Posts Tagged: homeless

Wheel chair blue

He had stationed himself in front of a Grocery Outlet discount supermarket on Bayshore Boulevard in San Francisco. I had just stopped by for some Dr Pepper. I’m addicted to Dr Pepper. As I walked toward him he asked me if I could help him out a little. A little was about all I had jangling loose in my pocket so I gave him all three bucks of it. He thanked me for the money and said he appreciated the help because he’d had two heart attacks and lost his job while recovering from the second one.

“That’s why I’m in this wheel chair pretty often,” he said.

“I can relate,” I said, “I had a heart attack myself fourteen years ago, three weeks shy of my 40th birthday.”

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That look people get when they think they’ve found a kindred spirit flashed across his face, and he started telling me details about his first heart attack. Frankly I had no desire to swap myocardial infarction stories. I still periodically suffer from PTSD because of mine and talking about it has never helped. That shit just gives me nightmares I don’t need. So I told him very apologetically that I really needed to get my shopping done and then went inside the store.

I was in and out of the supermarket with my Dr Pepper in less than five minutes, but when I emerged the man in the wheel chair was gone. And I felt bad about that, because I was going to give him three dollars change from the $10 bill I had just used to pay the clerk for my liquid fix. But I did feel good that our lives had intersected, even if minutes later they probably had diverged forever. I hope he felt the same way. It’s better to know people in a few fleeting minutes and let them enrich your life than to never know them at all.

And I wonder if he wheeled himself out of the grocery store parking lot or walked pushing the chair in front of him. I hope he walked.

(San Francisco, California, February 2018. See my other work here and here.)

The hope at the end of the year

I wish I could say
the end of the year
will erase all your pain,
make disgraces and crimes disappear,
kill the hatred on sale two-for-one at Safeway,

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flood the streets with winning lotto tickets,
give us the heart to be ourselves,
let us forego religion in favor of reason,
and install a second faucet
on everyone’s kitchen sink

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from which flows on demand
the finest Belgian chocolate sauce.
But that’s not going to happen.
America won’t get fixed,
won’t be America,

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won’t be great or even passable,
until people like these,
good people,
sweet people,
American people,

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are no longer sleeping on
concrete pillows on the streets,
seeing bullets and unicorns in their soup,
and eating manic-depressive tacos
from the labyrinths inside flaming dumpsters.

(Little Tokyo, Los Angeles, California, December 2017. See my other work here and here.)

The kitten, the junkie, the dog, and Steven

Extremes enrich an abundant life…

In my chosen profession there are extremes which exist outside of me and are mine (or yours) to take or leave. The world is ugly, and the world is beautiful, and I personally wouldn’t feel comfortable calling myself a photojournalist if I wasn’t willing to embrace how wonderful and horrible the world can be. You got to love the hate and hate the love, so to speak.

Scholars & Rogues has given me a forum to show you, our faithful readers, the weird bits of pathos, promise, and pain that I encounter as I wander in and around San Francisco, California and its suburbs. I do this to show you that we are not just a collective of progressive thinkers, critics, and college professors. We are also no strangers to the street. We have been in, and sometimes slept in, the gutters and found within ourselves the strength to take a realistic but also an humane and compassionate view of American life and how our country fits into the world.

So on the tenth anniversary of Scholars & Rogues, I want to make you feel good. And I want to make you feel bad. And I want to give you hope. Because that’s what life does to all of us on a regular basis. And to start here’s my kitten Kuro-chan grooming himself at my house in Brisbane, California…

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Then we have a junkie fumbling with a meth needle on 16th Street and Potrero in San Francisco…

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And here’s a dog from my neighborhood named Babaloo showing a bit of pink steel…

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Finally, here’s Steven, a manic street kid who treated me with grace and humor while we hung out behind a gas station on Patterson Street in San Francisco…

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This is our lives, all of us. We all have to understand that we live in an uncomfortable zone encompassing the kitten, the junkie, the dog, and Steven. It’s a place stuck in between soft kitty fur and the used needle on the sidewalk. You don’t get to choose whether you’re in this paradigm or not. You’re in it.

All we at Scholars & Rogues can do is try to draw you in and make you a willing part of it all. We owe you that. As human beings and journalists, we owe you nothing less.

