Little Jake in Hospital



31 May 2016

“Dennis,” said Outcast,”we haven’t seen you since last week.”

I said, “Thursday, I was at the memorial service for Anne. Friday, it was too hot.”

“Yeah, it was hot alright. We moved back into the shade of the trees. It wasn’t too bad there. I saw Little Jake last night.”

“Where was he?” I asked. “I haven’t seen him in any of his usual spots.”

“For the last two weeks he’s been in I.C.U. (Intensive care Unit). Someone from his building found him. He was passed out having a seizure. The guy called the cops and they brought an ambulance. He’s been in for two weeks now. Actually, they let him out once, but he was right back in. To get into that place you have to use a telephone and give the first and last name of the person you want to visit. I’ve known Jake for at least ten years, but I didn’t know his last name. Who calls anybody by their last name? I phoned Jacques, Wolf and finally Mariah. She remembered it, a French name, I’ve forgotten now.

“Anyway, he’s in rough shape. He could barely talk, they had him so high on meds. Because he was drying out he was hallucinating. I’ve been through that when I’d been on scotch. I was seeing bugs —  it’s okay now that I just have a few beers. Jake was seeing spiders all over his walls. He said to me, ‘When they open that main door, I can see the zoo. Did you see it?’ Like I said, he was in rough shape. Before I left I took a look at the chart at the foot of his bed. They’ve booked a meeting with his family. That doesn’t sound very good. He’s only 43.

“I didn’t see Shark before he passed. I’m glad that I got to see Jake.”

Maria said, “When, Louis, my ex was in there, he was seeing all kinds of strange things. It was scary. One time he saw me as some kind of monster and tried to strangle me. I didn’t stay around after that.”

Outcast said, “Did you hear that they caught the guy who pulled women’s pants down in the park.
Police laid 27 charges against a 25 year old man, include seven counts of sexual assault, eight counts of mischief, eight counts of breach of probation and one count of criminal harassment. He’s also be designated as a dangerous offender which means he may never get out of jail. He’s fucked.”

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Help Fight Hobophobia –



6 May 2013

Sitting in Joy’s spot this morning was Clark with his sign, HELP FIGHT HOBOPHOBIA. He has other signs, but this is the one he uses most frequently. I asked him how his weekend had been. He said, “I spent a lot of time moving. I’m now in a bachelor apartment. I had to get out of the place I was in. It was really bad, a lot of crackheads. I didn’t even feel safe using the stairs. There would be groups of them hanging around the stairwells.

“The only complaint I have with the new place is that I’m right above the door to the underground garage. I hear it every time someone drives their car in or out.”

I said, “I guess that’s a noise you can get used to. I’ve lived beside highways before.”

“Yeah, after a while the highway can sound just like the ocean. It can lull you to sleep.”

I asked, “So, how long have you been on the street?”

“Here, about four years, but I’ve been other places, like Montreal.  It’s a really violent place. I used to work security there. I was in a large highrise. There were two entrance doors.  I was behind the desk. One time a guy rushed in the first door, saying that he had been doused with gasoline and somebody was trying to set him on fire. All we could do is electronically lock the outside door, so he was trapped between the two doors. We couldn’t let him in, in case he decided to ignite himself inside the building. We just waited until the cops arrived.”

I said, “I know I’ve lived there. My first night, somebody stabbed to death on our corner.

“This place can be violent as well. You know Shakes, don’t you? He pans down the street near the corner.”

“Does he use a cane and carry a piss bag?”

“Yeah, that’s him. He was doused with gasoline and set on fire one time. He has massive scars on his left leg. There was another guy, Buddy, he was wearing a plastic raincoat when he was set on fire. The plastic became embedded in his skin. He died three days later.

“I can’t understand how humans can do that to one another. Animals aren’t cruel or malicious like that. They kill their prey and eat it — that’s nature — but to deliberately torture another animal. I don’t think they do that.”

Clark said, “Sometimes, I think animals are treated better than humans. The government will house us, and will ring the Pavlovian bell allowing us access to the Food Bank every so often, but that’s it. The S. P. C. A. treats animals better.”

“What other kind of work did you do, Clark?”

“Mostly, I’ve been a cook at construction camps in James Bay and Vancouver. I’ve also been a tree planter in British Columbia. I liked that. I like to keep to myself.”

“I’m the same.”

“I read in government studies that the brain works best when you’re alone. There are fewer distractions. That’s my understanding, anyway.”

