Tattooed to the center of his chest was an "S," just like the original Superman logo.
I captured this photo in Nashville, 2014.
Tattooed to the center of his chest was an "S," just like the original Superman logo.
I captured this photo in Nashville, 2014.
Life on the outskirts: In Conyers, Georgia, a family lives on a small farm that looks like farms once looked to me in the movies. Quaint, with a cluttered front porch full of their treasurer's that others fail to value. This happened to be one such farm that I was able to capture.
Conyers, Georgia is near Covington, GA, where most episodes of the Dukes of Hazard were filmed many years ago. Sometimes those episodes would spill over into Conyers, which is only a stone's throw away.
Today, much of Covington and Conyers still look the same, when compared to that first episode of The Dukes of Hazard in 1979.
"There's trouble and then theres trouble and the trouble with some trouble is at first...it dont look like trouble." -Waylon Jennings
In 1959 four doctors founded the Old South Pittsburgh Hospital in the hills of South Pittsburgh, Tennessee. The medical facility met the surgery needs of the community and even had a small wing for mental patients.
Some report the hospital is haunted due to the many deaths that occurred in the block and concrete structure over the years. As with any medical facility, some of those deaths involved children, adults, car wreck victims, etc. Wrongful death suits were filed in several cases, but that was not believed the reason for the hospital closing their doors to patients in 1998.
Due to a brand new hospital opening in a nearby city, the Old South Pittsburgh Hospital could no longer stay in the black.
Prior to the hospital being constructed, the land that the facility sits on was once a large southern plantation. A fire in the 1920’s destroyed the plantation home which reportedly left 7 children dead, according to the Old South Pittsburgh Hospital Ghost Hunters.
Today, the former hospital has been labeled as one of the most haunted places in Tennessee. To answer your question, no… I did not feel as if it was haunted. But, maybe I refuse to think such a structure could be haunted and therefore failed to see what others have claimed to see.
See video below: As I descended into the dark cave, partially climbing and sliding the rest of the way, I heard a loud roar of water in the distance. Once I found a firm footing and was able to fully stand, I asked my friend Jeff Paul if we were in any danger of the water rising as it was raining outside. He gave me a reassuring, “If the water was six inches higher in the cave, I would not have taken you in here.”Read More
“Staying warm,” he said as he laid on the cold Detroit concrete next to a manhole cover with steam pouring out. He would take his knit cap and hold it in the steam and then place it on his head. He followed this routine over and over again. Sweat was rolling down his forehead as he firmly placed the cap in place.
"Part of every misery is, so to speak, the misery's shadow or reflection: the fact that you don't merely suffer but have to keep on thinking about the fact that you suffer. I not only live each endless day in grief, but live each day thinking about living each day in grief." - C. S. Lewis
Documenting History: The building sits in a somewhat undeveloped area of Nashville, Tennessee. It was built in about 1913 and was used by the Tennessee Masons as a group home of sorts for widows and their children. The money to allow orphans and their mothers to stay in the property came from a fund that was developed in 1886. At one point the four story home and two other buildings on the campus had 400 residents that included widows, their children and the elderly.
In 1941, the State of Tennessee used the massive structure that looks like a mansion as a hospital to treat patients with tuberculosis. In the 1900’s, tuberculosis was the leading cause of death in the United Stated. It was known as The Great White Plague. Those who suffered were isolated from society in homes or hospitals like the one pictured. Structures like this one were known as “Waiting rooms for death.”
The building was later used as a health department office in the 1970’s through about 1994.
I handed him a pair of new boots and he jumped down on the ground and then rolled over onto his back. He then twisted his legs and feet outward and jumped back up. He announced, “I use to dance on Beale Street.” He told me he is 60-years old, but can still dance with the best.
He said, “They call me the Homeless Preacher,” he then started to preach. Boy did he ever preach. His voice began to change tunes as if he were growing mad. The louder he got the closer he came. As I started to photograph him he got within 7 or 8 inches of my camera lens, so I snapped away.
With a personality bigger than life you may wonder why he is homeless. He told me he has eight felonies and did time in prison. He has been a free man for almost a decade now, but boarded up houses throughout Memphis are his home. I would imagine that he sometimes preaches to a house of solitude that has no windows, only paneling where glass use to be.
I ran across the Homeless Preacher in a less desirable area of downtown Memphis filled with boarded up homes, industrial type buildings, title loan stores and businesses specializing in beer, tobacco and lottery tickets. His housing choices could vary nightly, depending on where he grows tired.
American songwriter Shawn Amos once stated about Memphis, “Memphis is the place where rock was born and Martin Luther King, Jr., was killed. It's full of contradictions, abject poverty, and riches that only music can provide.”
"Can I have a sleeping bag to give to a friend of mine who stays under the bridge with me," He quietly asked. I smiled, "Do you need one as well?" He then told me, "No, I have plenty of blankets... but he doesn't."
