Just Say Shook

The Moment



Yesterday was a long day. 3 donation pick ups, the last one of which was 50 miles from my place. It was worth the trip.
I got home with a car that had just enough room left for me to drive it. Unpacking and sorting for 5 hours after, and that was just a start. Out at 5 this morning after finishing the packing of the car before work.
To see THIS reaction today from Tommy makes every bit of it worth it. As I sat and talked with him and Spoon, I was grateful I had my camera ready. Certainly not ideal shooting conditions, but technical merits are secondary to me with this shot. I can look at it and hear his laugh. I can remember the camaraderie between the three of us. The GENUINE smiles and laughs.
If this isn't the highlight of my day, then that means it's been a REALLY good day.

Freddy


Freddy certainly fits one stereotype. That of the "gentle giant". He stands about 6'4", he's got massive hands, and I've found that finding a winter boot in a Men's 14 Wide is NOT as easy as it sounds. I've gotten plenty of donations of boots, but nothing bigger than a 13. So I have promised Freddy AND myself that I will find a pair of boots for him this winter. And when I set a goal for myself, I find a way of getting it done (within my means, or course).

Dwight - Comfort Zone



As much as eye contact is desired in a portrait, sometimes it's more about the individuals comfort level, and the humanity behind it.


Dwight is blind in one eye, and it is also a lazy eye. It hasn't always been this way, so I assume it is a "recent turn of events". Regardless, I can tell he was a little self-conscious about it. I asked him to look at the camera, and I noticed the moment of hesitation. I asked him to look down, and found I preferred this look anyway. I honestly found his "body language" to be, unfortunately, a more accurate representation of his true feelings.

Energy



Hillbilly has an undeniable energy about him. Sometimes it is focused. Sometimes it is scattershot. Today was scattershot.

The topics were far-reaching, as were his emotions. From enthusiasm to tears to joking to combative, the moods changed within seconds. Sometimes it takes all my energy just to listen and understand what he is saying.

I don't get everything. His talk will go from shouts to whispers, and the roar of the trains overhead will drown out every other sentence. But you can pick up enough to make SOME sense of it all.

After 15 minutes under the tracks, I was shaking my hands to get some circulation. He laughingly (not maliciously) sneered "You cold?!?" I didn't complain. I wouldn't have gotten any empathy anyway, nor would I have expected any.

Some people just need a few minutes, some understanding, and for someone to recognize that they actually exist. If 15 minutes of my day can make that much of a difference in someone's life, that's a pretty good trade-off for cold hands.

The Hustle


When I describe Tommy as a "hustler", I don't mean that in a strictly negative way. It's more a description of how he interacts with people.


Tommy is the kind of person who is always on the lookout for an "edge". That doesn't mean he is going to cheat or steal, but if he can work things to his advantage, he will, as long as you are willing to go along with it. He has an easy way with people, a way of ingratiating himself to those around him. I can only assume that it is as much of a defense mechanism as anything else, a way of being able to survive on the street.

Mike 


Long story ahead. Stick with it or be gone!


I was out on my lunch break, trying to deliver the last of the Christmas bags that had been put together and donated to me by a Facebook friend. She made 15 of these bags, which contained food, a new flannel shirt, socks, hand warmers, a card with a McDonalds gift certificate, and other goodies too numerous to mention.


I had never met Mike before, but as he pushed his shopping cart of pallets up the street, he looked like he could use "a little something". I pulled over, got him a lunch (which also doubles as breakfast), and I gave him one of the bags. He was taken aback a little, but I think that is the point of something like this. So many times people that are in a different life situation tend to feel passed over, ignored, almost less than. When a gesture makes them think (however briefly) that there ARE people that care, it does a lot to put their day in a positive direction.


And, as is my nature, I asked him to not smile for the picture. He honestly WAS much happier than he appears. That's on me.


Happy Holidays, everyone.

MIXED EMOTIONS 


I haven't seen Vera for a while. Weeks. That could either be good or it could be bad. So when I saw her today, it was with mixed emotions. I was glad to see her because that meant she was ok, at least as ok as I can expect her to be. Bad because it's not as "ok" as I would HOPE for her to be.