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In Loving Memory

26 May 2016

Anne was beautiful, gentle, quiet with a gorgeous smile. 58 years of age, but looked much older, the street does that. She would often be seen panning with her daughter Trudy. Her memorial service was held at St. Margaret’s Anglican Church, a small stone building with a blue piano outside inscribed ‘Play Me I’m Yours.’ The English-Inuit congregation is ministered by Roger Briggs, a former Dean of St. Jude’s Cathedral in Iqaluit. Aigah Attagutsiak, an Inuk, now serves both Anglican congregations as a licensed Lay Reader.

The church was packed to capacity. Most of the service was lost on me since the language used by most of the speakers was Inuktitut, spoken by Inuit living in the eastern part of the Canadian Arctic. One woman wailed the entire time, so even some of the English parts were drowned out. That aside, it was a very moving ceremony.

Many friends and family gave accounts of their memories with Anne. Her ex-husband who had remained a close friend was very emotional. He said, “I can see Anne and her best friend walking in the clouds, stopping every once in a while for a drink of wine. That raised a few chuckles. Another friend recounted, “I remember talking with Anne, we were both half cut at the time. I had very beautiful teeth back then. Anne said, ‘You have false teeth!’ I said, ‘No I don’t and pulled on them just to show her. She didn’t believe me, so she pulled on them herself. Another time, again we were half cut, she said, ‘You’ve dyed your hair!’ I said, ‘No I haven’t.’ I don’t know how we resolved that one.”

Anne’s son Daniel and brother Christopher also gave brief presentations and thanked everyone for attending.

After the service the crowd moved to the reception hall, where food and drinks were served. The main topic of conversation was the large number of suicides in northern communities. There are more than 1,000 attempted suicide calls each year in Nunavut, a territory of just over 30,000 people.

The suicide rate for Inuit is 11 times higher than the national average and the majority of deaths by suicide are people under 30, according to Statistics Canada..

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Memorial Service



24 May 2016

“Hey, it’s Dennis!” Mariah shouted.

“Hi Mariah, Outcast.”

Mariah said, “We were just saying that lately, fewer and fewer people have been coming here. We were going to wait another half hour, if nobody else showed up we were leaving.”

Outcast said, “I know why Jacques isn’t here. He’s got no money for beer. He hates just sitting here drinking lemonade.

“It’s a hard month for all of us because it’s five weeks between checks. The government is changing a lot of the rules concerning pensions. I’m going to lose $200. a month because I’m being cut off the Quebec Pension. I was born there and if I moved back I could collect it again, but I’m not going to bother. I’m settled where I am. If I get kicked out it might be a different story.”

I asked, “Does anybody know anything more about Anne. Will there be a funeral service?”

“When I talked to Trudy last,” said Outcast, “Anne was going to be cremated. Trudy, her brother and uncle were going to bring the ashes home by plane, then she was returning here.”

Mariah said, “She’s back already. I talked to her this morning. She’s arranged a memorial service at St. Margaret’s church down the street for Thursday at 1:00

“Here comes Loon. I’m not sure if I want to see him or not. If he’s been drinking I won’t know a word he’s saying.”

Loon asked, “Has anyone else been by?”

Mariah said, “Chester was here, but he didn’t stay.”

“Dammit!” said Loon, “He was supposed to wait for me here.”

Mariah said, “He probably forgot.”

Outcast said, “He used to be really sharp before he fell down that set of concrete stairs. He was found in a pool of blood at the bottom. He still beats the shit out of me at pool.”

Mariah said, “When I play him sometimes he wins, sometimes I win. It depends on who gets to break. I can run the table, so can he. I use to be quite the shark in my day.”

I asked, “Loon, have you heard anything lately about Irene?”

“Last I heard she was doing fine.”

Outcast said, “I went to see her last week. She’s not doing cart wheels, but she’s okay. I met her in front of the Mission. She was having a smoke. After that she said she was going to the 2nd floor for two hours of oxygen treatment. Sounds like a waste if she’s still smoking.”

Mariah said, “I heard that she was moved to the 4th floor. She wouldn’t be getting oxygen there.”

Outcast asked, “Loon, what happened to that 58 inch TV that Shark had. Where is it? I want first dibs on it.”

“Nothing’s happened to it. It’s in locked storage around the corner from Shark’s old apartment. I may keep it myself, after all he was my brother.”

Outcast asked,”Don’t you already have a 52 inch plasma?”

