I am in Houston, TX attending FotoFest 2010 and having my work reviewed by about 20 curators, art gallery owners and other assorted aficionados of the art scene.
I needed a break— I really needed a break after hours of “academic overload”. What I needed was reality, so off I went to find it—where else but on the street. One of my latest photographic projects is about drinking. On Travis Street, just off of Dallas, I found my spot. Molly’s Pub was a dingy little hole-in-the-wall tucked away in an obscure part of a street dominated by high-rise corporate towers, which existed entirely on the largess of the oil industry. It was an orphan. It was my kind of place.
There were three people in the place; William, Storm, and Jennifer the barmaid. It did not take long to start talking to everybody and after a few minutes the chatter was a great relief from the artsy, stifling chatter that I had been exposed to for the past few days.
Storm told me he was homeless and existed on odd jobs, a pension from an injury that he had suffered a few years back, and “other things”. Which he did not specify. He had a cell phone, a place to sleep, and friends, — almost everything except a home. He said he liked it that way. There was no responsibility.
I had never talked to a homeless person before so I was full of questions.
“Where do you charge your phone?” I asked
“Here in the bar.” He answered.” Jennifer is an angel. She also lets my charge my MP3 player here—pointing to an outlet behind the bar.
“MP3 player?. What the fuck is going on I thought.
“Where do you keep your stuff?” I asked
“ Got a safe place down by the creek. Nobody fucks with me because my dad was a Navy Seal and he taught me how to defend myself. Come on outside. I wanna show you something.”
We walked out on to Travis Street and he lifted his tee shirt to expose a muscular chest. He was well built. Being the cynic I am, I do not always believe everything that I hear but he certainly was convincing and being at the total opposite end of the social-spectrum, what the fuck did I know about homeless people? I thought there were all nuts but this guy was more than lucid.
“Do you panhandle?” I asked.
“I was asked to start my own crew.” He said. “But I don’t believe in panhandling.”
“Ya. You get a bunch of guys together and each one works a particular spot in town and then you share the take later.”
“Share the take?” It’s a fucking business! What one learns in bars. You can’t get this shit in college!
The thing about bars is this. Even though most of the people I meet there are fucked up in one way or another, they are real. There is no pretentious bullshit about them. In any case, William has invited me to meet him for a couple of beers tomorrow at the Lone Star Saloon, so who knows what’s in store for me. It’s been an interesting ride.
As it turns out I did not make it but perhaps next time.