Vera has her problems, her demons, just as I do. But I am fortunate enough to have the opportunity and resources to DEAL with my demons. I have insurance, I have stability, I have family and friends for emotional support. Vera has her friends on the street, but her family (estranged) doesn't know how to deal with her demons. The only way they can deal with them is by shutting her out of their lives.

UPDATE WITH CHARLES
It was nice to run into Charles on the street today. Weather was good, the sun was out, and I was able to get an update on some faces I hadn't seen in a while. We talked about Vera, Dwight, Darwin, Tommy, and Old School, and we both also marveled at resiliency of Hillbilly, who has not spent a day (or night) inside during this Winter. We agree that he doesn't feel it because he almost doesn't realize it's there.


Mind over matter.

Pancho - Building a Level of Trust


I first met Pancho about 2 months ago. He has become a staple/regular/fixture under the tracks. I can count on one hand the days I HAVEN'T seen him in the same spot, right next to Hillbilly (or, as Pancho calls him, "Mr. Billy").


I asked Pancho today if I could take his picture, and he was a little apprehensive. I understand. Although he has seen me 5 days a week for the last 2 months, he doesn't REALLY know me, who I am, or what this guy with the camera wants. But Hillbilly was there, and explained to him that it's ok, I only do this to try to help, that's where the food, clothes, and blankets come from. That put his mind a little at ease, and I told him it was fine if he didn't look right at the camera.


I never imagined that one day, I would be using Hillbilly as a "character reference", but you never know how life is going to turn out.

Fred Portrait 


Fred was a little reluctant to have his picture taken at first, but he softened as we talked about things. Life, our own particular situations, and just general small talk. I assured Fred that I would present him as the unique, light-hearted, almost happy go lucky person that he was.


He was very proud of what he and Gene do. It may not seem like much, but they are good guys who play by the rules. They are just trying to scratch out as comfortable of an existence for themselves as they can, at the expense of no one else. 

Spoon



"Next time I see you. I promise." I've known Spoon for a little over a year now, and I've asked him intermittently if I could take his picture. That's what he always told me.


I left him no choice this time. We were talking as a group (me, him, and Tommy), and with a little help from Tommy, he let me take his picture.


I think, more than anything, it says something about the trust we have built up between the us. They know that these pictures are personal to me, not exploitative. There isn't much more "in it" for me other than my love of my work, the fact that this work has the added benefit of raising donations that in turn help them. And, just as important as anything, any one of them can "disappear" at the drop of a hat, so the record of our friendship is something that will always be there.

Gene Portrait


Gene and Fred live in a clearing in the Comiskey Park area (I refuse to use the other names of the field). They are , technically, homeless, but they are still hard-working entrepreneurs. Gene has a burgeoning flower painting business that he uses to earn living expenses for his brother and he.


I guess you could say that Gene is "the brains" and Fred is "the muscle". I only met them today, but you could see the division of labor in their relationship.

Charles 


I met Charles for the first time about a month ago. As much as I wanted to get a portrait of him at the time, I knew that there was no level of trust. Not that I didn't trust him, but that he didn't trust me.


Over time, he's gotten breakfast under the tracks, he has asked for a few articles of clothing (t-shirts, jeans, etc...), and more importantly, he has seen me interact with his friends. He has heard me talk about the pictures I take and why I take them. He sees that others trust me, so that trust has been established.


They all know that I don't benefit financially from what I do. On the contrary, it costs me money. But what I "lose" financially, I more than make up for artistically, emotionally and spiritually. It has opened my eyes to what I never knew that I already had.

Once was Darwin Now is Boyne


Chicago has gone from Winter to Summer in the space of 2 days. From a cold rain on Wednesday to heat and high humidity on Friday. The shade under the tracks is no escape from the heat.
Luckily, I scored a large quantity of orange juice at work today, so a drive around the neighborhood was needed. Dropped off about 12 gallons to 11 very needy people.
1 of those people was Darwin. Although today, I found out he is now "Boyne". Hillbilly corrected me when I address him as Darwin. "Who? You mean Boyne?" Boyne said "Yeah, that's what I want to be called now."
I met Darwin a few years ago. I told him he looked a bit like Mike Tyson.
www.flickr.com/photos/26178772@N02/23891617499/stats/
What, like I'm going to argue with this guy? Boyne is OBVIOUSLY no stranger to a street fight, and much worse than that.

