More about Annie




Annie Pootoogook

Annie Pootoogook, artist (born 11 May 1969 in Cape Dorset, NU; died 19 September 2016 in Ottawa, ON). Winner of the Sobey Art Award in 2006 and included in prestigious international exhibitions such as Documenta in Kassel, Germany, and in collections like that of the National Gallery of Canada, Annie Pootoogook was born into a family of accomplished Inuit artists.

Annie Pootoogook, Man on the Radio, 2006.

Coloured pencil and black felt pen on wove paper, 50.9 x 66.1 cm. Image: National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa/Photo © NGC/© Dorset Fine Arts.

National Gallery of Canada

Annie Pootoogook, artist (born 11 May 1969 in Cape Dorset, NU; died 19 September 2016 in Ottawa, ON). Winner of the Sobey Art Award in 2006 and included in prestigious international exhibitions such as Documenta in Kassel, Germany, and in collections like that of the National Gallery of Canada, Annie Pootoogook was born into a family of accomplished Inuit artists. She is the daughter of graphic artist Napachie Pootoogook and printmaker and carver Eegyvudluk Pootoogook, and is the granddaughter of Pitseolak Ashoona. Her uncle was Kananginak Pootoogook.

Early Life and Career

Annie Pootoogook began making art at the age of 28, working within the nurturing environment of the West Baffin Eskimo Co-operative (now known as the Kinngait Studios) in Cape Dorset. Throughout her career, her chosen medium involved drawing with pen and coloured pencils. Along with her cousin Shuvinai Ashoona, Pootoogook is credited with introducing a powerful new strain of expression into the art of the North, an approach that has offered an alternative to traditional treatment of the Inuit experience.

The West Baffin Eskimo Co-op was established in 1959 to introduce the techniques of stone carving and printmaking to the people of the region as a means of encouraging self-sufficiency through the marketing of Northern artworks to buyers in the South. Although there was no strong tradition of artmaking in these media, the inhabitants of Cape Dorset community quickly took to the new initiative and a vital art scene rapidly developed. Driven in part by southern expectations, the art of the North tended to focus strongly on conventional Northern subjects — depictions of seals and owls, for example, narrative portrayals of life on the land and explorations of indigenous myths and legends. What has set the art of Pootoogook and Ashoona apart from the rest has been their willingness to abandon the tried-and-true themes of Inuit art and draw on their personal experiences of life in the modern North viewed within a contemporary context. Although still firmly rooted in Northern experience, their drawings reflect broader — and more personal — concerns. In Ashoona’s case, this has involved an exploration of her inner world through surprising, often fantastical imagery. Annie Pootoogook’s drawings, on the other hand, are characterized by a more detached quality. In their uniquely deadpan presentation, however, they communicate a similar kind of connection with the artist’s inner world and reveal something of the conflicts that arise from the confrontation of that inner experience with the outer reality of life in the modern North.

A Unique Vision of the North

Annie Pootoogook, Fine Liner Eyebrow, 2001-2002.

Black felt pen and coloured pencil on ivory wove paper, 50.7 x 66 cm. Image: National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa/Photo © NGC/© Dorset Fine Arts.


Annie Pootoogook’s art has occasionally been referred to as “narrative realism,” a term that adequately expresses the descriptive quality of her drawings, but ignores their subtle emotional effect, which is created by the unsettling associations her drawings prompt in viewers. Her drawings have a journalistic quality, with people and events presented more or less without censure or editorial commentary. Mundane scenes of domestic life are presented with the same straightforward detachment as depictions of violent physical confrontations.

Pootoogook generally relies on simple line drawing with figures posed full on or in profile. Everything in her compositions tend to occupy a space that is lined up parallel to the picture plane, as if any other orientation would introduce a sense of instability that might subvert the quiet detachment that seems so much a part of the artist’s conception. Objects in the scenes are separated by expanses of white space, giving the impression that they are on display, like specimens in a museum, or clues to a crime scene. Clocks, for example, are ubiquitous if unobtrusive, subtly suggesting that these are specific events happening in real time.

While Pootoogook was a talented draughtsman with an accurate eye for depiction of physical form — as demonstrated, for example, in the subtly nuanced curves of her drawing of the semi-nude female figure in Woman at Her Mirror (Playboy Pose) (2003) — she tends to present the characters that people her drawings in simple, child-like fashion, as if to deliberately strip them of personality or any kind of individualism that might draw the viewer into their inner worlds. It’s the situation and its implications that are important in her works, not so much the feelings and motivations of the individuals who act out their mini-dramas.

On the surface straightforward and illustrative, Annie Pootoogook’s drawings are often wryly humorous, with sly irony expressed in subtle details. In Woman at Her Mirror, for example, the elegantly bow-tied rabbit of the famous Playboy logo has been transformed into a depiction of something much less virile and alert. Even when humour is absent, information is conveyed with simple but telling touches. Her drawing Sobey Awards (2006) shows the subject of the drawing — the award winner — with her back turned to the viewer, as if to suggest that the real focus of the ceremony is not the winning artist, but the officials and art-world dignitaries who populate the event.

