Other People's Choices Are Theirs
On Saturday when I got up my right hip was still sore from the long bike ride I’d taken out to Scarborough on Thursday afternoon. I was wondering if my jaunt just as far as Yonge Street on Friday had been pulling back enough but it didn’t seem all that bad once I left for the food bank.
When I got there the line was a little longer than it had been the last two times I’d gone there and it extended to just in front of the apartment building at 1501 Queen Street West. The two people sitting on the steps were the guy who looks like Charles Manson but seems like the opposite and the talkative old guy with the falling down pants with whom I’d been talking two weeks before. There was a gym bag marking a place in line behind a row of carts and I asked if it indicated the last person before me. Not Charles Manson nodded but the old man said in his mumbly low voice, “I’m the last in line!” I said, “Then I’m behind you” but he shook his head and told me I was ahead of him. I asked him if he’d just gotten there. He answered that he’d been there for quite a long time. I asked, “Then how can you be last in line?” He said, “I’m always the last in line!” Not Charles Manson explained that the old guy always likes to wait until the end before going into the food bank and confirmed that I was behind the gym bag.
Just then a big man came with a cart and asked whom he was behind. I informed him that he was after me but that I was going to leave a space between the gym bag and my place in line in order for tenants to be able to freely enter or leave the apartment building.
I took out my book to read and the old man excitedly asked me what I was reading. I showed him that it was a book of French stories and he suddenly remembered that we’d already talked about it last time. He asked if I speak French and I said a little. He said it was good that I was learning French at that it would help me when I go to France. I commented that I didn’t know if I’d ever make it to France because that would be an expensive trip.

He declared, “France is the greatest country in the world!” I asked, “You think so?” He said, “Look how they survived the Nazis! The French aren’t wimps! France is the greatest country in the world and North America is the greatest continent in the world!” I inquired, “Shouldn’t France be in North America then?” He shook his head and insisted that France should be where France is.

I pointed out that where we are used to be part of what was called New France. He said, “New Found Land” and repeated it a couple of times.

Someone came and sat down to chat with the old man for a few minutes.

I continued reading the story in French and English of “St Julian the Hospitaler” by Gustave Flaubert. Julian is returning from an unsuccessful hunting trip that has turned into a horrifying mystical experience in which he is followed and mocked by every animal that he has ever killed. He does not seem to have learned anything from the experience, as he is still feeling violent when he gets home. He enters his bedroom and approaches his bed to kiss his wife when he feels against his lips the beard of a man. He does not realize that while he was gone his long lost parents arrived at his home. For some dumb reason, despite the fact that they live in a castle that must have guest bedrooms, Julian’s wife had put his parents in their bed. Feeling next to the bearded head on his pillow the soft head of a sleeping woman, Julian assumes that it’s his wife and that she has betrayed him with another man. He begins angrily stabbing the two sleeping figures. His wife comes to the bedroom door with a torch to find out what the commotion is about. She gasps, drops the torch and runs. Julian picks up the torch and sees that he has fulfilled the prophecy and murdered his own parents. In the next few days, Julian leaves everything, including his clothes to his wife. He attends the funeral of his parents disguised as a hooded monk and afterwards leaves for the mountains, never to return. There are six pages left so I assume he becomes a saint before the story ends.

When the person that had been chatting with the old man got up from the steps and left, the old man said to me, “I don’t really want him to die of cancer!” He got up and went to the edge of the sidewalk, looking across the street at three middle-aged men that looked like they probably wear suits during the week. The men were waiting for the light so they could cross Queen. The old man held his hands together in the prayer position and murmured in a very low voice over and over again, “Forgive me! I don’t really want you to die of cancer!” As the men reached our side of Queen and passed the old man, he turned to them and said the same thing in a voice that would have been very hard for them to hear even if they hadn’t been ignoring him.

The big man behind me chatted quite a bit with the red-headed man behind him. The red-headed man said that he lives in one of the West Lodge apartments and talked about the struggles the tenants there are having with their landlord. He said that anyone that has been living there less than a year is having their rent jacked up to an impossible amount in an attempt to force them to leave.

I assume he was referring to the high-rise buildings at 103 and 105 West Lodge, which were bought by Timbercreek Asset Management a year ago. Apparently, it is Timbercreek’s modus operandi to buy old buildings and evict the low rent tenants so they can renovate and rent the units out to the much more affluent gentry. Hundreds of tenants at West Lodge have received eviction notices.

The big guy behind me was vaping pretty much the whole time we were there and I was also smelling pot, so I asked if that was what he’d been vaping. He said he wasn’t vaping cannabis but he does have an aunt who vapes hash oil and it’s pretty potent stuff. I told him that years ago an ex-Montreal cop gave me half a cigarette dipped in hash oil. I took two tokes and hit my head on the kitchen counter as I blacked out and collapsed on the floor.

Now that pot is legal so much work is being done to develop different strains with different qualities that for someone that still smokes it seems like it must be a very good thing. When I used to smoke one had very little choice and had to buy whatever happened to be going around. I recently heard comedian Chelsey Handler talking on the Daily Show about how she’s financing the development of her own strain that would get people high but wouldn’t cause the user to overeat as a result of getting the munchies.

The big guy said that he’s a musician and he’s been in the same band since he was in high school. He looks like he’s in his late 40s. He declared, “Today’s music is shit!” I commented that Arcade Fire is a pretty good band and he admitted that there are some good bands but most of it is shit.

A woman stopped to chat with the red-headed guy and then she went inside 1499 Queen. She came out a few minutes later with groceries from the food bank, even though the line had yet to move. The big guy wondered how she got ahead of everyone else. The red-headed guy explained that certain people with disabilities could order their food on Friday and then pick it up later.

Valdene, the food bank manager walked down the line holding a ripped open bag of white, swirly meringue pastries, stopping in front of each person to offer some to them. I said “No thanks” and Valdene moved on, coughing on the open bag as she went.

After the line began to move it was still several minutes before I got close to the front. The big guy behind me commented that it was taking so long because clients downstairs were busy deciding between the peas and the cream corn.

When I was third in line Martina the doorperson confronted the guy at the front because he was standing in front of the door. She accused him of having jumped the line and told him to go to the back. He calmly refused and seemed quite indignant that she would say he was not in his proper place. He did not have a cart to mark his place and I certainly had not noticed that he’d been standing in line during the hour that I’d been there. But then most people sit inside the entranceway having marked their spots so it was hard to know if he had established his place in line from memory and also spent the time inside. Martina complained that this man was always giving her a hard time and that she didn’t like him. I’d actually never seen her that upset before and she seemed to start speaking in an accent that I hadn’t known she’d had. When Valdene came out the man appealed to her, trying to explain his side of the disagreement. She told him that she would go downstairs and get him some groceries but that he couldn’t go down himself because he didn’t seem to be able to get along today with others today.

When I got downstairs my volunteer at the shelves was the older Hungarian lady who’s there every week. She told me that I should think about my choices. To tell someone to think about the choices of things that are on the shelves implies that there are bad choices on the shelves, which is the fault of the food bank and not the client. I responded, “You don’t have to tell me to think about my choices”. She said, “Okay, I won’t talk to you at all!”

From the first set of shelves, I took a box of vanilla almond flax granola and a bag of three Danish pastries. From the other shelves, I got a can of chickpeas and two fruit punch drinking boxes. She offered me a couple of packages of ramen noodle soups but I didn’t want them and I also passed on the pasta and rice.

From Angie’s section, I didn’t want any milk or eggs because I had some at home but I did take two small containers of Greek yogourt. She asked me in a low voice if I wanted some ribs and I said I did. She quickly passed me something frozen that was the shape of a rack of ribs and packed in the same kind of plastic, but it was smooth and I couldn’t see or feel any actual ribs. It looked like meat that had been cooked, ground up and moulded into the shape of a strip of ribs. I guessed I’d find out later on what it was.

She also gave me a bottle of Happy Planet cashew and almond milk coffee smoothie. A volunteer from the back brought her a whole case of them. She opened one for herself and drank it with great enjoyment, exclaiming, “Happy planet!

I grabbed a round loaf of what looked like dark grain raisin bread.

Sylvia gave five very nice tomatoes, which is a rare treat from the food bank. She also had 454-gram packages of strawberries but it took her a while to find me some that weren’t overripe. I think she was successful. She put a couple of green peppers in my bag. On the other side of the door were some boxes of items from which people could take as much as they wanted of mini-potatoes and carrots, and there were also bags containing three each of organic romaine hearts. The guy ahead of me was loading his cart with handful after handful of potatoes and carrots and Sylvia had to ask him to move on to make room for others. I grabbed a bag of the romaine hearts on the way out.

As I walked down the hall with the potato picker, Martina came in the other direction and told us to have a great long weekend. I’d totally forgotten that Victoria Day was coming up. It would be easier to remember if they didn’t always do it on the second to last Monday of May and just fixed it on her actual birthday on May 24, which I always remember because it’s the same as Bob Dylan’s birthday and two days before mine.

Underdogs over the Understreets
While getting ready to go to the food bank on Saturday morning I looked out the window to see what people were wearing so I could assess the temperature. But this time of year it’s very difficult to figure out how warm or cold it is because some people bundle up while others dress lightly. It's hard to discern if some are being overly cautious or too optimistic. I decided on a light scarf under my hoody with my motorcycle jacket open on top. I wore my spring gloves but shoved my winter gloves in my backpack just in case.
It was raining slightly but it was warm enough that after putting my gloves in my pocket to lock my bike I didn’t need to put them on again.
The line was short again this week but the only actual person in line was the tall guy in the poor boy cap and the slender woollen coat. I got behind him and he immediately told me that there is an attractive waitress working across the street at Pete’s. I commented that the coffee is lousy there and he agreed but told me that the waitress was worth the trip.

I said the breakfast is fairly cheap there but that for most items breakfast is the kind of meal one can make at home unless one gets into fancy things like omelettes. I added that I could make those but tend not to unless I'm cooking for someone else. He said that he loves breakfast food and used to make everything, including frittatas. He told me that it used to be a Boxing Day tradition in his home for him to make an enormous breakfast for everyone but now that he lives in a rooming house where his roommates steal his food from the fridge that doesn’t happen anymore.

I remembered him telling me last year that he has food thieves in his place. I suggested that he get hold of a lockable container that he could put into the fridge. He said he didn’t know if one would be tall enough and from what I can tell from searching online, they seem to be longer than they are tall and so one would not be able to store litre cartons of milk. The cheapest one of those on Amazon seems to be about $60 but for $30 more at Best Buy he could get a mini-fridge that would definitely be tall enough for milk and it would solve his problem, except for frozen stuff. It seems though that any thieves would take what they could consume quickly and so they probably wouldn't take something they would have to cook.

When the conversation lulled I started reading “St Julian the Hospitaler”. Julian had left his parents long before out of fear of fulfilling a prophecy that he would kill them. Now Julian is a prince of Occitania and while he is away on a hunting trip his long lost parents have arrived at his castle. The hunting trip is bizarre, as it seems more like a dream than a real expedition. Julian encounters every animal that he has ever hunted. The story doesn't say where he has gone but the hyenas he encounters are only found in Africa. His attempts to kill these creatures are ineffectual as his spear glances off a bull’s hide and the arrows he shoots at birds in trees land lightly on the branches like butterflies. The animals surround him. When he tries to move they accompany him all around, keeping whatever pace he maintains.

I finally decided to ask the guy I’d been talking with his name so I wouldn’t have to refer to him as the guy in the poor boy cap. He introduced himself as “Graham". I told him mine and we shook hands. He thought “Christian” was a good name.

Across the street in front of Pete’s and waiting at the light to cross to our side was a man with a wheelbarrow and two children. The older kid was walking and the infant was in the wheelbarrow. Graham wondered if that was a practical alternative to a stroller. I told him that he was probably coming here to return the wheelbarrow to the Tool Library. Graham said that he should leave the child there as well because they are more trouble than they are worth.

I asked Graham if he has kids and he said, “Three!” He said his daughter is at Western University and both his sons are in Vancouver working for Nintendo. The boys, one in his mid-twenties and the other in his early thirties, are too old now to work as game developers and so they have to work in marketing. He said he hears from his kids on his birthday and on Fathers day but that's about it.

An old man with a bumpy and pustulated face that had become inflamed from drinking was crossing Queen Street towards us. His pants were baggy but he had no belt and so he had to walk with his legs far apart to keep them from falling down. Three-quarters of the way across he realized he’d dropped his pack of cigarettes and so he went back, even though the light had changed. He stepped in front of a car to stoop down and pick them up and then finished his trip to our side.

Behind me was a tall and large man whispering continuously and quite often he was standing so close to me that it was very distracting while I was reading. I couldn’t make out anything that he was saying although sometimes it sounded like he was praying and other times like he was just talking to himself. The red-faced old man was behind the whispering man in line but had situated himself in the indentation leading to the gate of the narrow laneway between 1499 and 1501 Queen West. He blurted out something without looking at anyone but just in case he was talking to Graham and myself I said, “Pardon me?” He said that it was the beginning of Ramadan and Muslims were praying. I guessed that was his explanation for why the guy behind me was whispering.

I continued trying to read my book when the old guy asked something about Connie Francis.

“Connie Francis?”

He said, “She sang ‘Where the Boys Are’"

“I know who Connie Francis was but why are you asking about her?"

When he indicated the title of my book I understood. I said that “Contes Française” means "French Stories" but I could see how he made the association with Connie Francis.
“Where the Boys Are" does have a nice melody. I sang the first line of the chorus.
The old guy blurted out, “Connie Francis was raped by a black guy".
I said, “I think the issue is that she was raped and not the colour of the rapist”.
He responded, “You’re right, it doesn’t matter, but she was raped by a black guy”.
A young man that was passing by tried to sell us a digital cigarette lighter for $5. I’d never heard of such a thing and wondered how it could be charged if he wasn't also selling the cord. He said that it fits any cord with a USB end. He didn’t make a sale but he bummed a cigarette from the old man. Graham was amusedly observed that he was having a hard time lighting the smoke with his digital lighter.
Graham pointed out that it was Star Wars day, as in “May the fourth be with you”. He said he’d probably be hearing about it all day. I commented that I’m more of a Star Trek fan because there’s a little more science involved. I also find that this idea of a light good side and dark evil side of the force is a little too Christian for me.
Graham said that he’d read a quote from Stephen King where he said, “Star Wars is about the fight between good and evil but Twilight is about a girl trying to find a boyfriend".
I couldn’t find the quote about Star Wars but what King said about Twilight is that it’s about a girl’s love trying to turn a bad boy good.
He wondered what is behind the current obsession with vampires. I suggested that it has to do with the fear of AIDS. He didn’t get the connection. I tried to explain that we often associate blood with sexuality but blood is also how AIDS is transmitted and so the idea of freely engaging in a sexual way with another person’s blood is a liberating fantasy.
I said my daughter went straight from Harry Potter to Anne Rice. The old man suddenly exclaimed, “Lasher! I have that book! I loved that novel!"
The old man lit a cigarette and Graham got one from him and so I stepped away while they smoked.  I walked a little bit west of where I’d been standing to look at a big pothole that the cars were changing lanes to avoid. I walked back and talked to Graham from a distance about the size of the pothole. He commented on the dilapidated infrastructure of the Toronto streets. I'd always thought that potholes are just caused everywhere by winter conditions but he said that there are no potholes in Mississauga because it’s a young city. He explained that they would have gone more than a meter down to remove all the old bricks and cobblestones in order to solve Toronto’s pothole problem.

But a simple search shows that there are potholes in Mississauga. Maybe Graham was being hyperbolic to make the point that there are a lot fewer potholes in Mississauga. I think the city of Toronto gets thousands of pothole complaints compared to hundreds in Mississauga.

There were quite a few people smoking pot in the line-up. Graham said second-hand marijuana smoke gives him a headache.

The line started to move about ten minutes behind schedule.

My volunteer at the shelves told me I could just take one item from above and one from below in the first set of shelves. I grabbed a 550 ml squeezer of mustard and a couple of filled pastries that I felt sorry for because they seemed to have wandered away from the bread section and gotten lost. I have a soft spot for underdogs as far as food is concerned. My helper grabbed me two sweet and salty cashew bars and one peanut butter egg and put them in my backpack without giving me a choice. She did the same with eight individual servings of “fat-free” Italian dressing and a single serving of honey. I didn’t even know what she’d tossed into my bag until I unpacked it at home. The chances of me using that kind of low quality “fat-free” dressing are pretty slim. Getting back to my own choices, I took a small can of beans with bacon, a tin of organic chickpeas, a can of tuna and two fruit punch drinking boxes.

From Angie’s section, I received a litre of 1% milk and a 650-gram container of natural yogourt. They were back to the generic frozen hot dogs for meat and so I didn’t take any. I also had eggs at home and so I turned down the offer of three eggs.

From the bread section, I selected a loaf of dark rye.

Graham was ahead of me at Sylvia’s station and he asked for some of the tangerines that he saw. She put a few carrots in his bag and he said, “Those are carrots”. I pointed out that they are both orange. “Good point!” he said.

I got about five tangerines, a head of lettuce, zucchini and seedless cucumber.
So, there were potholes and pot for the line-up but no pot roast at the food bank.

