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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Reno's invisible homeless

River boy bathing in and drinking from Truckee River

They rise from their hiding places with the morning sun. The rushing waters of the Truckee River quench their thirst and wash away the dirt, twigs, and other debris clinging to their hair and face after a night’s slumber in the bushes and flower beds surrounding Wingfield Park. Without money, they wonder the park panhandling or bumming food and cigarettes from other, more successful river kids. Dozens of these teenage boys and girls have spent these past few months of hot days and warm nights in the belly of Reno, Nevada, their own bellies shrinking with each passing day. Other kids are not as lucky. One 15 year old river boy spends his afternoons begging change and food from shoppers at local grocery stores until security shoos him away. When I saw him today, he was filthy; hands blackened from days without soap or water, clothes stiffened and soiled, a sour smell that put off most of his panhandling prey. He said Wingfield had become too dangerous for him. “And besides, this is a nice area; people got lots of change to spare.” Reno, like every other American city, suffers from homelessness. Fifteen year old boys should not be included in that statistic. River kids should not need to bathe in nor drink from the Truckee. If you see one of these kids, at least smile and nod to them him or her. You’d do the same for your neighbor’s dog.

River boy bathing and drinking from Truckee


River boy for sell

Many of the river kids resort to prostitution to survive. This 18 year old allowed me to photograph him providing his identity was protected. He generally works during the day, around Sierra and the Truckee River. I asked how much money he hoped to make that day; $50 if he was lucky and wasn't kicked to the curb by a trick refusing to pay for the kid's services. I asked if he was concerned for his health or his life. "Yea, I don't do bareback, and if the guy looks crazy I won't get in the car." I asked why he doesn't get a steady job earning an income from something less hazardous. "I can't read or write, and no one will hire me 'cause of that." That's right Nevada. Did I read about additional cuts to education programs this coming legislative session? Keep cutting education and you will need to build more prisons. Slash the front end to pay for the rear end. This kid's paying with his rear end.

River boy turns tricks on Sierra to survive!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

All the hot air about the Reno Balloon Races

My first time. For years I watched the Reno Hot Air Balloon Races from afar - like way afar, down in Carson City. I managed to see a few multicolored oval specks on the horizon float around like RGB ragweed pollen. So, Sunday I trekked into the park, followed the trail to the first porta-potty I could find and stood in line for 20 minutes while the event announcer informed us that it was too windy for an accent; the balloons would be inflated and remain tethered. Great! And there I was, standing in line at the porta-potty just to watch a bunch of hot air. However, once the balloons were all inflated, it was even more impressive than my years of watching the rainbow-colored ragweed pollen float around up north a ways. I walked the length of the launch field taking photos. It was difficult to be more than vaguely enthusiastic about the whole affair, so my photos are almost as boring as the final day’s event. I am posting them here for those of you who enjoy these silly things. Just don’t expect me to spend days sorting and cleaning up the nearly 400 other balloon pics I have stuffed in a folder on my laptop. This isn’t really a rant or a rave. As I’m writing this, I’m even less enthusiastic about the Reno Hot Air Balloon Races.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Truckee River Eats & Sweets

Thumbs down for Calvary and Acorn

My Saturdays usually include doing a week's worth of laundry, a little shopping, then a trip to downtown Reno with my camera. For the past few weeks I've been working on three photographic portfolios: the homeless in Reno, the Truckee River kids [mostly homeless], and fathers and sons. So, as usual, I got on the bus today for my weekly sojourn to the skate park, Wingfield Park, Truckee River and other such places where I might find photos for my portfolios. Today, however, was a bust for two reasons. The Truckee River runs through downtown Reno with lovely boulevard-sized sidewalks along both banks until you get to Wingfield Park. Normally, the homeless and river kids can be found at the West Street entrance to Wingfield and by the river, just down from West Street. The first reason today was a bust is because three utterly obnoxious modern day crusaders for Christ from the Calvary Chapel of Reno and Sparks decided to occupy this area. Why you ask were they obnoxious? They were accosting (a good word) every passerby in order to hand out the pamphlet shown below and ask, "If you died right now, are you sure you'd be going to Heaven?" When they asked me I responded, "If I die right now, it's a little late to be worrying about it, isn't it?", and walked away without waiting for my answer. The second reason today was a bust is because these three holy warriors for everyman's soul were scaring off the river kids and homeless. Any river kid or down-on-his luck looking individual were pounced on, not by one, but usually two or all three of these Calvary crackpots. The last thing the homeless, or for that matter the homeless river kids need is someone preaching to them. They need food, clothing, shelter, a hot cup of coffee, and some pocket change to instill a little dignity. They don't need to be saved, at least not without the hot cup of coffee and plate of food offered at St. Vincent's. The least the guys from Calvary Chapel could have done is what I do every Saturday; take bottled water with me to hand out to those I'm listening to and photographing. How do you get potable water if you have no money to buy it or a sink to draw it from? Think about that!

Keep Calvary out of my Park!

The only thing that made the day worse, were the equally obnoxious Acorn volunteers soliciting voter registrations in the same spot. The man in this photo with the clipboard approached me twice about registering. He didn't remember asking the first time. He was even interrupting the Calvary crusaders to solicit registrations in the middle of the Jesus hard sale.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Reno's River Kids

 No, Virginia, there is no Santa Claus, but there sure are a whole lot of kids, male and female, living along Reno’s Truckee River in Wingfield Park. These kids – preteens to early 20s – trade themselves for drugs, cigarettes, food, or whatever they need at the moment. Some are there of their own volition, while others are throwaways. Some are so stoned they don’t give a shit. Others are dangerous. They all have more issues than anyone their age should be allowed. They generally live in a small area around West and First Streets. Reno police keep an eye on them, but unless they commit a crime, there is nothing they can do to help. Social Services ignores them. In fact, I suspect the only people interested in them are the ones with reprehensible thoughts running through their iniquitous minds.
River kid

River kid

River kids

River kids