Parkdale Legal has Helped a Lot of People
10/12/2018
 
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
26/11/2018
 
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?
02/10/2018
 
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
24/09/2018
 
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. 
Tsimshian
17/09/2018
 
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
10/09/2018
 
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
27/08/2018
 
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
27/08/2018
 
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
20/08/2018
 
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?
15/08/2018
 

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
06/08/2018
 
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