Toggle Index/Transcript View Switch.
Search This Transcript

Elizabeth Standridge: Okay this interview with Otis Skaggs is being conducted as a part of an exhibit called Home is not a House focusing on homelessness, and 1:00housing that exhibited at the Louisville Free Public Library from October 14- December 14.My name is Elizabeth Standridge and I am a student at the University of Louisville working on this exhibit. Today is July 26, 2019 and we are at Otis' apartment. Also here is Cortney Foster, Otis' case manager who may chime in on occasion. Alright so to get started with questions can you please state for me your name and when and where you were born?

Otis Skaggs: Otis Skaggs is my name. I was born in I was actually born in Louisville in Children's Hospital in 1948. Five years later, my family lived in they were from the countryside in Larue County on the Green County line. So hty were here five years and about five years old they moved back to Larue OCunty because my grandpa owned land I think they got a fifteen acre, he bought for two grand a fifteen acre farm from grandpa. And I just found out recently from my brother that grandpa owned 600 acres in that area. So


ES: So the next thing I was going to do was just give a brief personal background so give an idea of the family you grew up in until kind of the present in a brief way

OS: the family I grew up in?

E: mhm.

OS: My mother she was a hillbilly girl from the area. They met working in a factory in the area, I'm not sure what area, she was from Larue county. Her family was moonshiners, and they died young so she hooked up with him he probably she was smart enough to know that he had the land, that's when I'm assuming he had the land, and he had land because he was tobacco growers. In those days 250 to 600- lot of tobacco probably a lot of, at least an acre, which 3:00was a lot of tobacco, you could make a lot of money. So he had 2/10 of an acre, he went from like a thousand a year to three thousand a year from 2/10 of an acre of tobacco and grandpa [unintelligible] about one block, 250 acres, probably I know he had, so and they had tobacco barns, grandpa had tobacco barns, cattle, horses, mules, he had mules

Cortney Foster: So did you live there your whole childhood?

OS: Yeah, up until I was 19 years old and went to college.

ES: and where did you go to college?

OS: Western Kentucky University. I went there two and half years. Dropped out. Became a hippie. It was hippie days, that was the thing to do. You know, grow out your hair. Parents all knew about getting a haircut anyway. Oh my dad was, he worked in a saw mill. In the city he worked at [unintelligible] company, a miner had a cave in with the hospitals, I think that's why he moved there, he got out of the city. He worked in a furniture factory in [unintelligible] and he moved back there and worked in saw mills. That's all I ever knew he did until later age. Big, guy was about my same height, but he was a monster, I mean he was wall to wall muscle. I mean this guy was like a brick house, he was, he was scary, wall to wall muscle.

CF: Where did you go after WKU?

OS: I came home for a short period and I took up hitchhiking, wound up in Florida, bad scene. Came back and married an Irish girl. One of the girls that 4:00in school we were interested in each other and moved to New Jersey. South Orange, New Jersey. Daddy was a fireboat captain. I worked for Greateastern department stores, Greateastern department stores in Union and New Brunswick, and they were affiliated I worked for a guy in clothing stores called the Image, the clothing store and Greateastern department stores, then I went over to a record shop, concessions within Greateastern department stores, which is like Walmart, its like whole different concessions. [unintelligible] records. I went to one manager meeting in Manhattan. Capitol Records, fancy too, boring but fancy.

ES: And what kind of did you do after the department store? What kind of was 5:00your next step?

OS: We moved, he bought a farm, her daddy, and he was a fireboat captain and her, his brother, her uncle was a police man in Western Kentucky University- she never told me this because I was a pothead, LSD, you know, which is cool, you 6:00know she was a cool girl. But we moved back to Louisville and tried to make it, collect unemployment, moved into a house, and we didn't rent, all we had to do was paint it and fix it, I lucked out. So what happened then I couldn't get a job or anything, my unemployment hadn't come in, we had a brand new, we had on the way while I was in Jersey we had bought a brand new Datsun, Fast Back, only one or two years out. Datsun, Fast Back, lime green. Okay so we had a new car, 7:00and I thought man her cousin had a band, so he said I want to go, I've got connect- I want to go to Colorado. I said okay and that's why I ended up in Colorado. We put a UHaul on the back, which was a mistake a little car cant handle a U-Haul, but the music equipment in and went to Colorado and I got a place and she got a place and she got a job, I didn't even get a job yet, in between, oh yeah I did get a job, I got a job delivering some kind of information from some kind of company all I had to do was drive there delivery and drive it back. Eventually I had to let had go because the winters are really bad in Colorado. I never saw winters like that, maybe on the east coast, but I 8:00didn't like driving the highways so I quit that. That's when I [unintelligible] and that's when I got a thousand dollars unemployment check so I had money, probably another reason I quit the job. So it wasn't an apartment, we had a nice room, a room-house in the basement, nice place, and it was full of hippies. All kinds, all kinds of people there. I mean Boulder was definitely a hippie town at one time, for a long time, probably still is, sort of not really but sort of.

