One Friday night, near midnight
“Accordion Dude!” called the kid from the steps of the Canada Trust bank at the corner of Queen and Spadina.
I didn’t recognize this street kid or his friends. That’s been happening more and more often now that the weather is getting warm; there’s a panhandler on every block of most major streets in downtown Toronto these days. I walked over.
“Heard you play earlier. Nice. Join us for a drink.”
I looked down and saw the bottle they were passing around. Listerine. Not the new mint flavour, but the battery-acid-flavoured original recipe. They were downing it as casually as most people can down Bailey’s Irish Creme.
“C’mon, dude, you’re not a real street kid unless you’re chugging the ‘Strene!”
Vile as the act is, I couldn’t help but smirk at the phrase “chugging the ‘Strene”. Gotta love street argot.
“How can you drink that shit?” I asked. “I can’t even gargle with it, never mind swallow it.”
“I hear ya. I’m all about the Scope myself, but this is all we got.”
“Here,” I said, tossing him a toonie, “go get a hot dog so you’ll have something to puke out later.”
“Thanks, dude, but I already got lots to puke!” he said, holding up a half-eaten pack of red Twizzlers.
‘Strene and Twizzlers. The breakfast of chimpanzees.
Street Kids International. A charity that “creates opportunities for street youth to make better lives for themselves.”
Google search on the phrase “drinking Listerine”.
Google search on the phrase “drinking Lysol”.
Google search on the phrase “drinking Aqua Velva”.
And my cheap-ass poison of choice, Dubonnet. The red, that is.