The Garden City Refugee

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The Man in Black and Washroom Fires

August 20, 2021

Early this morning, I am waiting at a light to turn onto Queenston Street when a scruffy character comes out onto his third-floor balcony and yells, “God help you.” It is nice of him to be so concerned for my welfare. And as I make my way down the street, he shouts something to a friend of his crossing the street nearby. Somehow I feel like I’m on an episode of King of Kensington.

Not far away is another scruffy character moseying down the sidewalk toward the Westminster United Church, a frequent gathering spot for such people. He is not otherwise much different than those who hang out there other than the fact that he is wearing a kilt. I see these characters wearing some odd getups, but I can’t say I’ve seen one wearing a kilt before. Each visit to the Queenston Street neighborhood is indeed a new experience.

Farther down the street near the pharmacy is another interesting character. He is standing on the sidewalk leaning against an abandoned building dressed in black from head to toe. The Johnny Cash look. Including the hat on his head. Of course, he is smoking, but that almost goes without saying in that neighborhood. I can’t say I remember the last time I saw someone around there who wasn’t smoking. And I do not fail to recognize the Johnny Cash reference as it relates to a late uncle. As a good friend once said to me, the dead never really leave us.

Across the street from this Johnny Cash look-alike is another community resident bum. He is laying on the ground in front of yet another abandoned building while catching some shut-eye. I smile as I notice a couple of stuffed animals alongside him among his litany of possessions.

More junk is scattered at St. Catharines’ answer to Five Corners. It is where a woman is standing and staring blankly at nothing and no one in particular. It is not a stretch to suggest her elevator does not go to all the way to the top floor. In fact, I doubt it’s even working. She begins to wander around. Among the gibberish she is spewing, she says, “go pee.” She is visited by someone she apparently knows from the rooming house across the street. They have a brief conversation and he soon he moves on. Then she looks over at the abandoned pair of pants nearby and says, “disgusting” before she begins wildly gesticulating, perhaps trying to attract the attention of the many passers-by at that intersection.

I can only wonder if she was the one who drew this little nugget on the ground not far from those pants. Whoever it was isn’t too fond of our fair city. Nor does this person know how to spell. In any event, just because you are failing, it doesn’t mean the system is failing.

It is garbage day downtown. Which means it’s a free-for-all for the community residents bums. Whereas most of us only have to worry about animals getting into our garbage overnight, those living in the core have the community residents bums to contend with. Personally, I could care less if someone wants anything from the garbage I put at the curb. But hold yourself to a higher standard than a raccoon or a skunk.

The Library Campground is packed. Four of our community’s finest are passed out on the pavement outside the main entrance. But their beauty sleep is soon to be interrupted. Outside the courthouse, there is a demonstration.

They are out there marching and using their bullhorns, they chant “Justice for Deidra.” They can be heard throughout the downtown area. I know nothing about the case, but it is perhaps the reason that CHCH is broadcasting live from the scene, taking a break from their regularly scheduled whoring for Justin Trudeau.

It is a little more peaceful over at the Montebello Hilton, where there is only one guest. He is passed out on a bench with a cardboard box full of empties at his feet. He wiggles his feet ever so often perhaps just to see if they still work. Inside the pavilion are a man and a woman, each on a motorized wheelchair. He says, “she doesn’t have a (expletive) toned muscle on her whole (expletive) body.” Then they tell me the nearby washroom has been closed for days. Apparently someone started a fire. “(expletive) knob,” he says. The closure has undoubtedly forced the community residents bums to use the nearby bushes to answer the call of nature. Which they do anyway. With or without indoor washrooms around.

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