CF: So how long were you there?

OS: We broke up there. It just wasn't going anywhere. I wanted to be a vegetarian, she didn't want to be a vegetarian, so. Well wait a minute. And she 9:00didn't want to have kids, so I said well what am I doing being married? There's all these girls around. University of Colorado, that's Boulder so okay, so I gave her the car , and I took the money that I owed the University, they sent me a later that said $800 dollars so I had the money. So I paid for it, she left, I went down and got a dishwashing job. Worked in the restaurants there, Boulder is a [unintelligible] so you go left you go to Veil, you go left you go to Netherlands all kinds of, you go right you go to Aspen runs, now back then they only had three, Netherlands, Veil, Aspen. Now they have 27 ski slopes, that's why I kept going back every summer to work, because the place was growing, lots of money, they paid good wages too. Its beautiful too.

ES: Okay so how long were you dishwashing there? Or working in that area?

OS: Before I left?

ES: mhm.

OS: Well in the mean time I got into dealing pot, because I had a pot connection and I was a pothead. [unintelligible] but those days were over I think, yeah they were, well not yet, they weren't over yet, California, they were over there. Hashish and pot. That's what I was dealing pot. [unintelligible] angel dust, starting doing angel, the guy cut that off, so I was getting hit, real bad headaches all the time, so we were going to kill ourselves, the guy he's getting married in the mountains, so we went to his wedding, real cool guy, so he had been in construction, a lot of construction going on, so I broke that off, bought a van and cutting the dealing off, went to Arizona to get away from the 10:00drug. [laughs] real smart, I didn't know nothing about the west. There are probably more drug addicts, that's the Mexican border, there are probably more drug addicts in Tucson than anywhere else in the country just about except California. Which I later on found out.

CF: So how long were you in Arizona, what did you do there?

OS: Colorado in the summer, I learned a trick, Colorado in the summer for work, Arizona a little work, buy cheap pot, and hitchhike to California, because its easier to hitchhike to California than through the desert over the mountains Sierra, 25 years.

ES: So what brought you, obviously your back in Louisville now, so when did you come back to Louisville.

OS: I had a girlfriend. I had a nympho. A drug addict nympho. Yeah, but very 11:00cute too. Very good looking. In her 40s, she was 48, I was 45 and she said she had friends in Ohio, and so I hitchhiked back I had been wanting to come back anyway. Because I was tired of Arizona, the things that, I had three apartments I could go to and smoke pot, low price, but I spent 10 years there, in 3 apartments, but the rent was free, but the guy was moving, they were all disappearing. I decided to come back home, come back west, come back east and at the same time I got here and my dad was dying. He had been working for Kentucky Trailers, $600 dollars a week take home. That's what he said. Finally I got a decent, they said I'm going to give him a decent job running a machine. Paid him 12:00real good, Kentucky Trailers makes 18 wheelers, which 18 wheelers are not the cabs, not the trucks, but what are they called trailers. In Louisville. And I asked him about that because I started driving to Louisville, after he talked me into getting a car, he talked me into temps and labor works, in those days we had a van pick us up every morning, I thought oh, well that must have been nice. I'd have to drive every morning to work at Mitsubishi for two years, but okay. That explains everything. He eventually died, that's why I ended up back in Louisville, I inherited, with four people I inherited a farm, but my brother wouldn't let me grow a garden, he said no, they wanted to get, I started reading 13:00and they wanted to get rid of it. Because they wanted to sell it and that's what they did. They wanted to pretend they didn't want to sell it. So I wind up getting a [unintelligible] so I moved out into my car and wound up in a car wreck, not a bad one, that's not why my leg, that's not why I ended up here. I got in a car wreck and lost the car and everything in it. Up there by where Kroger [13:36] is on Douglass Boulevard. On Bardstown road, I was again, I got mad at everybody and I decided to drive home back to, because the farm hadn't been sold yet, by the time I lost the car there was no point in, you need a car in the countryside, you've got to have a car in the countryside, that's why they're all cars. That's probably why they're called honkys, honk the horn, 14:00honky tonks because you've got to have a car to live out there, everybody got to have a car. To go to work, to get to the grocery, anything. Because we're 30 mile from Campbellsville and 30 miles from Hodgenville.

