DAVID BURKE: Camping with Henry Hymans ‘one night at the Cool-Aid Youth Hostel’ in the Fernwood district

Published January 27, 2010 by goyodelarosa

Somehow I found myself on the streets, perhaps after an argument with my mother.

I found an old abandoned house in James Bay and moved in, only to discover it was occupied by a variety of life forms.

I came and went as I pleased, for the front door was always open.

One of the occupants of the house was Juan the Medicine Man, who had long stringy grey hair and was missing a couple of teeth.

He rode a bike everywhere and had a sidekick named Stuart, who was humpbacked and often a resident of the Eric Martin Institute.

They both sold drugs for what was an inadequate living.

One evening I came home to discover that someone had decided to design Dracula’s tomb in the living room, for there were lighted candles literally everywhere and I resisted the temptation to utterly freak.

It was such a cruel irony that the star of the play should be driven from pillar to post and I stood in the middle of the room, listening to the faint sound of the radio, which was always on.

Where I moved from the house I cannot say, except that by osmosis I found myself in the Fernwood district, late at night, amid the gabled roofs and dirty streets, with no money and few hopes.

I took shelter with a tall black man under a small bandstand and there we struck up a relationship, based on music, acting, art and drugs.

He had a bicycle.

Together we spent long hours planning a tour of the world.

His name was Henry Hymans and one would suppose, from the description that we had the same father.

He was very fast on his feet and eager to fight for me.

I was amused.

We camped one night at the Cool-Aid Youth Hostel, amid smells indescribable to man.

Somehow we leapt over the days and the poverty that marked them, till we found ourselves on a plane to San Francisco.

I cried with relief to be out of Canada.

I had found my imprisonment a cruel hoax and was not about to free myself of the pain it had caused.



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