Portrait of Vera on a Hot Summer Day


While not technically the greatest picture I've ever taken, this means a lot to me. The smile on Vera's face was genuine, not staged or forced.


She wanted a portrait of herself, so with limited background resources, we made do. A chair was brought out to the street, and the background was minimized as much as possible. As I took her picture, I told jokes and made her laugh. She said she felt like she was getting her school pictures taken. And when I asked her to look in a specific direction, she replied, "Yes, father" in a jokingly sarcastic way.


While the others ate Friday pizza, we got the picture done. I spent probably an hour under the tracks talking. It was a pretty nice way to spend a hot summer afternoon.


About Everything


I had a really long, really honest, and really insightful discussion with Lamont this morning. Standing on Damen at 6 am, between traffic and exhaust fumes, we talked about our lives.


About family and friends. About respect and rejection. About love and hate. About inner peace and inner anger. About demons and salvation. About needs and wants.
It's nice to connect on a personal level.

STAR


I imagine that if I looked up the phrase "Street Cred" in the dictionary, I would probably see a picture of Star next to it. She is resilient, she is quiet, she doesn't ask for much. She doesn't ask for much because, frankly, she probably isn't expecting much from a stranger.


Luckily I have met her in the past, so when I asked her what she needed, she respectfully asked for a coat, some boots, some clean underwear, toiletries, pants, and some gloves. I was glad that I was able to bring her what she needed the next day.


But as she settled in for the night, I asked her where she was sleeping. "Right here" was the simple reply, pointing to the concrete. Cold, nothing more than a slab. When I brought her blankets and breakfast this morning (like I said I would), she obviously had not slept all night. I'm not surprised.

JAMES


I met James for the first time a couple of months ago. Unfortunately, he has become a "fixture" on the street by Hillbilly.


Not "unfortunately" for me. James is very soft-spoken, grateful, and always respectful. At little too much, to be honest. This morning, I had to (gently) remind him to PLEASE stop calling me "sir". I was like "Dude, drop the "sir" bullshit. It's Gary." He just laughed and replied "You got it, Gary."


It's too bad there aren't more people like James. Not in his situation, but just in his attitude and demeanor.

Portrait of Darwin

Of all the people I have met on the street, for some reason, I feel that Darwin is the most genuine. He is always very nice, very agreeable, and just as respectful to me as I am to him. He comes across as the kind of person you could count on to NOT cross you if you were his friend.


But it also looks like he has had some experiences with people that were not his friends as well.

STAR PORTRAIT


As street savvy as Star is, there is a sad realization in her eyes. She seems to have more awareness for her surroundings and her life at this point, but seems resigned to it at this point. The only thing left to do is get up, get through another day, and let the chips fall where they will.


I have no idea how I would react if I was in this situation, this lifestyle. So I don't judge how someone acts or what someone does. All I know is that there is something in their lives that led them to this point. I have no idea what it is, so it's not my place to tell them how to "deal with it."

A Look of Resignation


The last time I spoke to Ponytail, he had told me that he wasn't hanging with Hollywood anymore, because he felt that Hollywood had done him wrong (there was an accusation of theft of pallets). When I met up with him today, he was hanging under the tracks with Hollywood and Ray. when I asked him if everything was all good, he kind of looked down and just muttered a soft, "yeah. I guess so."


I know Ponytail is not looking for sympathy, he is just looking to get out of the 'street life". but every time he tries to get ahead, he seems to get kicked back. It's very sad to seem him almost be resigned to it. He seems to try so hard, and he is so grateful whenever I bring lunch. I just keep hoping that for once, something will break his way.

Lamont


As the weather turns, the population actually increased under the tracks. Not many "regulars" are willing to go to the shelters. Too much crime, actually more than there is on the streets. Under the tracks, you can (hopefully) trust those around you to have your back.

