Tag Archives: description

The Streets of New York

Standard

“This is a powerful collection of photos that truly reflect the outcome of drug use in on the streets of New York. While the pictures speak a thousand words, the accompanying descriptions shed more light on the individuals stories— although its more like a darkness. Chris Arnade is an inspirational photographer whose courage and curiosity drives him to meet hundreds of people who are suffering with addiction, poverty and what is typically seen as poor life decisions such as prostitution. You can visit his website to view more of his heart-breaking and thought-provoking work.” -Enjoy, Robyn

Chris

Chris

Chris Bishop was drinking in front of a liquor store when we met. A resident in the local homeless shelter, he told me the following: At the age of 13, Chris killed his father, stabbing him with a knife after a childhood of abuse. He spent the next 18 years in correctional facilities. ‘When he was drunk and mad he would hold me out the apartment window and threaten to drop me to the street, eight floors below. He beat me and my mother all the time. I have been drinking ever since. To forget.’ When I asked how he wanted to be described, his eyes teared up and he said, ‘I am human, like everyone else.

Vanessa

Vanessa

Vanessa, 35, had three children with an abusive husband. She ‘lost her mind, started doing heroin,’ after losing the children, who were taken away and given to her mother. The drugs led to homelessness and prostitution. She grew up on Arthur Avenue in the Bronx, but now spends her time in Hunts Point, ‘trying to survive every day. Just doing whatever it takes.’ She was standing on the cold street corner looking for business, wearing only flip flops and smoking with her two friends. When I asked her how she wanted to be described, Mary Alice jumped in and said, ‘She’s the sweetest woman I know. She will give you the shirt off her back, if she has one on.

Beauty

Beauty

“Beauty, 21, was born and raised in Oklahoma, and was brought to New York City by a pimp who promised her she could ‘make some mad money.’ She has since had nine pimps. ‘I have been through nine nigg*s. Got my first black eye from one, another punched me in mouth, but this guy is good to me.’ Her mother was an addict. ‘She started using crack. That’s when it all started, the walls started coming in on me. Now she is incarcerated. I can’t blame my mom, she’s my mom. I smoke weed, but not crack. I don’t like that peppermint burning smell. I want to get out of this stuff, but I am scared. I guess I could stop at any time. Some of the guys tell me I could be a model. Money wise it’s good, but otherwise, fuck Hunts Point. Maybe I can become an RN, or go into childcare.’ When I asked her how she wanted to be described, she said, ‘I’m a good person. I don’t like to see anyone down. I like to make people happy.'”

Luis

Luis

“I call him Luis, but I am not sure. Luis is unable to do more than mutter a few words, often breaking down in tears. He refuses to go to the local shelter or methadone clinic, sleeping instead in various spots, spending his waking hours bumming cigarettes and panhandling in front of bodegas. I worry that my pictures put a happy face on addiction. Photos cannot capture the pain, suffering, and destruction wrought by heroin, crack or in this case, whiskey. Sometimes it requires smoking a cigarette with a sobbing incoherent drunk to truly remind you what loneliness and addiction can do.”

Clarence

Clarence

“The ‘brickyard’ is a vacant lot on an otherwise industrial side street in Hunts Point. It’s where many of the local addicts spend their time, gossiping and smoking. They bring their carts filled with what they can collect to sell to the adjacent scrap metal shops. It’s where I found Clarence, who has lived for 40 years in Hunts Point since moving from North Carolina as a teenager. I spoke with Clarence, a former truck driver, for a long time. He told me all that his addiction has wrought: job loss, homelessness, health problems. Never once did he sound angry, bitter, or depressed.”

Sonya

Sonya

“Sonya lives on the top floor of an abandoned building with her husband of ten years Eric. They left Rhode Island in pursuit of drugs, settling in Hunts Point five years ago. Eric said, ‘This is the only reason me and Sonya are in Hunts Point, because this is literally right now the best heroin in all of New York City.’ Sonya left her husband and family after being turned on to heroin by Eric. ‘I wasn’t addicted to drugs until my 30s. Before then, I was a normal person, meaning I wasn’t a fucking junkie. I lived in Rhode Island and had a family. I was a soccer mom. I always kind of knew I was a heroin addict. I always knew not to fuck with heroin. I always knew it was the drug for me. It just makes you feel good. And when you’re feeling bad, having a magic button is kind of a great thing. Unfortunately the magic button is also a stupid button because it comes with a lot of consequences. I am happier in some ways than I’ve ever been in my life. But I’ve lost so many things. I want to get out of my addiction but in some ways it’s made me grow a lot. And I think I know now how to live more than I ever have.'”

Supreme

Supreme

“Supreme saw me taking pictures and asked to be photographed with his dog Obama (yes, Obama). I asked him why he was giving the camera the finger, he said, ‘Thats for people judging who I am.’ I said, ‘Who are you?’ He said, ‘A doped up junkie.’ I told him I post the pictures online and write a short description. He said, ‘I ain’t mind people knowing what I do or who I am. Its me.’ Supreme and I chatted awhile more; despite the finger he was happy to talk.”