International Recognition

Annie Pootoogook, Untitled (Kenojuak and Annie with Governor General Michaëlle Jean), 2010.

Coloured pencil on wove paper, 51 x 66 cm Image: National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa/Photo © NGC/© Dorset Fine Arts.


The artist with her back turned in Sobey Awards is, of course, Pootoogook herself. In 2006, after several well-received exhibitions at Toronto’s Feheley Fine Arts, a commercial gallery in Toronto specializing in Inuit art, Annie Pootoogook was chosen for the prestigious award, a remarkable honour for an artist whose career was barely a decade old. The Sobey Art Award, given out annually to encourage young Canadian artists, carries with it a $50,000 prize and is presented to an artist under 40 who has had a show in a public or commercial art gallery within the previous 18 months (prior to receiving the award, Pootoogook had had a major show at Toronto’s Power Plant). In their citation, jury members remarked that Annie Pootoogook’s work reflected “both the current moment of a specific tradition and of a contemporary drawing practice. It comes from a point when Modernism is being re-examined and reflects the hybrid nature of contemporary life.”

The Sobey win marked a major turn in Pootoogook’s career, with international attention suddenly focused on the artist and her work. For virtually all of her life, she had not strayed far from her Cape Dorset home, but now she was presented with exhibition opportunities, and potential lifestyle changes, that would disrupt the lives of artists with substantially more art-world experience. Following her selection for the Sobey Award, a solo travelling show of her work was organized by the Illingworth Kerr Gallery at the Alberta College of Art + Design and she was invited to show in the 2007 Biennale de Montréal. The same year, she was featured in a documentary by filmmaker Marcia Connolly and was selected to participate in the Art Basel art fair and Documenta 12 in Kassel, Germany, one of the most prestigious international art exhibitions. In 2009–10, her drawings were presented in a solo exhibition at the National Museum of the American Indian George Gustav Heye Centre in New York and in 2012–13, she participated in the group exhibition Oh, Canada at MASS MoCA (Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art).

Recent Years

In 2007, shortly after the Sobey win and Documenta 12, Annie Pootoogook left Cape Dorset to live in Ottawa. The intense public attention was not particularly positive for her art, and she produced little new work after the move. It was reported that she was dealing with substance abuse and living in poverty on the streets, where she gave birth to a child. Nonetheless, her accomplishments continued to bring her attention as one of Canada’s finest Northern contemporary artists.

(See also Inuit Co-operatives; Inuit Art; and Inuit Printmaking.)

(See also Inuit Co-operatives; Inuit Art; and Inuit Printmaking.)



Yet again, I find myself writing an obituary for a dear friend. According to the five stages of grief are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. I am in the stage of anger, especially after reading comments on Facebook made by a member of the Ottawa Police:

Jorge Barrera
APTN (Aboriginal Peoples Television Network) National News

Police initially said foul play was not suspected, but investigators now say suspicious elements in the case demanded closer inspection.

Hrnchiar’s comments stated that Pootoogook’s death “has nothing to do with missing or murdered Aboriginal women.”

He said Pootoogook’s death was not caused by murder.

“It’s not a murder case….it’s could be a suicide, accidental, she got drunk and fell in the river and drowned who knows…..typically many Aboriginals have very short lifespans, talent or not, (sic)” said the comment, posted Saturday.

Canada has a very poor international reputation concerning the rights and treatment of its, “First Nations” peoples (most often used in the plural) has come into general use—replacing the deprecated term “Indians”—for the indigenous peoples of the Americas.

The UN Human Rights Committee, which regularly reviews whether states are living up to their obligations under the binding International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, today made more than a dozen recommendations for fundamental changes in Canadian law and policy in respect to the treatment of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples.

The Committee was so concerned about issues of violence against Indigenous women and the violation of Indigenous Peoples’ land rights that it called on Canada to report back within one year on progress made to implement its recommendations on these issues.

The following is an a Wikipedia account of Annie’s life:

Pootoogook was born on May 11, 1969, in Cape Dorset to a family of artists. Her mother, Napachie Pootoogook, was a graphic artist and her father, Eegyvudluk Pootoogook, was a printmaker and carver. She is the granddaughter of renowned artist Pitseolak Ashoona, the niece of printmaker Kananginak Pootoogook and the cousin of draughtsman Shuvinai Ashoona.

Pootoogook moved to Ottawa from Cape Dorset in 2007, where she lived with her partner William Watt.

Pootoogook began drawing in 1997 with crayons and ink on paper. Her works portray contemporary Inuit life, juxtaposing intimate family scenes and home interiors with scenes of alcoholism and violence. Her influences include her mother, Napachie Pootoogook (died 2002), and her grandmother, Pitseolak Ashoona (died 1983), both of whom were accomplished artists.

Her titles are deadpan, e.g. “Sadness and Relief for My Brother”, “Memory of My Life: Breaking Bottles”, or “Man Abusing His Partner”. Inuit traditions appear in her work, such as her portrayal of women tanning animals hides or families in fishing camps. The passage of time figures heavily in her work, represented by a clock with hands set in different positions in different drawings.

