Lisa Keys stands on the corner of 35th and Clarke waiting for a ride on a sunny Saturday afternoon. Keys’ cropped haircut, long, dangling earring and furry black vest adorn her short frame. “I had a daughter, she got killed in Chicago. And, I was goin’ through the things I was goin’ through. And, my kids’ dad brought them here,” she says.
“Teaspoon” — or “Spoon,” as he refers to himself — sits on a set of concrete steps on the corner of 35th and Wright streets in Metcalfe Park. Spoon’s thin, medium-length dreadlocks, his rust-colored eye whites, rough, workman’s jacket and well-worn clothes distinguish him, yet he seems in place. “Life is not what it is; life is what it’s about,” he says. “You grow up and … you’ve gotta be whatever. Your momma help you, your daddy help you, but, at the same time, you gotta do the best you can do. You gotta survive. Life is all about survival.”
Joanne walks to the sidewalk from beside the open passenger window of a Jeep, where she had been a moment before. She opens her chapped lips to speak; the Pick ‘n Save at 2355 N. 35th St. looms in the background. “We are so hungry … we ain’t eaten in two days. Please help me,” she says.
Leon Douglas leans on a car in the parking lot of a McDonald’s on 35th and Juneau. Douglas, who’s homeless and had been canvassing the outside of the establishment hoping for some charity, scarfs down a cheeseburger, with one still waiting in the bag; an order of fries and a large Sprite sit on the sidelines. “You had to learn the hard way,” says Douglas, who grew up without a father near 35th and Center. “All I seen was pimps, prostitutes, whores, things of that nature; nothing productive, nothing that offered me any real insight as to what the future might bring, as far as goals.”
Coleone Davis canvasses the intersection at 35th and Burleigh, sign in hand, hoping for some extra cash. On this hot summer afternoon, Davis rests on a shaded bench in front of the eastbound stoplight of West Burleigh Street. “You know how you fall sometimes? I want to get back up to where I was. And this ain’t me. This ain’t me,” says Davis, who has been out of regular work for about a month.
Ronald Franks dances, unafraid of prying eyes, on the corner of 35th and Clarke, twirling what he refers to as his “adrenaline stick,” a flexible, four-foot-long cane with a tassel on top. Franks, who sports a double-breasted leather coat and leather fedora, is no amateur when it comes to strutting his stuff. “I’m a dancin’ fool,” says Franks. “Dancin’ is what does it for me.”
Patricia Huff stands next to her grocery bags as she waits for the bus on the corner of 35th and Meinecke. She’s unassuming besides the largely toothless, lipsticked mouth and smoking cigarette in her hand. Huff grew up in Logansport, Ind., but came to Milwaukee at a young age. “My dad molested me when I was five years old. And my mom sat there and watched him do it,” she says. “And, I went to school and said, ‘My pee pee hurts inside.’ I said, ‘I’m not goin’ back there.’ I didn’t go back.”