Fishing in Toronto
On Saturday morning, as usual, I was practicing singing and playing guitar when the late April sky betrayed us and it started to snow for a couple of minutes. Through the blowing crystals, I saw in the distance walking up Dunn Avenue someone that looked like they had a big golden brown blanket bunched up on their shoulders and covering their head. As the person got closer I saw that it was a middle-aged woman with the largest head of dreadlocks I had ever seen. If she had stretched her arms out sideways and then swept them up to reach for the sky it would have defined the range of growth and the circumference of her hair. She went into the donut shop beneath me and emerged a few minutes later. She stood at the corner and it looked like she was waiting for the walk signal but when the little white man appeared she did not make a move towards him. The light went back to red. After a while she was gone and I thought she had gotten in the taxi that had stopped near her but a few minutes later she was crossing to the southwest corner by the other walk signal and then she went back down Dunn, sometimes stopping like a bushy statue in the middle of the street for a couple of minutes before continuing on. She must be new to the neighbourhood because I see everyone from my window and I’d never seen her before. An online image search that afternoon found some longer dreadlocks but nothing as big and wild as hers.
At 9:30 I got ready to go to the food bank and since it looked colder outside than it's been lately I put on an extra shirt, wore a scarf and slipped my hands into my spring gloves. That seemed fine at first but later I wished that I’d gone with my full winter attire.
The line of carts was much shorter than last week and the only person in line was the tall slim, goateed guy with the long grey woollen coat and the poor boy cap, whom I’ve talked with there before. As I was locking my bike a gust of wind sent three carts rolling away to the west, all in a perfect row. I suggested that maybe the carts know something we don’t and that may be to the west there was something more rewarding than the food bank line-up. He told me that he’d gone after those carts several times already even though none of them were his. I said that it might be a good lesson for those that leave their carts unattended to just let them blow away.
We chatted a bit and then I started reading my dual language book, continuing from where I left off in September with Gustav Flaubert’s story, “St Julian the Hospitaler”. Early in the story, after his mother had given birth to Julian, a hermit appeared in her bedroom and told her that her son would be a saint. At the same time, a gypsy emerged from the mist outside the castle to inform the father that his son would have an emperor's family but there would be much blood. Years later when Julian had become a merciless hunter, after he’d slaughtered the family of a stag, the stag would not die until it had uttered a curse that Julian would kill his own mother and father. After several close calls in which Julian almost did accidentally kill his parents, he ran away. He became a great warrior and after saving the kingdom of the emperor of Occitania, Julian fell in love with the emperor’s daughter and she with him. He was given her hand in marriage and he lived in opulence in his own castle. After a few years, he became restless and decided to go on a hunting trip. While he was away an impoverished and starving elderly couple arrived at his home. They were received by Julian's wife and they revealed to her that they were Julian's parents. That's as far as I got but I'm guessing that Julian comes home, thinks the old couple are intruders and kills them.
The guy in the woollen coat suddenly decided to leave.
After a while a guy standing about three places back started chatting with me, beginning with how cold it was. He said he’s spent three winters in Toronto so far and it’s very difficult. I asked him where he’s from and he said that he's originally from Somalia but that he lived in a few African countries like Kenya and Ethiopia before coming here.
I told him that my upstairs neighbour is from Ethiopia and that he has a farm back there. When he retires from his job as a crane operator at the portlands he plans on moving back to his family’s land. My Somalian companion declared that being a crane operator is the next best thing to being a pilot.
He said that Somalia was a paradise before the war and if he were there right now he would be fishing on the longest coastline in the world and not standing in the food bank line-up. Actually, Somalia has the longest coastline in Africa, but not the world. Canada has the longest coastline in the world. If he really likes fishing he could fish right here in Toronto at various locations like the Toronto Islands or the Humber Marsh. It would only cost him $100 to get a licence that would last him for three years.
He went on a long rant about the UN being the evilest organization in the world and that it conspires to kill Africans with malaria, starvation and war. He claimed that the UN has invented the concept of the African dictator and said that Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe did great things for his country. The fact remains that hundreds of thousands were dancing in the street when Mugabe stepped down, though nothing has really changed economically in the year since that happened.
My Somalian friend’s claims about the UN seem steeped in nutty conspiracy theories. The UN has prevented epidemics, starvation and wars in Africa. The UN eradicated smallpox from the face of the Earth.
He claimed that the UN sent Somalia rotten corn. I don’t know anything about that but I guess with an organization of that size screw-ups are possible. I doubt very much if they deliberately sent bad food to Somalia.
I argued that there are African countries in the UN but he said they are just there for show. I think my friend is severely undereducated about the UN. There are 54 African countries in the United Nations and Africa makes up 28% of the UN.
I think he has certain former colonialist superpowers mixed up with the UN. The primary culprits in screwing up Somalia are imperial Britain and fascist Italy. They divided the country in the 1920s. After World War II the UN allowed Italy to protect their section of Somalia as long as it was given independence in ten years. During that time, under UN supervision a great effort was made to teach the Italian protectorate of Somalia how to govern itself. The problem is that Britain did not do the same with its section and so when the two parts were reunited there was conflict. The wounds have yet to heal.
He expressed contempt for Canada and said that he is only here because he was forced to come here by the UN’s corruption of Somalia. He declared that even though he is a Muslim he would never pray in Canada because he refuses to touch his forehead to Canadian ground. He said that he wished that he’d been one of the Muslim’s shots in New Zealand so he could see what god would think of all that. But it’s safe to assume that if he were in New Zealand that he would have had the same attitude about praying there and so he would not have had the possibility of being shot in the Christ Church mosque because he never would have gone there to pray.
Bob Dylan’s “I Pity the Poor Immigrant” comes to mind.
He said that he feels closer to Jesus in Canada and told me that Jesus is the most mentioned person in the Koran. I had read that but I said that it doesn’t prove that Jesus existed and it certainly doesn’t prove that god exists. He said the fact that he has eyes and breath proves that god exists but I said those things could have just happened. He also claimed that the Qu’ran and the Bible are proof that god exists but that makes even less sense.

I didn’t tell him this but the reason he’s so angry seems to be tied up with a conflict between his faith and his sense of self. Believing he was created by God makes him feel important to the universe but that sense of importance in relation to his own adverse circumstances has made him bitter. I, on the other hand, don’t think that I need to be important to the universe but only to myself and that liberates me to care about other people because my self is happier when I get along with those around me. If he were to stop believing in god it might free him up to stop being such a whiny little bitch.

To be fair I think my Somalian friend has some kind of mental illness that enhances delusional thinking. His speech is often accompanied by jerking movements and he does not always appear to be thinking before he speaks, while his eyes seem unfocused. But if he feels the need to self-medicate with the religion he’s got to get over this bitterness about being in Canada. If he can’t be in Somalia and he’s stuck here he should accept it and get on with his life. Maybe he’s afraid that if he starts loving Canada he will stop loving Somalia but that’s not how it works. There is a Somalian community in Toronto with many members that can serve as examples for him. One of them, Saron Gebresellassie ran for mayor and I voted for her. Chances are most of them are Muslims and they might be able to teach him to stop pussyfooting around about worshiping here and they can demonstrate what horseshit it is to pretend you can’t touch your forehead to the ground in Canada.
A woman walked by whom I often see panhandling in front of my building and shouting at people in an often sexually provocative manner. Someone in the line-up asked her as she passed how she keeps warm. She answered, “I fuck!” My companion suddenly lost his Somalian accent and assumed one closer to the inner cities of the United States when he smiled and said, “Damn!”          
I asked him his name and he told me, “It’s a secret”. He said that people have to be careful because they can be shot like 50 Cent. He claimed that 50 Cent was shot by the FBI but the main theory of what happened is that Mike Tyson’s bodyguard Darryl Baum was hired to kill 50 Cent, some say by a crack dealer that didn’t like that the details of his operation were mentioned in the 50 Cent song “Ghetto Qu’ran”. Another theory is that Baum shot Fiddy because he had dissed his girlfriend, Lil Kim. It doesn’t make sense that the FBI would want him dead.
Downstairs my helper at the shelves was the youngest of the regular volunteers, whose mother also sometimes works there. At the first set of shelves, he said, “Just one from the top and one from the bottom, so make wise choices!” That seemed pretty condescending to me. I asked, “Why would you think that I wouldn’t choose wisely?” He said, “Well, a lot of people don’t”. I said, “That would be their choice”. If the food bank is presenting choices that he considers unwise he should take it up with them so they can only put “wise” choices on the shelves.
I took a carton of romano cheese and honey crackers, a box of gourmet oatmeal and raisin cookies, a can of “baked” beans, a tin of tuna and another of tomato sauce.
In Angie’s section she asked me in a low voice if I wanted some OJ, then she looked both ways and passed me a 1.75-litre carton. I told her I didn’t need milk, eggs or yogourt, but only some meat. She gave me a choice of ham or a large frozen pot roast dinner with potatoes by Kirkland Signature, which I guess is Costco’s version of President’s Choice. I took the pot roast dinner because I’d just finished eating the ham I’d gotten from her last week and I was all hammed out.
While waiting for vegetables from Sylvia I grabbed a loaf of roasted garlic bread.
I heard arguing behind me and turned to see my Somalian friend at the reception desk refusing to give his name and birth date. It occurred to me later that maybe his reason for both not wanting to give his name to me or to the food bank is that he’s here illegally. That would also flounder his chances of getting a fishing licence.
Sylvia gave me a bag of rainbow carrots, a red pepper, a seedless cucumber and five apples. She let me know that there was another box of items that I could choose from on the way out and so I grabbed a small bag of baby spinach and a one-kilogram container of strawberries.
As I was unlocking my bike a Tibetan man who was still waiting to go in asked me if it was any good this time. I told him it was much more satisfying than the previous week. He agreed that last week hadn’t been very good and wished me a great day.
Since I’d already gone to the supermarket on Friday I just went straight home with my items. Our entryway smells like urine because the front door doesn’t lock unless we pull it shut and some tenants forget to do so, which allowed someone to come in recently and take a pee.

It turned out that so many of the strawberries were rotten that after cutting out all the bad parts I only ended up with little more than half a pint. Despite that, the food bank was still a better haul this time.

Splashurday at the Food Bank
On Saturday morning at 9:30 I got ready to go to the food bank for the first time in exactly three months. I hadn't gone since January 21 because I was busy with my Romantic Literature and my Poetry Master classes. I wrote an essay on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein for one course and several poems for the other, so I couldn’t spare the time to stand in line.

It was raining when I rode over to 1499 Queen Street West to take my place in line and it only stopped for about two minutes for the entire hour and a half I was standing there. I had brought an umbrella but I didn’t bother with it because it wasn’t extremely heavy rain, except when passing cars recycled it from curbside puddles and splashed it sideways into the line. Even though I was standing the full width of the sidewalk away from the street, one wave soaked me on the left side from the knee down.

Because of the rain, I couldn’t read the book I’d brought with me.

The food bank did not open until twenty minutes later than it is supposed to and even when it did the line moved very slowly. I found the wait particularly difficult due to the weather and because my standing in line muscles have lost their development. I don’t know if those muscles are in my legs or my brain but for whatever reason, this was not a very tolerable ninety minutes of my life.

It was after 11:00 by the time I was downstairs.

The food bank has a much newer reception desk. The big guy that took my membership card was rocking out and humming along to a heavy metal band whose tune I did not recognize. He looked up and said to me, “This is the best break up song!” I asked him what song it was and I think he said, “You Walked Away” by The Ground Up.

There were only two volunteers at the shelves and the first set of shelves was pretty close to bare.

I took a jar of organic pumpkin seed butter that was nine months past its “best before” date, a squeezable jar of sweet pickle relish that was a year over its expiry time, two small bags of coffee, a can of chickpeas, a can of curried cauliflower and lentil soup and a can of tuna.

Angie commented that she hadn’t seen me in a while and I told her I’d been busy with my Romantic Literature course. She asked, “Is that what you like to read?” I nodded but later I wondered if she’d been thinking of modern romance novels rather than literature from the Romantic period, which lasted from around 1785 to 1832.

I told Angie that I didn’t need any eggs or milk this time around and that I’d just take some meat. She gave me a choice between a turkey and a ham. Although the turkeys were not as large as the one I got at Christmas time, I can only handle turkey a couple of times a year and I’m still turkeyed out from the end of December. I associate Easter more with ham and so I got a little Black Forest ham.

I didn’t find any of the bread they were offering very attractive, as it was all just plain white loaves.

The only vegetables I took from Sylvia were three and a half carrots and a bag of small potatoes. She wished me a Happy Easter and I returned the gesture.

All in all, I would say that this particular food bank haul was not worth the hour and a half wait in the rain.

Snowed Out, No Doubt

Once we were inside the Newfoundlander gave the Nova Scotian back his toque and thanked him. As we headed down the stairs the Nova Scotian said somebody asked him why he talks so much and he said that it keeps his mouth from freezing. 
There was a dusting of snow on the street when I was getting ready to go to the food bank but it looked manageable and so I didn’t bother to put on my Kodiak boots.
When I arrived the line of carts was very short and unoccupied except for the guy that never stops talking as long as someone’s there to listen. He greeted me as I was locking my bike by calling out, “Welcome to the winter side!” I was directly after him but he went to have a smoke by the entrance.
It was very cold and so it was quite uncomfortable when I took my gloves off to open my copy of Thomas De Quincey’s “Confessions of an English Opium Eater” to where I’d left off.  Once I was on the right page I hurriedly put my gloves back on and began reading. At home, I’d just finished part one, which deals with the author’s life as a down and out the middle-class gentleman in early 19th Century London. I’d only just gotten to the part where he took his first opium when the talking guy returned to ask me what I was reading. I showed him the cover and he declared, “Theresa May should be in there, cause she’s one crazy bitch!" He claimed that Brexit is controlled by corrupt British businessmen that want to circumvent the rules of the EU that would stifle their profits. Theresa May's husband, Philip May is a senior executive for Capital Group, a company that is the largest shareholder in BAE Systems, which is an arms manufacturer whose profits have soared since recent air strikes in Syria. Capital Group also owns 7% of General Dynamics, which owns many of the detention centres in which Donald Trump has been holding immigrant children separated from their families. This means that may is also profiting from that horrible action. My companion claimed that Philip May has made half a billion pounds from arms deals but that's probably his company. His personal worth is listed officially at $2 million but some reports claim that since Syria strikes with missiles that cost $1 million each, sales have gone up and he has personally made $10s of millions, benefiting directly from his wife’s policies as prime minister.
The talkative guy offered to buy me a coffee. I told him I appreciated the offer but I’d already had a cup at home. When I found out it would have been from Pete’s Corner restaurant across the street I commented that the coffee is lousy there. He said, “Lousy weather calls for lousy coffee!” which makes no sense whatsoever.
I tried to keep reading but it was snowing and white crystals were beginning to accumulate in the gutter between the pages of my book. I decided that I was going to ruin the book if I continued and so I brushed the snow off and put the volume away.
A woman stepped into line about three places behind me and asked how the food bank works. I told her that she could register if she had identification, proof of her address and something to prove her financial need like a copy of a social assistance cheque. If she didn’t have all that they would still let her have food the first time but the second time she would need to bring documentation.
My talkative line mate continued on to rail against the English in general, claiming that they are all snooty and arrogant and that’s why he would never visit England. He claimed that there are 1000 suicides a week in England but the statistics say there are about 6000 a year for all of the UK. He said he would rather go to Scotland because he's from Nova Scotia. I told him that I'm from New Brunswick. He said his father was born in Bath Hospital. I told him that’s where I was born too and so he gave me an affectionate punch in the shoulder.
A woman in her 40s or 50s a little in front of us in line had very short-cropped hair but she wasn't wearing a hat, nor any gloves in the sub-zero weather. She was missing at least three of her lower front teeth and she also had a tendency to frequently jerk her body from side to side in non-rhythmic movements. The Nova Scotian flipped back the hood of his coat, took off his toque and leant it to her. It turned out that she’s from Newfoundland and so the two of them began to speak lovingly about Newfoundland cuisines such as salt cod and moose meat.
She said that every school kid in Newfoundland had to read Death On the Ice about the 1914 seal hunting disaster and it always made her cry. The Nova Scotian remembered reading it as well.
He said that people in Ontario don’t understand when those from down east talk of premonitions. He claimed that he had a premonition of a certain woman being murdered in the Moss Park area and the next day she was found strangled. I’m skeptical of premonitions. It is a fact that he knew her and what kind of life she was living and the momentum of the direction it was taking her and so he could have simply assessed that she was going to die based on that. For premonitions to be real the future would have to exist and be accessible. If it did exist there would have to be a lot more premonitions of it than there are.

The food bank was late to open and the cold was beginning to seep into my body. I’m looking forward to starting my research paper soon for my Romantic Literature course because that will compel me to not want to spend essay-writing time standing around in the cold.
The woman to whom I’d explained the registration process exclaimed, “This is horrible!” The guy behind her said, “This is the only food bank in Toronto where people have to line up outside!” The woman responded, “Terrible!”
The line started moving at about 10:50.

Once we were inside the Newfoundlander gave the Nova Scotian back his toque and thanked him. As we headed down the stairs the Nova Scotian said somebody asked him why he talks so much and he said that it keeps his mouth from freezing.
As we were waiting in line for the reception desk he commented about how much he liked the marble cheese slices that they gave out last week. I said that it’s amazing that they can make cheese out of marbles.
The manager, Valdine was telling one of her young volunteers that paper towels are a waste of money and that rags work just as well. She must either have her own washer and dryer or very close access to one where she lives. I doubt if she had to carry bags of rags three blocks or more to the Laundromat that she’d be as enthusiastic about them. When I use three strips of paper towel to dry my counter it is totally moisture free when I’m done. I find that rags tend to leave dampness behind, which cockroaches love.
Valdene asked the young woman behind me, “Did you order this weather?” “What?” “Did you want it to snow so you could go skiing?” She answered the question matter of factly as if it had been serious, “No, I wanted to take a bike ride!”
The first two sets of shelves were almost bare, except for the cereal at the bottom, canned black olives at the top, a bottle of pancake syrup and several individual servings of various condiments. I took a box of organic multigrain flakes cereal and my volunteer handed me a chocolate bar.
The shelf with the canned vegetables and beans was well stocked, although there was no tuna. I grabbed a tin of chickpeas. There was also a fair amount of canned soups but I took the only carton of tomato and roasted red pepper. As usual, I didn’t want any pasta or rice.
From Angie’s station I didn't take milk and for the first time I turned down the offer of three eggs. I’d already accumulated eleven eggs since Christmas while I was trying to get through the turkey I roasted, so it seemed too much to take more eggs right now.
She gave me a 650-gram container of organic Greek yogourt and offered me a choice between margarine or potato salad. I selected the salad.
She said I could take one of two frozen dinners. One was macaroni and cheese, which she said wasn’t that great and the other was red wine braised beef and polenta in a steam pouch in a box, so I grabbed the latter.
On the way to Sylvia’s section, I picked up a six-pack of raisin-bran muffins from the bread section. All Sylvia had to offer were potatoes, carrots, onions and tomatoes. I told her I already had enough spuds and carrots but I’d take onions and tomatoes, especially if the tomatoes were firm. She managed to find me three tomatoes that weren’t too soft.
It was still snowing when I went to unlock my bike. I would normally take my things home and then head back out to the supermarket but the streets were too treacherous and so I just wanted to make a beeline for my place and to not get on my bike again for the rest of the weekend. I was looking forward to being snowed in.      

Frankenstein's Monster is Just Another Homeless Abandoned Child

 It's essentially a story about child abandonment, the type of child that results from lack of parental responsibility and the effect that such actions have upon society. 

On Saturday morning during song practice, the leather strip that ties my guitar strap to the top of my guitar broke. It’s an odd coincidence because a couple of days before the bottom of the strap broke. Maybe the dryness of the apartment in the winter makes the leather more brittle. It only took ten minutes to cut another strip from an old pair of leather pants and to have support again. The previous strip had a little more slack though so now my guitar is slightly higher on my body and it feels a bit weird. It might be just a matter of getting used to it.
I was about five minutes later to the food bank than usual. The line-up was a little longer than last time but not that much.
The guy that looks like Charles Manson arrived with someone I hadn’t seen there before. He was a young guy, perhaps in his early thirties and he approached me to shake my hand and wish me all the best for the new year. I thanked him but told him that I hope he doesn’t wish anyone else “all the best” because then one of us would have to settle for second best since only one of us can have the best, unless the best is somehow made by a machine and there are thousands of identical best things around, but that’s unlikely. He told me that he is from Afghanistan and that he’s been in Canada since 2010. He said the winters were difficult at first but he likes Canada now. He said his name is Parviz and he asked me mine. When I told him my name is Christian he asked me if I was a Christian. I told him that I don’t believe in god but that I still consider myself a Christian because even when one gets rid of all the dogma the values still remain. I would say that someone with Christian values but no Christian dogma is actually a better Christian than someone that goes around rattling their chains of faith. Parviz said that he used to be an atheist but now he believes in God and considers himself a Muslim because it must have been god that made the human mind. I didn’t argue with him because it’s impossible for logic to debate with belief, but there’s no reason why all life, including human consciousness, could not have occurred by accident. It’s a lot more plausible than a deity having created a universe out of itself just so it could love itself from a distance.
I asked Parviz if he goes to the mosque and he said guiltily that he doesn’t. I reminded him that there is a little mosque here in Parkdale near Brock and Queen. But a lot of Muslims are just like many Christians in that they can still consider themselves practitioners of their faith without worshipping in a building contrived for that purpose.
It was a cold day and I had to keep my winter gloves on while reading Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. I spent a lot more time than usual while waiting, just reading, though eventually, the cold did seep into my gloved fingertips. I almost finished the book there and I did actually finish it a little later that day. It's essentially a story about child abandonment, the type of child that results from lack of parental responsibility and the effect that such actions have upon society. The angering thing is that the parent in this story, the scientist that created the monster and effectively was both its mother and father, did not realize even to his dying breath that the most monstrous thing regarding the creature was his own rejection of it after bringing it into the world. He could have nurtured it and given it a sense of belonging but instead cast it out like a powerful unguided missile of raw emotion into the world. We know from the story that after parental rejection, the monster’s first contact with humans was the violence that they inflicted upon him and to which he responded by running away rather than retaliating. When the monster finally did lash out it was only at his creator’s loved ones in order to take away from him that which he had effectively denied his own child.
At one point Martina the doorkeeper walked up to someone that was smoking and asked her to step away from the line. If that’s a new policy it’s welcome.
When I was near the front of the line, a few people left the building with their groceries while Martina was still downstairs. At one point Robbie called out that five people could go down and I asked him if he was sure. He said he was and I guess because I was cold I listened to him and went ahead. On my way downstairs I saw Martina and asked her if I could go in. She said I could, but it felt like I had jumped the gun a bit because I was ahead of a couple of people that had been in front of me. At the reception desk the African woman with the cart that looks like a tall, red milk carton on wheels, confronted me about being ahead of her. I told her she could, of course, go ahead of me.