CF: so do you know what year the car accident was?

OS: Car accident was?

CF: yeah when you lost your car?

OS: I don't know a good ten years ago. Because I've been in housing now 6 years. So I got hit by a car and started in the nursing home, thats probably, God's plan, says here so how it is to get off the streets. So the nursing home, I watch TV, you know, nothing wrong with that. I was always a TV bug. My old man used to get on me about watching TV. I was a TV bug. Fantasy island, I call it 15:00fantasy island, TV is fantasy. Its an escape mechanism, they've even got a station called escape, its an escape mechanism from the realities of life. But now we're making our own. But with Tv and electronics were making a whole new reality. That's primitive, that's the past. Out there you have to think like an animal. You're either a predator or a victim, the wolf and the sheep. Yeah and [unintelligible] has schizophrenia. That's probably why they label is schizophrenia because [unintelligable], bipolar that what you'll be in streets, back to the stone age

ES: Well Otis I did want to ask you is there anything else that you wanted to add to your personal background, your story?

OS: No, I don't think I have to add anything.


ES: okay.

OS: Naivete, that's an art movement Naivete. It was n actual art movement. It was called Naivete. Very similar to, I would say very similar to the impressionists, post-impressionists, and the renaissance, Naivete.

ES: and were you involved in that?

OS: what?

ES: the Naivete art movement?

OS: well I call it the art of living. Yeah. I was involved in the art of living Naivete. Being naïve. As long as I ignored what was going on in the world I remained naïve. Which is basically a child state, innocence. Naivete is based on innocence, child state, remain innocent, its another process of mental, ive noticed with people in mental, that's what happens when you get older, people 17:00start wanting to turn back the clock. That's naivete its called innocence, I'd rather be a child, and that's its acceptable and necessary in monasteries, a childlike state, and its starts there is psychology of 2001. I believe its what you actually experience in meditation. Because you go from darkness to light and you see love and your reborn. Jesus taught rebirth didn't he? He did teach born again, born again, the Hindus say born again again again, so what, what if you [unintelligible] why not reincarnation? Bottom line really all we do, we see 18:00darkness and we see light. Which they've proven, in the birth state we are born again, I mean why not? No one has really designated it. I can designate it. And you can see it in babies, total innocence, I mean everything they totally love. I believe that's what he was talking about. And I believe that Jesus was actually teaching meditation and the Roman empire covered it up. Because it separates the east from the West. Rudyard Kipling. East and West and the two should never meet. Maybe he understood when he said that. The point is if that's 19:00true then that, that would separate prayer and fasting, but if you separated that that would separate you from Hinduism and Buddhism and Islamism doesn't teach meditation, maybe some do. Judaism doesn't teach it, Christianity doesn't teach it, but if youre separating meditation from [unintelligible] then you would have 2 different worlds

ES: Could I interrupt you real quick, I'd like to jump ahead a little bit and start asking you about the Permanent Supportive Housing program. So can you tell me a little bit about your experience with the program? How did you enter the program?

OS: Sarah Buckler, I got hit by a car I was in the nursing home, Golden Living, 20:00for three months as I healed and then I called Sarah.

CF: How did you know Sarah?

OS: Sarah I knew, she worked at Bologna Alley, and I knew her through that because I had to get some IDs and stuff when they were stolen.

CF: So for someone who doesn't know what bologna alley is can you explain it?

OS: Yeah, Bologna alley has the Catholic church there has a program where they'll replace your IDs. Later on St. John did that. Jean too. If your wallet is stolen or lost or anything. Plus Sarah wokrd there and then she started working as a case workers at St. John and offered me a place to stay there, she said I can get you a place to stay if you need, well then I didn't you know the 21:00streets were addictive, what do they say man is a creature of habits, man is a creature of habits, sociology so its habitual the streets, but once i was in a nursing I thought well I don't want to go back I don't want that to happen again. And that's where I was hit right there by a Thornton's buying a 32 ounce beer. Well someone was trying to attack me I wasn't paying attention. I chased him off, but I wasn't watching my back so a car hit me. So yeah, so I decided not to go back to the streets. I had time I had three months to sit back and realize I don't want to go back. And those days are over, the hippie days are over. My past, my hippies days, I even went back to Arizona, they're all over. 22:00The streets are dangerous there now too. They're not hip. There is a whole lot of poor guys there, while and black and Mexican, they called wetbacks, coming across, all there. They get in trouble you never know whats going to happen, so when I came back that's when hold on how did that work in there? Oh that's when I was dealing with Frances who worked at Phoenix next door, spent two months trying to get me a place and when I was cold outside trying to drink a beer, at Home of the Innocents, behind the railroad where they chase those guys off okay. And I knew that whole area, because I used to go in there and drink and so Im 23:00getting the hell out of there and got a bus and by then I had money because my check came in and that happened before the car had hit me, and so then I came back and that's when she offered me, I went here two or three times and that's when I paid for the Greyhound, went there two or three times and I had a car, came back and that's when I had enough.

