuff for three days. It's really powerful."

"Are there any bedbugs now?"

"I only saw one in the bathroom. I watched it for a while. It didn't move, so I threw it in the toilet."

"Did you squish it and sniff it first?"

"I squished it, but I knew what it was. I didn't need to sniff it. Bert got me started sniffing bugs I'd squished. He still has bedbugs. I didn't know it before then, but bedbugs have a rotten wood smell, that's how dogs are able to sniff them out. I saw in on television. They had a beagle sniffing around a hotel room. He could direct the exterminator to the exact location of the bugs."

"I've seen that too. Do other insects have a distinctive smell?"

"No, just bedbugs.The guy is supposed to come back in two weeks, to a month. I told Albert to make sure it's two weeks. There's a final spraying after that.

"Albert's still putting his clothes back in his dresser drawers. I told him not too, but he wouldn't listen to me. Last night he offered me a blanket that had been on his bed before they sprayed. I said to him, 'Thanks, bud, but no thanks.' He said, 'It's cold, Mo, you should have more to keep you warm.' I said to him, 'I'd rather be cold than have to deal with those bugs again."

"Has your worker contacted you about any available apartments?"

"Not yet, but she's working on it. I have an appointment with her Wednesday morning. It has to do with the Elizabeth Fry Society and the anger management course I'm supposed to take. She's going to escort me to every meeting, so I don't get breached. My probation ends November 2nd.

"Guys, like Emile, keep asking me if I want to share a place with them, if they get one before me. I told him, "For one thing, my name's higher on the list than yours; I've been waiting longer than you have. For another, I just want to be by myself."

21 September 2012

Rain started Thursday afternoon and is expected to continue through the weekend. I had my umbrella and leather jacket, so I decided to venture to the park. As I was crossing Elgin Street, I met Albert coming the other way. We greeted each other and shook hands.

"Mo's up there," he said.

"Great, thanks Albert."

Standing in a covered doorway, to the underground parking lot, were Bert, Emile, Frank, Mo, Peter and his dog Scruffy.

I shook hands with Bert who seemed about to leave. He said to the group, "I'm supposed to meet Hoover under the Laurier Bridge."

Mo said, "I just walked past the bridge. Maryam and Ambrose are there, but nobody else."

"I'm going there to wait for him, " said Bert.

I went to shake Peter's hand; he waved me away. "Fuck off, Dennis. I'll say hello to you later. Right now I've got Bert leaving. I didn't even shake hands with him. Mo just stepped on Scruffy, I've got to get her settled and out of the rain. I've got to find some way of keeping her dry on the way home, all I have is this small umbrella."

"It's okay, Peter, I can see you're busy."

Mo said to Emile, "He's got no right to talk to Dennis that way."

Emile said, "Mo, just take it easy. Take a few deep breaths and count to ten."

"Everything's fine, Mo," I said, "Don't worry about me."

I asked her, "Any news about your apartment?"

"My worker phoned Albert earlier. She said nothing is definite. It could be good news, it could be bad. I have Albert's phone now. I tried to call them, but they must be at lunch. I'm just waiting for her call now.

"At two o'clock I'm going to meet a friend I haven't seen for over twenty years."

"Frank," I asked, "how is your new apartment?"

"The apartment is great. I've got lots of space, now I need furniture. All I have is an air conditioner, still in its box. That's what I use to sit on, sometimes to eat at. I just slide it around wherever I need it."

"Emile," I asked, "How is it going with your apartment application. Have you had any news?"

"I phoned my worker this morning. She wanted me to come in, but I said to her, 'We're talking now, just let me know what's going on. There's no point me coming in if there's no need.' The only really positive thing is that, on September 27, I get to see a doctor. I'll have a family doctor of my own. The one I had was from Cornwall, but he died.

"The doctor can verify that I need medical attention and that I need appontments at least six times a month. That way I qualify for a yearly bus pass. He can also sign the papers for O.D.S.P. (Ontario Disability Support Program) and all the other stuff, so I'll be able to get started on that. Right now, I got nothing."

"Okay, Dennis," said Peter, Now, I can say hello and shake hands with you. Scruffy is out of the rain and taken care of. This morning I got a new book and three new dvd's. After I get home I have enough to keep myself entertained all weekend."

"What book did you get, Peter?"

"I can't remember. It's all wrapped in plastic in the bottom of Scruffy's cart.

"What do you think of this weather? It's really coming down now. This is the worst it's been and it's going to keep up like this for three days, so we better get used to it. I brought my umbrella, I'm wearing a raincoat, I've got proper shoes on, but I'm still soaked from the crotch down.

"Did they tell you that Muff bit me today? It's not nearly as bad as the bites I've gotten from Scruffy, but it still hurts. I had a proper cover for Scruffy's cart, but I lent it to Darrell for Muff -- anything to get rid of him."

Mo answered Albert's phone. I couldn't hear the conversation. I saw the tears running down her cheeks. She dabbed at them with paper towel from her pocket.

"Was it bad news, Mo?" I asked, redundantly.

"It's a no go. Even with that fuckin' twenty page contract, they've decided they don't want to work with our program."

"The father seemed in favor of it, didn't he?"

"Yeah, it was just the daughter who didn't want anything to do with us. I don't know why my worker didn't have anything else lined up, in case this fell through."

"She'll have other places to show you, won't she?"

"Yeah, it's no problem."

"Everything will work out, Mo."

"Yeah, I know." She put on a brave face, but another hope was dashed. For now, it's back to Albert's place and the bedbugs.

I'm presently reading , "The Art of Happiness at Work," by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Howard C. Cutler M.D. When asked about self-understanding he said:

"Humility is a good quality, but there can be too much humility. This kind of low self esteem will have the negative effect of shutting out any possibility for self-improvement, almost by default, because the tendency of such a person would be to automatically react to the event with the thought, No, I cannot do this.

"In addition, I would also list an agitated state of mind as another obstacle for greater self-understanding. Since self-understanding demands a certain ability to focus on one's own abilities and personal character, a constantly agitated mind simply will not have the space to enter into any serious self-reflection.

"...when you have low self-esteem, then you underestimate your actual qualities and abilities. You belittle yourself, you put yourself down. This leads to a complete loss of faith in yourself."

In the same book, Dr. Cutler states, "Low self-esteem and underestimating of one's abilities can be paralyzing, stifling personal initiative and inhibiting the individual from exploring new opportunities. Ultimately, it can obstruct the realization of one's full potential, preventing the achievement of one's goals."

What I have observed, over the past two years is that what may seem no more than an inconvenience to myself, or other employed people -- such as obtaining a birth certificate, a health card, applying for available government assistance programs -- may be an insurmountable obstacle to those with mental conditions and alcoholism or other substance dependencies.

20 September 2012

I didn't learn my lesson yesterday. It was so cold this morning that my hands were balled in fists and, like a turtle, they were trying to pull them selves into my sleeves. I was eagerly anticipating Mo's news of whether of not she was accepted for her own apartment. This is something I have wished for since 13 December 2010 when I first met her. Now, it seems near to becoming a reality. The system my move slowly, but at least it moves.

When I arrived at the corner of Metcalfe and Slater I could see that Mo's spot was empty. I was disapointed, since I won't be seeing her at noon, due to a dental appointment. I saw Chris and Maryam. I crossed Slater and in front of Starbucks I met Scottish Dave.

"Good morning, lad." he said, "How've you been?"

"Great, Dave. You're looking well. I haven't seen you at the park lately."

"I'm not like some of those people, who pan until they have enough for a bottle or two, then sit around for the rest of the day. Noon is my work time, the best time to pan. I like to make enough to carry me over the weekend, or for a rainy day. We have lots of rain this season; when there's raining there's no panning.

I said, "I was hoping to see Mo this morning. Yesterday, she was to find out if she was accepted for an apartment of her own. I don't know if she 's absent because she was celebrating, or depressed because she didn't get it."

"I hope she gets it. She deserves a place of her own, where it's quiet. She's good people. I've known her a long time."

I said, "I hear that Rhino is in hiding."

"He should be, the lazy asshole."

"I heard that you guys lost a lot of stuff. Sparky said that his new sleeping bag was taken. I also heard that there was a fire."

"The fire was nothing. There was a lot of exageration."

I said, "So, where are you staying now, Dave?"

"Same place, in behind here."

"Does Darrell let you stay there?"

"I let Darrell stay there. That's been my place for the last year and a half."

"Emile told me, that Darrell said, only he and Muff were allowed to stay there."

"I know, I told him to say that."

"It's good seeing you ,Dave. You're looking great. I won't keep you from your work. Have a good day.

"Thanks! Bye, lad."


My dental appointment didnt take as long as expected, so I had a half hour to spend at the park. The first person I saw was Claude. I still can't get used to seeing him clean shaven.

"Hi, Claude, I was surprised to see you yesterday, panning by the church."

"I pan there a lot. Sometimes, I go up to Lyon."

"I guess it's because I only go out at noon that I don't see you. Take care, Claude. I'll catch you later."

"See you,"

At the park were Sammy, Sparky, Emile, Derek, Jimmy, Albert, Scott and Mo.

"Hi, Mo, do you have any news about your apartment?"

"My worker called this morning. They're still sorting out the details of the contract -- who's responsible if I cause damage, that sort of thing. It's the daughter that wants all this contract bullshit."

I said, "If they're working on a contract, that has to be good news."

"I guess so. I'm just tired of waiting. I asked my worker if I could get a sleeping bag, she said, 'We'll see what we can do,' -- you know, whatever."

"So how long has it been since you've had a place of your own?"

"Frank and I lived above the Vanier Grill, at Montreal Road and the Vanier Parkway, for five years; until he started beating me and the cops kept coming over. I had the place on St. Mary, with Carl, for nearly a year; until he stopped paying the bills and the rent. This past year has been the worst. I've been all over the place."

I said, "I'm sure it will all work out. By the way, I saw Dave this morning. He wished you all the best with your apartment. He said you deserved a quiet place of your own."

"That was nice of him."

"I also watched the documentary, 'Life on the Heater'. It was really well done."

"Yeah, Goober (Hoover) and I missed out on that one. I think they filmed Bert. I know he has a copy of the video. It was mostly about Rip and Faye."

Scott said, "It was Faye that stabbed him, wasn't it? No, It was Theresa -- got him in his junk."

Mo said, "Rip and Faye were both crazy. I think they're both still alive. I haven't seen them for a long time. Most of the others are dead. It was really wild to see Star as a puppy."

Scott and I were comparing scars and broken knuckles. Scott said, I've got a lot of scars from Winnipeg. This one on my middle knuckle was where I caught a guy's tooth. My hand got infected and swelled up like a grapefruit. He must've had rabies. I don't know how many times I've broken this outside knuckle on my right hand. I had to learn to hit with my left hand.

"One time I was in a fight with this guy. I can't remember his name. He tried to rape my street sister, and ripped her off for a hundred and fifty dollars to boot. I remember her name. I didn't know it at the time but he was a dilaudid dealer. After I beat him, a big native and a black dude came looking for me. Luckily for me, I was sitting in a bar with about thirty bikers.

"I talked to these two guys. I said, 'Hey, what would you do if somebody tried to rape and rob your sister?' They understood that. They said, 'We'll let it slide, but don't let it happen again.'

"A while later, my real sister got in a fight with this same guy. This lady is over six feet tall and knows how to fight. I guess the guy tried the same thing with her as he had with my street sister. She beat the shit out of him. The same two guys came after me. I said, 'Hey, I didn't have anything to do with it. I wasn't even there.' I told them that it was my sister who punched the guy out. They couldn't say much about that.

"I remember when I was a kid in Missisauga. There were three of us. We called ourselves the "Three Musketeers." If you saw two of us, you could be sure the third wasn't far away -- Dave, Dennis and myself. Dave's been dead thirty-two years now. I still have his picture. If there was a fire at my place, I'd grab that picture and jump out the window. I don't know what I'd do if I lost that. It's irreplaceable. Dennis is around somewhere, but I've lost contact with his parents and I don't know how to use a computer."

I asked, "How did Dave die?"

"Dave was nineteen. He and his brother were joy riding in a stolen car. They crashed it. It was such a mess, they couldn't tell who was driving -- it was that bad."

"Were you born in Missisauga?" I asked.

"Yeah, then I moved to Barrie. The cops were hassling me a lot, so I moved to Winnipeg. I was there for fifteen years. I have a son there. It's hard to pan handle in Winnipeg."

"I know," I said, "it's cold."

"It's cold and the Welfare system is really hard to deal with. Believe it or not, as bad as it is, it's better in Ontario."

Sparky said to Mo, "Mo, can I bum a cigatette?" She opened her white, plastic case, secured with a rubber band, and threw one to him and Scott.

"Miigwech," said Sparky.

Mo said to me, "That means thank you in Ojibway.

19 September 2012

I wore my leather jacket this morning. I regretted not wearing a sweater underneath and a pair of gloves. Mo was huddled in a winter coat, wrapped in a blanket, wearing mitts.

"Hi Mo, how's it going?"

"I'm freezing."

"Any news about your apartment?"

"Janique left a phone message with Albert, yesterday. The guy wasn't able to bring the contract at noon, but said he'd be there later. So, everything's still looking good. I'm supposed to meet with Janique at noon.

"Dennis, I just have to get out of that place." She was near tears. "This morning I found six bedbugs in the bathroom. I saw one walking up Albert's back towards his neck. I squished it. Now, he has the heebie jeebies about them. See the marks on my wrist. Someone told me that was a spider bite. They're supposed to be eating the bedbugs, not me. They seem to have their wires crossed.

"The exterminator is coming today, but I said to Albert, 'You could have had this problem cleared up weeks ago.'

"He finally put Ruth's clothes in a bag on the balcony. They'll be infested with bed bugs by now. She's probably the one who brought them in. When I moved in, there were no bugs, but Ruth and Nancy had been staying at Rick's and he has bedbugs.

"Can you watch my stuff for a while. I'm going to try to slip into Gabriel's Pizza to use their washroom. I'm usually good for once a day, before they start giving me dirty looks."

While Mo was away, Emile arrived. He said, "I had a bad start to my day. It was raining. I was panning at Sparky's office when a patrol car pulled up. The cop said, 'What are you doing, Emile?' I said, 'I'll be honest, I'm just trying to get some money for food. I haven't even been drinking.' The cop said, 'Would you do us a favor? Would you have a look at this building and tell us the number?' He wrote me a ticket. He said, 'Since you've been honest with us, and since we haven't seen you panning here before, the ticket is just a warning. We know you guys don't pay these tickets, and when they go to court they're usually thrown out, but the law is changing. People with unpaid tickets are going to be doing jail time.'"

"That's just great! I wouldn't be panning if I had enough money to eat, let alone pay a ticket. If I had money I'd have a roof over my head. I went to the place yesterday and Darell told me that only he and Muff are allowed to stay there now; as if he has a lease on a space behind a dumpster"

I said to Mo, "I know you have to work, so I'll leave you now and see you at noon. Bye."

"See you at noon, Dennis," said Emile and Mo.

On my way down Metcalfe Street I came across Sunny James.

"Hi Dennis, did you hear Rick Mercer's rant last night?"


"Have you got a minute to listen to it?"


"So Parliament is back and we learned this week that the cornerstone of Stephen Harper’s fall agenda will be yet another big budgetary omnibus bill. Well of course it will.

Prime ministers, they love an omnibus bill. Government tables a budget, they know every member of their party has to vote for the budget or they lose their jobs. And let's face it – a lot of these characters don't have that many options in this world. And seeing as they know that everyone is going to vote for it, instead of just putting budgetary things in the budget, you know – math, they fill it full of goodies no one’s even heard of before.

In the last budget, in the "jobs budget" there was a provision that allows the CIA and the FBI to come across the border and arrest Canadians on Canadian soil. And I know I sound like a conspiracy theorist with a tin foil hat just saying it out loud but it's true. It happened and there was no debate. And that's just the tip of the iceberg.

Even some of Harper's own MPs will admit privately that they had no idea what was in that last budget. Just that it was 400 pages. You know how you and I just click "accept" when entering into an iTunes contract? That's how MPs vote on the budget. And now we find out we’re getting another omnibus bill. Aren't we lucky? In North Korea they only get one every year.

And listen don't take my word for it. One of the most elegant pleas ever made against omnibus bills was made not that long ago in the House of Commons by a handsome young man by the name of Stephen Harper. He said it, omnibus bills are anti-democratic, they’re a slap in the face to MPs and voters.

See, this fascinates me. Because it's one thing if you don't know any better, but he clearly does, he just doesn't care. Who does that? I wouldn’t want to spend five minutes in that guy’s head for all the money in the world. Because he knows right from wrong here, he's on record, but he has decided it's okay to do wrong in order to advance the right. And democracy no longer enters into it."

Sunny showed me a picture of a Sun Car, a solar powered car. "How would you like to have one of these parked in your garage?"

"It's beautiful, Sunny, how much does it cost?"

"As far as the cost is concerned, they will be less expensive, per capita, than the nine billion that the government is spending on sixty-five fghter planes, to bomb other countries and take more lives.

"A friend and I want to start production of these at the GM Auto Assembly Plant in Oshawa. Have you heard that they're shutting that down? They're also closing down plants in Windsor and Ottawa. The reason is higher gasoline prices. Unemployment will rise by 3700.

