Leafs Game – Chuck

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31 March 2014

Leafs Game

The weather is still hovering around the freezing point. For pedestrians it means treacherous sidewalks, especially in the shade. I could see Chuck’s knees and the wheels of his chair from a block away; the rest of him was obscured by an aluminum pole that accommodated the push button for the Walk light.  When I talk to Chuck, I have to be careful not to lean on the button; a bell goes off each time it is pressed.

“Hi, Chuck, did you enjoy the hockey game?”

“Yes, I enjoyed being at the game, but our team lost  5-3  to St. Louis.  Toronto allowed a season-worst 23 shots in the first period and, thanks to some awful play from Dion Phaneuf, spotted St. Louis a 4-1 lead in the second period. They made a two goal come back in the third, but it wasn’t enough.  One loss isn’t so bad, but we fell from third-best record to tenth place in just two weeks.

“I didn’t sleep well last night, ate too much junk food. I had some pizza, then later I had some fried chicken — too much grease. I’m leaving here in about fifteen minutes. When I get home I’m going straight to bed.

“This afternoon I’m going to a place in the west end to have my income tax calculated. I got a friend who is an accountant. He’ll do it for me for free. The government is taking away all of our deductions.  It used to be that I’d get a refund of eight hundred dollars. That would keep me off the street for a while. That was really helpful. Pensioners like me  have it rough. It’s all we can do to pay the rent and have enough left over to eat. It’s worse for a woman trying to raise kids. I have a cleaning lady that comes over one afternoon a week — I like my mornings to myself. I can’t imagine how she makes ends meet. What happens when the kid needs a new bed? Those are expensive. How about a grandmother whose grandchildren live half way across the country? Do you think she can afford  travel costs, the way they are today? No way!”

“What do you think of our mayor, Rob Ford?”

“People say a lot of bad things about him, but he did something; he kept  taxes low by reducing the size and cost of government. He also boosted tourism. It’s the provincial and federal governments that are holding back our pensions. Their suggestion is that people save more money. I don’t get enough money to be able to save.  Old Age Security and the Guaranteed Income Supplement pays less than a thousand a month. That may sound like a lot of money, but try to live on it.

“When the Canadian government brought in the International Free Trade Agreement it cost us a lot of jobs. I worked at a brush manufacturing company. My job was to shape the handles of the snow scrapers. I could run five or six per minute through the shaper. It was dangerous. If I pushed too hard it could fly back at me and cause serious injury. I was paid about two dollars an hour at that time. The company decided to ship the rough handles to Japan. They were bundled by the hundred, sent by truck to Vancouver, then by ship to Japan. Labor costs there were about ten cents per hour. The handles were returned to us the same way, then we’d attach the plastic scraper on one end and the bristles on the other. My job was gone so they moved me to the push broom department.

“I should mention that the company I worked for  was started by two guys who had no money, but they had a great idea.  They collected sawdust from the local lumber mills, added  a green color, a pine scent, some oil and sold it as a sweeping compound. The company has been around for a hundred years and now produce  a full range of powered scrubbing, polishing and carpet care machines and vacuum cleaners.

“Anyway, I enjoyed making the push brooms. I asked my boss if it was okay to make a broom for myself. I said I’d do it on my own time, during breaks. He said, ‘Sure, go ahead.’ What he didn’t know was that I made a broom with a longer handle and instead of the regular corn bristles, I used camel hair. This was back in the sixties. What I made was worth about sixty dollars at the time. Can you imagine what it would cost now? I worked with my brother-in-law Bruce. He’d come over to my place after work for a few beers. I threw the broom to him and said, ‘Bruce, would you sweep my floor?’ He looked at the broom and said, ‘You son of a bitch.’

“I  also worked at a shoe factory. The owner drove a Rolls Royce, he was too cheap to have a driver. That car was absolutely filthy, but he refused to have it washed. He’d say, ‘The rain will clean it eventually.’ He made a lot of money, but there was to control of inventory. If I wanted a new pair of shoes, I’d just go to the back and ask for the style I wanted and give them the shoe size. I didn’t wear those shoes; instead I’d sell them for half price. I’d have a buyer lined up ahead of time. It served him right, the old tightwad.”

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Tickets Found – Chuck

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28 March 2014

Tickets Found

 

On his usual corner was Chuck Senior and Goldie. A light dusting of snow fell overnight, but the freezing rain predicted, has held off.

“Hi Chuck, Any news about your missing tickets?”

“Well, you can’t find what was never lost in the beginning. I did something really dumb.” He formed his fingers into the shape of a gun, held them to the side of his head and said, “Boom”.

