15 April 2013

This morning was cold. Joy was wearing two hoodies, a jacket and a heavy sweater over top. Her legs were wrapped in a blanket.

“Hi Sweetie, I’m glad you’re here. I have to have a major piss and I can’t go into the pizza place. Will you watch my stuff and do your magic?”

I sat on her crate and guarded her cap with the change in it (the jingle). I smiled and tried to look needy, but nobody was buying it. I noticed the averted eyes. Some of my friends passed without saying hello.

Joy returned, I said, “I didn’t have any luck.”

“Mondays are always bad. I didn’t want to come out today, but I missed Friday and Thursday because of the weather, so I figured I better get out.”

“How did Tuesday go?” I asked,” Do you have your furniture?”

“No, and I’m really pissed off that they cancelled again. I phoned my workers at about 1:00 Tuesday, as I was crossing the bridge. I heard one of them in the background say, ‘If that’s Joy, tell her we’ll have to reschedule.’ She couldn’t even tell me herself. I said, ‘I’ve been waiting five fuckin’ months, this is insane! All my other friends have been taken to the warehouse to get furniture. Why is it that I have to wait so long!’ I don’t know what that woman has against me. If I gave her a shot in the head, they’d phone the police. I guess that wouldn’t be a good move.”

“The table and couch that Andre promised me — he gave them to somebody else.

“I’m not like some of these other people. I have no family to turn to. Mind you, I’d have plenty of places to crash if I lost my apartment.”

I asked, “How was your weekend?”

“It was cool. I went over to Andre’s. Snuffleupagus was there, that’s what I call Hippo. He was whining the whole time. ‘I don’t have any money in my bank account.’ I told him that his GST (Goods and Services Tax) refund would be coming soon. His income tax refund would take a little longer. He’ll just have to wait, like all of us. You can’t hurry the government; but he wants it now!

“Weasel is pissed with me because he invited me over and I haven’t been there yet. He had Jake over and split his eyebrow? I told Jake that when he mixes sherry and beer, like he does with his Jake-inator, he flips out and becomes a real asshole. That’s what happened, so Weasel smacked him upside the head, chased him out the door and across the parking lot.

“Weasel said to me, ‘You know I’d never hit you, Joy!’ I said, ‘Why not? It’s not like I’ve never been hit before. Is it because I’m a woman? Well, I don’t punch like a woman, so don’t worry on that score.’

“I passed out on the couch, Weasel was asleep in a chair and Andre slept on the floor. Andre’s sister was over. I like her. She’s moving into a beautiful place. It’s great if you can afford it. He’d been telling her that he want’s to get together with me, but that’s not going to happen. She’d look over at me with those questioning eyes, Why don’t you like my brother?

“It’s not that I don’t like him, I feel about him like he is my brother. Nothing’s going to happen between us. I’ve been telling him that for two years now. Even when he and Weasel walked me home he had this pouty face and said, ‘Can I at least have a hug?’ When I did hug him he tried to kiss me on the mouth, but I turned my head and he got my cheek.” I said to him, ‘That’s the reason there’ll never be anything between us. The more you try to get closer, the more I’m going to push away.’ Then he said, ‘So, you want me to just leave you alone?’ I said, ‘Yes!’ Maybe he’ll eventually catch on.

“I’m still short $4.00. You don’t have $4.00 do you?”

“No,” I said, “I only use plastic — to get the Air Miles.”

“It’s okay, I see my Dutch guy coming. This could be good.”

A tall, well dressed man said, “Hello.” and dropped two quarters.

“Thanks, honey.” said Joy. To me she said, “That’s not good.”

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homeless family L


28 April 2016

I hadn’t seen my friends at the park since last fall when the cold weather hit. Little Jake had told me that people were starting to gather there again, so I took a chance. Sure enough, from a block away, I recognized Hippo, Mariah, Chester, Jacques, Wolf and Shaggy.

I asked Hippo, “How has your winter been?”

“I’ve been hibernating, playing with the TV remote, sitting in the middle of the destruction I call my apartment. I’ve got holes all over my walls.”

I said, “When I talked to you last you were having a problem with a water leak from the apartment upstairs. Did they get that sorted for you?”

“Sort of. I don’t have the leak, but every time the woman turns on her tap it sounds like a jack hammer, ratta tatta tatta tatta tat.”

“Have you been staying out of trouble, not threatening police with a hammer?”

“Oh, I’ve done worse than that. This guy had a guitar and a keyboard and didn’t have anyplace to store them, so I said, ‘I can keep them at my place.’ My next door neighbor offered to teach me how to play the guitar, so I was walking down the hall to his apartment when the other guy sees me. He thought that I was going out to pawn it. I’d never do that. I’d never do that. I said to him, ‘You want your guitar? Here it is!’ and I threw it at him. I said, ‘You want your keyboard?’ I threw it down the hall. It ended up as a two piece. I saw him drive by, I picked up a hatchet and threw it, knocking out his back window. It just missed his head by inches.

