The Garden City Refugee

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Needleville and the Montebello Hilton

July 5, 2021

I cannot believe my eyes as I spot this cart full of treasures left alone at Montebello Park. Brand-name clothing and bags. A spray bottle. A suitcase. Electronic equipment. And a book on how to make and fly cool kites. A veritable cornucopia of goodies. What else could a street urchin ask for?

Nearby, there is joy in the core as the Montebello Hilton is again open for business. Let us again take this opportunity to sing the praises of People’s Commissar Ford and Regional Commissar Sendzik for taking down the fencing around the pavilion. No doubt Sendzik was motivated by his own special, unique brand of compassion™.

A couple is among those staying at the Montebello Hilton. They have two carts with them, both heaping full of goodies. Perhaps this is why they have not helped themselves to anything in the abandoned cart. It is important to travel light. In a familiar theme, they don’t have enough money to put a roof over their heads, but they do have enough for the cigarettes they are smoking. The woman, who has copper-colored hair and is dressed in a turquoise top covered by a long towel, casts a wary eye at me as I pass by while her male companion stands guard over the carts. Inside the large pavilion are more customers. They are using the railings to hang their clothes while they sit down and smoke.

Not far away is Needleville, though there are not actually any needles there. That moniker is better suited to the area around the library, where many street folk are congregating. One group of three, each with a bicycle and one also with a suitcase, is preparing to mosey off to greener pastures when I arrive.

There is a sign asking overnight residents such as these to clean up after themselves, though few are taking the request very seriously. Loyal readers are well aware that the place is a filthy mess and it’s only getting worse.

As the group makes its way down the street, another couple of street people arrive on the scene. They speculate as to where the trio might be off to. Tent City was the guess of the woman, though she says no one wants to go there because they get robbed. There’s a few you can trust, she says. But not many. I suppose there really isn’t much honor among them after all. Tent City is reportedly an encampment at Centennial Gardens. I’ll have to check it out sometime when I’m feeling brave enough. Or if I feel brave enough.

The woman is wearing a black hoodie with “Call me a bit psycho” on it. She looks to be in her mid- to late-50s. Perhaps the toddler in the stroller she’s pushing is her grandchild. The toddler cries for attention. She tells the kid she’ll be there shortly. Just after she’s finished her cigarette. All the while, her male companion is foraging for goodies in the nearby garbage can while puffing on a cigarette himself. He is wearing a Superman cap and has some very intricate tattoos all up and down his right arm. And in short order, a woman who has an unusual look of normalcy to her runs up to them and tells them that she has to pee so bad.

Down the street is a store offering their washroom for those like her, though there are portable public toilets close by at the farmer’s market. If those toilets could talk, the tales they could tell.

That same place offers free training. Yesterday. Ha ha.


There is an inordinate amount of garbage strewn over the downtown core on this day, including this jacket hung in a tree. For anyone who wants it, it’s free. I’m a poet and I don’t even know it. One pile near the library attracts a couple of stoned-out dudes. As they puff on their cigarettes, they go through it with a fine tooth comb. One of them spots a pair of shoes he likes. But he leaves them behind. Perhaps they’re not his size. A woman’s purse draws his attention too. He digs inside but sadly finds nothing. He and his companion who is toting a bag with the slogan “Happy Halloween” on it decide to move on. Maybe they’ll head for Tent City. But not likely. Because they’re sure to pass out on the sidewalk long before they get there.

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