Without a Home Story - James Richardson

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NOTE: This page is a daughter page of: Without a home stories


IMPORTANT REDIRECT: These articles now all live on www.withoutahome.net - please visit there instead !
.... and buy our "Homeless on Haight book" !


I met James Richardson on the first day of February 2023 on Haight Street. He came up with a big smile and started talking to me, and I offered to buy him lunch. He said his teeth meant he could only really eat soft foods, so we went to a burger place and had lunch together. James is a sweetheart, who wants to write books, and so I told him I might be able to help. Our plan is to write a book called "Homeless on Haight" together.

James Richardson


James Richardson Story

Web, Feb 1, 2023:

Born: July 1975 (47 years old) in Oakland, CA.

About: Despite adversity, James is a happy person. He occasionally panhandles to make sure he doesn't ever starve, with a very friendly approach and smile. James is pretty fit for his age, not that you tell under his layers of clothes, but what he will tell you is that he is very self-conscious about his missing teeth. If you say no he happily wishes you a good day. A cancer survivor. James had a former life as a glass blower and owned three houses, including 10 acres of land on Hawaii. At age 38 he was at his physical peak, and even fell in the 20% percentile in a Spartan race.

Falling down: In 2010, James met the love of his life. Alisea. He was swept off his feet and adored her despite her addiction to certain substances. Sadly heroin would soon kill her. James lost one job and poured his money into a glass blowing shop, only to have it broken into and everything stolen. He turned to heroin, he had cancer, his own father stole from him, and gradually he liquidated what he owned to pay off debts, including a single night in the ER which cost him $20,000. Yes, America really is like that. Currently his only possessions are stored in a green backpack, which he says is less likely to be stolen, he can sit on it and it keeps him fit. His most treasured possession is a journey that he keeps to talk to god and write down ideas and events from each day. James he never steals anymore, he once stole from big stores like Target but he apologizes and panhandles near the WholeFoods sometimes. He feels slightly bad for panhandling, but he says you learn to lose your pride pretty quickly on the streets.

Family: After years of not talking, James is now finally close to his mother, but not his father. James has a son and daughter. He hasn’t seen his daughter for 5 years, but he is happy that he can chat to her over text. By writing a book he hopes to make his daughter proud.

Aspirations: James has come off drugs, all drugs except methadone (the drug to help you off drugs) and weed (the drug pretty much everyone in SF uses, even before it became legal). James hopes to get back onto his feet by getting a job at a glassblowing place, and often applies for work. He tells me he had a job interview yesterday, but he could tell that they judged him the second they saw his teeth. He has an appointment to have all his remaining teeth pulled out and hopes to get dentures so people can no longer reject him based on his mouth. James wants to be seen as an equal. James is a dreamer and loves writing. He is writing two books, one on human kindness and another one as fiction. He hopes to publish and his book on kindness goes big. He also wants to co-authoring this book, and that particular goal seems the most achievable for now. If you are reading it, then this one goal has been fulfilled. With a job and a little luck he hopes to see his daughter again.

James Richardson


The Scooter Theft Incident

Update Feb 27:

The stolen scooter: After meeting James I went to Guatemala for 2 weeks for self-discovery and dance... only to come back and hear bad news. For many months James had been saving to buy a scooter.. a "varla eagle one". He bought it, plus a huge U-lock, but it was stole soon after bought it. James was devastated, because his plan was to do Uber Eats so that he could stop panhandling. I don't really know how to help him.

Update March 7:

GoFundMe: To help James out we started a successful GoFundMe that raised more than enough for me to buy James a new Scooter. I surprised James by inviting him over to my place and had the scooter in wrapping paper. :)

The GoFundMe update from March 7 (2023).
Our earliest convo about his scooter.

Update Jun 14:

The book: James and I just published the book! I've created a website for it at www.withoutahome.net.

Jame's Story in His Own Words

James sent me this in a text on May 1st... my only change was to pass it into ChatGPS to "fix grammar"... which I've started doing for my own stuff too!