Just Like Sisters

Vera will miss a lot of things about Chicago. She was raised here, and has lived most of her life here. But the one thing she is most sad about leaving is her friends, especially Brenda. Brenda was very protective of Vera, almost like a big sister. It was tearful as they said goodbye, but they both knew it was for the best.

Dwight


Dwight is an "occasional and temporary resident" under the tracks. There are regulars who I see every day, and some who may or may not be there on any given day.


Sometimes I can get a back story, sometimes not. I ask and talk, but I don't pry. If people choose to share their circumstances, I listen. If not, I understand.


I don't attempt to understand what leads any individual to this lifestyle. It could be any number of circumstances. But I think I can safely assume that most don't live this life because it's so easy or glamorous.

Every Face Has a Name


His name is David. A new face, at least to me, under the tracks. David was in need of a heavier coat, and I happened to have his size with me today. He tried it on and it fit like a glove (unfortunately, I did NOT have any gloves!).


He then asked me "Don't you want to take my picture?" I honestly was not going to ask, but he seemed genuinely proud as he posed for a picture.

"Gotta Get My Coco Back"


Tony is entering a Halfway House tomorrow. He found a local sponsor who is trying to help him get his life on track. He knows that living on the streets is a dead end, and he isn't sure he can make it through another Winter.


Tony and Levita (aka "Coco") were inseparable when I met them. They always worked together, scavenged together, and ate together. I was never sure if their relationship was more "significant other" or "brother/sister". I'm still not sure, but she is the reason for Tony seeking a life-change. He misses her, and he sees how her life has changed since she was released from prison. He wants those changes for himself so they can be together again.

Drifting, but Not Aimlessly


Hillbilly is the very definition of "drifter". That is not meant as a slur or in a derogatory way. It is merely the most comprehensive description I can think of for so many aspects of this man.


Yes, he "drifts" from place to place, corner to corner, and viaduct to viaduct. But in talking to him, the conversation drifts from one topic to the next. His eyes drift all around, always aware of everything that is happening in his surroundings. And yes, he is constantly drifting along the sidewalk in his wheelchair (he is missing his left leg).


But he is also one of the most interesting and amazing people I've ever spoken with. He is soft-spoken, but with an intensity that matches his gaze. He speaks intelligently. He speaks with a combination of book smarts, street smarts, and life smarts.


He has so many stories to tell about his life. I'm sure that some are true and some are "embellished". But I know 2 things. Everything he says is absolutely true to him, and I could talk to this man for hours about life.

Tommy is Warming up to the Camera


I hesitate to categorize Tommy as a "con man", because I never feel like he is out to purposely deceive or take advantage of me. But he does not hesitate to ask, push, or cajole for things if he feels that he can get what he wants or needs.

I'm sure he would have absolutely NO problem taking whatever he could get from me if I would let him. But he pushes until I push back, usually with a laugh or a joking, expletive laden retort. He will laugh back because he knows that I am onto him, and he leaves it, only to try again next time.

Squrrel


I met Squirrel a couple of weeks ago for the first time with Vera. He usually has a slight but ready smile whenever I have clothes or food for him. He doesn't ask for much, so I usually have to ask him specifically what he needs, and he will nod yes or no.

He comes off as almost meek because he is so quiet, but I have heard that he knows how to take care of himself. I shouldn't have been surprised, because it isn't a "lifestyle" that has much tolerance for those that aren't ready to defend what is theirs.

Tony and Levita For Probably the Last Time


This is, more than likely, the last time I will see Tony and Levita "together" again.


I first met Levita 8 years ago, while she was going by the name "Coco". I knew her very vaguely from her relationship with Too Tall, who was, for lack of a better term, "a legend" with the local residents. She was sort of his sidekick.


Flash forward to 2015. I met Levita, and we both recognized each other from years ago. I talked to her, took her picture, and took her to lunch a couple of times. It was through her that I met Tony. She and Tony were friends. Not only friends, they had each others back. When you live on the street, it is hard to find someone you KNOW you can trust. Tony and Levita were that for each other. They were big sister and little brother. They were inseparable.