I always love how honest the homeless men and women I come in contact with are in regards to their needs. They are always careful to not take what they do not plan on using.
"It's discouraging to think how many people are shocked by honesty and how few by deceit." - Noel Coward
He loves reading the newspaper, but before he does he finds a quiet spot out of the public eye. Today, I caught 73 year old George Ottrix of Chattanooga sitting on the steps of a back door behind a liquor store. “It’s quiet here,” he told me.
“I worked for the Chattanooga Police Department for 23-years,” he said as he described how times were different prior to him leaving the force some 20-years ago. “You couldn’t arrest white people very easily back then,” he said while referring to the 1980’s in Chattanooga. He suggested that if you were well connected and white, it took more than handcuffs to haul a possible suspect to jail if you were a black officer.
"In case you want to know what she will do [showing me the reading on the radar gun]," he said laughing. Deputy Bobby Persinger was one of the nicest deputies I have ever met, considering the circumstances (speeding).
"You were only 6 when I joined the force," he said with a smile. He works for the Catoosa County Sheriff's Office in Georgia.
"Man, did you see that car," as he pointed at an antique Chrysler drive by on the interstate.
"How much will this ticket cost me anyway," I asked with curiosity. He smiled, "I don't know, they just give us a badge and a gun and say protect the roadways [chuckling]."
No stranger to speed: I later learned that in the late 1970's, the Catoosa County Sheriff's Office had a fleet of Pontiac Trans Am's. In fact, they were famous for their cars at one point. In 1978, the Sheriff's Office owned 8, all four speeds. An article was even printed in a 1979 Car and Driver magazine about their cars. The cars were purchased under the leadership of Sheriff J. D. Stewart.
Today, none are known to be in existence.
The legendary Jimi Hendrix once wandered into a small club in Murfreesboro, Tennessee and did what he did best, played the guitar. The Eldorado Club, which was also known as Dance Land, was mainly attended by African Americans in the 1950's and 60's. It was located on Asbury Road near the Stones River Battlefield. It is now just a shell as the roof has fallen in and growth has taken over the building and the surrounding land.
I walked through the building with 75-year old saxophonist Raymond Summerour who once played in the club with his band called The Dukes. Summerour told me he came to Murfreesboro in 1960 and his band played at the club on Friday and Saturday nights, sometimes up until 4 AM. He told me that he remembers the day Hendrix walked in like it was yesterday.
“When Jimmy walked in we didn’t know who he was,” he told me. He said he singled to him that he wanted to sit on the stage and play along. Summerour invited him on up and stated, “When Jimmy unleashed, he got up on the stage and we were just playing regular rock n’ roll, we didn’t play the stuff that Jimmy played before he died, that hard rock type stuff, but Jimmy got up there and man let me tell you - - when he unleashed he really got down on that guitar. He was playing with his teeth, he was playing with that guitar behind his head and the crowd just went wild.”
At the time, Hendrix was in the U.S. Army. He was stationed in Clarksville, Tennessee and part of the 101st Airborne Division in 1962.
Summerour mentioned a few more names that visited the club in the 1960’s. He told me that Ike and Tina Turner were there, William Bell, Bobby Marchan and Jerry Butler all visited the club. The famous blues musician who died in 1965 known as Sonny Boy Williamson also played at the club once in Murfreesboro.
Today, the club sits in ruins on a small county road. No one would ever suspect it is where history was made.
"Music doesn't lie. If there is something to be changed in this world, then it can only happen through music." - Jimi Hendrix
It was a cold night Sunday, with the temperatures dipping to 40-degrees. A slight wind swirled it's way through the maze of downtown Nashville buildings, making it feel more like 30. As I walked up Broadway from the river I came upon a woman seated on the ground, her husband parked in a wheelchair to her left. He sat quietly, a blanket in his lap, struggling to extend his hand in an attempt to sell newspapers to passing pedestrians.
Grinning, he told me his name, "John Ross, but everyone calls me Johnny Pops. I’m 68." I laughed and told him I didn't believe him. He whipped out his driver’s license as proof of his 1947 birth. I smiled as his wife began to tell the story of how they became homeless.
“We were living in a motel on Dickerson Road. I worked as a cleaning lady for the property in exchange for a room, but they fired me because they said I was too old to work for them.” she said, looking down at the sidewalk. We discussed the illegality of age discrimination in the workplace, but she was far more eager to get on with her life than to hold a grudge.
I asked where they were currently living. “We live on the bench of the bus stop down the street.” said Johnny Pops. When I asked which one (because I wanted to bring them a couple of sleeping bags to supplement their lightweight blankets) he got a huge grin on his face and said, laughingly "The one with the white columns, white picket fence and big front porch!” I love it when people have a sense of humor, despite their life's circumstances.
