ok…so tryin’ to sell art on the streets of Nashville is like tryin’ to sell Jewish trinkets at a Baptist convention. Just kiddin’…whatever happened to a sense of humor folks? oh well…its been a long time since I’ve felt this wonderfully hopeful, optimistic and full of beans! Years, even. so I’m just not gonna let the malcontents bring me down but its definitely time for a change and I mean a big one. A Big Easy One like…Oh and if you get a chance please pop over to http://patron21.com/users/helenbird and support original artists…there’s a few of us tryin’ real hard to make a livin’ creating a more beautiful & colourful world. thanks
Tag Archives: poverty
Here it is…finally.
All beautifully edited, organized and ready for your viewing pleasure.
Vernon & I have been recording these mini videos for over a year now…they are funny, No! they are downright hilarious.
They were, still are our way of dealing with the hard times. They bring a lot of smiles to a lot of faces too.
We knew that once we were able to invest in a laptop, I could go to town putting them together. In the form of short films each documenting our lives together while facing the challenges of houselessness, severe economic downturn yet falling completely, madly and utterly in love with one another. We are inseparable. A creative force bouncing ideas back and forth between us all day long. Each wanting the other to be the best person they could possibly be.
Vernon showing out gloriously for me. Me, behind my omnipresent camera, ardently filming his every joke, his daily human encounters…his celebration of life by uniting people with humor. His uncanny knack of diffusing any situation with much laughter. Much laughter. His ability to tell a story, sing a song…to pull you, the listener completely in. Just as though you are right there.
I wanted to show the world this amazing talent, this man of sharp and clever wit…this awesome performer who brings such joy to all he meets, everyday.
I wanted to make Vernon Rust the movie star he deserved to be….
Vernon titled this piece ‘song for Helen’. It’s beautiful. Probably the sweetest thing ever.
The road together has been long and difficult. Since the day when Vernon rescued me from a house of no return, with broken arm and a completely annihilated faith and so carefully & dutifully assumed ‘head of household’ of our newly formed family. Only thing, we had no house. We have slept under a bridge, by the side of a road, in a car…vulnerability became our way of life. often I slept for 4 hours while he guarded and then we switched over. Never in my wildest imagination did I think I would draw from my many experiences as a nurse working the night shift. Thinking back I have never really had a home. It wasn’t until I became homeless did I really consider let alone understand, the meaning or value of having a home. Many of the homeless that you meet ‘out there’ (the streets) say that homelessness is a state of mind and not just a situation. It’s very complex. Of course growing up, our family homes are ‘homes’. But it’s different. We are all so young and typically its an environment our parents pick out. I left the family ‘home’ when I was 18 years old and headed to the nearest city to start my nursing career. My first place was one room with single bed and wash stand. Nurses quarters. I can tell you right away, it was temporary! I felt very alone but at the same time excited about the path I had chosen. Next came a handful of shared flats & houses with other nurses. Sure, they were comfortable, clean, a place to rest & regroup for the next day. But they felt very much like stepping stones. Yes…stepping stones to get to another place.
My spirit became restless and the world called on me to travel, to expand my horizons. I accepted a travel nurse position in Orlando, Florida. That was where I met and married my ex-husband. It was a long, draw out and for the most part unhappy 15 years. Things at ‘home’ were so stressful that I threw myself in to my work. I don’t have much more to say except it was here that the river grew very wide and it seemed as though there weren’t anymore stepping stones.
Somehow I dug myself out of that hole and moved to San Francisco. It is a city that felt more like home than any place had up until then. But my apartment yet again was purely a place to set down, hang briefly, try to sleep and then get back to work. On my off days I spent as much time as possible away from ‘home’. I immersed myself in art & photography, roaming the City for hours on end doing both. I started to feel very lost. Disconnected. Even nursing became very alien to me. As a profession, it had always helped me to belong. Caring for others took my mind off my own worries and concerns. There was always someone so much more worse off than me. I convinced myself that I was strong, independent…in need of noone. I stayed too busy to sit down and actually reflect on what was happening. Too busy to remotely consider the absence of a home (or for that matter, a family) in my life. Maybe I felt like I didn’t deserve one. For whatever strange a reason as that, I will never know.
