Entry 11 – June 8, 2009: This evening, my outreach team spent a half an hour guiding a staggering Tamil man down Yonge Street and across Queen to Fred Victor, the shelter at which he is living. Nevertheless, he wound up conked out in a bus enclosure across the way. The building was surrounded by fire trucks, cop cars, and news reporters and a second floor room was gutted and still smoldering. D., the brief flame of I.’s around the time she took the broken bottle to her previous boyfriend’s neck, happened to be hanging out at the bus enclosure.
Outreach this afternoon was relatively less eventful. We ran into quite a few people, new and old, including R. just as we were finishing up. I promised to help her connect with Streets to Homes during the evening walk, and, even though I couldn’t get a hold of J. or M., I was able to begin the process in a way that seemed to brighten her outlook. We also ran into R., S.’s Gladue follow up worker. R. promised to see what’s going on with Rainbow Lodge as well as the Inuit specific treatment centre in Ottawa. Also, some progress seems finally to have been made with respect to R. Ferguson’s remains, but it appears as if he still lies unburied after nearly two and a half months. G.’s wheelchair is having trouble again, and he was clearly recovering from a rough weekend. B. [the man with the broken hand] was not home. Two young guys from Steinbach, MB are staying in our building for a couple of weeks as part of a learning tour. One walked with me this afternoon, the other this evening.
As we finished up this afternoon, the other team told me that I.S. wanted to see me and that he was camped out in the cement cove behind the construction site across Yonge Street. I found him there at the end of this evening’s walk along with T., the knife waver. I’d never had a proper introduction. T. was affable enough, but far from remorseful. In between walks, I had dinner and facilitated the monthly meeting at [one of the community houses]. Nearly every such meeting has been fraught with problems since the first one in August or September, but tonight “everything is fantastically fantastic” (M.). D. shared part of his life story. He grew up in a devoutly Catholic home in which his father nevertheless claimed atheism. D.’s high school conversion to Missionary Alliance evangelicalism and subsequent decision to study to become a pastor did not go over so well with his family. His presence in the house has pacified a multitude of storms; hopefully he’ll land a job in the greater Toronto area.
Entry 12 – June 9, 2009: We remembered A. at the homeless today. I have to prepare myself a bit beforehand for these things as I’m now known as the [our church] guy and almost always asked if I want to say something, at least talk about if and when the service will be at our place. T., whose last name I didn’t catch, died this weekend and his name will be added I heard. Is that Cockroach whispered Aylish? Cockroach is one of those very few street legends with a nickname that I’ve never met, and apparently won’t. Those that I have met include The Ratman, Joe Banana, Mr. Fuck You, Teardrop, and Bear. I learned later in the day that T. had recently visited Cockroach in the hospital and that he was in a coma that no one had expected him to recover from. He and A. shared many friends and it had been hoped that he’d at least survive through her memorial service. A few minutes later someone stepped to the microphone and said, “This is unconfirmed, but we just got word that C. died. C. is the guy who played a song on the guitar last month here.” At this point, the weight felt too great and I leaned over and held the knees of my pants for a few minutes.
Toward the end of the memorial, as the awful guitar soloist who plays nearly every month got started, D., Mayor Miller’s receptionist and a former member of my steering committee, arrived for our lunch appointment next door at the marvelous little café staffed by psychiatric survivors. This is the café where H. cursed the manager as a ‘fucking demon bitch’ for calling the cops. After debriefing from the walk I joined J. for a coffee to discuss the Religion and the City syllabus she is putting together. As I headed for the subway station afterward to return home, get a haircut, and pick up the kids, I ran into S., H., and a few others outside the Bay station. G. waved me over. We had only chatted for a few moments when a bike cop came through the alleyway and tried to shoo us away. We moved a few short steps and continued talking. After entering the station, I reemerged a few moments later to make sure the officer, who hung around the whole time we talked, wasn’t just waiting to pursue things further once I’d left. He was out of sight, but S. told me that the same guy had been trying to chase them all out of the area the last few days.
Earlier in the day I’d lost it a bit with the super at G.’s building. They don’t accept cash anymore for new keys and such, and he had told G. he wouldn’t accept the money order made out by the bank to TCHC unless the payer whose name was on the order was there (and that even though I’d written on the order and initialed it for G.’s key). I waited around for him for several minutes and when he finally showed up he said it was now his lunch break and he couldn’t help me. A little outburst did the trick.