My volunteer at the shelves was a short, young guy with an afro, whom I hadn't seen before.
The first set of shelves contained a lot of tiny items from Chef’s Plate such as little packages of ingredients and spices and small containers of various sauces that are normally delivered with some of their recipes along with the main items of meat, fish or vegetables. I took three little bags of sunflower seeds.
I also grabbed three dark chocolate macaroon granola bars.
The cereals were mostly Cheerios and a couple of other conventional brands, but there were also boxes of Dorset meusli and so I took the kind with raisins, dates, sunflower seeds, coconut and hazelnuts.
There were a variety of canned beans, vegetables and soups, but I just selected a tin of chickpeas.
The woman ahead of me was in Angie’s section and there were two-litre containers of milk. She got extra milk because she was shopping for four but Angie turned her down when she asked for one more. She was just about to move away when Angie offered me some milk and I asked if I could give mine to the lady in front of me. At first, Angie was reluctant but then she let me pass it on.
I got four small fruit bottom yogourts and the usual three eggs. Angie gave me a pack of twenty marble cheese slices and a small tub of soft margarine. She handed me a 354-gram tub of potato and egg salad, which she said, was “to die for!” and a bag containing about ten slices of what looked like homemade cheesecake, adding, “For your waistline!”
As usual, I turned down the generic frozen ground chicken and frozen hot dogs.
While waiting for Sylvia to finish serving the woman in front of me I dipped into the bread bin to tong out a couple of cheese bagels and a focaccia bun.    

  I still had lots of potatoes and carrots but I let Sylvia give me two apples, two limes and five tomatoes. Most of the tomatoes, however, were too ripe to eat. 
As I was unlocking my bike the woman I’d given my milk to stopped to comment that there’s not much being offered at the food bank lately. I said, “Well, the holidays are over and so there are less donations.

Big Sugar Land Grabs
What if anyone that harms anyone, whether under government orders or not, is insane? What if the work of a soldier at war or of someone pulling the switch on the electric chair is all the result of the manipulation of the mentally ill?
I’ve started changing my arm position when strumming my guitar. For years I’ve rested my elbow on top of the guitar to strum but recently I’m trying to hook my arm as much as possible around the bottom of my guitar. It feels more natural but it takes some getting used to.
I worked on memorizing “Le Sixieme Sens” by Serge Gainsbourg. It’s sung by Juliette Greco, whom Jean-Paul Sartre called “the muse of existentialism”. The verses list various things that the singer senses with her five senses, as she and her lover get ready to go out. My translation of the chorus goes, “These are all of life’s five senses / The sixth sense tells me that it’s ended.”
The food bank line-up was relatively short, with maybe about fifteen people ahead of me. The guy directly in front of me was relaxing in a folding chair that he’d brought along, though not the kind of light collapsible canvas chair that one would normally see but a heavy folding metal chair that one might find in a school gym for assemblies. It fit in his cart though. A chair wouldn’t do me much good in the food bank line-u because I'd keep having to get up and move away to avoid second-hand smoke.
After about twenty minutes a woman who’s at the food bank every Saturday told me that she was ahead of me. Since I hadn’t seen her when I'd arrived I questioned her claim but when I asked the guy in the chair he confirmed that she was next in line. I guess she’d been inside warming up.
It wasn’t as cold as the week before and I was able to read without putting my gloves on. Suddenly I felt something wet hit the back of my head. I looked up and realized that I was directly under the pigeons that roost above the entrance to 1501 Queen. I put my hand back there and then brought it in front of me to see if there was bird shit but there wasn’t. The guy who’d just come up to take the spot behind me commented that it was probably a raindrop. I looked up and saw that there weren’t many clouds but I guess it was possible that one might have fallen. Maybe too there was water from melted snow up where the pigeons were and one of them splashed in it.
The guy behind me lit a cigarette and so I stepped away. I read a chapter of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. The story started getting more interesting after the first hundred pages when the monster began relating to Frankenstein the story of his life after being abandoned by his creator. If he could really learn to speak and read simply from observing and hearing through a hole an educated family in a cottage communicate with one another for a year, this creature would be the greatest genius that ever walked the Earth. It reminds me of how Tarzan teaches himself to read and write as a boy by studying an illustrated dictionary. The case of Tarzan's self-education is more plausible but still not probable.
The monster, after observing these cottagers to be exceptionally kind human beings finally decides to reveal himself to them. Their horrified and violent reaction convinces him that even the best of humanity would never accept him. Later when he tries to communicate with a child, thinking that the innocent would not react violently to him, he finds himself strangling the boy to death to stifle his screams. The boy turns out to have been the brother of his creator.
The point that I’ve reached in the book is just after the monster has asked Victor Frankenstein to make him a mate so that he and she can go far away and never have to make contact with humanity again. Victor reluctantly agrees and he is currently travelling to England to consult with some philosophers that can help him with the project. I can’t think of how a philosopher would help with such an endeavour but we’ll see. Perhaps this comes from the fact that Mary Shelley’s father, William Godwin was considered one of the greatest philosophers of his day.
Mo was passing and stopped to chat. He said that he might come back when the line-up thins out. He said that there is no waiting in the early afternoon and one gets just as much food. I'm sceptical about that last claim. He told me that he just bought a Piaggio scooter and that he can really whip around and take it on the highway too. I asked him about his eyesight because I knew that he’d recently had two operations on one eye and was waiting for surgery on the other. He said that he was going for surgery next month but I seem to recall that he said the same thing six months ago.

He told me that this recent holiday season was his first without his parents. He had to remind me that both his parents had died last year. I asked if he had brothers and sisters and he said that he did but they don’t keep in touch. He said that now that his parents are gone he can just relax and do his own thing.
Mo reached into his bag and tried to give me a can of Laker lager but I turned him down because it’s not my brand and I already have gifted beer that’s taking up space in my fridge and that I’ll never drink. He told me that I was insulting him by not taking the gift and also embarrassing him in front of the other people in the line-up. I told him that I'd meant no insult. I guess in retrospect I could have taken the beer. If it had been a Creemore I would have. He didn’t really act like he’d been offended though and he gave me an amicable goodbye when he left.
I had to pee but by the time Mo left it was almost 10:30 and since I figured the line would be moving soon I didn’t bother to go downstairs to see if they would give me the fob for the washroom.

 The man behind me was one of those people who never run out of things to talk about and the elderly woman behind him seemed to enjoy the conversation. He told her that the one thing that he can’t stand is seeing a woman abused. I’m always suspicious of people that make such declarations because they tend to look like potential abusers to me. He said that there’s a couple in his building that fake domestic violence with each other just to get at other tenants. The conversation moved to Toronto cops getting away with murder and then he started talking about martial arts. He seemed to be saying that Chinese martial arts came from acrobatics but it’s sort of the other way around in that in modern times a lot of kung fu has become theatrical and performance-based and has very little to do with self-defence.
The line started moving at around 10:40. As we got closer to the front, Valdene the manager was having a cigarette across the sidewalk from the door. The guy behind me said to her, “You’re looking great!” She said, “Thanks!” Then he turned to me, looked at the coffee he was holding and asked, “What’s in this drink?"
My helper on the shelves was the older Hungarian lady, Marlena. There were still lots of bags of Kuna Pops, syrups, mixes and packages of instant oatmeal, none of which I wanted. Since I’m still trying to get through that big Christmas turkey I got from the food bank I haven’t been opening a lot of cans lately so I didn’t take any beans or soups either. There was lots of cereal but mostly Cheerios, which is a little too light and airy for my breakfast needs.

I only took four items from all of the shelves. The first was a can of Blue Dragon light coconut milk. I haven’t seen this brand in any of the supermarkets that I go to. The can say that it’s made from water and coconut but in Ireland, the same product is listed as containing a stabilizer and an emulsifier. The Blue Dragon website refers to their unnamed but “glorious” founder who started the company thirty years ago. The coconuts come from Thailand but the product is made by AB World Foods Ltd, which is owned by Associated British Foods, which is the second largest sugar and baker’s yeast manufacturer in the world, and which was founded by Canadian businessman, Willard Garfield Weston. The company has been criticized by Oxfam for making land grabs in South Africa and forcing farmers off their land to make way for large sugar cane plantations. Sugar plantations grab more land than any other agricultural industry. The company’s response to the criticism is that before there was government legislation to do so ABF voluntarily gave more cane land away to Black farmers than any other sugar company and they have programs in place to assist farmers in maintaining sustainable farms. Oxfam’s reply was that ABF does not have a zero tolerance policy towards land grabs, and until they do they are part of the problem.

The second product was something I’d never come across before: chocolate date spread. The dates come from Iran and company is Ariana. When I look up Ariana Dates I get pages and pages of articles about whom Ariana Grande is dating. It’s an unfortunate company name if no one can find you. It’s not as bad as my name is for web searches though. I finally racked down Ariana Dates by searching for “Ariana Date Spread”. Their website claims that recent research shows that dates have an antigenotoxic quality that helps reduce DNA damage. Canada imposed severe sanctions against imports from Iran in 2013 but lifted a lot of them in 2016. We seem to import a lot of dates from Persia now. The chocolate-date spread is actually quite tasty, plus there’s no sugar as it's sweetened only with dates.

The third item was a 215 ml jar of St Dalfour wild pink pacific salmon with vegetables. St Dalfour is a French company that tells the history of its name on its website. During WWI there was a winemaker named Dalfour who, like many during sugar shortages, used grape must make a sugar substitute. Grape must is the first stage of the winemaking process and has a high glucose content. The Dalfour family had passed their must recipe down through generations but when this Dalfour shared his recipe with his neighbour, Madame Kistner, she loved it so much she declared him a saint. She used his must to make fruit spreads that she named after him as “Saint Dalfour”. In the mid-80s a businessman approached Madame Kistner’s husband about marketing the product and four years later the company launched. The health craze of the 90s and the lack of cane sugar in the product made it a popular health food item. After all that, salmon and vegetables seem pretty far outside of their specialty range, but we’ll see. I wonder if the original Dalfour family got a penny out of all this success. 

The least exotic thing I grabbed was a can of refried beans.

Angie’s section had a bag of milk that she said was 1% so I took that. She gave me a 650-gram container of cherry yogourt, three eggs and three individually wrapped sections of solid margarine. Then she whispered, “Do you want a frozen ham?” She handed me a Wagener’s smoked ham. It said on the label that it was for cooking but it said elsewhere that it was fully cooked. So why is it for cooking if it’s fully cooked? The Wagener’s website says it’s ready to serve so I guess cooking the ham is just an enhancement rather than a necessity.

Sylvia offered me a 4.54 kg bag of potatoes. I still had some potatoes that she’d given me just before Christmas but those were old potatoes that had been re-bagged and they were often full of spots that had to be cut away. This was a sealed container so the chances were better than the spuds were of a higher quality, so I said, “Why not?” I turned down carrots and onions because I have some but I accepted a cauliflower and four tomatoes. I ended up having to throw away three of the tomatoes though because they were too soft.

It was nice to get a ham. I assume that this frozen ham was left over from the holidays and that it was the alternative choice for those that didn’t want a turkey. Wagener’s hams tend to show up at the food bank during the Christmas and Easter seasons. The fancy red woven bags that we got with the Wagener logo on them must have all been part of a large donation from Wagener’s.

The company’s response to the criticism is that before there was government legislation to do so ABF voluntarily gave more cane land away to Black farmers than any other sugar company and they have programs in place to assist farmers in maintaining sustainable farms. Oxfam’s reply was that ABF does not have a zero tolerance policy towards land grabs, and until they do they are part of the problem.
Public Washrooms are a Human Right
On Saturday I started and almost finished memorizing in French Serge Gainsbourg’s 1970 song “Cannabis”, which doesn’t seem to be much about cannabis. It’s more about death being a female lover but he speculates in one line that may be the reason he's thinking about death in this way is that he's high on pot.
The food bank line-up was drastically shorter than it was during the two weekends leading up to Christmas. I arrived at my normal time but only counted twelve spots marked by carts and bags in the line ahead of me.
The tall guy with the backwards-turned poor boy cap and the long slim woollen coat came in behind me. One good thing about him is that he tends to only smoke one cigarette at the beginning and doesn't light up again unless the wait is exceedingly long.
I stepped away while he was smoking and started reading chapter six of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. A quarter of the way into the story and I find it mostly tedious. The prose is not particularly interesting and Mary Shelley is not even close to being as good a writer as Edgar Allen Poe. I was surprised at how quickly the monster was created without much of any explanation as to how he was fashioned. The movie adaptations tend to make it more obvious that the monster is made from collected dead body parts but in the book it’s possible that the cadavers that Frankenstein had access to merely served as models for parts that he constructed. Frankenstein was a chemist and so he would have used chemistry to build the monster.
The monster comes into being so quickly and without the dramatic lightning displays that happened in the original film adaptation. In the book, Frankenstein goes into shock upon seeing his creation and becomes ill for several months, during which time the monster has disappeared. I think Frankenstein reencounters his monster in two more chapters and will find that it has learned to talk and educated itself.
I went downstairs to use the washroom only to find the door locked with a sign saying that the washrooms are for Tool Library and food bank customers only and that anyone needing to use them must ask for a key from the people in charge of those services. I didn’t have to go badly enough to deal with the hassle of asking for a key and so I went back upstairs.

I finished my chapter and though I still didn’t have to go very badly, my curiosity became as strong a motivation as having to pee and so I went downstairs to ask for the key. I stood in the doorway and made the request but Angie shook her head. I asked, "Why not?" and she answered that she only has one fob and she's not going to give it out. I reminded her that the sign on the washroom door says that the washrooms are for food bank customers, and asked, "Am I not a food bank customer?" Martina, who was helping to stock the shelves, turned and asked with surprise, “That’s what it says on the door?” This was obviously a new thing for them too.

Before leaving the basement I walked down the hall to the Tool Library to find out what would happen if I asked for a washroom key there. The young woman at the counter told me that their key is just for members. I assume then that if I were to pay the $50 a year membership fee to acquire whatever card they give out to prove membership, she would have given me the key. At least she seemed to know what was going on.

I went back upstairs and chatted about the issue with the guy behind me. I guessed that this has to do with people going down to the washroom to either do drugs or to sleep, but I’ve been using that loo almost every Saturday for two years and never once have I seen anyone doing either of those things down there. Those activities are probably more nighttime occurrences and so they should at least have the washroom unlocked during the periods when the food bank is open. Why should a food bank customer have less access to the washroom than a Tool Library customer?

It seems to me that there is a law that a public building that contains any service that draws people into the building is required to provide a washroom for the public it serves. Based on the wording of the notice on the washroom door, building services at 1499 Queen Street West are well aware of the legal requirements and are passing the responsibility to their tenants of providing access to their customers. The Tool Library is taking that responsibility but the food bank is not.
The tall young man with the doll eyes and the catatonic expression was moving like a bee from person to person to seek nicotine nectar. He never speaks but merely gestures with two fingers to his lips to each one he approaches. He either doesn’t remember the people like me that tell him they don’t smoke or he just figures they might have started since the last time he asked. A woman who had earlier asked me for the time twice in ten minutes had crossed the street and, having just lit a cigarette was on her way back to our side when the silent smoke-beggar approached her with his fingers to his lips. She moved to the right to get around him but he moved to the left and blocked her from getting to the curb. She moved to the left and he intercepted her again. She moved to the right and when he stepped in her way again she finally just shrugged and handed him her cigarette.

As oblivious as he seems to be to anything but asking for cigarettes and smoking them, he never throws his butts on the sidewalk but rather always takes them over to the sidewalk garbage bin to carefully slip it into little round hole. What are those holes called by the way? I would imagine not “butt holes”.
I saw Steve, the assistant food bank manager walking up Queen for work and approached him before he went inside. I asked if he knew that the washrooms downstairs are locked. He shook his head without looking at me and said, “It’s probably because too many people have OD’d down there!” I’ve never seen him look at anyone when speaking to them. He always seems to keep a cerebral distance. As he went inside I said to the back of his head that the sign says the washrooms are for food bank customers.
A middle-aged blonde woman who’s there every week was surprised that Angie didn’t let me use her fob. She said, “She sees you all the time!” A chunky man in a baseball cap with a white moustaches and goatee, who’s been one of the first five people in line for years, told me that Angie had lent him her fob earlier but that he’d had to give her a cigarette for it.
Ahead of me downstairs, an older woman was turned away because they could see on the system that she’d already been there on Thursday. There was a bit of a wait because she put up an argument about it.
Once I was in front of the desk I asked Steve while he was checking me in on the computer, what they were going to do about the washroom situation. He said they were going to see if they could arrange to have the door unlocked while the food bank is open, but that meanwhile they would have ferry people to the washroom and open the door for them. There was some confusion because Steve thought that I wanted to use the washroom and so the young guy at the computer next to him got up to escort me. I told them I wanted to use the food bank.
I didn’t take much from the shelves. On the first set of shelves, there was a bottle 15% maple syrup but I had no use for it. The oatmeal with chocolate, nuts and fruit looked interesting, but I’m not a big fan of hot cereal, even in the wintertime. They still have lots of Kuna Pops snacks but they don’t do much for me. I took a pouch of sliced pears and a box of six dark chocolate macaroon granola bars.
There were lots of canned goods on the next set of shelves but I have enough of beans and soup and so I just took a can of tuna and a container of coconut water with peach and mango. As usual I didn’t select any rice or pasta.
From Angie’s station I didn’t take any milk but I got the usual eggs, grabbed a one-litre can of apple juice and a half a kilo pack of frozen stewing beef.
I still had lots of potatoes and carrots from the Christmas haul and so from Sylvia’s section I just took five tomatoes, a couple of onions, three mandarins and two navel oranges.
Angie didn’t apologize for not letting me use the washroom. And here I thought she liked me. 

On my way out the young volunteer was waiting at the door for me and said, “You wanted to use the washroom?” I told him, “Now I can go home and use the washroom. I wanted to use the washroom when I was waiting in line.”

I went downstairs to use the washroom only to find the door locked with a sign saying that the washrooms are for Tool Library and food bank customers only and that anyone needing to use them must ask for a key from the people in charge of those services. I didn’t have to go badly enough to deal with the hassle of asking for a key and so I went back upstairs.
What? No Christmas Octopus?
On Saturday morning, since it was the day after the solstice I thought it would be the latest sunrise of the year but it turns out that the latest sunrise happens a few days after the solstice. But the sun came up pretty late anyway as sunrise didn’t happen on Saturday until sunset. On New Year's Day, the sun will not come up until sunrise on January 2.