It took hitting a wall, falling of a cliff…completely breaking down and finally finding the next stone. It was a rock and it was at the bottom. Thats when I met Vernon. Thats when we discovered that we were so alike…that homelessness had been a life long struggle fraught with people that simply did not understand. Nor did they want to…
Clawing your way back to life, to some semblance of existence and to a state of contentment is so hard. So very very hard. But we were two now. Together the impossible started to be possible. No hope gave way to endless opportunites. To a creative flow of dreams and aspirations. I could not remember when I was so inspired!
It took literally losing everything to find a home. A place so warm and inviting and so full of love. A place to look forward to going to and missing a lot when away. A place to just be. Be with my family…be with me.
Not only do we have a home but its our dear studio too. It’s still a struggle. People continue to look down their noses. There’s a certain stigma to being poor, to having nothing but the shirt on your back. You’re viewed as lazy, as though life is easy. As though its OK to give up. I learn everyday from our friends on the street. They teach me a compassion that even nursing couldn’t. They teach me an understanding that can never be learned or studied. They teach me the true value of life, of a home, of acceptance. Of what’s really important and especially of what is not…
Vernon & I have turned our experience and newly found way of life in to a ministry. A ministry of helping and caring, encouraging and inspiring. A ministry that raises the awareness of homelessness, of poverty and the need to care.
Our lifestyle is so simple, our needs are very few. Any extra’s go back in to the community…food, clothing, advice, a ride, a bus ticket, a cup of coffee, a kind listening ear.
During this season of giving thanks, please donate to our cause.
Please. Please. Please.
We offer you original art for your generosity so please visit facebook.com/BirdXRust
>>>God Bless you <<<
Childhood starts all over again. We are reset, housed in a fun, practical and economical style. We fell in love with our wagon. Next year its an antique and already a reliable, solid friend. We sleep like babies…time to make up for all those vulnerable nights on the street. Time to help others, spread the Joy and the Word…Life is so very beautiful!
So, in my dreams last night, Vern and I were walking around downtown. We had nowhere to rest our weary heads inspite of trying very very hard to be resourceful, self reliant and motivated humans. In fact, we’ve been pretty darn proud of us.
Vern carried his bulky yet precious guitar in-case and a 40lb backpack. Me, a 30lb art portfolio, a heavy purse and a big smile. It was warm with a breeze blowing in hot sticky and possibly tempestuous skies. We needed the rain. We needed shelter more right now.
My dream meanders here and there. As they do. But we wind up curling up like puppies in a small cardboard box on the toppest most steps of a downtown church. We go to sleep easily, tired from hiking around all day with our entire lives’ possessions and obsessions on our backs. As freeing as it is to have so little, it still weighs 15lbs too heavy…
A ’rap rap rap’ wakes us up…
Maybe it was a “rat rat rat’.
A policeman looms over us…
He states we were criminally trespassing and how on earth could we have missed the sign. We look up and see nothing (not even the church!) but a do not even try to sleep comfortably, safely and together out here sign. It wasn’t there when we arrived. I could have sworn my life on it!
He arrests us but doesn’t take us in. He verifies on his screen that we are very good puppies and that we always show up for animal farm, I mean court every time we’re arrested.
We packed up and head down the street.
Big fat raindrops finally start to fall.
The cop barked at us.
And rather unpleasantly told us to
‘stay out of sight, out of mind’…
heck…they probably do some good, I’ve just never seen them around except on the little white info sheets ‘where to find meals/where to find help’ in Nashville. However, I have a problem with these ‘parking meter style-lets put an end to panhandling’ and feeble, silly attempts to ‘help’. I’ve not seen one coin depositied, emptied, distributed or stolen.
ok…now here’s a funny scenario:
Vernon’s wearing a rather sporty trilby hat and I find the cutest wide eyed baby mouse that needs a home.
I sneak the beautiful designer box that his expensive hat came in away and set up a nest for the mouse.
Vernon then tells me that he doesn’t like the hat anymore and wants to return it for a refund.
