Homelessness

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anti the anti-houseless


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Bourbon faced on sh!t street


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After four days in Springfield I arrive in New Orleans for 2 nights & 1 day, much like Vegas… Bourbon Street is also much like Vegas, just on a much smaller scale.

And while you have the same guys standing outside strip clubs encouraging you to “take a break for boobies” there seems to be a lot more culture to Nola. I’m crashing at India House hostel (a very cool hip funky hostile, neat space).

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The Blur that is Bourbon street

After a decent walk to Bourbon St – I’d later figure out the tram system – I found a sweet sports bar called Bayou Burger, they do these amazing Kettle chips covered in blue cheese sauce, and I had an Alligator burger (because I could), tasted a little bit like minced pork/rabbit.

After that I ended up in a tiny jazz bar listening to some 50-60 old musicians make magic happen, met a couple of girls who’d just moved to New Orleans, we hung out at a very cool, yet crazy karaoke bar (that’s a sentence you’ll never hear me repeat) called The Cat’s Meow.

Wandered a little.

Caught the sunrise. Caught some Zzzzz’s.

The next day was pretty chilled. I wandered around a few areas that still had abandoned housing, much like some of Christchurch’s post-earthquake east-side, except the greenery was doing it’s best to envelope a few places.

Later in the evening I was walking through an area where the windows all had cages on the outside, storm proofing I thought, until I noticed that they were only on the ground floor windows… umm does this mean I’m no longer in a “safe” neighborhood?

I talk to some houseless people who’ve taken up residence at night under an overpass, they get chased off during the day. It seems a few have also taken to using abandoned houses when they can, but it’s hard for their presence to go unnoticed. They’re aware this can’t go on forever as housing is rebuilt or pulled down, the constant battle with the greenery a summer fire risk. I see none around Bourbon Street, they’re not welcome there.

On my way back I stop in for another Bayou burger before heading down Bourbon St one last time, then home, still Zzz’s to catch up on & an early flight in the morning.

Moment that best describes Bourbon Street

I exit a bar, a few tourist are stumbling down the road with fluorescent green grenades (that they’re drinking out of),  to the right a trumpet band are putting on a show, across the road is a place for live sex shows, a family pushes a stroller along an evening walk…

to the left a man with a bull-horn is yelling something, behind him are a couple of old laddies & another guy holding a big white cross, it has a red LED display scrolling words along the centre, I make out “hell” and something about “eternal damnation”. Behind them is another guy with a bull-horn facing and yelling in the opposite direction, some guys are doing the “party-boy” dance with him,. He yells louder.

I wonder if their message is heard, I’m left guessing as to what it might be.
I ask to take a photo, they say ok along as I’m not putting a video on Youtube (grandma is clearly with it).

WP_001597_editedShe wants to say a prayer for me.

side note. I have no problem with anyone from any form of spirituality wanting to pray for me, it’s led to some pretty special conversations, such as the first night I arrived in San Fransisco & a woman wanted to read my palm, initially I declined, then it ended up raining & we shared the same souvenir-shop-canopy for shelter.

Bourbon Street: I’m standing in the middle of the street with an old lady praying for me, with bullhorns, cross, strollers, sex show, trumpets…. and nothing seems out of place or odd to anyone.

Welcome to Bourbon street. Definitely crazier than Vegas.

bourbon st

adventures

Breathless & Bang


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After 2 hrs sleep I throw myself into the shower, grab a coffee & head to the airport. Today I’m off to the Grand Canyon (something I’ve wanted to see in my previous 2 visits to the States, but it never worked out).
I choose flying because of time restraints… in hindsight I’d chose flying every time. Flying over the Grand Canyon was simply amazing, beyond what I could’ve expected and certainly different to standing next to it.

Hoover Dam
Hoover Dam
The scope & beauty is breathtaking
The scope & beauty is breathtaking
Snow!
Snow!

We land, jump on a bus & head out to a few spots. I’m on a bus full of Korean tourists, it’s a bit bizarre, we have an hour or so of free time at every stop, the majority of the bus heads out for a few quick snaps then hops back on & waits… I could spend days soaking in the beauty.

Fortunately the bus driver recognises this & offers me a few tips at each place, head 30-mins left, or 45 right.

As I’m walking (& sliding) around snow & ice encrusted paths – peering down hundreds of meters – all I can think is, better have the GoPro ready because if I slip it’s going to look awesome!

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Heading back I pick up some lollipops (suckers for my American friends) that have scorpions inside them, I think they’ll make good gifts… ok, ok I’m not brave enough to eat them myself.

 

Because of my delay in arriving in Vegas I’ve missed the opportunity to shoot the .50 cal Barrett

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Fortunately the good folks at MGV are able to accommodate me on short notice & provide transport.

