Bear Hunting


31 January 2017

“Good morning, Ted.”

“Hi, Dennis. I had a good day yesterday, collected about $70.00. Have you heard what Trump’s doing now? He’s building his wall.”

“Yes, I heard that. I can’t see how that is practical. He could use that same money paying for additional border security officers. If he’s trying to keep out the drug cartels they have access to planes and have been using tunnels for years.”

“He’s also going ahead with the oil pipelines. That’s got to be good for Canada. It will provide jobs and perhaps cheaper fuel.”

I said, “A lot of my First Nations friends are upset because it will violate sacred burial grounds and will increase the possibility of oil polluting the land and the water. For some in British Columbia fishing is their main source of income. An oil spill could devastate them.”

“Yeah, I’ve heard that as well. I just see it as providing jobs and hopefully, cheaper fuel. I don’t drive a car now, but as soon as I’m able I’d like to buy an old beater to get me around. I wouldn’t mind having the same access to hunting and fishing that aboriginals have. They’re even allowed to spear pickerell in the shallow spawning beds. They also spear more than they can eat. I’ve often been offered pickerel for sale when I’m near a reserve. I only shoot as much as I can eat and I eat every part of the animal. I’ve dragged a 300 pound bear out of the woods. Mind you, I was pretty stupid about it. I’d left my hunting platform and my ammunition. I was watching a bear cub reaching into a container of donuts. There was a roar nearby, a bigger bear was in the area. The cub ran away. A large male may kill and eat a cub. The bear spotted me and came running. I had my shotgun lined up, but instead of squeezing the trigger I pulled it and the shot tore off his front foot. I only had two shots left The three legged bear was enraged and chased me up a hill. I found a crevice in the rock where I was protected. I fired another shot, but still didn’t kill it, only made it more angry. I got out in the clearing and as the bear came closer I took careful aim and brought him down. I’d never leave a wounded animal in the bush. If I had to track him 10 miles I would. Now I stick to bow hunting. It’s more of a challenge and the season is longer.

“I need to get back on my medication. Last night I found myself crying for no reason. I felt foolish. My worker has all my paperwork sorted now, so I’ll be able to go to a doctor.

“There’s a pizza place where I pan in the evenings. Restaurants don’t give food away, something to do with health regulations. At 9:00, just before they close up they walk right past me carrying about ten boxes of pizza and throw them in the dumpster. I wait until they’ve gone then dive in after the pizza. I freeze most of it, so it can last me about a week. I don’t know why they don’t phone one of the shelters, they’d send a truck over to pick up food that would otherwise go to waste.”

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8 July 2013

Joy was smiling when I greeted her this morning. “How have you been doing? I haven’t seen you for a while.”

“I’ve just been chillin’ in my apartment. I didn’t feel like coming downtown.  Last Wednesday I had a fight with Magdalene, so I didn’t stick around. Butthead was over once.”

“Which Butthead was that? Jake Butthead or someone else?

“My Jake, he reeked. I told you he gained a lot of weight in prison because of his bad hip. First he used a cane, then a walker, then a wheelchair.  I asked him, ‘Babe, don’t you ever take a shower?’ He said, ‘Yeah, I had one yesterday.’ I said, ‘You need to take one every day, being stuck in that chair. You smell like piss. Have you been pissing yourself? He said, ‘No.’ I said, ‘You can take a shower here if you like.’ He said, ‘No,’ so I left it at that.

“When he was ready to leave I went out to the hall to get his wheelchair. I could smell it from ten feet away. He had a folded blanket to sit on. I asked him, ‘Where did you get this blanket?’ He said, ‘The Sally Ann.’ I asked, ‘Was it clean?’ He said, ‘No.’ I haven’t seen him since then. Maybe I hurt his feelings. I don’t know; I don’t care. He phoned once and asked if he took the bus to my place would I push him up the hill. I said, ‘No, dude. You’ve been in that chair long enough, you should be doing wheelies. I can after all the time I’ve been in a wheel chair, for my broken ankles and my fibromyalgia. You really need the exercise.”

“Is he still drinking?”

“After his piss test, he drinks as much as he used to. That’ll never change.

“I’ve been picking away at the stitches in my head. Sometimes I’ve scratched some hair out — they didn’t shave my scalp where  they stitched me. Mariah was looking at my head the other day and said, ‘You’ve got a bald spot!’ All day long she was calling me Spot.”

