1/125th at F4.5, ISO 1600 (38mm).
Jeff's life story is basically a Hollywood script. Read the full interview at evgrieve.
"I worked in social work in harm reduction. I helped start the first syringe exchange in harm reduction in the state of North Carolina in 1993. Harm reduction is based on meeting people where they’re at as drug users. Instead of telling people they have to get clean, it’s more about telling them, “you know what, today you are going to use a little less, or you’re going to actually clean yourself before you inject and you’re going to use a clean, new syringe.” Any positive change.
You meet them where they’re at and eventually work to make themselves better and healthier. The concept is weird for people but it works if you do it right. I had my own problems with drugs and ended up addicted to heroin and cocaine and living on the streets for a few years. I lost everything. This was a year after I got here. I lost my girlfriend, I lost my dog, I lost my job. I was in a new city with no family and I relapsed and lost everything.
I had to figure out a way to make a living so I got a job as a bike messenger and I also had a book stand on Avenue A between 5th and 6th. Bike messengers are people from all walks of life. It’s terrible money and it’s a very dangerous job. And people treat messengers like shit. Everyone does. But I was used to that so the job seemed okay.
Working at the book stand, a lot of people would bring me books and stuff and one day someone brought me a bike and said, “See if you can sell this, I’m going back to my hometown.” I fixed the flats on it, cleaned it up a little bit and made $100 on it immediately. So I made business cards and started putting them on the beat up bikes lying around with my pager number from the messenger service, to page me if they wanted the bike fixed or to sell it. That’s how I started. Then I went to a flea market and started working at a shop.
I then got a job in my field again doing homeless outreach. Actually, I was homeless, sleeping by the river, going to a drop-in center, getting showered, cleaned up, putting on my Bowery Residence Community shirt, and running around in vans picking up homeless people at night. They had no idea I was homeless.
I started seeing the positive parts of not using. And it’s interesting because my girlfriend, now of almost 10 years, was working as the coordinator of the Lower East Side syringe exchange. We applied for the same job and she got it. She was Columbia University educated, knows everybody in the field, harm reduction superstar. I was kind of the blue-collar harm reduction superstar junkie. Then she ended up being my boss because I was working as a stipend worker there and we used to come to Tompkins Square Park together to do outreach and that’s where we started hanging out and fell in love.
We broke up for like 6 months, which is when I opened up the store. She called me and I was like, “What? Here I was thinking that you were freezing on the streets. I’m crying at night thinking you were a junkie on the streets and here you are opening a store.”
For me, when you say how did I get clean or off drugs, basically everyone just told me to go fuck myself and I couldn’t deal with the rejection anymore. That was the worst thing in the world. No trust. And now everyone trusts me. The difference is insane. And it’s in the same neighborhood, which is even crazier. Usually people have to leave.
We sell bikes all over the world. We’re not just a bike shop. Continuum Cycles is a bicycle company, Continuum, a Bicycle Shop is the space that you see, I fix bikes, we sell new and used bikes, and then Continuum Coffee is our coffee shop."
1/320th at F13, ISO 800 (28mm).
This is one of my favorite parks in the city, slightly hidden in Chinatown. Gamblers, musicians, singers, martial artists, and soccer players all converge. And it's surrounded in every direction by dumplings. Who could ask for more.
On another note, sorry if the blog is a little slow this week. I'm upgrading my website application and moving it over to another server and it's a pain in the ass. Hopefully will be finished in a day or two.
1/200th at F6.3, ISO 800 (28mm).
A powerful story from a beautiful woman. This is just an excerpt, but you can read the entire interview on evgrieve.
"I’m coming from Social Tees [Animal Rescue]. I know the owner since it’s where I take my other four cats. Right now I have an apartment in Crown Heights and I heard [the kitten] crying there for three days. I thought he was a bird and I couldn’t find him at first.
He’s a baby. The mother left him. His eye was shut so I took him upstairs and flushed it with hot water and then I gave him some Amoxicillin. I don’t know why but something told me to give him that for the infection. And then I gave him some stuff for his eye.
My whole family was down here. They never left. This was my real family, but when I was young I was given to foster parents in the Bronx and I got raped and beat up and all of that by them. I’ve suffered.
I’ve been in the streets most of my life. I had my friends and my family around here, but I didn’t go to my family. I don’t know how I survived. I hardly ate. I wouldn’t ask anybody for anything. I was too traumatized. People would come and bring my food and I would shake in my boots because I didn’t want anybody to touch me. And I didn’t know how to ask for help.
The cat is fine. He’s fighting. If I let him walk, he’ll walk all over me, but I can’t yet because I don’t want him to get sick. I know what it’s like to suffer and that’s why I like to rescue things. It’s to be human."