I put two clips through a Glock & one through a SCAR, MP5, M4 & AK47.

Unfortunately I’m still coming to grips with the intricacies of the GoPro & the picture quality deteriorates.

I have minimal experience with firearms, so this is a newbs observations. The Glock is too small for me, bounces around in my hands.

The SCAR is surprisingly nice to shoot, single shot, I’m pretty accurate with it.

The MP5 on full-auto is a fun gun & one I’ve always liked, but it does feel a little small, granted at 6’6″ish I might be too big 🙂

The M4 with it’s red dot scope is a dream, my groupings with this gun are real tight & hands-down the most accurate of the full autos.

The AK47 is a heavy monstrosity with the kick of a shotgun, at least I know if I find myself in an AK toting country I’ll have full confidence that someone firing at me from 50+ yds on full auto has little chance of hitting me.

 

By this stage I’m shattered, I head to an underpass I’ve heard about and chat to a houseless crew, they’ve even got a Christmas tree in the middle of their spot. I’ve done some pretty cool things today, but hanging with these guys is certainly a highlight.

I zombie back to the hotel & opt for a few hours sleep, promising myself I’ll go up the tower early before I leave. I’m up 3hrs later & head to the tower, only to find it’s closed. Come on Vegas! Nothing should ever be closed here.

I make it to the airport for an early flight, I put a couple of dollars in a slot machine while I wait… I guess I’ve become one of those people 🙂

I leave behind the craziness, the lights, the drama, the seediness, the show, the hype, the dreams & illusions that’s Vegas.

Surprise.  Loved chatting to waitresses, shuttle drivers, hotel porters about the changes they’ve seen in Vegas, from it just being a Casino town to having to diversify into shopping & entertainment… to the point were one of the biggest money earners now is clubs.

Missed: I missed the panoramic night view of Vegas & I was staying in the same building. I missed sleep. I couldn’t get to the storm drains. I missed the .50 cal & would’ve loved some more  daytime to take more photos, I missed “old Vegas” & the Fremont experience… I guess there could always be a next time.

Lows: the cold, I ordered a pizza & a mountain dew & got a pizza & a Root beer, both proved to be the foulest tasting things on earth… haha that could be the lack of sleep speaking.

 

Next stop Springfield, Missouri.

 

 

 

 

 

adventures

Smoking Vegas – night one


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Sorry, my last post was a little mean.

I get off the plane and the first thing I see as I walk into the airport are rows of slot machines – because you can’t wait to get to the casino… or you haven’t bleed enough money yet & you’ve got to get rid of it before you board your plane home.

I stroll past the slot machines & run into a cigar shop.

Ok, I’ve never smoked a cigarette, never seen the appeal… cigars on the other hand have crossed my mind from time to time, but I’ve always been put of by the anti-smoking cancer pics. The scenario would always play out like this *insert reason to celebrate, “hey let’s get cigars!”, *looks at packaging* umm no thanks.

Imagine being really thirsty for an ice-cold coke,  going to the fridge & finding the coke encased in a roadkill carcase. No longer thirsty.

Fortunately said cigar shop had no labeling freeing me to purchase cancer-sticks with reckless abandon. I leave with 3 (standard, honey & rum).

Stratosphere_Hotel

I stay here. It’s called the Stratosphere. I chose it because it was cheap (honestly some Vegas mid-week prices are a 3rd of what you’d pay for a run-down-borderline-inhabitable hostile in certain parts of the world), it has free unlimited access to the viewing platform (something I’d wanted to do any way), and it looked close to everything else… turns out I’m not the only person to be suckered into this logic.

A quick aside before we continue: I have 2 nights & 1 day here, my list of what I want to achieve has not changed even though I’ve lost a day.

*Visit the Grand Canyon

*View Vegas from the top of Stratosphere

*Visit the homeless storm-drain communities

*Shoot a .50 cal sniper rifle

*Shoot some film/photo’s contrasting the glitz & glamor of Vegas with the seedy & poverty-stricken side

* Walk the strip

* smoke a cigar

* play poker

*talk with some homeless people

Yep, it’s an ambitious list.

I arrive at night, dump my gear & head out onto the strip… turns out everything’s not as close as I’d imagined. I end up knocking off a 14+k trek on foot.

Things that jump out at me

Every place has its own qualities, peculiarities & characteristics, this is what took my notice.

1) I can’t walk a block with out someone offering me free entry to a strip club – the record was 4 offers in one block – sometimes this includes a free ride in a limo, “I can call a limo, we’ll be there in seconds, it’ll be awesome!”. I’ll consider it a minor miracle if I don’t end up in a titty bar.