I posted on my blog and on Facebook “The Canary is on the Balcony”, my translation of Serge Gainsbourg’s "le canari est sur le balcon".
I read a bit of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein but I got sleepy by 9:00 and decided to go to bed for half an hour before getting ready to leave for the food bank. I woke up 40 minutes later and rushed to get going.
The line-up was about as long as the week before but I doubt if my being ten minutes later than usual made much difference. The group of three regulars who are always among the first ones in line were gathered to smoke and chat about a meter beyond the back of the line. I wondered if they were smoking at the back to avoid the second hand smoke at the front. With them puffing at one end and the others sooting up the front, the line effectively became a second-hand-smoke sandwich.
I was behind a diminutive middle-aged woman with a Guyanese accent and beautiful long black hair. She was holding a place for another Guyanese woman that arrived about ten minutes later. It wasn’t that she’d been here before and marked her place with a cart. It seems to be an unwritten rule that if you’re all by yourself and you don’t go to the back of the line you’re the scum of the earth but if someone is holding a place for you, even though you are really still butting in just as much, there’s nothing selfish about you at all.
It was quite a bit colder than the week before and so I had to turn the pages of my book with winter gloves. I finished the first chapter of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein that I'd started earlier that morning. Victor Frankenstein is telling his life story to the captain of an exploratory vessel that rescued him from an ice floe in the Arctic. The beginning of the book is kind of boring in that it depicts quite a normal childhood and is not very engagingly written. We learn that Frankenstein was interested in science but more in science that existed before the scientific method was developed. He was interested in the disproved junk science of Agrippa that was in great part alchemy. He also went to college in the real school in Switzerland where the Illuminati had come to prominence, although the Illuminati is not mentioned except by the editor of this edition.
Directly behind me was the semi-regular food bank client who looks a bit like P. Diddy. At one point he said he was going to get a coffee but he never came back. Behind him was a friendly guy from Africa who was looking forward to taking home some items that might be donated because this was the last food bank day before Christmas. I told him that the people that didn’t get a turkey or a ham last Saturday would probably get one of those this time.
When Valdene, the food bank manager arrived in the food bank van, she kicked all the people out that were trying to keep warm in the entryway. A couple of volunteers came out with big shopping carts that had the Metro logo on them. I wonder if the carts were donated or stolen. They unloaded the van, took the carts down the elevator and Valdene drove away to come back later on with another load. When Valdene was gone people went back inside to defrost themselves in the entryway.
From time to time individuals pulled up with their own donations.

Martina the doorkeeper informed us that there would be a free lunch that day sponsored by a Christian group near the Shoppers Drug Mart. I assume she was talking about that little evangelical place called the International Christian Centre at 1483 Queen. Personally, I’d rather just make my own lunch and relax at home. I guess my situation is pretty unique in that I don't pay much more for my one-bedroom apartment with a kitchen and bathroom than the 2715 tenants in the 198 rooming houses in Parkdale pay for single rooms with facilities they have to share with four or more people. I’ve overheard some people say that they don’t have cooking facilities where they live and I was trying to research how common that is. As far as I can tell the 198 rooming houses mentioned are the licensed ones and I think the licensed rooming houses are required to have at least shared kitchen facilities. So anyone that says they don’t have access to a kitchen must live in an unlicensed rooming house. It’s hard to know how many of those there are but there may be just as many as there are licensed ones and many of them might not have kitchens. I guess even those that live with shared facilities might prefer to not to use them if there is a meal provided elsewhere.
One man who seemed to have mental health problems tried to edge his way into the front of the line but Martina forced him to go to the back. She followed him as he walked and at one point he turned and started screaming at her. She just pointed like she was sending an unruly child to their room and said, “Get to the back of the line!” About twenty minutes later he was walking up the line and Robbie’s sister stepped out to tell him to get to the back. He screamed at her, “I’m not stayin, so mind your own fuckin business!” He passed the front of the line and continued east along Queen Street with his empty cart. 
The food bank opened about ten minutes later than usual and we heard that part of the delay is that today there were about twenty kids volunteering downstairs.
About three places ahead of me in line was a guy in an old, ragged brown woollen coat who was marking his place in line with a large clear plastic bag full of beer cans and one of those large, blue, woven-plastic Ikea bags, that was only half full of beer cans, in which I assume he intended to carry his food. Every time the line moved he came out from the entryway and dragged his cargo of cans forward, scraping loudly along the sidewalk.
When I got downstairs there was a line-up of people stretched down the dark hallway past the food bank door. Perhaps they were lined up to donate because I didn’t see them come in to shop.
The shopping room was packed with volunteers, most of which were boys wearing sweatshirts logoed with “West Mall” on the chests. I’m guessing that these are kids earning the required community service hours for high school credits. They may have been there through Volunteer Toronto, which is located at the West Mall. The boys looked about twelve and I had two very enthusiastic kids assisting me at the shelves, which were very full for the first time in a long time. The boys actually offered to carry my bag for me but that would have made me feel very old and so I turned their offer down.
I got a 500-gram can of hot chocolate powder; a 382 ml resealable pouch (because pouches are the new cans) of sliced pears packed in fruit juice; an 80 gram non-resealable pouch of apple-strawberry puree; a carton of Raisin Bran; two apple-grape juice boxes; a can of maple style beans; a can of tuna; a 900 ml carton of chicken broth and a jar of chunky salsa. I turned down the powdered protein shake because frankly I find them scary.
A woman I’d never seen before was minding the bread section, but I had enough bread. I’d seen Sylvia there earlier but when I got to her section a guy was stationed there. Since I already had potatoes, carrots and onions from last time I just took five mandarins with the leaves attached and two zucchini. The guy said, “Oh! They’re zucchini! I just told somebody they were cucumbers!”

At Angie’s station Turkeys and hams were available for those that didn’t get one or the other last week. I got the usual four small fruit yogourts and the three eggs. I turned down the usual frozen hot dogs and frozen generic ground chicken but she gave me a bag of mini-omelettes about the size of walnuts, which she said were delicious and another of little smoked sausages. I asked if there was any Christmas octopus but she took me seriously and said she’d never heard of such a thing, so I didn’t follow through with my ready line about eight drumsticks.

I asked if there was any Christmas octopus but she took me seriously and said she’d never heard of such a thing, so I didn’t follow through with my ready line about eight drumsticks.
Service Dog's Are Not Supposed to Snap at People

On Saturday morning part of my mind told another part that the sound it was hearing was the staying-asleep alarm and not the waking up alarm. But the electronic rooster did rough surgery on my consciousness with a raspy scalpel and I lurched my body into the usual motions like a movie Frankenstein rising from a lightning-stricken slab. Every yoga pose I did seemed to form the letter “Why?” as my attempts to put my brain into consciousness were like me trying to pick up an Oleo slathered pea with three chopsticks in my left hand. 


I went to the food bank at the usual time but the line-up was almost twice as long as usual because this was the day they would be giving out the Christmas turkeys.


It was a bit warmer than the week before but I was comfortable in the same layers. The difference was that I didn’t need to wear my winter gloves while reading my book. I’d brought Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, which I would be studying at the end of February in my Romantic Literature class. I didn't make it into the actual novel because the introduction is so long, but I managed to read half of that. Shelley’s parents were William Godwin, considered the leading political thinker of his day and Mary Wollstonecraft, the primary feminist thinker of her day. Their daughter married the radical poet Percy Shelley and so from childhood on she spent her life in a rare intellectual atmosphere. The other part of the introduction that I read covered the science behind the bringing to life of Frankenstein’s monster. Considering some of the scientific theories of her era it wasn’t that far fetched.


The woman behind me had left her cart and gone inside for a few minutes. The woman that arrived next was someone I’d seen at the food bank many times although not lately at the Queen Street location. She was a loud, middle-aged person with stark features and a nervous personality. She actually seemed a little drunk but maybe that was her sober state. When the woman directly behind me came back to her spot the nervous woman disputed her position in line. I came to her defence and pointed out that her cart had been there when she arrived. She realized her mistake and apologized to the woman behind me. The nervous woman was stressed about the length of the line-up and about how long it was going to take because, she told someone, her son lives with her but she has the only key and he had to go to work, so she was worried about him having to leave their door unlocked.


A little further back was the guy with the stolen Dollarama shopping cart. He’d been looking for kitty litter and cat food the last time he was there but this time he was talking about his dog. He told someone his dog snaps at people that walk up and try to pat him on top of the head. He said he’s never bitten anyone but doesn’t understand why people don’t ask first. Yes in an ideal world everybody would ask before they touch anybody but you can’t just shrug off your dog snapping at people and say that people are poorly trained. If your dog is snapping at people it’s not the dog’s fault and it’s not the fault of people, it’s your fault. Dogs can be trained not to react aggressively to a trigger like being patted on the head. If you’re going to have a dog in a human community you have to either teach it how to behave around people or not have a dog.


He said that his dog is a registered service dog and he has the documentation that would allow him to take his dog on a plane. I assume that he's not legally blind because I’ve never seen him getting around with the help of a guide dog and so he must have some other disability for which he would require a service dog. There are service dogs that can tell diabetics when to take their insulin but I’m assuming that this guy has a psychiatric service dog. If his dog is a service dog that snaps at people then it should not have received a certificate, as there are very strict rules of public behaviour for service dogs and snapping is one of the no-nos. Behavioural training for a dog can be expensive and for this kind of an issue, it would cost $250 even for two training sessions at the Humane Society. But in the case of a service dog, he probably wouldn’t have to pay for any behavioural correction as I suspect his ODSP would cover it.


The prematurely silver haired volunteer who sometimes drives the food bank van during the busier days like this one, came walking down the line with an enormous bag of dog food on his shoulder. Someone shouted out, “I didn’t know you had a dog!” He called back, “I got a big fuckin dog!” He walked over to the guy with the stolen shopping cart and gave the bag to him. He was so moved by the gesture that he went after him and as the driver was about to drive away in the van he opened the passenger door and gave him a big hug.


By this time the line was stretching almost down to Beaty Avenue. A young woman came walking along the line looking shocked and suddenly she stopped to ask me, “Is this the line-up for the Tool Library?” I said, “No, you can go right into the Tool Library. It’s just through that door and downstairs.”


A few places ahead of me, Robbie’s sister was sternly telling a woman that she had to go to the back of the line because she was butting in. I said to Robbie’s sister “Didn’t you butt in?” She always comes at least a half an hour later than Robbie and always takes a place with him in line. The woman in front of me argued, “No she didn't! She's here with her brother!" They shop separately and I don’t think they live together so I don’t see why she would get to be with Robbie in line. I don’t think Robbie’s sister picked up on my complaint, as she walked over to me, put her hand on my arm, leaned in and whispered, “I think she’s trying to butt in!”

The shopping cart guy was having a discussion with the slim coated guy that I’d chatted with last week about the electric car. He said they had electric cars in the 60s but the oil companies repressed them. I corrected him that it had been in the 30s but I realized a minute later that the electric car had actually been big in the 1910s.
The line had started moving pretty much on time but with an extra fifteen people more in front of me than usual, it was an extra half an hour before I got downstairs. They had twice as many volunteers as usual. At the reception desk, Steve asked if I wanted a turkey or ham. I said turkey because Christmas turkey is a tradition where I come from. Apparently though if my mom and dad had been raised in the traditions of their respective Swedish and Danish backgrounds we probably would have had ham for dinner on Christmas day. Ham was always an Easter Sunday tradition where I come from.
The nervous woman two places behind me kept saying, “C’mon, C'mon, hurry up!” She’d been saying it for the last half an hour and so she wasn’t talking to anyone in particular.
My volunteer on the shelves was a big guy with glasses and a baseball cap. There wasn’t much variety on the shelves. About a third of the first set was taken up by bags of those puffy Kuna Pop snacks. There were pancake syrup, cookies and a lot of other items that I didn’t want. I took a few apple Larabars and a hand-filled bag of tea bags. When we moved on to the second set of shelves he walked away to do something. I stood there waiting for him and the little old Filipina volunteer was already serving another client on the shelf behind me. She wasn’t deliberately pushing me but she was right up against me as she helped the other person. I grabbed a can of Peruvian squash and quinoa. How come we never get canned Peruvian guinea pigs up here? My volunteer returned, apologized and we moved on to the next set of shelves but then he left again. I took a can of chickpeas and a carton of spicy black bean soup. The little Filipina volunteer asked me who my helper was. I pointed to the guy with the cap, who was doing something up by the meat and dairy station. She said, “He’s not supposed to leave you!" "Well, he has," I told her. By the time he came back I was ready to move on to the meat and dairy section anyway and didn’t need his help anymore.
Angie was at her station when I came into the food bank, wearing her usual red Christmas hat with the long silver braids hanging down on each side. Is it supposed to represent Mrs. Santa Clause? A young woman was at the meat and dairy section by the time I got there. She asked if I wanted a turkey and I did. She struggled to lift the six-kilogram turkey and pass it over to drop it into my open bag. I didn't take any milk but I got two small strawberry and two raspberry yogourts. I received the usual three eggs but they were large this time and this time I also didn’t break them.
As I was moving over to Sylvia’s vegetable station the woman who’d just served me called out that she was out of turkeys. Steve was asked to go and get some more.

Sylvia was looking very unstressed, as she didn’t have to pick out various vegetables for people this time. She lifted and handed me a very well made red recyclable thermal bag with a zipper on top from Wagener’s Meats and said, “Everything you need is in here!” In the bag was a 680 gram sealed container of mini red and orange tomatoes, a bag of fresh baby spinach, a 907 gram bag of rainbow carrots, five clementine oranges with the leaves attached, a 2.27 kg of russet potatoes, two yams, a small turnip, two yet to ripen mangoes and an almost ripe avocado. They were certainly well organized as far as the vegetables were concerned this Christmas season and the bag was a nice touch.

The line was still very long as I left the food bank. I took my haul home, put it away and headed back out to buy fruit at No Frills. On my way there I stopped at the Guardian Drug Store to go to the post office in the back and buy a mailing box in which to send some gift items to my daughter before Christmas. I couldn’t decide whether I needed the small 14 x 14 x 14 cm box or the next size up, which was 28.6 x 22.9 x 6.4 cm, so I bought them both. I enquired about shipping to Montreal before Christmas and she said that they could guarantee express post if I ship by Monday.

In the pharmacy the song, “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Clause” was playing and I wondered what the real consequences would be of a child having such an experience. If the child really believes in Santa Clause then would it be traumatic to see a mystical being sexualized before one’s young eyes? The implication of the song is that it’s really daddy in a Santa suit that is kissing mommy, but what if it turns out to be someone else? Would it really be "a laugh" for the child or for anyone "if daddy had walked in to see mommy kissing Santa Clause"? Isn’t Santa supposed to be married? Does he have an open relationship with Mrs. Clause? Maybe the elves are doing more than making toys while Santa is smooching children’s mothers on Christmas Eve.

A little further back was the guy with the stolen Dollarama shopping cart. He’d been looking for kitty litter and cat food the last time he was there but this time he was talking about his dog. He told someone his dog snaps at people that walk up and try to pat him on top of the head. He said he’s never bitten anyone but doesn’t understand why people don’t ask first. Yes in an ideal world everybody would ask before they touch anybody but you can’t just shrug off your dog snapping at people and say that people are poorly trained. If your dog is snapping at people it’s not the dog’s fault and it’s not the fault of people, it’s your fault. 
Parkdale Legal has Helped a Lot of People
Some of the symptoms of the cold that I thought that I was coming down with on Thursday were still there on Saturday but they were barely recognizable as a cold. It was as if the cold that went away in October had sent me a little postcard from wherever it went.
I started learning the chords to Serge Gainsbourg’s song “Jane B”, the music for which is actually Chopin’s Prelude in E-Minor, Opus 28 Number 4. I don’t have much time to learn it because there are only a few more Chopin days till Christmas.
I was on my way to the food bank when I realized that I’d forgotten my phone and so I went home to get it. In terms of the length of the line-up, whether I come at 9:45 or 9:55 it doesn’t make much difference. About one person takes a place in line every ten minutes. About ten minutes after I arrived, one of the regulars, a tall, thin guy in a poor-boy cap and a slim, knee-length overcoat, took his place behind me, but left a space of about two meters and stood on the west side of the steps of 1501 Queen Street West so as to let tenants come and go. Ten minutes later a woman arrived and parked her cart directly behind the cart that was in front of my place in line. The guy behind me told her to get behind him but she argued that the space should be filled up because other people would use it as an excuse to butt in. I told her that we wouldn’t let anyone go in front of her but she wouldn’t buy it. She insisted that the guy move his cart ahead to take his place in line ahead of her. He finally gave in and the woman, satisfied with her little victory said, “Good!” Then she left her cart and went inside the entryway of 1499 Queen to sit. When I passed through there to go downstairs to use the washroom there must have been twenty people hanging out in there. It was like a down and out cocktail party without the cocktails.
I re-read about half of the first act of Percy Shelley’s “Prometheus Unbound”. It seems to me that Shelley is drawing a parallel between Prometheus and Jesus, except that he's taken that "God, why hast thou forsaken me moment” from the Jesus myth and extended it over thousands of years. Also, just as Christ’s mother was said to be consoling him at the foot of the cross, Prometheus’s mother, the Earth is also there with him. There is also piercing, as the spears of glaciers have penetrated Prometheus’s body. Prometheus was being punished by Zeus for having given humanity the internet just as Jesus was crucified for having created the hands-free phone device.
At 10:30 everyone swarmed out of the entryway to get in line. A few places ahead of me in line a woman with glasses and black hair was telling a woman with long and prematurely snow-white hair that last year she had weighed 125 kilos but lost 35 kilos. She met her boyfriend after losing the weight and now she’s gaining it back and he’s complaining that she’s fat.
The guy behind me complained about people that leave their carts in line and then go elsewhere. He thinks people should be forced to stay with their carts. Like me, he’s one of the minority that misses the system of drawing numbers.
He said there’s a church here in the west end that has a Christmas food hamper that might be a monthly food hamper. He named the church but I can't find anything about it. I told him that there's a pay-what-you-can supermarket in the junction. Looking it up now I see that it’s called “Feed It Forward” and it’s at 3324 Dundas West, just east of Runnymede. It’s run by a chef named Jagger S. Gordon. On their Facebook page, I noticed a couple of people complaining about having been asked for a $5 donation for their food hamper but most of the reviews are positive. From what I’ve read the “pay-what-you-can" really is "pay-what-you-can", including nothing. There is certainly nothing officially posted about a minimum.
The guy behind me said that Parkdale Community Legal Services is being evicted from their location at Noble and Queen. They have been told by the Usher family that they have to leave by January 1, 2019. A new building is being constructed at the site and Parkdale Legal had been scheduled to move into an office on the third floor. Negotiations continue and the clinic says the landlord has breached the lease agreement. One would think that with a building full of lawyers they should have a judicial advantage.

I remember when the Usher family used to have a surplus food store in that building. It seemed to be stocked with canned and packaged items that had been acquired from other stores that had closed. There were often rare items and everything was cheap.

I told the guy behind me that 19 years ago it was with help from Parkdale Legal that I beat my then new landlord in his attempts to evict me and everyone else in my building. He’d just bought the place from the guy I’d rented my apartment from and he tried to use the old trick of claiming that he needed the building for his family to live in. Of course what he really wanted to do was clear everybody out so he could renovate and yank up the rent. Anyway, we won and that’s thanks to Parkdale Legal.

I think I made my companion feel bad when I told him that I only pay a little over $600 for a one-bedroom apartment. He said that he pays $600 for a room with a shared kitchen and bathroom and that his fellow tenants steal his food from the fridge. He complained that they especially take the milk that he gets from the food bank though they would never be seen going to the food bank themselves.

I’ve shared kitchens and bathrooms before but of the two I am particularly thankful to not have to share a bathroom with anyone.

Across the street from where we were standing is a store called “In Vintage We Trust”. In their window they had large letter-shaped balloons hanging that spelled out “DEPOP”. I said it out loud and wondered what that was about. He explained what “Depop” is but either I misunderstood or he had the wrong info. I thought he was telling me that Depop is a line of vintage clothing, but it seems to be a shopping app for an online marketplace. Maybe In Vintage We Trust sells their clothing through Depop or maybe they provide a space for people selling through Depop.

I got downstairs at around 11:00. The tall, shaved-headed volunteer, whose name I think is Steve, was at the reception desk. As I handed him my card I told him, “You were wrong!” I reminded him that we’d had an argument a couple of years ago at the old location and that he’d insisted that marijuana would never be legalized in Canada. He didn’t look up at me but looked bored and responded, “But then Justin came in.” I told him that Trudeau was already the prime minister at the time. He just shrugged and said that if the Conservatives get in they could repeal it. I told him I didn’t think they’d do that.