Egypt

Egypt

“Egypt, 38 and homeless, was 14 when her mother, an addict and prostitute, put her out on the streets. She has been working the streets, in the Bronx, addicted to heroin and crack, much of the time since. While telling me her story, she started crying. She was high, having just shot crack. ‘Mix it with lemon juice. If you do it with water you will be fucked up. Abscess, dead.’ She noticed a beat up alley cat wandering. ‘That cat’s how I feel. I really do. I didn’t come out here to fucking cry. See, that cat needs a hug. I get that. He wants somebody to love him. Saying, ‘Don’t touch that,’ is like saying not to touch me.” I apologized for making her cry. She said, ‘I didn’t cry. There’s no time for crying out here. If you cry, you’re a pussy, and you can’t let them do that to you. You can’t let them see you cry. You can’t show your weakness. I’m a cancer. You scrape us off and we come right back. But we’re curable. It’s only as hard as you make it. If you think you can change, if you know you can change, you can. If you set your mind to something, that’s what’s going to happen. You have to want it. You can’t have someone else want it for you.'” Original Images and Descriptions by Chris Arnade.

Advertisements

Must Watch: Drunks (1995)

Standard

“I’ve seen my fair share of movies about the history of drugs, getting high and experimental experience; but what about the struggle of addiction? I can’t say that I have ever watched anything remotely touching on the topic except for the life of Bill, the founder of AA. This was a recommended movie by one of my peers. Both you and I should think about watching it!” -Shanti, Robyn

Image

Description: 

At the beginning of a nightly Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, Jim seems particularly troubled. His sponsor encourages him to talk that night, the first time in seven months, so he does – and leaves the meeting right after. As Jim wanders the night, searching for some solace in his old stomping grounds, bars and parks where he bought drugs, the meeting goes on, and we hear the stories of survivors and addicts – some, like Louis, who claim to have wandered in looking for choir practice, who don’t call themselves alcoholic, and others, like Joseph, whose drinking almost caused the death of his child – as they talk about their lives at the meeting.

Must Read: A Million Little Pieces by James Fey

Standard

“Although I have heard some of this novel is false, I can’t help think to myself; does that really matter? I think many addicts are lying conniving and down-right selfish people (and I can say that because I am one). Of course there are many good characteristics of an addict that can prove over time, but many of us tell to exaggerate war stories and bend the truth. The point is, James Fey had the balls enough to even admit and do something about his disease. This courageous, this is admirable. Check out the online descriptions and review from Amazon.com below.” -Love, Robyn
Image

Book Description
At the age of 23, James Frey woke up on a plane to find his front teeth knocked out and his nose broken. He had no idea where the plane was headed nor any recollection of the past two weeks. An alcoholic for ten years and a crack addict for three, he checked into a treatment facility shortly after landing. There he was told he could either stop using or die before he reached age 24. This is Frey’s acclaimed account of his six weeks in rehab.

Amazon Review by Brad Thomas Parsons
The electrifying opening of James Frey’s debut memoir, A Million Little Pieces, smash-cuts to the then 23-year-old author on a Chicago-bound plane “covered with a colorful mixture of spit, snot, urine, vomit and blood.” Wanted by authorities in three states, without ID or any money, his face mangled and missing four front teeth, Frey is on a steep descent from a dark marathon of drug abuse. His stunned family checks him into a famed Minnesota drug treatment center where a doctor promises “he will be dead within a few days” if he starts to use again, and where Frey spends two agonizing months of detox confronting “The Fury” head on:

I want a drink. I want fifty drinks. I want a bottle of the purest, strongest, most destructive, most poisonous alcohol on Earth. I want fifty bottles of it. I want crack, dirty and yellow and filled with formaldehyde. I want a pile of powder meth, five hundred hits of acid, a garbage bag filled with mushrooms, a tube of glue bigger than a truck, a pool of gas large enough to drown in. I want something anything whatever however as much as I can.

One of the more harrowing sections is when Frey submits to major dental surgery without the benefit of anesthesia or painkillers (he fights the mind-blowing waves of “bayonet” pain by digging his fingers into two old tennis balls until his nails crack). His fellow patients include a damaged crack addict with whom Frey wades into an ill-fated relationship, a federal judge, a former championship boxer, and a mobster (who, upon his release, throws a hilarious surf-and-turf bacchanal, complete with pay-per-view boxing). In the book’s epilogue, when Frey ticks off a terse update on everyone, you can almost hear the Jim Carroll Band’s brutal survivor’s lament “People Who Died” kicking in on the soundtrack of the inevitable film adaptation.

The rage-fueled memoir is kept in check by Frey’s cool, minimalist style. Like his steady mantra, “I am an Alcoholic and I am a drug Addict and I am a Criminal,” Frey’s use of repetition takes on a crisp, lyrical quality which lends itself to the surreal experience. The book could have benefited from being a bit leaner. Nearly 400 pages is a long time to spend under Frey’s influence, and the stylistic acrobatics (no quotation marks, random capitalization, left-aligned text, wild paragraph breaks) may seem too self-conscious for some readers, but beyond the literary fireworks lurks a fierce debut.