Levita got arrested in December of 2015, and spent a year in jail. She was paroled to a halfway house, and has started a new life with, according to Tony, a new man as well. Tony only sees her occasionally in passing, as she no longer lives on the street. Whenever he DOES see her, he feels largely ignored by her.

I can sense that Tony is really torn. He cares about Levita, so he is glad that she is getting her life together and no longer lives on the street. But on the other hand, it reminds him constantly of the fact that he is STILL on the street, and he has lost another friend.

The Scene Remains the Same...


It's the faces that are different.


Pizza Day Friday introduced me to David (pictured), Anthony, and Nicholas. I did not take a picture of Anthony and Nicholas, as they are grandfather and grandson. Nicholas is probably around 7 or 8 years old. While I do not think that Grandfather Anthony and Grandson Nicholas live on the street, today's "scenario" really made me think about things a lot deeper than I had before.


Not everyone I meet under the tracks is homeless. I know the individuals who are - Hollywood, Vera, Tony, Hillbilly, Darwin. I know they are homeless, as I have seen them sleeping under the tracks even in the bitterest of conditions. There is no question they live on the streets.


But David, Anthony, Nicholas, Mike...they don't appear as "obviously" homeless. Perhaps they are. But if they are, then why is David's facial hair so perfectly trimmed? Why the obviously new Bulls hat? And, if they are not homeless, what possesses them to CHOOSE to eat pizza under the train tracks, off a "dinner table" that consists of a piece of plywood on a stack of old tires? To be honest, the pizza isn't so good that one would choose to eat it under these conditions.


I don't understand, and I might not ever understand. But I am not going to judge. This is how they live. They are always very grateful, polite, and respectful whenever I come around. And I treat them exactly the same as they treat me.

Vera

Vera has been living under the tracks for about 4 months now. I see her every week. She comes across as one of the meekest, quietest people I have ever met. But I can only assume that she would not have survived on the streets for this long if she was that meek on the inside.

Oblivious to the Noise of the World Around Him 2


Wheelchair Tommy (aka Old Man) was not around yesterday when I was dropping off toiletries and clothes for the guys under the tracks. I passed stuff out to Tony, Willie, Old School, and Hillbilly, but Tommy, surprisingly, was nowhere to be found. I honestly did not think he left his couch. I told Tony to tell him I would come back today.

Back I went at lunch. The city is doing a lot of construction in our neighborhood, tearing up the streets and the water pipes all around. There was a ton of construction noise right outside the tracks on Oakley, but it didn't seem to faze Tommy. He did not move until I woke him to ask him if he needed clothes. He did. I did not realize all he had was the lone pair of pants he was wearing.

As I was leaving, he asked why I didn't bring a pizza. I replied that I thought the clothes would be enough. He said he would give up the clothes for some food. I had no money on me, so I told him I was sorry but there was nothing I could do.

As I drove away, I thought about how ungrateful that was. Then I put myself in his shoes for a minute and my perspective changed. How often do they get the opportunity to actually ask for something? I'm sure they aren't thinking "Don't be greedy." They are thinking, "It doesn't hurt to ask." I guess I can't blame them.

Durell


I met Durell (pronounced "Duh-Rell) today while walking past Tommy's Hot Dogs on Damen. We both happened to walk down the alley, and he spoke as we walked together. I was able to make out about every fourth word, as he spoke about bible passages, the Devil, his brother and his children, but mostly, he spoke about his clothes. When I mentioned how much I liked his red tie (pictured), he adamantly corrected me. "This is not a tie. This is my belt. It COULD be a tie. But when I wear this shirt (the off-white tuxedo shirt he was wearing), this could be my cummerbund. And when I wear my jacket (also pictured), you should see me dance."


We spoke about the neighborhood, and I told him how much I loved the neighborhood, he gave me a wary look that said he didn't believe me. Lucky me, at that very moment, House happened to walk to his car. I had photographed House a few weeks previous (www.flickr.com/photos/26178772@N02/26195767404/in/datepos... , so I yelled a quick "What's up?" to him. He recognized me and yelled back "Today's my birthday!" I wished him a Happy Birthday, and at that point, Durell realized I was not just bullshitting him. We talked some more, he gladly posed for a picture, and we went our merry ways.

