Time Passes

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wheel

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31 July 2014

“Good morning Chuck. Are you managing to stay dry?”

“The rain has managed to hold off. If it gets bad I’ll go across the street where there is an overhang. I’ve got a plastic bag to go over my hand controls.”

“You certainly have a good view from here, Chuck.”

“Yeah, just at the right height. I don’t have to apologize for staring at women, they just walk into my line of view. I remember one time I whistled at a gorgeous woman. She came across the street and gave me shit. She said, ‘Whistling at a woman is disrespectful.’ I said, ‘No it’s not. It indicates that I think you’re a beautiful.  Now, I know you’re also a bitch.’ I was at a restaurant a while back. Just as I came in the door, a nice looking waitress spilled something and knelt to wipe it up. I said, ‘You don’t have to bow down to me when I come in, a simple genuflection will do.’ She got so embarrassed that she walked back to her office. We got to be great friends after that.

“Have you heard that they are spending nine million dollars on a bicycle bridge. There is no need for a bicycle bridge.  There aren’t that many cyclists who are going to use it. At the best it’s only going to save them a few minutes. I get so mad at our socialist, nazi, city council.  They’re as bad as the federal government, holding back our income tax refunds. Hearing about that, two women in the lobby of my apartment, were crying. They had been counting on that money to visit their grandchildren. Now, they won’t be able to.

“The government, or whoever is responsible for my building, won’t put an awning over the back entrance. It’s the only entrance that is wheelchair accessible. When it’s raining, or in the winter when ice and snow are  melting, I get water running down my back when I struggle to unlock the door. That’s why I had that crazy spell earlier this year. I caught pneumonia. I couldn’t see,  didn’t know where I was, couldn’t find my chair. I could have died. They don’t care about that because it doesn’t affect them. They’re all a bunch of socialist, nazi bastards. There used to be a time when socialism helped people, like in the Great Depression, but not now.

I said, “I phoned the hospital last night. I was hoping to talk to Joy, but she doesn’t have her phone connected. She was going to sign her ODSP (Ontario Disability Support Program) check and have me cash it for her. I asked my bank. They wouldn’t cash it. They said all they could do for me is to deposit it into her account, but she doesn’t have a bank account. If she did she could have direct deposit. I was able to leave a message at the nursing station to let her know.

“Do you think that a place like MoneyMart would cash a third-party government check?”

Chuck answered, “They’d only do it if you had an account there and it’s expensive. I think they charge twenty bucks for the first three hundred, then it goes up after that. When I was on ODSP I used to go there, but I think that the government has changed the rules for them. They aren’t allowed to charge as much as they used to.”

“I lost some money last night and I don’t know how. I always keep about thirty bucks in my back pocket in case of an emergency, like if I get stranded and  have to take a cab somewhere. I keep change in my front pocket for buying stuff. I probably had about ten bucks worth. I thought I remembered taking the thirty bucks out of my pocket and putting it on the kitchen table with my new bus pass. This morning, the bus pass was there, but the money on the table was gone. Nothing else was missing, not even the change in my pocket. The only thing I can think of is that someone cut my screen and reached in to unlock the latch. I’m going to check that when I get home.

“I’m going to stop to buy some bananas, plums and apples. I can’t eat apples as well as I used to, because of my false teeth. Now, I have to peel and slice them.”

A man stopped and handed Chuck a can of V8 juice. He thanked the man, then put the can in the bag that he carries on his wheelchair.

Chuck said, “I’m going to have to remember that I put that in there.  I love V8 juice but, in the past, I’ve forgotten that there were cans at the bottom of my bag.  By the time I found them they were old and shaken up, so I didn’t want to drink them. A few days ago I put a tomato and a cucumber in my pocket. I had to throw them out. They’d gotten soft.”

I looked at my watch and noticed that the second hand wasn’t moving. I asked, “Chuck, do you know what time it is?”

“I have to be careful that nobody sees this. He discretely pulled out his cell phone and checked the time. It’s 8:30, you’re early. “

“I said, “That’s the time I’ve got. I wonder why my second hand isn’t moving.”

Chuck said, “I went to buy a $14.95 watch. I noticed that all the watches in the case were running. That means that the batteries are wearing out. The jeweler charges ten bucks to replace a battery. At that rate, it’s better to buy a new watch. I’ve had problems with cheap watches where they only worked for a few months.”