“In the last 10 years of her life she did an absolutely extraordinary series of drawings where she talked about the darker side of traditional life and, in fact, did speak about things like spousal abuse,” said Pat Feheley, owner of Feheley Fine Arts, a gallery in Toronto that represents Pootoogook.

Art career
Pootoogook began her art career drawing in pen and coloured pencils at the age of 28 for the West Baffin Eskimo Cooperative (now known as the Kinngait Studios) in Cape Dorset.[5] She has brought a new artistic viewpoint to contemporary Inuit art, in contrast to the more traditional treatments. Her work depicts contemporary experiences of a woman and an artist living in the Canadian North.

Her breakthrough came in 2006, when in November, she won the $50,000 Sobey Art Award, which is given to an artist 39 years old or younger who has shown their work in a public or commercial art gallery in Canada in the past 18 months. “Annie Pootoogook’s work reflects both the current moment of a specific tradition and of a contemporary drawing practice,” the curators and jury for the award said in a press release. She also had a major solo exhibition, her first, in 2006 at The Power Plant in Toronto.[3] The exhibit, curated by Nancy Campbell, focused on mythology, community and the difficulties of life in the Arctic.

She exhibited at the 2007 Biennale de Montréal and in the same year she had works at both the Basel Art Fair and Documenta 12. Pootoogook was the first Inuit artist to participate in Documenta, held in Kassel, Germany. In 2009 through 2010, the National Museum of the American Indian George Gustav Heyes Center in New York gave her a solo exhibit. Most recently her work was part of the first major exhibition of Canadian contemporary art outside of Canada entitled Oh, Canada. Curated by Denise Markonish, the exhibit took place in 2012 at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art and showcased 62 Canadian artists including the work of Pootoogook’s cousin Shuvinai Ashoona Pootoogook was the only professional artist from the Ottawa region represented in the exhibition.

I remember Annie as a sweet, kind woman with whom I had conversed on a number of occasions. I was very honored to meet her and enjoyed discussing her art. She deserved so much more in life and in death.

Joy in Tears



2013 September 4

As I approached Joy I could see that she was upset. Her hood was pulled up and her arms were huddled in the kangaroo pocket.

“How are you feeling, Joy?”

“I’m sick, I’ve got pneumonia and I’ve run out of inhalers. I’m using Jake’s old one, but it doesn’t seem to be working.”

“Have you seen your worker about your Health Card?”

“John who was helping me before is now in the office. They got a new guy walking the streets and I don’t like him.  The first time I met him I asked, ‘Do I know you?’ He said, ‘No.’ I’m sure I’ve had dealings with him  in the past and I don’t get a good vibe.”

“How about the two workers at the other agency?”

“They’ve both left.  I’ve got a new guy. He seems pretty good, mind you he said he was going to bring me groceries last week and he didn’t. He came by to see my apartment and said, ‘Is this what they gave you?’ I said, ‘It sure is. Isn’t it lovely? It even has a spare room.’ I opened the door to the closet. ‘And you have claustrophobia?’ ‘I sure do. I just open the back door, the windows. That’s the best I can do.’

“Can you contact this new guy by phone?”

“Yeah, I’ve tried but just get voice mail. I’ve left messages.”

“How about going to their office? Could you do that? Maybe someone else could check your file.”

“That would mean going to the Salvation Army. I don’t go there; not since I was raped last Christmas.

Joy started crying. Her Australian regular stopped and slipped her a five.

“Thank you!” To me she said, “That’s more than he usually gives me.” Five minutes later a woman wearing a green dress stopped and slipped Joy a folded twenty.  Joy was awestruck.  “Thanks and bless you!” she said in amazement.

“That woman never gives me money. I’ve known her for a long time. We’ve talked, but that’s all. It must be you.”

“Are you saying I’m lucky for you?”

“You’re darn right. Can you sit here for a few minutes while I go to the restaurant to pee?”

“Sure.” I waited, waved to some of the people I work with. Noted the expressions of other passers-by. I saw disgust, confusion, discomfort. I smiled.

Joy came back, “There’s Beyonce,” she said.  I’ve told her before, “Those pants really aren’t working for you. Stick to skirts.”

I said, “What about the come-fuck-me shoes, with the sparkles?”

“No, they aren’t working either. She can barely walk in them. I’m good at giving fashion advice to women, but they don’t listen.

“I’m so stressed, and I’m drunk. Can you help me? You work in the telephone building don’t you?”

“Yes, I work there.”

“I have to pay my bill. I really don’t care about having a phone, but I want to Keep my TV. I’ve gotten kinda used to it.”

I said, “There isn’t anyplace in our building where you can pay bills or change your service. You’ll have to go to a kiosk in any of the malls. There’s one in the mall down the street.  Don’t even bother trying to phone them, you’ll be on hold for hours.

I’m going to drop Jake’s internet. I can’t get into his computer anyway. He gave me the code but I can’t figure it out.”

I said, “Maybe you have the Caps Lock on, that will interfere with your password.”

“No, I tried that. When I turn on the computer the box for the password has a dot.  Jake said to just backspace over the dot, then type in the numbers followed by ‘b’.

