Dave Walker lives in his van in Murfreesboro, TN near Nashville. In this 10 minute he talks about some of the things he has seen or heard in the past 8 months.Read More
The hustle and bustle on a Saturday night in downtown Nashville, Tennessee.
PRISON: In 2014 the state proposed closing the Charles Bass Correctional Complex in Nashville with a goal of saving over $16 million per year.Read More
Tattooed to the center of his chest was an "S," just like the original Superman logo.
I captured this photo in Nashville, 2014.
Bone Chilling Cold: “You have to know how to survive in this weather,” he told me. I asked, “What do you need besides a sleeping bag?” He looked down and then responded, “I recently got out of prison and they took my ID, Social Security Card – things get lost in there – but I need those things.”
The temperature outside was 16 degrees with a wind chill of 3 degrees that afternoon. By nightfall, the temperature had fallen to 12 degrees and expected to hit 7 degrees by morning with a morning wind chill of -1 degree by 6AM in Nashville, TN.
The lowest temperature in recorded history for Nashville occurred on January 21, 1985. It was -17 degrees. Looking back to January 12, 1918, the daily high was at 2 degrees.
“Nothing burns like the cold. But only for a while. Then it gets inside you and starts to fill you up, and after a while you don't have the strength to fight it.” ― George R.R. Martin
He is homeless and a U.S. Veteran. For many, life once home equals chaos.
"Soldiers, when committed to a task, can't compromise. It's unrelenting devotion to the standards of duty and courage, absolute loyalty to others, not letting the task go until it's been done."- John Keegan
The descriptions of the Vietnam War from a homeless man sitting on a park bench will give you nightmares, yet what he described is what he saw in the thick of it at age 21.
“I had to kill women and children because the North Vietnamese women were armed fighters and their babies were strapped to their front…” As he talked you could see that pictures as vivid as yesterday were running through his mind.
“They skinned men alive if they caught em’ – can you imagine what that would feel like,” he asked while talking about the pain that was endured by U.S. Troops. As he continued I could imagine the torture and how so many lost their lives while in Vietnam. He went on to describe more of what he saw, “Sometimes, they’d nail em’ to an upside down cross in the woods for other troops to find, alive.”
No one encouraged him to speak of the horrific things he saw or to stir those memories, he wanted to get it out of his mouth and probably his head. Sometimes, it is important to allow those with tragedy in their past to let it out. Sometimes, it is important to remain silent and to remember your words may mean little if anything.
Communist Hồ Chí Minh was once quoted as saying, “You will kill ten of us, we will kill one of you, but in the end, you will tire of it first.”
Hồ Chí Minh was not always his name. He was born as Nguyễn Sinh Cung, but later decided to go with a name that had meaning, Hồ Chí Minh, which means "He Who has been enlightened," became his title in 1941.
He was a Vietnamese Communist revolutionary leader and later the President (1945–69) of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (North Vietnam). He also helped to form the Viet Cong during the Vietnam War.
One execution for every one hundred and sixty residents was the way Hồ Chí Minh moved to reform North Vietnam in the 1950’s. He called it land reform and rent reduction. However, it was the simple slaughter of innocent people. This… this is who U.S. Troops were up against in the Vietnam War.
My friend Levi, who is homeless and living in the Nashville area, was recently hit by a car along with his mother Debbie. I wanted to post this about a week ago, but he insisted I wait until he gets out of the hospital. After speaking with him tonight he said to go ahead and post it.
Levi who is blind, was walking across a busy intersection with his mother when a car struck the two. It left Levi with a shattered ankle that required surgery. It left his mother with scrapes and bruises, but she too is doing better. She also has a boot on her left leg that she has to wear, although I don’t know how long.
The car that struck the two fled the scene and Metro Police have been unable to track it down. Of course Levi could not see the car which was not realized by officers until several minutes of questioning, according to him. Debbie did not see the vehicle and was likely busy making sure Levi was okay after the incident.
Life changes in the blink of an eye for everyone, no matter the social level. However, when those changes take place when you are already down, it makes it even harder to get up.
Luckily for Levi, it looks as if he will not be on a walker for long. However, being blind, homeless and on a walker won’t be easy for Debbie who is in her sixties or for Levi who is in his mid-thirties.