3) Newspaper stands. Every block has newspaper stands, except they’re not full of newspapers, they’re full of papers advertising escorts.

3) It’s f****’n cold, between 0-3 degrees (Celsius)

4) There might be more Starbucks than slot machines, every casino, hotel, airport… I’m surprised I can’t purchase  a coffee while taking a shower.

 

 

After a bit I stop in a casino to grab a burger from this place I’d heard about, KGB burgers (Kerry’s Gourmet Burgers) clever. It’s all KGB themed and has some fantastic art, even Sean Connery as 007 makes a cell-shaded appearance… Oh, and the waitresses have this GI-Joe-Baroness theme thing going on 🙂

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Burger & fries all washed down with a White Russian, fueled & ready to go.

I end up in this one casino, thanks to a detour & some conveniently placed “road works”, as I’m walking through I notice the Lakers are playing the Suns & Kobe’s back, and there is a poker tournament starting soon… thinking… then one of my songs comes on. Sold. $30 entry fee. Free drinks while playing + NBA + Poker = win!

And win I did, until bowing out on the final table. I’ve always maintained the key to poker is winning with rubbish cards, I can’t do it, so luckily for me I hit a run of some of the best hands I’ve ever hit. Hit quad Queens on the flop & had a guy put me all in on the river, hit a full house, straight flush, Ace high flush twice, hit triple Kings on the river to give me the hand over pocket Aces…. ridiculous. But all good things come to an end & so did my luck (4 hrs later), which is probably a good thing otherwise I might still be there.

I wander around a bunch of casinos, flashing lights, water features, gimmicks begging you to choose them over the other… I run into a few houseless people, one makes me a flower out of a flax-like plant. We talk NFL & they give me the low down on the homeless situation in Vegas, it’s quite a candid conversation, one admits he’s addicted to gambling, the other says he’s an alcoholic, I grab them both a burger & coffee and we chat awhile.

On my way home I light a victory cigar, why the celebration? Life.

I crash into my room at 4am, time for 2hrs sleep before I start tomorrow. Tim 1 – Vegas 0.

 

 

 

 

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adventures

Caged Love


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Spent the day walking around San Francisco, from the Wharfs to Mission District up to the twin peaks to catch the sunset.

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In my travels I noticed that a lot of the doorway entrances have a caged door as well…

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and then I noticed some churches do too…

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and then I noticed not just doorways but little enclaves & places of shelter were caged off…

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and then I found this man in an alleyway…

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and right across the road was this church…

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it had a large sheltered area that would be perfect for alley-man to sleep & shelter in.

 

It may even make a difference in whether he lives or dies tonight.

 

I want to ask a question, so I find an entrance. On the way I see the churches slogan on a big sign,

Relationship. Not Religion.

 

I ask, “why do I see so many areas caged off?”. The answer it seems is because homeless people would take up residence there. “Is this why you guys have a caged area too?”, He looks awkward, a lady pipes up, “You have to remember we have to keep it clean for Sunday”.

I ask her if she knows a homeless guy died from the cold the other night, that he is the 5th in the last 2 weeks. She tells me if they let a few homeless stay (in the courtyard) soon there would be lots & they have families that come on Sunday.

He tells me they’re busy & I have to go now, I thank them for their time, I’m just trying to make sense of it all…

Wouldn’t God be appalled if our courtyards were dirty.

Heaven forbid we became known as a church where the least & disadvantaged seek shelter, or where faith was raw & real for our families, rather than disinfected-white-washed-sanitised-sunday-school-lives.

Lets do some simple math. There are easily a 120+ people there, that would mean committing 1 day every 2 months where you & another person cleaned up & served the homeless that gathered in your courtyard…

 

who knows, maybe then the words of your slogan would come to life…

maybe then it would stop being religion,

and start being relationship.

adventures

4th & long…


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DCIM104GOPRO

Today I went to the 49ers – Seahawks game, it was freezing but I was well prepared. As for the game itself, it generally seemed like both teams were doing their best to lose… and at times the 49ers were blatantly throwing the game.

For me, attending sport live is purely for the atmosphere, and it was there in bunches, the noise was amazing, the crowd entertaining…

except for two things I’ll never understand, leaving early & getting smashed. One lady was trolleyed by halftime & keept falling over, eventually taken away by a medical crew. The other, bunches of fans left with 9 & 6 mins to go with their team down in a close game against a good opponent.

As a sports fan you live for these moments, sure you may beat the traffic home, but you’re leaving a potentially fantastic finish (how many Rockets fans regret bailing early in this game) not to mention you’ve just payed how much to be there?!!