“Chuck, I’m going to have to leave. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“See you, Dennis. Take care.”

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New Amazon Review

$2.97 download. Proceeds go to people forced onto the streets. R2R

5.0 out of 5 stars: Very Well Written and Enlightening, July 29, 2014
By Irish Times (Chicago, Illinois)

This review is from: Gotta Find a Home: Conversations with Street People (Kindle Edition)

I walk past homeless people as I leave the train station and head to my office every single day. Over time I have come to not even see them anymore. It is as if they are no different than the trash that litters the sidewalk. This book opened my eyes. The writing was superb and the author did a good job telling these people’s tales. It was at times heart wrenching but yet still uplifting to see that despite their lot in life most seem to still have a good outlook on life. Some of those stories were pretty funny too, nice to see that they can still see the humor in things.

I cannot imagine what it must be like to not know where your next meal is coming from or where I am going to sleep. This book brings back their humanity to people like me and hopefully I am a better person for it.

 

Writing about the homeless and helping the homeless, has given my life a purpose that it didn’t have before. Documenting their stories will, I hope, introduce them to the public in a non-threatening way. Some panhandlers look intimidating, but…

If I Had a Smoke, I'd Die

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wheel

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30 July 2014

Chuck was bundled in his raincoat with his hood pulled over his cap. He had to keep readjusting his hood so it wouldn’t slip over his eyes. “Hi Chuck”, I said, “are you managing to keep dry?”

“Yeah, it’s not too bad now. When it rained heavily I took shelter. I always keep a plastic bag to put over the hand controls so they don’t short-circuit.”

I asked, “Have you heard that Joy’s in hospital.”

“That’s too bad. What’s she in for.”

“It’s her fibromyalgia, she wasn’t able to get out of bed yesterday. Her legs were too weak to stand and her arms were weak.”

“I feel bad now criticizing her for not being down here. I hate hospitals. Did you hear about the daughter who came from another country to visit her parents in hospital? They couldn’t find them.  How disorganized can they be. Did you see that movie with a similar theme?”

“I don’t think so. Who was in it?”

“It was that Canadian guy. The movie was filmed in one of the hospitals here.”

I asked, “The actor, is he an old guy?”

“Well, he is now. He has sort of a deep voice.”

“Donald Sutherland?”

“Yeah, that’s him. I had a close friend who went to hospital. I don’t know if it was the meds he was on, but when I visited he didn’t recognize me.”

“Perhaps it was dementia.”

“I don’t know. For some reason his mind was all scrambled. It reminds me of another guy who lived in the same rooming house as I did. It was in a rough area.  He became an alcoholic, lost his business, his family. He just fell to pieces. When he was in hospital his wife came to visit. She told him that if he quit drinking, she’d consider letting him return to living in their home. Things were going well, six months past and he hadn’t had a drink. She invited him over for Christmas. Everything was fine. After about eighteen months sober they were invited to a party. She ordered a drink, he drank soda water. She said, ‘I can’t spend time with you, because my boyfriend’s here. The guy, Suitcase Henry, went straight to the bar and got wasted. Eighteen months down the drain.

I asked, “Is it difficult to get into a rehab program?”

“It’s easy to get into rehab. Getting into a program can take months. I don’t have very much faith in those programs. They’re all basically twelve step programs. There’s a lot of chatting back and forth. Some people find there’s too much religion involved. It’s hard, once you’re an alcoholic, you’re always an alcoholic. Sometimes when I’m with my sons, they’ll offer me a drink. I think about it, but drinking makes your mind go crazy. If I had a drink, I’d want a smoke. They just go together. If I had a smoke, I’d die.”

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Richard the Lionheart

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wheel

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29 July 2014

“Good morning, Chuck,” I said.

“Good morning. Boy, am I glad to see you. So far, today has been miserable. I didn’t sleep well last night. I had three things to do: feed Goldie, take my pills, take her for a walk. I fried some liver in margarine — I left it a little rare, but no blood coming out — then washed it under the  hot water tap to get the grease off. I chopped it and put it in Goldie’s bowl.  Liver has lots of iron in it, it’s good for her. I know, a lot of people think liver and make a face, she likes it. I took my heart pills, ate a banana to get my potassium , then took Goldie out for her walk. One thing I forgot to do was to take my sleeping pill. It took about an hour to kick in. Finally, I got to sleep. I woke an hour late, so I had to rush to get down here. I went to the coffee shop to go to the bathroom. Boy, was that a mistake. A woman, who I see regularly called to me and I had a hell of a time getting away from her. I got to my spot here, didn’t even have a chance to get my cap out, when another woman, stopped right in front of me. I’ve known her for a long time, but she never gives me anything. As she was standing there one of my regulars, who usually drops me a twenty, walked right by. He couldn’t get near me because of this stupid woman!