I said, “I’ve got a scar on my head where I had eight stitches as a kid.”

“Yeah, “I’ve got a scar from my forehead right to the back of my head. My sister pushed me down the stairs on a stuffed lion. I’ve got another one on the side where Buddy hit me with a crowbar. My scalp isn’t a pretty sight. It’s like a road map. There’s no way I’m going for that shaved look.”

A lady stopped to put some change in Joy’s cap. “Thanks, Sweetie, I haven’t seen you for a long time.” It’s true, I wonder if she changed departments or something.

“I’m still getting those headaches and dizzy spells from the concussion I got.”

“Have you seen a doctor? Do you have your health card yet?”

“I’ve been leaving messages with my workers, but they don’t get back to me. I’m hoping to see someone from the street outreach program . They haven’t been around lately either.”

Another lady stopped, smiled and dropped some change, “Bless you, dear,” she said.

“Bless you too,”  said Joy. “Have a nice day.”

Joy asked, “Have you been up to the park lately? I haven’t been keeping in touch with anybody.

“I hope Chester doesn’t come by. He’s been getting really cranky lately. I don’t like being around him.”

“I saw him Wednesday. It was after you had the fight with Magdalene.”

“Yeah, I went after her because she was harassing Chili, in her walker.”

“I was talking to Magdalene. She was drunk and nobody else would talk to her. I didn’t know the circumstances from before. Anyway, Chester asked me for some bus tickets. I said, ‘Okay, Chester, hold on, I’ll get to you.’ Magdalene was sobbing and talking about going home on the weekend.  I agreed with her and said it was a good idea. Then I went over to talk to Shark and Matches. Chester  was getting so agitated, he was shaking.”

“Magdalene didn’t go home. I’ve seen her since then, but she needs to get straightened out. I don’t know how old she is, but she seems like just a kid.”

I said, “She’s twenty-four. Alphonse is forty.”

“I thought she was young,  just like Sinead, who sometimes hangs around with Ricky. I think she’s twenty. I don’t know how many times I’ve seen her passed out in the bushes with her panties  around her ankles.  She probably doesn’t even know what happened while she was unconscious. I never let myself get that wasted. After I get a little buzz I go home.”

I asked, “Have you seen Shakes lately. Lucy has been staying at his place. Frank was worried that she’d beat  and rob him. I thought that maybe she had split with Daimon, but I saw Little Jake on the bus and he told me that he’d seen them together. They were both wired.”

“That’s bad news. Lucy told me they had their own place… Why would she be staying with Shakes? She’s smacking that stuff in her arm… I’m worried about Shakes.”

It was time for me to go to work, Joy said, “I’m off vacation now. I’ll be at the park for most of this week except for tomorrow. I’m getting a land line hooked up and cable installed. I’ll be human again. I’m tired of watching the same DVDs over and over again. Last night I watched “Pirates of the Caribbean” for about the hundredth time. I have all the dialog memorized. That Johnny Depp is weird.  Did you know that he based the Jack Sparrow character on Keith Richards? Now there’s a potheaded, druggie to have as a role model.”



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Gotta Find a Home; Conversations with Street People


Hippo Trot


18 June 2013

As I was approaching the park, Danny came running to meet me. “Dennis, I hate to ask, but could you spare me some bus tickets? Yesterday, Shakes jumped the bus and I was left walking, but it turned out for the best. I ran into a lady I know and she wants to buy two of my paintings. She offered to drive me to where I was going to visit a friend, so that worked out. When I got to my friend’s place, he wasn’t home, so I ended up walking the rest of the way.”

“How long did it take you to walk home?”

“About three hours, but I didn’t mind walking. I’m a fast walker. I’ve got a painting that I’m working on. I’ll bring it out” The image, outlined with a wood burning tool, was of an eagle in flight. “See the way its wings are up and his claws extended. He’s swooping. I’m going to put a rabbit over to the side here.  He won’t have caught the rabbit, but he will. That’s the way they hunt; they swoop and grab.”

Shakess said, “The same thing happened to me a few days ago. The bus driver wouldn’t let me on the bus because I didn’t have the full fare. I walked to the mall and tried a few different buses.  I told the driver, ‘Look, I’ve only got $1.63 and I’ve got no other way to get home.’ Luckily one of them let me ride. I started at 5:30 and didn’t get home until 10:30.”

