Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Homeless in America: Larry

Oklahoma City Arts Festival 2012
Photo by Al Griffin

Larry lives on the street after serving a long stretch in an Illinois prison for gang activity. He sports extensive prison tattoos on each arm and a new bullet hole in his foot. Friendly and easy to talk to, Larry seems to bear no ill will and was very matter of fact about his life. Passing through by thumb and by Greyhound on his way to family in the Southwest, Larry gladly accepted a few dollars for bus fare on the next leg of his journey.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Homeless in America: Alphonso

Alphonso, Oklahoma City, OK 2012
Photo by Al Griffin

I first met Alfonso as I walked down the alley behind the bus station at sunrise. He and his friend, Salvador, were reading an open Bible and earnestly discussing the text they had chosen. 

As I approached them, Alfonso asked if I owned the building where they were sitting. Salvador’s English was heavily accented, but good, and Alfonso's carried little accent even though the patterns and rhythms were Spanish when he spoke. 

Alfonso was born in a village near Mexico City nearly 80 years ago. He came to the U. S. as a very young man and worked as a farm laborer traveling with the seasons through the Midwest. 

I would seek him out often just to listen when he talked about his native country. He still loves it, but said it has changed so much in his lifetime and not all for the better. He is very proud and happy to be a U.S. citizen, but says he is getting too old to live on the street. 

The last time I talked to him he asked if I could take a picture of him with his shopping cart full of stuff so he could remember it when he finds a real place to live.

Lake Area Camera Club Blue Ribbon Winner
Photo by Al Griffin

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Homeless in America: Oklahoman on the Street

Blue Ribbon Award Winner: Lake (of Ozarks) Camera Club
Al Griffin Photography
He staggered and held a signpost as I watched him lurch toward me on the sidewalk. I asked if he was all right, and he mumbled in his native tongue and felt his chest.

When asked if he needed a doctor, he shook his head and declined.  He indicated I could take his picture and stood still for a few minutes. He smiled when I placed my hand on his shoulder to steady him as he stood in front of me. 

I watched him as he headed off with unsteady gait, but he did not appear to be in need of an ambulance at that moment. I never learned his name.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Homeless in America: Say Hello to Art.

Art. Photo by Al Griffin

As I came out of a local coffee shop in Oklahoma City, I found Art standing on the curb. I stuck out my hand and earned a huge smile for my trouble. Art is a man of exceptional cheer and grace given the poverty of his circumstances and existence. 

I have witnessed Art giving a motorist advice on how to operate the new electronic parking meters, giving a confused tourist detailed directions to his destination, and generally spreading cheer and good will among those who cross his path each day. I often wonder if I would be so upbeat and positive under the same circumstances.

After a brief, first visit, I asked if I could take Art's picture, and he sat on the curb while I got ready to snap. One of his images became part of my exhibit in New York City in October and November of 2013.