John Was Always a Dirty Trick

Queen and John
Where Royalty does a dirty trick
After stumbling out of one of the trendy little bars
And sharing a cigarette at Starbucks
Where the coffee is overpriced and tastes like crap

Queen and John
Where rich meets poor
In the shadow of the CN Tower
Phallic symbol for a city in need of an enema
Fuck the unfortunate, the deprived and the depraved

Queen and John
Where streetcars still rattle
Along the tracks on a junkie’s arms
That stretch and span the city
Like they did thirty years ago

Queen and John
Where so much has changed
But nothing’s changed at all
Manure will always be shit

T J Therien

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the not so invisible problem

I have been back in Toronto, Ontario, Canada (my Hometown) for two weeks now and I have noticed Homelessness is far worse than it was when I left 12 years ago. I have taken the time to speak to several people who are living on the streets and it breaks my heart. The City has taken a hardline stance on the Homeless. They are chased off the property of City Hall. I spoke with a former politician who wished to remain nameless and he said they shouldn’t be, that they have the same right of access to public property but this is not the case.

The shelter system is not a safe environment. People are robbed and beaten in the shelters. Some of the people I have spoken to have said they feel safer on the streets than in the shelters.

A homeless person cannot lay down on a park bench or on the grass in a park without getting chased away leaving only the sidewalk so long as they don’t impede traffic.

I think it is sad that the homeless are being treated as they are and the problem only seems to be getting worse.

Yesterday I saw workers of the city outreach program speaking with a homeless person when the police showed up to chase the man away, or arrest him. It’s ridiculous that two arms of the same municipal government are not working to achieve the same goal. In fact one only seems to counteract what the other is trying to do.park bench

I point the finger of shame at my city for failing in it’s social obligation

Some People just aren’t Newsworthy

I once knew a well to do Christian, a fine example of an upstanding man and a pillar of his community. In general he was a good man, but he once said something to me that kind of rubbed me the wrong way. At the time he said it, I did not know why it irritated me to the Nth degree. Now that I’m back in Toronto, I understand why what he said had upset me.

What he said, “I wish I could be among the poor people of the world.”

I can remember thinking, Buddy, you have no idea, but his intentions were good even if his pity was misguided, so I left it alone. I would normally enter a debate on this issue in a heartbeat, but that particular day I was not in the mood.

Years later, I find myself back in Toronto and I find myself reflecting on those words. You see, I’ve lived most of my life in transit, which means I move around quite a bit. It doesn’t matter what town or city you find me in, you will always find me in the worst areas, the places people warn you about. Yes I congregate with the crazies and the castoffs the rest of society wants little to do with.

Why would I put my life in peril? That is effectively what I am doing by traipsing through these neighbourhoods in the ungodly hours of the night. I do it because it is part of the Human Experience and I desire to understand this thing we call being Human. Also after pulling so many knives out of my back over the years I grown to have a preference to seeing those knives coming and if you are walking through some of the areas I have tread and you don’t see it coming then you are either deaf and blind, or you are completely ignorant of the dangers of this world.

I arrived in Toronto a little more than a week ago. After a bit of touristy stuff (it’s been 12 years since last I was here) and catching up with a couple of friends and a little walk down memory lane revisiting all those old haunts I headed straight downtown. I hang out all night and observe people, I even talk to a few, but I’m not really a social kind of guy, more a keep to myself kind of a person and I am very good at projecting a stay away from me vibe that accompanied by my rough appearance gives the wrong sort of person second thoughts about approaching me. Don’t get me wrong, I really am a friendly sort, but I am also guarded and you would be too if you had lived my life and seen the things I’ve seen.

Well yesterday I was sitting in a 24 hour MacDonald’s where they are a little bit sympathetic to the plight of the homeless. They will let the homeless sit forever inside on a single coffee if the weather is bad and even if it is not. They even permit a little bit of dozing, so long as they don’t make themselves too comfortable. So yesterday I’m sitting there and some guy OD’s in the bathroom, Paramedics and Police are called and the guy is put in an ambulance on a respirator, but that is neither here nor there, just part of the daily routine down here. This is the kind of stuff you never hear about on the News.

Anyway the point I was making, there was a diminutive woman, obviously new to the streets, you could tell by her behaviour and general skittishness. She was middle aged and did not belong with the crowd that congregates down here. This strange guy comes in, orders a coffee and sits at the table next to her. He strikes up a conversation, asking her some really personal questions. He was interrupted when another woman, who most would discard as just plain nuts, warns the diminutive woman not to go anywhere with this guy. “Fifteen women have disappeared from this area in the last month,” the crazy one warns and then she’s gone.

Another woman at the MacDonald’s (one who obviously works in one of the retail outlets grabbing breakfast before work) confirms what the crazy woman had said.

Fifteen women in thirty days have gone missing. This is not newsworthy because they were street people and prostitutes. Somehow they are less Human. These Ladies (and they are ladies, they are someone’s daughter somewhere) and their disappearance is treated as generally irrelevant. The police have stepped up their presence, but other than that very little seems to be done.

Now I know what bothered me about that fine upstanding Christian man’s words. You see, they were just that, words. He had the time and money to back those words up with action and he had the respect and credibility to help shine some light on what is really happening down here. Instead he comforts his conscious with words and a few cans for the local food drive.

You see, when most people hear about these things, (and realize, I’m talking about a small area of the city where these disappearances have occurred,) they are skeptical because they’ve heard nothing in the News about it. Well you see, some people are just not newsworthy. Street people generally are not newsworthy, even when they are disappearing. Don’t believe me, how much do you know about Canada’s Highway of Tears? These disappearances are not isolated incidences, they happen all the time, the happen in every community, small town and big city alike. There is one commonality, the targets, or more aptly, the victims come from segments of the population that are deemed irrelevant.

You think it’s not safe for you to walk on the street late at night. How do you think those that society has marginalized feel. Think about it a moment. At least the police are going to look for you if you go missing, other than a report being filed, very little gets done when a homeless person goes missing. Very little gets done when fifteen in a one month period go missing.

On Arriving in Toronto

I forgot how much this city stank
Pungent, potent, raw and rank
Fume from tailpipe and car exhaust
Sick to my stomach, cookies tossed,
For too long I’ve breathed fresh air
And so my lungs could not prepare
For the all-out assault of sinus
Of nostril filled with smell of anus
Idled engine and congested traffic
Smog like fog, gross and graphic
Mirrored skyline, crisp and clean
Perfumed by the scent obscene
Air so thick it’s hard to breathe
Makes me want to wretch and writhe

T J Therien

(Spent last night on the bus travelling from Montreal to Toronto. I’ve been away so long I forgot what the air quality was like. Well I’m here now, I’m going to make the best of it. After spending 10 of the last 11 years caring for elderly relatives, deceased mother and uncle, I have done my best and my share, emotionally and physically I cannot do it anymore I am going to do what is right by me and put myself first for a change and pursue my writing. If that makes me selfish or a villain, so be it.)