“Does that mean you’ll be needing that box now?”
I have to scramble & clean out the box, you know…straw, droppings and dirt…
wait a minute…
I wake up from sleeping. The windows are steamed up and the sleeping bag soaked through.
Ford Taurus blvd is no more
than quite possibly the blvd of broken electric dreams.
and I find its raining.
the windows stuck down.
Glorious rain is fallin’ finally on our heads…
Vernon’s bought coffee
and he doesn’t seem too mad about the hat box at all.
I have no idea where the mouse went.
We’re back on our feet and out of the tin can.
Its more than a relief for both of us.
change is always good.
You know, really good…
Now in the evening, I’m back on 2nd and Broadway.
Bringing art to the people.
“Girl, you’re too good to be out here”
“No way. Thank you but no way.
Out here is where I’m meant to be…”
I quote John Gardner in my title //
It seemed so appropriate //
Even though the challenges have appeared enormous we have jedi’d like sky walkers //
Or sleep walkers…in this heat! I don’t think so //
We have received a thousand blessings from the sky //
Chris called from the street as we drove by ‘you guys changed my life’ //
Emma never usually talks to anyone but ‘you two are different’ //
‘I haven’t laughed this hard in awhile’ //
Three shining lights from the youth group at Holy Name thought we ‘went together like peanut butter and jelly’ //
We had a super lovely lunch with them too //
My art has found new homes with the young and old //
Some awesome cool and creative ones have entered in on our fun //
With a very special nod to Liz over at…
Guess who’s gonna be a featured artist on July 3rd ??
We are all so very psyched!!!
Ooooo…so much news and so little time on the library computers !
And meanwhile we’re just out an’ about //
Spreadin’ the word //
Diggin’ the love
And always tryin’ to do what’s right…
Hey Vernon //
Think ’you really ARE dreamy’ ??
Just like our fans at lunch said ??
I have to agree
Plus you got style man…
Check out our new series // its our way of tacklin’ hardship //
Helping others by knowing we care…
A dear friend asked me earlier on this year if I could write about Vernon & myself. Kinda how did we get together…
I have thought long and hard about this one, as our friendship has surely endured tough times and since I promised to never again minimize my own discomforts or anxieties, I mean tough times. More so than most people.
It has been over a year ago that we ran off together from a crazy alcohol and violence soaked lodging house and found ourselves on the street. My arm broken. My health in a poor way. We have stuck together through it all. Joined at the hip. Siamese if you please.
Our lives have followed such similar paths. We have endured the same bumps in life’s road. We have made the same mistakes. Share identical neuroses. A double bipolarity.
I left the library in tears the other day. I had been looking at my huge catalogue of photography that really took off when I moved to San Francisco and filed for a divorce from my ex husband.
The photos of me don’t lie. I am now a mere shadow of the confident vibrant chick roaming the planet happily armed with a camera at all times. I’m amazed at myself. I was everywhere! There wasn’t one graffed wall that I missed.
I had so much energy. I ran up the Pacific Heights hill from the Marina TWICE a day! I wanted to be the best and greatest artist and photographer in the world.
I couldn’t sleep. I needed to self medicate to even get a nap. I started to burn out, screw up at work. Argue with people.
I have since realized with the help of a couple of caring and dedicated professionals (and the wonderful Paul E Jones author and fellow bipolar of ’the up & down life’) that this was indeed a manic phase that lasted a year or more.
It’s so hard to remember when the tide turned.
But I hit a depression.
Not just a ‘I feel blue day’ but a whole body lethargy, an unbelievable feeling of complete & utter worthlessness and hopelessness.
Every day I thought of suicide. And I thought this was normal! Doesn’t everyone feel this way going through a divorce?
When life gets a wee bit hard ?
When things don’t work out right? I didn’t know what was wrong! And I’m a medical professional! A nurse for God’s sake! I had truly worn myself out trying to figure myself out.
Thats the problem.
Always overly analyzing my thoughts, actions and reactions. Its something I simply can’t turn off.
Except with drugs.
The divorce was an incredibly painful drawn out experience, as I was looking at paying him alimony for 10 years.