“Perhaps you need to type a capital ‘B’ ”

“I don’t know. All this shit Jake left me;  it’s worse than having him around. Tomorrow he gets transferred to Joyceville. That’s where he’ll serve the rest of his sentence. If I brought his laptop down here, could you have a look at it? Maybe you could get it to work. I’m no good with computers.”

“Perhaps Jake can make a phone call to his bank and have money transferred?”

“I don’t know. I really don’t want to talk to him. Do you know what time it is?”

I looked for my watch, but noticed that it wasn’t on my wrist.”

Joy yelled, “Hey, what time is it?”

A confused looking man turned around. “It’s eight forty-five!”

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Annie R.I.P.

For my dear friend, Annie, and those who mourn her passing:

Police ask for public’s help in retracing steps of famed Inuit artist found dead

Famed Inuit artist Annie Pootoogook from Cape Dorset.
Famed Inuit artist Annie Pootoogook’s life had spiraled out of control and she struggled with addiction. Her body was found Monday in Lowertown. WAYNE CUDDINGTON / OTTAWA CITIZEN

Ottawa police are asking for the public’s help in tracing the last movements of Annie Pootoogook, an acclaimed Inuit artist whose body was found in the Rideau River earlier this week.

Pootoogook’s body was discovered Monday at about 8:50 a.m. in the water close to Bordeleau Park in Lowertown. Police do not consider her death to be suspicious or a homicide, said Const. Marc Soucy. “We just want to recreate her final moments.”

Soucy said an autopsy has been performed, but police are not releasing a cause of death. It is unclear where Pootoogook was last seen.

Pootoogook’s story is one of a rocket ride to superstardom in the art world, followed by a crash into addiction, life on the street and tragedy.

Originally from Cape Dorset, Nunavut, Pootoogook was considered one of Canada’s most pre-eminent Inuit artists. Her grandmother, Pitseolak Ashoona, an artist, was the last to grow up in the traditional Inuit lifestyle. Her mother, Napachie Pootoogook, was also an artist who died in 2002.

Pootoogook began drawing in 1997 and was discovered about 14 years ago by Patricia Feheley of Feheley Fine Arts, a Toronto art gallery that began buying her work through the West Baffin Eskimo Co-operative in Cape Dorset. Her drawings were a jarring chronicle of modern Inuit life —  a family watching Jerry Springer on television, ATM cash machines, scenes of alcoholism and spousal abuse.

Feheley helped to raise Pootoogook’s profile and sold her drawings in coloured pencils for as much has $2,600.


“I was just hit by their power,” Feheley said in a 2012 interview. “The best I have ever heard it described is they are so direct, they are so honest, they so come from the head to the hand to the paper, and that is why they resonate so much with people.”

Pootoogook won the $50,000 Sobey Art Award in 2006 and exhibited on an international scale. In 2007, showed at the Montreal Biennial, the Basel Art Fair in Switzerland and Documenta 12 in Kasel, Germany. In 2009-10 there was a solo show in New York, and a review in the New York Times which called her work “disconcertingly autobiographical.”

Her last solo show was in 2011 in Kingston.

Pootoogook, who has lived in Ottawa since 2007, battled the demons of sexual abuse, alcohol and drugs. By 2012 she had disappeared from view and journalists who attempted to track down the media-shy artist were disappointed. She drew attention again when Citizen reporter Hugh Adami found her in July of 2012, pregnant, panhandling and selling drawings for $25 to $30 on the street to pay for cigarettes.

Annie Pootoogook in 2012, drawing on the sidewalk near the Rideau Centre.
Annie Pootoogook in 2012, drawing on the sidewalk near the Rideau Centre. WAYNE CUDDINGTON / OTTAWA CITIZEN

That September, she gave birth to a baby girl, named Napuchie, in a bathroom at the Shepherds of Good Hope. The baby was a month premature and weighed three pounds, 10 ounces. (She had two previous children on Baffin Island.) Three days later, Pootoogook was back on Rideau Street.

Her art appeared to reflect the torment of her life. Crying While Making a Drawing, dated 2003, shows a woman in tears on her knees in a near-empty room, with drawings of Christian crosses on the floor in front of her.  Another drawing from that time period, called Evil Spirit, shows a woman on her hands and knees being tormented by a horned demon.

Last October, Pootoogook told Adami that she was living at a women’s shelter after moving out of an ex-boyfriend’s apartment in the wake of a tumultuous relationship. She said she knew she had an alcohol problem and planned to see an addiction counsellor. She was on probation because she made a “mistake” related to drinking.

"Lying In Bed, 2004" was exhibited at Harbourfront Centre's Power Plant.
Annie Pootoogook’s “Lying In Bed, 2004” was exhibited at Harbourfront Centre’s Power Plant. SUNMEDIAARCHIVE

“When people tell you to stop drinking,” Pootoogook told Adami, her tendency is to “keep drinking and drinking.”

On Friday, Adami, now retired, said when he first met Pootoogook “I thought she was going to pull it together. People in the art community were reaching out to her. Lots of people wanted to help.”

He interviewed her several times after that, most recently last October. “It was getting worse and worse. She was ravaged by alcohol. She mentioned her baby and started crying. It was very, very sad.”