"Dennis, the cops stole all my gear. I just left my cart for a minute to get something to eat, when I got back it was gone. I'd just stocked up for winter. I talked to the cops, they said it was the N.C.C. (National Capital Commission). I don't believe them. I've sent emails to the Mayor and the Councilman for my area. Could you help me to get my stuff back?"

"I don't know what I can do, Sunny. I'll look into it and do whatever I can."

"Thanks, Dennis, anything you could do, I'd really appreciate it."


Noon at the park was alternately warm and cool; warm when the sun was shining, cool when clouds obscured the sun. The congregation today included Frank, Emile, Sparky, Hoover, Elaine, Peter 'Lonely Heart', Mo, Peter and his dog, Scruffy.

I asked Elaine, "How do you like your new apartment?"

"It's beautiful. It's at 12 Lebretton Avenue, above Pho Bo Ga Vietnamese Restaurant, near Somerset. You should come over for supper. I made stew. Peter was over last night.

"We've got a huge king size bed. I hardly even know that Hoover is there."

Hoover said, "I know Elaine's there every time she punches me in the stomach."

Sparky was quiet. wearing a button on which was stamped 'Stephen Harper Hates Me", referring to our Prime Minister's policies concerning the homeless. These buttons were made by the Public Service Alliance of Canada, the largest union representing federal public servants. Employees who wore these buttons to work were asked to remove them. This was considered, by employees, as a violation of their freedom of expression.

I said to Sparky, "Where are you staying now?"

"I'm staying at the Sheps. They won't let me in at the Salvation Army. I still haven't heard anything about them getting me an apartment."

'Lonely Heart, said, "Are those the jeans you got from Zellers? I hear that you didn't pay for them."

"These are the jeans I got from Zellers. My worker gave me the money to pay for them. I had it with me, but there was nobody around, so I just walked out with them."

Lucy came by in her electric wheelchair. She pulled out her change purse and gave everyone a one dollar coin. Jason, from the Odawa Center, Bannock Bus, handed out energy bars. He advised everyone of locations where they were providing meals, socks and underwear. He also asked if he could take a group photo for publicity purposes. Everyone obliged. The Odawa Native Friendship Center is a non-profit organization providing services to Ottawa's Aboriginal Community.

The Bannock Bus is a mobile unit that delivers a hot nutritious meal during the
evenings, Monday to Friday, to Ottawa’s Aboriginal homeless population. The
Bannock Bus fills a void, as most programmes in the city offer lunch but not a meal
in the evening. The Bus travels around the city to the popular hang outs for the
Aboriginal Homeless population. They always have bannock on hand, a traditional
Aboriginal comfort food. The programme also offers referrals, clothing, blankets and
hygiene products for the homeless and those at risk of homelessness.

Peter 'Lonely Heart' said, "I'm mot exactly homeless, I have a roof over my head, but I'm just staying with a friend. She could kick me out any time. We're just barely scraping by."

Jason said, "That's okay, we also provide services for those at risk of being homeless."

September 19, 2012 at 10:32am
September 19, 2012 at 10:32am

Cost to the Public for Keeping a Person in Jail

Canadian statistics from 2006 show an average of 110 persons per 100,000 population are in prison. The United States average is 738 per 100,000. On any given day, approximately 35,000 adults are locked-up in Canadian jails, giving us one of the highest incarceration rates among western industrialized countries.

Another 120,000 are under supervision in the community. Studies show that putting criminals in jail protects the public, but it does not prevent crime. Recidivism rates are estimated at between 50 per cent and 80 per cent.

There are approximately 190 prisons and jails across Canada. Seventy-six are under federal supervision and the provinces and territories look after 114. British Columbia has nine prisons. Persons serving a sentence of more than two years are sent to a federal prison. Those serving less than two years go to provincial jails.

Correctional services cost taxpayers close to three billion dollars a year. If you include policing and court costs, the total would be approximately $10 billion.

It costs $88,000 a year to keep a male in federal prisons, but only $55,000 to keep the same person in a provincial jail.

There are approximately 40,000 youth custody admissions. Youth custody is not reported in all provinces and current statistics are unavailable. Many are in deferred or open custody.

In 1996, courts were given the option to impose conditional sentences served in the community. The cost to the public ranges from $5 to $25 per day. Many citizens oppose conditional sentences and express outrage when a judge allows a convicted person to stay at home instead of going to prison. Hardened criminals and repeat offenders should not qualify for conditional sentences.

However, I have slowly come to accept conditional sentencing for certain offenders. Those sent to prison associate with hardened convicts. They learn how to be better criminals and are exposed to drugs, needle sharing, HIV and AIDS. Some are brutalized by other inmates. Our current prison system with overcrowding and other problems makes rehabilitation difficult for some and impossible for others. Those who have spent time in prison are often worse than they were before incarceration.

Sending someone to prison should be a last resort. Drug addicts, alcoholics and those with mental health issues need treatment and rehabilitation. Young people should be discouraged from getting involved with gangs and drugs. Restorative justice programs are worth trying. Anything would be better than the current system.


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September 19, 2012 at 10:11am
September 19, 2012 at 10:11am

Injustice (Legislated )
Criminalizing Canada’s Poor: Will the ‘real’ criminals please stand up?

Rodney Graham
December 13, 2005

He taunted her as she walked back and forth on the sidewalk in front of the officer’s Café. “How ugly you are!” he shot at her, “You have lost your teeth. Are you trying to hide?”

To summarize this passage from Les Miserables’, Inspector Javert arrests Fantine, after she lashes out at the ‘Jim dandy’ and scratches him. Arbitrarily and on the spot, Javert the policeman sentences her to six months in jail. Most know the story. She is a poor woman, moral, but because of circumstance (She loses her job) and is slowly forced into more and more desperation until she sells her hair to a barber, then ends up on the street trying to make enough to feed her child Cosette.

A portrait of injustice – but is it a good example of contemporary society? Some would say yes. Hypocrisy, double standards and corruption – We have it now, as then, and perhaps even more now.

There are more homeless in Canada per capita than in the U.S. Canada has one of the highest per capita rates of homelessness of any developed nation in the world. We have about 200,000 homeless. The U.S., with a population nine times the size of us has 750,000.

While welfare rates have been cut in several provinces in recent years, and housing is an issue in almost every province; there has also been a rise in laws directly targeting the less fortunate.

In Toronto, Canada’s largest city there have been activities resembling a war with activist groups and coalitions of groups demonstrating against police “sweeps” similar to those carried out in large U.S. cities. “The system has cut welfare rates to the poor in Ontario, there are not enough shelters, and now the top it off they are implementing a new law making it illegal to sleep in public areas. It is obscene, it’s immoral.” Said John Clarke of Ontario Coalition Against Poverty in Toronto. “Bill 8 targeted squeegee kids and others, people who were not committing a crime. Other provinces are now copying our provincial by-law.”

“This week, Toronto City Council voted into place legislation that will authorize the clearing of homeless people from City Hall Square and other city owned squares.” Clarke said, “Municipal bylaw officers and cops are already using city rules to clear public parks and other spaces where people try to survive. This latest move complements the Provincial Safe Streets Act that has been used to persecute those who panhandle and squeegee. Urban space is being redeveloped so as to put the emphasis on upscale commercial and residential property. The poor and homeless face a brutal wave of social cleansing and the kind of legislation I have just alluded to is the legal face of this vile attack. Defying and defeating this inhuman assault on those driven into poverty will be a hard fought battle we can’t afford to lose.”

In BC, the Safe Streets Act was just implemented late in 2004. The fines ranging from $86 to $115, to be issued by police as tickets similar to traffic offences, are the finishing touches of the Liberal government’s Safe Streets Act and amended Trespass Act. It is similar to Bill 8 in Ontario, which was implemented four years ago. But Bill Burrill, president of Together Against Poverty in Victoria BC says their new law is more aimed at panhandlers in BC. “The politicians claimed they were targeting inappropriate behaviour or aggressive panhandlers,” Burrill said, ” I don’t believe that — the criminal code clearly covers all acts inappropriate in public. They don’t need this Safe Streets Act at all -It is specifically targeting panhandlers. It has been brought into place to “beautify” the streets for rich tourists.” The law is so new it hasn’t been challenged yet. There is a challenge to bill 8 in Ontario however.

Other cities were watching closely as National Anti Poverty Association challenged Winnipeg’s draconian anti-panhandling by-law. It dragged on for five years and was finally settled out of court with Winnipeg city hall finally giving in. The Winnipeg law restricted where and when panhandlers could work. Winnipeg had implemented it in 1995 and interestingly, their own lawyers had advised against the law agreeing with activists that the criminal code was sufficient to deal with panhandlers. The police even advised against the law. City council did what Toronto’s city council did. They ‘vetoed’ the findings and advice of those who warned against it and voted for the by-law against the advice of the ‘experts’ and did what the business community demanded. Winnipeg also implemented the very first anti-squeegee kid by-law in 1998. Again, against the advise of a 50 member task force made up of people from various social agencies and police. Almost unanimously, the number one recommendation was to licence the squeegeers and allow then to continue. There has been no challenge to the squeegee law, however. Winnipeg’s panhandler by-law was repealed without going to trial and replaced with one focusing only on aggressive behaviour while panhandling. So NAPO won in principle. Amazingly, Winnipeg city council is again proposing a new anti-panhandler by-law.

“We need to find a better way to deal with poverty and desperation,” said Dennis Howlett, Executive director of NAPO, (National Anti Poverty Organization) in Ottawa. ” The reason these laws are being passed is because of pressure from small businesses in municipalities.”

Howlett said that the costs of trails of panhandlers costs taxpayers a great deal of money when you add to it all the cost of defending unjust laws in Canada — money that could be spent on housing for the homeless.

Echoing his statements are activists across the nation who are enjoying tremendous success in defending panhandlers and squeegee kids in court. The Ticket Defence Committee in Ottawa has defended over two hundred people fined under the Safe Streets Act. Howlett said the activists and lawyers have been ‘tremendously successful’ in having charges thrown out. The defence is simple — The fine would pose an undue hardship on someone who has no money.

In Toronto, lawyers and activists have tackled it another way: arguing that the law is against the Charter Rights of the panhandlers and squeegee kids. The Act may also be unlawful since only the federal government can introduce laws regarding criminal matters. BC has gone against the spirit of that argument apparently and their anti-panhandling law was upheld after a challenge by NAPO. There has been no appeal yet from NAPO on the decision and a challenge to the new Safe Streets Act is a higher priority. In the United States advocates have been very successful defending the poor citing cruel and unusual punishment as outlined in the American Constitution. Several American cities have actually had to repeal their anti-panhandling by-laws and laws targeting the poor on the street.

Along with many judges across Canada who have a conscience — Judge Edwin Zimmerman, a judge in Winnipeg, where the first squeegee kid law was enacted, not only threw one of Canada’s first anti-squeegee charges a few years ago, but added, ” I think you’re doing a fine job — you’re dismissed!’

Some of the Canadian cities with laws concerning panhandling are: Ottawa; Quebec City; Toronto, Winnipeg; Calgary and Vancouver. Quebec City, Montreal, Winnipeg, the province of Ontario, and the province of BC have laws targeting squeegee kids.

Is there a need for new laws targeting the poor? When questioning the public about it many will say, ‘yes, because of the crime on the street’. But they are not aware that neither panhandlers nor squeegee kids are likely to harm them in any way. In fact, statistics show the opposite– that the homeless and poor on the street are often victims of violence from the general public!

Crime on the streets

I have spent many hours observing the behaviour of people on the street. People would often say something rude to the squeegee kids — the same with panhandlers. But not the reverse. I’ve seen worse. One day at Portage and Broadway in Winnipeg a young girl and her boyfriend were squeegeeing. A group of kids in an SUV were at the stoplight. As they pulled away one of them threw and ashtray and hit the girl squarely on the temple. Blood poured from her head. I could hear the people in the SUV wailing with laughter as the cowards fled the scene — the girl required 40 stitches. When I told the police they were totally uninterested.

I was on Osborne Street in Winnipeg another day. I witnessed an employee of a tattoo parlour come out of his store and punch a Native male in the face several times until the poor man fell to the ground. At least fifteen people sat sipping their expensive drinks in the sidewalk section of an upscale restaurant. When I asked no one was willing to testify or get involved. Yet another incident in friendly Manitoba: I was not there but heard about it from several youths on the street. A group of males jumped out of a van and beat two squeegee kids severely with golf clubs. When others ran a few short blocks and told police the police said, ‘ The squeegee kids shouldn’t have been on the street it’s their own fault.’ The police refused to search for the van even though they were given the licence number. Yet the chambers of commerce nation wide are hounding the civic politicians to ‘protect’ the public from panhandlers and squeegee kids.

I dressed in shabby clothes one day and tried to pan on Portage Avenue in Winnipeg. I have never seen such rude behaviour in my life. I think most people would suffer extreme trauma if they tried to panhandle. I don’t think most people enjoy it actually; they simple do it because they are extremely poor and desperate.

Whereas it is a given that there is crime on the street, the focus of public attention is not being directed by the system or the mainstream media to the real culprits. Meanwhile contemporary law and an attitude leaning in recent years towards less sympathy for the less fortunate has made it a hard go for some people who are merely trying to subsidise a very low fixed income by begging or squeegeeing.

In Barbara Murphy’s book The Ugly Canadian, the decline and fall of a caring society, she states,’ we take pride in our toughness now, not our generous social policies. We warn the poor and sick to keep their heads up; they’ve had their innings. The years of compassion are over (the 40s to the 80s) Today we’re playing hardball…concern about the deficit turned to anger and the public looked for someone to blame. Two items everyone could understand stood out: The deficit and social programs. Even though very little of the deficit could be blamed on social programs’.

Why the trend to Legislation?

Laws against the poor are not new. Vagrancy and panhandling by-laws have been around for over a hundred years – or since the beginning of your nation. The resurgence is mainly because of overly eager civic politicians wanting to placate the desires, moral or otherwise, of the business community.
In 1982 political scientist James Wilson and criminologist George Kelling co-authored an article in Atlantic Monthly titled “Broken Windows”. They claimed that the best way to fight crime was to target the disorder that precedes it, such as: panhandling, garbage, derelict buildings, and graffiti.

New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani adopted the Broken Windows Theory and implemented a community-policing strategy focused on order maintenance… graffiti washed nightly from subway cars, $1.25 subway turnstile-jumpers arrested, trash picked up. Minor, seemingly insignificant quality-of-life crimes were found to be the tipping point for violent crime. When New York “windows” were repaired, crime dropped – or so the bureaucrats claim. Canadian cities took note and soon Toronto initiated Bill 8.

Bill 8 is province wide in scope and targets squeegee kids as well as other actions deemed anti social behaviour. Activist and director of Ontario Coalition Against Poverty, John Clarke is a big opponent of it and says a group of activists are challenging it. Here is an excerpt from Bill 8:
‘…This is one simple way that citizens measure their quality of life. They want to go shopping or take their children to a park or just go out for a stroll after seeing a show without hassle. They don’t want to worry about encountering behaviour that poses a safety hazard, and yet this is exactly what is happening in Ontario.

Activities such as aggressive solicitation, squeegeeing and the disposal of dangerous objects in parks have compromised the safe use of public places.’

But squeegee kids and panhandlers are extremely unlikely to rob, assault, and rape anyone. It is true, however, that downtown areas of cities are where the highest rates of crime can be found. Interestingly, in Winnipeg where the first anti-squeegee kid by-law was implemented in 1998, drug dealing, which is truly a crime, was rife in Winnipeg. But the Business Improvement Zone (BIZ) politicians, and the police launched no such campaign as was launched against squeegee kids. Why? Squeegee kids and panhandlers were singled out – the poor people on the streets.

Today, you can walk down Osborne Street and immediately see the dealers, pimps, and gang members at the corner of River and Osborne St, standing around looking cool. If one were to check their criminal records it would stretch 10 blocks long. They stand around boldly, as if proud of themselves. Seven years have passed since the squeegee kid by-law and ‘sweep’ of the scruffy looking squeegee kids. ‘Real’ crime in the village is still the same — or even higher. Is it because drugs and other ‘real’ crimes are good for business–but poor/scruffy people are not?
It’s about aesthetics

“It’s a comfort issue”, said Arlne Peltz, Lawyer for NAPO; the group that successfully challenged Winnipeg’s panhandler law five years ago, ” That’s what we’ll show in court, Peltz had said.

The NAPO statement of claim against the Winnipeg panhandler by-law had argued that the true purpose of the panhandler by-law was to distance and separate panhandlers from the rest of the population – to avoid discomfort of proximity to indigents on the street. That’s the story you will get from many an activist — it’s about comfort and aesthetics. Many cities even called their downtown ‘revitalization’ projects ‘beautification’ projects.

Desperate, but not criminals

Every generation thinks the present generation of kids worse than the previous. That’s according to a study done by two Guelph researchers in Ontario -O’Grady and Sprott. They also stated that most people have already made up their minds about homeless youth but they would like to know if the “experts” agree. I’m not a big fan of “experts” especially when it comes to social issues. I have seen their work before and have disagreed many a time but O’Grady and Sprott seem to have made some good points.

Sprott stated that fear is fueling the passage of laws designed to keep schools and society safe from violence, policies that Sprott says are often based more on anxiety and assumptions than reality. Recent examples include the Ontario provincial Safe Streets Act that allows police to ticket people for squeegeeing and outlaws panhandling in spots where the right-of-way is impeded (such as near bank machines and transit stops).