10 years! It seemed like a prison sentence!
I fired my lawyer, emptied my accounts, defaulted on bills and spent like crazy. I indulged myself in a million things that I hadn’t had during my marriage to an emotionally abusive control freak.
I tanked. So bad I wound up addicted to heroin and coke for 2 years. It could have been longer, I really can’t remember. But the physical scars are there to remind me…day in, day out.
The emotional scars a constant regretful companion along for the ride. For the rest of my life. I was fired from my job. Alienated myself from my family and friends.
I have been around and around the mental health care revolving doors. detox. counselling. crisis stabilization units…
I wound up quitting by myself and I have done well. It would be a lie if I said I had been totally clean for the past 18 months, but there is no way in hell, heaven or earth that I could go back to that kind of misery.
Barely existing from one fix to the next. Sticking myself for a vein 20, 30, 50 times. Eternally circling the drain…
I have called myself many things over the years. Stupid. Idiot. Addict. Junkie. Fool…
But, you know what? I’m alive!
I now call myself a survivor.
And with Vernon,
We are soul survivors…
The gangly happy kid loped across the plaza towards me.
“How ya doin’?”
“I’m good, almost left for Cali last night but got to Clarksville and decided to come back.”
“Wow, I’m sorry that didn’t work out…”
“Yeah, we left at 10:00 pm and I got back, to the tent and was asleep by 03:30!”
Unsure as to why the times were of importance he readily answered my un-asked question…
I met the young man only a couple of days before. We were waiting in line under the Jefferson street bridge, the midday sun already beating down on our heads. It was a long, long line standing in the dust, the Lord’s Chuck wagon fixin’ to pull up any minute.
He was standing with a much older man. A seasoned camper and traveller. He sucked nervously on a cigarette.
I’m not sure what we initially talked about or what it was that struck up our conversation. I have met many from all walks of life at the homeless feeds around town. Some not wanting to talk. Some rambling incoherently, racked with paranoia and delusional voices chattering constantly in their ears. Some just plain old drunk.
But our dialogue immediately flowed. I found him to be a very old soul in baby pyjamas. Rompers, we call them in England…
He talks a lot with his hands. Some might even say he waves them far too much, totally violating the other’s personal space.
I found it all terribly endearing. To me, he’s beautifully exuberant about life. Joyously animated with a childlike gleam across his face.
We talked at length. We had plenty of time for we were at the back of the line.
He told me all about where he was from, his family, the adventures he’s had on the road, legal issues and previous relationships. He amazed me so much with his knowledge of the law that I could not help but encourage him to get himself to a community college and study. I wanted him to turn it all around, instead of running from the law, make a living at it!
He tells me and he is, flamboyantly and wonderfully gay. In fact, he refreshingly makes no bones about it…
I immediately worry about his safety in the South. He’s a street kid though and we are all toughened by the harsh realities of an unjust world. We are all itinerant survivors, always have been…always will.
While we talked, he returns again and again to the same subject…
and even though he has called the streets his home for ten or so years,
it became glaringly apparent that he still looked for one…
hell is real!
@ jefferson street bridge with our friends and Pastor Bob ministries. God Bless these awesome people, I cannot say it enough. there’s this guy who goes to the dollar store after work and buys socks for everyone and a hair stylist that donates his sundays to the mission and our bridge bunch.
Phew…yesterday’s blog wore me out.
its been a stressful week. our funds are severely skinny and tensions are a wee high. we balance with humor and are creating the vernon rust reality.
I host the zaniness on my flickr site.
You will find a mad case of photography and art. It’s all my own.
Just in case you’re reading about us for the first time, I’ll give you a quickie low-down: Vernon and I ran off together last year, fell kinda sorta GOOFY (tsk, tsk) in love, lost everything, gained a whole lot more and strive to bring the best out in everyone….
Oh, and we lived on the streets last summer. To be honest, this summer isn’t looking too grand either, but then as our dear friend Squeaky said last night, ‘why would I worry, God’s got my back’…
With Vernon, I believe that…
here’s a wonderful moment in time when Vernon Rust performed downtown nashville and another cool friend wandered up on us…