Monday, September 21, 2009

"Just Call Me John," a Portrait of One of Boston's Many Homeless

Photo and Story by Stephanie Crumley

September 21, 2009-- The stinging lash of the recession has brought many people to their knees, forcing families out of their homes and onto the streets.

Over the past year homeless families have risen 22%, according to an article in the Boston Globe. These statistics are part of the harsh reality of living in Boston, listed as the most expensive metropolitan area in the United States by the Boston Foundation.

While the homeless lifestyle is uncomfortable for most, one man embraces his homelessness in a most particular way.

The Boston community has grown accustomed to homeless panhandlers holding signs scribbled with desperate pleas for money, food or a job. John's sign stands out on the street: "Spare Change for BEER."

"I just want to get trashed and get a steak," says 58-year-old John as he smokes a cigarette he bummed off a tourist. "I don't care about anything else."

John, who refused to release his last name, has been homeless for ten years.

"I like the way I live. I'm okay with it, just as long as I have enough money for beer, cigarettes and steak," said John.

Over the past ten years he has been living in shelters and on the streets with his wife. In this time he has never seeked any form of employment outside of panhandling.

John's life was turned upside down last week when his wife of eight years left him.

"She didn't like that I was involved with a gang," said John as he stared at the sidewalk. "So she up and left."

Even with his misfortune, John continues to chat idly to the passer-byers, unphased by his recent breakup.

"I'm just going to keep getting trashed, that's all I need," said John. "Women I can get over."

Friday, September 18, 2009

Common Occurances

September 14, 2009-- Public space is trudged by all walks of life, and especially in a town such as Boston, the diversity in one 500 yard radius can sometimes be daunting. I took a post-class bike ride down to the Common and on my stroll encountered vendors vending, couples carressing and tourists treking. But the following two people drew me in with their stories and fearlessness of a camera lens.

Cowboy, a homeless jazz musician, plays a sensual melody on his
saxaphone for the Boston Common public. On his sporatic and frequent smoke breaks, he tips his hat to the attractive young women who pass by and tells them "[to] keep doing
as they do.

Trotting along the same path, I encountered another amiable troubador by the name of Patrick who was willing to chat for a bit.

Patrick has been playing music as his sole source of income ever since his job at TJ Scallywaggles, an Allston-based vegan pizza cooperative, shut down.

Initially, his unorthodox choice of instrument was more a choice of conveniance. After one of his friends upgraded

"One of my friends just upgraded his mandolin, so there was this lying around," said P. "Not to mention that it's easier to carry in my bag!"

The vegan musician tends to strum political songs to the passer-byers instead of the traditional classic rock repertoire.

"If I played classic rock covers all day long, I'd go crazy. Unless it was like hair metal songs, but I'm not sure how my listeners would feel about that."