“It’s okay now though, we’re friends again. We shook hands and I said, ‘I love you, bro. Tomorrow I may kill you, but today I love you.’

I noticed that he was wearing a Jack Daniels jacket with logos all over. I said. “That’s a nice jacket. Where did you get it?”

“I just got it yesterday. I was standing near the grocery store when a woman came by wearing this jacket. I said to her, ‘Hey, I’ll give you twenty bucks for that jacket!’ She shook her head and went into the store to buy her groceries. I saw her when she came out. I said, ‘I’ll give you fifty bucks!’ She thought it over and said, ‘Okay!’ So I gave her the fifty bucks, she gave me the jacket. It was cold yesterday and she was left with just a tee shirt, so I gave her my hoody.”

I asked Wolf, “How was your winter?”

“It was a real hell of a winter, but the good news is that I’m now cancer free.”

“I didn’t know that you had cancer!”

“Either did I until after Christmas. I went to my doctor suffering from chest pain and difficulty when I swallowed. I also had a lot of indigestion, heartburn, choking and vomiting. He had a scan done and told me that I had esophageal cancer and my esophagus would have to come out. He also told me that I had to quit smoking. He’s told me before to quit smoking but this time he said, ‘Either you quit, or you die.’ Well, I didn’t want to die, so it’s been nearly three months since I’ve had a smoke. I’ll have the odd joint, doobie now and again, but that’s different. I stay away from the pipe (crack). I can’t handle that any more.

“I had the operation on the 2nd of February.”


Surgery to remove some or most of the esophagus is called an esophagectomy. Often a small part of the stomach is removed as well. The upper part of the esophagus is then connected to the remaining part of the stomach. Part of the stomach is pulled up into the chest or neck to become the new esophagus.

Minimally invasive esophagectomy: For some early (small) cancers, the esophagus can be removed through several small incisions instead of large incisions. The surgeon puts a scope (like a tiny telescope) through one of the incisions to see everything during the operation. Then the surgical instruments go in through other small incisions.

“So that’s what they did, They made ten one inch incisions in front to put in their tools and cameras and a larger incision in my back. That’s where they pulled out my esophagus. I’ve been in pain and haven’t been able to eat for nearly three months. I lost twenty pounds. You can see by looking at me that I didn’t have twenty pounds to spare. I even went back to the hospital to be fed intravenously. They did some kind of a botox treatment at the site where they joined the stomach to the remaining part of the esophagus. That helped.

“I’ve had the odd beer, like today, but I don’t drink a dozen at a time. Since Monday I’ve been back on solid food, but only an ice cream scooper of mashed potatoes and a scooper of minced hamburger.” He placed two oranges on the sidewalk demonstrating the size of his meals. “If I eat more than that it’ll all come back up.

“I thought that by quitting smoking my lungs would start to feel good, but they don’t. They may not feel quite as bad as they did before, but they certainly don’t feel good. I still have a bout of coughing when I first wake up. As you can imagine, coughing is very painful.

“I don’t want to seem like an old granny complaining about every ache and pain, but that was serious stuff. I could have died.

“Jacques, how would you feel about going on a beer run for me?”

“Sure,” he said, “how many do you want me to get?”


“No, eighteen won’t fit in my bag.”

“Twelve then.”


“Mariah said, “Jacques, wait, I’ll go with you. I want to get some poutine.”

“Poutine?” said, Hippo, “Did somebody mention poutine? I want in on that. How about you, Jacques?”

“I don’t have money for that. I was going to come straight back here.”

Hippo said, “That’s okay, I’ll buy your poutine.”

“Well, if you’re buying, I guess I can change my mind about that.”

Timmy passed a joint to Wolf who carefully inhaled. “Hey, this is the brown hash that we used to get. It kind of bubbles up when you light it.”

“I can get you some,” said Timmy.

“Sounds good. We can discuss the details later.

“Timmy, tell me how you spend the last five months since I seen you last?”

“I was here, man. In the park all winter.”

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homeless family L


8 April 2013

Joy was in good spirits this morning. She had 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 Mariah. I’m going over to Chester’s later to borrow some DVDs. I’m tired of watching Transformers, the Godfather and Blade Runner over and over and over. I thought I’d never get tired of Blade Runner, but now I have the entire dialog memorized.

“Andre has a 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 said, “I was talking to him 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.

