West Campus: One Place, Two Worlds

David, 61, sits outside taking a cigarette break. He has been working this part of Guadalupe Street for a week.
David, 61, sits outside taking a cigarette break. He has been working this part of Guadalupe Street for a week.

If there’s one thing Austin certainly doesn’t lack in, it is diversity. Whether it be the food, the sights, or in this case, the people, uniqueness is evident.  The city’s motto is “Keep Austin Weird” for a reason.

 

Austinites celebrate each other’s differences because after all the admiration that comes from learning about the interesting experiences that make up a person, in the end, they realize we are all the same, we are all human.

 

However, there are a group of people with a multitude of differences yet not only are they not cherished, but they’re not even acknowledged half the time.

 

David takes in the sunlight in between smoking. He’s bundled up yet says he enjoys the way the warmth of the sun feels on his face.
David takes in the sunlight in between smoking. He’s bundled up yet says he enjoys the way the warmth of the sun feels on his face.

David, 61, sits solemnly outside Guadalupe Street’s busy Urban Outfitters wearing a week’s worth of dirt, blending into the corner façade with a lit cigarette dangling between his middle and pointer finger.

 

Smirking, he only provides his first name, because he hopes one day to become a famous literary figure, “like Voltaire or Prince,” said David.

 

He was born in Austin, lived here his whole life, and even attended the University of Texas at Austin many years ago.

 

“ I love UT, you know I was a studio art major actually, on scholarship, … I was taking a full load here at the university, I had a prestigious job at the Westwood Country club, ya know taking water bottles to the tennis players and when I met Susan I dropped out. I just dropped out,” said David.

 

Junior year David met a girl named Susan and fell in love. He withdrew from his classes, and never looked back.

 

One day Susan disappeared and in a state of disarray he said he found comfort in drugs, specifically cocaine. For years now he has tried to hold on to a series of telemarketing jobs to stay afloat, yet has found himself out of a job time and time again due to companies’ financial troubles. Between loosing his first love and various lost job opportunities it was hard to get clean, said David. He continued to use up to the day his parents died fifteen years ago.

 

Leaning against the outside of Urban Outiftter’s , he looks directly into the camera lens.
Leaning against the outside of Urban Outiftter’s , he looks directly into the camera lens.  As students walk by, they seem intrigued in David, thus he proceeds to chuckle softly.

“They disinherited me, my folks…they knew they couldn’t help me, leaving me money would just enable my addiction. It was a good decision looking back, even I know it wouldn’t have done me good,” said David.

 

Suddenly, he begins to stand up and stretch. When he takes off his crooked, black sunglasses David’s blue eyes may be packed into folds of wrinkles showcasing not only his old age but a lifetime of drug use. However, there’s a spark of life behind it all. He has been clean for two years now.

 

“ I just couldn’t handle it anymore. The crack had me livin’ in a nightmare. I went to rehab on 25th and Trinity called Road to Recovery, I got housing there for three months and after a while got better. I smoke, cigarettes that is, cause it helps me take my mind of the crack, the nightmare,” said David.

 

David is recounting some of his life experiences in between taking sips of the coffee a stranger gave to him.
David is recounting some of his life experiences in between taking sips of the coffee a stranger gave to him. He looks off into the distance most of the time, recalling memories to discuss.

He said he hopes to one day go back to school here at UT in order to finish his last year of classes and get a degree. He knows his age is a factor that works against him, yet sits across the street from campus in order to feel close to the days he was just another student.

 

“ I know I’m old, can’t work well with these computers students use now, but maybe I’ll write a book, something to get their attention,” David said. “Publish or parish a professor once told me, maybe I can publish instead.”

 

All this time he has been sitting here, on a rare, cold Austin day, allowing me a look into his life, and not once has he gotten offended by or closed off a topic. David said he enjoys talking about what he’s been through to someone.

 

“I think we would all do it different, if we had 20 years, and know what we know now, yeah I definitely would.”

 

He stands up, takes off his hat to stretch and begins to people watch.  He never asks for money, yet simply stands there watching people go on with their day. It’s not a trick, yet works quite well as people start to hand him coins and leftover food.
He stands up, takes off his hat to stretch and begins to people watch. He never asks for money, yet simply stands there watching people go on with their day. It’s not a trick, yet works quite well as people start to hand him coins and leftover food.

 

 

Paul, 57, folds up his pizza to eat. He not only looks like David, 61, but has been become friends with him due to the location of Guadalupe Street he chooses to sit on has recently been David’s spot of choice.
Paul, 57, folds up his pizza to eat. He not only looks like David, 61, but has been become friends with him due to the location of Guadalupe Street he chooses to sit on has recently been David’s spot of choice.
Russ, 43, shows his friends how bad his lack of dental hygiene has gotten.  He hasn’t been able to brush his teeth in weeks due to using majority of his money on other items such as food and clothing.
Russ, 43, shows his friends how bad his lack of dental hygiene has gotten. He hasn’t been able to brush his teeth in weeks due to using majority of his money on other items such as food and clothing.
Mike, 25, and Jamie, 25, invite their friend Russ, 43, to eat with them. The three of them call themselves “family,” they aren’t blood related but have lived together on and off for around five years.
Mike, 25, and Jamie, 25, invite their friend Russ, 43, to eat with them. The three of them call themselves “family,” they aren’t blood related but have lived together on and off for around five years.
Mike and Jamie watch the pigeons feed on their leftover breakfast. They say how they feel satisfaction when giving the birds a meal.
Mike and Jamie watch the pigeons feed on their leftover breakfast. They say how they feel satisfaction when giving the birds a meal.
Mike and Jamie, both 25, enjoy the lunch they received from a stranger. They talked about the kindness of the Austin people, and their willingness to give. Most of the money they receive is used on the beer hidden in the brown bags beside them.
Mike and Jamie, both 25, enjoy the lunch they received from a stranger. They talked about the kindness of the Austin people, and their willingness to give. Most of the money they receive is used on the beer hidden in the brown bags beside them.
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