Legislation that dictates where and when street youth can panhandle does not even begin to address the real problems kids face O’grady and Sprott’s study showed that hysteria and paranoia have much to do with people’s perceptions of youth today, especially homeless youth. For example, he believes that people’s consternation with squeegee kids does not have a lot to do with the youths themselves.

His study on squeegee kids included interviews with more than 50 Toronto teens who were involved in squeegee cleaning and 50 who did not clean car windows for money.

The findings revealed that squeegee kids were less likely to sell drugs, commit crimes and engage in violent behaviour than other less-visible street youth were. Squeegee kids also had a better mental outlook… Ironically whole new laws are being implemented to criminalize these people and prevent them from working. The first law was implemented in friendly Manitoba. There are several new laws targeting poor youth in Canada. These laws were brought into being with relative ease with the business communities attending all the city hall meetings across our nation to be careful and make sure these “criminals”‘ are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. In the space of a few short months the anti-squeegee kid by-law in Winnipeg was implemented.

Interestingly, youth advocates across Canada have been lobbying for decades literally for the implementation of new laws– to raise the age of consent so that sexual predators in our communities would not victimize young people. The age of consent in Canada is 14 years old. Why have they not been successful? The politicians seem so eager to please the businesspersons across our nation – the poor and scruffy people – people who are not aesthetically pleasing to consumers are quickly confronted with conviction, yet the most vulnerable in our great country are ignored, as are their advocates!

The following is an excerpt from the North American Street Newspaper Association website: ‘A report put out earlier this year by the Washington-based National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty (NLCHP) reviewed the punitive policies in 50 U.S. cities. It found that in 49 cities where the information was available, 86 per cent have laws that restrict begging. During the last two years, 12 per cent of those cities have enacted new laws restricting begging, and 73 per cent have laws restricting sleeping and/or camping outdoors.

In many ways (videotaping or monitoring) serves more as a deterrent,” says Michael Stoops, project director of the Washington-based National Coalition for the Homeless. “No private security guard or police officer’s going to make themselves look foolish in front of a camera. But it’s hard to get patrols out there on a regular basis. So we find it’s best to educate homeless people about what their rights are and to give them the name and address of the local civil liberties attorney.”
“We found litigation to be the best way to stop a law from being passed or enforced,” says Stoops. ‘

In Toronto, police reform lawyers like Mark Wainberg are only beginning to look at the possibility of launching a class-action suit against the police. But in U.S. cities, lawsuits on behalf of the homeless are common

Laws against poor encourage violence. According to several studies in the United States it is the homeless and desperate youth who have suffered assaults and been victims of crime – perpetrated by non-homeless individuals in the general public. When poor people are assaulted on the street they almost never report it. But the media blows it up big when a poor person is provoked or attacks someone of the general public.

In The U.S. during the years (1999-2003) advocates and homeless shelter workers have seen an alarming rise in reports of homeless men, women, and even children killed, beaten, and harassed. Since 1999 National Coalition for the Homeless has been compiling records of abuse against the homeless in America. In 2003, nine homeless people died as a result of beatings by non-homeless individuals. Dozens were assaulted on the street. These numbers are probably far higher, however, because most homeless people do not report abuse. There has not been a similar study in Canada.

Groups like National Coalition for the Homeless in the States have been successful in challenging unjust laws and in spreading the word: “Instead of the compassionate responses that communities have used to save lives in the past two decades, the common response to homelessness is to criminalize the victims through laws and ordinances that make illegal life-sustaining activities that people experiencing homelessness are forced to do in public,” said Donald Whitehead, Executive Director of the National Coalition for the Homeless, who is himself formerly homeless.

As it becomes increasingly difficult to afford housing, this country is turning to jails instead of creating affordable housing. These individuals and families are arrested for committing such illegal acts as sitting or standing on sidewalks and napping in parks. Whitehead stated, “At the national level, we see a relationship between municipalities’ efforts to make homelessness a crime and the increases in hate crimes and violent acts directed at homeless people in those cities.”

A woman I spoke to on the street in Winnipeg made and interesting comment…
‘ Yes, there is a lot of crime on the street, she said ‘and there’s a group of unproductive people who are lazy and dishonest. There should be something done about it. But I am not talking about panhandlers or squeegee kids…’

Reprinted from Streetsheet, Canada
© Street News Service: www.street-papers.org

September 10, 2012 at 5:53pm
September 10, 2012 at 5:53pm

18 September 2012

This morning, as I was crossing Metcalfe Street, I met Steve.

"Good morning, Steve."

"Good morning, Dennis. I don't know if Mo is down there or not."

"No, I saw someone different there. I don't know who it is."

"Have a good day."

"You too, Steve."

I was curious to know who was in Mo's spot. It must be someone she knows, and who knows that she won't be there -- no one else would dare. As I approached, I recognized Daniel standing, Emile squatting and Mo sitting cross legged on the sidewalk. A lady stopped and handed Mo a folded five dollar bill.

She said, "This is for yesterday -- remember, I said I didn't have anything with me, but would catch you tomorrow? Well, here I am."

"I remember. Thank you so much."

"Bless you," I said.

Mo said to Emile, "This is kind of embarrasing, but yesterday that lady stopped by. She asked if I'd like a coffee and, maybe, a bagel with cream cheeze. I said, 'What I really need are tampons.' She was kind enough to get me some."

"That was nice," replied Emile.

I asked Mo, "Have you heard anything more about your apartment?"

"Today is the day. They've sent the faxes. I find out at noon what the verdict is."

"Congratulations!" I said.

"We'll see."

"Emile," I said, "you shaved."

"Yeah, it happens."

"Have you heard any more about getting an apartment near Frank's place?"

"No, but I'd sure like to. They have some nice units there."

"Mo," I said, "will you be at the park at noon?"

"I'll be there with bells on."

"I'll leave you then, so you can get some work done."

"I'll see you. Now, if I can just get rid of these bozos."

17 September 2012

I was greeted this morning, as usual, by Grant and Steve.

"Good morning, Grant, Steve."

"Good morning, Dennis," said Steve. I think Mo's there this morning."

"Thanks, Steve, have a great day."

I saw Mo talking to a woman, who handed her a package in a gray plastic bag. The woman smiled at me. I said, "Bless you!" She winked at me and left.

I asked Mo, "Was that your worker?"

"No, I ran out of tampons. That lady was kind enough to buy me some."

I asked, "So, how did it go, Friday, with your viewing of the apartment?"

"It was good. The place is different than I imagined. It's on the corner of Montreal Road and Lavergne. That's a good location for me. My worker, Janique, said it was a large bachelor. I was expecting one large room, but the kitchen is separate. It's the same size as the living room. The place is rather narrow, so I'll have to get a futon, or something that folds up. A mattress would take up too much space. I wouldn't be able to move around.

"The guy's daughter was with him. She had all sorts of questions like, 'Will the Salvation Army pay for any damages?' Janique, had never been asked that before, so she has to check with her office and get back to them.

"I think if it was just the father I had to talk to there wouldn't have been any problem. Maybe if I'd been dressed as a skid it would have gone better. As it was, I wore a dress and makeup. That's what Janique told me to wear. I don't know what's going to happen. She's coming to see me at noon, so then I should know for certain.

"They keep asking me why Emile misses his appointments with them. I don't know. She asked if they should keep wasting their time on him if he isn't that interested. I said, "If I were you, I'd drop him."

I said, "Emile will be happy as long as he can find a woman who will take him in for the night."

"Exactly! Are you going to be at the park at noon? How be I see you then. I haven't made a cent so far. I'm p.m.s.ing, and menopausing, just generally pissed off."

"I'll be there. I didn't come Friday because of the rain. I didn't think anyone would be out."

"We were there, huddling around."

This afternoon, at the park, was interesting. The weather was pleasant, everyone was cheerful. The congregation included, Mo, Marilyn, Emile Sparky, Frank, Jimmy, Lou, Albert, Glen and his dog Capone.

“Hi Mo,” I said, “How are you doing?”

“A lot better than this morning. I actually made some money.”

Emile said, “I nearly had a job this morning. A guy came by the Sally yesterday and asked a bunch of us if anyone had experience raking asphalt. Inusik said, ‘I’ve never done that kind of work, but I can learn.’ He’s from Baffin Island, what would he know about asphalt? All they have there is ice. Are they going to pour hot tar on ice?

“I told the guy, ‘I can do anything you want. I’ve worked hot tar, cold tar and cement.’ The guy said, ‘Fine, meet me here at 8:00 tomorrow morning. I’ll drive you to the site.’ I said 'Great, I’ll see you here tomorrow morning.’

“I even went to a construction site to steal a cooler, so I’d have water to drink throughout the day. This is it here, I’m sitting on it.

”This morning I was on the steps at 8:00, right where I was supposed to be. I waited two hours. The guy was a no show. I heard that he picked up some other guys at the Mission. So, here I am, I gave up my morning, and now I don’t have a plan for the rest of the day.”

Sparky said, "Hey, do you want to know what I did today? This morning, after I got out of bed at the Sheps, I had a shower and shampood my hair."

"What did you use on your hair, Sparky?" I asked.


Mo said, "a shower and using designer products on your hair. I bet that doesn't happen very often. Sparky, some of us do that every morning."

Janique and Danielle, the Salvation Army Housing Outreach workers came by.

Mo asked Janique, “Has there been any word on my apartment?”

“We’re going to be checking on that this afternoon. We had to make sure all the paperwork was filled out and signed.

Mo said, “I don’t think I’ll get that place. Do you?”

“I don’t see why not,” said Janique.

“I got the feeling that the daughter didn’t like me.”

“I didn’t get that impression, but we should find out for sure this afternoon. I think the daughter was just being cautious. If we can’t get you in there under the Salvation Army, we can submit the application through the city. Don’t worry, you did fine.”

“I wish they would tear that wall down between the kitchen and the living room.”

“Yes, it does seem odd, but don’t start thinking about tearing walls down. We don’t want that.”

“Have you been able to make and headway with my identification. I really need my medical card to have this pain in my legs looked at.”

Janique said, “You had arranged that through Oasis, hadn’t you. Maybe we can put some pressure on them. Do you know who you were dealing with there?”

“It was a white chick with blue eyes.”

“Well, that covers about half the city. Do you know anything more about her?”

"I think she was married to a black guy, because her kids, in the photo on her desk, looked mulatto."

"Anything else?"

"I think her last name was, something like, Havasaki."

"Mo," I said, "that sounds more like a drink order."

"That's all I know. She gave me a card, it may be in here somewhere. I know I have an appointment with her on the 26th, but I can't remember if that was August or September.

"Can I give you this card? I've been trying to contact the Elizabeth Fry Society for over a month. They're either on lunch, or they don't return my messages. It's my probie who wants me to contact them. It's about anger management, but I'm not angry. I get angry about having to see my probie every ten days. I get angry when people don't phone me back, but I'm not angry about Frank. That's all in the past."

Marilyn said, "Way to go girl. I'm glad to hear you say that, Mo."

Mo asked, "How about the check for my street allowance. Do you know when and where I'll be getting that?"

"I'm not sure what the date is for check disbursement, you guys would probably know better than I would. I'm pretty sure that we made application for your street allowance. I'll have to check. That was somewhat dependent on whether or not you get this apartment. When it comes in, we'll let you know. You can pick it up at our office."

Emile said, "When I was at the office last, I'm pretty sure, I saw a sign that said that checks were going out on the 27th.

"Do you know anything about how my place is coming along?"

Janique said, "You're on the list."

Emile said, "I was talking to Frank, he said there were some places vacant where he's living now, on Moriset."

"You'd be content living on Moriset? The reason I ask that is, we took some people there the other day. They looked at it and said they weren't interested. I told them, 'We'll cover the rent.' It didn't make any difference. You've seen the building? It wouldn't bother you?"

"I'll go anywhere, Moriset is fine. It has to be better than living in a box behind a dumpster."

Janique said, "Okay, we'll see if we can set up an appointment."

Sparky said, "Hey, does anybody know about my apartment?

"Hey, chesty, do you know about my apartment?"

Janique asked Mo, "Did he just call me chesty?"

Mo said, "Can you imagine what he'll say when you take him to view an apartment. 'I want a fuckin' apartment, right now.'

"Sparky, these aren't your workers. You'll have to get in contact with the people you deal with."

"Sparkles," said Janique, "Do you know the name of your worker?"

"No, she wrote it on a card, but I lost it."

"I'll try phoning a few people and try to get you sorted out."

"Okay, thanks."

After they left I asked Emile, "How was your weekend?"

"It was good, what I can remember of it."

I said, "Maybe it's better not to remember too much."

"Yeah, you're probably right there. I remember getting in a fight with Frank and Darrell, both at the same time. They were drunk and talking stupid, so I threw Frank down, then I threw Darrell down. Somewhere, in all that, I twisted my knee. I jumped down from that concrete wall, across the street, and I felt a sharp pain going through my knee. Maybe I broke it."

"It's time for me to go," I said and shook hands all around. "I'll see you tomorrow."

14 September 2012

This morning was pleasant. Steve greeted me waving a newspaper, "Good morning, Dennis. Are you going to keep out of trouble this weekend?"

"Not if I can help it, Steve. Have a good day."

"Mo's down there."

"Great, thanks Steve."

"Hi Mo, how did you sleep?"

"Great, when I woke up I thought it was 5:15, my usual time, but it was 6:15. I really had to scramble to get everything together. When I got outside the door, I realized that my keys were at the bottom of my bag. So, I just left the door unlocked. We always used to leave the door unlocked. We never had any problems."

"Weren't you afraid that someone would steal Albert?"

"They can have him. He was all pissed off last night because I came home late."

"Why, on earth, should he care what time you come home?"

"Ever since he fell down the stone steps, backwards, he hasn't been right in the head. Every woman he's been involved with, in any way, he falls in love with. Sometimes, I hear him talking in his sleep, 'Mo, I love you.'"

"Has he made any arrangements, with the Health Department, for an exterminator?"

"Yeah, somebody is supposed to come by on Monday, but I told Albert, 'I don't care.' If everthing goes well at my appointment this afternoon, I'll be out of here soon -- maybe, even next week.'

"He may come by later. He's out of cigarettes, so he'll probably be doing a butt run. He'll be wanting to bum a cigarette from me as well; but I smoke natives, he prefers a stronger cigatette."

"What are natives?" I asked.

"They're made from the scraps of what they use to make tailor-mades. The tobacco is supposed to be for cremonial purposes. It's not meant for human consumption."

"Who makes them?"


At $20 a carton, some young entrepreneurs from the Kanasatake reserve near Montreal are selling a lot of cigarettes.
The brands they are pushing may be unfamiliar to most people - Native and Mohawk Blend - but they come from a manufacturing plant on the American side of the Mohawk reserve in Akwasasne.

Making cigarettes has become an important business in Akwasasne. There are two manufacturing plants employing a couple of hundred people. The cigarettes are sold in native communities all across the United States, and now in some Canadian communities as well.

I was talking to Jimmy the other day. He said that smoking them gives him the dry heaves in the morning, and he's been coughing up blood. He figures it's not the liquor that gives him a hangover, it's the native cigarettes.

"On the number fourteen bus las night I saw, Pit's brother, Jimmy. He must live ear where Frank moved in, and where Elaine move out."

"I don't want to live near any of those people. My workere was surprised that I wanted to live in Vanier. She said a lot of hookers are moving from Vanier to Carlington, but there are still a lot in Vanier. I probably know them all. Bert wont live in Vanier. I've never had any problems there."

I said, "I've lived in Vanier. I liked it. I never had any problems.

"I couldn't believe how quiet Sparky was yesterday," I said.

"Yeah, that was something, wasn't it? I think he's still upset about being robbed. I've told those guys that sleep at the Sheps, or the Mission, "Don't store money in your socks." I said, "Put it in a plastic baggie and stuff it in your underwear. If someone touches your crotch, you're going to wake up."

"It's strange that Sparky and Emile were both robbed within days of each other."

Mo said, "I think it was Shannon who got Emile's money. When she was at the park I saw her rearroanging her bra a few times, as if something felt uncomfortable. I think that's where she hid Emile's money." Emile said, 'I had my hand down her top a few times. I'd have noticed if it was there.' I said, 'If she had it right at the bottom of her cup, you'd never know it.'

I said, "Emile told me that he was robbed by two guys and one of them kicked him in the head."

Mo said, "He put up a fight when the money was taken from his sock, but I kicked him in the head. He kept touching me. I warned him, "Next time you do that you're going to regret it. He put his hand on my thigh. I stood up and kicked him in the head. He tried it a second time, I kicked him again. You think he'd learn. He put his hand right on my crotch. I got up and kicked him with all my might. The third kick was the best. It connected with the back of his head, his head snapped foreward and bobbled -- just like one of those bobble-headed figures. He was out cold. Albert and I left shortly after that. Albert said, 'Do you think he's okay? Maybe he has a broken neck. I said, 'I don't care if he has." Then we left.

"He was by here this morning, he's okay. He was hanging around -- I finally had to tell him to move on. This is Friday, it's government pay week. I've got to make some money."

"Maybe I should move on."

"Whatever you like. You could go talk to Emile. I saw him going around the corner. He's probably panning in front of Timmy Ho's. I'll see you this afternoon anyway, I have to be at the park to meet my worker. She's coming at 2:00."