I sat near Joy. She was going through her purse, then called Chester over. “Have you got any money?” Chester checked his pockets and said, “I’ve got $3.60.” Joy said, “That will just make it. Hippo, can you make a run for me?”


Joy waved the money at him. He indicated that she should bring it to him. Finally, he came over to get it.  Joy said, “Look, if  it’s too much trouble, I can try to get in there myself.”

“No, it’s okay.”

“You say it’s okay, but you’re not moving.”

Hippo said, “What? You want me to run there? I can run.”

Gaston said, “Yes, show us the Hippo trot.”

Hippo said, “If you think I’m fat. Look at the guy coming down the sidewalk.”

Joy said, “It’s not his fault. He doesn’t eat much. It’s some kind of eating disorder.”

Gaston said, “Yes, it’s glandular.”

Hippo headed toward the liquor store. Joy said, “I swear, when he brings that bottle back I’m going home, alone. He’s been over four times in the last week. Sunday he came over at 4:30. I was already in my boxers, ready to settle in and watch TV. I was cooking supper and I’d only cooked enough for myself.  I hate eating when there is somebody looking at me, drooling, so I told him to help himself. That didn’t leave very much for me. I told him, “Look man, don’t come over at such weird hours.’  The next morning he came over at 10:30. I was just sweeping up. I said, ‘I really don’t want company now. I’ve got things to do.’

“I have a hard time affording food for myself,  let alone feeding someone else. He has his mommy to put money in his bank account, but I never see him then; only when he wants something.

“If  I weren’t waiting for Hippo, I’d be outa here. The cops are sure to come, especially with so many people and Frank being as loud as he is. Bearded Bruce came by earlier with  bottles of vodka, sherry and some kind of dark beer in a green can. He mixed them all together and called it a brucinator. Frank had most of it and you know how obnoxious he gets when he’s wasted.”

A cell phone started ringing. Jacques said, “That’s an incoming call! It shows that I’m important!” He spoke a few words then brought the phone to Joy, he said, “It’s Chili, for you.”

“Hi sweetie, how are you doing… What do you mean you’re a hop, skip and a jump from here… You’re at the mall?… Are you coming here?… If you are I’ll stick around, otherwise I’m leaving… I’ll see you tomorrow then… I better not see any smash marks on your arms and legs, or I’ll slap you silly. I’m also going to check between your toes… Okay, good-bye.  Stupid chick. There are three buildings there. She has her own apartment, but she has half the complex staying at her place. They’re all getting high.”

I asked, “Is she still in a wheelchair?”

“They’d put her in a walker, but she got fucked up again. She went to hospital and is back in a wheelchair.”

I asked, “What is the problem with her legs?”

“She doesn’t take care of herself. She’ll get a small cut, or damage an artery with a hypodermic needle. It’ll get infected, then she gets blood clots. If it’s not taken care of,  it causes death of tissue in the limb. It also affects the immune system.  The same thing happened to me. See this scar below my knee? It was a cut that got infected.  They gave me a powerful antibiotic and said, ‘If this doesn’t work, we’re going to have to amputate your leg.’ That’s the position she’s in.”

“We’re you on crack then?”

“No, just on booze.”



Buy my book for $0.99 — proceeds feed the homeless:
Gotta Find a Home; Conversations with Street People





I sit on a bamboo and rattan bar stool,
at the Monkey Bar overlooking the Chagres River,
drinking a glass of seven-year old Ron Abuelo rum,
sweet nectar that tastes like creme brulee
and slides down my throat like warm, spiced honey.

A breeze blows through the open bar
and with it the scent of Bougainvilleas,
Hotlips, Amaryllis and Holy Ghost Orchids.
Swaying and giving shade are Wild Cashew
and Geiger Trees, Banana and Coconut Palms.

I peruse a crocodile idly floating by.
A log with a purpose. In the distance
I can hear the squawks of Parakeets,
Toucans and the distinctive chirps
of the aptly named Yellow-rumped Warblers.

I am transported back to 1941.
I almost expect to see Humphrey Bogart
and Mary Astor plotting to save the Canal locks
from being torpedoed by Sydney Greenstreet
in John Huston’s Across the Pacific.

Next day we board Captain Jim’s pirate ship.
I share with my lover a Pirate’s Kiss,
while on deck swords clash, the combatants chase
each other around masts and rigging
’til the inevitable death scene … “Aargh!”



A Pirate’s Kiss
is rum being poured by the pirate into the mouth
of one person who shares it with his or her partner by means of a kiss.


