I can quit drinking…

 

 

13 February 2017

When I first saw Ted he was engrossed, reading a newspaper. “Good morning, Ted. When I was talking to you last you mentioned that your worker was going to arrange for you to see a doctor. Did that come about?”

“Actually I was offered an appointment, but I declined. I know I should go. I’m even having trouble walking. Sometimes my right leg will just stop. I’ll yell at it and say, ‘Get moving you fucker!’, but nothing happens. People probably think I’m crazy. I’ve got no control over it. Eventually the nerves kick in and I can will it to move forward. I think that’s a symptom of kidney problems. I’m also peeing dark, another kidney symptom. I’ve been on dialysis before. I don’t want to go through that again. The doctor is going to tell me to stop drinking and I can. I just don’t want to do it right now. Then there’s my bipolar medication. I’m a mess without that.

A man stopped by and said, “Ted, where’s your hat. You should be wearing it. You haven’t lost it have you?”

“No, I haven’t lost it. It’s in my bag. I’ll put it on later.” To me he said, “Have you seen that guy around? He finds a place on some corner somewhere and knits. He’s always knitting: socks, scarves mitts. They’re really warm.

“Yesterday was good. I collected $70.00, then spent $50.00 on booze. I was really drunk. I could barely walk I’m paying for it now. I’ve got a beast of a headache. The bright sun isn’t helping either.

“Last night I was panning in front of a Mexican restaurant. Everybody was handing me boxes of half eaten burritos. I was so stuffed I could barely get up. When you’re on the street you don’t turn down anything. If it’s something I don’t need, I know that I’ll run into someone who does. I put two boxes in my backpack. One I opened last night when I got home. The other I had for breakfast.

“I’ve been reading a book by this guy, I don’t remember his name. I just have to keep turning pages. Even when I’m with my friends I’ll be over in a corner reading.

“The weekend should be great. There will be lots of visitors downtown for the end of Winterlude. They’ll be in a good mood, the weather will be mild. I may stay here or go up to the mall.”

“I’ve been talking to some of my friends. They said it issn’t good to have conversations with people while you’re panning. People who otherwise might make a drop, will pass right by.”

“Well Ted, I’ll let you get back to work.”

 



 
 
 
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Refugees

 

 

6 February 2017

“Good morning, Ted.”

“Hey, Dennis, I guess you heard about Trumps fights with the courts. He must be pissed. I don’t know why they don’t just let him do his job and see what happens. I can see where he’s coming from. He was born rich, everything he ever wanted was provided for him. They had servants. In business he was always the boss, so if anybody did anything he didn’t like he’d fire them. He’s not used to taking orders. I know, he’s a womanizer. Hell, I’ve been that myself a few times. As far as the refugees are concerned, I don’t want them coming here taking our jobs.”

“Ted, you don’t have a job. Nobody will be taking anything away from you.”

“Well, I know that, but they’ll be covered under our health care. We’ll be paying for their housing.”

“Isn’t that the situation that you’re in now? Have you had a chance to see a doctor about your medication?”

“The woman that you saw me with the other day, the chubby one, is my worker. She’s going to get everything sorted out. I should see a doctor soon because I’ve been having a pain in my lung. I think it may be pneumonia. Do you know anything about that?”

I said, “I’ve had pneumonia. You’ll need antibiotics. It’s very serious.”

“Yeah, I’ve heard that you can die from it.

“I guess Trudeau will be meeting with Trump next week. I wonder how that will go. His father was tough, but Justin may be too polite. He is a boxer, I hope he doesn’t take any shit from Trump. The US is our biggest trading partner. Anything Trump does affects Canada.”

“I hope it goes well, otherwise he may build a wall and have us pay for it.”

 



 
 
 
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Getting Emotional

 

 
2 February 2017

“Good morning, Ted, I haven’t seen you for a while.”

“Hi, Dennis, I haven’t been so good lately. I’ve been sick. I phoned my mother. I got all emotional and had to hang up on her. When I got myself together I phoned back and got shit for hanging up. I’ve got to see a doctor about my medication. I told you that she has a big house. She wanted me to visit her. I said, ‘Mom, I don’t have $50.00 to take a taxi. There are no busses that go there.’ She paid for the cab when it arrived. I was pissed off at my brother, he arranged to have a plow clear her driveway, but the lazy ass didn’t clear the sidewalk or the steps. I said, ‘Mom, if the snow isn’t cleared and there’s no light on, thieves will think that the house is vacant and will rob you.’ She complained about the cost of electricity, but agreed to leave a light turned on. There’s no problem with mail piling up because they have a community mailbox.”

I said, “Your mom is in her 80’s isn’t she?”

