Chris Arnade Photography

Prison is often a punishment for the entire family

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In upstate NY in a tiny town, 20 miles from Canadian border, to visit a Prison.

A bus from Bronx arrived in the morning, filled with women. It left midnight the day before, from a location only available by word of mouth. Or internet chat rooms. Visiting day is either Saturday or Sunday, depending on week and Prisoners ID number.

Many of the women (wives, girlfriends, daughters, mothers) do it every three weeks. Total coat is close to $200: $60 round trip, plus $60 for hotel. Another $20 for cab to and from Prison (there are no public buses).

The state moved many of the longer term facilities upstate to provide the area jobs.

It has resulted in a Prison sentence becoming a punishment for the entire family.


Compromise and comfort

Cynthia was out on the streets “selling her pussy.” For drugs.  She told me that. She was dressed for that. Tight clothes that barely concealed, her “pussy pushed out” behind see-through shorts.

She was tweaking, yet controlled. Intense and tight. She didn’t have time to talk, beyond being polite.

She is used to being looked at. She pushed her middle into the camera, laughed, held a pose, grabbed $6 from my hands, and walked up the hill, towards a dealer, and away from the approaching rain.

This is the picture I took.

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I had wanted a tighter shot, but the sun, my recently injured leg, fast moving semi trucks, kept me from getting it.

When I got home I changed the picture, cropping it. Why? Because I didn’t feel it captured Cynthia’s intensity, the focus on her body and her craving. I felt she was lost in the space.

Here is what I chose. I titled it “Look at my pussy, buy me drugs.”

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I wanted the viewer to feel what I felt, that “she was selling her pussy.”  I wanted the viewer to be forced to look at her middle, not her face. To feel, like I felt, uncomfortable doing so. To feel, despite the space, her body was the focus.

After looking at it for so long, I did become uncomfortable, for the viewers sake, for my sake. It became too much. So I compromised, and chose this edit, titled “Cynthia again”

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Yet I did it because, honestly, I was worried about upsetting people, worried that Facebook, twitter, Flickr, wouldn’t get it. That I would lose viewers.

That is/was a mistake. The picture I ended up posting doesn’t reflect the awkwardness, and confusion, I felt.

More importantly, I don’t think it reflects how Cynthia felt.

Yet I can never really know that. Nobody, except Cynthia can.

Which is a reminder: Art is often more about the artist (their limitations, faults, and prejudices)  than it is about the subject.


A calm chaos

Pepsi is always there, standing back, quietly waiting and watching, beyond the action.

Others rush to tell you their needs, their problems, their issues, their hopes, their desires.

Pepsi waits until a space is cleared, and until you ask.

You ask because she wears the drama of addiction on her: A black eye, a broken lip. Make-up running from tears. Or curled up tightly, lying under blankets and boxes, immobile.

You ask and you listen because what she says is clear, makes so much sense, yet makes no sense at all.

Someone so smart, so clear-minded, so generous, so filled with hope, so talented, describing indescribable pain.

A child’s birthday brings a week of hope, a week of trying to pull herself together, to make her child proud.

Later, it brings a week of self-loathing and of deep depression. “I am still out here, failing my children.”

Addiction brings immense pain. It can also bring self-awareness; an understanding of ones limits, boundaries, and weaknesses.

Pepsi has both, quietly struggling, yet with a dignity that is stronger than most any I have seen.


One of the most insidious things that comes from criminalizing sex work? Sex workers fear reporting abuse or rape

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Takeesha was upset.

After thirty years of living on the streets she hides pain well.

Yet this moment she wasn’t.

Her smart wit, her constant needling of everyone and everything was gone.

Takeesha was angry.

Anger covers tears.

“Someone did something to me last night that I can’t explain. They abused me in a way I have never been. Someone I thought I trusted. Someone my husband knows. Nobody deserves what they did to me.”

“Police? No way. They won’t believe me. My husband will deal with it.”


More on addiction here: Faces of Addiction


"911 is a joke"


Beauty likes K2, the “fake weed” that is sold in most NY bodegas. It is mixture of herbs and spices, often sprayed with whatever the fuck, to well, fuck you up.

One addict, who will never use it again, said, “After smoking that shit I could only go left. Really. I had to walk, for like hours, towards my left.”

