My heart breaks inside. I shed tears for her. I shed tears for all of them.
I knew her, you could say, as well as you can know anyone you meet on the street, Church Street. Bought her paints and paper for her art. Bought her coffee. May have loaned her a buck or two or three. Never got them back. Didn’t know Amos. Can’t know too much about someone you meet on the street, either.
Beaten to death for not a good reason. And, in a homeless camp where she spent the night, because she missed the bus back to Milton where she had a place to live and family. I hope the killing wasn’t motivated by gender animus, but who knows?
No way to die; especially when you don’t want to and aren’t ready to. So many I knew on the street suffered undignified deaths as they struggled to understand life. She was always looking up, even when she wasn’t.
Amy tried to help others, despite her own personal problems, as much as she tried to help herself. Knew a ton of people and didn’t like a whole lot of them. A noble person she was. And that isn’t easy when you don’t have comfort zones to hide out in or a complete understanding of whom you are.
Before I left Burlington, we spoke. I suggested that she not come down from Milton every day and that she find things and people up there who would be of interest. “Nope,” she said, “Burlington was where her life was.” And, that is where it ended. Badly.
So, I haven’t given up this life long special project, photographing the homeless and hapless. I see them everywhere, sometimes smelling them before they come into view. Giving them money helps no one, but I feel better, even if it’s only $1. Doug here begged me to help him. He started to tell me his story. I couldn’t listen. I couldn’t breathe. He asked if I knew of a shelter in the area. Like, who am I in this episode? Who are any of us?
Last great day, maybe; maybe not.
Jim O’Donnell, hobo with a car. Traveling through Burlington. Knows the street and its people. On his way to Maine. Has bags in his car where he sleeps.
Cheryl’s still on the steet with Ryan. Had her baby. Says she’s homeless and hungry.
Sam said he came from Maryland. Carried his bike on the train. Who knows? He slept on a picnic table.
One of my original guys. He’s back. So am I.
Not his real name, for sure. Had a following. Always a wise statement. Kind. Gentle. Smart.
When I walked the Lake Champlain Boardwalk, on one of our best days of the year, I saw him sitting in the same swing I shot him when we first met, all alone. I remember the guys with him. Three of them; one dead, two alive. And, I know where they are.
He appeared in my first show. Wants to see the photo. I had given him a print; who knows what happened to that? As to the future, who knows about that, either?
So, my friend, Tom, lost his hotel room. Says that SSI doesn’t cover it and Howard cannot help him. Last night, he tells me, he slept on this bench that sits in front of the Parks and Recreation Building on Pine Street.
I brought him some water as he sat on the curb eating, but someone had already beaten me to it. He had juice and a sandwich; didn’t want anything else. He said he’d sleep on the bench again.
I found an old sign of his on the ground, in some flowers. I bought it for $1. It was written on and Arm and Hammer box.
In Court to see one of the guys I follow on the Street. To me, he’s Skippy, a light hearted alcoholic who has a certain joie to vie, singing, laughing and carrying on. In Court, he’s He’s Phillip Searles, charged with an aggravated domestic assault. Held on no bail due to the nature of the act and maybe his record. The State alleges that he is a habitual offender, but they haven’t filed all the paper work. As for the charge, the complaining witness, his wife, died, but whether he did it probably cannot be proven. So, they charged him with the assault based on the fact that he made an admission, gave some contradictory answers to the investigating officer and some other evidence.
He’s asking for bail, not that he could make $25 were it to be set. He lives in the woods, when he’s free, a residence courts don’t usually recognize in determining whether he will return to face the charges. No bail package has been submitted as an alternative to jail. But the lawyer’s obligation is to assert his rights, here his right to bail. In addition to have probable cause for the charges, the State has to allege that he poses a threat to the community. The best they could allege, without statutory or case support, was that as a person charged with domestic abuse, he may well injure another woman were he to come into contact one upon his release.
In a hallway interview after the hearing concluded with the Judge taking the matter into chambers to decide, Bill Norful, his attorney, talked about how difficult it would be to investigate the case due to the lifestyle of his client. He suggested that others could have injured her. Could have been another person whom she was seeing.
As Chet Baker sings, … everyday is Valentine’s Day.” Not for Molly. She’s still on the street. Hard enough not having a place to live.
David’s back, too. He’s still lost and adrift. But, he thinks he’s cool.
Bill Traveller doesn’t get any older; his lines grow deeper, hiding years of travail. Where has he been? Where have they all been? Places I’d never go.
And, Katie looks like she’s Catherine the Great, just off a barge ride down the Volga.
Had never seen the guy before. He sat with a traditionally messaged sign on the wrong side of the street, on the heavily trafficked corner across from Ben and Jerry’s where no one sits. Bright shoes. Big camp back pack. Hardly someone who doesn’t want to be noticed.
With the wind, snow and cold, I couldn’t go out. We must have emerged at the same time after two weeks in hibernation. First guy I saw after stepping out of my car into long missed but not forgotten sun. He stood behind the fence at Rite Aid, one of the City’s dingiest spots. Had to ask about the tattoo. “Got it in Las Vegas. It’s a coverup. Lost a bet that three girls that I was running could make more money in a night than another guys. The payoff was the tattoo: Lost in Vegas. And a telephone number. My girls took the money, bought drugs and spent the night getting high. Couldn’t get them to work. So, I lost. Got the tattoo and left. Then I got it covered up.”
Lenny struggles. Has social skills and smarts. Family in the area. Knows what he has to do, except for battling the demons. Got into a program. Got a job levelling tables. Still needs to ask for more help. Courteous to a fault. Has his life on his back.
Ten years ago I worked as a Public Defender in Middlebury. People in custody were kept in a basement holding area that allowed for safe transfers from cars to the jail, but unhealthy and borderline unconstitutionally improper cells. There was plenty of room for counsel visits, with no privacy, no windows and claustrophobic pens. When a prisoner arrived financially unable to afford counsel, a lawyer would be assigned to the case. Almost no one, except for the DUI, out-of-towners, had retained lawyers, most of whom could plead out a drunk but not try a case. The Deputy Sheriff would find the on-duty PD or call out the name of the defendant. One day, I heard, “whose got Larkin Forney?” Frankly, I thought it was a sandwich or a condition. I said, “what’s a Larkin Forney?” “You’re client, you idiot. He’s downstairs, with a pile of papers and he wants to talk with you.”
Larkin had papers, all right. He had motions he had written which he wanted to file and he had a full statement of facts, his version, and he had pages of a book he was writing. And he was pissed that I hadn’t familiarized myself with all the nuances of the case before we met. I had to excuse his vituperativeness, given the fact I would leave the cell and he would stay. He may not have known I only just got the papers and barely had looked at them as I walked down the stairs. And, poor communication between offices of the Public Defender and the general malaise of some of the attorneys prevented me from knowing he had fired his previous PD after writing a complaint to the disciplinary committee accusing the lawyer who is now a judge or magistrate or something or all sorts of unethical conduct, asserting that the representation was less than adequate and unconstitutionally defective.
[MORE To Come]