13 September 2012

This morning the sun was shining and Mo 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. They 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 Albert."

"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. Albert 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, Mo, I would never touch you. You don't have to worry about that.' I said, 'I've heard that before.'

"I wish Albert 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 Earl that Frank 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 John 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."

Mo said, "Peru 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 Mo, Bert, Sparky Glen and his dog Capone at the curb near the park. Mo was waiting for her worker. We saw a Salvation Army van pass by and stop near the park. Mo walked over, but the van left before she arrived. Shortly after, her worker arrived. They were gone for about twenty minutes.

While Mo was away I talked to Bert. 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 add 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 Albert has them too. They're everywhere.

"I talked to Claude 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 Daniel's place, while Daniel is away. He has his own key."

When Mo 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."

12 September 2012

Mo was in good spirits this morning. The sun was shining.

"Hi Mo," I said, "you have an appointment with your worker today, don't you?"

"Yeah, I'll be meeting Janique and Danielle at the park at 10:30. I have the same workers as Emile."

"What will they be talking about today?"

"Just details of the place I'll be moving into."

I said, "You must be excited. This is the first time since I've known you, that you'll be having an apartment of your own. You've always shared with somebody."

"Yeah, it's exciting and scary. It's been so long since I've lived alone, I'm not sure how I'll cope."

"It has to be better that living with bed bugs, and you won't have to put up with Albert's noises. You'll be able to watch English television, whatever programs you choose. There'll be no one to beat you."

"Yeah, that will all be good. I just worry about my mind. The last time in prison I was in the psych ward, under suicide watch because I kept stabbing myself with pencils. That was when they put me on Seroquel, it's an antipsychotic for schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. When I'm on that I don't hear the voices. Lately, it's been television commercials that are going around in my head, like the one for Ypo:

When I wake up in the morning I'm still asleep
I really don't want no toast
I want no water, no tea, no cereal
give me a yogurt drink I'm wanting first.

Ooooooh! Give me Yop! me mama oh
Yop! me mama when the morning come.

Give me Yop! me mama
Yop! me mama
Yop! for when the morning come...

I said, "Emile was really wild yesterday."

"Yeah, he was being a real asshole."

"He said he got rolled. Where did he get $140.00"

"The workers arranged that for him. It was his street allowance. On Monday he got a check for $150.00. With the last of his money he bought three bottles. Frank invited him over to his new place. Emile didn't even have bus fare. Frank, of course, is all proud because he has a bus pass.

"Emile is going to get the shit kicked out of him, or else he'll be exiled. I'd rather take the beating. Being exiled is hell.

"I saw Rhino this morning. He's been hiding out with Bert at Dow's Lake. He's afraid of Scottish Dave."

I asked, "How did that all come about?"

"Rhino was drunk. he was ten feet tall and juiced to the gills. He was in Starbucks performing when someone called the cops. They knew where he was staying so they went back there. They recognized Scottish Dave because of his record, and were holding him up against the fence. Dave was upset with Rhino. He said, 'I could have been breached.'

"That doesn't make sense to me. Dave said he took jail time instead of probation, because he knew he'd never show up for appointments. For missing appointments they'd put him back in jail. If he's not on probation he couldn't be breached.

"There's something funny. Dave tried to sell crack to an under cover cop and he gets probation? Crack is a narcotic, that's automatic jail time. I know. He does the same thing again and they only give him 180 days. That's unheard of! I think he's a chatter, someone who will rat out his friends. It's the same with Darrell.

"The exterminators are coming today. I just hope that Albert remembers to tell them about the day bed. The stuff they spray will completely soak the mattress. I've been sleeping in the middle of the room on an air mattress. I was thinking, there's no way they'll be able to hold onto plastic, but sure enough they were there. I could feel a bump in my sheet, and it moned, so I squished it and smelt my fingers. They had that rotten wood smell of bed bugs. In the morning I saw a streak of blood where I squished the bug.


At noon, at the park were Emile Frank, Peter 'Lonely Heart', Bert, Claude, Frank, Sparky, Cathy, Glen and his dog Capone.

As soon as I sat down Sparky asked me, "Dennis, how do you like my shades?"

"Very nice Sparky! Are they yours? I guess they're yours now."

"My worker took me shopping for clothes today. They didn't have everything I wanted, but I did get a nice winter coat and a belt. Now, I don't have to wear this dog leash to hold my pants up. When we got to the cash the guy said, 'Sparky, you need some sunglasses, don't you?' I asked, 'Can II have these?' He said, 'Go for it, Sparky.'"

Mo sat next to me. I asked, "How did it go with your worker today?"

"Really great!" she said. "Friday I go to see a place. Janique said it was the biggest bachelor apartment she's ever seen. The guy who owns the building is friendly to homeless people. I guess one of his family was homeless and they died.

"I asked what I should wear. She said, You don't have to dress fancy, but lose the bandana."

"I told her that I had paid all my bills and didn't have any money left. She said, 'Don't worry. We'll cover it.'"

I asked Mo, "Are they any closer to getiting you a health card?"

"They're going to take me to a doctor at a clinic tomorrow. I said to her, "Things aren't right in my head. I hear voices and they keep me awake all night. With them and the bed bugs I'm not getting much sleep at all.

"I told her that when I pee, there's blood. I cough up blood, then my nose starts bleeding. I'm bleeding everywhere. That's not right. I've got no energy. I can't keep food down.

"If I get this place, and it could be as early as September 20, I'm going to cut back on the drinking. She asked me, "Why do you drink?' I said, 'I drink to pass out, to get away fromthe pain in my legs. My hip feels like it's burning. I'm having seizures. I'm glad I haven't had any here. Yesterday, I had two at Albert's place. He didn't even notice. My eyes just rolled back in my head and my mind went blank for a while.

Bert answered a call on his cell phone. He handed it to Mo. "Albert," he said.

I heard Mo ask, "Did the Health Department guy come by to spray. He said he would... You told him what? I'm going to be coming home soon.'

Mo handed the phone back to Bert. She said, "That stupid, stupid man." Then she started sobbing. The sobbing turned to gasping. She reached into her back pack and pulled out her inhaler. After four puffs, the gasping stopped. Tears were still falling from her eyes.

I asked, "Did something go wrong with the exterminator?"

"Albert wouldn't let him spray. He said it would be an invasion."

"It is an invasion," I said, "an invasion of bed bugs."

Mo said, "After we sprayed Albert's room the first time, they don't seem to have gone back there. We found their nest under his bed and we soaked it with spray. Maybe they bite him and he doesn't react, but I see him scratching. I'm going to have to sleep on the balcony. That's the only way I can get away from them. They don't like the cold.

"That really pisses ne off. I paid him $400. for rent, I filled the fridge with groceries. He was supposed to buy more but he hasn't. He says he has no money. He shouldn't be spending it on the muk muks. I clean, I cook, I just can't take it any more."

11 September 2012

Today at the curb, by the park, were Jimmy, Albert, Cathy, Frank, Mo and Sparky. I sat on the siodewalk in front of Mo. Shortly after, Emile came staggering up the walk, followed by Shannon. The sides of his track pants were unsnapped, his shirt was off. He had a four foot length of gold chain, with two inch links, a pad lock attached to the end, wrapped twice around his neck.

Emile, Cathy and Frank immediately started arguing "What do you mean I'm acting like an asshole?" asked Emile? He started swinging the chain. Mo said, "Emile, if you hit Frank in the back of the head with that pad lock, I'm going to kill you. You know I mean it."

Emile sat down, "I'm sorry for being an asshole. I'm just waking up. I passed out in a park last night. You all know what that's like."

Mo said, "Been there, done that, couldn't afford the tee shirt."

Sparky, who was surprisingly sober, said, "I think Emile's still upset about being rolled last night."

I asked, "Is that right Emile? How much did they take? Was it a gang?"

"No," said Emile, "It was just two guys. They got a hundred and forty bucks, but I did quite a bit of damage to one guy. I had him in a head lock and was punching him in the face, when the other guy kicked me in the side of the head. Things are a bit confused after that."

Sparky asked, "Do you have my radio? I lost it twice yesterday."

I said, "That means you must have found it once."

"Yes, I did."

Cathy said, "Have you seen Frank's new apartment? I was there last night. It's gorgeous. The walls are freshly painted, the floors have been varnished. Frank's bedroom is as big as his living room."

Frank said, "They even gave me fifty bucks for groceries. Tomorrow they're going to see about getting me some furniture, even a television."

Mo said, "I've got an appointment to see an apartment in Vanier. It's six hundred a month."

I said, "You saw one on Beechwood didn't you?

"I had an appointment, but my worker cancelled at the last minute. They wanted seven ninety-five for that one. I'd only have fifty dollars left, after I cashing my check."

Two workers from the Housing Outreach Program of the Salvation Army came by. One said, Sparky, can we meet with you tomorrow around 10:30."

Sparky said, "Sure."

Mo said, "I'll make sure he's here, because I have an appointment with my worker tomorrow at the same time."

After they left Mo said, I got four dollars. Has anybody got any change? Emile, in the mesh pocked of your backpack I can see some change. Emile threw over two quarters and a dime.

Mo said, "Okay, I've got $4.60. I still need forty-five cents." Eveyone checked their pockets and came up with the needed change.

To Albert Mo said, "Honey, will you mind going to the World Exchange and picking me up a bottle?"

"Sure," said Albert, "and if they don't have Imperial? I've been there sometimes when they've been out."

"If they don't have it, don't bother getting anything. It would only make me sick."

"Frank," I asked, "Are you moving into the apartment that Elaine moved out of?"

"No, it's the next building on Moriset -- different apartment, different building. I'm really going to make it work this time."

Mo said, "Every Fall the workers try to get us off the street and into apartments, that way they don't have to bury so many.

Sparky pulled a new bottle of sherry out of his backpack. He cracked the seal, poured some into the cap and threw it over his shoulder. Then he handed the bottle to Mo, who poured some into her coke bottle, then passed it back to Sparky who took a sip bfrom the bottle. Mo then reached into her backpack for a large Sprite bottle of partly frozen water. She added water to the sherry then took a drink.

Frank said, "I'm going to get some sweet grass to smidge my apartment."

Mo said, "Sweet grass has a beautiful smell, especially when it's mixed with sage, burnt properly and wafted with an eagle feather. It's so relaxing and peaceful."

10 September 2012

I wore my Fall windbreaker today. The sky was overcast and there was a cool breeze blowing. The congregation was at the far end of the park. Mo walked toward me and we met at the sidewalk.

“I didn’t know whether or not you’d be coming," she said. "I was about ready to leave when I saw your head above the bushes. I’m feeling sick. I cooked some chicken from Loblaws and I’ve been throwing up all night. It didn’t affect Albert, but it’s the second time I’ve gotten sick after eating their chicken. I’m always careful to cook it thoroughly, same with pork, I know how sick it can make you. I'm going to leave now. I just want to lie down and take it easy today. I can’t even drink.

”You wouldn’t happen to have some extra bus tickets for Albert would you?”

“No, I’m sorry. I’m all out. I’ll have to get more at the convenience store.”

“I just thought I’d ask. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Take care, Mo. Get lots of rest, I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Hey,” said Emile, “Don’t I get a hug?”

“If I bend over, I might puke all over you.”

Emile put his wide brimmed hat upside down on his head and said, “Okay, I’m ready. How about my hug?”

The grass was still wet from the overnight rain. Sitting on the curb, near the railing, were Jimmy, Scott and Albert. On the lawn were Emile and Sparky. I sat between Jimmy and Sparky who, as usual, was lying on his side, resting on one elbow.

“Sparky," I said. I haven’t seen you for a while. How are you?”

“I just got back into town from Kingston. I spent the last week there. A friend took me. He wanted to get out of Ottawa for a while, just to have a change of scenery.”

“Did you enjoy yourself?”

“The first day was awful. A dog died, some women were fighting and one guy tried to commit suicide; but that was just the first day.”

“Were these friends of yours? Did the dog belong to one of your friends?”

“No, I didn’t know them.”

“I spent seventy dollars on food, but mostly I had meals, home cooked by friends I met.

“Since I got back, I lost my wallet. Could you give me another of those Tim Horton’s cards? The one you gave me before was in the wallet I lost.”

“Sure, Sparky.”

Jimmy put some Kleenex in Emile’s wide brimmed hat. “That’s for Sparky, he’s drooling.”

“He’s just drunk, that’s all.“

“Emile,” I said, “you’ve got a couple of fancy hats, since I saw you last.”

“Yeah, I’m starting to get a collection. This one has feathers around the brim. If I ever get lost in the woods, I can use them to tie flies for fishing. I lost most of my clothes at the Salvation Army. A friend, who’d been sleeping at the hut with us, was leaving town. He made a pile of all the stuff he couldn’t carry with him. There was a pair of size twelve work boots. I was going to bring them to Scott. There was also a pair of size ten, gortex winter boots with kevlar toes, heels and shanks. They were insulated and Thinsulated -- do you know what I mean? -- two layers of insulation. They came up to my knees. I'm guessing they were worth about $400.00. I stayed at the Sally Ann one night. The next day, I left my things in storage. They were locked and were supposed to be secure. I stayed at Catherine's for two nights.

"When I came back to the Sally, I went to bed 245, where I thought I had slept; but the locker was empty. It looked like my bed, same color blanket, made up like mine. I always make my bed after I get up in the morning. I went to the desk and asked the guy, ‘What bed was I sleeping in? I thought it was 245.' He checked and said, ‘You were in 295.’ I checked that bed and again, an empty locker. I was really pissed off. I figure the guys at the desk cut the lock and took my stuff.

“I went down and yelled at them, ‘I had two brand new pairs of boots in there, and a bottle and a half of sherry.’ One guy said, ‘Emile, are you ratting yourself out, telling us you brought liquor on the premises?’ I said, ‘I’m just being truthful.’ They said, ‘It shows on our record, that the contents of that locker were signed out.’ I said, ‘Well, I didn't sign anything out. I don’t believe that. You guys cut the lock and took my new boots. They were so new they didn’t even have dirt on the treads. You don’t want to see any of us building up a stock of anything.' I stormed out." I was living outside for four months and after one night at the Sheps and one night at the Mission I've lost everything.

"I've been getting these bites all around the waistband of my track pants." He pulled his pants down to expose his hip and to show the red marks. "They're some kind of mites, I think. I threw all the clothes I was wearing in the garbage, then took a shower. When I came out all I had to put on was a towel. The guy at the desk asked, 'Why are you walking around like that, Emile?' I said, 'I need new clothes. My old ones were full of bugs.' He said, 'We can't help you with that until 7:45.' 'Well,' I said, "I guess I'll be walking around in this towel until 7:45.'"

I said, "I haven't seen Rhino for a while."

Emile said, "You're not likely to, either. He's probably in hiding. Frank was drunk and Rhino came up and punched him four times in the head for no reason. Then he was causing trouble at Starbucks. They called the police. The police knew we were staying out back. Scotish Dave said the police ripped down our hut and threw all our stuff into the dumpster. Later, someone set fire to it."

Sparky said, "I lost my brand new sleeping bag."

Emile said, "Those women at Hope Recovery are really saints."

Scott asked, "Do you mean at the Sheps?"

"Yeah" said Emile. "They all know me there. It's funny though. I went downstairs and they said I was too drunk, so I went upstairs and they said I wasn't drunk enough. Lori even asked me, 'Emile, do you have any more booze? Go out, have a few more drinks and we'll let you in.'

"I went out back to, what we call, the pig pen. A sister came by and asked me, 'Do you want to buy a twenty-six of rye for $13.00?' "Yes,' I said. That's a pretty good price. I just happened to have $13.70. I'd already drunk two and a half bottles of sherry. A guy sat next to me, pulled out a fancy crack pipe and put a forty in it. His buddy, sitting next to him, said, 'Be careful.' The guy looked around for cops then lit his pipe. I drank more and more of the rye, straight up. Then I smacked the guy in the back of the head. The pipe flew out of his mouth, the forty went rolling across the parking lot. Some sisters picked the stuff up, but the pipe was fucked. The guy's buddy said, 'I told you to be careful. When Emile gets into the hard stuff, he gets crazy, especially around crack smokers.'

"I went back upstairs and they let me in."

Jimmy said, "That reminds me -- we should have walkie-talkies. Then I could six you if I saw the cops coming from my direction, and you could six me if you saw them coming from where you were."

Emile said, "They've got this new fangled invention now. It's called a cell phone. That's what people use them for."

Scott said, "You know, one time a cop was really nice to me. I was up in North Bay. I asked him if there was any place I could set up a tent. He said, 'Sure, get in.' He let me sit in the front seat. He didn't pat me down or anything. He took me behind this gas station, where some empty rigs were parked. He said, 'You should be safe here.' Then he left."

Jimmy said, "I've been given rides by the cops before, but they always frisked me. They even apologized, said it wasn't anything personal, it was regulation. If a guy was in the back seat with a gun, he could shoot the cops and steal the car. They left the sliding window open so we could chat back and forth. I've never ridden in the front seat of a cop car. Sometimes, they even have shotguns mounted on the console, on a swivel."

August 28, 2012 at 7:00pm
August 28, 2012 at 7:00pm

7 September 2012

Today at the park the weather was pleasant, but the mood was tense. Sitting on the curb were Mo, Frank, Bert, Mina, Albert and Hoover. Facing them on the sidewalk were Emile and Scott.

