Mick And Amanda
by Dan Greene
There was one day in particular, one day in July a few years ago. I’d been laid off from my job and hadn’t come across anything in months. We were behind on the mortgage, phone, water, everything. We were this close to being fucked altogether. I took a small suitcase and filled it up with about 400 CDs and a bunch of books. I took them all into downtown Toronto, figuring that if I walked down Yonge Street and over Queen Street, I'd probably sell most of them at one store or another.
Figuring out exactly what music to sell was a miserable experience. I'd spent most of my life wishing I had a good CD collection, and then building it up, so the decision meant that I was going against one of my personal life ambitions just so I could pay the fucking bills. Not that that’s not important, obviously, or else there’d be no story. I was so pissed off on my way downtown that I can't even describe it. I’m sure there is more depressing shit in the world and I should be glad that I have all my limbs and so on, but it still fucking hurt like hell.
So I got downtown and I started walking around. Every time I agreed to sell something for less than it was worth, I felt like shit. A traitor to myself. Yes, record collectors are pretentious assholes, but when I sold Stiff Little Fingers' All The Best, imported to me for almost 50 bucks, to a guy for 9 dollars, I felt like the biggest asshole in the world. Fighting off tears every step of the way.
I walked around for hours, trailing my little suitcase full of the shit I loved the most, selling it all off bit by bit. After a while, I found myself walking along Queen Street with about 35 CDs left. I wasn't sure if there were any used CD stores further down the street and I really didn't feel like walking any further for nothing. While I was thinking about it, I heard someone ahead of me say, "Thanks man, have a good day.”
It was two homeless kids, both in their early 20's. Sitting on the sidewalk with a sign that said, "If you can't spare any change, just smile and say hello. Thanks". And they themselves were smiling, just hanging out. These weren’t weekend punks on the run from their folks, these kids were straight up homeless.
I always try to have some change, or at least a cigarette for the homeless dudes in Toronto; they have it so hard and a lot of people just don’t give a shit, or realize that it could be them out there (why I recognize this so easily is another story, maybe you don’t ask, okay good). I said hi, gave them a couple of cigarettes and asked if they knew about any used CD stores down the street. They were cool, happy to have a few smokes. They told me about a store that wasn't far but was on a side street and a little out of the way. I said thanks, went to the store, and sold almost everything I had. That was both beautiful and horrible. I'd accomplished what I'd set out to do, but the cost made me sick.
I'd been walking for hours and had just given up all that, so I said fuck it all, if I deserve anything out of this it's a pint of Smithwick's. Bills be damned, five bucks isn't going to matter that much. I hit the bar, got the pint and thought to myself about the day I'd had. Now, you usually get your change right away, but for some reason the bar chick didn't come right back even though the bar was almost empty. I'd given her ten bucks, but when she came back she gave me change for a twenty. I'm usually honest about such things but because I was feeling philosophical, or helpless or stupid or depressed, I decided to ask God what he thought. And dude, it seems that God told me to relax and buy another pint! I felt weird, but to this day I think that I did what God told me. Or rationality or coincidence or whatever you call it. God is easier to type so let’s leave it at that. I went for it.
Two pints, a plate of chips and 30 minutes later (I hadn't eaten that day and the change from the beer took care of the chips), I was mildly buzzed, still pissed off and making my way back home. And I ran into the two homeless kids again. They saw me first, said hi and asked how I'd made out.
I was all done and they’d had nothing to do for ages. I sat down on the sidewalk with them and we shot the shit for more than two hours. We talked about everything. Mick and Amanda were about the coolest, most down to earth people I'd ever met in my life, not stupid by any fucking means, and I could see everything they owned in a couple of knapsacks in front of me. Here I was beating myself up for selling some CDs (that I’d ripped to my fucking hard drive anyway), and they were just happy that I didn’t pretend they weren’t sitting there while I walked by. Talk about humbling. Talk about perspective.
I told them about my problems and they told me about theirs. I had no money, they had no money. I couldn’t afford weed, Mick hadn’t touched heroin in eighteen months. I had my family trying to look out for me, long distance, while he had no family but had his crew nearby all the time. We were both in our own bad situations and we were both dealing with them as best we could. And without realizing it at first, we both ended up reminding each other explicitly that no matter what happens, life is good. Life is worth living, and no matter what you have, you have something to be thankful for.
Before I left, we even exchanged gifts. Mick and Amanda used to take the money they’d made during the day to buy three things: food, a gram of weed, and materials for handmade jewelry, the last of which they could sell for a small profit once they’d fashioned something out of it. They gave me a little piece of quartz crystal, and I gave them a copy of Agnostic Front Raw Unleashed (I still don’t know why nobody bought that from me – everything for a reason, I suppose). We were all really happy with the gifts. Three people with nothing, but still with something to give.
Yeah, I write about horror movies and I love to see pain, torture and death, but I’ll never forget that day. And when I take a second to think about it, it always makes me – almost – cry like a kid. And if I’m ever behind on my bills or start to worry about money, I think of Mick and Amanda, and I fucking hope they’re doing alright, those sweet fucking gutterpunks. Thanks to my good friend Paul for making me write this. Merry fucking Christmas.
Dan writes every week about horror movies. Today was just something he had to say. Thanks Dan.