ES: And that's when Sarah offered you a place in housing?

OS: Just before that. She had offered me a place, I didn't take it then, but by then I was ready for a place.

CF: and when was that? When did you get into housing?

OS: that was about 6 years ago. I say because I can judge because I've been 3 years here in December and three years out there, southside.

CF: where is out there?

OS: Behind the Auverndale mall. Its called Legacy apartments behind the 24:00Auverndale mall. Very contingent spot by the way. Its 3rd and Newcut.

CF: and you lived there for three years?

ES: So you've been in the program for 6 years, and you lived there for three years and here for three?

CF: I'm happy with this so far. Especially now they're fixing the elevators, nice windows, no complaints, I mean there's a better, I found a better spot, its questionable what better is, its newer, but I don't really want to move.

CF: Well you've settled well into the house you have

OS: Yeah yeah. It's a [unintelligible]

ES: so I did want to ask you, once you reached out to Sarah what was that process like of actually getting into housing?

OS: she came out and saw me. She set the whole thing up. I mean she really did. 25:00I mean I wasn't even out of crutches yet, she set the whole thing up came over and picked me. Took me to an old farmhouse. I don't know where she came up with that. I said wait a minute that's worse than grew up in, and I grew up in an old house, and actually dad built a new house, aluminum siding but yeah. And then she took me to those apartments, basement, and I don't like basements, but at the time walking down with crutches was easier than walking up with crutches. So I took it. I only got out of there, because the upstairs neighbors were dope dealers. Making lots of noise, keeping me awake, gnats were flying in the window, the ceiling was falling through. Spiders were biting me, fleas were, 26:00after they kicked the gay guys I mean not the gay guys, the girls moved in and they had cats, fleas were eating me alive. I told Lisa all that and she come over and saw it, we're going to move you. So Lisa was instrumental in all that she got me out of there.

ES: and who is Lisa?

OS: Lisa of the homeless coalition. [unintelligible]

OS: that's why I be In no hurry to move.

CF: she still works with us as well, she dose more of the lease and paperwork side of the--

OS: Her name is

CF: Lisa Miller.

ES: Okay so you have now been in this apartment for three years, have you had 27:00the same case manager the entire time you've been in the program?

OS: No I had Sarah moved up, I had Tiny, Kristen Harron and Courtney.

ES: and how long has Cortney been your case manager?

OS: Six months.

CF: I was going to say it's a pop quiz. Yes youre right. Since February.

ES: awesome, so what is your relationship with your case manager like? I know he is right here, but what are some of the things that you all do together?

OS: she's pretty thorough. Oh do together? She helped me pick up my air conditioner, which is really helpful, she helped me pick up my air conditioner, which is pretty much all I've asked her to do. Tiny got me the phone after two years, but I came up with the idea and she did it right here, so cant complain about that I got a smartphone. She helped me get the air conditioner, picked up 28:00bargain supply and brought it over. As far as anything else, I try and do things for exercise I finally bought one of those wheels at Home Center, I mean carts and I would go all the way to home center and pick up shelving and stuff, I thought about getting her, but I thought wait a minute and I got bungee cords and tie it and roll it down, whats the big deal? It's a set of wheels and I get exercise.

CF: do you want to talk about home visits at all or what those are like?

OS: home visits?

CF: yeah

OS: oh theyre fine. Its unbelievable, she's always on time.

ES: and what happens during home visits?

OS: We just talk. Yeah.

ES: What do you talk about?

OS: uh I don't know. We talk about I don't know. Pretty much probably my life, 29:00things that I've done, some new things that I've done. We talk about goals, she calls them goals, I just call them things that occupy my time. I've got to occupy my time.

ES: and would you mind sharing what some of those goals are?

OS: well now, I got to do some painting. I fixe up the place now. It looks nice. I want to do a little bit I want to paint that light up. See that yellow? I don't think anybody, I've got to wipe my fan down, dust, because this place shoots dust in like you wouldn't believe. Its dusty, I mean some of the girls complained about it. I mean I wiped it down this morning so you odnt see all the dust. I've got enough, like I said I've got pads, I don't like the indentations 30:00[referring to marks of furniture on carpet] and there is weight, on my shelving. And there is weight on the shelving.