"Emile," I said, "How did it go with your worker on Wednesday? Did you get your papers signed for housing?"

"I got a lot of things sorted. They set me up with a street allowance because I said, 'Hey, I sleep behind a dumpster, or if I'm lucky I do some couch surfing.' So, on Monday I'll be able to pick up a check for $200.00.

"I'm forty-six years old, I can't be on the street like Darrell and Frank. I'm going to get on the ball, go to my appointments -- They're giving me a monthly bus pass, otherwise I'd have to go there to pick up bus tickets every time I have to see somebody -- With O.D.S.P. (Ontario Disability Support Program) alone, I have to go nine times a month. I have to go to the doctor twice a week, then there'll be visits for housing.

"I'm staying at the Sally Ann right now. That's good, because that's where my workers are. If I need to contact them, after hours, I can just slip a message under their door. If they need to contact me they can come to my room, or leave a message for me. I know they're going to work really hard to get me settled."

Scott said, "The best fish and chips I've ever had were at the Sally Ann in Halifax. Every Friday they'd serve them. It was a great big plate and the fries were just like you'd get at a fish and chip shop -- hand cut, crispy.

"I got in trouble at a dance there. I was dancing with a woman -- I didn't know she had a boyfriend. It turned out that he had boxed for ten years in prison. He broke my nose, broke my jaw -- I had to have it wired shut. Now, If I yawn, sometimes it'll lock open."

Emile said, "That's why I dont go to dances. I was at a dance one time -- I was drunk, I started dancing by myself, I turned around and, you know how it is, I was dancing with three women. I was having fun, clowning around, then three guys showed up. They'd been there all the time, but they didn't want to dance, that's why the women were dancing together.

"The first guy caught me with a left hook. It was a good left hook, flattened my nose to one side. The next guy hit me with a right hook, flattened my nose to the other side. By this time my white tee shirt was red. I said to the third guy, 'bring it on, lets's see if you can get my nose straight again.'"

Mo said, "I've had my jaw broken. Isn't it great having to get all your nutrition through a straw?"

Mo kept looking down the line at Mina. Emile said, "Just take a few deep breaths and count to ten."

Mo was punching her fist into her open palm. "You don't know the half of it. That Albert is so stupid. It was Mina's old man that stole Albert's bank card and drained his bank account. And how did he get in? Mina! Now he wants to invite her over to where I'm staying. Over my dead body!

"I'm feeling really pissy today. I didn't get much sleep last night. I was awake chasing cooties most of the night. I've found out that the mature bed bugs have a numbing agent, so you can't feel when they bite, but the young ones don't seem to know about that. You can feel when they bite. They start out kind of colorless, then turn orange when they suck your blood. When you crush them between your thumb and finger, they have a rotten wood smell about them."

I asked, "Do you sniff every bug you crush?"

"Every one. See all these bites I have below my knees? I've got them all over my body. They're either from the bed bugs or from the spiders I bring in from the balcony to eat the bed bugs."

Emile said, I remember going to visit a guy in Guelph, at the Bluebird Hotel, I think it was. It was a long time ago. Anyway, we were going to go to his room. He couldn't get the key in the lock -- he was that drunk. So, I had to unlock the door for him. I turned on the light and there were thousands of roaches everywhere. The walls looked alive with them scrambling away. He asked, 'Do you wnat to sit down?' I said, 'No way, man! I don't want to be carrying those things to the next place I go.'"

Mo said, "I think my lungs are worse since I moved into Albert's place."

I asked, "Is it because of the bed bug spray, or are you using the powder now?"

"The powder is better, but I've run out of that too."

Emile asked? "Do you dust it over all the carpets?"

"I sprinkle it only in the area where I sleep. Albert is on his own. I wash and dry my clothes, cook them, powder them, bag them and put them out on the balcony. Albert takes his clothes out of the bags and puts them in his drawers. He won't listen to me.

"Now he says he's broke. I gave him money for food, but that's not what he spent it on. At least I have a Tim Horton's card if I get hungry. Last night I made spaghetti sauce. Tonight I'm turning it into chilli. I've got it in the crock pot now. Albert asked, 'Can I still put it on noodles?' I said, 'Do anything you want with it.'

"I'm going to go home now, before Albert gets there, so I'll be able to watch English television. Sometimes, I'll be in the middle of watching a movie and Albert will say, 'I don't like this,' and he'll switch over to one of his French channels.

"Albert gets up so early. This morning he got up just as I was falling into a deep sleep. First thing, he goes to the fridge for a beer, then he lights a cigarette. As soon as he does that I start coughing, and have to use my inhaler. I wish there was a door he could close. At least he doesn't smoke in bed. That would really scare me.

"Emile, can I ask you something that I never thought I'd ask?"


"Will you come sit between me and Frank. He's driving me nuts with his babbling. It's all I can do to keep from punching him."

To me she said, "The only reason I don't punch him is because he's HIV positive, or has full blown AIDS."

Emile said, "Frank, will you wipe your mouth, you're drooling."

To Mo he said, "If he needs straightening out, I'll do it."

Albert came over to Mo. "What is it honey? Do you want to sit on your blanket?" She pulled it out from under her and handed it to him.. "Come sit down."

Albert took the blanket and went back to sit with Mina. Emile said, "I thought he was going to sit with us."

"So did I," said Mo. "I think part of the reason I feel so schizoid is because of menopause."

I asked, "Are they any closer to getting your health card and other identification?"

"Yeah," she said, "I just have to go in and fill in some personal stuff about my parent's birth dates and my mother's maiden name. I have all that. They were both born in 1944, Pamela Barnes and William Clifford Godard, what an asshole." Mo was weeping as I left.

5 September 2012

At noon John, Emile and Earl were sitting together on the curb near the park. Emile was more sober than I have ever seen him. He had also recently shaved. "Emile," I said, "I see cheeks and a chin that I've never seen before."

"I've got an appointment with my worker, she's meeting me here at 1:00. She's going to check on my O.D.S.P. (Ontario Disability Support Program) and my O.W. (Ontario Welfare). Every time I go there, they tell me it's in the works, but I never get a check. Then I need my drug card and my Social Insurance card. I'll just leave it on file with the pharmacy. that way I don't have to worry about losing it or having it get wet in my back pack.

"You should have seen the bullshit I had to put up with this morning. I went to the pharmacy to get some emergency medication. They wouldn't give it to me without a prescription. I said to the pharmacist, 'You mean I have to walk a quarter of a mile to pick up a prescription, then walk a quarter of a mile back here to get it filled? Can't you see it's an emergency! Isn't it obvious! Look at me!'

"I got lucky this morning. I was talking to a guy who had to go to court. He said, 'I need a cap to go to court. If you can get me a cap, I'll split a joint and a cigarette with you.' I walked into the restaurant, looked around and saw these two guys sitting at a booth. There were three caps in front of them. I asked, 'Does this cap belong to anyone?' They said, "No, but it's yours now.' So, I give the cap to the guy outside, we split the joint and the cigarette and I got the edge off. No more shakes. I hardly had to do anything.

"Do you smell Listerine? Is Claude nearby? I stay away from that stuff now. I hate the headaches, the throwing up, the stomach pains and the smell that comes right through your skin.

"It really pisses me off when I share a bottle, or a couple of beer with a guy; he says he's going to get the next bottle and he brings back Listerine or rubby. That's not right! You don't replace a bottle of sherry or a couple of beer with Listerine or rubby. Mind you, if that's all you got, then that's what you drink.

"I've been staying at the Mission the last two nights. I have my breakfast there and then come down here for about 9:00. When I get hungry I head down Bank Street to 507 to get something to eat. Around supper time I do the same thing.

"I met this guy on the weekend who I haven't seen for, must be, fifteen years. We grew up together in Cornwall. I was at this apartment building on Cedarview near the Herongate Mall. I have no idea how I got there. I missed my appointment with my worker yesterday, because I had no bus tickets and no way to get downtown. Even if I had bus tickets, I wouldn't have known which bus to catch.

"Anyway, Jimmy says to me, 'Emile, I want you to meet a good friend of mine. We looked at each other. I said, 'Steve?' He said, 'Emile?' Jimmy said, to me, 'Emile, you know everybody.' It seems I knew everybody in the apartment building as well, but I don't remember meeting them.

"I'm glad that Earl left. I was about ready to punch him. He thinks he's being funny, just like my uncle Roscoe; but then the comments get personal and it's not funny any more. I was getting really pissed off. I think he could sense it."

I said, "I'm going to the park to see who else is up there."

John said, "I'm staying away from there because Scruffy is barking her head off."

Emile said, "I'll just stay here with John until my worker comes."

"I'll see you on my way back then," I said.

Bert, John (as in toilet), and Peter 'Lonely Heart' were standing at the railing. Sitting in a circle were Peter, Glen, Earl, Hoover, Elaine and Jillian. Chasing each other around and through the circle, back and forth, were Peter's dog Scruffy and Glen's dog Capone. It was all Jillian could do to sit upright as she ducked the dogs, or watched them tear around. As she was trying to light a cigarette, she kept tipping backwards. "I'm an otter," she said, "swimming on my back, looking at the clouds." I was closest, so I offered my arm to pull her upright -- all eighty pounds of her.

As Peter sat down on the blanket, beside Scruffy's cart he said, "I've got a stiff back. All I've done for the past week is take Scruffy for her walks, lay on the couch, read, watch TV, get up for a beer and lay back down again. It's good to make the effort to come down here and socialize a bit. Scruffy's having fun with Capone. Did you see that, she actually gave up her spot so Capone could lay down?"

I asked Peter, "What are you reading now?"

"I just started this book. It was given to me by a lady who gives me books all the time. I was reading the back cover and it seemed to be some kind of romance novel, so I put it at the back of my pile. When I started reading it, I found that it was all about spies and espionage. Four of them get shot in the first few pages -- a real shoot-em-up, just the kind I like to read. If I had known what it was about I would have started it a month ago. It was nothing like the Harlequin romances my mother used to read.

It was time for me to head back to work. Elaine asked, "Dennis, would you walk me to the bus stop?"

I said, "Sure, Elaine, are you ready to go now?"

"Where?" she asked.

I said, "Don't you want me to walk you to the bus stop?"

"No," she said, "I don't want to take the bus anywhere."

With that I said good bye to everyone, until tomorrow.

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. Steve was handing out newspapers, as usual. "Good morning, Dennis. Did you have a good weekend?"

"It was great, Steve. How was yours?"

"Good! Are you hoping to see Mo 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 John, but his spot was vacant also. Chris was nowhere to be seen. I was surprised at how disappointed I felt. I wondered about the results of John's appointment with his doctor. I wondered how Mo's viewing of an apartment went on Friday. Even Sparky, 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 John. “Hi John,” 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, John?” 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, Dave and I ordered a pizza and watched some movies. That’s about all.”

“I’ll talk to you a bit later, John. I’m just going up to say hello to the rest of the guys.” Sitting on the lawn was Frank. Standing at the park railing were Hoover, Emile, Bert and Sammy who had a guitar case strapped to his back.

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

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

Bert 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 pony tail. He was a mean one, shooting into the crowd with a machine gun.”

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

Hoover said, "Dennis meet your new neighbor, Frank. 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 Elaine 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. Elaine 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, Frank?"

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

Bert 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.”

Sammy 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.”

“Emile, 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’s my worker now.” Two women walked into the park and Emile met them.

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

I asked, “Bert, did you hear if Mo 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.”

Frank said, "I saw Albert having breakfast at the Mission, but Mo wasn't there."

Hoover received a telephone call, “Yes, Elaine?” he said. “What’s Rhino 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 Glen’s playing Bingo. Nancy wanted to wash the floors. So Glen said, ‘Okay, Rhino, 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 Rhino. When we sweep, we can just ask her to lift her feet, there’s no problem.

“John 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. Sammy was walking ahead of me with the guitar case on his back.

30 August 2012

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

“How are you, Claude?”

“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.


Daniel 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. Daniel, try to make sure that Claude doesn’t fall down.”

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

Sitting on the curb at the park were Frank, Marilyn, Sammy, Sparky, Marilyn and Miles. Glen and his dog, Capone, stopped for a while then walked on.

“Hi, Marilyn,” 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.

“Mo’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. Sammy took a peanut butter sandwich, Sparky 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.”

Sparky 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, Lottie's apartment. I also have a DVD player put aside. The guy said, 'As soon as you have yur place, Sparky, we'll deliver it.' ”

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

“I think I wil stilll 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.

29 Aug 2012

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

I sat beside Rhino. “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 Dave 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 Emile, lately?” I asked.

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

“Emile was telling me that Karen Rheaume 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 Emile. She’s the one who punched Maryam. I’m going across the street to talk to John. Will I see you at noon?”

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

I walked across the street to talk to John, “How are you feeling, John? 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 Rhino, Animal, John, Peter ‘Lonely Heart’ Mo, Frank, Albert, Jillian, Elaine and Hoover, Peter and his dog Scruffy. Glen and his dog Capone dropped by later.

"John," 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 was Peter ‘Lonely Heart’. “Hi Peter,” 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 Peter, I’ll keep that in mind.”

I sat next to Mo, “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." Mo 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 is any better.”

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

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 Mo, “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 has been sent now. It will 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 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 Albert. 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 Carl’s old place. My check may have been left in the mailbox. I’ll just sneak up and take a look.”

Mo left to talk to John, so I sat with Elaine and Peter. “How is your new apartment, Elaine?”

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

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

“Yeah, that’s in Hoover’s games room. Lonely Heart 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 Hoover’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.”

Jillian came and sat down beside 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 Hoover and Elaine. 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 good bye to every one, and told Mo I'd see her in the morning.

28 August 2012

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

“Hi Mo, you’re all bundled up.”

“I’m not feeling well. I was throwing up all weekend. I couldn’t keep anything down. Albert 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. Catherine 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.”

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

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

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

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

“Just nauseous,” she said.

Dave said, “I just saw Ambrose and Maryam. They seemed happy.”

“I’ve got no use for her,” said Mo.

“Why is that?” asked Dave.

“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.”

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

“Great,” replied Dave, “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."

Mo asked, “Where’s Sila?”

“I don’t know,” answered Dave. “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 Mo said, “That’s quite a relationship. They’ve been together three years and he doesn’t even know where she is.

"Dave really does eat a lot. When he was staying at Carl'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 Carl 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 Dave 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 Mo’s cap. A man, one of Mo’s regulars, handed her a five dollar bill.”

“Allright!” said Mo, “Thanks!”

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

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

"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 Albert, Hoover and Bert. Mo had been there earlier, but Albert mentioned, “She’s having lunch, with Catherine, at Tim Horton’s.”

“Hi Bert,” 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 DiRienzo 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.”

“Hoover,” 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 Sparky gave me a sip of his wine. Then I decided to get a six pack of beer. What really did me in was the 26 of vodka. I’m going to pick up some beer for Elaine on the way home. I don’t know who I was trying to fool. I am the way I am.”

Hoover said to Bert, "That was quite a sentence they gave to Sparky -- 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.

"Sammy was with him when he got out. A cop stopped Sparky and said, 'I could arrest you right now.' Sparky asked, 'What am I doing wrong?' The cop said, 'You've been pan handling and you've been drinking.' Sparky 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.' Sparky was ready to argue, but Sammy 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."

August 21, 2012 at 4:54pm
August 21, 2012 at 4:54pm

27 August 2012

This morning I went over to see John, 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, John?”


“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, ‘John, you stay right here. We’ll deal with this.’

“When they came back they said, ‘John, 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?”


“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, Nancy 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 John.

“Yes I was.”

“Did the piggies come by?”

“Yes they did. They didn’t give out any tickets or ask us to move. Billy dumped part of his beer and Peter 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 Claude, “How are you doing today, Claude?”

“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 Daniel. 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 Scottish Dave, Rhino, Sparky, Chris, Sammy, Hoover, Peter and Scruffy.

“How are you, Dennis?” asked Dave.

“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, “Mo doesn’t do Mondays.”

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

Dave 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 John, “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."

Dave 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."

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

Peter motioned for me to move closer, “Don’t worry about Scruffy. She’ll be fine as long s 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. Scruffy 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 Scruffy 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 Scruffy.

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

Dave's worker came by. "Is Frank here?" she asked.

"No," said Dave. "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."

"Dave, are you ready to go?"

"Yeah, just let me refill my bottle,"

John asked, "With apple juice?"

Dave 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 Dave.

"I'll take it," said Peter. Dave threw him the empty can. Peter crushed it ant threw it in Scruffy's cart.

Rhino said, "Emile has gone over to Cathy'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 Cathy.

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

Then I said good bye to Claude and Daniel. "See you tomorrow, Dennis," they said.

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. Mo had a big smile for me when I arrived.

"How is it going this morning, Mo? 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 Frank has. Earl gets his letters from Millhaven. He also contacts him, through prison message boards, on the internet. He told me that Frank's using a cane. He's having trouble with the same hip I am. Earl asked me if it's catching."

I asked, "How long do you think they'll keep Little Frank 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 Frank yesterday. He seemed fairly sober when I went up there in the morning. Albert went on a liquor run, then Frank mixed one of his Frankenators -- beer with sherry. All of a sudden he was wasted.

“It didn't help that Emile 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. Emile has been in town for five years. He knows the rules.

"I'm glad that Sparky's getting treatment at Innes. They probably have him on Lithium, Vallium and an alcohol drip. That's what I was on the last time I was there. It prevents the shakes from alcohol withdrawl. 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, "John'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."