Old Man in Repose


Friday is pizza day for the guys in the neighborhood. I told Tony I would meet him on Oakley today, and, true to his word, he was there at 12:00 as I drove up. As I went to park, I noticed a figure asleep on the couch. He turned his head to look at me, so I asked him if he wanted some pizza and root beer too.

"No. I want a steak is what I want."


"Wel,, I don't have no damn steak. I got pizza. You want it or not?"


Sure, I guess. I got nothing better to do."


That was my introduction to Tommy Lee, aka Old Man. It turns out that Old Man was best friends with Too Tall, a local resident who died about 5 years ago. I told him he looked a bit like Too Tall, and he told me the story of how Too Tall died, and that he was with him when he died. He said that Too Tall knew he was going to die, and he asked Old Man to do him a favor and score him "one last rock" before he went. He got it and gave it to Too Tall, but that Too Tall didn't even smoke it. He died in the Nursing Home, with the rock in his hand. Maybe he just wanted to hold it one last time.


I'm never really sure how much of these stories are truth, how much are exaggeration, and how much are "delusions of grandeur". And since I will really never know, I cannot argue if Old Man tells me it's true.

Everything Happens For a Reason


The last year of shooting has taught me a very important lesson. Whatever is supposed to happen is going to happen. Whatever I find to shoot that day is what I'm SUPPOSED to find. It doesn't matter which way I go, if it's supposed to be there, it will be, no matter when I get there.

Deep, huh?


I have been carrying a collection of pictures for Darwin for the last three weeks. He had asked for them since many of them were pictures of his friends from this neighborhood from 8 years ago (many have passed since then). I had not seen him for 3 weeks, but every day I went out, I brought the pictures because I know they meant something to him.


Today I changed my routine, and decided to walk out of the exact opposite side of the building today. Literally the second I walked out. there was Darwin. He waved, smiled, and and yelled "You got them pictures?" I did indeed. As simple as it was, I could see how much it meant to him as he looked through the pictures.


I had a nice long conversation with Darwin as he told me that this is the neighborhood he has lived his whole life in. He moved here at age 5, and has lived here since. He is 55 years old now.

I was really glad to see him today. It's been so cold here the last few weeks I wasn't sure what had happened. Darwin explained that, as much as many people do't want to,sometimes you just have to go to the shelters. You just can't survive at night outside.


I truly admire Darwin's optimism and outlook. My outlook on life is WAY shittier than his, and I know I have more, at least in the way of material possessions. I guess you really can learn from anyone. I know I have a lot of learning to do.

Reunion with Leesa


As I exited the underpass after talking to Mike during my lunchtime stroll, I saw a figure pushing a shopping cart down the street. From the body type, I assumed it was Old School, so I thought I would mosey on by and see how he was doing. As I approached, the individual practically shrieked "I know you. Where you been?" I looked at her and I questioningly said "Leesa?"


She was dumbfounded. "You remembered my name?" I met Leesa for the first time 8 years ago when we were doing our first 365 project (link to original pic is at the bottom). It was at the corner of Lake and Western, and I was shooting an abandoned piano next to a Currency Exchange. Leesa was there, I struck up a conversation, and I took her portrait. ( flic.kr/p/5D1ZiP]. That was also the last time I had seen her, but I was able to recall all the details of the day.


Long story short, we talked for a few minutes. She has obviously hit hard times, so I promised her that Friday, lunch is on me. It may not be much, but I think just the fact that someone remembered means something to her.

Hollywood


I was supposed to meet Mike today to take his birthday picture. It was his 59th birthday on Feb. 9, and he wanted a "proper" birthday portrait done. I was honored that he asked me.


Unfortunately, Mike did not meet me at the designated time and place. Fortunately, I had a witness that can attest to the fact that I was, indeed, there.


Hollywood has taken up residence next to Old School, which is good because they can watch out for each other and help each other with larger pallet loads. I commented to Hollywood that he must be grateful for the early Spring we are having.


"Yeah, I can't stand the cold. Plays Hell with my hand." I had not noticed his hand until he had made it a point of conversation.