“Nothing is so painful to the human mind as a great and sudden change.” ― Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, English novelist (1797-1851)
He was sitting alone in a dark alley with only the light from a nearby road creeping onto his right side and the left barely lit by an open restaurant door that lead to the busy kitchen. He was crouched down on a milk crate eating a tray of noodles, likely from a cook inside the restaurant.
I could not understand much of what he had to say, but he was very talkative so I simply listened to what sounded like meaningless chatter. But, it made me wonder what has caused him to become this way? Did it start before he became homeless while working as a diesel mechanic or did it happen due to one extreme stressor in life or multiple stressful situations with negative outcomes?
Have you ever thought about how unnerving our world is today? So many people fall into emotional and physical disrepair because of an inability to handle the things around us. Politics, natural disasters, physical ailments, declining health due to age or bad habits, addiction, loss of employment, false ideas of how religion should be verses how it is viewed in our churches, fear of relationships – I could continue typing for hours naming things that bog us down. But, why do we let these things get under our skin?
The simple answer is that not all of us do – some are better equipped with handling today’s times.
A Yale University study found that some people had brains that were able to process stressors better than others. What was interesting is that the study allowed researchers to see which three areas of the brain responded to stress during a functional MRI (fMRI).
The Yale study saw a decrease in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) area of the brain at first and then a huge increase in that same area by most of their study participants. That huge increase could be seen on scans that were overseen by doctors and scientist. For those that had the hyper increase of activity, it meant that their brains were blocking the stressors or protecting the person from stress.
The ventromedial prefrontal cortex area is involved in brain management, in a way. It is utilized when dealing with self-related processing or figuring out when to feel stress or not to feel stress. This area of the brain also causes disruptions in individuals with autism and those who function poorly in social settings. In other words, the vmPFC is not building that wall to block the stress as it does in some people.
Basically, the ventromedial prefrontal cortex either goes into overdrive to protect the brain from extreme emotional response, or fails to go into overdrive (fails to build that wall), which equals a flood of stress and emotional reactions to the stressor.
The Yale study found that those whose brain failed to guard against the stressor, they likely had an increased risk of binge drinking, binge eating or other self-destructive behavior after being stressed.
So if you react poorly to stress and find yourself acting out in self-destructive behaviors after a hard day, your ventromedial prefrontal cortex area is not guarding your brain. A quick fix for this problem is not available, but it is now the spotlight of more research.
For those who experience one extreme stressors daily, weekly or even monthly – these stressors add up and cause serious health issues. Those health issues can include high blood pressure, diabetes or heart disease which can lead to more stress. More stress then leads to depression, anxiety or the onset of an underlying mental illness that did not make itself known until that stress in life continued to build up. So, if not tackled in the beginning, it can quickly become uncontrollable for an individual.
The end result of accumulated stress that is not handled properly… we break.
“Stress is the trash of modern life-we all generate it but if you don't dispose of it properly, it will pile up and overtake your life.” ― Danzae Pace
Domestic Violence: While taking this photo she told me, "I remember hiding in the closet." Today, she is 13 years old.
“Childhood should be carefree, playing in the sun; not living a nightmare in the darkness of the soul.”
― Dave Pelzer, A Child Called "It"
He told me that he became homeless shortly after his divorce several years ago. However, his most recent battle started when he twisted his ankle and tore several ligament’s.
“I stepped off the curb down there (pointing towards Murfreesboro Road) and just fell,” he told me. He then said, “I have to have surgery on it.”
A Good Samaritan in Nashville is giving him a ride to the doctor and will be waiting with him while that surgery takes place in the near future.
Chris said that he spent 15 years in the State Penitentiary for a rape that occurred in Lewisburg, Tennessee in 1998. He went in 2 days before Christmas and got out two days before Christmas- exactly 15 years apart.
Like many, the 53 year old calls what was once a hotel, his apartment. That apartment that is his home is called the Casa Blanca.
In the 1950’s the apartment opened as a hotel known as the Holiday Inn. It was one of the first Holiday Inn hotels in America. The hotel turned apartment is on Murfreesboro Pike in Nashville and 90% of the residents today are felons with a good number being on the Sex Offender Registry. However, it is one of the few properties in Davidson County that takes in felons and allows them to live there.