ES: okay so a lot of home maintenance?

OS: home maintenance yeah.

CF: you had some health goals, but you've pretty much finished all those so yeah.

OS: Health goals, yeah. I paid the hospital off, I'm all right on health goals. I need to exercise, like I said the bicycle is specifically for exercise. But I'm going to break down and buy some [unintelligible] and force myself to ride a bicycle because its already up there past, what's that street that runs in front of Cherokee park? Okay it runs, it's the main

ES: Bardstown road maybe?

OS: No, yeah your right up Bardstown road, its not Grinstead, it past Grinstead. 31:00It starts with an 'A'?

ES: its not Eastern Parkway is it?

OS: Eastern parkway. It doesn't start with an 'A.' Eastern Parkway. I finally learned if you want the police to leave you alone, if youre in the street and you want to drink, go past Eastern Parkway, and there is an Arab store you can buy liquor, and I finally learned to go further up Douglass, guys will hang up there. They will never bother you, there is a police station there, thy will never bother you, the richer you get, the further away from the tramps, the tramps all hang around Mid City mall area and pan handle, used to. Especially, around that gas station Speedway, they're still doing that. I don't drink liquor anymore I gave up, strictly beer now, just beer and not even strong beer. 32:00Because I can handle it all day, it makes me hungry like pot used. So I downed pizzas, now I'm getting into pastas. I've been watching too much Rachel Ray


OS: Pastas this and pastas that. Yeah I like it, its going to replace taters. I just marked off taters and I wrote down pasta


OS: and I can buy it at the dollar store too.

CF: yeah that's true.

OS: al dente. Al dente.

ES: so another aspect of the program is life skill classes, could you talk about those a little bit?

OS: those are nice. I probably show up for the movies, because I like movies, I mean why not coincide both curriculums? I mean life skills, plus I get to see a movie. And Lisa sent me a letter, she wants me to show up once a month at least. 33:00I'll probably do that. I mean its not that that all depends. If it's a rainy day then ill go another day.

ES: okay so what are some of the things that you all talk about in life skill classes?

OS: we talk about all kinds of stuff. We don't do to much talking, that's the advantage of the movie, not too much talking, eating [laughs] my favorite time, mealtime.

ES: So do you usually just go to the ones with the movies?

OS: well its starting to be, not in the past but pretty much now that's my objective, yeah, go see a movie, maybe bring a soda and some chips. I'll have to wait and see what's there. I'm not sure what I did, well I went last month, and I skipped this for the meeting


CF: He was going to go today, but he did this instead

ES: oh no I'm sorry!

CF: Its okay.

OS: Oh its quite alright, this is the same thing to me.

CF: do you enjoy getting to see the other guys who are in the program? No?

OS: [unintelligible]

CF: Fair enough.

OS: [unintelligible] the smart guys say rich old lady with a fancy house and brand new Cadillac [laughs]

CF: oh man.

OS: and no family, [unintelligible] or a nice family, no that's not why I, I'm actually being a recluse. Im being a recluse spider. Oh by the way they wore brown they were called brown recluses, like the Jesuits there they wore brown, 35:00and the others wore tan, and the far east oh yeah brown recluse. What's the other ones? I lived with the [unintelligible] Christians three times out west. They're very picky bout this But they wear orang, but its almost sort of pickish, and the Buddhist wear a different color, because they don't like to be confused. Because the high Christians shave their heads, they had a teeka, you know traditional Chinese, you know what they believe don't you? This is what they believe, if you don't have a teeka, the devil yanks you into hell with your teeka and God yanks into Heaven with the teeka, but really its uniform. That's 36:00why I shave my head I'm a Buddhist, Christian Buddhist, but I'm a Buddhist. It works I've done it. I don't need to go into detail I just described to you what happens during meditation, I went there I saw it

CF: when do you think you

OS: and [unintelligible] but I was there I lived in Helo for three years, I was a vegetarian for a year. I figured out what was going on, I changed my chemical balance. I went from vegetarian to fruitarian for two weeks. I only ate fruit for two weeks and then I had the experience of meditation. I knew, in the Buddhist temple I had the experience only because I did what the Bible said, I came back to the Bible. Because in the garden of Eden, Adam and Eve did not eat 37:00meat, they ate fruit. That's why is specifically mentions the apple on the fruit trees, and they could see god. The code is there. It's a pictorial code and verbal code, plus its pictorial. That's what God does. And we're doing it right now with television. [unintelligible] sends out images God can do this with light, it can be images and audio. Were doing this with science which was already prophesized in Revelations. Which is that man will discover God's secrets, that's what it is okay. So I accidently stumbled into it by being 38:00fruitarian. Why I don't know. For two weeks I was only fruitarian and then car fumes started making me sick and I went over and bought me a chicken at the Safeway which is the Kroger [unintelligible] here everything is all near by, small town

ES; well I did want to ask you, to back up just a little bit before you entered the program where were you staying and sleeping?