He had a run-in with a CTA train quite a few years back. I did not ask for specifics, and he was not offering any. Unfortunately, when you rely on the Cook County services for your medical care, all they will do in a case like this is amputate. There is no surgery, I highly doubt there is any form of "rehab".


I have a hard enough time making it through some days with all the things I am blessed to have. I can't imagine the strength it takes to make it through a day in others lives.

Ponytail


I had spoken to Hollywood earlier in my lunchtime walk, and I was headed back to work. I saw a figure down the street with a cart and, assuming it was Old School, I walked toward him. It was a gentleman I had never met before.


I introduced myself to him and shook his hand. He introduced himself as Ponytail. I remarked I had not seen him around the neighborhood before.


"I been in this neighborhood since 2011. But I've been over on Wolcott. Now I'm over on Hoyne." I asked him if he is on Hoyne over with Hollywood. He is, and I told I had just seen Hollywood. I had asked Hollywood if he would like me to bring him some lunch tomorrow, so I extended the same offer to Ponytail. He graciously accepted.


I told him if he wasn't there at noon tomorrow, no worries. I told Hollywood where I would leave the food. And I promised I would bring it, so I told Ponytail that if there isn't any food, then that meant Hollywood ate it al, and he had my permission to kick his ass. He laughed.

"No, Hollywood wouldn't do that to me. We're good to each other."


Everybody needs someone.

Charles


I've spoken to Charles on many occasions over the past year, but I was never able to get him to allow me to take his picture. If someone says no to me, I tell them that I respect their decision (as much as it may pain me), I thank them for their time, And I shake their hand and depart with a "Maybe next time?" Charles is one such individual.


As I was walking back to the studio after my encounter with Anthony and John, I passed by Charles. I called him by name, his face lit up, and I stopped to talk. He said he had seen me walking around with my camera and knew it was me immediately. So I figured I would take a chance and ask him again for a picture. I was pleasantly surprised when he agreed.


He also told me how excited he was, because in around 5 weeks, he is going to be able to start losing some of the layers of coats that he wears. He knows enough to not discard them because Chicago winters can really play tricks on you when you think it's over. He'll put them away, but accessible.


Luckily, Charles was able to find a place to stay over the past few weeks when the temperatures were brutally cold. He just can't "overstay his welcome", so he is hoping that the mild temps last for a while.

Alfred Riding


I asked him if I could take a picture of him. He said that would be fine, but he wanted to have his bicycle in the shot. He got his bike and his cart, and proceeded to bungee cord everything together. I asked him if he needed a hand, because it appeared awkward. "Nah, i'm fine. I been doing this long enough where I don't need help."


As I said yesterday, the people in this neighborhood are nothing if not resilient. I respect their self-sufficiency and their pride in what they do have.

Alfred Rolling


When I first saw Alfred, he was pulling his cart along the sidewalk slowly. He stopped as I approached, and stood in the corner of the garage doorway with his head down. I passed but had to go back.


I asked him if he was OK. He appeared a little confused, and replied with "Huh?" I again asked if he was ok, I was just checking to make sure he was ok. He understood and said he was fine, he was just getting out of the wind to roll a cigarette. I talked with him for a few minutes. (continued on the next picture)

Darwin as Tyson


I met Darwin earlier this week when I was giving Mike copies of pictures from the "old neighborhood". I photographed a lot of people in the neighborhood when we first moved in here 7 years ago, and it turned out that Mike was friends with many of them.


When Darwin saw the pictures, he immediately exclaimed "Too Tall!!" , the subject of three of the pictures. They were very good friends, and Darwin had not seen his face since he died 4 years ago.


I was going to check up on Levita today (update - she is still a "guest of the State"), but Darwin was there watching her things. He asked me if I could get him copies of the pictures that I gave to Mike. I said I would, and then I asked if he wanted copies of the picture of himself. When he said he did, I replied "Well, I've never taken your picture, so it looks like I'm taking it today." As I was taking the picture, I told him he looked pretty bad ass, a little like Mike Tyson. He said "Tyson" and struck this pose.


I don't think I could have asked for more.

Lunch Date


I was finally able to meet up with Levita today. I had been worried, as I had not seen her in a couple of weeks.