Mo said, "I think he's back on crack. He gets an 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.

“Albert’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. Albert can't carry very much, but I can get a lot in my backpack. Then we take the bus home.”

“Was Albert 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 Emile. 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.

“Peter, ‘Lonely Heart’ was pissed with me last Saturday. He got it in his head that Albert phoned Cathy and told her that Peter and I had been sleeping together. Albert said he didn’t call, and Cathy’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, Cathy keeps that in a safe.’ I’m sure that Peter 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 Mo, 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 Claude and Daniel. “How are you today, Claude?”

“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 Sparky, Little Frank, Billy, Mo, Albert, Uncle Peter and Scruffy. Peter was sorting things in Scruffy's canopy-covered cart (photo above). When he turned around I was sitting on the grass beside Mo.

"Dennis," said Peter, "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 Peter, I was sure you were going to say hello to me."

Billy said, "Dennis, are you really sure that Peter was going to say hello to you?"

"No, Billy, I'm not sure of nothin'."

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

“Bitch,” said Mo.

Sparky had been released from the Ottawa Carleton Detention Center, on Innes Road. I said to him, “Hi Sparky, 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.”

Billy 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.”

Billy said, "That was well put, Sparky."

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

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

“Yes, I understand – no pan handling.”

“Sparky, 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, Sparky."

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

Mo 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. Billy 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.”

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

Sparky 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.”

Billy said, "Sparky, 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."

Mo said, “Sparky, 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 Sparky 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.

23 August 2012

This morning I could barely see Mo's feet beyond the concrete partition. "How's it going today?" I asked.

"Horrible! I've been here since 6:00 am and I've hardly made a cent. It's worse than Mondays. I guess a lot of my regulars are on holidays."

"I've noticed that where I work, the volume declines over the summer, then picks up in September when staff return from vacations."

"Grant's going to get picked off one of these days." We both watched, as he walked through the line of cars to hand a driver a newspaper.

I said, "You get a great view of the world from down here."

"Yeah, I see it all. some men have their flys undone, with their willies flapping in the breeze. If I mention it to them they say, 'Well, look somewhere else.' I say, 'Hey, man, it's right in my face, and it's not a pretty sight. Where am I supposed to look?'

“Sometimes, I see guys with their shoelaces undone. Sometimes, I tell them, but if it’s the crusty ones I just wait to see if they fall.

“Al was by earlier. He’s all stitched up. I asked him what happened. He said, ‘Micheline stabbed me with a kitchen knife. She’s serving thirty days.

‘Thirty days for stabbing someone, that’s ridiculous. Are you going to take her back when she gets out?’ He said, 'Yes.’

“Micheline can be nice, but she’s schizophrenic. If she’s off her meds, and on the booze, she can’t be trusted with kitchen utensils.

“Albert has taken his pennies to Loblaw’s. They have a change machine that will convert them to bills and other change. Usually, he gives them to one of his French ladies. They donate them to C.H.E.O. (Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario). This time though, he needs the money.

“There was a guy hanging around this morning, snapping pictures of me. I said to him, ‘Hey, I didn’t give you permission to take my photo.’ He said, 'Well, may I have your permission?’ I said, ‘No, but it’s a bit late now.’ I don’t want someone I don’t know walking around with pictures of me. It’s creepy.

“Lonely Heart is pissed with me because I wouldn’t go with him yesterday afternoon. I said to him, “I distinctly remember you telling me that we were over, which seemed kind of ridiculous since we never started anything. Now, you’re pissed off because I don’t want to got to your girlfriend’s place, when she’s coming home at five o’clock?

“I’m going to have to ask the guys to spring for some cash so I can get a bottle. I wonder what I’m going to have to do for that. Emile owes me money. Frank has owed me money for two years. I heard that yesterday Rhino was giving away twenties to everyone, but he didn’t give me anything."

At noon, seated on the curb, were Emile, Frank, Mo, John and Rhino. Frank kept tipping over on his side. Emile said, “Frank, will you get up. I don’t want your nose in my ass.”

Mo said, “Frank, you stink. I’m moving away from here.” We moved closer to John and Rhino, Emile followed. Frank had passed out in the bushes.

“John,” I said, “I haven’t seen you in a while. You’ve lost weight.”

“Yeah, I have lost weight. I haven’t been eating enough. I’ve got an appointment with my doctor. I’m having problems with my stomach.”

Emile said, “I made twenty bucks yesterday. Do you want to know how?”

Mo said, “Emile, I’m sure we don’t want to hear about what you did to make twenty bucks. It’s probably disgusting.”

“No,” said Emile, “a guy bet me a twenty that I couldn’t do a one hand, hand stand and hold it for thirty seconds. I did it and that was after eight bottles. He paid me.”

Minutes later, three cops on bicycles stopped in front of us. They probably had a complaint about Frank. They kicked the bottom of his foot, trying to wake him. Mo walked over and told the cops that Frank has HIV and is very sick. Emile shook Frank and helped to get him standing and walking. Emile and Frank walked as far as Elgin Street, then sat on a low concrete wall.

The police came over again. The sargent said, “Frank, do you have any place to go? You can’t stay here. How much could he have possibly drunk, this early in the day? What’s in the bottle, Frank? Hand it over.” He opened the lid and took a whiff, ‘”That’s awful! Is that a Fankenator, beer mixed with sherry?”

Emile said, “You know him well.”

The sargent said, “Write him up.” Emile, Albert and I moved away to the other side of the wall. Mo had walked across the street, to the Lord Elgin Hotel, to use the washroom. Emile, yelled, “Frank, will you learn to shut your mouth?”

Albert said to me, “They’re going to write him another ticket, that he isn’t going to pay. That’s what they always do.”

I heard one of the cops mention, ‘Hope Recovery Centre’. I expect they've called for the paramedics to take Frank away.

22 August 2012

This morning I spoke with Sunny, of Sunny's Newswire. You can read more about him on Facebook:


"Hi, Sunny!"

"Hi, I'm glad to see you. Did you visit my website? What did you think?

"It's great. I also listened to your proposal to the Ottawa City Council. It was very well presented."


"Thanks! Yesterday, I was on the Lowell Greene Show, on talk radio, but he blew me off. I have a recording of the program, if you'd like to hear it."


"I'll rewind this. Anyway, what I was proposing was that Ottawa investigate the building of a solar monorail, like they have in Bologna, Spain."

Solar Monorail Proposed for Bologna

"Did you hear that we lost Phyllis Diller? She had a great laugh. I was talking to a friend about which celebrity we would most like to meet. My choice would be Doris Day. You're old enough to remember her. She's an animal activist (founder of Actors and Others for Animals, the Doris Day Animal League and the Doris Day Pet Foundation). I sent her an email saying that I'd like to meet her, but I didn't get an answer.

"See that guy, sitting on the sidewalk, with his hat out (referring to Chris). I don't know what that's all about. I find it disgusting. Doesn't he have any sense of dignity?"

"There's something coming up on the radio that I want you to hear. Maybe, you've already heard it. President Obama's ratings have gone up four points because of a gaff made by the opposing party. The remark has angered a lot of people, especially women. It's coming on now:

Missouri Rep. Todd Akin, who is running for the Senate against Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill, stated in a television interview on Sunday that “women’s bodies are able to prevent pregnancies if they are victims of a LEGITIMATE rape”. This is the dumbest statement I have heard a man make about women’s bodies since an 18 year old kid told me once years ago that women can only get pregnant if they have an orgasm during sex….but that was a dumb 18 year old warehouse stocker.....Akin is a member of the United States House of Representatives and is running to unseat Senator McCaskill of Missouri.

"What do you think? I'm sure that'll cost Romney the women's vote.

"Here's that recording from the Lowell Green Show. I went by the name of Steve. Don't put it too close to your ear, I have it turned up loud."

"We have Steve on the line from Ottawa. Hi Steve, what would you like to talk about?"

"Hi Lowell, I understand that our mayor is interested in saving money on our proposed light rail system. I suggest that we investigate the possibility of a solar monorail, like the one they have in Bologna, Spain."

"A solar monorail? There's just one problem with that, Steve. What do we do when it's dark?"

"We sleep... Actually the solar energy is stored in cells, and is released as necessary."

"They don't have storage cells that big. Steve, have you heard about Spain's financial crisis?"

"Yes, I have. That's the reason they opted for solar power. Energy from the sun is free."

"Steve, I think you've been out in the sun too long. I think your brain is a bit fried.

"Next caller."

"Well, so much for that. I still think it's a good idea. With the help of an engineer friend of mine, from Newfoundland, we're designing a solar powered ship. It would be huge: with ballrooms, swimming pools and luxury condos."

"Sounds great Sunny. I wish you all the best with it."

Wednesday at noon was pleasant. The sky was sunny, the temperature warm, but not hot. As I was walking up the sidewalk to the park, I saw Claude laying on his side. "Hi Claude, are you alright?"

"I think I passed out, but I'll be alright."

"Are you sure? I'll check on you later."

"See you later."

On the curb were Frank, Hoover and Jillian. Hoover said, "Elaine was here earlier, but she had to see her worker, so I'm alone, free and loving it. We got cable and satellite in our new place. Elaine is paying for the satelite, I'm paying for the cable. I'm going to drill a hole in the wall of my room, so I can watch both."

Mo was on the lawn. Peter 'Lonely Heart' and Rhino were talking at the railing. Lonely Heart said to me, "Were you away for the weekend?"

"Yes, I was at the lake. It was great."

"How about the long weekend? Will you be away then?"

"I'm not sure. I had planned on visiting my granddaughter in Toronto, but my sons are going to be in Renfrew, visiting friends. They used to live there."

"I used to live in Renfrew. Actually, I was there on an alcohol recovery program. It's a nice little town."

"Yeah, it is," agreed Rhino. I lived nearby in Almonte. I went to Renfrew a lot."

Mo came over to me and and said, "I need to sit down. Let's go over to the curb with Emile."

"Hi Emile, you haven't been fighting with any big natives today, have you?"

Emile laughed and said, "Miles and I made a truce. This morning I brought him a bottle and we drank together. There was no point in us hurting each other every day. I'd rather have him at my back than have him facing me. This city can be dangerous."

Mo said, "I've told Dennis about that."

"That reminds me, Mo, You'll never guess who I saw last night... Karen Rheaume, the former girlfriend of Ambrose."

"She's out of prison?"

Emile continued, "I was panning on Elgin, in front of Bridgehead. Karen was inside having a coffee. I got Inusik to sit with my cap on the street and I went in to talk to her -- I was inside when it started raining, Inusik got soaked -- I went back outside, as soon as I sat down, somebody dropped me ten bucks. Inusik was pissed. I saw Maryam walking towards us. Karen came out to continue our conversation. I knew they both like to scrap, so I said to Maryam, "I'm going to introduce you both, since you're both friends of mine. There shouldn't be any trouble between you.

"Maryam was drunk, acting like a smart ass. Karen punched her right in the mouth. Here I am in the middle. Maryam looked at me as if to say, Who are you going to side with? I said, hold on, whatever you two have to work out, go ahead, but I'm staying out of this."

Mo said, "You should have sided with Karen, she's the better fighter. The last time we got in a fight, I had a broken ankle and was walking with a cane. She kicked my cane and punched me in the side of the head. I took the bus home.

"I told Frank about it. He didn't say a word. He walked into the bathroom, took the plastic handle off the plunger and filled it full of dimes. Then, he untwisted a wire coat hanger and wrapped the open end of the handle. He sealed the opening, and wrapped the wire with duct tape. There was quite a weight to that.

"The next day, I was sitting in my usual spot when Karen came by. She told me to move on. I said, 'Make me!' She bent down to take another swing at my head. I ducked and pulled out the club from my sleeve. I hit her, with all my might, on each side of her head. She was knocked out cold. I pushed her off the sidewalk, onto the slush of the street, and went home.

"She saw me a while later and said, 'You pack a good punch.' She didn't give me any trouble after that."

Pam rode up on her bicycle. Mo said, "Hi Pam, I haven't seen your dad for a while. Is he okay?"

"He's at Innes serving thirty days for a breach. He was panning in front of McDonalds on Bank Street. That's a red zone for him."

Mo said, "They must really have him medicated. He's probably on lithium; that's what they put me on. The last time I was there was for assaulting Frank. Mind you, I was on suicide watch. I was kept in Observation. They kept giving me cheeze sandwiches for breakfast, lunch, supper and snack. I didn't have any appetite, so I made a pillow of them. I said, couldn't you at least give me some soup in a styrofoam cup, or some meat?"

Three men approached. They shook hands with Emile then Mo, who introduced me to them, "Dennis, this is Johnny. He's Pit's brother, Lottie's boyfriend." We shook hands.

Johnnie introduced his two friends, Sila and Matt. "We're all from the same place. We used to call ourselves the 'four horsemen' but, one is in jail. Pit is at Innes right now. He was sentenced to six months for assaulting Lottie. He'll serve four -- I know, he's an asshole."

Emile said, "So, he got 120 days. When I was there last, I was sick at first too. Then I got my appetite back. I was 'fishing' down the corridor for food. I'd pass my paper plate to the guy in the next cell. It'd get passed down the whole block. I'd always get something: fruit, a juice box, a muffin."

Emile ws wearing baggy shorts and Johnny noticed, what appeared to be, claw marks on his upper thigh. "Emile, did you get in a fight with a cat?"

"No," said Mo, "he got too close to a pussy that he wasn't supposed to get close to. He's lucky that I have my fingernails rounded. When I was in prison I used to file them like claws. I'm talking flesh tearing claws. That reminds me of my days at P4W (The Prison For Women located in Kingston, Ontario)."

Johnny said to Mo, "How old are you?"

"How old do I look?"

"I'd say about fifty."

"Oh, thanks! I'm forty-six."

"It's the lines around your eyes. Are you and Emile together?"

"No, we've known each other a long time. We're not living together, we're not going out together, he's not fucking me. He tries to touch me and I don't like it. Maybe now he'll learn his lesson."

I said, "I'm her father." Everybody laughed. Johnny winked at Mo. He said, "We have to go now, but I'll see you around."

After they left, Mo said, "Why do guys always hit on me?"

"Because you're pretty," I said.

"It's your charm," said Emile.

21 August 2012

Mo was in her usual spot this morning. The weather was cool with the threat of rain. Mo asked, "Is that the girlfriend of Ambrose, in the next block?"

"Yes, it's Maryam. I spoke to her last week after she lost her baby. Later in the week I talked to Ambrose. He said it was a 'crack baby' induced prematurely. He had a hole in his heart and his lungs weren't able to supply oxygen to his other organs."

"I'm sorry," said Mo, "but she should be charged. Every kid I've brought into this world has been clean. I quit crack, cigarettes and alcohol while I was pregnant. That way, they at least had a fighting chance in the world. The night before Cassidy was born, I smoked a joint. It showed up in the baby's blood tests. They were ready to take him away from me. I said, "You're going to take my baby away, because I smoked one joint? Over my dead body!

"My sister had a 'crack baby'. You couldn't even look at him or he would spaz out.Can you imagine what kind of a life is in store for that kid?

"Ambrose is on the skids with a lot of people right now. He and Maryam have been sleeping in the hut with Darrel and Muff, Emile, Rhino and Frank. Muff sleeps by the dorr, like a guard dog. Everyone knows that you have to be careful opening the door because Muff is behind it. Ambrose came by one night falling down drunk and just pushed in the door. It scraped Muff's paw and she had to get five stitches. Nobody's seen Ambrose since. Muff is still limping and has to have special ointment put on her paw twice a day.

"I just love Muff, she's really a sweet dog, but has horrible breath. Darrell said to me, 'I feed her Dentabone.' I said, 'That's for removing plaque and tartar from her teeth. For her breath you have to give her Doggie Mints. If those don't work she should be taken to a vet. That probably won't hppen, because all Darrell's money goes on crack. I gave Doggie Mints to my dog, Roxie; she was a boxer and had great breath. She used to sleep with me every night. I didn't even mind if she put her paw on my face when she slept. I couldn't tolerate that with anh of the men I've lived with.

"Like me, she was epileptic. If I had a seizure, she'd pat my face until I came out of it. I'd do the same for her. One time she had a prolonged, grand mal seizure and died before I could get her to the vet."

I said, "I saw Scottish Dave last Thursday. He and Sila have applied for housing."

"Yeah, I met them at Carl's new place. They were staying there. Maybe I should have held out at Carl's a while longer. His new place is a huge two bedroom. I don't know about Sila. She and Dave have been together three years now, but while he was in prison she was living with other guys. I met her one day with her oldest son. He isn't of legal drinking age, but he was staggering drunk."

I said, "Dave and Sila are each getting their own apartments. That way Dave said, 'When we get into a fight we'll each have some place to go home to."

Mo said, "I don't know what's happening with Pam. They've called her into court about three times. She's so afraid of Dean, she doesn't even want him to see her. It was just January that he got out of prison for beating her the last time. He was in a holding cell with my Frank, before they moved him to Millhaven."

Albert stopped by to say hello. To Mo he said, "I didn't hear you leave this morning."

"If I'd stopped to make the bed, you probably would have heard me. Is there anything you want me to bring home?"

"I wouldn't mind some pot. Do you know where I could get some?"

"You could try the Mission. I could give you some phone numbers, but I don't know if anyone is coming downtown this afternoon. I saved some roaches. You might be able to get one joint with what's in the can on the kitchen table.