Mon, May 1, 2023:

My name is James E Richardson, and I currently live in a tent on various street corners in San Francisco, California. I have lived on the streets in Sacramento, San Diego, Los Angeles, and Chico CA as well. I was raised in a middle-class family, and my parents were pretty normal, at least until I discovered that my father was unfaithful to my mom and had a baby with his office secretary (the woman who molested me while she was babysitting me). My father, being the genius that he is, couldn't just tell my mom what he did, so he brought my half-sister home one weekend. That was the end of normalcy for me. I blamed my mom as my father had taught me to do (so sorry, mom). I was just too immature to understand that mom was hurt and neglected, and dad was immoral and deceitful. I started lashing out and using drugs (pot and psychedelics) and found myself full of hate for a couple of years. I hated school, I hated breathing, I hated my life. I was out of control, and my poor mom was such a good mom. She worked so hard to make sure I had everything I wanted and needed, but I was ungrateful and full of raging adolescent hormones.

Soon, the day came that I packed my bags and headed out to a Grateful Dead show and then a Grateful Dead tour! I found a gigantic loving family and learned to dance, and to this day, I have to say that those 3 to 4 years were most definitely the best 3 years of my life. Between shows, I would hang on Haight street in between tours. Haight was different back then. It was deadheads, gutter punks, and 2.5 gram "Haighters" as we called them. The deadhead kids sold a bit of everything there between tours to pay for more tours. Good times! Then, in 1994, I moved to Humboldt County, CA, to go to massage school and study the healing arts. Jerry Garcia passed away that year, so being a bit lost with nowhere to go and nothing to do, I ended up staying out there in those woods for the next 25 years, growing pot and living off the land in Humboldt County, the most beautiful forest in the world if you ask me.

That's also the place where I learned the art of lampworking, also known as glass blowing. I had two kids with two different women, grew nearly a thousand pounds of marijuana, bought three houses, found the love of my life, and got in really good shape at the gym - so much so that I finished a 15-mile Spartan race on Oahu. Basically, I had an exceptional life.

On a trip to Tahoe with my friend from the gym one weekend, I was driving on the 101 and things got a bit fuzzy. I asked my friend to drive and pulled off the road. I got to the back of the truck, but that's as far as I made it. I passed out, fell flat on my face, and cracked my skull. I woke up in the back of an ambulance on the way to the hospital ER, where I had to spend the night.

That was crazy - the doctors did absolutely nothing. They didn't know why I fainted or even try to figure it out, for that matter. All they did was bill me $20k and hand me a bottle of opiates. This was a major turning point in my life, and a lot happened - too much to explain.

I spent my time "chasing the dragon" with that beautiful woman as I gradually lost everything, one thing at a time - mainly due to legalization. I received an abatement letter that effectively destroyed my income, my glass blowing equipment was stolen with my truck, my beautiful woman passed away, and I worked two seasons - one for a "friend," one for my "uncle" (a friend of the family), both of which I wasn't paid for. People don't like to pay addicts, you know. The season for my "uncle," the crop burned in a fire, so he decided to keep my Sprinter van to pay himself back for the expenses of that season.

Oh, and I almost forgot - I was diagnosed with cancer. I was picked up on outstanding warrants for drugs that I had stocked up on for my move to San Diego, where I went to work for my "friend" who didn't pay me. I ended up pleading "no contest" and was sentenced to 6 months in LA County jail, where I received chemo and radiation therapy which worked to eradicate my cancer. It may have been a blessing in disguise; I don't know. I never intended to sell those drugs I had. Either way, when my treatment was done, I was 115 lbs, almost dead. I begged for calories but was denied. They nearly killed me while saving me.

I recently liquidated the last of my assets - my property on Maui - only to have my father steal it from me (somehow my being an addict makes it okay to steal my life savings, apparently). I've been homeless for six years, and I'm proud to say that the only time I've ever stolen from an individual was two dollars at the laundromat. I only did that because I caught her red-handed trying to steal my blanket out of the laundromat. For a while, I stole from big corporations like Walmart, Target, Safeway, and places like that, but nowadays, I don't even do that. I'm polite, I'm kind, and I do everything I can to help anybody who needs help. I am a beggar, and I "fly a sign" or ask for change. I am very lucky simply because I get to see the very best of humanity in this.