“Goldie is feeling a bit sluggish because of all she ate last night. She’ll be fine after she walks some of it off. One thing I’ve got to look forward to is I’m being taken out for lunch.

“Goldie, back! Service dog, special just like you. That’s a good girl. You stay here.”

A man with a white cane said, “Good morning!”

Chuck said, “Good morning.  Walk a little to your left, you’re outside the lines for the cross walk. A little more to the left. Okay, you’re fine now.

“I’ve had my differences with him. Well, not with him exactly, it’s just our dogs don’t get along. Anyway, he got across.”

A woman stopped to pat Goldie. She said to Chuck, “I work with Dennis.”

Chuck said, “That’s unfortunate for you.”

A bicycle, moving fast, crossed the corner of the sidewalk, sloped for easy access by wheelchairs, nearly hit Goldie. “Hey, get off the sidewalk!” yelled Chuck. “Those sons of bitches don’t give a damn about anyone but themselves. We were on a path by the river and two bicycled came towards us. They wouldn’t move out of the way. They expected me to move. Remember a while back, a small boy was hit by two bicycles racing along one of the paths. He ended up with scrapes on his leg and, I think, a broken arm. Do you think anything was done about that? No, sir. They said, ‘We’re sorry.’ A lot of good that did. They should have been charged for assault with a deadly weapon. I get pissed off just thinking about it.

“See that woman wearing the short skirt, riding the bicycle. At least she’s obeying the rules. She must be cold with all that leg showing. If I were a few years younger I wouldn’t mind warming her. That reminds me of a joke. You’ve heard of King Arthur, Guenevere and Sir Lancelot. That’s a good name for him. Anyway, King Arthur was going off to war. He locked a chastity belt on Guenevere, then handed the key to his loyal, trusted friend Lancelot. Before the king had even ridden out of town, Lancelot came charging after him. ‘Your highness,’ he said, ‘there’s been a mistake. You gave me the wrong key!’ What do you think of that?

“You know, there is all this talk about the Holy Grail, made of silver, that Arthur’s soldiers went on the Crusades to find.  I’m a Catholic, but there was no silver cup. Sure there was Jesus and the Apostles at the Last Supper, but they were poor men. They couldn’t afford silver. The Crusades took place for the same reason that a lot of wars took place. The army was bored and they hungered for loot. They were clean-shaven, Muslims wore beards. They wanted to kill any man with a beard and take everything he had.

“Have you heard about the battle with Saladin? He was a leader of the Muslims. The battle for Jerusalem went back and forth. First Saladin took it. When his soldiers entered the city of Jerusalem, they were not allowed to kill civilians, rob people or damage the city.

While in control of Acre, Richard the Lionheart, leading the Christians, massacred 2000 Muslim soldiers who they had captured. Saladin had agreed to pay a ransom for them but somehow there was a breakdown in the  process of payment and Richard ordered their execution. He had their heads cut off, every last one of them, man woman and child. That’s religion for you. That’s the glory of England.”

“I have to go, Chuck. Take care, I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Bye, Dennis, see you tomorrow.”

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Joy in Hospital

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homeless

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29 July 2014

I sat with Little Chester and Debbie on the sidewalk. I said, “Chester that’s quite a hat you have on. I’ve never seen a pink Mack Truck cap.”

“No, you don’t see many of these. Pink, I think that stands for breast cancer. My mother died of breast cancer in 1971, but it still hurts.”

Debbie was slurring her words.  She said, “Last night I had a wonderful dream about my daughter. She’d grown into a beautiful woman, just like I know she would.”

I asked, “Are you in contact with your daughter?”

“No, she won’t have anything to do with me. I have two daughters, 22 and 23 and a son 14.  Just before my mother died — she died of breast cancer. Just before she died she asked me what I was going to do with my life. I said, ‘I’ll probably end up being a bag lady. Here I am fifteen years later, with three bags.

“I have a lot of information, even more than the medical community. Someday, I’m going to write it in my book. I’m going to call it Debbie’s Book.”

