In New York City
This is Phillip
I was walking south along Broadway near 73rd Street when I saw Phillip sitting on the sidewalk leaning over his painting. This is a frequent activity for Phillip when the weather is good. He loves to paint and sees this as his way of contributing to the neighborhood. He did have a cup out with a few bills and some change in it and a sign that said: "every little bit helps." These are all the markings of someone who is homeless. Although Phillip is not now homeless, he had been in the past for a brief period of time. I asked him where he lives now and he gave me a somewhat confusing response. At first, he said that he lives in Manhattan, but then corrected himself saying he frequently stays with his friend on the Upper West Side of New York, but that he has his own apartment in the Bronx and that he goes to the Bronx to take care of things several times a week.
Phillip is 60 years old and was born in a U.S. Army hospital in France. He lived in France until his parents moved back to the United States when he was five. He attended school in Sleepy Hollow in upstate New York and after high school, he joined the Army. While in the Army during the Reagan Administration, he participated in the invasion of Grenada, called Operation Urgent Fury. During the invasion he was wounded, having been shot in both knees. He received a purple heart for his wounds. He explained that he remained in the service and served out his four years with an honorable discharge.
Both of Phillip's parents have passed away. He has a brother and two sisters who live in upstate New York with whom he has little to no contact. He has never married and has no children. He said he has had some relationships with women that were short-lived but he likes being unattached and free to pursue his life.
For 10 years after discharge from the Army, he worked in construction. He also painted for most of his life and said that he has sold many of his paintings. He said he has had a talent for painting from the time he was a child. His mother was told that she should enroll him in art school to develop his talent, but she never did and he is angry at her for not doing so. Although he was always able to draw and paint well, he needed to learn how different colors worked together. That took him a long time to learn.
I asked Phillip what he likes about living in New York City and he said: "just about everything." He likes the people most of all. New Yorkers are the most friendly and considerate people. He likes the culture and the shops. Everything is here. He did say that it can sometimes be a dangerous place to live. He said he does not live in a great neighborhood. When he walks in a dark street or alley, he will sometimes bang his cane on the sidewalk or wall letting anyone who might be there that he has something with which he can defend himself.
Phillip likes spending his time painting the sidewalks of New York. At times, he will revisit some of his work to refresh it. Although he no longer uses a concrete pillow to sleep, he brightens up the city and brings joy to those who live and work nearby and for whom those sidewalks are their homes.