“Yeah, I’m thinking of putting them side by side. Anyway, nothing’s been settled. Irene may have something to say about it, if she gets out.”

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Raven Crying

3 May 2013

As I approached the park I could see the regulars standing along the fence. Sitting alone on the sidewalk was Raven, obviously drunk. She asked, “Will somebody please come sit with me?” I sat next to her, she began sobbing, “I miss my mother so much. She died on April 24th, two years ago, but I still miss her. What can I do?

“My problem is that I’m an alcoholic.”

I asked, “Do you have any other family here?”

“Yes, I have two younger sisters. One lives here, the other lives in Iqaluit.”

“Perhaps, if you talked to your sister, about the good times you had with your mother, it may help.”

“Maybe. I’m not sad about my mother any more. I’m worried about my other sister. I know that she is being abused and I can’t do anything about it. When we were younger I would always protect her, but now I can’t.

“I hated my mother when she was alive, because she cheated on my father. She was always so horny, just like I am. My dad has another wife now, but I don’t see them very often.

“Why won’t anyone pay me?”

“You’re a beautiful woman, Raven. Don’t forget that.”

“I think I’m beautiful. I used to think I was beautiful, now I’m not sure.”

“You are beautiful. You’ll feel much better when you have something to eat and get some rest.Everything will look better tomorrow.

“How long have you lived here?”

“Off and on, off and on, quite a while, I guess. I know the city pretty well; except for the east end. I don’t know my way around there.

“I want to go home with Chester, but I don’t have any bus tickets.”

I said, “I can give you some bus tickets, and some for Chester too.”

“Chester, can I come home with you?” He shook his head, no.

She handed me back the bus tickets. “I guess I won’t be needing these.”

“Keep them for next time. Maybe you’ll need them tomorrow.”


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Sing with the Angels


20 May 2016

The sun was shining, but a pall of sadness hung over the park like a black cloud. I hadn’t seen St. Nick for at least a year, but he was sitting in his walker and gave me a big hug when I arrived at the park. “How have you been, Nick? It’s been ages since I saw you last.”

“It’s just been one bad thing after another. When I left here to live with my family I had Cirrhosis of the liver. They put me straight into hospital. I didn’t know where I was or what was going on. Eventually they were able to get that under control, then I developed Colorectal Cancer. I had to have to have two, three-inch sections of my colon removed. I’ve been staying at the Mission. They arranged for nurses to change my dressings daily. I’d just gotten over an addiction to Dilaudid and Morphine; after the surgery the first thing they did was put me on Morphine. I have it in pump form so I only take it when absolutely necessary for pain. The doctor will tell me next week if there is any change. I’m prone to infections due to immune deficiency.

“I came here to give support to Trudy. I talked to her on the phone yesterday and I know she’s taking her mom’s death really hard. The three of us used to live in the same house, so it’s almost as if she’s family. I called her Smiley because she always had a smile on her face.

“I had a hell of a time getting here. My sister gave me a check for $200.00 and it bounced at the bank. I was at the teller’s counter, trying to get the guy to hurry up because I had a friend waiting outside. I said to him, ‘I’ve been banking here for twenty years. I’ve never given you a bad check.’ He said, ‘There are two names on this check. Who are these people?’ I said, ‘One of them is my sister. I don’t know who the other one is.’ He said, ‘Then you should talk to your sister, because we can’t cash this check.’

“I was nearly going out of my mind. I went outside to see Charlie who had driven me to the bank. I told him the problem and said, ‘I’m going to that funeral even if I have to hitch hike.’ He said, ‘Here’s $150.00, pay me when you get back.’ I really appreciated that.

“This morning I was going to have breakfast at the Mission, but as soon as I got inside, I had to leave. Once you’ve been in prison, all institutions seem the same. I saw guys guarding their plates of food. Everyone wore a scowl. I’d just like to go in there and see some gratitude. I know the place, I’ve worked there as a cook, as part of the staff. I even knew the woman who checked me in.”

I saw Trudy walking towards the group. Her head was down, she had lost weight. I held out my arms, she buried her head in my shoulder and sobbed. “It’s okay,” I said, “let it all out.” Following her was her brother and her uncle. I shook hands with them both. I didn’t say anything, because words wouldn’t convey my feelings. Everyone sat in silence and waited. Nick gave Trudy $20.00 for transportation to the funeral home and anything else she may need. He also gave her a ceramic bear. “I’ve got a cross for you to put on your mom’s coffin. That way she’ll be looking up at it and she’ll also be looking down on you and the rest of us, just as she is right now.”

