People, Places and Things to Avoid.

15 November 2017

I’d been looking for Ted’s upturned cap. From a block away I could tell if he was panning or not. As usual he was sitting on the concrete with his back against the stone wall of the church. He was reading the newspaper. “Hi Dennis, I was just reading that Justin Trudeau was slammed by the Philippine leader for asking about human rights. Trump congratulated Duarte, they’re best friends now.”

“How are you feeling, Ted.”

“Today I’m sore. I went to the dentist yesterday and he pulled four teeth. I’ve got two others with cavities. On the twenty-eighth I go again to have those filled, then I’ll have a partial plate made. I might as well since the government is paying for it. I thought the dentist was going to recommend that I have all my teeth pulled. I haven’t had them checked for about fifteen years, but no, he said I could keep most of them. One was really hard to pull. He worked on it for about half an hour. He clamped it with some kind of rod and would tap it with a hammer then wiggle it back and forth. He stopped for a while and I said to him, ‘If pulling that one tooth is so difficult why don’t you tie a piece of string around it with the other end secured around a door knob. Then you’d just have to give the door a good yank and the tooth would be out.’ He laughed at that.

“I’ve picked out some furniture: a dresser, kitchen table, some bedding. It will be delivered on Friday.”

“Will you be getting a bed?”

“No, I haven’t been able to find one. A new one would cost three hundred. There’s no way I could afford that. I was at Canadian Tire and was looking at an inflatable bed for eighty-nine dollars. What do you think of that?”

“I’ve had bad luck with air mattresses. They always get punctured and I end up on the floor.”

“I don’t think I told you, but I haven’t had a beer for thirty days now. At first I got really sick. It was like the ‘flu. I’d have sweats one minute then I’d be shivering my ass off. My kidneys shut down. I didn’t pee for three days. After four days I went to the doctor. I told him my problems. He said I was suffering from alcohol withdrawal. He said I could have died. I didn’t know that. He said I should have cut down to three beer a day for the first week, then two a day the next week, and one a day for the following week. Then it would be okay to quit altogether. I’ve had diabetes for the past ten years, so cutting out the beer will be good for that as well. I bought three bags of milk the other day, put two in the freezer. I was reading the ingredients. There is a lot of sugar in milk. I didn’t know that, but one cup of milk has a teaspoon and a half of sugar.

“I’ve stopped panning in front of the hotel. I’ve left that place for Richard. He’d always be offering me a beer or a slug of whiskey. In AA they emphasize people, places and things. I should stay away from Richard, stay out of places that serve drinks and avoid things that remind me of alcohol. I used to belong to AA but I haven’t attended a meeting for ten years. My worker wants me to start attending again. Ninety meetings in ninety days. I used to go for an hour each day at noon. I’m also trying to cut down on smoking. I now smoke six or eight a day. My worker said I should take it slow, baby steps at first. I guess he’s right.

“I do feel better now that I’m not drinking. I’ve been here too many times. It’s a cycle: panhandling, booze, drugs, homeless… I have to get off that wheel. Starting January I’m going to be looking for a job.”

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I going to put down that I’m a hooker…

14 November 2017

Work was over for the day. I was standing at the bus stop, my bus pass in one hand, my Kindle in the other. I was reading Dragonfly in Amber (Outlander series Book 2). I’ve been watching it on Netflix, but I’m understanding more by reading the book. I heard someone holler, “Hey, old man,” I looked up and it was Bearded Bruce. He said, ‘That was funny, I called ‘Hey, old man’ and immediately you looked up. I hope you know I didn’t mean any offence. So, are you back from your vacation?”

“No,” I said, “we’ll be leaving Sunday and will be gone to San Diego for a week.”

“Oh, I thought it was last week. So where were you last week? I stopped by to see you a couple of times. Where were you?”

“I was in my usual places,” I said. “Maybe I left work early a few times. That may be why you missed me.”

Bruce continued, “I wanted to let you know that everything is in order now. I saw my worker and he offered me and my girl a place in their housing program. Only one hundred and ninety-one people have been chosen. He told me that I could claim my earnings as tips because panhandling is illegal. Now, I have to figure out what job I’m earning these tips from.”

“Have you decided on an occupation?”

He replied, “I going to put down that I’m a hooker, or a stripper, working part time. They’ll accept that but not panhandling. I had to tell them about my situation. People tell me that ‘It’s a problem being an alcoholic,’ or ‘It’s
a problem being addicted to drugs,’ I say, ‘It’s not a problem for me. It’s you people who see it as a problem.’ The guy asked me, ‘Are you depressed,’ ‘Depressed?’ I said, ‘The only thing that depresses me is you guys cutting off my money.’ He asked, ‘How does that make you feel?’ I said, ‘It makes me want to blow people up, No, I was just kidding. My girl says that I’ve been cranky lately.’ I said to her, ‘If you don’t like it then get out.’ She went to stay with her cousin for a week. She’s back now. She told the guy some things about her past, but not everything. It’s looking good. We’ll know by next week if we’re approved. We’re feeling positive.”