It is the only drug Beauty uses. Not crack. Her mom used that and she hates the smell and she hates what it did to her mom. Not Hair-on, like her friends. Hair-on is nasty.

K2.

It gave her a seizure once before, like a few months ago, but she was alone and nobody noticed.

Saturday she was sleeping with her boyfriend when the last seizure hit. Shaking, biting of her tongue, foaming at the mouth. He called 911. Forty-five minutes later they took her to the ER. FORTY FIVE MINUTES GIRL.

She doesn’t remember any of it, just waking up in the hospital with her boyfriend holding her hand.

She cried for like the next day.

K2. It is still her thing. Maybe a little less of it. Ok, maybe none.

Her boyfriend. Well, he was there for her. Not like the last guy. That says a lot. Right?


The shitty details of addiction

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  1. The first call comes early Friday morning, “I am in the hospital, come bring me a bag. I desperately need a bag.” 
  2. Next call. “Well if you won’t, bring X with you. They can buy stuff. Come on. I am fucking desperate.”
  3. Next call. “Broken collar bone, cracked wrist, and something to do with my vertebrate. I am dope sick as hell. They only giving me a little methadone and morphine.”
  4. Five more calls that you ignore, knowing that visiting means being unable to bring anything, because the only things wanted are illegal.
  5. You agree to visit, but make it clear that no drugs are coming. None.
  6. Visiting means lying about having your car parked near the hospital. “They can’t keep me here.  Just take me to get one bag. Just one bag.”
  7. Visiting means giving the $18 dollars for three days of TV directly to the TV person, not to the addict.
  8. Visiting means listening to the nurses get yelled at because the pain meds aren’t coming for another twenty minutes.
  9. Visiting means eating their meal because they haven’t been able to eat for four days.
  10. Visiting means seeing them vomit ten seconds after getting an IV of meds.
  11. Visiting means yelling and yelling and yelling. Telling them to stop trying to leave the hospital when they cannot walk more than ten yards, when what they call their home is a box in an empty lot.
  12. Visiting means realizing how shitty addicts can be and how shitty addiction is.

More on addiction here: Faces of Addiction


How to get paid 3.5 billion per year

My article on Hedge Funds: How to get paid 3.5 Billion per year

PS: Picture has nothing at all to do with article. I just like it. I call it “The unbearable lightness of buying things.”


Kittens and Addicts

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I wrote something about Kittens. And Addicts. Read, share, comment.

Donors will go out of their way to save cats. People? It’s complicated


There is a NYC beach where you find Hindu Gods

A small beach opposite JFK airport has become the local Hindu populations replacement for the Ganges River: A sacred body of water used for religious ceremonies.

The beach is a tableaux of Religious detritus: Half coconut shells, bananas with incense sticks jutting out of them, broken statues of Gods, and even empty boxes of those recently cremated.

It is in Jamaica bay, part of the Gateway National Recreation Area.

Below are a few pictures…..

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image(A recent offering to a deceased relative)

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image(A discarded box of cremated ashes)

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Here is a NY Times article on the location: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/22/nyregion/hindus-find-a-ganges-in-queens-to-park-rangers-dismay.html


In any town, at any moment, there are thousands acts of kindness that nobody sees

Takeesha has her own room, in a shelter, in a part of town far from Hunts Point. She is five months on Methadone, removed from the needle. For the three-day weekend, she was given three bottles.

She now only comes to Hunts Point to check in at the Methadone Clinic or to work.

An older man, someone she isn’t particularly close to, someone she doesn’t particularly like, someone with no money, approached. He was crouched, holding his stomach tight.

He asked her quietly.

She found her last bottle, the one for tomorrow, and poured him four caps of medicine, leaving her with less than a third.

He drank, nodded his head, and walked away.

“I cannot see anyone dope sick. I don’t care who it is. If you have ever been there, ever been that sick, that desperate, you would understand.”


Love in the time of heroin, part five

At the peak of the George Washington Bridge, Eric told Sonya to roll the window down and wave goodbye. Sonya told Eric to leave her alone.  It was too fucking cold anyways.

The NY marathon ponchos, stolen from a warehouse, were wearing thin. The cold wet nights had soaked in.  Her head ached, her feet ached, her hands were swollen and pained, and she just wanted a cigarette and some Xanax. She nodded, deadened by four bags.