I asked, “How are you coming with your writing?”

“Not so good now — I’m drunk, but some day I’m going to get it all together. My book is going to be about how we should all live together in peace. It’s going to tell the truth about how it is with us.”

“That’s a good idea,” said Chester, “We should all get along together, help each other.”

Debbie said, “Greg, I want to ask you something.”

Albert replied, “First of all my name’s not Greg.”

“I’m sorry, Chester, have you got a smoke?”

“No.”

Mariah, said hello then walked towards the park.”

Chester said, “Oh, Dennis, I forgot to tell you. Joy is in hospital. I don’t know any details, but there’s a bunch up there. They probably know what going on with her.”

I said, “I’m going to wander up there. I’ll see you two later.”

“Bye, Dennis”

I walked up to Big Jake in his wheelchair and said, “I’m sorry to hear that Joy is in hospital.”

“You heard? Yeah, she couldn’t get out of bed yesterday. I called an ambulance. She didn’t have much control of her arms and legs. They’ll have her doing lots of physio. I can just hear all the screaming and swearing. She doesn’t get enough exercise, that’s why her legs and arms are weak. I’m going up there now to visit her.

“Dennis, could you do me a big favor?  I really hate to ask, but could you cash Joy’s ODSP (Ontario Disability Support Program) check? I have it here, she hasn’t signed it over yet.”

I asked, “How would we work that out?”

“Anyway that works for you. I’ve got a bunch of things to do tomorrow morning, so maybe sometime in the afternoon. Say, between 1:00 and 3:00?”

I said, “I could meet you in front of my bank at 3:00.  I’ll see if I can cash it.”

“Do you think they will hold it for two weeks until it clears?”

“No, I don’t think so. It’s a government check. We can try it and see what they say.”

“Thanks, Dennis, that would make things a lot easier for her in hospital. They won’t even let her have a wheelchair. So, I’ll see you at 3:00, tomorrow. Do you think you could lend me twenty bucks?”

“Sorry, Jake, I never carry cash with me.”

“I thought that was too much to ask.  Bye, and thanks.”

Little Jake asked, “Dennis, can you spare some bus tickets? I went to get my bus pass. It seemed that there were just five people in line. I thought to  myself, sweet, I won’t have long to wait. I took my place behind the last person, then about twenty people started yelling at me, ‘Hey, bud, the end of the line is down the hall. Don’t but in.’ I didn’t know. I had just finished a joint. How was I supposed to know that there was a line across the hall? I figured I better get out. Some of those people looked really mad.”

Jacques asked, “So, you didn’t go back later? Is it that you’re too lazy now?”

“Fuck off, Jacques. Get off my case. Dennis, do you like Starbucks? Somebody gave me a card from there, but I don’t like their coffee. I think there’s about fifteen bucks on it.”

I asked, “Don’t you want to use it to buy a sandwich or something?”

“No, I don’t like their food either. I ordered a smoothie the other day. It was so thick, I had to eat it with a spoon. It’s no wonder, they put a whole fuckin’ banana in it. I said to the woman behind the counter, ‘I’m a smoker, but my face is turning blue trying to suck anything through this straw.’ Take it, it’ll make up for some of the ones you gave me.”

“Thanks, Jake. I appreciate that.”

Mariah was talking about assisted housing. She said, “Once I was in a place like that. I shared it with a room mate, but she was never around when the rent was due. I couldn’t pay the rent by myself and Charlie wasn’t working, so I had to let it go. The landlord said, ‘I’m really sorry to see you leave. You kept the place under control.’ That was true. Charlie and I would kick the crackheads out. I’d chase them to the elevator, he’d chase them to the stairs. They had nowhere else to go but out. It was crazy, they’d set fires. They’d run in the corridors, up and down the stairs. There was no reasoning with them.”

I asked Loretta, “How many months is it now?”

“Sixteen, it’s still hard though. My boyfriend and I were in the beer store. He was getting his beer. I was just looking at my favorite brand on the wall, Labatt, Maximum Ice, 7.1 %. He asked me, ‘Are you going to get something?’ I said, “No, just get me out of here.’

I said, “I notice that you’re not wearing your dentures. Don’t they fit properly?”

“I’m just giving my gums a rest today.”

I was leaving at the same time as Ghyslain, so we walked together. He said, “I’m just going to see my ex landlady.”

“So, do you have a new place to stay?”