She was having a "rough" morning. A bit incoherent, but I sat and talked with her for a while. Tony is still out of the picture (locked up), so it is just her and Old School (who also lives under the tracks) trying to watch each others backs.


We walked together to McDonalds, and we talked about our lives. I told her this was my first "date" since my divorce, which got a laugh.


McDonalds went about like I figured it would. Lots of stares, lots of grumblings, but nobody gave us any shit. I was just ready to say "I make more money than you" to anyone that said anything snotty. And no, we did NOT go dutch. It was my treat.


Some of the food in the picture was for Old School. I hope Levita didn't eat it all.

Levita, a little more information


I had a fairly rough and dramatic evening and morning, and I needed to clear my head at lunch. Went for a walk around the neighborhood, and caught up with Tony and Levita.
Tony had asked me for prints of the pictures I took of him. I had them with me, so I gave them to him. It was nice to see him smile from something so simple. I could tell how much they meant to him.


While I was taking Levita's pictures, I spoke with her about her past. She was very open, but I am really not sure what is truth, what is fiction, and what lies in between…it may be truth, but only in Levita's world, and not our own.


Regardless, I spoke with her, I thanked her, I told her how much respect I had for her and everything she goes through, I gave her a hug and said my goodbyes to her and Tony.
As I walked away, I wished Tony a good day, as Levita was already walking away. He said to me "As long as I got her, it'll be a good day." The perseverance never ceases to amaze me. Kind of puts my "problems" in perspective.

Greg J


I was trying to take a picture of the shopping cart with the white tiger today, but couldn't get my camera ready before Greg came and took the cart away. As he was walking away, he spoke. Our conversation went like this:
G.J - "Do you want to take my picture?"
Me - "Fuck yes I want to take your picture. Could you stand over here in front of the wall? And I prefer when people don't smile."
G.J. - "Good. I don't like smiling."


2 clicks, a handshake, and a fistbump later, I was gone.

Aaron and Sylvester


I met Aaron and his cat Sylvester today. They frequently stay under the Metra tracks on Hoyne, because it is close to the pallet yard, and sometimes Aaron can get scrap pallets to recycle. He was a bit leery about getting his picture taken, and would only do it if he could pose with his cat.


"I love cats. It's people I don't have any use for. You seem like a good dude, though." Aaron seems like a genuinely good dude too.

Levita, Worried


I was glad to catch up with Levita today, as I had been carrying around some prints for Tony for the past couple of weeks, but had not seen either of them. I asked her where he was, and she told me that he is in the hospital.


Tony fell off a fence after dropping off some pallets. I don't know what he was doing on the fence, but I do know that Levita is very sad and very worried about him. I could read it in her eyes and hear in in her tone.


Today was a cold day, with strong winds that made the day worse than the 45 degree temperature should have been. Levita is now living in a large cardboard box under the tracks, with a mattress and a couple of blankets as the only thing protecting her from the elements. I feel that she is missing Tony because she relies on his protection as well.


Levita asked me today if I would take her picture. Maybe, for a moment, it takes her mind off things. Maybe it makes her feel needed that I like talking to her and taking her picture. I'm always very complimentary of her, because, in all honesty, she really doesn't need to let me into her "world" like she does.

Portrait of Tony


Since Tony had asked if he could get a print (and I already had a single picture of Levita), I needed a picture of Tony. The picture is not meant to be an insult of him, and I don't do this to exploit him for any "gain" for myself. But I will admit, meeting people like Tony and Levita makes me want to get more exposure for my work, if only to show pictures of individuals like them.

Levita


As I was walking today, I saw Levita. She instantly rased her arms and yelled "HEY! Where were you? I looked for you." We walked and talked, and then she asked if I still wanted to take her picture. This was the metal fence next to the yard where Levita and her man (Tony) collect pallets for recycling to make money. Unfortunately, it didn't take much to ask Levita to not smile. I think it comes pretty naturally.


I had a "photo date" with Levita a couple of weeks ago, but she was a no-show. I was a bit heart-broken, because I had offered to buy her lunch and I wanted to at least make sure she got a meal.

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