Read about my friends here


Invisible Man by Catharine Johanna Otto


Catharine Johanna Otto
Freelance author
Hi Dennis,

Thank you for sharing your blog! I enjoyed reading it and I’m glad that you’re having so much success with it. It’s wonderful for the homeless that you’re so generous with the proceeds and they are getting the benefits. I’m grateful also for your generous offer to let me use your blog for promotions. Currently I don’t have a book to promote, but I thought you might be interested in this poem I wrote about the homeless years ago. If you don’t think the message is too strong, I wouldn’t mind if you posted it on your blog.
(I’m adding it as an attachment also.)


Invisible Man
by Catharine Otto

Walking along 12th St.
when I was 17,
I saw a man, sitting in the middle
of boxes and boxes of possessions—
No Man’s Land,
yet his only world–
steam almost swallowing him
from the grated iron below.

Suddenly the hideous truth of it all
was freshly exposed to me–
stinging like a newborn’s first wound,
or the shock of birth–
and I shook my head,
wanting to turn it all way,
wanting to run away, wanting to cry.
I ran a few steps in vain,
then slowed down to reality,
my eyes barely dry.

That man could be dead tonight, I thought;
It would be a public execution.


Interview with Sue Rowland

Originally posted on Journal with Sue by Sue Rowland

A Friend to the Homeless: Interview with Dennis Cardiff



dennis cardiff author smaller size

Once in a while you come across a couple of bloggers who really catch your attention. You wait eagerly for the next installment.

Today I’d like to introduce you to Dennis Cardiff, an extraordinary listener. His blog is Gotta Find A Home  and his new book by the same titleGotta Find a Home, Conversations with Street People, is coming out soon. Check out the give-away and promos for it.

I found out how talented and modest Dennis is after he agreed to do an interview. He is also a serious artist!  Added to his art and writing, Cardiff also is a poet. His own story is one that inspires compassion and motivation.

Here is the interview:

SRWhat got you started in writing?

DCMy first wife was a poet. She got me interested in writing. I wrote mostly poetry at that time. I became a voracious reader. I read Tolstoy’s War and Peace in two weeks. I’d read everywhere, even while walking down the sidewalk.

 In 1969 I attended York University, Toronto and studied Poetry and Creative writing. I was introduced to some of the best poets from Canada and around the world. My poetry professor once said to us, “If you fully understand what it is you want to say, there is only one combination of words that will thoroughly explain your viewpoint.”

 I’ve worked in art galleries most of my life and some of my duties included writing exhibition catalogs, newsletter copy and giving tours. Learning how to subdue a group of high school students, and to mollify a group of nuns, viewing the erotic sculpture of Gaston Lachaise is challenging. This experience taught me the importance of brevity and impact.

 SRSo, do you journal? What inspires you?

DC: I have journaled sporadically, but I was away from writing for a long time. Reading Bob Dylan’s book Chronicles: Volume One, gave me more understanding of his writing process, especially deconstructing the work of authors he admired. He made it sound easy.

 In 2007 I joined where I was able to get feedback on what I had written and encouragement to explore new directions. In April of 2013, I joined and received even more feedback and encouragement, for which I am very thankful.

 SR:What called you to write about homeless people? We all seem to categorize people who stand on the streets with signs. We often just pass them by with urgent feelings of avoidance. Why is this?

DCMy first encounter with a panhandler was, when I moved to Toronto in 1968, to live with my older brother, Jack. Being a storyteller himself, he viewed panhandlers as follows: If they present you with an interesting, unique story of why you should give them money, that story has value and should be rewarded accordingly.

My poem The Silver Fox reflects that period of my life.

in forgotten tap-rooms
dirty old men,
forgotten old men,
slop piss-colored beer
from, wet, dripping glasses.
The hollow din,
the retelling of “the good old days”,
echoes sadly
as life quickly passes.

“They used to call me ‘The Silver Fox’
What do you think of that?
They used to care.”

An empty glass crashes
to the muddy floor.

“I guess I’ll be hitting the street tonight.
Sleep in an alley tonight.
Nobody cares.”

in forgotten tap-rooms
dirty old men,
forgotten old men,
slop piss-colored beer.
Nobody cares….

homeless 1 copy.jpg for blog post

 Cardiff continues:

In 2010, I noticed a woman seated cross-legged on the sidewalk with her back against a building wall. A snow-covered Buddha, wrapped in a sleeping bag, shivering in the below freezing temperature. I guessed her to be in her forties. Everything about her seemed round. She had the most angelic face, sparkling blue eyes and a beautiful smile. A cap was upturned in front of her. I thought, There but for the grace of God go I. Her smile and blue eyes haunted me all day.