“No, I sleep here and there. I had to get out of that place. Crackheads were living in the apartment above me. They’d crank their music up at two in the morning. They’d piss against the side of my house. They even pissed through my bedroom window. That’s gross. How can somebody act like that?”

I asked, “Did you call the police?”

“Yeah, but they didn’t come. I phoned my landlady, she was afraid to come.”

“Will you get any money back?”

“No, I paid first and last month’s rent. I don’t think I’ll see any of that, but that’s what I’m going to talk to her about.”

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New Amazon Review


5.0 out of 5 stars Refreshing,
July 28, 2014
By Buster Boy (Chicago, Il United States) – See all my reviews

Verified Purchase(What’s this?)
This review is from: Gotta Find a Home: Conversations with Street People (Kindle Edition)

On the subject of homeless people, I haven’t put much thought into it. Most of my life has been grinding just to survive. However, when I got a chance to read this book it was a real eye-opener. I was actually surprised how much I liked this book. The author brings a soul to the faceless people that are living on the streets. Some of the conversations are funny and others are gut wrenching. Read this book, I promise you won’t view street people in the same light when you are finished.

Liquor Laws

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wheel

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28 July 2014

I had to wait in line to talk with Chuck. “Hi, Chuck.”

“Hi, Dennis, how was your vacation?”

“Great.”

“You’ll notice that Joy isn’t here today, because she doesn’t do Mondays. Mind you, she wasn’t here Friday either. Then, of course, there was the weekend, Sunday is her day of rest. She was here Tuesday to Thursday though.

“I was just telling that woman about what happened to me six years ago.”

I asked, “Do you mean about your heart attack?”

“Yeah, that and everything that went with it. I had forty heart attacks and was pronounced dead nine times. Even when I came back to the street, to visit my friends, I’d have coffee with them, then twenty minutes later I’d have forgotten about it completely. I had no short-term memory at all. People kept asking me if I was alright. I think it could have been the medication they had me on. I still don’t have a good memory, but I can put some of that down to old age.

“I remember around that time, before my heart attack, they started bringing in all those no smoking rules. People couldn’t smoke in bars or public buildings, the government prevented smoking in their buildings. Now, they’re not even allowed to smoke outdoors. I don’t smoke now, but it still pisses me off. At the time I remember telling one of my buddies, ‘I’ll light up a smoke. You call the cigarette police, then I’ll take it to court. Let them decide.’ I’ve got a lot of native people in my family. I could have them testify that their tribe was smoking hundreds of years before the white man came. It’s a religious tradition with them. They don’t really mind though. It boosts the sale of their illegal cigarettes. Why pay ten to twelve dollars a carton when you can get natives at four?

“It reminds me of something else that happened around that time. You know Metro, the guy that hands out the free newspaper?”

“Yeah, I know him.”

“Well, he came from Quebec. The bars there closed at three in the morning. Another thing, they still allowed smoking. He came here and went to a bar at 12:45 and the waiter told him it was last call, He said, ‘What do you mean, last call?  It’s not even one o’clock. Bars don’t close until three.’ Then he lit up a smoke. They called him on that too. He said to them, ‘To hell with you. I’m going back to Quebec.’

“They also used to have illegal booze camps that were open all night. You’d pay a bit more for your drinks. The postman would drop by first thing in the morning and have a couple. Even the police would stop in for a drink.

“There was one place on a houseboat. You needed to have a membership to get in, or go as a guest with someone who had a membership. My brother-in-law had been trying for three years to get a membership. We were drinking there one night and I asked the bartender, ‘Do you have a brother Rick, who drives a cab?’ He said, ‘Yes, I do. How did you know?’ I said, ‘Then, you must be Jack. You drive cab as well. I’ve known Rick for most of my life, he’s mentioned you.’ Well, sir, he said, this drink is on the house. He came back a few minutes later and handed me a card. I asked, “What’s this?’ He said, ‘It’s a membership card. Come here any time you like. Say hello to Rick for me.’ My brother-in-law was so pissed off. He said, to me, ‘You son of a bitch. I’ve been trying for three years to get one of those, and you waltz in, your first time here,  and get one.’ I still kid him about that.

“Well, Goldie’s telling me she needs to go for a walk, so I’m going to pack up my things and take her to the park.”

“I’ll see you tomorrow, Chuck.”

“Bye, Dennis. Maybe Joy will be here tomorrow.”

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