OS: When?

ES: right before you entered the program when you experienced homelessness in Louisville where were you staying?

OS: where was I staying?

CF: so before the car accident

OS: actually, I turned one of the jerks onto my spot at Christ Church right down the street from St. Johns, so I moved over to the mortuary. There was a mortuary 39:00next door, which later became a restaurant. The dead never wake you up.

CF: interesting.

OS: [laughs] I was like this is weird but, but I had a spot there

CF: were you still sleeping in your car then?

OS: til they started moving in on me too.

CF: who is "they"?

OS: some street people that ain't around no more, fortunately, most of them are dead. Or gone. Christ Church finally bought a ticket for the one jerk, he was a mess. Alcoholic, drug addict, gay all that. I mean he even told me that he goes never go gay, I go oh okay so that's your problem.

ES: so you were staying inside the church at the time?

OS: no, no I slept outside because I could get up early and the noise of the cars in the morning would wake me up at five or six and I'd get up and walk down 40:00to batters which is now a Shell station, buy coffee, buy food for lunch, catch a bus there, catch 18 there, I learned that trick. 18 I could take to Accutec and I worked at Accutec for five years in the factory doing that. At 6.50 an hour. And the deal was labor works had a deal, if you didn't show up for work, call up, otherwise don't call. [40:31] your ticket is sent directly there to Acutec so since I knew the guy the line that I worked on we do [unintelligible] aluminum, that stuff, [unintelligible] aluminum for Walmart, I found out all that goes to Walmart. They lost the CDs on Algonquin Parkway and 6th that's why I know that, the 6th area, they lsot hat so they moved to 18th and Hill. They 41:00moved to 18th and Hill Accutec there in an old place. At first I wouldn't do it, but I said oh I need the money and they'll hire me, they know me, I worked there on an aluminum line. And I got really good at packaging. I was always good at packaging. Packaging CDs, [unintelligible] robots, they had us caged in, guy walking around with a 9 millimeter [unintelligible] and only five people worked in there. [unintelligible] I packaged anywhere from 18 to 10 skids a day at the least 10 to 11 to 12 and 18 during the school year, then, during peak season, Christmas and stuff, for Cds. Doing all kinds of CDs and robotics, I was taking 42:00home $400 a week in my pocket, but then I had a car and was driving back and forth. Dad was alive then, that's how i bought the car. For three weeks, 12 hours shifts, we even had an accident lost $1000, eventually I wound up getting a job out there building those trailers for the hurricane victims, it was a Canadian company worked there for awhile, and they made us start digging, and Im supposed to be afraid of working here, of losing my job, bye, im going back to do CDs. I even told them that, I'm going back to do CDs its easier than this.

ES: and this is all while you were sleeping outside by the church?

OS: no, this is while I was staying at my dads, my dad sold me a rundown little trailer on the farm plug it in, free rent for $600 after I came back from the 43:00west, so he told me to get a car. Because then youre right I was sleeping outside, and he said get the car and come out here and move, because I was doing yard work, I became a professional yard worker, weed eater out west because that's one of the few jobs that you could get that was big out there with the temps, but now they have a drought landscaping even the Mexicans, now they're building up Tucson and they don't tell you that, Tucson is booming because all the west coasters from California are trying to get away from the earthquakes, all you see is the border you go out there you got a job construction. Mexicans are real big on construction. If you look out them all out here, theyre always roofing, they do roofing, they also do, whole Mexican crew, when I was doing the Brown Forman, I was still on the streets then, they were doing all the interior wall boarding, whole Mexican crew


ES: so while you were staying outside by the church, did you feel safe there?

OS: yeah, I was safe there

ES: did you ever have any problems with people?

