Former American Soldier Lives like an Animal in the Jungle
“I am a sinner with many sins, without a doubt! One of my bad habits is that of making friends with homeless people. Persistently so! Throughout my childhood I have done that. I was born in Africa and I have seen much suffering in my life. I have seen first hand how poor people live in Africa. Shanty towns, squatter camps, ghettos and all. And through it all, I can honestly say that poor people in Africa still do maintain some element of dignity, enough dignity to be counted as humans for certain, much to the discredit of what the white news media would like you to believe. I was born and raised in the ghettos of east and southern Africa, which makes me an insider to suffering of all forms.
Henrico County, Richmond, Virginia, October 22nd, 2016. Meet my friend of over two years. His name is Paul Allen Crocker. He fought in America’s wars for about three years, which makes him a retired soldier of the United States of America. He participated as a professional gun man during Desert Storm. He was never ranked throughout his services to the U.S. Army. And if you want to see Paul shed tears a while, poke about his experiences with the United States military. He cries every time we speak about where he was stationed by the U.S. armed force; he cries because ‘they made him do bad things’. His words, not mine! He is now 57 years old and has 5 children, 3 girls and 2 boys. Take that number with faith because it has fluctuated time and again! He has limited idea as to where any of his children are but maintains suspicion that some are languishing in America’s many prisons. One of the daughters may be living in Caroline County, Virginia. On a recent evening I gave him a ride ‘home’. Please feel free to call him ‘homeless’, but he prefers you think of him as ‘camping’. He has been ‘camping’ like this since he was 17 years old, he tells me. He ‘camps’ under a tent, in a jungle tucked right at the mix-and-blend of roads that accommodate heavy traffic of America’s corporate types; that is to say, he camps near where people with money live, shop and ‘play’. Yes, all by himself. One man, one tarp over the tent, and no neighbors because all three neighbors left and never looked back. I want you to observe the overwhelming filth, the current condition of my friend’s life and how things have turned so horrific for him. If my camera could film smells, I would deliver those as well because they are choking in a remarkably disagreeable manner. This is what Hell should smell like!
He walks slowly everywhere he contemplates visiting in pain that is very visible. He is scruffy. Just very dirty and in-your-face, straight-up homeless. No shame left because shame probably got tired of hanging around quite a while back! If you were to meet him, your eyes would behold the presence of Santa Clause covered in mud-heavy stale dust of the earth. He is in deteriorating health, declining memory, and his mind is now evading him, progressing closer to insanity. He rises each day to pan-handle [beg for pennies] at the intersection nearby the big stores, not too far. No shower, no brushing of teeth… Just rise and go! He will then gather the pennies later on in the day to buy beer & cigarettes. He will retreat to his jungle in a manner of meticulous calculation, so as to keep everything a mystery. Once he reaches his tent in the forest, he will flip an empty bucket, that used to hold paint, so he can sit. Perhaps he will decide to sit right on the floor with dead bleached brown leaves covering the dirty earth. He will then drink beer and smoke cigarettes all night. All the while, he will speak with the trees and creatures of the wild all around him; and for the majority of the night, he will confront the daemons inside. He will rise again at about 4:30 early morning because he says that is when the next dew point strikes. Perhaps you should know that winter does kill humans if humans are not careful!
I thought of carrying him to the Department of Veteran’s Affairs or approaching Governor Terry McAuliffe of Virginia for help. Then I thought again. ‘Speaking to government people is probably worse than reasoning with the trees of this jungle.’ The fools at the Department of Social Services keep asking him for a home address, else they will not surrender his benefits. So, I asked Paul if it was okay to photograph and record his voice so we can make the world know of his spiritual presence in this universe.
No matter where I have traveled, the single theme common to all people who are down and out like this is that they always have some final drop of hope in store; and that hope is normally reserved at some very absurd place. For instance, I asked him how he thinks he will ever wiggle his way out of this defiling, abhorrent existence? He replied that he was waiting till after the elections are due; that is, drawing reference to the contest for office of President of America between a lunatic named Donald Trump and one Mrs. Hillary Clinton this year, 2016. So, then I would follow up with, ‘How will the election help you out of this tent into a dignified home?’ The answer to that question becomes fuzzy and the conversation usually loses meaning at that stage!
I cannot reveal the exact location of the ‘camp’ because that will add just one more criminal charge to Paul’s name. You see, Mr. Paul Crocker has already accumulated multiples of criminal charges over the years. If the authorities catch him ‘camping’ like this, he will likely spend two months in a county jail before he even gets to speak for himself in court. Guaranteed, he will be bullied and bamboozled by the Apartheid-style brutes of the Henrico County police force. They will certainly charge him for ‘trespassing’ or ‘illegal occupation’ of government property, which will be one of many repeats. His lengthy roll of transgressions in the eyes of the ludicrous, draconian, self-righteous, vulturous, immensely corrupt court systems makes him practically un-employable & most definitely un-housable. No employer or landlord in America will give anyone with a slight criminal record an opportunity. Translation of that idea is quite simple: In his current mental state and physical condition, Mr. Paul Crocker’s certain outcome is a lonely death by heart failure in his humble tent, all alone in the wild. He has had a few of those already, you must know, because heart failure runs in his family.
Today I will travel to the tent in the forest to drop off some of my belongings to Paul. …Things that I think may be meaningful to him. I recently bought a pack of six cans of pink salmon, a portable folding concert chair, a blanket, paper towels and a large bottle of body lotion. God-willing, I will do more in the approaching future. And just so as to make sure no one sees me entering and disappearing into the jungle, I must make my strides at dusk, just as darkness of night covers the earth. When I approach the jungle at the foot of the fly-over, my cover will be to pretend as though I am trying to find a place to urinate. Then I will fizzle into the intense forest when I am sure no one is looking. If Paul is ‘home’, we will drink a can each for an hour or so then I will find a sly method to say goodbye. Living alone in the wild can be a lonely experience. Saying goodbyes with intensely lonely souls is stuff of heartbreaks, and paying a visit to hurting spirits is not for the faint of heart!”