(Pictures taken in Brisbane, California and San Francisco, California. See my other work here and here.)

25 days in Tokyo—12: behind the kōban

In late October, 2015, I was in Tokyo, Japan for 25 days. I shot many photographs. This series presents the most interesting, compelling, or touching person or scene I saw each day I was there. Click here to see the previous entries.

If you’ve been shopping in Shibuya even once you’ve probably walked past the kōban (police station) in Udagawachō. It’s hard to miss, and the Tokyo cops there are rumored to generally be very helpful. So these two guys were sitting behind it at a quarter to 10 on a Saturday morning. They might have just finished work at a local nightclub, or been homeless. They might have been co-workers, good friends, or lovers. But the man’s hair was very blonde, they both were very nice, and sometimes in Tokyo not knowing is good enough…

Udagawachō, Shibuya, Tokyo 2015 (Story:

I know you know I’m not really blonde, but I am really blonde for you. I’d be anything for you. In Tokyo, I can be anything for you. The trick is, and I’m sure you can relate, I need to figure out how to be what I want for me…

(Udagawachō, Shibuya, Tokyo 2015)

25 Days in Tokyo—11: Big issue

In late October, 2015, I was in Tokyo, Japan for 25 days. I shot many photographs. This series presents the most interesting, compelling, or touching person or scene I saw each day I was there. Click here to see the previous entries.

He was selling The Big Issue Japan on the south side of Nakano Station, so despite his immaculate appearance I knew the man was homeless. Only homeless persons are authorized to sell The Big Issue on Tokyo’s streets. It’s a legitimate way to earn money to mollify the effects of the predicament they’re in. My wife was with me and I described to her what the man was doing and why. She immediately said “I hope he doesn’t have to be out here selling that paper for very long.”

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(Nakano Station, Tokyo 2015)

Here’s to Henry

How do I pay tribute to a man who both enriched and destroyed my life? If I had never read his work I’d be less of a boozer than I am, but also less of a human being. Charles Bukowski would have been 96 years old today, and I have praised and cursed his very existence with every gulp of cheap beer or sip of fine rum that I have ever taken.

Kiyokawa, Tokyo 2012

(↑Kiyokawa, Tokyo 2012)

So what do I do here, Hank? Praise the fucking gods that I finally decided to get sober, or laugh at my own stupidity for leaving behind your horrible, desperate, inspiring, and beautiful world? I don’t really know. This is the kind of thing I used to have to consider over a cold beer.

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(↑Nihonzutsumi, Tokyo 2012)

I would have liked to have had a drink with you just once, to probe with some sort of scientific accuracy the reasons why demons chew on my testicles and nap on my liver and never pay one fucking penny’s worth of rent for the spaces they take up in my soul.

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(↑Nihonzutsumi, Tokyo 2013)

It would have been nice to talk with you about that. But you’re not here, and some days I’m not either, and who gives a shit anyway? It was your nihilism, probably more than anything else, that I admired most about you.

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(↑Seoul Izakaya, Nihonzutsumi, Tokyo 2013)

The Art of Not Giving a Fuck, you were a master of it. You were a horse’s ass in a pasture full of donkeys, and therefore owned the patent on a certain type of irony.

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(↑Freedom, Nakano 5-chome, Tokyo 2015)

And I love you, and I hate you, and to honor you I offer up these photographs of people whose beauty and tragedy not only rivals but exceeds your best writings about how our human condition is both wretched and worth living in defiance of sorrow and hope.

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(↑San Bruno, California 2015)

I’m a better man because of you, Mr. Bukowski, but I am a worse person. I love human beings more because of you, but I also feel better when they’re not around…

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(↑Brisbane, California 2016)

(Also published on Scholars and Rogues.)

Two cigarettes

He was pinballing along the sidewalk in front of a Popeye’s at Geneva and Mission. He asked for, and received, a couple of cigarettes, for which he agreed to be photographed. He asked for a bit of money too, but this is the debit card age so there was, unfortunately, no cash compensation available…

Geneva @ Mission, San Francisco 2016 (Story: http://www.brisbanegraphicartsmuseum.com/?p=304)

(San Francisco 2016)

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