“She’s 83, but looks about 60. She’s had lifts, nips and tucks. I can see the scars around her ears. I’m worried though, because she doesn’t have the same vitality she had before.

“She owns several apartment buildings. I told her about my eviction notice, so she’s going to have an apartment cleared for me. I don’t know how I feel about that. She has to give the present tenants 90 days notice, but since the apartment is going to a family member there won’t be any legal problems.

“I got a TV. I went to a pawn shop and bought a 19 inch flat screen for $39.00. The one I really wanted was a 36 inch for $130.00, but it didn’t have a remote. What good is that? I don’t want to be getting up every few minutes to change the channel.”

“I agree, if you’re watching television you want to relax.”

Ted reached into his backpack and pulled out a gift box with Italian Panettone printed on it. He said, “I don’t know what I’m supposed to do with this. Do I cook it?”

“No, it’s already cooked. I’m sure you’ll like it.”

“I’m not so sure. Do you want it?”

“Sure, I’ll take it.”



 
 
 
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Deer Hunting

30 January 2017

“Good morning, Ted.”

“Hi, Dennis. I had a good day yesterday, collected about $70.00. If today goes well I’ll be able to buy a TV this week. It was nice to come home to the sheets and comforter that were dropped off. I get my check next Wednesday. That’s February 1st isn’t it? The government holds on to our money until the last second to collect as much interest as possible. It’s deposited directly to my bank account.

“Now that I’m a bit settled I want to look for a job, maybe washing dishes. I’d like that. I’d be off in my own little corner and I’d get the leftovers that diners leave behind. If I wasn’t waiting for that couple I have the present for I’d be job hunting right now. Did I tell you about the first time I met them? I was panning on the street and they came by with a hot roast chicken and fries. That was quite a surprise. I’ve gained about forty pounds since I’ve been here. People are always giving me junk food. When I was trapping I’d eat healthy food all the time.

“Even with all the experience I’ve had, survival courses that I’ve taken, I’ve done some pretty stupid things. Bow hunting season opened in September. I’d gone into this wooded area of about a thousand square miles. Being mister know it all, I didn’t bother taking a phone, a GPS or even a compass. I saw deer tracks so I climbed a tree. I waited about an hour when a doe and buck came into view, but I wanted to wait for the perfect shot. My legs got numb and I fell out of the tree, broke my ankle. The bone was sticking out and I was losing a lot of blood. I knew If I stayed there I’d drain out and die. I didn’t know where I was, but I could hear the far off sound of traffic, so I crawled towards it for about an hour. I finally made it to the highway. I was lying at the side of the road waving my arms. A lady stopped, she pulled out one of those pocket flashlights and shone it at me. I said, ‘Lady, I’m injured. I need to get to a hospital.’ My face was nearly white from loss of blood. She was afraid to come near me. I said, ‘I’m not going to hurt you. Look at my ankle. Please call for help.’ The police arrived, they called for a helicopter to fly me out. Before the helicopter arrived I asked the cops, ‘Would someone, please, go back for my bow?’ One cop asked, ‘How are we going to find it?.’ The other cop said, ‘Just follow the trail of blood.’ When a person is crawling they leave an obvious path.

“There was something funny that happened on the helicopter that I gotta tell you about. I placed a phone call to my wife. I said, ‘Hello, Dear, I’m afraid that I’ve had an accident and I’m being taken to hospital. The sound you hear are the blades of the chopper.’ I used to play lots of tricks on her and she thought this was one of them. She said, ‘I’m glad you had an accident. I hope you’re in lots of pain and that you die in hospital you son of a bitch.’ Then she slammed down the phone. Because of the noise they had me on speaker phone. You should have seen the look on the faces of the rescue team when they heard that. I told them it was just a joke and everything was fine.

“There were three doctors waiting when I arrived at the hospital. First they gave me blood transfusion. The doctor said I was minutes away from death. I had a very complicated fracture. I have pins, plates in there holding everything together. I was in hospital for a week when I told the nurse, ‘I’ve got to get out of here.’ She took me to the physiotherapy room where they had a flight of ten steps. The nurse said, ‘If you can go up and down using crutches we can let you go.’ I was determined to climb those steps and I did. I was in a cast for about a year, then a brace for another six months. It still gives me problems. I was on oxycontin for about six months. I hate taking pills. The bottles started piling up. I finally gave them to my brother. I’m still on medication. I haven’t been taking it. Yesterday I started crying for no reason. I found a doctor who will give me an injection once a month, so I won’t have to take pills.”



 
 
 
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TRUMP HATES KIDS!

 

 
25 January 2017

“Good morning, Ted. I missed you yesterday.”

