I woke up just before 5:00 a.m. I survived the night, I’m glad Wesley wasn’t a serial killer. I had been wondering why he’s the only one in the camp, and thought to myself maybe he killed all the other people in the camp. Most likely everyone else left because it’s getting too cold to live outside. Wesley talked my ear off last night about a lot of things, he’s a man with a lot of hurt and trauma. He seems to be a generous and giving person, for some reason he struggles to be loving, caring, and considerate to himself. It digs deep into my soul to experience the hurt of the people that live in the street. There’s no wonder that they’re all looking for a way to feel better or escape the pain that’s inside them. I can talk about that, because I know that pain, I’m not afraid to admit that it’s something I walk around with every day. For some reason my will to love myself became bigger than that pain, I know it’s there, I can look at it, but it doesn’t stop me from loving myself. I guess in some sense I had to learn to love the pain, to accept it, and recognize it as a part of life that is unavoidable.
It’s super cold. It dropped down to about 18° in the night. I’m slow to get up but I take my time and I pack up my sleeping gear. Wesley let me sleep in one of the tents that used to belong to his friend Pat when he was camping down there. I hung around to charge up my stuff with my portable battery a little bit.
At about 6:30 I Tell Wesley through his tent that I’m going to get some food and drop my gear off. I walk over to my bike that I chained to a fence outside the camping zone, everything is frosted with ice including my bike. It’s still really cold outside in the mid to low twenties. As I’m riding my bike my bare hands begin to hurt from the cold. I have some work gloves I put those on but it’s not enough to keep my hands warm. Eventually I stop riding my bike and I walk my bike over to where I have my truck parked. I leave the bulk of my gear in my truck and take the little backpack. I go to the grocery store and I buy some pastries, some cheesecake, a sandwich, and some orange juice. I walk back to the camp and let Wesley know I got food for breakfast. Wesley slowly comes out of the tent and is shivering cold. We split the sandwich and ate some pastries. Wesley doesn’t want the cheesecake, he says it makes him constipated. That’s good just means more for me.
What I’ve realized is when it’s this cold out you have to take in a high caloric intake. We hung around for a while and I gave Wesley my tobacco and we roll cigarettes. I let him keep the remainder. Wesley wants to take me to town and introduce me to some of his homeless friends. We pack up our gear and we head out. Wesley’s really interested in my project, and even states that he thought about doing it himself before. This isn’t the first time I’ve heard somebody mention that. I wish I could explain how much work actually goes into doing what I’m doing.
8:30 a.m. We walk down the street and then we walk over a bridge that takes us into downtown Springfield. First we meet up with Pablo, and an old hardened homeless man named Lefty. Lefty doesn’t want to do an interview with me. Pablo doesn’t speak English. I hang around and hear some of the stories. Lefty tells me about a time when he was sleeping under the Hippodrome overhang. A cop stops, Lefty thinks he’s going to get rushed out of there and it’s pouring rain. The cop opens his trunk and pulls out a blanket and gives it to Lefty. This act of kindness stays sharp in Lefty’s mind. Lefty’s been living in these streets for many years. He is 75 years old. While we’re hanging out a nice lady comes along with her little puppy named blackie. She is supposedly a really good cook, and she says that we can come by later for some oxtail and steak sliders. One thing I noticed about Wesley is he’s really friendly with people, especially ladies. He always asks them how they’re doing and tells them how beautiful they are. Some people don’t like this but regardless he’s very outgoing. I met some other homeless people that tell me stories about the addiction, the murders, and what it’s like being homeless in Springfield. There’s a lot of violence in the streets.
10:00 a.m. After hanging out with this crew we head over to a small park, there we meet Janice, a woman who struggles with multiple mental health issues and alcoholism. She was going to go to treatment but then left the hospital. We also meet Dave, Dave was a fireman for 30 years and after he retired he lost his condo and ended up living in the streets. I don’t really understand this story, it seems that Dave does get some money, but he said he’s been living in the streets for 6 years. Dave is an old head, like a street elder, he knows everybody and he knows what’s going on, he drinks but he doesn’t use drugs. There’s homeless people coming and going and we talk to them a little bit. I get a couple interviews. While we’re in the park, an old woman comes by and asks us if we want food later. Wesley calls her auntie. She likes to cook meals and bring them to the people that are homeless at the park.
Around 12:00 auntie comes back with meals for us. I get a video she’s a super sweet lady. Wesley smokes all my tobacco so I go to get some more from a convenience store down the street. I’m not proud of this, but I’m still hungry so I stop in at a sandwich shop and get a sandwich with some onion rings and a coffee. When I return back to the park Wesley’s gone. He called me and asked me where I went. I told him I just returned to the park, when Wesley comes back he tells me he’s going to do some leaf blowing to get some money. I tell him to do the work and I’ll catch up with him later. I walk back over the bridge to the gym on the other side. I hang out at the active and Fit Gym where my truck is parked.
4:30 p.m. Wesley calls me and tells me he’s finishing things up in downtown Springfield. He asked me to get him a couple more beers for the night and told me to go to the camp to get the fire started. Wesley offered to pick up some steaks to cook on the fire, but I told him, don’t get the steaks, I insisted I got them since he had been so hospitable. Like I said before I don’t feel great about it buying Wesley beer, but Wesley is sharing his camp with me. By the time I get back to the camp it’s dark. I head over to the fire barrel, and get ready to start a fire then Wesley appears over the hill. Wesley tells me to start breaking up pallets, there’s a dump site nearby that has huge piles of pallets and chipped pallets, so I suggest that I go over and get some broken up wood from there. Wesley says, yeah whatever man and suggests that I take the cart that he found in a dumpster and fill it up. I walk over to the trash dump and get lost. It takes me a few minutes before I find the pallet pile. I spread pallet chips on the bottom of the cart and then I take bigger broken pieces of pallet and I fill up the cart with firewood. When I return Wesley has already thrown leaves in the barrel and is getting the fire started. I assist by throwing some wood chips in. Before you know it we got a fiery blaze.
6:30 p.m. I take the pan down to the river and wash it out. It’s dirty from last night’s meal. I put the cream of mushroom soup in the pan and cut up a pepper and an onion and put it in there. The fires blazing so I put it on top of the grate and begin to cook our dinner. Wesley agrees to do a camp interview with me. He discusses some of the things that are going on with himself, and about homelessness. I have to admit spending time with Wesley took a lot out of me psychologically and emotionally. A part of me wanted to be able to repair the pain that was inside of him, but I knew that was only something he could work on himself. One thing I perceived about Wesley is that he focuses on other people He loves other people and has a big heart, but he neglects himself. The loss in the trauma thereof in his life has left him in despair. Wesley asked me a question, he asked me what I thought he should do considering that it was getting cold out and he might be outside for the winter cuz he refuses to go into shelters. I spent the night thinking about that question.
8:30 p.m. Wesley put on documentaries about the ocean. He likes David Attleboro and likes to watch informative shows about biology, history, politics, and other things that I also find intriguing. Instead of sleeping in the bigger extra tent I set up my little tent right up next to Wesley’s tent, and we both got ready for bed. I could hear David Attleboro’s voice coming from his tent. It wasn’t long before I was asleep.