I told you that I received the tickets, by mail, in a big brown envelope. There was also a nice letter that said, I hope you enjoy attending the game with your daughter. I threw the envelope away. I didn’t have any use for it. I put the tickets in a smaller envelope with the rest of my papers. I must have looked in that envelope a hundred times. I was sorting through my envelopes last night and saw some advertising in one of them.  I pulled it out to throw in the trash and on the other side was printed my tickets. I guess they had gotten stuck together. So, this weekend I see the game with my daughter. I feel so stupid.”

A lady stopped by, “Hi Charlie, do you have time to talk with me?”

“I always have time to talk to a pretty girl.”

“Charlie, I’m not pretty and I’m older than you are, so I’m hardly a girl. I’m seventy-eight. I’ve still got six years on you. Anyway, I wanted to give you something, but it’s in my backpack at home. I only brought my purse today.” She bent down and kissed him.

Chuck said, “You see, this job I got isn’t so bad after all. You’d be surprised how many women kiss me throughout the day. Then of course in the warmer weather there’s the crazy lady. The one that picks up the cigarette butts and other trash off the sidewalk. I’ve always been nice to her. I can’t understand a word she says, but I nod my head, say, “That’s nice.” Whatever seems appropriate at the time. She doesn’t harm anybody, but  lots of people abuse her. She just wants to be listened to. If I’ve got extra change I’ll give it to her for a coffee and a donut.

Sometimes, she makes perfect sense.  She showed me her journal one day.  It was beautifully written, but it was all in French. I don’t speak French, so I don’t know if it made sense or not. Once came up to me and said. ‘If I ever decide to get married, I’ll choose you.’ Then she gave me a big kiss. I said, “Wait a minute, not so fast.”

“She has some mental problems. We all do. I certainly do. ”

I said, “I do, too, Chuck.”

“That reminds me of the time I applied for my disability pension. You wouldn’t believe the number of hoops you have to go through to get that. I’ve got a bad back. They wanted me to see a psychiatrist. I can’t figure that out. They said they had to make sure I was telling the truth. Okay, I agreed to see a psychiatrist. Actually, I’ve been on various occasions.  One time, I arrived at my appointment early. The psychiatrist said, ‘You’ll have to wait about ten minutes, my receptionist isn’t in yet. While your waiting I have some papers for you to fill out. It was all the standard stuff. Back then we didn’t have a health card, like we do now. I came to the part where I had to fill in my medical insurance number. It was a long number, but I remembered all the numbers, except for the last three. So, I pulled a paper out of my wallet and wrote down the rest of the number.  All the other numbers, like my driver’s licence, Social Insurance; I remembered all them. The psychiatrist asked me about the paper I pulled out of my wallet. I said, ‘I forgot the last three numbers for my medical insurance.’ He said, “You mean you had all the other numbers memorized?’ I said, ‘Yes.’ He said, “Why are you here. You have a better memory than I have.’ I told him that I needed a signature for my disability insurance. He said, ‘Sure, I can do that for you. Apart from that your mind is as healthy as can be.’

“Another time, I was waiting for a psychiatrist appointment. He had his office door opened about two inches.  I was curious, so I peeked inside. He had a tourniquet around his upper arm and was shooting up. I told my worker about it. She said, ‘We know that he has diabetes.’ Well I know that you don’t need a tourniquet to inject insulin. It was probably heroin, or else he was a crack head.”

“I knew this woman one time. She was very pretty, a prostitute. Lots of guys wanted to marry her, but she held them off. Then this psychiatrist and her got married. I asked him about it. He said, ‘I want to write a book about life with a prostitute, so I married her.’ I asked, ‘What happens to her after you finish your book.’ He said, ‘I don’t know. I haven’t thought that far ahead.’

“Speaking of prostitutes, I get propositioned quite a few times while I’m sitting here.”

I said, “I expect that their out of your price range; are they?”

“No, they’re all on crack. I could get head for fifteen to twenty dollars, if I wanted it. I’d make sure I was wearing at least three condoms. You never know what diseases they’re carrying. There are a lot that hang around where I live. It’s a rough area. A guy was stabbed to death right in front of my building, just a few days ago. It was probably a drug deal gone bad.”

I asked, “How did you initially injure your back? Was it quite a while ago?”

“I’ve injured it a number of times. I blame a lot of it on my dad. He had a job as caretaker of a cemetery. At that time they used push mowers, not these gas or electric jobs that they use now. I was about eleven at the time. He’d mow around the tomb stones; I’d go around with the clippers and get the long strands beside the stones. There was this old stone we were working around. I was on my hands and knees at the back. He was mowing in front. I guess he hit the stone a little too hard and it toppled over on me, caught my leg between my knee and hip. He refused to take me to the doctor. I lay on the sofa for about three days, then he asked, “Are you ready to go back to work?” I said, “No I’m not ready to go back to work. My leg is fractured.