In a 2012 interview with Citizen arts writer Paul Gessell, Feheley said Pootoogook’s fame was “just too much, too fast.”

“Her vault to stardom, which was serious stardom, was really a two-and-one-half year thing for someone who was living a relatively sheltered life and not that happy a life in Cape Dorset, when suddenly she was in Switzerland and she was in Germany and she won all this money and there were three books and two movies,” said Feheley.

“I think she just literally got overwhelmed.”

Police ask anyone who saw Pootoogook in the days leading up to the discovery of her body to contact the Ottawa Police major crime unit at 613 236 1222, ext. 5493.

Anonymous tips can be submitted by calling Crime Stoppers toll-free at 1-800-222-8477.





29 August 2013

There was a party atmosphere at the park today since everybody had received their monthly check. Chester was passed out on the sidewalk. He was led away before it was reported it to the police.

“Dennis,” said Shakes, “Do you know what happened to me this morning?”

“No, tell me Shakes.”

“My workers picked me up to take me to my doctor’s appointment. I needed to have my blood test and some other things. When I got there, they handed the receptionist a photo copy of my health card. She said it had expired. I said to her , ‘You might as well say that I’ve expired.’ They wouldn’t take me. We went all that way for nothing. I don’t know what the problem was, they had my health number.”

I said, “You may have  past your best before date; but you haven’t expired. Your workers will make sure you get a new health card, won’t they?”

“Yes they will. This morning I was panning up the street. A woman stopped and asked me if I’d like something to eat. I said, ‘Sure, but I have to make a stop on the way.’ I bought a bottle of Imperial at the liquor store, then we both went to the grocery store. She bought me two frozen pizzas, two two-quart bottles of apple juice and some scalloped potatoes.”

Little Jake said, “Yeah, he invited me over for supper and wouldn’t let me have any of the scalloped potatoes. The pizza was so friggin hot I had to take a swallow of beer with each bite. We watched videos, got stoned and drank beer. I live two buildings down from Shakes, about one hundred and fifty feet, still I managed to fall and bruise my arm.”

Shakes said, “Jake likes playing in the dirt.”

Jake said, “Last time I was taking a shower, I was leaning against the wall, looking down at the drain — the water was brown. I couldn’t believe it.”

“What movies did you watch?” I asked.

“What did we watch, Shakes? I can’t remember.”

“Gone in Sixty Seconds and True Lies.”

“That’s right. Shakes has a big collection, about fifty movies.”

“Yeah, I got a friend, I served time with about fifteen years ago. He’s got a used dvd and record store.  He always gives me good deals.

“I haven’t paid the bill for my telephone or my tv; but I got two friends that work for the telephone company. They’re going to hook me up.”

I asked, “How have you been Jake?”

“This abscessed tooth started bothering me  a couple of days ago, but this morning it’s really swollen and painful.”

Shakes said, “I’m good at removing teeth, just lean in my direction.”

I asked, “Do you think a right hook would do the trick?”

Jake said, “I pulled this bottom one by myself. I tied some fishing line around the tooth, then tied the string to the door knob. I gave the door a kick and out popped the tooth. It flew straight up. I couldn’t find it until I looked in the garbage pail beside me — there it was. Isn’t that amazing?. I couldn’t have done that twice in a row.”

Raven had been here earlier, but she disappeared. Shakes asked, “Where’s Raven? Oh yeah, she’s down in the park with her crackhead. I meant to say granddaughter, but crackhead came out.”

Mariah came over, “It’s good to see you, Dennis. I don’t know where Joy is. I called her place, but there was no answer. She probably has her check now, so there will be people she has to pay back, and errands to run. We don’t expect to see her until next week, some time.”

“I heard that Andre came by yesterday and you took care of him.”

“Well he deserved it for what he did to Joy. He was with his new girlfriend and I didn’t like way he was treating her either. I was talking to her for a while, I said, ‘Look, I don’t know you and I don’t have any beef against you, but if this guy ever gives you a hard time, just let me know.’ She was pretty quiet at first, but when Andre stepped away she said, ‘I’ve just had laser eye surgery and Andre keeps telling me to take off my sunglasses, but the sun really hurts my eyes.’ So I had a talk with him about that. It seems every time I see him I’m either smacking him in the face or punching him in the belly. It started one time he was over at my place. He kept taking pictures of me with his phone. I said, ‘Don’t take my picture!’ He kept on doing it. There are reasons that I don’t want my picture all over the place, so I let him have it. He was whimpering like a little kid, ‘You’re not going to hit me again are you?’ I said, ‘If you stop acting like a dickhead, I won’t have to.’ ”

Chili is still in her walker, I heard her mention that she was scheduled for an operation. She said,  ‘I’ve got osteomyelitis (infection of the bone, common to intravenous drug users. In this case, injecting crack.) I’ve already had about a half-inch of bone loss. They’re treating me with antibiotics. If that clears it up the infection., they’ll schedule a hip replacement. That will probably happen in about four months.

Jake said, “Shakes, hand her a drink will you. That’s the only way to shut her up, otherwise she’ll never stop talking.”