This husband and wife team aren't at the bottom to stay. They told me they've been saving their money with a goal in mind. “We have an opportunity to live on a farm in Indiana and we're saving everything we make for that move.” Mrs. Ross said hopefully.
The late Robin Williams once stated, “The worst thing in life is not to end up all alone. The worst thing in life is to end up with people who make you feel alone.” I think Johnny “Pops” Ross understands that greater things are yet to come and he has Mrs. Ross by his side to remind him that he's never alone. Together, no matter where they live, they have each other.
As I walked into his apartment that he shares with several others I noticed it was cluttered with clothing, food boxes and more. He smiled as I walked in. His hands appeared to be sore with arthritis, his body failing on him quicker than his mind. "I have a caretaker who watches after me," he was quick to say adding, "She is wonderful."
He held up his hands, “Take a picture of my rings,” he told me. As I slowly pushed the shutter closed he told me that one is for his tour in Vietnam and the second is his U.S. Army ring. “I love these,” he said with a grin.
Those very same hands and fingers likely grasped the American M16 Rifle, a gun that was prone to jamming on our troops. I wonder how many times he had to clear it in the midst of enemy fire? I did not want to ask those questions, but my imagination ran wild with thoughts of what those hands have been through. The sounds of bullet fire as he crawled on the ground or through rice fields.
U.S. Army General William Westmoreland commanded U.S. forces during the Vietnam War. He once stated, “I do not believe that the men who served in uniform in Vietnam have been given the credit they deserve. It was a difficult war against an unorthodox enemy.”
The rings that some Vietnam Veterans wear were not given to them by the military, but instead purchased by the Veterans who posses them. Many wear them as a reminder of the life they have today, verses the life they survived so many years ago. Others wear the rings to remind them of the friends they lost or the friends that saved their life only to be delivered back to the United States in a flag draped coffin. Sadly, the government did little to thank so many who went through so much and continue to have their own battles today.
I met with Stacy, a former Heroin addict yesterday and heard her story. I have known her for the past year and have had the pleasure of bringing her food from time to time and listening to her boyfriend pray over me in thanks for the food provided by Feed America First.
“I remember the withdrawals,” she told me. “I could not get out of bed, I felt so sick until my friend brought me that needle,” her comments continued in describing Heroin. I asked, “Did you ever fear needles?” She told me that prior to her using on a regular basis she watched some of her friends use and said that she could not imagine using as much as they did. Before long, she was using Heroin just as much if not more.
The Heroin use left her feeling sick when she was not on it to feeling perfect when she injected the chemicals from inside the needle. She was twisted in emotions and pain as she shot Heroin on a regular basis multiple times a day. From the time the drug entered her veins to the time it followed the twisted red rivers like a fish swimming to her brain, the pleasures were overwhelming yet short lived.
When Heroin is used it makes the skin feel warm as it goes into the brain and gives Stacy a rush of intense pleasure. Her arms and legs would likely have felt heavy as the drug starts to work, her mouth dry. After the initial feeling wore off, it leaves you slightly nauseated and tired, sometimes itchy for several hours. Her mental state would have been clouded leaving her vulnerable to the elements of other drug abusers around her. Breathing and heart rate are slowed as the high turns into pain. But, the initial altering of emotions kept her coming back, along with the strong addiction that is tough to overcome without the use of medical care and medication.
Today she is clean, but her struggles continue. About three days ago she had a miscarriage and is facing the aftermath of losing a child and the medical aftermath of that happening. But, she is living on the streets as opposed to recovering in a home and in a bed. In fact, all she has is a sleeping bag and a boyfriend to comfort her.
As our talks continued she told me about the day she got clean from Heroin. Her mother was dying of cancer in Kentucky and insisted that she get help. Her mother said, “You are not going to die before I do, we are getting you help.” Her mom took her to get treatment and she was eventually prescribed Suboxone.
According to one website, “Suboxone contains a combination of buprenorphine and naloxone. Buprenorphine is an opioid medication. An opioid is sometimes called a narcotic. Naloxone blocks the effects of opioid medication, including pain relief or feelings of well-being that can lead to opioid abuse. Suboxone is used to treat narcotic (opiate) addiction.”
The battles continued for Stacy when she dropped her tortured romance with Heroin, but this time with a prescription medication intended for her to drop Heroin. It worked, but now she was addicted to another drug. She told me that while Heroin may be worse, it took her even longer to get off of Suboxone.
Today she is clean, but living on the streets. She hopes to soon be approved for an apartment using her boyfriends voucher. Together, they will be able to slowly start over and build a new life off the streets.
Stacy told me she would love to share her story with parents in our community and does not care about her appearance of being homeless – just as long as she can tell others about Heroin. If you would like her to speak before your church small group or family, let me know and we will make it happen. You allowing her to do that will be a huge step in her journey of rebuilding and healing.
