He looks fines, somedays. Sits or hangs out around the same places. Watches the street, for what we don’t know. Sees somethings we cannot imagine. Not ready yet to be put back together. Decided he needed to take a bath or a swim. Dived into Lake Champlain. Muck and mire on the surface. Left clothes in sumac or poison ivy. Covered with blisters. Chad lent him a razor. Hadn’t seen his face in twelve years.
Don’t usually shoot people wearing hats. Got my friend McQuade to hold the reflector. Never shot Bernard. My shoot loosener fell flat. “Not a good day for the Yankees. Old. Injured. And they lost.” “I don’t follow baseball,” he said.
Tough to work alone. When one of my guys finds the light, it makes them smile. All my photos become a bigger collaboration with the people I shoot.
Chad sporting a Prince Valliant look.
Scotty has his pouch.
Amy received a certificate for attending a Peer Emotional Counselling Program.
New girl in town.
So, I represented Eric light years ago in Rutland. Must have called him in jail, when public defenders didn’t deign to do such things, except for the privileged few. He asked something and someone answered something. From then on he has referred to me as Mrs. Duckman.
Dennis died April 2 at the age of 54. He didn’t look it, as people say, but what does that mean? What does a person’s years have to do with how they look? People look like they look. We all see people differently based on our experience. If we have seen someone, an aging relative or friend, who looks haggard or tired, we may assume that all at this age will look the same. If the person shows energy and promise, we might make more positive deductions. But they mean nothing. The people whom we observe leave an individual faceprint. The better the shot, the more we see. If we listen, a little, the more we learn about the person, not necessarily about life as it applies to all who have been born who have or will wander into our lives.
Our man, Dennis, here, looks strong and weak. He’s tired of the bullshit life put in his path and on top of whatever he needs to do to avoid it. See the wrinkles under the eyes, the deep routes in his forehead, the downward tilt to his lips. He’s wearing a raincoat on a sunny day and a wool cap on a not so cold one. Colored like the flag, he looks like he dressed for the walk, albeit inappropriately. He didn’t. Not a lot of patience to stand still, but he did. I gave him a dollar. Dave Parker gave him a dollar that I had given to him earlier.
People mourned him.
Not much traffic recently on Church Street. People in jail. People in motels. People in programs. Some people hanging out on couches. Others, who knows. One warm day and they hit the streets. Not to say they lost contact. Just followed enough dramas. Ready to go full blown, getting in and out of who knows how much trouble, again.
Dave just got good news about his claim for benefits. He may have more trouble keeping the money than getting it.
Larry’s girlfriend broke up with him last night. He said he had a heart attack. But they let him out for breakfast.
Dennis Terrible had to go to jail to sleep it off. Too drunk for the hospital. He got kicked out of the hoosegow. Walked back to Church St.
Tommy needed a dollar. Dave gave him the dollar I had just given to him. We call that the trickle down in Burlington.
Tommy must have spent his money. Sitting on Church Street, holding a sign that says “Homeless and Hungry. Anything Helps. Thank You.” If you cannot read it, its because he doesn’t write big. People cannot sit on the street, begging, without signs. He knows his First Amendment rights, Tommy does.
She’s homeless and hungry.
I bought a Powerball ticket. Who knows?
Usually, when I walk down Church Street, elation fills my heart when a person who hasn’t been around for a while finds me. Jim is one of the guys whose smile always brightens my day.
During an early winter cold spell, I carried a sleeping bag around for days looking for him. Our schedules sometimes don’t coincide, me being an early morning person, while he sometimes roams until late at night and then sleeps in or out, depending on the weather. Jim said he’d been around, just not at the same time as me. I must have missed his decline.
Last time I shot him and his daughter Amanda was Christmas morning. They were on their way to a meal at Junior’s, an annual food event for street people. Both seemed a little beaten down. She’s away right now. People say she was doing OK for a while. I saw him again in mid-January. He was talking with a cop about something. I gave him a dollar, staring without talking, before moving along. Enough drama. Didn’t know if he was engaged in a social or investigative conversation.