Before I left, Jake handed me a twenty-dollar bill. I asked, “What’s this for?”

“Just for safe keeping.  I’m sure to be broke before next pay-day, so you can give it back to me then.”

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29 August 2013

As I approached Joy, she was hunched over some kind of smart phone. She was madly tapping the screen with her finger.

“This goddamn thing! It’s Big Jake’s. I had music playing before, then I couldn’t turn it off. Finally I got it turned off; now I can’t turn it on.”

Metro was crossing the street between cars. I asked, “Still dodging cars? Do you have another job yet?”

“I just finished installing a security system for someone. I get my old job back when Lou retires for the season. He doesn’t do winters. I’ll be a block down. I should see some of my regulars there.”

“Metro,” I asked, “Do you know anything about these smart phones. Joy can get the radio turned on. She wants 106.9 FM.”

“I don’t know about these Android phones, maybe you need to be near a WiFi station. Some of the restaurants nearby have them, even Tim Horton’s.”

“Thanks, Metro, we’ll see you around.”

Joy said, “I’ll just put this away. I’m no good with electronics. I’m going to have the internet cut off anyway. I still keep getting calls from Bell about an unpaid bill. I don’t know what that’s about.”

I said, “Maybe, has his bills e-mailed to his laptop, and you can’t access that. Is the account in your name?”

“No, I asked the woman if Jake had listed anyone else on his account. She checked and said that he was the only one listed. I said, ‘Then what are you calling me for? Fuck off!’

“I talked on the phone to Jake. He said to just send them a money order, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to pay his bills. He should have arranged for his O.D.S.P. check to be automatically deposited in his bank account. As it is it’ll be sitting on the table until he gets out in January. He could have had access to that seven hundred dollars right now. That’s his problem.

“I’m so happy today, I’ve made eighty-six cents, but I’m still happy. A woman took me to breakfast at Lorenzo’s. I had a sausage sandwich with fruit on the side; two types of melon, blueberries and raspberries. She had Eggs Benedict with salmon. It was gross. I don’t know how anybody can take the smell of fish in the morning. She must have paid twenty bucks for that. I thought I was going to have to quit half way through my sandwich and put the rest in a doggy bag for later, but I finished. I feel great.”

I asked, “Did I miss anything after I left yesterday?”

“Oh yeah, Andre and his skank of a girlfriend came by. She’s a skinny Inuit with a face that looks like it’s been smashed with a frying pan. Andre came by me, but I just said to him, ‘Keep moving!’ Mariah saw me gritting my teeth and swearing under my breath. She said, ‘Keep it under control, Joy.’ She grabbed him and threw him in the gutter where he belongs.

“His girlfriend was wearing shades and I saw her gunning for me. I asked, ‘What is it with you? You got a problem with me or something?’ She said, ‘I don’t like the way you talked to my boyfriend.’ I said, ‘Has he done to you, yet what he did to me. Put out or get put down is his motto. He split my head open, broke two of my ribs, fractured two others. I’m still having trouble with one of them. The headaches have finally stopped. Now, what do you think I should say to him.?’

I got up, walked over to her, grabbed her sunglasses, broke them in half and threw them over the railing. ‘Now,’ I said, ‘look into my eyes when you talk to me.’ Mariah held me back and said, ‘This isn’t worth going to jail for.’ Otherwise, I would have decked her.”

Chester stopped by, Joy said, “You look buzzed.”

“I got some good pot. You want some?”

“No, I got my own. What are you doing later?”

“First, I’m going for breakfast, then I’m going home to see my girlfriend. She’s meeting me there.”

I said, “I have to leave now, but maybe I’ll see you both at the park around noon.”

At noon Joy said, “I’m really fucked up, man. I bin smokin’ Chester’s weed. It’s really heavy shit. I can hardly talk. Chester, what do you call this stuff, it’s twice as good as we get from Buck?”

“It’s called Beyond Kush. It’s stronger than Kush. (Hydroponically grown, Kush is a type of marijuana which originates from Afghanistan, Pakistan and North western of India. It’s cannabis from the Hindu Kush Mountain. It’s considered to be a higher version of marijuana.)”

“How much is it?”

“Ten for a gram.”

“What if I wanted to but seven grams?”


“Put me down for some.”

Chester said, “I should be able to get a prescription for this from my doctor. He’ll give it to me for pain.”

Joy said, “Last time I went to my doctor he gave me these pills. I asked him how much THC is in these. He said, ‘Six to eight percent.’ I was taking twelve in the morning, eighteen at noon and twenty-five at night to help me sleep. I was really buzzed — a nice body high.

“That’s when I was in hospital for my kidneys. I remember the nurse saying, ‘Okay now, were going to put this tube in your urethra. I asked, ‘My what?’ She said, ‘It’s your pee hole.’ They tried the smallest one, then worked their way up to the biggest one, I was still leaking. I had to wear diapers the whole time I was in there. I changed my own — there’s no way I was going to have an orderly do that. The thing that pissed me off the most was, I was capable of using the commode, if they’d only left it nearby.