I've been off street drugs for over three months as of the time I wrote this (4/28/23), and I'm on the methadone program. This is my story.

I'm sharing all of this with you so that the next time someone on the street asks you for change, you don't just see a bum, you see a person. Like you, that person has dreams and feelings. That person has people that love them. If you can help that person, that's great. If you can't afford it, that's OK. Just be sure to tell them to have a nice day!

So, I've seen both sides of the fence. I'm a good person who has faced many challenges in this life but always comes out on top and with a smile. I won't always be on the streets. In fact, things are looking up! I've recently started delivering for Uber Eats, and I have most of the glass equipment I need to work with fire again.

I plan to get a nice place, get back in touch with my daughter, get back to my art. I also plan to write a few books before I pass away. Tomorrow is a new day. It's the first day of the rest of my life, and I'm going to do everything I can to make these dreams come true, one day at a time.


Poem to the Love of His Life

Here's a poem James wrote after heroin took away the love of his life:

Rock your baby
to and fro,
All the lost children,
Nowhere to go
Chasing the dragon,
Playing the part
Seeking love from the needle,
Till it poisons your heart
Last i saw you,
With tears we did part
That nasty ol dragon,
Tore us apart

In my dreams,
Still together we are,
for ever and ever
Dreaming always of the great bright yellow,
As i lay my head down on my concrete pillow
Loving her all ways,
Never forget
That pretty little flower,
That very last kiss
Hold you so close,
So near to my heart
We will meet again,
In the great white abyss
Now lets dim the lights and embrace with a kiss
So the time may pass faster,
Im sorry to say
It may be a long time,
Before we can play
I've now got a purpose, and now a good reason to stay here for some time though I know you will wait,
For whatever season in whatever year,
No matter the time, I will see you again, no reason no rhyme
With Jezabels power,
With Beelzebubs vanity,
Made way for the dragon,
To slayeth your sanity
In purgatory for now,
For what seems like forever
You will wait by the gate for the horse to ride by, the white horse will gallup,
And I am the rider
Swooping you up on the mount,
The mount by my side
Off into the sunset,
Alas together we'll ride as I swallow my pride one last time,
Always my heart,
My love unconditional,
Not jealous, so kind never will die nor the knot will unbind,
Patience my virtue,
I never left her behind
She will stay in my heart,
Till ends be of time...


Story In his Own Words

After I wrote up Jame's story, he sent me a version in his own words, which includes extra stuff:

My name is James E. Richardson and I currently live on various street corners, in a tent, in San Francisco, Ca. I’ve lived on the streets in Sacramento, San Diego, Los Angeles, and Chico, Ca. as well. I was raised middle class, pretty normal parents for the most part, in beautiful Lake Tahoe, Ca. At least until I discovered that my Father was unfaithful to my Mom and had a baby with his office secretary (the woman who molested me while she was babysitting me). My Father, being the genius that he is, couldn’t just tell my Mom what he did, so he brought my half-sister home one week-end.

That was the end of normalcy for me. I blamed my Mom, as my Father had taught me to do… (so sorry, Mom); I was just too immature to understand that you were hurt and neglected and Dad was immoral and deceitful.

I started lashing out and using drugs (pot and psychedelics), and found myself full of hate for a couple of years. I hated school, I hated breathing, I hated my life. I was out of control and my poor Mom was such a good Mom. She worked so hard to make sure I had everything I wanted and needed, but I was ungrateful and full of raging adolescent hormones...

Soon the day came that I packed my bags and headed out to a Grateful Dead tour! I found a gigantic loving family and learned to dance. To this day I have to say that those 3 to 4 years were most definitely the best of my life. Between shows I would hang on Haight street, in between tours. Haight was different back then. It was Dead Heads, Gutter Punks, and 2.5 gram “Haighths”, as we called them. The Dead Head kids sold a bit of everything there between tours to pay for more tours. Good times! Then, in 1994, I moved to Humboldt County, Ca. to go to massage school and study the healing arts. Jerry Garcia passed away that year, so being a bit lost, with nowhere to go and nothing to do, I ended up staying out there in the woods for the next 25 years, growing pot and living off the land in Humboldt County – the most beautiful forest in the world, if you ask me.