“When I was fifteen, I was playing high school football. I tackled this guy, my helmet dug into the dirt, my legs bent back over my head. I told my dad about it. He said, ‘Stop your whining. Suck it up and act like a man.’ I’ve also been in a car accident. I was thrown out against a rock.”

“My dad’s dead now, but If I ever got the chance to see him again I’d say to him, “It’s good to see you dad. I love you. Then I’d shoot him in the head.

Other people had stopped to drop Chuck change or folded bills. Others were patting Goldie, so I made my exit and waved to Chuck.

 

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Stolen Tickets

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27 March 2014

With the temperature at minus sixteen, I didn’t expect to see any of my friends outside, but Chuck Senior was at his usual corner.

“Hi Chuck, I didn’t expect to see you this morning.”

“Well, it may be raining tomorrow, so this may be my last chance for a while.”

“How are you and Goldie?”

“Goldie’s fine, I’m not so good though. Remember, I told you about what happened at the Air Canada Centre, where my walker got broken, and the cops wouldn’t let the cab driver pick me up? That still pisses me off! Anyway, I told you that I phoned the Centre and they said they’d send me two tickets, one for me and one for my daughter. Well, the tickets arrived in the mail all right. I put them in the dish where I keep my Disability Transport pass. I invited my daughter to come to the game with me. Will sir, I looked this morning and they were gone.”

I said, “That’s terrible, Chuck, after all you went through to get those tickets, and now to have them stolen. Who has access to your apartment?”

“A number of people do. My superintendent, my cleaning lady, my daughter — she wouldn’t have taken them ’cause she’d be going to the game, anyway –my son, but he doesn’t like hockey. I trust my cleaning lady. She’s been with me for years. She was in a few days ago. I noticed that the tickets had been moved to the coffee table. I guess when she was dusting. Things get moved around a bit, but I’ve never had anything stolen.

“I didn’t sleep so good last night; thinking about the tickets, and I ate some things I shouldn’t have.”

I asked, “Like what?”

“Well, I bought some of that Montreal style… What is it?”

“Montreal style smoked meat.”

“Yeah,  that’s what it was. It’s way to salty for me. Anyway, I had it in a big sandwich with fries. For supper I fried an egg, and  had some of the smoked meat, with toast. My stomach was rumbling all night.

“I’ll be okay tomorrow. I’ll eat lots of spinach and fresh vegetables. That should fix me up.

“The arthritis in my hands is acting up. I can hardly move my fingers.

“I’m going to look around for those tickets. I may have put them somewhere else. I’m going to contact some people. If all else fails, I’ll phone the Air Canada Centre. If someone uses those tickets, they’ll be informed that they were stolen, and they’ll be thrown out of the game.

I said, “Well, Chuck, I wish you all the best with that. I hope you get your tickets back. Perhaps, I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“They’re forecasting rain for later on, so I don’t know. I usually wake up at about one thirty in the morning, anyway. If it looks like rain, I’ll take Goldie for her walk then, so I don’t have to take her when the rain is heavy. Each morning I walk outside. If the weather’s lousy, I go back to bed, stay where it’s cozy until I’m ready to get up. That’s what I’ve been doing most mornings.”

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Queen Bus

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20 March 2014

I was on the Queen bus, on my way home from the gym. It was packed and noisy. Getting closer to the end of the route I took an open seat near the front. On the seat along the side was Little Jake.

“Dennis, how the fuck are you? I haven’t seen you for ages. What are you doing on this bus? Oh, I forgot, you live up this way. Shakes and me met you one other time on this bus.

“I was talking to Bearded Bruce earlier. We were going to cook a big meal. He asked me to get the split peas. You know, the hard ones in the bag. Anyway, I get to his place and he’s not there. I don’t know what happened. I stopped by to see Snake and Irene, but their place was all locked up. I went to  Jacques’ place. He was cooking supper. I asked, ‘Do you mind if I stop by for a while?’ He said, ‘Can’t you see I’m getting ready to eat? Fuck off.’ He hadn’t cooked enough for two, so I just pulled up a chair,  opened my bottle and had a few joints.

“I got two bottles of wine with me, three grams and some chicken breasts. I’m ready to party and I can’t find anybody. It’s like everybody’s dissin’ me; but not really, ’cause they’re not home. I got my check today, two days before everybody else. I don’t know how that works. It has somethin’ to do with the fact that I don’t have direct deposit.  For some reason, my Trillium check and my G.S.T check come two days later than everybody else. I can’t figure that out. It works out for me though. I lend people money when I first get my check. When I’m running low, before my next check, they pay me back. I only lend to people I trust.

“I’m going to stop on my way home to see if Shakes is in. He’s just a couple of buildings down. What time is it? — eight,thirty? It’s near his bed time, he should be home. Am I near my stop yet? Oh no! I’m out of rolling papers. I’m going to have to walk a block down and get some.