After they’d left he said, “I know she’ll be drunk tonight, but what else is a person to do in a situation like this. I’ll see them tomorrow and maybe we can go out for breakfast someplace.

“I attended a funeral last week. The minister said that the deceased would be going to a better place. I said out loud, ‘You don’t know that.’ He said, ‘Perhaps you’d like to conduct the ceremony.’ So I did. I’m qualified. I placed a cigarette in the coffin, put the guy’s guitar in with him and said, ‘Go now, brother, and sing with the angels.’ ”

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Death in the Family




3 May 2013

When I stepped off the bus this morning, I was met by Metro. He had a grave look on his face, unusual for him. He said, “Joy is up there. She’s in pretty rough shape. She’s going to need some sympathy, her sister just died.”

I approached Joy and offered my condolences. She said, “Oh, don’t worry about that. I didn’t even like my sister; not like a normal human being would like their sister. She used to beat the shit out of me when I was a kid. She also used to think she was so much better than us. She was still a pot headed crack addict, but she didn’t hang downtown like the rest of us.

“I remember one time, when the father of her baby left her, she came to me for money. I said, ‘Well, do what I do when I need money.’  That when I was prostituting. I gave her a talk, we went to a certain corner. I told her, ‘When a guy comes along and asks you for something, work out a price then take him into the alley.’ She said, ‘I can’t do that.’ I said, ‘If you run into problems give me a shout.’ Soon I heard her shouting for me. I went into the alley. The guy was trying to take her from behind. That’s not what he paid for. I gave him a shot in the head, then we both beat the shit out of him. I grabbed his wallet. She said, ‘Joy, I just can’t do this.’ I handed her the cash and said, ‘It’s your choice.’

“It was her creepy kid that tried to choke my son. I was in Montreal for the weekend and saw him again. He said, ‘Hi Aunty Joy, mom used to make me lunch around this time.’ I said to him, ‘Look honey, I may be your Aunty Joy, but I don’t do lunches and that sort of shit.’ When I looked into his eyes, bells started going off, like I’ve just reached the Bates Motel, you know, from Psycho. He’s psycho alright.

“When I first arrived in Montreal I took a cab to the address and saw my uncle Ronnie’s bike in the driveway. Nobody had told me what happened, just that I had to come to Toronto. It was important. I asked him, ‘So who’s dead? Is it one of my kids?’ I rhymed off their names and asked, ‘Which one?’ He said, ‘It’s your sister.’ ‘Shit,’ I said, ‘I wouldn’t have come all this way just for her. He said, ‘You had to come, she made you executive of her estate.’ She’d put one last screw in me, even after she was dead. I didn’t even know what an executive of an estate did. I thought that maybe I had to live in her house, or something. Ronnie said, ‘You got to divide up her stuff, three ways.’

“I don’t know how to do that shit.”

“Joy,” I said, I’m not a lawyer, but just because she designated you as executrix, doesn’t mean you have to do it. Get some lawyer to look after it. That’s what they get paid for. You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to.”

“Really? I talked to a lawyer in Montreal, but he didn’t know squat. I know lawyers here, but they’re criminal lawyers. I guess they could refer me to somebody.

“Christ, she has a niece that lives right across the street. Why couldn’t she do it? We were over there. I met her asshole boyfriend. He was yelling something at her. She was holding a kid on each hip, and her belly’s way out to here. I was holding one kid. There were a couple of others running around somewhere. I put the one I had on the couch. I walked over to the guy and punched him one in the face. He fell against the refrigerator. He was going to come after me, but my two sons came in. They said, ‘Don’t you dare touch our mother!’ I’m glad I had sons. Anyway, they pushed him out the back door and beat the shit out of him. That’s the last I saw of him all weekend.

“I have to go back there this afternoon at three.”

I asked, “How are you going to get there. Do they pay your fare?”

“No, there’s no costs involved. Ronnie said, ‘I’ll give you a ride, as long as you don’t mind riding on the back of a bike.’ I said, ‘As long as you got a belt.’ I really can’t say anything, but he’s way, way up with the gangs in Montreal. He’s in town because he has friends in construction working on that highrise over there. If I wanted to move back, I could have anything I wanted, but I don’t want that life again. My friends, the ones I consider family, are here.

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