My volunteer was the young woman who’s been volunteering there for about a year and a half and usually works at the reception desk.

We started at the bottom of the first shelf where there were two kinds of granola. One was a vanilla almond flavoured cereal and the other was the better-known brand of Dorset granola. She recommended the Dorset because it had sunflower seeds. I added, “And moonflower seeds, and Jupiter flower seeds …” I don’t know why I was being so silly. I don’t think I was entertainer her and I was barely entertaining myself. Anyway, I took the Dorset. It had raisins, dates, almonds, hazelnuts, pumpkin seeds, banana and of course, sunflower seeds.

We moved to the top shelf and she asked if I wanted any Kuna Pops. I told her I had some already and they’re really just flavoured air.

Also on the top were little plastic jars of teriyaki sauce. They looked like the containers in which I get prescription creams at the drug store, except that they were transparent. The brand name on the teriyaki sauce is Chef’s Plate, which seems to be another online store. You order from a list of recipes and they send you the fresh ingredients and the instructions on assembling the meal.  I assume the teriyaki sauce comes along with certain recipes. I took one of the containers but she gave me another three.

They haven’t had any health bars at the food bank for a few months but this time the Larabars were back. These ones were apple and also had dates, raisins, almonds and cinnamon.

There were a variety of canned vegetables and soups but I just took a can of chickpeas. I’d had a bad experience with the last can of chickpeas that I’d gotten from the food bank, but that was the first time in many. The garbanzos had hard outer skins on some of them that came off in my mouth and when I pulled them out they resembled toenail clippings. It was disgusting and on top of that I think I got food poisoning. The company name was Arz and I don’t think I’ll take chickpeas with that label again.

The last item I selected was a litre of pure apple juice.

I finally remembered to ask the name of my helper whom I’ve seen so many times. She said it was Stephanie.

At Angie’s station knee-length there was lots of milk, both chocolate and white, but I didn’t want 2% so I turned it down. The small yogourt containers on display were Astro 0%, which I think has sucralose in it. Angie pulled some small containers of Activia: four lemon and two pineapple and so I took those. I didn’t take any of the frozen generic ground chicken, hot dogs or bologna, but Angie gave me an extra bag of three eggs.

The guy ahead of me was bent over and really loading up from the bread section, picking up various muffins and buns with the tongs. He was taking so long that Sylvia said she’d serve me and I could get my bread afterward.

She offered me some chanterelle mushrooms, but I didn’t have a plastic bag handy and so she said I could take one of the big paper bags piled up beside the door. I was still holding the eggs that Angie had given me because I didn’t want them to be crushed under something else but when I reached for a paper bag I dropped one of the bags of eggs. Sylvia kindly and patiently got me another bag of eggs and a plastic bag for the mushrooms. She also gave me two onions, five carrots, ten potatoes, two somewhat dried up cobs of corn, a kiwi that was too soft and an apple. From the bread section I just grabbed a bag of six rosemary focaccia triangles to toss in my freezer.

I assume that next week they’ll be giving out tickets for Christmas turkeys.

As I was riding away from the food bank I got a song in my head as I often do. I was silently singing “Where Do You Go To My Lovely”, the 1969 ballad by one-hit-wonder Peter Sarstedt but I suddenly segued into Billy Joel’s 1973 song “Piano Man” and realized that they are pretty much exactly the same song in structure, right down to the chorus and that there is only a slight difference in the notes. Either lyric could be interchanged and sung in the style of the other. Of course, Sarstedt’s song is better because it’s slightly more lonely and because it mentions Zizi Jeanmaire. 

The guy behind me said that Parkdale Community Legal Services is being evicted from their location at Noble and Queen. They have been told by the Usher family that they have to leave by January 1, 2019. A new building is being constructed at the site and Parkdale Legal had been scheduled to move into an office on the third floor. Negotiations continue and the clinic says the landlord has breached the lease agreement. One would think that with a building full of lawyers they should have a judicial advantage.
Smarter Than the Average Stupid
On Saturday morning my shin injury from getting doored on Wednesday night was bothering me before I got up and I was aware of it through yoga and song practice but didn’t notice it much by the time I left for the food bank. I was worried though that I would feel some backlash later from standing around for two hours.
This was my first visit to the food bank since a couple of weeks before marijuana was legalized. I’d had a couple of essays to work on for my Romantic Literature course and in the two Saturdays between writing those assignments I had a cold.
The line up was fairly long but that was normal for this time of the month. My place was just west of the steps of 1501 Queen where a very loud but friendly drunk guy of 40 or 50 in a leather jacket was sitting and continuously talking in long, slurred sentences. He wore glasses and had a receding hairline but lots of wild, uncombed short hair that stuck up in the air on top of his head.  His jeans were so big around the waist that when he sat his pants cleared his buttocks and though no flesh was exposed he was actually sitting on his long sweatshirt that was deeply tucked into the pants. When he stood he had to hold his jeans up with one hand. He had marks on his face that I couldn’t make out from where I was standing but it looked like he’d been in a fight recently. Every now and then he took a swig from a big bottle of golden brown liquid that was in his pocket. I couldn’t read the label.
A guy with a shopping cart from Dollarama that already had some cat food and kitty litter inside took the place behind me. He told me he wanted to go and sit inside and asked me if I would watch his stuff. It was ironic and a bit funny that he was worried about someone stealing a shopping cart that had been stolen from Dollarama. I told him that I wasn’t going to take responsibility for his stuff but I pointed out that marking the two spots in line ahead of me was one cart and one backpack, neither of which was being watched and neither of which had been stolen. In fact, I have never seen anyone steal anyone’s unattended cart in what has probably been a hundred times now that I’ve been in the food bank line-up. He just reminded me that he was behind me and took the cart inside to sit down with it.
I wandered a little further west to avoid the smoke from nearby cigarettes and was greeted by the Polish man that I’d had conversations with the last two times I was at the food bank. The last time we’d talked he tried to tell me that Jews were to blame for the Russian Revolution. This time he started off by asking where I’d been. I explained that I’d had schoolwork to do. He wanted to know what I was studying and I said, “English”. “But you speak English already!” “English Literature”, I clarified. He told me he wants to move to Hamilton because Toronto is too expensive. He said he’s found a building where he wants to live in Hamilton with a Tim Horton’s and a park nearby and he’s on the waiting list for it with Ontario Housing. He’s been told that if he waits two more years till when he’s 65 it will speed up the process but he says he can’t wait that long. He’s changed his preferences from a specific floor to any floor and he’s hoping that will make things go faster.
I applied for Ontario Housing twenty years ago so that we could have a bigger place when my daughter was seven and first moved in with me. We were offered a few places over the next fourteen years but we didn’t like them. She grew up and moved out six or seven years ago. I’m still on the list but I just keep my name there as a back up in case something happens to cause me to lose my place. Earlier this year they offered me a place in a well-known cockroach and crack tower on Dunn Avenue but I said I’d rather be homeless than live there.
I pulled out my copy of the Norton Anthology of Romantic Literature and began re-reading William Blake’s "Book of Thel". It's a hard poem to figure out and people have been trying for centuries. I think it's meant to be a joke about people that are afraid of losing their virginity with a lesson in there that human sexuality is part of the overall cycle of life.
I finished re-reading Percy Shelley’s Preface to Prometheus Unbound. One thing that stands out is that he mentions Satan as being the hero of Milton’s Paradise Lost.
While I was reading, the drunken guy called over to ask what I was reading. I told him, “Romantic literature”. He said, “You’re smarter than the average stupid! I’m gonna read that book!” He came over to talk with me and once he was up close it was more obvious that he’d been in a fight. In fact, the reddish black marks looked more like he’d been repeatedly booted in the head rather than gotten punched. He repeated that I was “smarter than the average stupid” and declared that it’s good to know how to read. He told me that his cousin is in the band “Three Days Grace”; though if he dropped the name of the member he’s related to I didn’t pick it up. They’re from Peterborough though so maybe that’s his neck of the woods as well. He told me that someone had given him his motorcycle jacket last night while he was lying on the street. He said a guy put it on top of him and said, “This would look better on you!” He said he asked him “Why?” and he answered, “Because you look cold!” He told me, “People give me stuff because I talk to them!” He said, “I don’t do drugs, I just do alcohol … and I fight!” I commented, “It looks like you’ve been in a fight.” “Yeah, but I’m still standing!”
When the food bank was about to let people in, we got in line and it began to rain a bit. The drunken guy was about six places ahead of me. He turned and said to me again, “I’m gonna read that book! I read “War and Peace” in two days!” “You read War and Peace in two days?” “Well, three days.” “That’s a very big book!” “I just read the first volume. There are seven volumes. It’s about a war that my grandfather fought in, World War One!” I said, “War and Peace is not about World War One. It’s about a war between Russia and France”. He said, “I know, but I’m talking about a book that I want to write!”


He approached a middle-aged black-haired woman in glasses who was a few places ahead of him in line. She had been on the steps of 1501 Queen where the drunken guy had been sitting when I’d first arrived. At that time she’d seemed merely amusedly disgusted by his state. But now as he walked up to her in the line-up she turned to him and said, “Stay the fuck away from me or I’ll knock you out!” He politely moved back to his place in line.
A short and possibly homeless woman that I’ve seen on the streets ever since I moved back to Parkdale 22 years ago came up to the drunken guy. He turned and asked the guy behind him if it was okay to let her in front of him. The guy behind him said that she wouldn’t just be in front of him but twenty people. The drunken guy told her that she’d have to go to the back of the line. The guy behind me with the stolen shopping cart suddenly spoke up to the doorperson, Martina and complained that the drunken guy has been bothering everybody in line and that he’s been drinking from a bottle of Fireball in his pocket and that he should be at the back of the line. I corrected the shopping cart guy that the drunken guy had been there before me. Martina told the drunken guy that she couldn’t let him downstairs because he wasn’t making any sense. She said she would get him a bag of milk if he wanted. She also spoke to the homeless woman and told her that she had to go to the back of the line. I think the homeless woman might be a francophone because Martina added, “Tu fait quelques choses.” It means, “You do something” so I don’t know what Martina was trying to communicate. The drunken guy went inside and came out a few minutes later with a small bag of food.

I couldn’t understand why people were so annoyed by the drunken guy since as drunks go he was not obnoxious. It almost seemed that people felt like they could be freely pissed off at him because he was less dangerous than other drunks.
When I got downstairs, the regular volunteer at the reception desk was there with a skinny young man in glasses, who looked like he might be still in high school. They were watching with surprise a video and when I came up to the desk she explained that they were watching a video of the shopping crowds out for Black Friday in South Africa. I said, “I didn’t know they had Black Friday in South Africa. It’s barely even a thing in Canada!” The young guy was surprised when I told him that there was no Black Friday in Canada a few years ago. I think that 2008 was when Canadian stores first started having Black Friday sales because that year the Canadian dollar was at par in value with the US dollar and they wanted to keep Canadians spending on this side of the border.
The young guy was surprised that South Africa would have Black Friday because he’d thought it was a failed economy. I told him that South Africa is a very rich country, with diamond mines and gold mines. I guessed to myself that it was probably the richest or second richest country in Africa and I was right. Only Nigeria is richer in Africa and as a matter of comparison, South Africa has more than twice the GDP of Israel.
One of the volunteers on the shelves was a very tall and outgoing woman with short purple hair. I’ve seen her around the food bank before and she looks very familiar, though I can’t recall where I might have met her. She introduced the young man at the reception desk to someone as, “One of my children”.
The guy behind me with the stolen shopping cart told the receptionists that he was shopping for five extra people who live at his house though he couldn’t prove it. The woman at the desk said she’d take his word for it this time but he’d have to bring their cards in next time. I was still waiting to shop but the guy behind me asked the purple haired woman if there was any kitty litter in the back. She went back to the warehouse and brought him some litter. He said to her, “I want you to serve me when it’s my turn because I like you!”
At the top of the first set of shelves were small bags of “Kuna Pops”. They’re basically a puffed snack like cheese puffs but made with quinoa and chia. It’s a product of Ecuador by a company called Kunachia and “Kuna” means “welcome” in Quechua. I got three bags of three different flavours: spicy chilli, white cheddar and tomato and basil.
Below those were bags containing about 25 restaurant portions of various jams and jellies. On the next sets of shelves I got a can of chickpeas, a tin of tuna and a can of Italian Wedding soup. The big score from the shelves though was a 500 ml bottle of extra virgin olive oil.
At the dairy and meat station, Angie looked like she had a really bad cold. I turned down the lactose free milk, but I took the 650-gram container of cherry yogourt, a one-litre bottle of organic peach-mango smoothie and three small eggs. I didn’t want any frozen hot dogs or generic ground chicken. She offered me some hummus but then realized that what she had was some kind of tofu product. She gave me another bottle of the smoothie instead.
They’d moved the bread section so that it was between Angie and Sylvia’s stations. I grabbed a bag of a dozen flat buns to take home and freeze.
Sylvia offered me a choice between small or large potatoes. When it comes to food bank potatoes there’s a better chance that the larger spuds will be old or have bad parts, so I took a bag of about thirty little ones. She gave me three medium sized tomatoes that were in very good shape. She put three chubby broken carrots in my bag and it turned out that one of them had a rotten hole in it that left orange slime all over my bag. I got a small bunch of broccoli, two onions and a bag of blueberries.
All in all it wasn’t a bad haul from the food bank this time, though the food was quite a bit more generic than the characters in the lineup.

While I was reading, the drunken guy called over to ask what I was reading. I told him, “Romantic literature”. He said, “You’re smarter than the average stupid! I’m gonna read that book!” He came over to talk with me and once he was up close it was more obvious that he’d been in a fight. In fact, the reddish black marks looked more like he’d been repeatedly booted in the head rather than gotten punched. He repeated that I was “smarter than the average stupid” and declared that it’s good to know how to read.
Who Caused the Russian Revolution?
On Saturday morning I finished working out the guitar chords for Serge Gainbourg’s 1969 song “La vie est une belle tartine”, which is a weird song because the title sarcastically declares that “life is a beautiful slice” while each verse describes a different failed suicide attempt on the part of the singer. My English adaptation has the title, “Life Is A Beautiful Turdburger”.
The food bank line-up that morning was short as I expected it to be. The tall, slim man that looks like a gentle Charles Manson walked past me to the end of the line while I was locking my bike and so I was behind him.
Three places ahead was the Polish man with whom I’d had the conversation about milk the week before. Since we hadn’t had the time before for me to point out his misunderstanding about what the percentage means on milk labels, I explained this time that 1% milk doesn’t mean 1% of milk but of butterfat.
I told him that when I was young I used to drink milk straight from the cow. I offered the view that raw milk is much more nutritious. I think that I’m a healthier than average person but I would be only speculating if I were to claim that it has something to do with drinking raw milk while I was growing. I might simply be genetically healthier than average.
I’d brought with me a beat up copy of George Orwell's 1984 with the intention of leaving it someplace near the line-up for someone that interested person to find. I put the book down on the edge of the base of one of the columns in front of 1501 Queen Street West. My Polish acquaintance was curious about the book and I was surprised that he’d never heard of 1984. I explained that even though the book is describing a possible future it’s really about what was happening in 1948 in Russia with a totalitarian regime run by a supposedly adored ruler and government propaganda actually rewriting the history of society and changing the meaning of words.
Then my Polish friend started telling me what he thought caused the Russian Revolution (and I really wasn’t surprised all that much at all that this would be what this guy believed). First of all, he declared that both Stalin and Lenin were Jews and then he expanded on that to claim that the entire Russian Revolution had been a struggle between Jews and god. Yeesh! That conspiracy theory is almost as old as the one about Jews kidnapping Christian children and using them for blood sacrifices. Very few countries treated Jews as badly in the early 20th Century as the Russian Empire, so obviously when revolutionary movements began to form there would be some Jews that would support them, but only about 1.6% of the revolutionaries were actually Jewish. For the next ten years, before the Communist government began persecuting Jews all over again the number of Jewish members of the party had grown to about 6%. Hitler and the rest of the Nazis were the biggest believers in the canard of Jewish Bolshevism so it's very sad that there are dumb people still keeping the conspiracy alive. As for the claim that Lenin and Stalin were Jewish, the closest that comes to be true is that Lenin had a Jewish great-grandfather. There's no evidence that Stalin had any Jewish ancestry at all.
Then my companion moved the talk to South Africa and the claim that white farmers are being killed and their land is being taken away. He assured me that he knows this is true because he gets his news from Europe and European news is more accurate. That would depend on which news source one is getting one’s news from. Most of the people attacking the farms are looters and the violence is not politically or racially motivated. Black farmers and Black farm workers in South Africa are also victims of violent robberies.
I told him that he could have the George Orwell book if he wanted it and I think he took it. I wonder if he’ll read it and use it to fuel his racist theories. I have noticed over the last few years people from the far right quoting 1984 and claiming that the totalitarian society depicted in the story is the direction that the left rather than the right is going. That idea fits on the same shelf as the modern conservative notion that the Nazis were also left wing.
I went back to reading William Wordsworth’s poem in the Preludes about crossing the Alps on foot during his summer vacation from college.
Although it was a cool day I was comfortable in a hoody with my leather jacket on top the guy who looked like a gentle Charles Manson was sitting on the steps of 1501 Queen hugging himself and shivering in a t-shirt with his jacket across his lap. I asked him if he was deliberately trying to make himself cold but he shook his head.
“So why don’t you put your jacket on?”
He explained that his skin gets itchy when he’s wearing anything over his arms. I asked if it’s a specific fabric that causes the problem but he said any clothing does it. I inquired as to whether he’d gone to a dermatologist and he nodded. "So it's not an allergy?" "No" "You don't have psoriasis?" "No, I just have irritable skin.” He sat there shivering and scratching his arms.

For a first time in a couple of weeks, the food bank opened on time. After the line started moving, a young man and a young woman came out of the door of 1499 Queen, each pushing a three-tiered cart full of stacks of the kind of stainless steel divided dinner plates that they use in hospitals. These I assumed were what they use to serve meals at PARC but I’d never seen them bring them out on the street. Suddenly the woman's cart spilled about fifty of its plates onto the sidewalk. As she stooped to pick them up I commented that it was a good thing they weren’t real plates. The Charles Manson looking guy said, “That’s why they use those”.
I got downstairs at around 11:00. My volunteer at the shelves was a friendly young woman of East Asian descent.
From the top shelf, I grabbed a hand-filled bag of coffee beans. There were also bottles of red sesame oil, which I assumed were red because they were infused with hot pepper, but I didn’t take any.
Lower down was a variety of health bars. I took three white chocolate and macadamia nut Clif bars and three sweet and salty peanut butter coated granola bars. She gave me three more of the latter. I also picked a box of four Love Crunch gourmet chocolate and berry granola bars.
At the very bottom, there was no cereal but there were some bags of sunflower seeds in the shell. I was feeling too lazy to de-shell sunflower seeds and so I didn’t take any.
The next set of shelves had mostly canned beans and some large jars of peanut butter. I took one can of chickpeas but my volunteer gave me two more.
I didn’t take anything from the rice and pasta shelves.
Angie’s dairy and meat station was unoccupied because just before I’d gotten there she went away to do something on the other side of the room. I waited about a minute before a young man temporarily took charge of her section. I didn’t take any milk, but there was a 750-gram container of organic Greek yogourt that I grabbed. He gave me two bags of three eggs instead on one but as usual, I turned down the generic frozen ground chicken and hot dogs.
I had just moved on to get vegetables from Sylvia when Angie returned to ask, “Have you been taken care of young man?” I thanked her and said I had.
Sylvia gave me three potatoes, three carrots with interestingly branched roots, two red peppers, three large tomatoes, a cauliflower and a hand-filled bag of chopped green onions.
The bread that was on offer didn’t appeal to me and so I just left. It was nice to be done with the food bank early for a change.