Entry 13 – June 10, 2009: A fight erupted during A.'s (aka Apple) memorial service. It nearly went physical. Eventually three long time community members, two of whom had dated her, left the building. N. was the precipitating cause. Also known as Popeye, one of N.'s eyes is half brown and half blue. He smokes a pipe, has a massive tangle of white hair attached to his face, and, as we found out afterward, creeped A. out. She often hightailed it whenever he showed up, considering him a dirty old man, which, as G. pointed out in debrief, he quite literally is. Before the service Popeye genuflected before the makeshift altar at the front, smooching A.'s picture several times. He routinely made comments during the service as others spoke. Near the end of open remembrance time, Gwd, one of the three, rose to speak and Popeye piped up. Gwd lost it with him and simply refused to let it go. R. moved from the back of the room to retrieve his dog C., a burly old shepherd sprawled out at the front on the dance floor. The Colonel joined him as he left and Gwd left off speaking, and at G.'s suggestion signaled for his dog B. and joined the other two out the door. G. gave a moving version of his “fearfully and wonderfully made” eulogy (I was certainly taking notes after the experience in March officiating such an occasion for the first time), but he'd made a bit of a tactical mistake here and later almost acknowledged as much. It is a forgiving community in which we dwell.
More happens at one of these memorials than can be logged in summary. N. was a consistent rival of the deceased for the affections of M., for whom we had a service my first February. She arrived just as today’s proceedings were ending. N. turned fifty on Monday, the same day that B., her horribly abusive beaux, was released from the box. It is incredible that N. should be the survivor of the trio; the frigid breath of the grim reaper has been palpable in her presence long since.
A. was born to Mohawk parents on the Six Nations reserve and adopted out to white parents who forced her to keep certain secrets. Her smile, general sense of good cheer, bravado, and love of dancing, drink, and late night quiet for her pet rat were much remarked upon.
Entry 14 – June 11, 2009: J., my bridge partner for an hour and a half this evening, has long reminded me of the old time Marxist from Amores Perros. He certainly has the look. His enjoyment of life gives him perhaps a polar opposite personality, but it also makes his entire being a witness to seventy years of so of a life lived without the infectious spirit of capitalism. He showed up this evening with two dark black eyes and a third black welt between his eyebrows. “I assume the other guy is even worse off.” “No,” says J. slowly, barely suppressing laughter, “I went up against the sidewalk and am now oh for twenty-four in such matches. A beer bottle got caught in the spokes of my bike, and I went right over the handlebars. His enunciation of ‘bottle’ is reminiscent of Louis Armstrong in “The Dummy Song,” and his bicycle is a hippie thing with air horns and streamers and usually a collection of flowers, plastic or otherwise, sticking out of a basket in the front.
My friend T. was formed for seventy-two hours beginning this morning. He went with his housing follow-up worker to a disability qualification assessment. He talked suicide and mentioned the Rosedale bridge, which I’ve twice somewhat casually walked him to, through, and away from. He reached a boiling point in his pursuit of K. the evening prior, smashed his television with a clothes hanging bar again, and is now quite sure he’s done with the apartment he’s now managed to hold down for right at a year with the help of G., an incredibly gifted and devoted housing worker out of NaMeRes who works with Thomas even though he isn’t aboriginal. Thomas wondered aloud throughout the day about all his friends (myself, G., L., E., etc.) being “institutional.”
Drop-in grew increasingly busy during the dinner hour, but was generally smooth and peaceful. At least inside. Outside in the parkette and then on the sidewalk in front of the church, a series of fights broke out. Four out of the five involved B., the most persistent and intimidating and successful of the politicized street crowd. He once kicked out the windows of two cop cars in one evening and beat the charges with the help of OCAP lawyers. As the story goes, according to A. and others, B. fronted three quarters of the money for a bottle of wine. S. [from the other day in front of Bay station], the guy who chipped in the other two bucks and did the LCBO run, invited several other friends to join in the merriment. B. was not amused. He allowed the bottle to go ’round the circle one time then tucked his prize into his coat and walked off. Over the course of the next hour, three of the guys took turns sucker punching Brian, a six foot five and sometimes surly Newfoundlander, as he sat on a bench near our church. Two of the three attackers are rough enough characters to be on our very short indefinitely barred list. Still, B. held his peace until the third incident. At that point he came to wait outside the door of the sanctuary, sending someone in after S., whom he blamed for starting the trouble. An intense scrap ensued in which S.’s face was bloodied, though not terribly so.
I was called out to join others in breaking things up. A few of us were hit in the melee, including our newest nurse, E.. I just managed to duck a massive overhand from B. who though he heard S. coming up behind him again. He did. But I was facing Steve and was between the two. Not entirely sure how I saw it coming. No barrings were laid as almost all the action took place off the property, and even the blow to E.’s shoulder was unintentional. E. had been reluctant to account for being hit as she didn’t want any barrings. Within a week, I’m sure, all five guys will be passing it ’round the circle again.
Entry 15 – June 12, 2009: T. picked C. up from the airport this morning after his flight from Thunder Bay where he spent five weeks in treatment. D. took the train in from her family’s place. They walked along the shore to our house, joined us for dinner, and then left for an AA meeting. They are scheduled to stay at C.’s brother R.’s place this evening.