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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Superbowl Weekend

 

 

2 February 2017

“Good morning, Ted. How are you feeling? Better than the last time I saw you?”

“Yeah, I had a good weekend. The mayor’s pancake breakfast for the homeless was this morning. I ate until I was stuffed. I think the breakfast has to do with the fact that he’s planning to close one of the shelters.”

“Did you have a chance to see a doctor about your medications?”

“No, but my worker is coming by today with some vouchers. I’ll ask if she can take me to the hospital to get a new prescription. I really need those meds.

“Did you watch the Superbowl? I just caught the last quarter. Here’s what they said about it in the newspaper:”

“The Falcons got the ball back but couldn’t move the ball down the field, and for the first time in history, the Super Bowl went to overtime. The Patriots won the toss, elected to receive and the Patriots offense—suddenly unstoppable—was a touchdown away from securing a fifth Super Bowl title.

Brady was on fire. He painted a 14-yard throw to Amendola and an 18-yard throw to Chris Hogan. He found Edelman for 15 yards. A well-designed screen to White got 10 more. A pass interference call put the Patriots at the 2-yard line.

From there, White ended the game, ended any debate about Brady’s legacy as the greatest quarterback in NFL history and ended the contentious and controversial Deflategate season:

What more can you say about Brady? Five titles. Orchestrating the largest comeback in Super Bowl history, and one of the most astonishing comebacks in NFL history. Doing it all at age 39, and in a season highlighted by a four-game suspension he fought, tooth and nail.

In the end, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell had to hand the Vince Lombardi Trophy over to the Patriots.

It’s not enough to just win for Brady and these Patriots. They have to win in style and earn a bit of vengeance in the process. Tip your cap, America: You just witnessed greatness.

Again.”

“I’ve got a couple of cards for Starbucks. I hate to go there. People spending $5.00 for a coffee; that’s just wrong. Sometimes I go in just to pretend that I’m a big shot who doesn’t have to worry about how much money he spends.

“I haven’t had a drink since the weekend. I have to quit. I’m serious, my liver is in bad condition. Maybe I will once I get my medication. Right now I just don’t give a shit.

“I’ve had a couple of good drops today, so I’m going to get out of the cold and have a bagel with cream cheese.”

 



 
 
 
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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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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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Book Review: ‘Gotta Find A Home’

Excellent book by

Book Review: ‘Gotta Find A Home’ by Dennis Cardiff

Though my own voice on social media is rather small it has proven to be a place where I can occasionally have my attention firmly focused by hearing someone else’s electronic voice as it speaks out on something I might otherwise have missed out on. Case in point would be Gotta Find A Home by Dennis Cardiff, a book I recently finished reading. Through the vagaries of whim and circumstance I ended up following people on twitter who eventually led me to following Dennis himself, which is how I ended up responding to one of his tweets.

“Review either of my books” he wrote and he’d review one of yours. Not having any books of my own to review the openness of the post led me to randomly reply to him and offer to simply read and review his books without anything in return. Fully expecting my words to fall into the ocean of words that make up twitter and float by unnoticed, Cardiff replied and ended up sending me copies of his books.
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From the moment I opened the box and looked at the covers – both built off of a drawing by Cardiff himself – it hit me that I’d probably never would have picked up either of these two books on my own at a bookstore. Both books, according to the back cover, were basically remembered conversations that he’d written down in a style somewhat akin to a diary of time spent and friendships earned with street people in Ottawa, Canada, beginning sometime around 2010. Knowing myself and my own preferences in reading material I’m positive I’d have allowed my own thoughts and prejudices concerning homelessness, so much so that I’d have passed up these books and found refuge in the more comfortable stories and conversations to be found in fantasy and fiction.

That would have been unfortunate.

Much like the people chronicled in Cardiff’s words and stories this book is richer and full of a vibrancy than the monochromatic cover could ever hope to convey on its own. You may think you can tell a lot about a book by how it looks – much the same way that I’m sorry to say that I’ve previously judged people on the street who might look a little rougher around the edges – but you cannot.

From simply stopping to say hello to a woman he names Joy, Cardiff’s book begins a conversation with an ever-changing and evolving cast of people that share the same worries and anxieties as those of us considerably more fortunate than they are. Gradually, over the course of a few hundred pages and years of slowly earning their friendship and trust Cardiff peels back the calloused exterior and exposes that they also share the same joys and small moments of genuine happiness as anyone else you might find.

Through nothing more than simply taking the time to care and talk to them and maybe sharing an occasional gift card for a breakfast sandwich or bus fare, Cardiff manages to put not just a face to homelessness in Canada but gives a voice – a ragged and yet important voice – to homeless people everywhere. Whether they are on the street due to circumstances out of their control or through bad choices fueled by addictions and inner demons of doubt and self-loathing, they are still human and still part of the larger story of life.

Through the pages of Gotta Find A Home Dennis Cardiff gives, at least vicariously, the homeless of Ottawa a ‘home’ in the words of a damn fine writer and, by all accounts, even finer human being.

If you are in the mood to read some excellent writing and discover some excellent people in less than excellent circumstances, please consider adding this book to your life and bookshelf. There are 3 more editions planned in the “Gotta Find A Home” series, with volumes one and two currently published. More information about Dennis Cardiff can be found here at his web site and his blogging (which fuels his books) and his poetry can be found here at Gotta Find A Home



 
 
 
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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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