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Native Cigarettes

homeless family L

4 April 2013

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

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 Joy 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 Andre’s place yesterday. Boy, you should see it. It’s fully furnished. He’s got a land line and a cell phone. Shakes, Jacques and Hippo 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 Serge 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. The guys from the outreach service 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 Wolf and Shaggy, Joy, Jacques and Jake. As I approached, Shaggy started barking. Jacques handed me a folded yellow towel to sit on, Wolf handed me Shaggy’s folded blanket. “I’m lending this to you on one condition; you have to feed Shaggy.” He handed me a tinfoil package of Lamb and Lavender dog treats. I put a handful in front of Shaggy.

“Wolf?” asked Joy, as she was read the ingredients on the package, “what’s the lavender for. Does it make her breath sweet?”

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

Joy said, “That’s the first time I’ve seen anybody smelling dog food.”

Wolf said, “I didn’t know there was lavender in this. I just saw Lamb. What is lavender, anyway?”

“It’s a flower.” said Joy.

Wolf read from the bag, “It says the ingredients are all natural, no fillers, so it’s all good stuff.”

Joy 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,  the government injects these inmates from a maximum security prison with something that turns them into vampire like creatures. They started biting the other inmates. Anyone bitten becomes a vampire. 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.”

Shaggy started barking at a woman passing by. Wolf said to Joy,”You’re friend sure jumped this morning when Shag started barking.”

“She’s not my friend, she’s my worker. I told her she didn’t have to worry, but she said Shaggy bit one of the workers in the van. I said, ‘She’s bitten lots of people, me included.’

Wolf said, “I’ve got a really good way of getting Scruffy home. I let Joy walk in front and Shaggy 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 Joy.”

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 Jake’s doctor, and now he’s got about sixty custys (patients), 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 Wolf, can I trade you eight brown (native) cigarettes for four white ones? Here’s nine.”

“That’s not nine!” said Wolf.

“Well, that’s not four,” said Joy.

I said, “I’m glad you guys aren’t getting into higher math, or you’d have a problem.”

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Exotic Cheese



28 March 2013

As I approached the park I could see Wolf rummaging around in Shaggy’s ‘caboose’.  I handed him a Ken Follett book.

“What’s this about?” asked Wolf.

“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 Shaggy’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 Shaggy and I got up? 8:00am, 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 Jake 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 Montreal 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 Weasel to come by, he’s a Boston fan. He’s probably hiding from me.”

Jacques was feeding Shaggy some pieces of his sandwich. Wolf said, “At least give her a piece with meat. She smells the cheese in your pack.”

‘Dennis,” asked Jacques, “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 $5:00, 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 $5:00. 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.”

Wolf said, “Jacques and his exotic cheese. Yesterday I boiled some big chicken drumsticks 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 Shaggy got some of it.”

Jake said, “Jacques, 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.”

Jacques 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 TV bill.”

“Dammit!” said Jake, “I got a TV bill at home that I haven’t paid. I forgot all about that. I hope they don’t cut off my service.”

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Three Months Sober



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 Wolf and Shaggy, Shakes and Buck.”

Buck said to me, “Joy’s over there.”

Shortly after, Joy 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.” While Joy talked to the outreach workers, I sat on the traffic island with Andre, Chester, Mariah and Jacques.

“Andre!” I said, “I haven’t seen you for a while. You shaved this morning.”

“I not only shaved, I’ve been sober for three months now. I’ve just been staying around home. I haven’t 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.”

Chester said, “Dennis, remember those bus tickets you gave me a while back. I think I gave them to Joy or somebody. Do you have any more?”

“Sure, Chester, I’ve got extra.”

He said, “Thanks, Dennis, I’m going to be leaving now.”

Mariah said, “He’s just going to the Mission for his lunch. Joy and I were over at his place yesterday. Joy brought some steaks. Raven was there. Joy was really polite to her. She said to me , ‘This is Chester’s place, he can have anyone over  he wants. 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, Joy was cooking the vegetables and had the steaks in the frying pan. Raven comes over and starts fussing with the meat and flicking her hair. Both Joy and I got pissed off. Joy asked her, “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.” Raven got the hint and left. Chester 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 in that building for four years. Whenever 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 awhile, 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 Joy to come up. Outcast 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 awhile I have my concerts in the evening: The Eagles, another night it might be Santana, whatever 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.”

When I got up to leave. Wolf 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 got the whole Easter weekend and no book to read.”

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homeless family L

26 March 2013

Sitting on the curb beside Wolf, he asked me, “Dennis, did I see you here yesterday?”

“Yes, Wolf, I was here.”

“I thought you might have been, but I couldn’t be sure. I’m a bit foggy about yesterday, it being Jake’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 Shaggy.”

“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 haven’t 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.”

“Raven, I hate to ask you since you just sat down, but could I have a cigarette?”

“Yes, Wolf, here you go. Jacques, will you pass this down?”

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

Jake asked , “Raven, do we get our checks today?”

“I got mine, Joy got hers. Yours should be in the mail today.”

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