The complex is under the management of a former probation officer by the name of Pauline Spalding. Needless to say, she runs a very tight ship with a gun on one hip and a Taser on the other.
She was diagnosed with cancer several years ago, but lacked the funds or the stable environment to seek treatment. She told me that she was given a grave diagnosis with about 12 months of life in front of her.
While still homeless, four years later she is alive and able to walk wherever her feet will take her.
"You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have” – Cayla Mills, a cancer survivor who sought treatment
He told me that he was originally from Chicago, but came to Nashville for a job and never had the means to leave after losing the employment. His long stay started over ten years ago.
“Nashville’s a rough place,” he told me while describing a robbery that occurred in downtown Nashville. “They jumped me,” he said with an irritating look on his face.
As we talked more he pointed to his empty eye socket, “I lost my eye last year. It started out as an infection and when I went to the hospital they gave me eye drops and then sent me on my way. It turned out to be a staph infection and by the time I returned to the hospital a second time, the pain was unbearable. So, I lost my eye.”
His goal is to someday return to Chicago to be with his son and grandchild. “My son looks and talks just like me,” he said with a laugh. “He’s a carbon copy of me,” he suggested.
He was holding a cardboard sign that read, “Homeless Need Help, Thank – You, God – Bless.”
His long black hair stood out among the tourist that lined the streets of lower Broadway in Music City. He wore a single grizzly bear claw around his neck adorned with a turquoise stone.
He walked with a purpose, strong and proud. He stood about six foot two, if not taller. As we talked he confirmed that he is a Native American Indian. I shot a few photos of him and in conversation he said that he plays both lead and bass guitar around the Nashville area.
History tells us that Native American Indians thought of the grizzly bear as being a mighty force, which they are. No doubt, it is one of the most powerful and fierce animals to come up against in the woods.
Some Indians today wear a grizzly bear claw from their neck as it is thought to ad protection to them and bring good health. In fact, the grizzly has long been a part of American Indian rituals and celebrations.
At one point, there were about 50,000 grizzly bears living in North America. Today, the numbers are thought to be less than 2,000.
Native Americans Population:
The National Congress of American Indians reports that 2.9 million American Indian or Alaska Natives live in the United States today. That number accounts for 0.9% of the total U.S. population.
Alaska has the highest population of American Indians followed by Oklahoma and then New Mexico.
Old Lodge Skins in the movie Little Big Man stated: "This boy is no longer a boy. He's a brave. He is little in body, but his heart is big. His name shall be "Little Big Man."
So I was at the Therapeutic Cat Petting Station the other day and I noticed the therapist had bandages all over his hands. So, I asked… “What happened to your hands?” He snippily responded with a snarl, “I don’t have to tell you!” I went along with his anger and said, “No, you don’t, but I was curious.” He then turned around facing the window as a way of ignoring me. When he turned, I noticed the back of his cat sign stated, “Ther-apeutic Dog Petting Station.” My only thought as I walked away… Did the dog bite your hand?
I don’t run across many who are angry with the world, but I may have this one time.
“Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.” - Buddha
79-Year old Gene Glasscock and his wife Noqah Elisi are taking a trip, but not just any vacation. They are traveling by covered wagon along the Cherokees’ Trail of Tears. The trip is to memorialize the thousands of Indians who died on the route in the 1800’s. The Glasscock’s have Cherokee ancestry in their blood. Noqah Elisi is also taking the trip as a way to remember her son Johnny who died the year before in Alaska. Johnny died in an accidental shooting, according to Noqah Elisi. She had planned to take the trip with him four years ago. That never happened.
About 16,000 Cherokee Indians were driven from their lands by the US Army under the command of Andrew Jackson. They were forced to walk about 1,000 miles to an area that was titled “Indian Territory.” Some 4,000 died along the Trail of Tears that is also called “The trail where they cried.” The Glasscock’s will end their travel in Oklahoma, which is where the Cherokee also ended their trip.
I captured this shot when they stopped at MTSU in Murfreesboro, TN to spend the night.