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GiveLife.ca

    
The Outsiders
Summer: 1

Intro
Summer Part 1  Part 2  Part 3
Autumn Part 1  Part 2  Part 3
Winter Part 1  Part 2  Part 3  Part 4
Full Photo GalleryBehind the Story

By Margaret Philp with photographs by Patti Gower

Near the banks of the Don River, at the traffic lights where the steep wooded sides of the Rosedale Valley ravine blend into the wide expanse of the Don Valley, Kurt Hendry is sitting on an upturned milk crate, a white cardboard sign with "Homeless, Please Spare Change" scrawled in black marker leaning against his thigh.

From his perch, he can almost touch the cars that have come down from the posh neighbourhood of Rosedale, stuck in idle as their drivers wait for the red light to change.

A woman rolls down her window, releasing a blast of cool air as she stretches out an arm with a bill pinched between her fingers. Kurt limps over, feigning a lame leg in a well-rehearsed sympathy routine.

His face is lean and tanned, his dark-brown hair short and spiky. He flashes the driver a wide, turn-on-the-charm grin as he plucks the money from her hand.

"I have regulars," he brags, limping back. "You know Eugene Levy? The comedian? He comes by here all the time."

This corner is hot property, a panhandler's gold mine claimed by an elite few at the top of a Darwinist pecking order of ravine dwellers.

The unwritten law is that only the people who live in the woods nearby have a right to work the spot. Even then, Kurt is routinely muscled aside by Boomer, a brawny man in army fatigues with a Maritime lilt who calls himself the mayor of the Rosedale Valley ravine.

Kurt is just a few months out of jail, sprung after serving eight years for what he loftily claims to be the biggest bank heist in Scarborough history. At least until the story changes.

Later, he acknowledges that the sentence was handed down for breaking into an elderly woman's home, stuffing rags down her throat as his buddies ransacked the house.

Theft is his craft, but lying is his art.

He tells his life story with unblinking conviction: He learned the criminal's tricks of the trade at the knee of his father, a small-time gangster named James Giaconi who with his devout Catholic wife raised 11 children in a three-storey Victorian house on Sumach Street in Cabbagetown. He and his brothers worked as debt collectors for their father, cracking heads as the need arose.

On the inside of Kurt's left forearm, from his elbow to his wrist, are the words "In loving memory of Dad" in blue-black letters that he tattooed himself after his father died four years ago.

But his mother, Diane, describes Kurt's father as an ordinary jack-of-all-trades named James Hendry who scraped to raise his family of six children in a public-housing unit in Regent Park.

His childhood world is little more than a 10-minute walk away. From where Kurt patiently watches the traffic with his sign, his old stomping grounds lie a few blocks south of a long wooden staircase that climbs out of the ravine.

Boredom grabs hold. In the blaze of the noonday sun, he stands up and heads into the forest. It is hushed and green, maple and oak leaves filtering brilliant July sunlight.
 

Intro
Summer Part 1  Part 2  Part 3
Autumn Part 1  Part 2  Part 3
Winter Part 1  Part 2  Part 3  Part 4
Full Photo GalleryBehind the Story


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