Five minutes with Voices of the Street 2013 contributor Sid Bristow




"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."



Welfare Wednesday

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 

tried it.


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.

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