Then my Polish friend started telling me what he thought caused the Russian Revolution (and I really wasn’t surprised all that much at all that this would be what this guy believed). First of all, he declared that both Stalin and Lenin were Jews and then he expanded on that to claim that the entire Russian Revolution had been a struggle between Jews and god.  
Bullets and Butterfat
On Saturday morning I almost finished working out the chords to Serge Gainsbourg’s “Comment te dire adieu” (How to say goodbye to you), which is a French version of the Arnold Goland song “It Hurts to Say Goodbye” written in 1954. The lyrics to the English song are incredibly boring and the song was sung as a ballad. But in 1967 an instrumental version of the song was done by Brazilian pianist and arranger Walter Wanderley in the Bossa Nova style. French singer Francoise Hardy heard this version and wanted some French lyrics to sing with it and so Gainsbourg wrote them. They are so much more creative and clever than the original, and so I’ve written an English version of the French version of the English lyrics that try to capture that same inventiveness with rhyme that Gainsbourg achieved. On top of that, I really love the Bossa Nova arrangement of the song and I’m looking forward to learning to play it.
Unlike the Saturday before it was too cool a day for wearing shorts and an undershirt in the food bank line-up, so I wore jeans and my motorcycle jacket. The line-up was about as long as the week before, which was a bit longer than usual. I’m guessing that next Saturday it’ll be shorter because it’ll be the end of the month. As is so often the case I was just behind Robbie’s cart and the person ahead of him was an older woman sitting on a rollator walker. She was wearing a shin-length dress over tights but the sleeves were short and I overheard her making a call to her son to tell him to bring her a jacket and to hurry.
I went downstairs to use the washroom and found the elderly regular Michael washing his hands. I asked him if he was still living in a shelter and he confirmed that it had been six months now. Ever since he told me a few months ago that he was in a shelter I’ve been curious how he cooks the food that he brings home from the food bank. This time I remembered to inquire and he answered that he doesn’t cook there at all. I asked if he only selects food at the food bank that he doesn't have to cook but he surprised me by telling me that he gives the food to a needy family, as all of his meals are prepared for him at the shelter.
I passed the time by reading several poems by William Wordsworth out loud, though not loud enough to be overheard very easily just sufficiently to take in the poems in a rhythmic way. It was chilly enough though that I had to wear my fall gloves while holding my book.
After half an hour the woman with the rollator was still hugging herself without a jacket. I asked her how far her son had to travel and she told me he was coming from West Lodge. That would have taken him ten minutes but she explained that he had to do the important thing first, which was to stop for coffee. I said, “I hope he’s bringing you one too!” but she shook her head and told me with sad amusement that there was no chance of that.
About an hour after she’d initially called him her son arrived with her jacket. He was a tall, dark-haired man who looked to be in his late 20s with a short, black Shenandoah beard like Abraham Lincoln’s. He stood in line with her and I wondered if he was going to shop at the food bank as well, which would have bothered me since that would be butting in. But it was possible that he was just there to help his mother carry her groceries home. He left and I asked her if she felt better now that she had her jacket. “Much better!” she told me with a smile. He came back with an extra large Tim Horton’s coffee and did give his mother a sip.   
It was close to 11:00 by the time the line started moving and there were about thirty people after me.
On the north side of Queen two men with carts were waiting to cross and both of them were wearing tank tops as if it wasn’t a cool day. One of them was very tall and burly and yet he’d managed to find a tan coloured tank shirt that was a couple of sizes too big for him. He was bald, wore glasses and shouted across the street, “Hey you with the stupid hat!” The guy behind me, who was wearing a normal looking baseball cap grinned and waved back. From beside the food bank van, the manager, Valdene called back to him, “They’re all wearing stupid hats!”  
The two men crossed and came up to talk with the man behind me. Valdene, who seemed to know them, came back and gave them each a cigarette. An old man whom I’ve seen at the food bank off and on since I started coming, and who always has a slightly amused expression on his face came up from the back of the line to hold a dime out to Valdene. She handed him a smoke but waved away the dime, telling him, “Ten cents can’t afford a cigarette anymore!” He responded, “But it’ll buy matches.” She argued, “No, you can’t even get matches for ten cents!” He assured her, "I know a place!"
The lady with the rollator and her son, plus Robbie and his sister and I were told we could go downstairs, but since they piled into the elevator and I took the stairs, I got to the food bank ahead of them. 

The shelves had a lot of the kinds of things that I didn’t need like single-serve coffee creamers, restaurant servings of peanut butter and cans of some kind of creamy cooking additive consisting mostly of evaporated milk and palm oil. At the bottom was still the hand-bagged granola and since I hadn’t opened my bag from last time I didn’t take any. The only things I grabbed from the first set of shelves were four white chocolate and macadamia nut Clif bars, a cranberry-orange cookie and a little bag of BelVita cocoa breakfast bites.
There were quite a few varieties of canned soup but only one of organic lentil.
From three kinds of tinned beans, I took the chickpeas.
Canned tuna was once again scarce.
Though I didn’t want any, I noticed that they were pretty low on rice and pasta as well. 
As I approached Angie’s dairy and meat station she called everyone’s attention to the bread section and said, “All the bread is fresh today!” She offered me a bag of 2% milk and I told her I didn’t want it, then she asked if I wanted some cartons of 2% and I said no thanks and finally some skim, which I also turned down. She said, “I guess we went through all that to find out you didn’t want any milk!” She gave me eight single servings of probiotic yogourt and a 225g container of pearl couscous salad with peppers, onions and currants. As usual lately, I turned down the generic frozen chicken and the frozen chicken wieners. Angie asked, “We good?” I thanked her and moved on to Sylvia’s vegetable section.
Instead of loose or bagged potatoes, Sylvia handed me a package of about thirty pre-washed but uncooked creamer potatoes that came with a seasoning pack of dehydrated onion, sea salt, garlic powder and chives. The package was a foil tray with a transparent top around which was a cardboard sleeve with a name “The Little Potato Companyshin-length headquartered in Edmonton. The potatoes inside didn’t look as well washed as the ones in the picture on the package and they smelled like dirt, so I’ll give the “pre-washed” spuds a scrub before I cook them. One is supposed to put a couple of tablespoons of oil on top of the potatoes, sprinkle them with the seasoning and then bake or barbecue them in the foil tray. It costs about $5.29 in the supermarket for this product, so it’s basically three times the price of the ingredients, which are all very easy to find separately, and so one is dark-haired paying for the packaging and the company’s lousy wash job.
Sylvia also gave me two short and thick carrots, a small cauliflower and two red bell peppers that were in much better shape than the peppers I’ve gotten for the last few weeks. She shrugged and gave me an apologetic look over how little she had to offer this time.
I walked over and perused the bread section and everything looked fresh as Angie had said, but there was nothing that really jumped out at me and I go through bread so slowly these days that I had to put a loaf in the freezer.
On my way down the hall, a man in his late sixties who I see pretty much every week there and who I think might be from Poland asked me why I don’t drink milk. I explained that I do drink milk but I just use the 1%. He argued that there’s no real difference between 2% and 1%. Obviously there’s a difference since 1% has half the fat of 2%. For a person that drinks three cups of milk a day if they switched from 2% to 1% they could lose 2.5 kg in a year. He declared, "If you were living on a farm you would be drinking 100%!" I didn't argue with him because I wasn’t really thinking about what he was claiming, but he seemed to be under the impression that 1% milk contains 1% of milk and 99% water and didn't realize that the percentage count is of butterfat. On average, even whole, raw farm milk straight from the cow is not going to be more than 4%. Even if you melted European butter and drank it you would only be getting 82% butterfat. The only way to have 100% is to clarify the butter, which basically turns it into cooking oil that no longer has the characteristics of milk. As he waited for the elevator and I opened the door to the stairs I told him that I was raised on a farm. He smiled and said, “So you know!”
As I was unlocking my bike, the tall, burly man with the floppy tank shirt was still in line and telling someone about all the times he’s been shot. He indicated one area where a bullet creased his neck and also claimed that another shot was the reason he doesn’t have an Adam’s apple. He added that he still has a bullet in his leg that they couldn’t remove, declaring, “Yes it does set off metal detectors!”
On average, even whole, raw farm milk straight from the cow is not going to be more than 4%. Even if you melted European butter and drank it you would only be getting 82% butterfat. 
Saturday morning was so warm that I envisioned standing in line at the food bank in jeans and Blundstones to be very uncomfortable. So I dug a pair of shorts out of the laundry basket and exposed my ugly toenails in sandals before heading over there. On the way, though I realized that I’d forgotten to put my denture in and so when I got to the already much longer than usual line I removed my backpack and put it behind Robbie’s cart, and then I rode back home to get my false tooth. I was taking a risk because my backpack contains my wallet and all my identification as well as my camera. But it was still there when I got back and I’ve never seen anyone in the line-up messing with anyone else’s stuff anyway. I wouldn’t make a habit of leaving it there though and I put it back on as soon as possible.
I took out my copy of the Norton Anthology of English Literature: The Romantic Period and began reading William Wordsworth’s preface to “Lyrical Ballads”, the book of poems that he co-wrote with Samuel Taylor Coleridge. The preface became a manifesto of the Romanticist philosophy and stressed that poetry must come from intense emotion experienced in response to quotidian life and that common language is the best way to express it after quiet reflection. Something tells me Wordsworth wouldn’t have been down with freestyle rap.
Valdene was walking along and handing out a sheet of paper to everyone. I took it because I thought it might have relevant inform about a possible change in the food bank schedule or procedure, but it was something she’d printed from a website explaining "best before" dates on food products. It seemed kind of insulting to me that she would think it was her place to inform everyone on the matter. She could legitimately keep copies of the sheet downstairs and make them available to anyone that has questions about best before dates. If she’d really felt the need to hand the sheets out she could have explained what kind of information was on them before giving them to anyone. There is arrogance to just distributing them to everybody because it’s like saying, “I know something you don’t know and need to know!” It would be like me writing up instructions on how poetry should be written and read and then passing them out to everyone at every poetry reading I went to. On top of that, she’d wasted half of each sheet of paper because they were all blank on one side. I considered taking it home just to make use of the other side but then I decided, hypocritically I guess, to throw the sheet in the garbage. I started walking east in the direction of the bin, though not directly towards it. Valdene seemed to read my mind because she intercepted me and said, “Don’t put it in the garbage! Give it to me!” I hadn’t been watching but maybe some others had tossed theirs. She was right that I should have just given my sheet back to her rather than thinking about trashing it.
I was surprised to see Lana in the line-up rather than volunteering. She gave me a tap on the arm and asked, “How’s it goin?” I inquired if she was no longer involved with the food bank and she shook her head. I wondered if it was because of that situation a couple of weeks before when the other volunteer had called her “stupid”. She confirmed that to be the case. She said, “I’ve been volunteering all my life!” She recounted how she’d started her own food bank years ago at Scarborough Court and had gotten two citations for her work in volunteering.
I asked if she was going to try to get work at another food bank and she answered that she wants to work at the main food bank in the west end near Islington but right now she has to baby-sit for her daughter while she’s in school. She said, “You’ve seen my daughter” and told me that she used to volunteer sometimes when the food bank was at King and Cowan. She said her daughter was the Black girl that used to help Sylvia with the bread, but I said that might have been before I started coming.
Lana recounted how her youngest grandchild, Malachi, had caused a big scare when he was three years old in pre-school. He’d decided he didn’t want to be there and decided to go home and watch TV. He was quite a ways from home and wouldn’t have known the way but he left school and started running anyway. After a few blocks a woman saw him all by himself, grabbed his hand and led him back to the school.
Lana mentioned that she’s from out west and I asked her if she was Haida. She informed me that her people are next to the Haida and used to fight wars with them. I wasn’t familiar with the name of her nation but I think she said she was Tsimshia, which would make sense in terms of fighting with the Haida because the Haida are on Haida Gwaii (also known as the Queen Charlotte Islands) and Tsimshia territory is on the mainland directly across the Hecate Straight from those islands. Lana declared of the Haida, “Tough people!”

I told her that I used to have a girlfriend that was Haida. Her name was Gerry and she had a lot of sisters, all of whom worked at the same fish canning plant in Vancouver. I recounted for Lana how I’d met Gerry. I was hanging around Granville Street near the Orpheum Theatre with my friend Greg and we were having a running and jumping contest to see which of us could touch the underside of the Orpheum marquee. Unbeknownst to us, Gerry and her sister Janice were sitting on a bench and watching us. They had already worked out between them that Gerry would get the guy that touched the marquee first. Of course I was the winner and almost immediately Gerry came up and grabbed me by the arm.

Lana asked what happened to the relationship and I told her that Gerry wanted me to get a job at the place where she worked and I wanted to live a Bohemian lifestyle on the street and so she moved on to more practical relationships.
Lana is actually the first west coast Native I’ve ever seen in Ontario. I inquired whether she’s ever gone back to British Columbia and she explained that for the first ten years of her daughter’s life the father had a court order that wouldn’t allow her to take her kid out of Ontario. After that she did take her out west for a while but her daughter experienced a lot of racism in BC because she’s half Black and she had a hard time making friends, so they came back here.
At around 10:30 Lana moved back to her place in line, which was about ten spots ahead of mine. She said, “Pray for me!” “Pray for you? Why?” “Because all the volunteers are staring at me!”
A couple of places ahead of me in line were a middle-aged couple that I’ve seen in the neighbourhood for years. She’s of East Indian descent probably by way of Trinidad or Guyana while he’s of European ancestry. They stand out because they look so good together, as she puts a lot of care into her clothing and his grey moustache is always well clipped. They look like they were both probably quite stunning not too long ago. A few times he stepped away from her and was hacking violently while she calmly nagged about him smoking too much.
It was after 11:00 by the time I got downstairs. I had to wait a couple of minutes because there was a bit of a jam of clients shopping the shelves and there were only two volunteers in that section.
From the shelves I got a bag of pumpkin spice with turmeric coconut chips; three Quaker strawberry breakfast squares; three Super Food dark chocolate, cranberry and almond bars; a hand-filled bag of granola; a tin of chickpeas and a can of pomegranate soda.
Angie wasn’t there this time and minding her dairy, meat and egg station was a young man who sometimes volunteers at the shelves. I didn’t take the two liters of milk he offered but I got four single servings of fruit bottom yogourt, three eggs and a choice between a tub of cottage cheese and a pack of pressed, dry cottage cheese. I picked the pressed kind because it was more out of the ordinary for the food bank.
Sylvia gave me ten small red potatoes; five stubby little mangled carrots, two cobs of corn; an avocado that I could tell was probably black inside and an orange pepper that I would have to do major amputation surgery on to get the good parts. In a box I saw some chayotes and asked Sylvia if I could take one. She exclaimed, “You know what those are?” I said, “I also know that their name means something else.” She laughed and said, “In Jamaica we call them cho-cho” and so I’m pretty sure that she knew that cho-cho is also a slang term for vagina. She said I could take two.
There was nothing in the bread section besides white loaves and buns and so I bypassed that section and left. Outside I noticed that bags of bagels were being handed out from the food bank van but I didn’t bother to take any.

My bike was in front of PARC and while I was unlocking it, right next to me the middle-aged interracial couple that had been in the line-up was getting into their car. It was an old, low-end automobile but it was the first time I’d noticed someone with a car at the food bank.
Lana mentioned that she’s from out west and I asked her if she was Haida. She informed me that her people are next to the Haida and used to fight wars with them. I wasn’t familiar with the name of her nation but I think she said she was Tsimshia, which would make sense in terms of fighting with the Haida because the Haida are on Haida Gwaii (also known as the Queen Charlotte Islands) and Tsimshia territory is on the mainland directly across the Hecate Straight from those islands. Lana declared of the Haida, “Tough people!”
Bad Back at the Back of the Line-Up
From my bed very early on Saturday morning I heard unfamiliar voices in the hallway. One of them was a woman but one with a Canadian accent and not Jamaican like my neighbour Nicky. I’ve been wondering if Nicky moved out or if she just went away again, as I didn’t see her around at all for most of the summer. She was back briefly in August but then I saw three or four big suitcases packed and sitting outside her door on August 31 and I haven’t seen her since. So when I heard the unfamiliar voices in the hall I thought that maybe someone new was moving in. I fell asleep and dreamed that I had new neighbours that were Ontario white trash and lived entirely on chocolate bars. In reality, the unfamiliar voices were probably just questionable people that my upstairs neighbour David let into the building.
Before going to the food bank I wanted to print a copy of “I Wandered Lonely As A Cloud” by William Wordsworth to read while waiting in the line-up because that’s the first piece we’ll be covering in my Romantic Literature class that begins on Wednesday. But I didn't have time to track down that particular piece and so I just printed Wordsworth's bio and part of the first poem in the anthology.

It was a lot cooler in the apartment than it has been since the spring. It looked like it might warm up outside as the morning matured but I decided to play it safe and so I wore pants for the first time in a long time and stuffed a long-sleeved shirt into my backpack. I was a couple of minutes later leaving than usual.

I was just walking my bike off the sidewalk when my next-door neighbour, Benji called after me. He said something about the key and the lock and so I thought that he’d locked himself out again. I came back to open the door but he told me that my key wouldn’t work because someone in the building had broken their key and so it was stuck in the lock. He said he'd come downstairs to get a coffee and then discovered that he couldn’t get back in and so he'd been waiting for someone to come out so he could get back in but when I came out he didn’t see me from inside the donut shop until I'd already closed the door.

He’d called our landlord, who lives in Burlington and he would be coming later. Meanwhile if we could get to the backyard of the building next door we could get up to our deck by way of their fire escape. I once waited two hours outside when I forgot my key and only when I saw a woman entering the building next door was I able to ask her for help getting access to the back. She let me in through the garage in the alley and I was able climb the fire escape and cross over to our roof to reach my place. But since we didn’t have contact information for any of the tenants next door we'd have to wait for someone to enter. We could also wait for the sushi place to open and ask to go out through their back door. Since that might be a few hours away, I went to the food bank.

When I got there and opened my backpack to get my bike lock out I immediately put my long sleeved shirt on. I noted that my place in line was behind the empty purplish grey backpack that was lying on the sidewalk behind the row of carts. I buttoned my shirt and thought that I really should have brought my jacket as well.

There was a strong breeze from the east blowing down the line and there were people smoking almost up to the east end of the block, so the second hand smoke was getting to me no matter where I went. They should develop a harmless chemical to put in the tobacco that will turn second hand smoke a bright colour like red so that people that don't want to inhale it can see where it’s streaming on the wind and avoid it.

I read about the life of William Wordsworth. He and his friend, Samuel Taylor Coleridge pretty much invented poetic Romanticism. He was an avid hiker and traveled that way all over Europe, especially France where he fell in love with a French girl and got her pregnant. The political situation and his financial situation wouldn’t allow him to bring Marie and his child to England so he had to leave them in France. He did support his daughter though. He was very sympathetic to the French Revolution but disillusioned by its aftermath.

I read a little more of Flaubert’s "The Legend of St Julian the Hospitaler". Julian, as a mercenary general rescues an Asian kingdom from a conquering caliph and is given the king's beautiful daughter for his wife. He settles down but refuses to hunt for fear that he will accidentally somehow kill his parents and fulfill the prophecy. Finally though he can’t stand it anymore and goes hunting. While he is gone an elderly, hungry and destitute man and woman arrive at his door and Julian’s wife receives them. They reveal themselves to be Julian's parents. That's as far as I got but my guess is that he comes home thinking that they are invaders and kills them in the dark.