OS: once or twice. I mean drug addicts street hippies, I didn't hang around blacks, I knew whites. You know if they decided, one of them tried to rip me off one night. I chased him down, walked out into the street butt naked, you know where the BBC bar is now? Making him give my money back $12, he had my wallet, 45:00he wouldn't give it back, car drives by, I'm butt naked. That was embarrassing. But I didn't care at the time. At the time I just wanted my $12, that was my last $12. I think that was a weekend or something and that was the last $12 to go back to work on Monday with. See I always make sure I have that to go back to work on Monday with. That way I got paid everyday, and Id come out with close to $40. $6.50 an hour, close to $40, and that's how I worked. Stay cool, just drink a couple of beers, and then I was drinking 8%, then get crazy on the weekends, and do your little experiment with 12% or something, I didn't like that, its messes your stomach.


ES: so that kind of brings me to my next question, which was what belongings did you have and where did you keep them?

OS: I learned in, I carried a, I now have one in there, I carried a mountain climbers pack and kept all my dirty clothes wrapped up separately in plastic, a sleeping bag, any extra, anything else that I would find behind St. Vincent De Paul's, which in those days was real good

CF: I believe it.

OS: Clothes, I would roll up in plastic and pile them in bushes around the church. They all wind up moldy. You cant do that. I wouldn't do that now, but eventually that disappeared. I mean there was line, standing room only at the dumpster behind St. Vincent de Paul. They cut all that out, now they probably give it, I would assumes they would give it away, sending it to Mexico places like that. Or to Goodwill's or whatever they do. They don't have many used 47:00clothing places, they do something with them, they can even use them for rags, bag them up and use them for rag ropes. I would assume what they're realy doing is bagging them up and sending them to Mexico to refugees, that's what they are refugees, I would assume them. See the sacks of clothes that's what they do. Those are considered, St. Vincent De Paul and Goodwill are considered what do they call them? Well they're donation centers. They're primarily for the poor and for refugees.

CF: So did you feel like anything you didn't take with you in your backpack was going to get taken? Or moldy or

OS: Eventually it got moldy, I kept a lot of it, then what's his name, started stealing them, I got mad at him, then I found out the reason he was stealing I 48:00said sorry man for kicking you in the face, they took his clothes, he was always going to the hospital, he was having five or six seizures he drank so much vodka, all these guys drink that cheap Heaven Hill vodka and they wind up alcoholics, drug addicts. I don't see any of them look that bad. But if you see any of them look that bad, that's what they're doing mixing drugs with the cheapest thing on the market. And they're suicidal, that's suicide, most of those guys are dead now, overdoses, because what's the vodka? You're basically pickling your marinating your meat, your protein, your heart and stuff. Your marinating everything in you. Drugs, your suicidal. The other side of homicidal, 49:00suicidal, they're going to wind up dead and they really don't care. If you've ever talked to them, I've had more than one tell me they wish they were dead. Well be careful what you wish for, you might just get it

ES: So during this time, did you have anyone that you felt you could rely on?

OS: St. John center and my brothers.

ES: your brothers?

OS: Yeah for a short-term period. My brother owns a house the other one has a farm, he's retiring in August, he says soon as its his birthday he is retiring. Hes an 18 wheeler, national guard, [unintelligible] Fort Knox, 18 years and he drives an 18 wheeler, and hes a small guy. He's not really a hot head. He can be


CF: so did you reach out to them when you were homeless?

OS: huh?

CF: did you reach out to your brothers when you were homeless?

OS: When I went out to live there, yeah a couple of times, Jerry is alright. Jerry has got a waist the size of a pencil. Hes got one lung collapsed, he is an avid cigarette smoker, he doesn't drink, and his wife she inherited money, Fonda, no kids, new house, new cars

ES: so in what way did they help you when you reached out to them?

OS: well they helped, they come down and help do yardwork, and what else. Helped do the yardwork and when the accident with the car, they come and pick me up brought me home, and brought me back to pick up the car. Because it happened in 51:00Bardstown and right around the corner there was a Kmart and a Walmart right there. Right on the corner was, I had an accident, I only drank one beer. I rolled over a median, tore out my axel, [unintelligible] independent suspension, I never knew that, I know that now. Mitsubishi [unintelligible] right around the corner I rolled around the corner and there was an auto shop, a 1000 bucks, easily. But I was working then at that factory, no I had been driving out of Louisville taking Bardstown road, it goes through Bardstown, you drive down and take a left at Bardstown its much more, there's a gas station there that sells 52:00beer. That was weird too. I honestly got mixed up with the lines, and they told me at the auto shop that that happens all the time, happens a lot. I think they do it on purpose. The line was white and its supposed to be divided lines are when you're turning off [unintelligible] I went right over not the median, but the landscaping soon as I knew what was happening. I thought I was in the right-hand land, by the time I [unintelligible] I thought it was the right hand lane going straight.

