Winner of VUE Weekly's 2017 and 2018 'Best Family Blog' and 2018 'Best Podcast'

Magic Realism


A sickly bean.

Sundays are Sundays. Not Sunday fun-day or drink-away Sunday, they are Sundays. They are a ham sandwich. They are a gray calm.

Not this Sunday.

Today was two things: a sick family with needs and an interview with the intrepid Karen Unland for her stalwart masterpiece Seen and Heard. Needless to say, I was jazzed. And late. Anyway.

The interview went great and as per usual Karen was insightful and inviting. We talked about this blog, we talked about ideas, we talked about journalism and we talked about the future. Basically, we talked about all things rad and then we talked some more. But this, dear readers, is only the beginning to the adventure.

After the interview I was to pick up some family necessities. Fruit and orange juice for the sickly and also cookies of the gluten free variety for the gluten intolerant (or as we say in our family, gluten racist). It was a simple task made simpler because all the ingredients were found conveniently inside the walls of a No Frills grocery store located on the east end of 118th Ave. As a side note, whomever wants to rent the vacant business area beside the grocery store and open a Frills store wins 100 high fives (actually probably only 30 or so).

While in the parking lot I had a terse discussion with my wife about just how sick she was (very very) and went on my merry way to procure the items in which I was directed to…procure.

On my way inside I came across a pan handler. It is now that I will backtrack for just a moment: Before meeting Karen, I stopped at a Tim Horton’s to grab a coffee (small 2 milk one sugar) as is my ritual before any invigorating endeavour. While waiting in the drive through (or thru) an aggressive man hammered on my window asking for change. I didn’t give him any. Now back to my story…

The older gentleman outside the No Frills asked if I could buy him food. He looked legit. He was toothless and had an old blue satchel with a Canadian flag on it. I though, hell yeah, I can buy you food. You are not asking for money, but asking for sustenance. I get to set him up. At this point he mentioned that, because he didn’t have any teeth, apples or nuts wouldn’t do him any good. I said (I actually did), “Cool beans dude man, give me twenty minutes and I’ll set you up rip-ass proper.”

I went into the grocery and got what I needed. Then set about getting the old fellah what he needed. I have some insight into what it’s like to live outside for an extended period of time and bought him some stuff that fits the need.

Four protein powered breakfast drinks. A packet of string cheese thingies. A jar of pickled eggs. And, I threw in a banana and a couple of Mandarin oranges to boot. I almost bought him some garbage bags because they can be either a sleeping bag (fill one with leaves), a rain coat (cut some holes in that bad boy) or a rain cover for his backpack, but all they had were bulky boxes of them. So I passed.

Anyway, everything was portable. It was all perfect for cold nights outside. Thoughtful, honest stuff.

After paying for my booty and putting his stash in an extra bag, I went outside to give him the goods. As I exited the doors I realized that he was gone. I looked around with a hollow heart and he was nowhere in sight. But, in sight, were a couple of No Frills employees out having a smoke.

I walked up to them and asked them if they had seen a toothless older fellow with a beard and a blue backpack wandering around as I had bought him some food and would like to give it to him.

“Oh no,” said the guy of the guy and girl tandem. “You didn’t.”

“Yes I did,” I said. “I got him some things that he could eat. He doesn’t have any teeth after all.”

“He doesn’t have any teeth right now,” said the guy. “He takes them out to get stuff.”

The guy went on to tell me that they chased the fellow away because he dupes people into buying him food and whatnot, then takes it down to a local drinking hole (The Drake) and sells it for cash. He then makes his way back up 118th to the Boston Pizza where he uses the money to play the VLTs.

“Shit fuck,” I said with my mouth hanging open.

I realized I’d been had and made my way to my car, an extra bag of things I would normally never purchase (and an empty place in my heart) in tow. Was this true?  I felt pretty sure that the old guy was on the level. The teeth thing…if it was a ploy it was awesome.

So, I drove home and went inside. I put the groceries away and was left with the bag of booty sitting on the kitchen table staring me in the face. My wife and the bean were down stairs having a sickly snooze so I had time to burn and the journalist in me demanded an ending to this story. Plus, I forgot my wife’s cookies.

Back into The Judge (our blood maroon Endeavor) I went.

I drove directly to the Boston Pizza and went inside. Walking up to a waitress I asked her about the old fellow. Did she see him? Does he come in regularly? Does she have any idea what I’m talking about?

She was very kind to me and said she had no idea. She added that what the guy did was shitty, which I defended cordially. I mean, living on the street is not fucking easy. Plus, he’s not stealing. I mean, it is morally wrong, but it’s a hell of a gambit. A wily con.

I thanked her for her time and left. I went to the No Frills to buy some cookies and then, because I still felt a bit goofy, purchased a can of beer from the local beer merchant. It was a gift to myself for being duped for all the right reasons. As closure, I get to sit down with my wife and son and tell them the story about how things are never what they seem. Even if you are 100 per cent sure.

Then, as luck would have it, I caught a blue thing out of the corner of my eye. It was the old dude with his blue bag. He was crossing the street and heading into a Tim Hortons. I went into stealth mode and decided to follow him.

I would like to state right now that I never had any inclination to confront him. I mean, what would I say? You hurt my feelings? How dare you? Really. This old fucker is trying to exist in a world that has no problem shitting on him and he has no problem shitting on it. It is not the world I inhabit, but it is his and he is surviving in it. But, I needed an ending to the story. I demanded it of myself.

After watching him exit the Tim Hortons (chewing heartily on a sandwich might I add), I decided to drive down to the Drake and camp in the parking lot for his arrival. For the prophecy of the No Frills employee to hold true. And so, there I sat.

Within 10 minutes our anti-hero sauntered up to the doors of the Drake and, after putting out a smoke, walked into the building with an over flowing No Frills bag full of other people’s good intentions.


The moral of this story? None. Doesn’t matter. I’m still going to try to offer help where I deem it legitimate. Why not? I have a pretty rad life. And plus, I get to write about it in all its glorious opulence.

Now here I sit with my family snoozing comfortably around me, a deserved beer glow and a story to tell. I wish everyone could be this lucky.

“No matter how far a jackass may travel, it will never return as a horse.” Batou, Ghost In The Shell 2.

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  1. Edmonton blog roundup: April 26, 2016 – Seen and Heard in Edmonton

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