I am a black dog and I need to be loved, just like everybody else does

Last Saturday was Record Store Day and I noticed that one of the stores hosting an event was Scratch Records at 1 East Hastings. There was to be live music and huge discounts so I thought it might be fun to take my music loving kids and see what I could stumble upon.

We walked in the store right across from Pigeon Park and I half expected to see John Cusack trying to sell 5 copies of a Beta Band record, only there were way more moustaches than Championship Vinyl has ever seen. The DJ wore an extraordinary handlebar moustache with a T-shirt that referred to his moustache.

The band was good, but way too loud for me to justify staying in the show with the kids so I pushed the stroller outside where another band was unloading their gear from their van. We stopped and watched the show from behind the windows of the shop and I saw J taking long slow strides toward us from Cordova St.

I had seen J two days before walking through the neighbourhood with my friend and my kids. I’ve known him longer than just about anyone else from the neighbourhood and it always fascinates me how good his memory is for someone in his condition. Besides his severe case of schizophrenia, he also has HIV, and often combats the effects of his very strong prescription medications with crack cocaine. I won’t see him for several months and when I do run into him, causing a ruckus on the bus or inserting himself into other people’s business, usually with an up-tempo rendition of a Led Zeppelin song, he’ll often stop and call me by name. It kind of makes be proud for some reason to know someone who causes so much discomfort in the uninitiated.

Besides his fulfilling the many stereotypes of a Downtown Eastsider (HIV+ addict, a mental condition that would have had him institutionalized a few decades ago) he has a deep, if unsophisticated, faith. Ceramic mugs in the shape of a V are somehow demonic; he’ll open up a Bible to a random page and tell me what God is trying to tell him; he has a thing about blessing people’s joints.

When we saw him sitting on the curb of Cordova the other day he seemed to recognize us and spoke to us as if we had last spoken two weeks ago even though I hadn’t spoken with him for more than 4 years.

Two days later in front of the record store I watched him, wondering if he would stop to say something. He walked up and yelled to a hipster from the store mumbling next to us, “Don’t talk like that next to children!” In truth I could not hear what the man said and I’m pretty sure J could not either.

“You’re the Antichrist!” J yelled as he walked right by. “He’s the Antichrist!”

I turned to watch him as he walked right up to the face of one of the band members unloading his van and spoke just inches from his head. I could not hear J, but the band member seemed unable to decide whether to panic or laugh. J walked to the corner, turned around as he waited for the light to turn green, and continued singing toward the band. With the band playing in the store, the traffic, and the commotion of Pigeon Park on a sunny Saturday, I couldn’t make out what song J was singing. A woman from the neighbourhood walked into my sightline and looked at me. “It’s true,” she said and walked right over to J as the light turned green and they crossed the street together.

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About azlewis

I'm an academic living in the poorest neighbourhood in Canada. I also teach at a local seminary.
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