I have always been told not to give money to panhandlers because they’ll just spend it on booze. I thought to myself, What should I do, if anything? What would you do? I asked for advice from a friend who has worked with homeless people. She said, ‘The woman is probably hungry. Why don’t you ask her if she’d like a breakfast sandwich and maybe a coffee?’  This has become a morning routine for the past four years. The woman (I’ll call Joy) and I have become friends. Often I’ll sit with her on the sidewalk. We sometimes meet her companions in the park. They have become my closest friends. I think of them as angels. My life has become much richer for the experience.

I have asked homeless people what could be done to improve their situation. The most eloquent response came from Bearded Bruce.

“I get a welfare check now, seven hundred and thirty-two dollars a month. I’ve never taken welfare before, but I had to in order to qualify for my apartment. It’s a program they started me on in prison. Before that I was content to sleep behind the dumpsters, but after I was crammed in with a bunch of guys for three months, with no privacy, no freedom and I got to talk to my worker in a spacious, quiet interview room… what she was saying sounded pretty good.  They pay my landlord directly. It’s subsidized, so that leaves me with about two fifty. A person can’t live on two fifty a month, so I pan when the weather’s decent. There’s a restaurant that gives me their leftover food. When I cook I use a big pot. I have Tupperware containers; one for Shakes, one for Little Jake, one for Chuck. I have to take care of my boys.

“If I wasn’t on this program, the least expensive room, that’s ROOM, mind you, would cost five hundred and thirty a month. It would be in a rooming house crawling with cockroaches, infested with bed bugs, crackheads. Guys running up and down the stairs all night. I’d rather sleep on the street. If the city wants to cure homelessness they need to provide affordable, clean housing.”

SR: It’s amazing how much compassion you have for people, and how your writing and art bring the world alive to the reader, and to the viewer. Where do you find the passion for this kind of work?

DC: What has influenced my life the most was being diagnosed with polio at the age of eighteen months and six major surgeries, one hundred and fifty stitches, over a period of sixty-seven years.

The following poem, The Lost Boys, is biographical.

I was a young boy with a withered leg,
abandoned, in a cold hospital bed.
Faceless attendants wore gloves, masks and gowns.
No parents for cuddles, kisses or love.

Alone were the Lost Boys with polio,
the silent, unpredictable killer.
Quarantined, isolated like lepers,
our only strength came from one another.

Expected to die, we boys joined forces.
We supported each other, forming a bond.
After lights were turned out we would whisper
together, “Shush, the Sisters are coming.”

Older patients had access to wheelchairs.
Sometimes they’d transport me to other wards —
to meet other boys was high adventure.
An empty bed usually meant a death.

Six decades since, in the still of the night,
after lights are out, I can sometimes hear
that haunting refrain I heard as a child,
whispered, “Shush, the Sisters are coming.”

I don’t feel sorry for myself. In fact, I am grateful for polio, it made me what I am today. We all have scars, it’s what we do to overcome those scars is what’s important. It seems that for most of my life I have been recovering from one operation or another or fighting arthritis. I lift weights and train at a gym three nights a week. I’m in better shape than most men half my age. I identify with the marginalized because I, too, have been marginalized.

When I sit on the sidewalk with my homeless friends, I see the looks of disgust, the averted eyes, sometimes hear the rude comments. Most people don’t realize that they may be only a couple of paychecks away from being homeless. They don’t realize how quickly the bank will take your house if you lose your employment and can’t make the mortgage payments. They fear that, and don’t want to be reminded of it by panhandlers or the visibly homeless.


Thank you, Dennis! I’m honored to be highlighting your work. My husband is a polio survivor and also an artist–a woodcarver. Your poem about being a little boy in the hospital resonated deeply.  It just goes to show how much people can do when they set their minds to the task.

i am joyful

I encourage readers to buy Gotta Find A Home and to sign up for the blog.  Through your writing I feel all your people, from Joy, to Bearded Bruce, Weasel, Shakes, and all the others, especially their pets.  Even though the stories of the street people are intense, we are all touched by the true grit of their lives.