"I got started writing when I went to a Megaphone writing workshop in June of this past year. It showed me all the different styles of writing, like journalism, storytelling, and things like that. I found that storytelling works best for me because I have 40 years on the street, and I've survived pretty well, so that's some information I can share. My whole thing is I'd like to help people so they can avoid it.
I sometimes get, it's almost like a writer's block, I think of stories but I never get em down, and ["Welfare Wednesday"] is actually the first time I've put one down. And when I wrote it - they gave us a week to write it, and I wrote it on the bus going to class. [laughs] So I always seem to put myself right on the edge, and then I can do it."
It was a typical rainy welfare day when I discovered
at 6:45 a.m. that I never got my welfare cheque. I
lined up outside the welfare office with my book on
how to play poker at 7 a.m. to see what was wrong.
At the top of the stairs was a homeless guy sleeping,
a good spot out of the wind and rain. I was at the
bottom of the stairs beside a drunk guy who was
being aggressive. It’s funny, the look you get when
they realize they should get a new victim. (If I was on
the Internet, now would be the time to say LOL.)
Just ahead of me was a guy smoking crack and
saving spots for people, a no-no in any lineup and
it gave the drinker a new target. A friendly young
man behind me was sharing drinks of what he said
was vodka in a water bottle. I think it was rice wine,
though, judging by the reaction of the two who
Another well-dressed guy needed a cigarette paper
but the only one available had no glue on it. He took
it and rolled a joint. that was when the drunk guy
could not find his false teeth that he had kept taking
out and showing us. His friend checked his pockets
and couldn’t find them.
This kept us entertained for about 15 minutes when
he found them in an inside pocket.
In a span of an hour and 15 minutes, each of us,
carving out our turf in our own way, had gotten to
know each other and started laughing.
Finally at 8:30 a.m. the doors open and they let
us in. I had forgotten to fill out my stubs and they
would mail me my cheque. So much for breakfast.
Sid Bristow sells Megaphone at the corner of Broadway and Cambie, and is a participant in Megaphone's community writing workshops. His piece "Welfare Wednesday" appears in the 2013 Voices of the Street literary anthology, available from licensed vendors all over your community.
This spring Megaphone needs to raise $12,000 to keep the voices of the Downtown Eastside strong. Please show your support for our writing workshop programs by making a donation (through Hope in Shadows) here.