Wednesday, August 10, 2016

I told the Devil - here is your needle back

People call me Indian Joe. I’m full blooded Indian, born on the reservation in British Columbia, CA. The Shuswap Nation. I got my first top hat, I don’t know, years ago. Somebody gave it to me. It’s the only kind I’ll wear. I got this hat, the ‘Sage’ now, and that’s my trademark. They say I look like Slash, or Alice Cooper. I got backstage passes to one of Cooper’s shows, and he signed the top of a white hat I own. I don’t wear that one, only the ‘Sage’ these days. People don’t recognize me without it. If they do, the first thing they’ll ask me, “Where’s the hat?”
I lost my leg a year ago, in an industrial accident. I don’t really want to get into it. I wasn’t exactly working. I was helping my friend move his recycling. Nobody told me how bad it was. The first thing I asked the doctors when I woke up was how long I’d have to wear the cast for. Turns out I didn’t need one. It changed my life forever.

“Somebody gave me a top hat, years ago. It became my trademark hat. So now when I don’t wear it, people don’t recognize me.”

I’m lucky, because the place I’m at is ADA (American with Disabilities Act) equipped now. It’s a SRO (Single Room Occupancy) hotel. I really needed a place to go, especially without my leg. I was on the street for thirty years, I wish I’d found something sooner.
I became homeless in the 80’s. It was my choice, but it’s a hard life, believe me. It ain’t easy. I have been through a lot.

“I have been stabbed, had two heart attacks, lost a leg, I was shot. That bullet is still in my spine.”

I knew a long time ago that I couldn’t take that life anymore. I got off alcohol. I got off meth. I got off heroin. Cold turkey. I could have spiraled back because of the leg and picked up a heroin needle. Just for an excuse. I said, “No, I have to be stronger than that.” I told the devil “Here is your needle back.” I’ve been sober now for twenty two years.

“I speak a lot at schools. I come in and tell the kids about homelessness and addiction. Some of them really look up to me. That’s what keeps me going.”

I speak a lot at schools. I come in and tell the kids about homelessness and addiction. Some of them really look up to me. I’ve been doing it so long now that the kids I talked to are growing up. I see them sometimes, I don’t recognize them anymore, but they come up and tell me that I talked to them when they were 9 years old. It really helps. That’s what keeps me going.
Every single day is the hardest day of my life. I fight just to get past all of it, especially my leg. I can’t just stay home, there’s only so much TV you can watch. I can only be alone with my own thoughts for so long. I need to be with people.
You’d be surprised how many people I have lost. Gotta be at least five hundred by now. I wish they were here. Everybody has their time. It’s a wonder that I am still around, after all that I’ve been through. But Nativa, Grandmother’s spirit in me, says “I am not taking you yet. You have got something here.”