(written a week before I left Reno for Goldfield)
A 78 year old man asked me today what I would suggest he do. He was reading “I, Claudius” by Robert Graves and his shopping cart had a big straightforward sign that said “Homeless, Broke”.
I didn’t choose to talk to him because he was white or because he was old or because his eyes were sweet. A wirey gold miner beard and frail physique, I saw quickly that he was the kind of person that I am. It was simply the right time to talk with a homeless guy and he was my man.
This long weekend has taken a lot out of me and I’ve learned extensive things about myself and others. It’s timing that brought me to this man below the crosswalk bridge. I was able to give him my time and listen to him because he’s been learning lessons I don’t intend to learn. I wanted his knowledge and I got some of it for fifty cents. We’re both broke.
“Beer is cheaper than water! Does THAT make any sense to you?” he asked.
We talked about how he got to where he was, at the moment, and we talked about what he’s good at-he can rebuild a carburetor, he’s good with electrical. He’s a carpenter too, I think. He rejects religion because, he says, “I’m a scientist. Adults don’t believe fairy tales like that.” His name is Mark. He says he’s in stage one Alzheimer’s and wouldn’t be able to remember my name.
All I could think to offer him, advice wise, was to go to St. Vincent’s, even if he doesn’t want a bed, I told him, they care. Someone there can offer him the right advice for his condition and he doesn’t have to accept any religion from them. He got kicked out of the last place he was sleeping in front of because people thought it looked trashy for him to be there over night. Now he sleeps under the crosswalk, this side, here, or that side.
I was hesitant to talk to him about my project, Fishbowler, but the conversation veered in a direction where it was appropriate. I learned some things about homelessness when I lived in a gallery inVentura,CA. There was an article about me and the artist that built the cardboard boxes I lived in. His name is Stanton Hunter, google him. I lived for a month in this box in 643 Project Space. Basically penniless, my life there was great. I even got to draw all over the walls.
It came time to do our gallery talk, to a full house, and the statement summing up the public’s reaction to me was this: “Go live at the river with real homeless people and dig out of the trash if you’re sincere about this.” My argument to the ‘haters’ was that I’m not looking for the hardest living situation, I’m looking for the perfect living situation. I interviewed other artists in trade for food; I promoted this gallery, online, in trade for a place to sleep.
Talking to Mark about this, he got it right away. “Give to get. Yeah, it’s the way life should be.”
I made an abrupt decision, this weekend. It was carried out in very poor manor, unforgivable really, but what came out of it, for me, is that I would not be moving to another town to help raise a family. It’s not my place in life, and though I’d like to help in that capacity, it’s not for me to do. I’ve got something else to share and I can’t do both. Eat what’s on your plate.
I’m getting back to fishbowling. I’m getting back to a kind of rough life that, in the end, is actually very pleasant and edifying. We all have a place in this world, we’re all good at something.
Others can use us if we can prove to them that we’re sincere and we can show them what we can give them.
Need some motor work or electrical? This sweet old man is named Mark and lives under the crosswalk bridge on Oddie in Sparks,NV. What can you offer him?