But, on St. Patrick’s day, as he waited for the parade of Ireland Cement Mixers, we chatted. He looked awful. Even the days in the past when he had been carousing and not taking care of himself, he had a sense of life. He had helped people who had fallen or who couldn’t take care of themselves, like Paul O’Toole. Out early, he would pick up litter in City Hall Park. He told jokes and stories. Had a high sense of morals and etiquette. Got pissed if you didn’t greet him and upset if he missed you. Today, he answered the question, “how are you,” with “… not too good. Doctors say I don’t have a chance.” He wouldn’t tell me what was wrong, though I asked several times.
He refused my offer to buy him a new coat. “Not going to be needing a new coat where I am going.” Turned down my open offer to do anything which would make him more comfortable or happy. “No need. I have been all the places I needed to go and done all I wanted to do. Just waiting for the end.” Damn. I took a dollar out of my wallet and offered it to him. He refused and then reached into his pocket, took out a silver dollar. “Here Duck. You take this dollar. Its for all the dollars you have given me over the years.” “I don’t need your dollar,” I said. “Then give it to someone who does. When was the last time a homeless person gave you a dollar?’ I took it.
Not everyday I meet a person who has a street named for them. But, then again, hard to be in Vt and not meet a Lafountain.
Guy once hung out on the street all the time. Knows everyone. You cannot tell a Lafountain that you know another Lafountain or you will spend the next hour doing family geography. They abound in Vt. I mentioned this to the person who introduced me and Guy. I told him that I was a Public Defender in Rutland, Middlebury and Burlington. “Oh, you must know ….” We all laughed. Guy decided life was worth living better at some point. He volunteers at Recycle North or some other place dealing in resyclables, walks around, happy to be whom he is. He says he feels productive. No more hanging out.
Mollie keeps trying. She has obstacles to conquer. Needs a place to live and a job, not to mention some support. She isn’t giving up and could use a break. Day after day she stands on the street, doing what she has to do. Got to give her some credit for the effort, though some people are less sympathetic to her than others.
Karl had his hips fixed. He is up and walking. Probably should be giving his hips more time to heal, but doesn’t like to be kept down. Shane says he could get a job as a nutritionist; he cannot fight the system, because he doesn’t have formal training. No way either can help Mollie, except to be supportive.
Scotty has a cane which he doesn’t use. He says that he sees shapes and doesn’t like looking down.
I had just seen him on the waterfront. A little out of his way. Lives in Winooski. Walks everywhere. He always looks stylish, takes quick evenly paced steps, capped head up, similing in an impish sort of way. Wears lots of different outfits, colors and labels. Must spend some time bargain hunting at the local thrift shops.
A bike. Hey. It warmed up a little here. Not enough for a bike. He bought it off someone. Clean. High tech. Just have to wonder if it is swag. But in this world, he becomes a buyer in due course. People like him don’t go to bike stores, unless they are selling reconditioned bikes. But, there was more to reach the eye. His arm had a cast and he was wearing sunglasses on a cloudy, gray day.
Not good dude. He’s such a gently guy. Not going to say what happened either. “Oh, the guy from the government did it.” Law on the street. Don’t tell. No one to protect him. He doesn’t think safe or not safe. He just goes from one place to another. Cares about how he looks, but only for the now, not for the tomorrow. Will wait for his smile again. “Hey,” he says, “got a dollar for a cup of coffee?”
David said the night would be full of fun. What he does for fun, who knows? But, though his life had different reference points than mine, his goals seem the same. If it ain’t fun, why do it? Me. I did many things I didn’t think were fun to go along or get along. He didn’t. Or, if he did, he said, at some time, enough.
This David follows a different path. Always looks unsure of where he is or where he is going. Aimless. Wandering. Sits. Stares. Rocks.