"Albert, I want to use your phone later. I want to make an appointment with the Elizabeth Fry Society.

To me she said, "I've been thinking of looking into some kind of employment. I couldn't do nine to five, but I'd like landscaping, maybe with flexible hours -- of course, I'd want to be paid under the table... I'm good at growing flowers and plants. A neighbor, one time, had a couple of rose bushes that never bloomed. He was going to dig them up and toss them out. I said, 'Let me try to do something with them. I dug them up, replanted them somewhere else, and within a couple of months they had pink and white roses on them.


Noon in the park was quiet. Animal was asleep with Muff under a tree. Emile was drunk, professing his love for Mo. "We could make such a great team," he said to her.

"Yeah, sure we would," said Mo.

Animal awoke and asked, "What time is it?"

Scottish Dave, said, "It's only twelve ten. Go back to sleep for another hour." Later Animal came over and said, "I don't remember coming here."

Dave said, "We started out up the hill. Then we came down here."

"Animal," said Mo, "you missed a great fight. That big native guy and Emile were scrapping. He pushed Emile down on his ass. Emile got into that karate stance he uses, but he was so drunk that he couldn't keep his balance. I kept egging him on saying, 'You shouldn't let him get away with that.' Emile took a swing, missed, and the big guy pushed him on his ass again. The cops were strolling through the park and didn't do a thing. I was sure someone would get a ticket."

Animal walked over to Rhino. I overheard him say, "If you even try to get up, I'll knock you back down." He then walked down the line to Dave who said, "Well! didn't we wake up with a gut full of grumpy juice?"

"What?" said Animal, "Can I have a cigarette?"

"Of course you can," said Dave.

I asked Dave, "How are the arrangements coming for housing?"

"Monday, I got my first Welfare check for $300. I'm waiting for my program (Ontario Disability Support Program) to kick in. Nothing can happen until that's in place. Then we'll sign the papers for housing. Hopefully, we'll have a place in September."

Daniel came by with a two wheeled cart. "I got this from a bar that was being refitted. One wheel was off the cart, but I took it to the Shepherd's and a guy helped me to get the wheel back on. We inflated the tires and it's good as new. The bar was throwing out a mini freezer, a fridge, all sorts of stuff. I saw some empty beer bottles in the garage and asked if I could have them. They gave me six cases of two fours, so I got $14.40 for those.

"Rhino, don't throw that wine bottle away. I'll take it."

"Come get it yourself." Daniel rooted through the garbge container for the wine bottle and also pulled out a large paper coffee cup with a plastic lid.

Mo said to me, "I hate it when he does that."

"Daniel," said Mo, "you're not going to drink out of that are you?"

"It'll be fine. I'll swish a little beer in it first, to clean it out. I forgot my cup at home." He pulled out a can of beer and filled the paper cup, so it looked like he was drinking coffee.

He said to me, "Would you like to know what I did with the Tim Horton's card you gave me? I didn't sell it to buy beer. I bought two coffee, a bagel with cream cheeze -- did you know that Tim Horton's ran out of meat? I was in there at 10.00 pm, they close at 11:00, they didn't have any meat. I went in the next day, a bit earlier. I still had about $1.50 on the card, and got some kind of meat wrap. I made good use of the card.

"I met a woman in the park once. I was sitting on a bench, shaved, dapper looking. We started talking. It turned out that we had both previously lived in Montreal. We talked about that for a while. She said, 'You're a very interesting man.'

"I was straight forward with her. I said, "I left my wife because she had been cheating on me. I lost my job, my unemployment insurance ran out and now I'm homeless." She said, 'I left my husband because he had been cheating on me.' She was a beautiful woman, had lots of money, ran her own business. She said, 'I have some errands to run. Will you wait for me here, for about twenty minutes?' I said, 'I won't wait right here. I was planning to go to the liquor store to buy a couple of bottles of beer, but that will only take about fifteen minutes, so I'll be here before you get back.' She said, 'Can I give you money to buy a six pack? Then we can share a few beer.' I said, 'You don't have to give me any money. I've got a cheque on me for $547.00. I'll buy a six pack.' She said, 'You're so generous.' When I got back with the beer she had two huge bags with her. She said, 'I've bought you a gift.' There were clothes in there, chips, chocolate bars. She even bought me a return ticket to Toronto and back. She said, 'If things don't work out for you in Ottawa, come visit me in Toronto. The tickets are good for a year.' She gave me her address and phone number. I said I'd call her.

"My apartment was robbed. They took my back pack with the address and phone number in it. She'd told me where she lived, but I couldn't remember. I couldn't even remember her last name, so I couldn't look her up in the phone book. That's the way it goes. Perhaps, we'll run into each other some other time."

August 10, 2012 at 2:00pm
August 10, 2012 at 2:00pm

20 August 2012

The weather at noon was pleasant. Sitting in the shade, on a park bench, I met Daniel and Claude. Neither of them ever has much to say, they are both French speaking, and their knowledge of English is as limited as is my knowledge of French. Daniel is rather gaunt and pale, while Claude looks like a gnarled Santa Claus. We always exchange greetings and I look forward to seeing them. I can depend on Claude being there, being Claude.

"Hello, Claude, Daniel," I said as I shook their hands. "It's a beautiful afternoon. Are you enjoying the cooler weather, after the heat wave we had?"

Claude said, "Yes, It's very nice, especially sitting here in the shade. How have you been? I haven't seen you for a couple of days."

"I've been sick with a cold." I said. "That's why I wasn't here on Thursday or Friday. You haven't fallen again have you?"

"No, I haven't fallen."

"I'm going to check to see who is at the park. I'll see you on my way back."

"See you."

On the side walk, where the benches used to be, sat Rhino, Frank and Emile.

"Hi Rhino, I said, "how is it going with your application for housing?"

"It's going good. This afternoon I get to see a few places and if everything works out I'll be able to move September first."

"That's great," I said. "Do you have any idea of which neighborhood you will be moving to?"

"It'll be somewhere in Vanier. I'm not sure where."

"That sounds good. I've lived in Vanier. It's just a short walk to downtown. There are lots of stores, good bus transportation."

"Yeah, I'm looking forward to it. It'll be a bachelor, but that's big enough for me. It beats living behind a dumpster."

"How have you been feeling?"

"I'm starting to feel better now, but I was sick all weekend with a summer cold."

"There's a lot of that going around. Frank had it, I had it."

"Emile," I asked, "how have you been feeling?"

"I wasn't feeling so good this morning. The first sip I took, I started throwing up and coughing. When the Salvation Army Outreach Workers came around they asked, 'Are you okay?' I said, 'No, I'm not okay, I'm coughing up a lung here.' Getting all that phlegm out of my lungs felt good though. Back when I had my heart attack, I had double, walking pneumonia. It was like I had a rock in my chest, I could only take shallow breaths, or it would burn my lungs.

"I've had my first bottle now and I'm feeling great. It's great being me."

"That's good," I said, "because everyone else is taken."

Emile said to a woman walking by, "Can I have a smile, please, just one. I'm sure you'd look even prettier if you smiled." Some people walking around looking so grouchy. Don't they know, that if you wan't to be happy, you first have to act happy. Say, 'Good morning,' to people, smile, say 'have a nice day.' I'm always happy. Even at the liquor store. Most of my friends get served once then they're cut off for the rest of the day; not me. I go in with a smile on my face, say hello to the staff. When I'm at the check-out, I look the cashier in the eyes. And, I don't steal, except this morning. There was only one employee there and she was doing something on the computer. I stuck a bottle in the inside pocket of my jacket, picked up another and paid for that at the cash.

"One time, I had just come out of the liquor store, and stopped to talk to some friends, who were drinking. A cop came by and made everyone dump their bottles. I said to him, 'I just bought this. It isn't even cracked.' He said, 'Yeah, but can you prove you bought it, and didn't just steal it.' I said, 'I didn't keep the receipt, why would I? What am I going to do return a used bottle of sherry because I didn't like it? I bought it because I intended to drink it.' I walked back into the store and spoke to the manager, the guy that served me. I told him the situation. He came out and said to the cop, 'This gentleman bought and paid for a bottle of sherry. He refused the receipt, because he was on his way out and had no need for it. He's a regular customer and he's never stolen from this store. I've watched him.' The cop let me keep the bottle.

"That's a nice electric bike going by," said Emile. "They cost over $800. My mother would never let me have a motor bike, not even an off road one. My dad and brothers were race car drivers. If you want to know why I'm so crazy, you should see the rest of my family. All of us really like torque. Whatever we drive, we take it to the absolute limit. My dad rebuilt a Mustang and put a big Firebird engine in it. Everything had to be changed around to make the engine fit. When he first got it running, the hood wouldn't close. So he could go for a test run, he got me to stand on the front bumper. He chained my feet so they wouldn't slip, then he had me lie down on the hood. I grabbed onto the drip rails with my fingers. When he'd go a round a corner, he'd grab my wrist with one hand and shift with the other. This was on a gravel road, I'd be looking over the roof, feeling the car go one way, while the road behind was going another. I don't know what speed we were going, but it was fast. I saw my life pass before my eyes. I was only eight years old, so it didn't take very long. I hadn't had much of a life to that point. He was a great guy, my dad. God bless his soul. (Emile made the sign of the Cross on his chest and looked up).

"My old man was crazy. He had this pickup truck, he got some sheet steel and welded it to the undercarriage. We didn't know what he was up to, but it turned out that he was making a skid plate. He had the idea that he wanted to jump the neighbor's fence with the pickup. He built sort of a ramp leading up to the fence. Like I said, I didn't know what he was up to, so when he started the truck I hopped in the back. There was no tailgate. I held onto the roll bar. All of a sudden, 'whoosh' we were airborne. He took out a whole section of the fence, but the skid plate kept any fence posts from coming through the floor, into the cab. The truck wasn't damaged at all.

"Another time he had an old Bombardier snowmobile that he rebuilt with a bigger engine. He had leather straps around the hood. I'd never seen anything like that before. The straps, it turned out, were to hold his shotgun. He'd go moose hunting with that. He'd be cruising at full speed with one hand on the throttle, reloading the shotgun with the other. I saw him get a moose. He had just crested the top of a hill and was coming down, when he shot the moose in the back of the head. A perfect shot.

"We rented a house on eight acres of land. Back then, I think we were paying about one hundred dollars a month. My mother had a half acre garden in the front of the house. Our neighbor's cows were always getting loose, trampling and eating the leaves of the vegetables.

"My dad said to the neighbor, 'My wife puts a lot of time and effort into planting and caring for that garden, she doesn't appreciate your cows coming over and ruining it. The next time I see your cows stray, even one foot, into our yard, I'm taking one.' Sure enough, it happened. Before we even knew what was happening my dad had that cow slaughtered, hung by chains from a beam in the garage, and was butchering it -- cutting it into pieces. He had to go out and buy a twenty-five cubic foot freezer to hold that cow. The neighbor came over and said, 'One of my cows is missing. You haven't seen it have you?' My dad said, "No, I haven't, but you're welcome to take a look around the property. It might be out there somewhere'"

Albert, Marilyn and Mo arrived. They'd been on a run to the liquor store. Mo's backpack was stuffed to the brim, probably with Albert's beer. Albert's cell phone rang. In his French accent he answered, "Hello? Yes he's here." He handed the phone to Rhino. "Hello, oh, he never gave anything to me. Okay, thanks."

I asked, "Was that someone calling about your housing?"

"No, it was Duck. He said that he gave Darrell ten bucks to give to me. He was checking to see if I got it. I told him that I didn't get it."

Mo said, "Yeah, if Duck gives money to someone to hold for someone else, he always follows up to see if they got it. I do the same. So when did he give Darrell the money?"

"Friday? This is Monday. Darrell is your friend, he lives with you guys. That's just wrong to hold out on a friend. This morning he was off to pan at the church. There are women there who bring him food and clothes. He sell the clothes to the crackheads and buys more crack. Rhino, you've got to do something about this."

Emile said, "Yeah, Rhino, stop being such a pussy. He's half your size, you can take him. I'm half his size and, just last night, I didn't like something he said, so I popped him one."

Mo said, "I've hit him, when he's gotten out of line." He's said, 'I can't hit you back because I'm not a woman beater.' I said, 'I dont fight like a woman, so you don't have to worry on that score."

"Yeah," said Rhino, "I'll do it soon. Right now I'm going to the Lord Elgin on a butt run."

"You're going on a butt run Now?" asked Emile incredulously.

"Well, I also have to take a dump. I've been trying to hold it in, but now I have to go."

Rhino returned with his hand full of cigarette butts. He dumped them on the sidewalk in front of Emile. "Rhino, these are menthol. Haven't you got any class?"

"It's all they had," he said. The Lord Elgin Hotel has sand ashtrays in their lobby. The cigarette butts are extinguished, but not crushed, like they would be in another type of ashtray.

15 August 2012

Today is Sparky's forty-eighth birthday, at least seventeen of those years have been on the street. At the park to celebrate were Rhino, John (as in toilet), Frank, Cathy, Scottish Dave and his girlfriend Sila. We all signed a card with a gram of weed in it.

John started early, at five o'clock in the morning. He pushed a grocery cart through the affluent neighborhood of Sandy Hill collecting empty beer cans and liquor bottles. He returned these to the Beer Store for a refund and had enough to buy Sparky two bottles of his favorite Imperial sherry.

Dave said, "Sila and I visited with a social worker to apply for housing, the Ontario Disability Support Program and for me to get copies of my health card, birth certificate and immigration papers. The immigration papers have to be notarized and cost one hundred dollars.

'I'm expecting to get $450.00 from O.D.S.P. and another $300.00 from welfare. Hopefully, I can find a clean, bug free apartment away from crack heads. That's my main complaint about the shelters, such as Shepherd's of Good Hope, the Salvation Army and the Mission. After rent this should leave me about $95.00 for all other living expenses. To supplement this I may still have to pan handle. Sila and I have decided not to share an apartment, so that when they have a fight, each of us will have a place to come home to. Sometime i the future I hope to find work as a camp cook for a construction or logging company. I have my chef credentials. What may stand in my way is the fact that, having served time in prison, I'm not bondable; however, I have never committed a violent crime and my social worker will help with references. I can even get a reference from the restaurant near where I pan handle. They occasionally bring me coffee and they'd say, 'Sure, Dave's a good guy. He's never caused us any trouble.' If I wasn't there it might be some drunken loudmouth.

Frank arrived and said, "I ditched Cathy somewhere on Bank Street."

Dave said, "You'll never learn. If you get kicked in the balls by a horse, you don't jump on the same horse again. If you do, expect another kick in the balls."

Frank agreed, "I know." Shortly after, Cathy arrived.

Every time someone would pass on the sidewalk Sparky would say, "Good afternoon ma'am, today's my birthday. Would you like to wish me a happy birthday? or Emile would say, "It's my friends birthday today. How about wishing him a happy birthday."

Dave said, "That's the way to appear inconspicuous, sit in the middle of the sidewalk, shirtless, with a cowboy hat on and yell at everybody passing by."

Both Sparky and Emile had been drinking since early morning. Sparky was laying on the grass and Emile was constantly chatting, or posing. John said, "Do you have a pause button somewhere, or do you go on like this from morning to night. I don't need T.V., all I need is to come down here and watch you two clowning around. I've got my own HBO, right here."

Rhino was disappointed. He has a housing appointment with the Salvation Army, Thursday and all morning he thought this was Thursday.

I said to him, "Rhino, you need to get a calendar. You could scratch each day off, and you'd always know what day it is."

Dave said, "Even if he had one, he'd need someone to remind him to look at it."

14 August 2012

This morning I met Emile (Email) in front of Starbucks. "Hi Emile," I said,"How was your weekend?"

"It was rough, man. I woke up Sunday morning and I had the shakes so bad I couldn't do anything. I just lay there in the hut all day. I drank plenty of water, but couldn't eat a thing.

"Monday morning, Sparky came over with a bottle. That made me feel a bit better -- helped with the shakes a bit. I couldn't even work. If you're panning and someone sees you shaking, like I was, they know any money they give isn't going for food.

"One good thing happened though. The Salvation Army came by and gave both Rhino and me sleeping bags. It's been three months that I've been sleeping in this thin jacket. They also signed us up for housing and O.D.S.P. (Ontario Disability Support Program). They're going to line up some places for us to see. From the O.D.S.P. they'll put $450.00 towards the rent each month. I asked, 'So, where do I go to meet you guys?' They said, 'You don't have to go anywhere. We'll come to the park tomorrow and should be able to arrange something.' Imagine that, they're coming to see me!"

I said, "I see Ambrose across the street. I guess you heard that he and Maryam lost their baby."

"Yeah, he's trying to show a brave face. Imagine, trying to smile, when you've lost a kid. He's really broken up."

I said goodbye to Emile and crossed the street to talk to Ambrose. "Hi Ambrose, I spoke with Maryam last week. She told me that you and her lost your baby. I'm so sorry to hear that. You must be devastated. I wish there were words to express to you how sad I feel. You both looked so happy the last time I saw you together."

"Yes, it's very sad, but what can I do? It's out of our hands. The baby was induced early because Maryam was using crack. We stayed at Ronald McDonald House while the baby was in the incubator, on life support. After a week they told us that he had a hole in his heart and his lungs weren't developed enough to supply his organs with oxygen."