The person behind me in line was an older, short and slim Polish man who smokes a lot. He complained to me that he was in extreme back pain. I asked him if he'd gone to see a doctor but he waved the idea away and shook his head. I think that meant he’d been to the doctor but it didn’t do him any good. He said he'd had some massage but when I asked if it had helped him I didn't get a clear answer. I inquired if he'd been given any exercises to do and he dismissed that as well. I told him that if I didn’t exercise every day my back would be in pain as well.

Behind the Polish man was the African woman that up until two weeks ago had brought a white metal basket cart and last time was pulling a black spinner suitcase. This time though she had a cart that looked like an orange milk crate that had been somewhat expanded and considerably heightened with added wheels and a pull up handle on one side. I teased her that she must have a home full of carts. She laughed and assured me she doesn’t and that she'd just bought this one out of a need for something lighter than the metal cart. I assume then that the suitcase had been a temporary solution and she wouldn’t regularly want to carry food in something she uses for her clothing.

Between 1499 Queen, where the food bank is and the apartment building at 1501 Queen is a meter-wide lane blocked by a vertically slatted wooden gate where obviously some people pee at night. On the sidewalk in front of the gate, someone has scratched the message: “I’m Not Down w Doug Ford”.

I didn’t check the time but it seemed to me that the line started moving close to the proper time of 10:30.

As has been the case lately there wasn’t much variety on the shelves. My volunteer in that section was the nervous Ukrainian lady whose name I think is Marlena. On the top shelf, there were boxes of gourmet tea with the word "maple" in it but since it didn't have the words "Earl Grey" I didn't want it. Instead, I grabbed a small bag of coffee. She said, "The boss is here, please, I take for you! Don’t take yourself!" Since not a single other volunteer cares if a client takes the items themselves or not, even when the boss is there, I ignored her request, unless she was standing next to the item I wanted. For someone that frequently tells clients to “hurry up" it seemed like a waste of time for me to back away from an item just so she could step in and take it for me. She didn’t say anything about it again.

Below the tea and coffee there were some tortilla chips and some cookies. I just took another bag of coffee and she gave me two more since I hadn't taken anything else.

On the bottom shelf was some granola and a bag of organic multi-grain flakes, and I took the latter.

From the usual selection of canned beans, I selected my usual can of chickpeas. I like to have them cold with chopped garlic, olive oil, salt and a little paprika. The first time I had them that way was back in the early 80s when I was living in the Annex. At that time, on the corner of Spadina and Queen there was a restaurant where I used to hang out with some friends, and though it’s Greek owner didn't call it a "Greek restaurant” there were some Greek items on the menu, such as garbanzos served in that way.

Below the beans, for the first time in several weeks there were cans of tuna. Marlena made sure I took the Ocean’s flake light tuna in water rather than the No Name brand because she said it was better.

Between the canned goods and the pasta was some kind of spice or grain, hand-bagged, with each bag amounting to about the size of a softball. I asked her what it was. She answered, “It’s cumin, but you probably don’t cook!" "You don't think I cook?” She responded defensively, “Well, I don't want to cook!" Her response implied that she was at the reluctant end of the cooking spectrum and that I couldn’t possibly be inside of it with her. I’ve been known to make a curry from scratch and so I took the bag of cumin seeds.

From Angie’s section, I didn't want the 2% milk, but I got 750 grams of Liberté organic yogourt. She gave me the usual three eggs but when I turned down the typical offerings of frozen ground chicken, hot dogs and vegetarian cheese, she dug behind her in the fridge and gave me a frozen General Tso chicken dinner. General Tso chicken is a spicy Hunan style dish created in the 1970s by a Taiwanese chef in the 1970s and named after the renowned 19th Century military leader and statesman of the Qing dynasty who was from the Hunan region of China.

Sylvia offered me potatoes but I thought I had half a bag left at home and turned them down. It turns out that I should have taken some because most of the spuds in the bag have gone soft. She gave me a bundle of scallions that had gotten slimy as a fry of eels. Later I peeled off the rotten leaves, washed them, bagged them and put them in the freezer. Sylvia also gave me two large field tomatoes that were mostly firm.

The bread shelves had a pretty good selection but I only grabbed a pizza-sized fokachio romana rosemary and onion bread. I felt sorry for it because it had broken up into about six pieces inside the bag but I thought it might go well with my eggs.

As I was unlocking my bike there were only four people left in the line-up.
The person behind me in line was an older, short and slim Polish man who smokes a lot. He complained to me that he was in extreme back pain. I asked him if he'd gone to see a doctor but he waved the idea away and shook his head. I think that meant he’d been to the doctor but it didn’t do him any good. 
Plastic Pigs and Fake Bacon
On Saturday I pulled a muscle in my thigh while doing yoga. The movement I did was the same one I’ve been doing every day for more than twenty years. During the fourth part of the Sun Salutation exercise, from a standing position, with my body bent forward and my palms on the floor beside my feet, I stretched my right leg as behind me as far as it would go. For the first time in 100,000 times of doing the stretch, I suddenly felt a little tear in my thigh. I was able to do the movement eleven more times as usual but it ached each time. For most of the other poses that I do in my hour of yoga I didn't have any discomfort, but afterward, it bothered me a bit while walking but not while riding my bike to the food bank.


The line-up was a little shorter than usual. I found my place behind Robbie’s cart. Robbie sat down on the steps of 1501 Queen and lit one of his almost constant cigarettes. Tammy, who was sitting on the other side of the steps asked, “Can I have one?" but in a slightly teasing voice that showed that she knew what his answer would be. “No!" Then he told her, "I'm goin to camp next weekend.” I think he was referring to the annual camp for members of the Parkdale Activity-Recreation Centre (PARC). Tammy asked, "Did you go last year?" "Yeah" "Was it fun?" "No!" “Then why do you want to go again?” "It's a different camp this year." I think that previous years it had been at the Sparrow Lake Camp in the Muskokas, which is run by the United Church. This year it will be at Camp Pine Crest in the same region, which is a YMCA camp. The PARC members’ camp tends to be a four-day outing.


The African woman arrived that had been behind me last week, though I didn’t see her white cart with the snowman bag inside. She was going along the line and moving everyone's unattended carts forward.


Wayne was hanging around, though he didn’t seem to be in line for the food bank. He was probably waiting for PARC to open. He had a little pink squeaky pig that he kept squeezing and talking about. He teased Robbie with it and asked him if he thought it looked like him. “Shut up Wayne! It looks like you!” Then Wayne looked at me and asked if I thought it looked like him. I just smiled because I couldn’t think of anything clever to say in response.


Someone was walking by with a Golden Retriever and Wayne just happened to have a doggy treat in his pocket. He held it out and almost gave it to the big dog but pulled his hand back several times and said, “Not my fingers!" Finally, he let it take the morsel from his hand.


There’s a middle-aged man of east Asian descent whom I've seen on the street for twenty years and who hangs around PARC. Up until recently I’d always seen him with bleached hair but now it’s back to its natural colour. Wayne sent him across the street to the variety store to buy some of those fifty cent lottery cards and he gave him a couple for his trouble.


Around 10:30 when we all started to get in line, the African woman was standing behind Robbie’s cart. I approached to let her know that I was ahead of her but she disputed it. She said she hadn’t seen me when she’d gotten there. She asked if I'd seen her and I confirmed that I'd watched her moving the carts. She said that was what she’d wanted to know and she was satisfied then that I'd been there. Instead of her usual white basket cart she had a black spinner suitcase. I asked her where her white cart was. She said that the cart had been too big for the amount of food she’d gotten last week and the one she had today was easier to carry.


An African guy came up and said to me, “It's the first of the month!" I thought for a second and agreed that it was. He said, “That’s why there are so many people in line.” I told him, “There are less people in line this week than last week because people have gotten their cheques." He didn't think that everyone had gotten their social assistance payments. I told him that I couldn’t speak for ODSP but that I'd gotten my Ontario Works deposit. It would have been very unusual if all the payments hadn’t been made by the end of the month.


As usual, the old guy with the cart stopped beside the line-up to go through the sidewalk garbage and recycling bin. I noticed that he found one doubled-over beer can that he placed in the larger section of his basket. For the long cigarette butt that he’d picked out, he pulled from a pocket of his cart a folding tobacco pouch into which he carefully squeezed the contents of the butt. As I watched him continue west for the next bin, the African guy looked at me, shook his head and exclaimed in a low voice, "Horrible!" I didn't say anything but I didn’t really think of it in that way. I was just impressed with how organized the guy is. It seems to me that people that go around helping the city recycle should be getting paid by the government.
It was almost 11:00 by the time Marlene started letting people in.
I hadn’t seen the volunteer that helped me at the shelves before, but she was pleasant.
As has been the case for the last few weeks, the selection on the shelves was very limited. There were some boxes of Bacon Dippers crackers on the top. Personally, I don’t think that anything besides bacon should be bacon flavoured. Besides, they don’t even contain bacon but rather "artificial smoked meat flavour" which is created by combining yeast, flour, salt, soy protein and smoke flavour. Instead, I took a half a cup sized package of mountain coffee. At the bottom was a bin of cookies and bars but nothing healthy looking. There was though a misplaced bag of the same coffee I’d gotten from the top, so I took that. There were a few boxes of Chex cereal and a bag of some kind of sugared cereal flakes, but I didn't find them attractive. There were lots of cans of chickpeas, black beans and peas, so I took the garbanzos. The lentil soup was the last can on the soup shelf and I grabbed that. Finally, I got a small bottle of honey water with lemon.
I didn’t want any of Angie’s 2% milk but I said I’d take the yogourt. She handed me one four-pack of raspberry Greek yogourt and another of what looked like yogourt for kids. I asked if I could trade for another Greek yogourt and so I got the strawberry rhubarb.
She offered me some sour cream but the first two tubs on top of the pile of three were smeared with sour cream on the outside and I didn’t want to make my backpack all messy. I reached for the clean container on the bottom while Angie was trying to scrape the sour cream off the top one. She told me that I'd made her get her hands messy, but maybe it was a joking complaint. She gave me three eggs but I turned down the usual frozen ground chicken, hot dogs and vegetarian cheese. Just as I was moving on to Sylvia's section Angie asked if I was sure I didn’t want any milk but I told her I wasn't drinking the 2% because I'm overweight. Sylvia gave me a smile and said, "I was just gonna say …!" I said, “I went to the doctor yesterday and got weighed.”
Sylvia told me to take what I wanted. There were tomatoes, potatoes and onions but I still had some of all of those things at home. She gave me a pack of three heads of garlic, a two-fisted hunk of ginger root, a red pepper, a lemon and a package of frozen vegetable rice primavera.
The bread section was unsupervised again. There were some nice loaves but I didn’t really need much bread so I just grabbed a bag of date and chia breakfast buns to put in my freezer.

My bag seems to be getting lighter these days with every time I leave the food bank.
He had a little pink squeaky pig that he kept squeezing and talking about. He teased Robbie with it and asked him if he thought it looked like him. “Shut up Wayne! It looks like you!”
Public Urination
Just like the Saturday before, my place in the food bank line was behind the African woman with the snow-white cart that was lined with the Christmas bag. The next person after me was the angry guy with the prematurely grey hair, who slapped down his blue gym bag on the sidewalk behind me and then stormed away. The line was already longer than usual, as we were just west of the steps of 1501 Queen. Brenda and Tammy were sitting on the steps and Angie came out from downstairs to show them some photos of her sons and grandchildren. She said she’d been married for six years, long enough to have two kids, but he was very quiet and she was very loud and it just didn’t work out.
I was about to start reading my book when Moe walked by, said hi and continued on. I felt the urge to pee and so I went downstairs to the washroom. When I came back Moe was chatting near the entrance with a guy in sunglasses who looks like P. Diddy and whom I’ve seen many times at the food bank line-up. I walked over to them and Moe was talking about his plan to go backpacking in South America after his eye surgery is finished. I suggested that he wouldn’t be going to Venezuela but he wondered why not. He said it’s right next to his home country of Guyana. I said, “It’s pretty rough down there right now” but he responded by advising me not to believe the media. He said the US has its own reasons for painting Venezuela in a negative light. He said it’s safe as long as you keep your eyes open, mind your own business and don't act like you're from a different class. He said he would first go home to Guyana and travel from there with a bodyguard and a gun. He said you’re allowed to carry guns down there. According to my research, this isn't true for most countries in Latin America and especially not in Venezuela. No citizens are legally allowed to own guns now in Venezuela. Even if his bodyguard has a gun permit in Guyana he’d have a hard time bringing it anywhere else in South America. I think you need a work permit to get a gun permit in most places. Moe said he was in Venezuela in 2008 and I think he mentioned knowing people there. From what I’ve read, in addition to needing to be extremely aware of one’s surroundings the most important thing for someone visiting Venezuela is to know someone there because it’s absolutely essential to have a native to exchange money on the black market for you. It’s considered to be a great travel experience but more for seasoned adventurers than for tourists.
I asked Moe if he’d ever been to Peru and he answered no, but he’s had a couple of Peruvian girlfriends. He said that Peruvians are the best counterfeiters in the world. This is apparently true. Sometimes entire neighbourhoods are supported by some sort of counterfeiting industry, whether of money, driver’s licenses, passports or university diplomas.
I told him that when I lived in Parkdale in the late 80s there was a Canadian born woman named Judy across the hall from me who’d just come back from living several years in Peru. She’d been in a common-law marriage with a Peruvian man who was both a general and a judge and had two children with him. When she left him she brought her 14-year-old daughter, Mia, to Canada. She told me the story about Mia having been kidnapped and held for ransom by a Peruvian gang but that the police had caught the crooks and saved her daughter. Instead of trying the kidnappers in a court of law, the police asked Judy for the appropriate punishment. She told them to take them over the jungle in a helicopter and to push them out, so that’s what they did.
The guy that looks like P. Diddy said that he is looking into applying for, unless I didn’t hear him correctly, an IMF grant so he can open a studio, though I didn’t think to ask what kind of studio he has in mind. If he really thinks he can apply for an International Monetary Fund grant he’s the victim of a scam, since the IMF doesn’t give grants to people, but only to countries. Maybe he said “CMF”, which is the Canadian Media Fund. Moe said he might have a problem getting a grant if he has a criminal record. The guy said he got into trouble when he was younger but when he asked the police recently to call up his criminal record they couldn’t find anything.
Just then, a skinny and disheveled old man whom I see every Saturday wandering around zombielike as he waits for PARC to open, walked to the far left corner of the slightly set-in sheltered area on each side of and above the entrance to the food bank, unzipped his fly and started urinating. While the stream of piss flowed into the crack between sidewalk tiles, traveled west and then ran north towards us like a precise irrigation canal, the guy that looks like P. Diddy walked over and gave the old man a kick in the behind. He began to chastise him about children being around and why didn’t he just go downstairs to use the washroom. The old man zipped up and calmly admitted, "I should've done that." As the elderly man was walking away, Moe asked him, “You want something from me too?" I suggested that he doesn't know any better. "Moe said, "Well, at least he won't do it around us any more!” I said that I doubted that would have any impact on him. I argued, “He’s an old man. If he’s doing that kind of thing at his age he’s probably done it a hundred times, with similar reactions. I doubt very much if you taught him any kind of lesson here.” The guy that had kicked him nodded, it seemed in agreement.
I don’t know why he implied that what they old man had done was particularly wrong because children might see. The idea that children should be sheltered from seeing someone urinate on the street reflects something sicker about our society than does an old man taking a piss in a public place. We don’t seem to mind our kids seeing squirrels squashed on the road but a carelessly exposed penis is something that they should never behold? We have warped priorities.
It was after 10:30 and so I decided that I’d better take my place in line, though Marlena hadn’t let anybody in yet.
I started reading my book but I heard someone call out, “Christian! What are you doin here?” It was Dennis, one of the keyholding volunteers at Bike Pirates. I told him I was there for the food bank and I guessed that he was there for the Tool Library. He said he was almost late for work and I was surprised. “You’re not going to Bike Pirates today?” He explained that he’d gotten a job through another volunteer at Bike Pirates. He said, “I got hired by the Kensington Market Business Association to walk around with a broom and a bag and sweep up garbage!” Then he came up close to tell me, “And they’re paying me $17 an hour to do it!” 
Dennis left his Norco bike with the trailer on the back leaning against a pole and didn’t bother to lock it when he went downstairs to the Tool Library. When he came back five minutes later and was putting the netting back over his trailer, I commented that it sounds like a pleasant job, to just walk around Kensington Market on a Saturday. He responded in almost a whisper, “I check out the ladies!” I don’t know why he lowered his voice at that point as if it was politically incorrect to be attracted to women. Dennis pedaled east for the Market.
I returned to my book but then a guy from the back of the line came up to me and asked what I was reading. The first time that I’d spoken with him was a few weeks ago and he'd approached me then to ask the exact same question. I showed him the cover and then specified that I was reading Flaubert. He responded with, “Ooh la la!” Then he declared, “I don’t know why I'm here!" "You don't know why you're here?" "Maybe it's because I'm drunk!" He went on to explain that his freezer recently became packed with steaks and salmon that somebody gave him and so he shared, “I don’t really need anything from the food bank, except for maybe some onions." He decided to leave.
I managed to read a page of the story, “St Julian the Hospitaler”. After Julian ran away from home out of fear of fulfilling the prophecy that he would kill his parents, he joined a band of Christian mercenaries and soon became the general of his own army that wandered the world defeating evildoers and the enemies of Christianity, including Troglodytes. He was always cautious though never to kill someone without first seeing his face for fear of accidentally slaying his father.
Whenever the line moved and I stepped forward the bitter guy behind me would get up long enough to kick his gym bag forward, often hard enough that it would hit me, and then he would sit down again.

It was after 11:00 by the time I got downstairs.
This time I remembered to return the Atkins peanut butter-chocolate bars, sweetened with sucralose, that I’d forgotten to bring back over the last two weeks. The best before date is for the end of November of this year, so there was no reason for them not to give them to someone else. Unless of course, one takes into consideration that sucralose was discovered accidentally by scientists that were employed by the military to develop chemical weapons.
There was even less stuff on the shelves this time than last week. The top shelf had some Nabob coffee pods and a fancy box of chamomile tea, but I didn’t need any coffee badly enough to break open pods to get at it and I have enough tea.
The only granola bar type snacks were more Atkins bars of different varieties. There was also no cereal and no tuna.
I took a bag of chipotle wheat and potato chips.
On one shelf there was a wide variety of spices in those little jars that tend to fit onto spice racks. My volunteer made sure to let me know that she had lined up along the front of the shelf every type of spice they had, so I didn’t need to dig around behind to see if there was anything else. I've got a pretty complete collection of spices at home but I ran out of black pepper a few weeks ago, so I looked for that but found none. The only spice they had that I didn’t were spearmint leaves, so I took a jar of those.
As usual I took a can of chickpeas and as usual, I didn’t take any pasta or rice.
The final item I got from the shelves was a 355 ml bottle of honey water with lemon.
Angie seemed surprised that I didn’t want milk, although I've been turning down the 2% for several weeks now. I explained that I was trying to watch my weight. She said, “You're watchin your figure eh?" and gave me four extra small containers of fruit bottom yogourt. Angie was about to offer me a choice between two flavours of sausage when she suddenly realized she’d forgotten that she'd been in the middle of serving someone else. Dana said that I could finish but I insisted that she and Angie finish their business. Then Angie asked, “Now, where were we?" I told her she was about to give me some spicy sausage. It was a sizable hunk of sausage that was as wide as bologna. She also gave me three extra eggs because I hadn't taken any milk.
Sylvia offered me a bag of potatoes but I still have lots. She gave me two fistfuls of plum tomatoes, a cantaloupe, a dark red delicious apple, two cucumbers, a 680-gram bag of sugar snap peas and a small bag of what looked like frozen hand chopped squash.
There was no one minding the bread section this time and Lana wasn’t there. Neither was the young woman she'd had the argument with last time. There wasn’t much of a selection this time, as all of the loaves were white, crusty and boring. I found a bag of apple-cinnamon breakfast buns though and left.
There were still about twenty people in the line-up when I unlocked my bike and headed home. 