Eric kept talking, looking out the window toward Manhattan. He had been released from detox the night before. Seven days of being clean were celebrated with four bags.

He was wearing new steel-toe boots. After he had put them on, earlier in the morning, he flung his old shoes onto a tree in a pit that was their old home.

He was talking about a future, a delusional future in a new town. The steel-toed boots, that was the start. So was the week being clean. The heroin from this morning—the one helping him fancy a future without it—that was forgotten.

His steel-toed boots would help him get a welder’s license. The welder’s license would get him a job. The job would get him and Sonya an apartment. The apartment would get Sonya clean (remember, he is already clean.) Getting clean would get them a row house, sold by the city for almost nothing if you could fix it up, and he could fix it up. He is a welder after all.

I knew an old lady who swallowed a fly….

The warrant squad had just come the other day. He was lucky to have missed them. He kept looking out the window, talking. The smaller the Empire State Building became, the further the warrant squad had to travel.

Not that they were an issue. Not after today.

They wouldn’t come to his newly fixed-up row house. Not all the way to the new city. And if they did, well him and Sonya are clean. They even got their kids back. That’s how clean they are.

They sat next to each other, he looking out, she looking down. They spent an hour arguing, discussing, and reminiscing, about where to stay. They chose a spot near the city center, just on the edge of nice, just on the edge of historic. “I want to be far from the drugs, and here it is easier to panhandle from tourists.”

An abandoned single-story warehouse, only months away from the advancing gentrification, became their new home.

The drugs? You had to walk down the cobblestone street that bordered their new home. Walk down that until it passes under a tangle of interstates. Keep walking as it turns into an avenue of auto body shops, bars, dollar stores, plexi-glassed Chinese places, junk yards, pawn shops, and boarded-up buildings, all beneath the elevated train. Keep walking, and follow the elevated, forking right, as it turns into an avenue of the addicted, every corner filled with people offering to ease the pain. A two-mile walk: One terminus drugs, the other home.

The welder’s license? That lost out to walking that walk.

Every day they walked that walk. Sometimes together, sometimes alone. Maybe three times a day. Sometimes they didn’t come home. Sometimes they stayed at the other end. Shit happens.

Three months of walking.

Then the police found Eric. The first time he ran. They didn’t catch him.  The second time, well, he tried to run, but guns came out. He is not somebody to let himself get shot. He is not crazy.

The warrant squad, well they have computers and phones. Eric was given a free ride back to New York City. Back to central booking. Back to Rikers.

Sonya walked alone for a month. When she wasn’t in the hospital or committed or in jail.

When she could, when a computer was open at the community center, she looked for Eric’s court date.

They day before his appearance, she took a bus to watch him be sentenced. One-year upstate.

She went back to Hunts Point. Back under the Bruckner.

“I will wait for him.”

Down in the pit, Eric’s old shoes still hung from the tree, slightly hidden by the new leaves.

The steel-toed boots? Sold.


More on addiction here: Faces of Addiction


Poor and Gay

My article in Guardian: Transgender in Queens


Garifuna: Rightful Pride

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“I look like a mechanic, I work like a mechanic, but being Garifuna, that is how I see myself.”


The history, and mythology, of the Garifuna people is one of strength from tragedy.

Forcefully taken, to become slaves, from Africa their freedom came from a shipwreck.

The survivors swam to an island and married the local Caribs.

The following four hundred years was a long fight to never become slaves.

Migration, often forced, led them to Honduras and Belize.

Racism, stigma, and little opportunity have led to a more recent migration, to the US, and in the US mostly to the Bronx.

They are now part of the Bronx, a minority that fits the puzzle that is New York City.

The language of the Garifuna is what gives them away. It still retains much of its West Africa roots, four hundred years later.

And the food. Hot peanut fish soup. Pounded Yam.

Ethnic pride, often confusing to others, is understandable when forged from such tragedy.

More info here: Wikepedia

My photos of a Garifuna town in Belize: Seine Bight


OWS, Selflessness, and outrage

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My view on Cecily McMillan and outrage. Click on link to read: Don’t forget the bottom one percent.


Facebook is become a Nasty Monopoly

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My article on Facebook and social media in the Guardian. Here on Tumblr:

Facebook is becoming a Nasty Monopoly

I guess ironically you could share it

Picture of cat, because cats make things trend