“Yeah, I got here late, around 11:00. I had a bad night. Do you want to hear something funny? Friday night a guy came by and asked me if I wanted a flat screen TV. I said, ‘Sure!’ He said, ‘Are you going to be here tomorrow?’ I assured him that I would be. The next day he came carrying a big garbage bag; in it was the flat screen TV, a DVD player and 10 movies. I was so excited I wanted to go straight home to plug it in. I’d had a bit to drink and was rushing. I slipped on an ice patch and my feet went out from under me. You can see I’m a heavy guy. I landed on the TV and heard a horrible crunch. Sure enough the TV was smashed to pieces. I could have cried.” he shrugged and said, “Easy come, easy go.

“I was sitting at the corner when the Trump protest started. One woman was carrying a sign that said TRUMP HATES KITTENS / TRUMP HATES KIDS. I was thinking about that, That’s a bit presumptuous. Is she God or somebody who can see what Trump likes or hates? I asked her, ‘Isn’t that sign politically incorrect?’ She walked over to me and said, ‘How would you like to be grabbed by the balls?’ She was tough looking, I said, ‘No, ma’am!’ I just sat there and waved. On her way back she asked, ‘Now, do you get the point?’ I said, ‘Yes, ma’am.’ She put $5.00 in my cap.”

He asked me, “Do you know what the protest was about?”

“Yes,” I said, according to the newspaper, “Thousands of women, with a strong representation of men and children, descended on the Human Rights Monument near City Hall Saturday morning to march in support of sister organizations in Washington and around the world. The marches were to protest the new administration of President Donald Trump, with a focus on protecting and advancing women’s rights. The protest march was to promote equality and equal rights for all people regardless of race, sexual orientation, or ability.”

Ted continued, “Someone gave me this new backpack full of stuff; bubble bath, pads, women’s stuff, nothing I can use. There’s a young girl who comes by every day at noon. I’ll give it to her.” A man stopped and handed Ted a shopping bag. He responded by saying, “Thank you very much!” The man walked on and Ted said to me, “This is the comforter and sheets that I mentioned someone was giving me. I got my bed Saturday so I’m all set.

“I went to the pipeline protest, just to see what was happening. I was there for about an hour when a chief came up to me. He said, ‘Take these, you need them.’ I opened the package and saw a beautiful pair of Inuit mits. I said to him, ‘This is too much. I can’t accept these.’ He said, ‘In my culture, to refuse a gift is an insult. Are you going to insult me?’ ‘No, No they’re beautiful. I don’t know what to say except thank you.’ Ted pulled a package out of his backpack, unwrapped it and showed me a pair of white leather, decorated, gauntlet type mits. “I wore them on the weekend and got them dirty, so I’ve put them away for now. I asked an Inuit friend of mine about them. He said they sell for about $250.00.

“I want to show you something else. There is a couple named Dawn and Doug who have been really kind to me. They’re religious people. They do missionary work all over the world. Doug said to me, ‘You have work to do. There are a lot of kids on the street who need help. You have a responsibility to them.’ I don’t know what he expects me to do. I hadn’t seen the couple for about four months, but they stopped by on the weekend. In one of the rich districts, I had picked something out of the garbage that I thought they’d like. What do you think?” He handed me a copper, stylized figure of Jesus on the cross. On the back was engraved to Dawn and Doug from Ted. “Do you think they’ll like it? I don’t mind telling you that I go through the garbage because I know that you understand.”

I said, “I understand, Ted. A lot of people go through garbage. If I see something I can use in someone’s garbage I’ll pick it up. What’s one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”

“Yeah, but this morning I found a half eaten container of yogurt. It looked alright. Now I’m feeling a bit queasy. I think I’m going to have to find a place to barf.”



 
 
 
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Sleeping on a Bench

 

bench

 

“Hi Dennis,” said Alphonse, “I haven’t seen you for, it must be eight months. How are you and your family.”

“Good,” I said, “How about you?”

“I’m doing well. I’m separated from Magdalene. I’m going into a rehab program as soon as I can see my doctor to get the paperwork filled out.”

I asked, “When can you see your doctor?”

“Anytime I want. I’ve been seeing Bettie, Shakes’ daughter. We went out together before. The father of her three children is serving seven months for beating her. She’s getting out of rehab this week and will be getting her kids back. I’m waiting to see what her plans are before going in myself.

” I’ve been sleeping outside, I have my tarp and warm clothing, so I stay dry. One of the places I stay is under the bridge. There’s an exhaust fan there so it’s comfortable  in cold weather. Sometimes, I sleep on a bench on the other side of the park, sometimes in an alley near the market. The only problem with that is, I get woken up at five in the morning by a guy who hoses down the alley. During the night people will pee there or vomit, so it needs to be cleaned every day.

