I was going through older files tonight cleaning out some old materials and came across this note regarding another gift of tobacco from my friend Don, the homeless binner that I wrote of earlier in A Surprise Gift Awaited Me at the Door (https://rebornpipes.wordpress.com/2012/05/30/a-surprise-gift-awaited-me-at-the-door/). In Vancouver, where I live, there is a subculture of folks that makes a living out of the refuse of others who discard things, instead of repairing them. You can see them working their routes across the city diving into dumpsters/waste cans or picking through them with sticks to reclaim “valuable” throwaways. They are called dumpster divers or binners and work daily from sunrise till after dark. Over the years I have known Don, he has come by to visit often after a successful day, having found recyclables of glass, metal, wire, etc. He has shown me art work, stereo systems and televisions that still work with a bit of fiddling, which he repairs and sells in shops around the city. In the last piece I wrote about Don I told the story of a box of tobacco he brought me from his finds. He swore he got these from a pipe smoking friend but I don’t know whether to believe him or not. Actually it does not matter. The last time he left me a gift of many of GL Pease’s tobacco and others that I had not smoked before. This note describes the next gift tobacco he brought me.
Here is the piece I wrote on May 16, 2008… Man I miss Don and his mystery gifts.
I had not seen my homeless friend Don for about a month and today he came by for a visit. He walked up pushing a shopping card piled high with treasure he had found on his binning route. I could see clothes, shoes, electrical items, flashlights, coats, and other cast off items that looked to be almost new. Around and on top of these were his bags of recyclables. Tied to the push bar of the cart was his little terrier Spaz. Spaz was his partner and everyday companion. I don’t think in the years that I have known Don I ever saw him without Spaz. When Don came to eat Spaz came with him. When he came to Christmas and other holidays Spaz came with him. When I was pastoring a church here in Vancouver, he and Spaz came to church. Spaz would guard the shopping cart of treasures while Don relaxed and visited. He would always ask for some water for Spaz and would give him some treats from his pocket before taking care of himself.
Today he came by to tell me that he is heading home to Ontario and spending the summer with his Dad. He was going to hitchhike across Canada to get there. He brought me another surprise gift of tobacco to use as fuel for negotiating a ride to the edge of town on Monday morning. He had a bit of twinkle in his eye as he spoke of the swap. You have to imagine what Don looked like. He was a midsized skinny man in his late 40’s. He had lived on the street and in the bush for the past ten years so he had a weathered face and features. He had crow’s feet at the corners of his eyes that crinkled when he grinned. He had a toothless smile as most of his teeth had been pulled and he hated wearing his dentures. He had his day pack on the ground as he talked to me. He took out his trade to hand to me and watched as I took it from him. I figure he wanted to see if my reaction would be the same as it was the last time he handed me a gift.
Imagine the surprise when I opened the bag he handed me and looked inside of it. I must have registered that surprise all over my face from big eyes to an opened mouth ooooohhh. I reached into the bag and pulled out six 50 gram tins of Erinmore Mixture – the old Murray and Sons tins from Ireland – five of them in a sealed carton and one extra tin for good measure. All of them but one was unopened. That one in the sealed carton had popped open and was spilled inside the box. The smell of the tobacco was amazing. I probably started salivating like Pavlov’s dogs about that time. Don started laughing as he watched me. He winked and said, “I guess that means you can take Spaz and me on Monday?”
I just shook my head, too amazed to speak. Don told me to dig deeper in the bag as there was some more there that he was sure I would like. I moved the Erinmore carton and under that to sealed plastic bags of tobacco – a pound and 1/2 of Dunhill 965 and a pound and ½ of Dunhill 3 Year Matured Virginia. These were double sealed in two freezer bags and labelled with the name and the year. These tobaccos were dated 1995. Needless to say I would have given Don and Spaz a ride to the edge of town anyway but this more than sealed the deal. I have no idea where Don came by this tobacco any more than I knew where he had found the last lot he brought me. He never would tell me, just laugh and say, “I have my sources!”
What a gift. I just shake my head at my friend’s thoughtfulness. I will miss his visits this Summer.”
The note ended there and today as I read it over again, I still shake my head at my friend’s thoughtfulness. I miss his visits. It has been four years since I have seen Don and Spaz. I have looked for them in their favourite spots without result. I don’t know what happened to him. I know that about two years ago he called to tell me he had found an apartment and give me the address and phone number. I called and went there but he was not to be found. I don’t know if he is still around or even still alive. But I know that he has made an indelible mark on my life and memory.
Those who have so little seem so much more giving and generous than those of us who have much. I lift a pipe of MM965 to you my friend where ever you may be. I will always remember your kindness to me and my family. Thank you!