That’s also the place where I learned the art of lamp-working, also known as glass blowing, had 2 kids with 2 different women, grew probably nearly a thousand pounds of Marijuana, bought 3 houses, found the love of my life, and got in really good shape at the gym. So good that I finished the 15 mile Spartan Race on Oahu! Basically, I had an exceptional life....

On a trip to Tahoe with my friend from the gym one week-end, I was driving the 101 and things got a bit fuzzy. I pulled off the road and asked my friend to drive. I got in the back of the truck and that’s as far as I made it. I passed out, fell flat on my face, and cracked my skull. I woke up in the back of an ambulance on the way to the hospital ER where I got to spend the night. That was crazy. The doctors did absolutely nothing. They didn’t know why I fainted or even try to figure it out, for that matter! All they did was bill me $20k and hand me a bottle of opiates.

This was a major turning point in my life. Again, a lot happened, too much to explain… I spent my time “chasing the dragon” with that beautiful woman as I gradually lost everything, one thing at a time. Mainly due to legalization, I got what’s called an abatement letter that effectively destroyed my income. My glass blowing equipment was stolen, along with my truck, and my beautiful woman passed away. I worked two seasons –one for a “friend”, and one for my “uncle” (a friend of the family). I was not paid for either of those jobs …. People don’t like to pay Addicts ya’ know. The season I worked for my “uncle” the crop burned in a forest fire, so he decided to keep my Sprinter Van to pay himself back for his losses on the grow.

And Oh Yeah! , I almost forgot! I was diagnosed with cancer! After I was picked up on outstanding warrants for the drugs I had stocked up on for my move to San Diego, (where I went to work for my “friend” who didn’t pay me), I ended up pleading “no contestant” when they found the drugs in my truck. I was sentenced to 6 months in L.A. County jail, where they found the cancer. Maybe this was a blessing in disguise, I don’t know! Either way, I never intended to sell those drugs I had, and I lost my teeth as a result of the cancer treatment! When the treatment was done, I was down to 115 lbs, and almost dead. I asked for more calories but the jail denied me. They nearly killed me trying to save me!

I recently liquidated the last of my assets (my property on Maui), only to have my Father steal it from me; (somehow my being an addict makes it OK to steal my life savings, I guess).

I’ve been homeless for 6 years and I’m proud to say that the only time I’ve ever stolen from an individual was $2.00 at the laundromat, and I only did that because I caught her red-handed trying to steal my blanket out of the dryer! For a while I stole from big corporations like Wal-Mart, Target, and Safeway, and places like that, but now-a-days I don’t even do that. I’m polite, I’m kind, and I do everything I can to help anyone who needs my assistance. I am a beggar. I “fly a sign”, or ask for change, and I consider myself lucky simply because I get to see the very best of humanity in all of this...

I’ve been off street drugs for over three months, as of the time I wrote this (4/28/23), and I am in a Methadone treatment program.

This is my story.

I’m sharing all of this with you so that the next time someone on the street asks you for change, you won’t just see a bum. You will see a person. And like you, that person has dreams and feelings and people who love them. If you can help that person, that’s great! If you can’t afford it, that’s OK too, just be sure to tell them to have a nice day!

So, I’ve been on both sides of the fence. I’m a good person who has faced many challenges in this life but I have always come out on top, and with a smile!

I won’t always be on the streets. In fact, things are looking up! I’ve recently started delivering for Uber Eats and I have most of the glass equipment I need to work with fire again... I plan to get into a nice place, get back in touch with my daughter, and get back to my art. I also plan to write some books before I pass away... Tomorrow is a new day. It’s the first day of the rest of my life, and I’m gonna do everything I can to make my dreams come true. One day at a time.


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