“One time, I woke up and the bag was full. My kidneys were hurting since the pee was backing up in the tube. Then the bag burst. Bruno, the orderly, came in and slipped on the wet floor. He said, ‘You’re supposed to call me when the bag needs to be emptied.’ I said, ‘Don’t lay this on me. You’re the one whose supposed to be in every few hours to see if I’m still breathing.

“The next time I was in hospital, they threatened me with that tube. I just turned and walked away. I’d rather have the pain.”

“Dennis,” said Little Jake. “I was really singing your praises this morning. Remember that coffee card you gave me? I used it today. I love my morning coffee, after a couple of sips I was able to hork up goobers the size of quarters. It sure felt good to get that stuff out of my system. Thanks, man.”

Donald handed Joy his phone. He said “I can’t hear her.”

Joy took the phone, “Shut up dickhead, I can’t hear her if you’re talking. She knows you’re hard of hearing. Donald asks if his check arrived in the mail. If it has, he’ll come by and see you… Okay, bye.”

She say’s it hasn’t arrived, and you’re not to go there.”

To me she said, “That was Donald’s mother. She used to be one of my regulars, she’d always drop me two bucks. One day Donald came up as I was talking to her. He was drunk, I said to her, ‘Is this man bothering you, ma’am?’ She said, ‘That’s my son.’ She hasn’t dropped any money since.

“Occasionally, I’ll see her. She’ll say, ‘If Donald comes around, don’t tell him that you’ve seen me.’

Donald and Joy carried on a conversation in sign language. Joy would punctuate her signing with a raised middle finger. Donald walked away and said, “Bitch.”

I could see Shakes, from a distance, slowly ambling his way towards the group. Joy said, “Okay, Shakes is coming, now we’ll know for sure if our checks came in the mail. Does he have a happy or a sad face? No checks today.”

Shakes sat on the grass beside me. “How is today going, Shakes.”

“Good, when I woke up this morning I saw that my flask from last night was still full, and Danny bought me a bottle. He woke me at seven o’clock and asked me if I wanted a joint. Then he brought out my new chess board. I bet you didn’t know that I knew how to play chess. I learned when I was six years old. Playing chess is like playing the game of life.”

Joy said, “Danny is a pompous asshole, and I know what a pompous asshole is. He acts all high and mighty. I asked him to do a wolf painting for me, he gave me one of an eagle. The same one I already have. He thinks that just because he paints, he’s better than everybody. Well I’m here to say, he isn’t, and I’ll tell him that to his face.”

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Collins Bay Penitentiary



27 August 2013

This morning was cloudy and muggy. It’s been raining off and on for the past few days.  As I got off the bus, Metro said, “Good morning, Dennis, she’s here today.”

Joy was sitting on her usual plastic crate, in her usual place. Her head was down, I could tell that things weren’t going well for her today.

“”Hi, Joy, how’s your day going?”

“Shitty! I’ve made a dollar, eighty-six so far. I don’t get my check until Thursday and I need some tampons. I’ve asked all my regular ladies. Nobody has any. I’ve only got one left. I asked Mariah, but she’s on now and doesn’t have any extra.

“I’ve been avoiding her lately because she’s having problems with Charlie.

“I think I’m coming down with a cold or something. My throat is scratchy and I’m coughing up some grody stuff; but I’m still smoking.

“I went up to Mariah’s to borrow a tea bag.  I wanted a cup of tea with honey. She went on and on, Charlie this, Charlie that. She said, ‘I have to do dishes four times a day because he never cleans up after himself.  I go through a loaf of bread every second day. He eats six eggs for breakfast, along with half a pound of bacon, home fries and toast.’ He’s a pig alright from rooter to tooter. He was working, but for some reason he isn’t any more, and he doesn’t do anything around the house. He just sits around. Occasionally he’ll take the cat out so that Mariah can clean and do dishes, just so he can mess up the place again. I said, ‘Throw the bum the fuck out! That’s what I’d do.’ ”

I asked, “Have you had any news from Big Jake?”

“Yeah, he wants me to go to court to drop the restraining order. I don’t know why I should do anything for him. He’s the reason I’m out here. He even wants to borrow money from me. He had two hundred dollars when he came out. He couldn’t have spent all of that, so soon…

“I’ve got his laptop, but I can’t get into it. He gave me the code, but It doesn’t work for me. I’m no good at computers. I’m going to have the internet cut off. No use paying for that…

“He’s going to Collins Bay.”

“So he’s not going to Millhaven?”

“He’ll be admitted at Millhaven, then be sent to Collins Bay, it’s medium security. He said, ‘I want to go to my mother prison, as if he’s a career criminal or something. Since they tore down P4W (Prison for Women in Kingston) I’d be out of luck if I wanted to go to my mother prison.

“The new prisons are a lot nicer. I have a girlfriend who is doing two years for armed robbery. They sent her to Kitchener. She sent photos to me — they have big rooms with TVs, computers — it’s like Club Med. I can’t get over it.”

I asked, “Do you have reunions, like Class of ’92.”

“We should have, but I can’t think of anyone I’d want to see again…

“I’m surprised I haven’t seen Chester. He’s usually down here by now, doing his butt run. I haven’t seen Jacques either. It’s Tuesday, the Mission has their big breakfast today. He usually comes down for that.