"I spent 30 of my 62-years of life in a federal prison," he told me.
During our conversation I asked, "So you play cards I see?" He smiled and replied, "Wanna play me in poker?" I laughed as I told him that I am not very good. "I'm the best, people didn't even play with me in prison after a couple of years because I would always win," he said with a slight chuckle.
Despite his good game hand, he had a lot of hurt in those squinted eyes and his toothless mouth.
"I'm not like a poker player. I'm not into bluff. My way is to look someone in the eye and tell them the way I'm intending to go. My cards are always on the table." - Tori Amos
She is only 22-years old and lives in a small tent with her dog secluded from others in the woods of Nashville. She has a cross around her neck and works hard to sell the "Faith Unity" paper to passerby's. She told me, "This was the only job I could get." I bought five, assuming that would help in some little way.
Before I could walk away, two different well dressed, but intoxicated men approached her asking to pet the dog. I questioned their intentions, but not out loud. It left me thinking, "This is someones young daughter or are her parents even living?"
"Being unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody, I think that is a much greater hunger, a much greater poverty than the person who has nothing to eat." - Mother Teresa
I met John in Nashville this past Saturday night. It was almost poetic to see him standing on the sidewalk with the lights of Music City behind him as he tilted back his beer. Almost.
He told me that he moved here from another state to start over, but it wasn't working as he planned. I asked, "What are you running from?" With curiosity, he said, "What do you mean?" I replied... "Drugs, a girl, alcohol?" His smile turned to a frown as he replied, "Alcohol, these streets are going to kill me. I've tried to stop, but every penny I get goes to buy more. I can't stop."
I then asked the soft spoken 65-year old man, "Do you want to stop drinking?" He smiled, "I sure do!"
John did not have a cell phone so I knew looking for him on a sober morning would be like hunting down a needle in a haystack, but I hit the streets on Monday in Nashville in search of John. I found him.
Long story short, he did a phone interview to get into a treatment center located in North Carolina. He is now on the short list to be accepted. Hopefully, he will be on his way to the 65-day treatment program within the next three weeks.
“I spent half my life in prison,” he told me looking down. “Why,” I asked with curiosity. “Guns and drugs, I was sentenced in federal court at age 30, today I am 62,” he said. Then he chuckled, “But, I met a girl the other night… I’m staying with her over there [pointing to a nearby rundown motel], she’s 30.” I laughed a little and responded, “Well good for you.” He then smiled real big and said, “She’s a pretty little thing.”
Bernard Kerik a former police officer, convicted felon, and consultant who served as New York City Police Commissioner from 2000 to 2001 once said, “Going to prison is like dying with your eyes open.”
He was walking down Nolensville Pike in Nashville, his salt and pepper hair was blowing in the wind. I thought to myself, “He has an interesting face… I wonder what his story is?” I crossed five lanes of traffic on foot to catch up with him. It was obvious he had somewhere to be.
When I finally caught up I asked, “Where ya from?” He looked around as if I were talking to someone behind him. “I’m originally from Florida, but later moved to Seattle Washington and then to Nashville,” he told me. I laughed, “Why the heck would you leave Florida?” He smiled, “I didn’t have a choice, I was two and my parents moved.” I then replied, “I guess it would be hard to convince your parents to stay when you are only two.”
He then told me how he hated Washington because it was cold and rained all the time. However, he loves living in Nashville.
During our conversation he told me how he had a bag full of change that he took to a convenience store to exchange for cash. I told him that likely made for a good Sunday. He heart-fully agreed.
Marcus Aurelius, a Stoic philosopher and Roman Emperor from 161 to 180 once stated, “Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself, in your way of thinking.” Stoic philosophers taught that destructive emotions resulted from errors in judgment, and that a sage, or person of "moral and intellectual perfection", would not suffer such emotions.
I don't know that I would agree that anyone exists in today's times with moral perfection, but this man seemed to be very happy despite having little and living in a home with others.
She somehow found her way to Hippie Hill through the dips and valleys of life. I asked, “What brought you to Tennessee?” She said that she was battling Lupus and her hands and feet often hurt while living up north. “My doctor drew a line on a map and said if you live anywhere here, you will have better results and feel better while battling Lupus,” she told me… “So we came here.”
With her camper in tow and with her son by her side side (he is in his twenties), she gathered her belongings and her beloved dogs and made it to Hippie Hill, where she can be herself and relax.
With Lupus joint pain is common. Warmer climates help to alleviate the pain. Fatigue, headaches, mouth ulcers, etc. are all things that those with Lupus are up against. To make some of those symptoms, relocating is worth a move. The cause of Lupus is still not known. Some doctors suggest you are genetically pre-disposed to getting it while some say that something in the environment triggers the problem. Lupus is not contagious and it is not a form of cancer.
“Every day holds the possibility of a miracle.” -- Author Unknown