“Maggie has been sleeping on a bench near the park. She was staying in the apartment we shared, but she’s afraid of her new boyfriend, so she stays away.”

I asked, “Do the police bother her sleeping on a bench?”

“No, they know us. We don’t cause any trouble. For a while the cops were coming down hard on all panhandlers, but it’s not so bad now.  I was assigned a new probation officer. I heard bad things about the way he treats people, so I refused to see him. Probies are supposed to help us,  not get us sent back to prison on some trumped up charge.  I got a couple of breaches and served sixteen days the first time, twenty-two the second. I told my workers that I refused to see him, now I’ve been reassigned to the one I had before.”

Mariah said to me, “Dennis, I’d like you to meet my son, Andy.  He’d been living in a house owned by the mother of one of his friends. She kicked out Andy and her three sons. It’s really sad, one of them has AIDS.”

Andy said, “Yeah, she didn’t give us notice or anything. She’s going to sell the house, so she wants it empty. I said, ‘You can’t make me leave. I’ve paid rent until the end of the month.’ She said, ‘Do you want me to call the cops?’ I said, ‘Go ahead, if I’ve paid my rent there’s nothing they can do.’ She said, ‘I can say you raped me, that you caused damage to the house.’ I can understand that she wants us to leave, but she doesn’t have to be such a thundercunt about it.’

Mariah asked, “Dennis, I wouldn’t ask for myself, but could you give Andy some bus tickets, so he can get the rest of his stuff out. I’d really appreciate it.”

“Sure,” I said, “I have some to spare”

Andy said, “Thanks man, that’s really solid.”

Mariah said, “I saw Joy this morning. She’s doing a little better. They let her go out in the wheelchair now. Big Jake brought her a carton of cigarettes.  I take her out for a smoke, she’s got some pot. The only thing she doesn’t have is that stupid wine she drinks. That’s what I call it. Her liver rejects it, no matter how watered down it is.”

I asked, “Does she have any arm strength back?”

“Oh yeah, she’s getting it back wheeling herself around. The doctors still don’t know what the problem is. They took a biopsy on the side of her leg, now that’s started to bubble up. They’re not sure if it’s fluid or blood. They may have to go back in and fix whatever’s wrong. They’re thinking that she may have MS.”

I asked, “Have they ruled out fibromyalgia?”

“Yeah, I’ve got fibromyalgia. It goes all over the place. Sometimes I feel like I’ve been stabbed in the gut. The tips of my fingers go numb, just like frostbite in the winter. Sometimes, it feels like there’s a sword running up my leg. Every time I take a step, I get a stabbing pain.”

 



 
 
 
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You’re Not My Friend!

 

 
19 January 2017

“Good morning Ray. I was worried about you. You mentioned that you might see the guy that beat you.”

“I saw him alright, but nothing happened. I said to him, ‘I don’t like you. I don’t want to be your friend. I don’t want to see you.’ he said, ‘I’m sorry you feel that way.’ then he left.

“I was talking to a bicycle courier this morning. He told me about a guy who worked for their company. The guy had an appointment with his doctor. The doctor said, ‘You’re too fat. You’re going to die of a heart attack if you don’t lose weight.’ The guy changed jobs and became a walking messenger. He’d walk all over the city. The next time he went to his doctor he was told that his heart was in perfect condition.

“There was this other guy who hated his job. He bought two lawnmowers, wrote his own flyer offering to cut lawns for $99. He had 350 printed and had the post office deliver them to every house in a certain neighbourhood. He got about 150 replies. Now he’s making about $6000. a month and he only works Mondays and Tuesdays.”

I asked, “Have you been writing?”

“No, but I got out all my old notebooks. What a lot of memories they brought back. I used to work for a courier company, but I fucked the owner’s wife. That didn’t go very well. It’s not as if I meant to. She invited me to her place. I should have said no, but I was thinking with the wrong head.”

I said, “It’s not something that you can take back.”

“No. Then there was this older woman, very nice looking. some guys said I was cruel, but I didn’t think so. Tell me what you think. I sent her a dozen red roses every week. I didn’t leave a card with them and I asked the florist not to give any indication of who I was. She was dispatcher and would ask over the microphone, ‘Did any of you wonderful guys send me flowers?’ She nearly went crazy trying to figure out who the sender was. Do you think that was cruel?”

“If she thought the sender was wonderful, I’m surprised that you didn’t let her know that you were sending the flowers.”

“That would have been awkward, since she was the mother of the other woman I told you about.”

I said, “That would have been awkward if the daughter came over when you were with her mother.”



 
 
 
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