“I left my bike near the St. Lawrence Market. It’s locked, but I’ve only got a small, cheap lock. I’ve also got quick release wheels. There’s nothing stopping someone from taking my wheel, but I can always steal another one.

“You’ll never guess who I saw today, Mariah. She was nearly in tears when she saw me. Well, not really in tears, but her voice sort of choked up. There was Bruce, Jacques, me, Buck and Mariah.  It’s the first time the crew has been together in months.

“Jacques has lost a lot of weight, probably about twenty pounds. He still has a pot belly, but he doesn’t look like Santa Claus any more. He’s cut back to just two beer a day and he stays off the wine. He’s eating well too.”

I said, “His doctor probably told him to lose a few pounds because of his heart. He’s had three heart attacks already, hasn’t he? I’m glad to hear that he’s taking care of himself. How is Shakes?”

“He staggers around like he always does. He hasn’t been panning much because of the cold weather. He’s doing more bumming off people. Apart from that, he’s the same old Shakes. He knows everybody. If he passed out downtown, when he woke up he’d know somebody nearby who’d put him up for the night. He’s collected a few cracked up friends that I don’t  much care for. You don’t want to be bumming off the wrong people, if you know what I mean. It’s just not healthy. This is my stop coming up. I’ll see you man.”

Bye, Jake. I’ll see you soon.

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Walker

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21 March 2014

Walker

The temperature this morning was almost bearable; meaning, I still had to wear a scarf over my face to protect my lungs. This causes my glasses to fog. I was somewhat  blind until I could get to someplace warm. I was surprised to see Chuck Senior at what, in more temperate weather, is his usual spot.

“Hi, Chuck, I’m surprised to see you. It’s been a couple of months now.” I shook his hand and patted Goldie while we talked.

“Dennis, would you please stand on my right side, I’ve got a regular who sometimes slips me a twenty, but only if there’s nobody on the side open to the sidewalk. He doesn’t talk, he barely stops…That was him there, did you see him? That makes coming down here worthwhile. Now, I’m in a good mood.

“You see me today, but you won’t see me next week. It’s going back to minus seventeen for a while. This weather has really kept me stranded. Which reminds me, I went to a Leaf’s game Wednesday. We lost to the Tampa Bay Lightning, but it was a good game regardless. I brought my walker, because it’s easier to get around through crowds. Anyway, I was ready to leave, so I went to the doorway where the Disability Transport bus does their pickup. They were full of people in wheelchairs, so the driver phoned a taxi for me. It’s a fifty dollar fare, but I don’t have to pay it. The Commissionaire said to wait inside where it was warm. I saw the cab pull up. Someone held the door for me, but they didn’t hold it long enough. It smashed into the side of my walker. I wasn’t hurt, but the walker was damaged. Now, I can’t fold it properly.

As I made my way to the cab, a police car pulled up. The officer told the driver, ‘Move along! You’re not allowed to park here.’ The driver said, ‘There’s an elderly man, in a walker, who is waiting for me.’ The cop said, ‘I don’t give a fuck why you’re here; just move somewhere else. This isn’t a taxi stand.’ The driver said, ‘Take a look behind you, my fare is waiting at the door. You got no business interfering with my business, you son of a whore.’ Well, that did it. They forced him off to the side and started checking his car for bombs, checking his licence, checking with the station for outstanding violations. I’d been waiting about half an hour. Eventually, another bus came along, so I got my ride home.

“I reported it to the police. They got me to fill out a form. Nothing will come of that, complete waste of my time. I phoned the Air Canada Center, where I’d been to the game. The lady was very nice. She said, ‘I’m sorry that you had such a bad experience. I’ll send you a free ticket, and one for a friend. I’m sure you don’t want to go to the game alone.’ So, that was nice. I figured I should get something. I tell you, there are some times I wish I carried a billy club. I would have gone after that cop.”

I asked, “How has Goldie been feeling?”

“She’s been doing pretty well. I got an awful scare though. She started limping on the same leg that had been operated on. I thought maybe she’d had a relapse of some kind; that maybe her hip was becoming displaced.  The next day it was even worse, she started hopping around with her foot off the ground, like she did when she’d first had the operation. So, I bundled her up, got myself bundled up, then took her to the vet. It turned out that she’d cut her paw on some sharp ice. The vet said there wasn’t much he could do. He bandaged the foot and gave me four pills for her pain. The visit cost me sixty bucks. She’s fine now.

“I was at Costco the other day talking to the manager. He looked at Goldie and said, ‘That’s a nice blanket you got for her, but I think we can do better.’ He said, ‘I’ll be right back.’ He brought back a beautiful fleece blanket, from their pet department. He also brought bags of beef, chicken and pork jerky for her. She can eat the beef, but there are additives in the chicken and pork that she’s not allowed. Anyway, it’s nice to see that there are still people who give a damn.”

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