"Cocaine use during pregnancy can affect a pregnant woman and her unborn baby in many ways. During the early months of pregnancy, it may increase the risk of miscarriage. Later in pregnancy, it can trigger preterm labor (labor that occurs before 37 weeks of pregnancy) or cause the baby to grow poorly. As a result, cocaine-exposed babies are more likely than unexposed babies to be born with low birthweight (less than 5.5 lb/2.5 kg). Low-birthweight babies are 20 times more likely to die in their first month of life than normal-weight babies, and face an increased risk of lifelong disabilities such as mental retardation and cerebral palsy. Cocaine-exposed babies also tend to have smaller heads, which generally reflect smaller brains. Some studies suggest that cocaine-exposed babies are at increased risk of birth defects, including urinary-tract defects and, possibly, heart defects. Cocaine also may cause an unborn baby to have a stroke, irreversible brain damage, or a heart attack." (Wikipedia)

"There was no hope for him so we consented to have them pull out the tubes. I was holding him when they took him off the ventilator. His breathing became very shallow. He died in my arms forty-five minutes later. At the very end, as the doctor said would happen, he made little sounds like he was drowning. Then he was silent.

"Maryam asks me why I haven't been sleeping with her. Since she's been on crack she sells herself on the street. I try to watch out for her. I want her to be safe. I see her go away with men and come back about an hour later with a fistful of cash. She spends it all on crack. I've contracted syphilis and other sexual diseases from her. Luckily, they were treatable with antibiotics, but some diseases aren't. I can't risk my life to make love with her. I don't know who she's been with.

"My brother and sister came down from Labrador, to be with us, after the baby died. Maryam was jealous. She thought they had come only to comfort me. I told her, 'No, Maryam, they came for both of us.'

"I still love Maryam. I don't know what to do." Tears were falling from his eyes. I put my arm around his shoulder and said, "I love you, man. Let it all out. I know you still love Maryam, and so you should. She's young, only twenty-four years old. She needs to mature. If she decides to get help, perhaps you can be together again like you once were. Perhaps, it can be a new start for you. No one knows the future. All we know is this moment."

"I know I can't control what she does. I just wish she'd get off the crack, before it kills her."

I said, "I have to go to work now, Ambrose. Will I see you at the park this afternoon? You take care. I love you, man."


At the park this afternoon were Emile (Email), John, Mo, Peter (Lonely Heart), Peter (Petro) and his dog Scruffy. Sparky was asleep on the grass. Rick (with glasses) arrived later. We shook hands all around. When I came to John I said, Don't tell me your name... it's John, like the toilet."

John said to me, "That's right." To Emile he said, "John and Emile are hard to remember. When I think of you as Email -- everyone knows about Email -- I think of it right away."

Peter (Petro) asked, "Dennis, do you have a cigarette?"

"No, Peter, I don't smoke."

"Peter (Lonely Heart), do you have a cigarette?"

"No, but Cathy has some at her place. She'll sell you some. Go ask her."

"I'd prefer, if you could phone ahead, let her know I'm coming."

"Phone, with what?"

"Phone with, I don't know, fifty cents."

"You expect me to spend fifty cents so you can get a smoke. I don't think so."

Petro said, "It's just like when you told me that Cathy would lend me her library card. She said to me, Petro, pay your thirty dollars, in fines, and get your own card."

I asked Emile, "How has your day been since I saw you this morning?"

"It's been good. A lady at Starbucks bought me a muffin and a large coffee with some kind of syrup in it. I couldn't taste the syrup until I got to the very bottom, then I could taste it. I was really shaky after I drank that. I find Starbuck's coffee really strong. I really didn't need that. Someone else gave me an apple. I gave that to Al. I can't eat apples. I don't have enough teeth to chew them.

"See this space where my bottom tooth was. I pulled that myself at Innes (Ottawa-Carleton Detention Center, on Innes Road). The tooth was loose and wobbly. It hurt when I bit into anything, so I got a piece of string, tied one end to the tooth, the other end to my bunk, then pulled. I had a package of salt -- that's when they still let you have salt -- put it in a glass of water and gargled. That's supposed to help it heal and prevent infection. It healed fine.

"For the past twenty-five years I've been in and out of prison: Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes."

I asked, "Which are the worst? Which are the best?"

"There isn't anything good about prisons, but I'd say, of them, the best were in Quebec. The very worst was the Don Jail in Toronto. They didn't ask you to do things, they made you. I remember when I first arrived a guard asked me to put my feet on these yellow footprints on the floor, and my hands on these hand prints on the wall. I guess my hand wasn't quite in the right position. He took it and smashed it against the wall. If you mouthed off, the guards would take you to a locked room and beat the shit out of you.

"Millhaven is bad too. It's a super maximum security prison. I'd done some bad stuff to get sent there. I'd been high on coke, acid, 'shrooms and my nerve pills. I got into a fight with this guy over something, I can't remember what. I slammed his face into a painted concrete wall, again and again and again. It left red face prints all over this yellow wall. When he came to court his entire head was bandaged, except for his left eye. He had one of those casts on his right arm that held it perpendicular to his body. His left wrist and right ankle were also in casts.

"When I was in Maplehurst, I worked in the kitchen and on maintenance. I walked into a store room and found two empty five gallon, plastic pails. I thought to my self, home brew. As I was walking down the corridor, back to my cell, I threw kites (messages) as I went along. I tried to get them under the cell doors, but some fell just outside. That wasn't a problem; with the flick of a towel they could pull them in. Everybody was pretty excited about this brew. I had access to everything in the kitchen including a couple of fingers of yeast.

"The brew was coming along really well, it was aging nicely when the head cook found it. He poured in some dish detergent, then dumped it down the drain. He said to me, 'What do you think of your brew now?' That got us really mad. I got some salami from the kitchen -- some was whole some was sliced. I stuffed it into one of the toilets as far as it would go. I stomped it with my foot. Some of the round part was still sticking out, but the toilet was really blocked. We had all agreed to flush our toilets at a specific time. When we did, water shot out everywhere. It was four inches deep in the kitchen, they couldn't use it because of the electrical appliances. The guards changing room was flooded -- everywhere.

"I asked the head cook, 'Does it still seem funny that you spoiled our brew?' Mind you, I was also on maintenance. It took me until one o'clock in the morning to mop up that mess, but we showed them."

It was time for me to leave, Rick said, "I'm making up to eighty sandwiches a week that I hand out to homeless people. I start below the Rideau River Bridge. There's a group of homeless people that gathers there, just like they do here. "Emile," he said, "I walked past here his morning, but I didn't see you."

Emile and John were wondering what to do with Sparky, since it appeared that it was going to start to rain.

I walked with Rick towards my work. I asked, "What kind of sandwiches do you make?"

"Egg salad, peanut butter and jam, meat with mustard and tuna. I'm up at about four in the morning. I use about two loaves of bread. Pack them in my rucksack with my bible, and distribute them until I run out. As people are eating I read God's word to them. After that I pan handle to get the cash to do the same thing next day.

"Yesterday, I was panning on Bank Street, where I've panned for fourteen years. I was sitting on the sidewalk with my hat out when a cop came along. He said, 'You've got your cap out. Are you pan handling?"

I said, "Yes officer, my cap is out. Do you see the cross on it, and my bible? I give food to the homeless and spread the word of the Lord. I read from my bible, and if some body wants one, I give it to them. I don't sell it to them. Those don't come cheap. That costs me money. I'm just trying to get enough change to carry on my work."

"That's a nice story, but you're going to have to move along."

"I'll move along, but I'll set up some other place." I went to the next block. He came again and motioned me to leave. I moved three times before I decided to call it a day."

We approached Elgin Street, when Rick said, "I left someone behind here." I walked to a bench where 'Scotish' Dave was sitting.

"Hi, Dave, I haven't seen you for a long time."

"I just got out to day. I didn't have to serve the full term of my three month my sentence, but I'm now free and clear. It's the first time, in five years, that I've been able to say that. I can make a new start."

I didn't ask, but I suspect that reason that Dave didn't want to go to the park was because of the temptation of drugs and alcohol; the very things that got him in trouble in the first place (twice he'd tried to sell crack to an undercover police officer). I said to him, "I'm just on my way back to work, but you and Rick could probably use a sandwich. Am I right? Here are a couple of Tim Horton cards. Maybe, you'd like to have lunch together."

"Thanks, Dennis," they both said as I walked away and waved.

Rick said, "I'll say a prayer for you."

"Thanks, Rick, I'd appreciate that."

From the Ottawa Citizen, July 22, 2012:

Acclaimed Inuit artist Annie Pootoogook pregnant and homeless, living on the street in Ottawa

OTTAWA — One of Canada’s pre-eminent Inuit artists, a woman whose work has earned huge acclaim in Europe and the U.S., spends her time on Rideau Street these days, peddling her pencil-crayon drawings to passersby for cigarette money.

Annie Pootoogook has fought demons all her life — beatings, sexual abuse, alcohol and drugs. Pootoogook has lived in Ottawa for the last five years and recently came off another binge of substance abuse, during which she largely ignored her craft. But she is finally drawing again, doing much of it on Rideau, where she has become something of a centre of attention — at least with those who know who she is and want to buy her work.

She usually produces one drawing a day. But it is sad to see how little the shy, diminutive artist accepts for a drawing — $25, maybe $30. Her earlier work, from her days in Cape Dorset, Baffin Island, sells for $1,600 to $2,600 per drawing at Feheley Fine Arts, the Toronto art gallery that kick-started her ascent a decade ago.

But even sadder is the thought of the destitute woman —currently five months pregnant — curling up at night in a bushy area overlooking the Rideau River. Pootoogook, 43, and her boyfriend, William Watt, 49, have been living outdoors in various secluded spots in and around Lowertown since spring after spending the winter in shelters for the homeless. They didn’t like the shelters because they had to sleep alone, in the segregated men’s and women’s areas.

At least outside, they can be together. Still, there are downsides. Bugs for one. Snide comments from those who sometimes spot them through the bushes. And recently, they were both issued $276 fines for trespassing on NCC property, their sleeping bags and meagre belongings hauled away.

Pootoogook can’t take the bugs anymore and says she’s losing her mind being bitten while she tries to sleep.

They are desperate to get off the street, even if it is just into emergency housing for now. With a baby on the way — a girl whose name will be Napachie Marie Pootoogook-Watt — the father-to-be says they are focusing on setting their lives straight. No more booze. No more crack cocaine, a drug on which Watt says he spent $3,000 over a few days last November.

When Watt and Pootoogook, who met in 2010, woke up from that crack binge, they lived in a tent for two months at the “Occupy” encampment at Confederation Park. Then it was homeless shelters for the winter, though Watt spent 32 of those days in jail for stealing booze from an LCBO store. He says he has been in jail a few times for petty crimes, and it was while he was incarcerated last winter that Pootoogook found out she was pregnant. She surprised him with the news when he was released.

Pootoogook is the birth mother of two boys, now 23 and 16, who were born in Cape Dorset. They were adopted by relatives. “There is no interest in having this one adopted,” says Watt, who has a son from a previous relationship.

The couple wants to get out of the Lowertown area, as they say they have too many acquaintances there who were a bad influence when they tried before to stop drinking and drugging. And with Pootoogook pregnant, Watt says his girlfriend has become fearful of those people.

Read more: http://www.ottawacitizen.com/news/Acclaimed+Inuit+artist+Annie+Pootoogook+pregna...

10 August 2012

Today is garbage day. As I was waiting for my bus, it started to rain. A cyclist with a makeshift wagon rode past me, carrying a clear plastic bag full of crushed cans. He stopped at a recycling bin on the curb, beside a driveway not far from the bus stop. He rooted through and found more cans he could get a cash refund for, from ten to twenty cents a can, depanding on size.

Because of the rain I wasn’t expecting to see any pan handlers. As I looked towards Mo’s usual spot, I recognized Sparky. He was standing, talking to a man seated on the sidewalk.

“Hi, Sparky! How are you doing?”

“Fine, Dennis, I was just checking to see who was sitting here.”

“Is this Walter?” I asked. Walter had been panning across the street from Sparky last week.

“No, This is Al.”

“Hi, Al. My name is Dennis.” I reached into my pocket for a Tim Horton’s card and handed it to him. “There’s enough credit on here to buy yourself breakfast.”

“Thanks, Dennis.”

“What about me, Dennis? Do you have one for me?” asked Sparky.

“I didn’t think you ate at this time of day, Sparky. Of course, I have one for you.”

Sparky said, “I slept at my daughter Pam’s last night. She woke me up at 7:00 and said, “Dad, I made some scrambled eggs and bacon for you. You have to eat something.’”

“How is Pam doing?” Does she know if there is any permanent damage to her back?”

“She doesn’t know. She’s waiting to hear from her doctor.”

“How is Lottie?”

“She doesn’t know. Again, she’s waiting to hear from her doctor.”

“Her boyfriend should be charged,” I said.

Sparky said, “I can’t wait to see him, myself.”

“A lot of people can’t wait to see him. I’m sure that Mo will lay a beating on him if he crosses her path.”

“Yes, I know.”

“Yesterday, I saw Rick and Suzie for the first time since Rick’s ankle was broken. Emile and Rhino were going to Quebec to buy beer.”

“Yeah, I saw Rick and Suzie. I found Emile asleep, so he didn’t get to where he was going.”

“Where are you going now, Sparky?”

“To Bank Street, to my office.”

I walked Sparky to the next corner, then we parted ways. It was raining at noon so I didn’t bother going out. My friends would have stayed inside at home, or at one of the homeless shelters.

9 August 2012

The first person I saw at noon today was Sunny James. "Sunny," I asked, "how long have you lived on the streets?"

"Oh gosh, my parents died in 1999, I wasn't in very good shape, so that's when I decided to travel around the world in eight hundred days. I still havent's made it. I was down in Mexico for a while. I liked it there, but there is a lot of violent crime.

If the state of Chihuahua were a country, today it would have the fourth-highest level of major violence in the world”, the murder rate in Mexico is 13 per 100,000 (sixth highest in the world) compared to only 4.2 per 100,000 in the USA (24th highest in the world). (http://www.thetruthaboutmexico.com/2009/09/mexico-murder-rate-reality-check/)

"I've lived in Toronto and Vancouver. In Trois Riviere, Quebec, I was arrested for hitchhiking and threatened with rape. Last year I appeared on 'The Lowell Greene Show" on talk radio. I announced on the radio my intention of running for Prime Minister of Canada, since our current Prime Minister Harper is doing such a poor job. Later I was beaten by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, who also confiscated my photography equipment, laptops and files. I still haven't been able to get them back.

"On July 14, 2001, I spoke at an Ottawa City Council Meeting about the proposed Ottawa Light Rail Transit Project and my Solar Mono Rail vision." http://wn.com/Ottawa_City_Council#/videos

"In Europe monorail systems are used almost exclusively for mass transit. With monorails there is not the problem of traffic congestion or snow removal. It's far more cost effective to build up for monorails, as opposed to digging down to build subways." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_monorail_systems

I asked, "Do you know the people who congregate in the park near the Arts Center? There's Sparky, Hoover, Elaine, Rhino, Emile -- it varies from day to day."

"I know of them, but I don't associate with them. I met some of them at the tent city for 'Occupy Ottawa'. Sparky just lay on the edge of the fountain. I can't figure him out."

I said, "He's a very nice person. He's been panhandling on Laurier Street, beside the underground parking near Kent, for the past seventeen years. He comes from Toronto. While he was there he was a boxer. He sparred with George Chuvallo and Shawn O'Sullivan. He must have been good. It's possible that he sustained some brain injury while boxing."

Sunny said, "Getting a few knocks to the head can cause a lot of damage. I'm concerned about the baby carts that some people pull behind bicycles. I saw one involved in an accident right on this corner, last winter. I took some pictures and asked the woman riding the bicycle if her child was wearing a hat and mittens. She was an army girl. A couple of army fellows were there as well. They said, 'That's no way to speak to a woman.' The police arrived and asked what the problem was. I tried to explain, but they wouldn't listen. They just told me to move along.

"Another time, I was attacked by a woman. I was taking pictures from across the street. She came up to me and said, 'Hey! I don't want my picture taken!' I said, 'I', not photographing you, just the street scene.' She didn't believe me and grabbed my camera."

The next person I saw was Claude. His left eye is still black. He told me that yesterday he overslept until 10:00 am at the Shepherd's. He said he almost never does that. This morning he was up at 7:30, thinking that it was Friday, P.N.A. (Personal Needs Allowance) day, when he receives a check in the amount of $27.00. He had fallen again and showed me where he scraped his arm.

On the grass at the park were Rhino, Emile ( who had shaved off his beard and left only a moustache), John (he said to remember his name just think of toilet), Rick (on crutches with his right leg in a cast)and his girlfriend Suzie-Q.
I hadn't seen Rick or Suzie since they were beaten up while trying to mug a black dude named Lucky. Suzie was knocked out, Rick was left with a broken ankle. Whenever I'm near them I feel like the gingerbread man faced by a pair of foxes. http://folktale.net/GBman.html My thought is not if I will get mugged, but when. Rhino and Emile would have my back, so I'm safe for another day.

Both John and Rhino had bicycles and planned to cross the Ottawa River into Gatineau, Quebec, where beer is cheaper. They prefer the tall cans of Labatt Maximum Ice (7.1 per cent alcohol), not available in Ontario.

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