“That sounds great, Bruce. I see my bus coming, so I’m going to have to leave. give my best to Loretta.”

She said to me, ‘So, you’re going to talk to Dennis, your bitching post.’ She didn’t mean that in a bad way, it’s just that I wanted to tell you our good news. It feels better when I talk to you. You really listen.”

“Take care, Bruce,” I said. When I found a seat at the front of the bus — I always sit at the front in case the bus lurches and I fall down. Sitting across from me was Chris with his cane and a pack of beer, eight tall boys.

“Hi, Dennis, my backpack was stolen this afternoon. I was panning and walked across the street to the hotel to take a piss. When I returned, my backpack was gone. I was really upset. It had my bus pass, my bank card. In the summer when I used to wear shorts and a tee shirt I’d attach my keys to the backpack. Lucky for me I have lots of pockets now and had my keys with me. I would have been in deep shit if I came home without my keys. I guess I could have phoned my landlord. He could have come down and let me in, but he wouldn’t have been happy about it. I have an extra key in my apartment. My birth certificate and my health card were at home. I got a new bus pass. It won’t be valid until three thirty tomorrow afternoon. The guy didn’t even charge me a fee for the new card and he gave me two bus tickets so I could get home. I cancelled my bank card. They’ll send a replacement in the mail. I always request that they send me a card without a chip. If it’s got a chip and it gets stolen it would be too easy for someone to drain my account. I’ve only got a hundred bucks in there, but it’s the only money I have.

“I hope there’s someone in my building who can lend me a backpack. It’s too hard carrying beer otherwise. I feel naked without that weight on my back.

“Anyway, my stop is coming up. Take care, Dennis.”

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used, abused and stolen from me …

7 November 2017

Ted had an upturned fur hat on the sidewalk. He’d retired his green plastic St. Patrick’s Day top hat. “Good morning, Dennis, I’ve been really sick this past week. I really thought I was going to die. I had one foot in the grave the other on a banana peel. I’d been on a drunk for three days and I was having trouble peeing. I’d go to the bathroom and only a few drops would dribble out. My back was really sore. Finally, I went to the hospital. They told me that I was dehydrated. Not enough fluid in the body can lead to kidney failure. That’s what I had. Anyway, since October 20th I’ve been drink free. I still have a bottle of vodka in my freezer. I’m going to return to A.A. meetings. They’re going to tell me to get rid of the vodka. One of their principles is to disassociate yourself with people, places, and things that you identify with drinking.

“I still don’t have my bed. There was a worker who came by to evaluate where I was living. He made a list of the things I needed: a bed, dresser, curtains, plates. He said to contact one of their stores within a month. The request would only be valid for thirty days. They have free delivery. I phoned the store to make an appointment, they said they had a five month waiting list. So, that was a waste of time.

“Eight thirty Sunday morning I heard a banging on my door. By the time I got up and looked out in the hall the guy was banging on someone else’s door. He was taping a flyer from management saying that they’d be doing inspections. I said to the guy, ‘What’s the idea of banging on people’s doors at eight thirty, Sunday morning. People are trying to sleep.’ I said, ‘You can just as easily slide the flyer under the door.’ So, that’s what he started doing. When they do the inspection they’ll see the cockroach problem, maybe then they’ll decide to spray. It’s because of the hot water heating. There are pipes leading from the furnace to every apartment. I’m really clean. I don’t cook. I don’t leave food out. I scrub the floors. When I moved the fridge to clean underneath I saw about a hundred cockroaches. I sprayed them with pesticide, waited until they were dead then swept them up. When I moved the stove, same situation. I keep my knives and forks in a sealed plastic container in the fridge. That’s the only place I’m sure they’ll stay clean. They’re better than bed bugs, but roaches carry a lot of diseases.

I said, “The last time we spoke you mentioned that you were seeing a woman. How’s that going?”

“I don’t see her anymore. She stole my weed pipe, sleeping pills from my medicine cabinet and she borrowed forty bucks. I know where she is. I could see her at the Mission any time, but she says she doesn’t have the money. What am I going to do? I wouldn’t hit a woman. I could get a woman to hit her, but I still wouldn’t get my stuff back. The people who stay at the Mission are all the same. I’ll just add her to the long list of people who have used me, abused me and stolen from me.

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