Saturday, November 17, 2012


My friends on Vancouver Island, make me feel welcome and at home. I housesat for many of them during the '80's when I was struggling to develop my cartoon strip, and have had the opportunity to stay with them on visits to the island since that time. Their presence gives me a sense of belonging. This past Sept, we shared tales of adventure, laughs, our deepest thoughts, hopes and dreams over dinner, on hikes and while lingering on living room couches before heading off to our respective bedrooms.

I am one of the lucky ones! As I was reminded last Thurs night, others are not so blessed.

It was the night of the Sleep Out a fund raising event in which CEO's and notable business leaders slept in sleeping bags on pieces of cardboard on a paved parking lot outside of Covenant House (the host of the event) in Toronto to raise awareness of the plight of the city's homeless youths (3,000 was one estimate).
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I love this vantage point!
Frank Sinatra's voice sets the tone, "That old black magic's has me in its spell...". It's 3:15p.m. Only coffee and dessert are served that's exactly what I, and a smattering of other patrons, desire. Staff casually go about the business of preparing for the dinnertime rush as cheerful banter flows between them.

A waiter serves me in an equally casual, familiar manner saying, as he places my order before me, "You will enjoy this Americano, it's the best in town and I made it special for you." I feel like I've dropped into someone's home.

I sit appreciating the moment, gratitude overflowing, with a big grin on my face, in my familiar corner table at my old haunt, PAGLIACCI's. The aroma of black coffee wafts its way to my nostrils, soothes my soul and, along with the massive piece of chocolate cheesecake, renders me spellbound...
MMM, the best cheesecake ever and sooo rich!

I swore I would finish my treat but a vast serving remains.

As the waiter offers me a refill on my coffee he asks, "Can I package that up for you?"

"No, I can't take it home. I'm staying in a kosher house-hold and can't bring it into the house. I really hate to throw it out though."

"Take it to Doug and View. You'll find someone who'll appreciate it. There's a guy with a scruffy beard that hangs out there. I give him extra stuff left over from my shift all the time. He's a good guy, just down on his luck and, if he's not there, there are lots of others. If you don't find anyone just leave the container on top of the garbage bin, someone will take it."
At the bus stop at Douglas and View St, looking for scruffy-bearded guy, to give the remainder of my chocolate cheesecake to, a spare-toothed man sitting on a bench catches my eye. His clothes are grubby, his hair dishevelled and a battered guitar case leans against him. 
We nod at each other as if we were old friends. He waives me over and asks with a smile, "How's it goin' in the hood?"
"Pretty good" I nod. "I've been travelling around for a few weeks; staying with friends along the way."
"Me," he says, "I'm headed up island to go campin' with my wife. I love campin' more than anything…not more than my wife though, I love her more." 
We laugh.
He continues, "It's good to have people to visit. Makes you feel like you belong."
Taking in the timeliness of his comment, I smile, "It does indeed. Well, I gotta go."
He signs off with a wave, "Peace, love and Harley Davidson to ya" 
I turn to go, then stop and turn to him. "You wouldn't happen to know anyone who'd like some chocolate cheesecake, would you?"
Eagerly he replied. "Oh ya, I would." 
I gave it to him and walked away.
I don't know if he got on the bus he seemed to be waiting for; if there would be a fire to warm him on that cool summer night, inspiring him to sing and strum his guitar; or if there was a wife waiting on the other end of the line or if she resided only in his mind as a memory of better times or a dreamed present. 
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The fact is, Victoria, with its moderate climate, is mecca for people living on the street. Their beds don't consist of folded cardboard boxes placed over subway-line grates in subzero weather that threatens frostbite. Many disappear into the park which conceals their presence and keeps them safe for one more night.
©Nance Thacker 1984

on the outer edges of Beacon Hill Park
Later that same evening I had the good fortune to be able to treat one of my hosts to a meal at Passero's Restaurant where we spent a few hours lingering over a glass of wine and spanakopita with rice and veg - mmm! But, as is always the case, I can only finish half of it. Adele heads home and it's back to Doug and View for me. Those few that wander the night hours dance with fear and suspicion. I place my carton on top of a bin, knowing someone's growling stomach will be satiated for a few hours at least and make my way "home" feeling deep gratitude for the path my life has taken.

Someone on their way to settle in for the night.

Upon my return to Ontario Adele sent me a poem inspired by our time together and my leaving titled CHEERIO; the last line is "Thank goodness friends are everywhere."

My e-mail to her ends with, "Thanks my friend for being part of my belonging."


  1. Nance--what a lovely/sad story. I'm so glad that you found a great place for your leftovers; but sad that there are folks out there who need it. You set a good example of what the rest of us should be doing.

  2. Thanks, Loy. Actually I was following the lead of many others out there as it's common to see containers on top of, not in, garbage bins in the downtown core. I'd noticed it a few days earlier but didn't find out what it was all about til my talk with the waiter in Pag's. It's nice to know that people do look out for each other in very simple, non-intrusive ways.