Niners comeback & win.

 

I mentioned it was freezing, I read in the paper this morning that a homeless person died last night because of the cold… preventable death seems inherently more saddening.

While I’ve seen & talked with a couple of houseless people around the touristy areas, they are few and far in-between. It seems that for many on the streets money is made by recycling, scouring through the rubbish bins for cans & bottles, then trading them in.

In San Francisco, you can’t do that around the touristy areas, the bins are padlocked & have special lids.

vlcsnap-2013-12-26-21h46m14s67I would have thought, having someone sort your recyclables from land fill for free would be a good thing.

During the course of my travels this morning a run into two guys who work with the homeless & we get to talking… the plan is I’ll follow a houseless guy around for the day, either here in San Francisco, or in Oakland, I’ll get to go through soup kitchens, shelters and some of the social services. The catch, this still needs to be ok’d by the boss who will be back on Mon or Tues (I’m assured this shouldn’t be a problem as it’s been done several times before)…

Oh, and I’m due to fly to L.A 6am Monday morning.

4th & long.

Do you leave early or stay in hopes of pulling off something special.

 

Low: Darth Vader has left my dorm… only to be replaced by the worst snorer in the history of humankind. Imagine what it would sound like to give someone liposuction by placing a straw on their belly & trying to suck the fat through the skin (sort of a reverse raspberry), now mix that with a chainsaw.

fml.

If I’m arrested for murder you’ll know why.

 

High: Great conversation with a gay-Iranian cab driver on life in SF, his parents moving after the revolution & culture.

 

adventures

Paradise Lost


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Waianae
Waianae

Last night we had a new roommate arrive, he promptly left & spent all night in a strip club before returning in the morning. He’s a mid 50’s American who has to travel for business, he tells his wife he stays in Hotels & will call her from one the 1st night & then spends the rest of the time staying at hostels. Why hostels you ask? I didn’t but he’d enlighten me anyway, the extra money is for strippers & chasing tail (I opted for a different choice of words), oh & hostels are full of lots of young drunk *****

… Ladies & Gentlemen I present to you the nomination for the trips most seediest individual.

I’ve been asked a bit lately about the safety of hanging out & talking to houseless people, 90% of the time I’ve felt safe. There was one instance I didn’t & I left & that wasn’t due to houseless people but a group of others in that area.

What’s felt more unsafe to me is the random dude selling coke, or  sitting at a bar having dinner & the business woman whose next to you slips you her hotel key-card… that’s felt more unsafe than hanging-out with people without houses.

Anyway it’s my last day & I’ve found out about two places I should get to, one is just out of Chinatown, the other is a “tent city” in Waianae. Waianae proves to be too far away for me as I don’t have the coin for a cab ($80-100 each way) or car hire, or the time to bus… finding out about this place too late & not being able to make it, would prove to be my greatest disappointment of my time in Hawaii.

So I manage a quick visit to Chinatown & some of the surrounding areas. It’s strange to see empty basketball courts & abandoned playgrounds… & streets lined with tents.

I say goodbye to the “Houseless crew”, the group closest to me, where it all started I guess. A couple are drunk & don’t know who I am. Mark, who has never said much to me, thanks me & gives me a Hawaii bracelet (I’m not “convinced” it was purchased) I’ll wear it all the same.

…the moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; those who are in the shadows of life; the sick, the needy and the handicapped

and these guys certainly live in the shadows. Mark was assaulted last night and his face is cut, bruised & swollen, he was asleep when it started, he had no possessions, money, or drugs…

he had no one.

We can’t blame our government for not looking after those in the ‘shadows’. When we can walk by without making eye contact, offering a hello or a smile…

Is life really too busy to take 2 seconds to acknowledge someone else’s humanity?

Someone once said,

Any society, any nation, is judged on the basis of how it treats its weakest members — the last, the least, the littlest

We have a way to go.

 

 

Hawaii Looking Back: Hawaii didn’t workout as planed…

but it couldn’t have worked out better. Sure I spent a whole lot less time on the beach & in the water than I would have liked but I got to meet some amazing people, I’ve met some from different walks of life, who I could live a million lifetimes & not rub shoulders with. My life is richer for it.

I wish I could have had another day here & made it to Waianae.

It’s been cool to see God at work, it’s been cool to see the difference a little love & kindness can make in someones life. Walking back to the Hostel one last time, I run into a guy I’d spent a bit of time with, he proudly tells me he’s been sober for a day.

It’s the first time in 15yrs.

We never had conversations about it…we barely had conversations, I just sat & listened.

Of all the things we have to give others, I think ‘time’ is the hardest to give.

 

 

I’m off to the airport, see you in San Francisco.