Apparently, the young Just then, a skinny and disheveled old man whom I see every Saturday wandering around zombielike as he waits for PARC to open, walked to the far left corner of the slightly set-in sheltered area on each side of and above the entrance to the food bank, unzipped his fly and started urinating. While the stream of piss flowed into the crack between sidewalk tiles, traveled west and then ran north towards us like a precise irrigation canal, the guy that looks like P. Diddy walked over and gave the old man a kick in the behind.
It's Stupid to Call People Stupid
At around 1:30 on Saturday I woke up with a major cramp running from my right hip down to my calf. It was so bad it felt like I’d somehow injured myself in my sleep. I was worried that it might not be a cramp and that there might be something wrong with my hip. I decided to try and get up to see if that would help. I wasn't sure if I could but it wasn’t much of a problem. I limped a bit when I went to and from the bathroom and then I sat down in the living room for a couple of minutes. It felt slightly better and I went back to bed. I fell asleep again not long after that and when I woke up at 5:00 the cramp was gone.
During yoga, I came up with a theory about what might have caused the cramp. On August 10th I added a new pose to my yoga routine in which I lean back and balance my body on one hand and foot with my other hand and foot in the air. The muscles that are worked on my right leg by that pose are the same ones that cramped up while I was in bed that morning. I’ve had cramps for a while in the past while my body got used to a new exercise.
I worked on finding the chords to “L’Oiseau du Paradis” by Serge Gainsbourg. Quick Partitions had the sheet music for the first verse, which is enough for this song because there is no chorus, but only some of the chords sounded right to me. D7, B-minor 7 and F-sharp fit in places but the rest needed other chords, so I had listened to the only version that exists online, the one by Zizi Jeanne-Maire, note for note, over and over again, to find the right chords, but after an hour I only had the first two lines done. I'll finish the rest tomorrow.
When I started making breakfast I discovered that the two baskets of peaches that I’d bought from Freshco had gone rotten and that the fruit flies had found their way under the bag the cloth bag that I’d been using to cover them with on the kitchen table. The bag was soaked in peach blood. I was able to save parts of some of the peaches but most of them went outdoors in the garbage.
At 9:45 I went to the food bank and found my place in line behind a white cart containing a large bag with Christmas colours and the close-up cartoon portrait of the face of a smiling snowman surrounded by snowflakes. As I write about it I wonder if an albino snowman would be transparent.
A few of the regulars were sitting on the steps of 1501 Queen and smoking. Skinny Brenda was standing and chatting with a guy who wasn't a regular but I think I’d seen him there before. Elderly Michael came walking by in his large snow-white sneakers and Brenda came over to give him a kiss on the cheek. He smiled politely but made it clear that he wasn't comfortable with it, so she came in again as if to kiss him on the mouth but he gently dodged away. Brenda returned to her conversation and said, “Ya gotta have a sense of humour or you're dead!” The thought that came to me from that was, if the poor didn’t have a sense of humour, the rich would be dead.
I read another couple of pages of Gustav Flaubert's "St Julian the Hospitaler". After the dying stag that Julian had shot prophesied that Julian was destined to kill his own parents, he refused to go hunting and spent several weeks in bed. When he recovered his father gave him a scimitar, but while standing on a ladder to take it down from a trophy stand, it slipped from Julian’s fingers and cut into the coat of his father, who was standing below. Thinking that he’d half fulfilled the prophecy, Julian fainted. After this Julian avoided weapons, but his advisor, the old monk encouraged him to behave like a noble. Julian took his advice and began practicing the javelin with the squires. He became the best among them but one day when he saw the wings of a stork through the branches of a tree he heaved his javelin and knocked his mother’s long ribboned hat from her head, nailing it to a wall. Julian immediately left home and never came back. 
The second-hand smoke had me moving away too and there seemed to be more people smoking than usual. It was hard to avoid because people were smoking far to the east, around the PARC door and just as many paces to the west, to the end of an extra long food bank line.

The food bank didn’t open at 10:30. Valdene came with the van and the volunteers unloaded it, then she drove away and a while later came back with another load. We took our places in line at around 10:30.
The guy behind me in line was a regular who after putting his cart in line goes to sit by himself on the sidewalk until it's time for the line to move. He kind of looks like a gentle version of Charles Manson from when he had long hair, but after he lost his teeth. I noticed two collages in his cart and I asked if he’d made them. He confirmed that he had and that he was taking them to a friend’s place later. They were colourful and made from various materials and objects, such as different textures of paper and cloth and I saw at least one red feather. They had their charm but were not outstanding works of art because there was no flow between the diverse elements incorporated in the pieces and there were empty spaces between each object. The collages looked more like something that came out of art therapy rather than having been the result of an artistic vision. They were nice though and I’m sure his friend will like having them on their wall.
The volunteers had taken about half a vanload downstairs and while Valdene was waiting for them she sat on the back of the van and broke up bread to throw to the pigeons. 

It was after 11:00 when the line started moving. Marlena was having a smoke after letting some people go downstairs while Valdene was still feeding the pigeons. Marlena commented, “They’re not white anymore!" I don't know if she'd seen some almost white ones earlier or if Valdene had told her that pigeons used to be white. “No, they’re filthy!" Valdene said, "But we took their land away!" She's mistaken about that. Feral pigeons are not native to North America. They’re descended from domesticated rock doves that were brought over to Port Royal, Nova Scotia by settlers from France in 1606.  They’re an invasive species and should not be fed.
A guy behind me asked Valdene and Marlena if they were still using the number system. Marlena said no and he said “Good!” I asked him why he thought it was good and said, “Because I'm usually here earlier." Marlena said, "Nobody wanted the numbers." I said that think the reason people voted against the number system was because everybody thinks they can get there earlier, although nobody ever does. The first ten people can’t win with the number system and the last ten people can't lose. Valdene said, "I'd shuttle everybody in if I could!”
Downstairs was a new volunteer that was a very beautiful young Black woman with a long ponytail. When I walked in she was standing by the baked goods section and looking at the bread. Lana, who's in charge of the bread, came up and told her not to touch it. The woman didn’t think there was anything wrong with her touching the bread and they argued about it. The young woman declared that she didn’t want to work on Saturdays anymore. After I’d shown my card and was waiting to shop the shelves, I saw them continuing their argument in the back. Lana told her that she had a bad attitude.
I don’t know exactly why Lana was bothered by the young woman touching the bread, since the bread she’d picked up was in a bag and it looked to me like she'd been just curious about the ingredients.
From the shelves I got a package of two almond butter granola cups; three peanut butter Clif bars; a sleeve of soda crackers; a large can of chickpeas and a small tin of tomato paste. There was again no cereal but Raisin Bran was on sale at Freshco that week and so I’d already gotten some. There was also no tuna for the third week in a row.
As I stood behind the woman with the white cart and waited to shop the dairy and meat section, the row between Lana and the young woman was still going on. Apparently, the young woman had called Lana “stupid” and that upset her to an extreme degree. Lana said she was going to report her to the board of directors and “where I come from you don't talk to people that way!" Sylvia said, “I’m with you on that! It's okay to call someone dumb, but not stupid!”
The woman in front of me was waiting for Angie because she had gone to the back to get something for her, and so my volunteer stepped in and served me from that section. In addition to the usual 2% milk, there was a lot of nut milk like soya and coconut, but I didn’t take either. I got a pack of four single servings of cherry flavoured Greek yogourt and the usual bag of three eggs. I turned down the usual frozen ground chicken, hot dogs and bologna. He also offered me a pack of veggie cheese slices and when I said I didn’t want those either, the guy behind me, who'd gotten ahead of the collage guy, asked if he could have mine. The volunteer said that he couldn’t give him an extra pack of veggie cheese but if I took one I could give it to him, so I did. It’s hilarious that I had to make something that I didn’t want mine for a second by touching it, just so someone else could have it, when it should have been enough for me to just say, "He can have mine”.
Sylvia had quite a bit of stuff. She offered me another bag of potatoes but I told her that I got one last week an I only eat one potato a day. She nodded knowingly and said, “I have some nice mushrooms!" I told her I needed a bag for them and she just happened to have some plastic ones. I think that they were maitake mushrooms, which means, “dancing” mushrooms. She dug down in a box of bananas to get me a bunch of four that weren’t too ripe. She pointed at a bin of broccoli and told me she didn’t like the ones she had today. I agreed that they were a bit too yellow. She gave me a seedless, cucumber, an eggplant and some leaf lettuce and then I moved on to the bread section.
I only really needed one loaf and there seemed to be plenty of variety already on the shelves but Lana was insistent on going to the back and getting me some more. While she was gone I grabbed a foccaccia loaf with rosemary and a pack of gourmet chocolate chip cookies. She came back with a box containing multigrain bread and dark rye, which she said she calls “chocolate bread”. I took a multigrain loaf, even though I didn’t need anymore, but I felt sorry for Lana because the other volunteer had been so mean to her.
Calling someone stupid is really both ironic and absurd. If you really thought that someone was stupid it would be pointless to try to communicate it to them because if they were stupid they would not understand. Therefore the only reason one would have to call someone stupid is for the sake of some kind of mean-spirited self-satisfaction, which strongly suggests that anyone that would call someone stupid is actually stupid.

Apparently, the young woman had called Lana “stupid” and that upset her to an extreme degree. Lana said she was going to report her to the board of directors and “where I come from you don't talk to people that way!" Sylvia said, “I’m with you on that! It's okay to call someone dumb, but not stupid!”
First Come First Served?

The food bank line-up was a bit longer than usual when I got there but all of the regular early birds were there. I found my place behind the blue gym bag and began reading “The Legend of St Julian the Hospitaler” from where I’d left off as the young Julian continues to slaughter every animal he finds. Finally, he comes across a majestic black stag with its mate and their fawn. He murders the fawn first and then the doe. The stag charges him and with his final arrow Julian pierces the beast’s forehead, but it keeps on coming. Just before reaching him though the stag stops and says to Julian, “A curse on you! One day you will murder your own mother and father” and then the proud animal collapses and dies. Holy Catholic Oedipus Stagman!


Speaking of parents, Tammy was telling someone, “My mother spit me out and there I was, the image of her.” This sounded so mythical I had to look it up. The Egyptian creator deity, Atum was said to have sneezed or spit out his offspring, Shu the god of air and Tefnut, the goddess of moisture.


When Valdene and Martina arrived in the food bank van, Valdene gave out muffins to those that were willing to come to her and get them. The reviews I overheard were that they were fresh and very good.


Besides me, there are only two or three food bank clients that read books while they are waiting. One of them is a woman that always carries the Bible. Angie was having a smoke on the steps of 1501 Queen and greeted the Bible lady, “Hello sister!” She smiled and called back, “God loves you!” Angie responded, “And you too!”


I heard Valdene mention that they’d be starting a little later than usual but most of us got into line at 10:30 anyway. A few places ahead of me there was a dispute between a man and woman over which was ahead of the other. Valdene came over to ask what was going on and after hearing what the disagreement was she said to the man, “As a gentleman, shouldn’t you let the lady go first?” I exclaimed “What?” and then said, “Why not as a lady shouldn’t she let the gentleman go first?” Valdene responded, “In a perfect world, yes!” whatever that was supposed to mean. I meant that things shouldn’t be solved according to gender. I told her, “This wouldn’t happen if you brought back the number system!” She said, “A lot of people don’t like the number system!” I asked, “Do you want people lining up here at 6:00?” She answered, “No!” “Then bring back the number system!” “I will, eventually!”


A few minutes later Valdene came out with a piece of paper and a pen and, I guess based on our exchange, she began to ask each person in line, “Numbers or line-up?” and then she’d check off one of two columns. When she got to the guy with the prematurely grey hair that was ahead of me, he told her with a warning tone, “You don't want to hear what I think!" "Yes, I do actually!" "No, you don't!" “So you don’t want to answer?" He shook his head. After she'd polled the whole line-up, as she passed me on her way back she said, “It’s three to one for the line-up!" I said, “Meaningless!” She said, “Whatever!” Martina, the doorkeeper mentioned that more people would be coming later. Another volunteer, who may be a co-manager, suggested that the vote might be different if it was wintertime. I was quite surprised that people far back in line would vote for the line-up system over the random numbers since for someone at the end of the line the random numbers give them better odds than the line-up. If someone is the 30th person in line the downside of not getting a lower number is that they would end up pretty much where they are already and so they couldn’t lose. It made me wonder if they fully understood the question. I guess for a lot of people it may be that they simply do not like change because what they are used to gives them a certain security. 

There are some other factors that contribute to a poll like the one Valdene took being flawed. One is that while there is a core group of regulars every Saturday, there are more that don’t come every week and a few that are new each time. Another is that the first ten people in line have a better chance of losing from the random number system, which means that they most probably would have all voted for the first come first serve arrangement, and so their votes shouldn’t really be counted in a poll.
When the line started moving the guy in front of me would sometimes wait until there was a large gap between him and the person in front of him and then he would pick up his blue gym bag and violently throw it down to remark his spot.
I got downstairs at around 11:00 and I noticed right away that there was one shelf that was entirely empty and another that was only partially stocked. I heard one of the people at the computers tell someone that they had more perishables than non-perishables this time.
I noticed that they still had lots of boxes of Atkins peanut butter fudge bars that are sweetened with sucralose and I realized that I’d forgotten to bring my box back to re-donate.

There was nothing in the cereal section but on the top shelf, there was a small package of chocolate coconut artisan granola. I got a few granola bars and a juice box. I could have had two juice boxes but decided that I’d liked the single one better because I misread the pack of two, which I figured out later, was the exact same thing. But only taking one juice box instead of two cuts my chances of getting turned into a girl in half, according to Alex Jones, who thinks girls are a bad thing to be.

There was no canned tuna but there were canned beans and so I got a tin of chickpeas. I reminded myself to buy a new can opener because opening one of those cans with the one I’ve had for ten years is like trying to strangle an armadillo to death. It makes one wonder what’s the point of life if every ten years one has to spend another $5 on a manual can opener.

Angie gave me a 750-gram container of sweetened, plain yogourt; three eggs, one of which broke before I got home, but I managed to pour most of it out of the bag and into the frying pan later that night. She offered me the usual frozen ground chicken, frozen chicken wieners and bologna but I turned them down. She also had some frozen beef hot dogs but I didn’t want those either so she dug into the fridge and dug out two burger patties. I asked if they were veggie burgers but she assured me they were the real deal, so I took them.

Sylvia had so many vegetables this time that she didn’t want to bother going through each item. After giving me a 5-kilogram bag of Yukon Gold potatoes from P.E.I (I wonder if one can get P.E.I. potatoes from the Yukon), two plums and two nectarines, she just said for me to take what I wanted. I grabbed a head of leaf lettuce, a package of tomatoes and a seedless cucumber but not the yellow zucchini.

The bread section had a very good selection this time and the person minding the shelves assured me that it was all fresh. I got a loaf of protein bread and some crumpets.

The two nectarines that I got were from the States, seemed like they’d been shipped frozen and now tasted like plastic fruit. It seems weird that one never sees Ontario peaches or nectarines in the food bank this time of year when they are so abundant and delicious.

“This wouldn’t happen if you brought back the number system!” She said, “A lot of people don’t like the number system!” I asked, “Do you want people lining up here at 6:00?” She answered, “No!” “Then bring back the number system!” “I will, eventually!”
Wine-up Across from the Line-up
Saturday morning when I got up it was so muggy that during yoga three oil companies tried to float rigs on my sweat. I flipped over before they could start drilling.
It cooled down and dried up a bit during song practice but it felt like it was going to be a hot day so I wore sandals to the food bank. There was a steady stream of cars heading east along Queen and I couldn’t cut across to 1499 as I usually do, so I went to the lights at Sorauren and pushed the button to cross. I assume the increased flow of traffic was of people headed for the Caribana parade.
The last person in the food bank line had marked their spot with a recyclable shopping bag that looked like the kind sold at Freshco. A young woman came shortly after me and as she positioned her cart I made sure she knew that I was ahead of her. She left her cart there and moved to the other side of the sidewalk. I told her she was wise not to stand close to the building and she agreed, saying that she learned her lesson last time she was there. That was the time when a pigeon dropped a stream of shit all along the line and she'd gotten pooped on a bit as well.
Across the street near the corner were two young women wearing matching peach coloured costumes with similarly hued plumage at the back. Our door person Marlina approached them with her phone and they gladly posed for her. A few minutes later a car pulled up and they removed their feathery tails to put them in the back, get in and drive to the parade.
Shortly after that a group of four young women, also dressed for Caribana but not in matching garb, except that they all wore gold hoop earrings large enough to pitch a baseball through, were hanging around and taking shots of one another with their phones. In one pose, a young lady with a particularly generous derriere began to wine in profile while another girl stood behind her. They eventually crossed the street and walked down Beatty.
A group that looked like they just got off a bus came walking east on Queen. They consisted of a mixture of middle-aged African Americans and some elderly people of East Indian descent. One woman who sounded like she was from Buffalo asked the woman whose cart was behind me in line whether the parade would be going by there. She shook her head and they continued on.
The large and talkative Tammy and the frightfully skinny and almost as chatty Brenda were smoking together on the steps of 1501 Queen. Brenda mentioned something about someone looking like a drug addict. Tammy said, "No offence but you look like a drug addict.” Brenda laughed and responded, “I am a drug addict! I’m addicted to pot." Tammy said, “I look like I smoke pot.” Brenda assured her, "I eat all the time!” and suggested that she just has a different metabolism.
I read another page and a half of Flaubert’s "The Legend of St Julian the Hospitaler". The whole section just described the young Julian's love of hunting and how cruel he was to the animals that he brought down, such as just cutting off a living bird’s legs and indifferently riding away. A lot of stories of saints are like that because if they set them up as having begun as bad guys it gives their enlightenment more impact.
When the line started moving, the two people that were ahead of me still hadn’t come to move their cart and bag, so I moved them ahead by pushing the cart and kicking the bag. After a couple of moves, they both came to claim their places.
From the shelves I got a tube of Pringles; a tin each of chickpeas, tuna and spicy refried beans; and a package of five peanut butter fudge bars, but I didn’t realize until later that they were Atkins diet bars containing sucralose, so I won’t open the package and I’ll return them to the food bank next time. The Atkins people tend to suppress the fact that Atkins had several heart attacks leading up to his death from a blood clot in his brain. His wife refused to allow an autopsy.
They only had the kind of cereal that is served hot, so I didn’t take any. Generally, I tend not to even eat hot cereal in the wintertime because it’s too mushy.
I didn’t take any soup or pasta either.
At Angie’s dairy and meat station, I think she gave me extra yogourt because I turned down the milk. I also got a pack of four single servings of cottage cheese and the usual three eggs. In addition to the usual meat offerings, there was a bag of chicken fingers and a pack of frozen, sliced honey-maple ham.
Sylvia gave me two red potatoes, two carrots, a green pepper, four Roma tomatoes, a seedless cucumber and a cantaloupe. She didn’t offer me any of the kale and I didn't ask because it was yellowing.
The bread being offered were just several crusty white loaves, so I didn’t bother.
Outside on the traffic signal box in front of the food bank someone has posted a poster with a black and white copy of the picture of a young man wearing a t-shirt with the message “Art is Dumb". The original colour version of the same photo can be found online and it's an ad for No Fun Press, which is a Toronto dealer of clothing, bags, hats and pins that are printed with irreverent messages. For instance, they sell socks that say, “Eat shit" and a cuddly teddy bear wearing a t-shirt with the message "Fuck off" among other items. Their slogan is "Negativity is our specialty".
There was a steady stream of cars heading east along Queen and I couldn’t cut across to 1499 as I usually do, so I went to the lights at Sorauren and pushed the button to cross.

More Adventures on the Archive page