“He’s got a girlfriend now. I asked, ‘Are you feeding her?’ He jabbered on, ‘No, she brings her own food, her own wine, her own pot. She cooks my meals, sleeps the night and is gone by morning.’ I said, ‘Sweet! You got a keeper.’ She has a job doing auto body repair, works three days a week. Can you imagine what she looks like if she’s going out with Jacques? He’s no prize.’ ”

I said, “I saw Craig yesterday. He was panning up past Silver’s spot. He’s not on his meds. When I walked up to him he said, ‘My fuckin’ father! I hope he dies of bone cancer!’ I offered him a card and he said, ‘What I want is change! I need four dollars to buy what I need, and I can’t get it!’ I said, ‘Sorry, Craig, I don’t have any change.’ When I left he said, ‘Cheapskate motherfucker! I’m so mad!’ He’s not going to get anywhere that way.”

Joy said, “When he was panning near me he’d sometimes yell at my ladies. Sometimes they’d say, ‘Be careful, he’s coming!’ I told him that he was chasing off my regulars and if he did it again I’d give him a shot in the head. He was okay around me after that.”

At noon the usual suspects were at the park and an extra, Andy who I hadn’t met Andy before.

Joy said about Andy, “He’s not really one of us anymore. He doesn’t live in Ottawa, he has a job as a Security Guard, ugh.”

I asked, “Where do you live, Andy.”

“In Val-d’Or. I work as a Security Guard but I don’t arrest people. Usually when I say I’m going to call the cops they run away. Sometimes I have to get physical. I stare them down and say, ‘You really don’t want to do this.’ ”

Joy said “That scar down your face might intimidate a few people. You’re the first native I’ve seen for a long while who had a full set of teeth, and they’re white, just like mine.

Debbie said, “I’m sorry to interrupt, but there’s a murder of crows passing over head. ”

Joy questioned, “A murder of crows?”

Andy said that’s the right word for a pack of crows  — a murder. Do you want to know where I learned that? The Simpson’s. I never thought I could actually learn something from the Simpson’s, but in the episode where Homer gets stoned on pot Marge says to Homer, ‘Hmm… Homer, I’m very uncomfortable about having a gang of crows in our bedroom.’ Homer replies, ‘It’s a murder, honey. A group of crows is called a murder.’ ”

Debbie said, “It’s a good omen to see crows.”

Joy asked, “A good omen for who?”

“For anyone who is there to witness it.”

Joy said “When I was seventeen, that would be back in ’82, I was driving a brand new Honda.  I was going down O’Connor in Toronto. I came to a turn so I cranked the wheel, but it locked.  I drove straight into a house.  There was five thousand dollars damage to the house and ten thousand to the car. These scars on my shins are from, dashboard, dashboard, and this one below my knee is from a hatchet.”

I said, “Tell us about the hatchet.”

“It was an old boyfriend. When I told him I was leaving he said, ‘If I can’t have you, then nobody can, Stumpy. That took eighteen months to heal. At one point, they thought they might have to amputate my leg. He got his back though. He now has two fingers on his left hand and none on his right. That’s what happens when they’re pushed through the spokes of a Harley when the back wheel is spinning. Just like a meat grinder. I was forced to watch. I didn’t mind that so much, except I was sprayed with blood from head to foot. I wasn’t pleased about that”

I asked, “How are you, Shakes?”

“You know me, I’m always the same. If I ever change I’ll let you know. The happy hunting ground isn’t ready for me, they don’t want me down there, so you’re stuck with me.”

Joy said, “They don’t want me up there and they don’t want me down below for fear  I’ll start a union. I don’t think I’d like Purgatory after all the episodes I’ve watched of Paranormal.”

Debbie said, “My kids asked me what I want them to do with me after I die. I said, “Just take me to the deepest part of the forest and leave me there. My spirit won’t be in my body anyway, so it really doesn’t matter.”

Shakes was lounging on the grass as usual. He waved his feet in the air and said, “See, last night I stepped in dog shit.”

Joy said, “Please, Shakes, you’re disgusting.”

Alphonse said, “Did you hear that Shane died last week? He had a heart attack. He was only thirty-three years old.”

Shakes said, “He was drinking three bottles of rubby a day. I gave him shit for that. I said to him, ‘For all the money you spend on that friggin stuff, you could have bought a real bottle.’ That’s why I stick with my Jack.”

I said, “And Jake sticks with his Jake-anators.”

Joy said, “That’s too many that have died. Silver, Serge now Shane. Whose going to be next?”

Debbie asked, “Dennis, what do you think of my hair?”

“It looks really great, Debbie.”

“Little Jake did it for me this morning.”

“Jake, I didn’t know you were so talented.”

As I was leaving I met Hippo. I asked, “How are you doing?”

“I’m just coming back from court. I gotta go back at one thirty to sign a Peace Bond.”

I asked, “Is this from the time at your apartment building when you attacked the cop with a hammer?”

“Yeah, I’ve got restrictions: I can’t drink, use drugs or carry weapons, that includes hammers. I guess even a tooth pick could be considered a weapon.”

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