ES: Well I do want to ask you, you mentioned St. John Center, how often did you go there to the day center?

OS: Well not when I was working, I went every weekend to get a shower, or I had 53:00worked it out, iwas pretty smart on this. I only worked two days, off one day, like a Wednesday, because they started cutting back hours

ES: at the factory they did?

OS: yeah they started cutting back hours, they didn't work you all the time, after awhile, I guess they had more than enough people. The liens didn't run all the time, the lines run according to orders. So orders picked up during the schoolyear, summertime slow, wintertime good. That's when you really need a shower though from the sweat. Because the place had no air conditioning, fans, and people fought over the fans. [laughs] I worked a packaging machine. 375 degrees, you put a fan there its blowing hot air on you. My t shirt inside one 54:00hour was totally wet from sweat, but for a beer drinker that was perfect, I discovered something, I was totally sober in one hour [laughs]

CF: sweat it out

OS: in one hour i was drenched [laughs] and by the time I got off work at three or three thirty I was ready to go get a [laughs]

ES: so you mentioned, you'd schedule yourself so you'd have two days working and then you'd have an off day

OS: I tried to do that. I'd do three then I would shower off. Christ Church, yeah Church of Christ had a faucet outside, so I'd make sure it was after dark and I'd make sure nobody was around and Id you know. Or maybe early in the morning. Yeah. You can't get that sticky in the summer.

ES: While at St. John Center besides showering what else did you do there?

OS: Lots of coffee, watch some television. I tried to drink coffee at 11 o clock.


ES: and what was your impression of St. John center while you were there?

OS: if you, well it's a good place, it's a real good place. Get a shower, get lots of coffee, can watch some television, you can go out, drink a little, come back in and not cause any trouble, the only bad thing about St. John Center is the people, not the people, but the tramps. Once in a while you get a trouble making tramp. You just got to sit watch some television and mind your own business. [unintelligible] and there is no way of stopping that, nobody can read minds. I get used to it


ES: What's your impression of some of the staff that work there?

OS: I never ever had any problem with the staff. Staffs some of the most helpful people there are, I mean they'll help you out.

CF: what kinds of things did they help you with when you were homeless?

OS: and back in the day you could get a backpack from Keith, you could get clothing from T, yeah. Fresh out of the hospital that happened to me once or twice. Maybe twice yeah. I think just once, got a change of clothes because I only walked out with the blues, greens whatever color it was.

ES: so all you had from walking out of the hospital was the hospital gown and you went to St. Johns and they helped you?

OS: yeah yeah.

ES: Do you ever go back

OS: once in a while you get shoes from them, they used to. But if not then down the street is Schumann center, I think they're open everyday, in not sure


CF: im not exactly sure. Im not sure if they're open on the weekends or not, otherwise they're open everyday yeah

OS: I think they're open everyday yeah

ES: and what did you do at the Schumann Center?

OS: I got clothes, shoes and clothes, sometimes some good clothes. Sometimes they don't have anything.

ES: and do you ever o back to St. John Center or Schumann Center?

OS: no. I got everything I [unintelligible]. Originally about a year ago, couple years ago, besides life skills they had a group meeting on Tuesdays and they took us out, and oh yeah I did have one other case worker, Ashley. Ashley and they took us out and got us shoes. Twice. I still got them I don't even wear them. Boots, I bought boots.


ES; so Ashley was your case manager after Tiny and before Cortney?

OS: Before Tiny.

ES: Before Tiny okay.

OS: After Sarah, Ashley was first, then Tiny, then Cortney. Actually what happened was Ashley quit and went back to YMCA or YWC or something. Then she came back, and that's why they switched me to Tiny.

ES: okay, so were there any other shelters that you visited while you were homeless?

OS: well I had stayed at Healing Place, Salvation Army, during the winter, that was kind of a scam, I'd take my sleeping bag and everything in, they didn't want you to take your shoes off, and my feet sweated so my boots I loosened them and they didn't say anything so at midnight when they'd turn the TV off, they'd 59:00never say anything and I'd sign out and leave the chair empty. Had to sleep in a chair, only enough room in chair and I'd go out and climb in a sleeping bag and go to the church after I'd watched TV. Great lifestyle actually. I had a great sleeping bag, I'm not dumb. I did the same thing in Colorado. Minus thirty. You get a thirty degree minus and you could climb into a, it has to be at least 30 you climb in with your clothes, it doesn't work put long johns on. Zip it up good, it works

ES: so why did you only want to stay at the Salvation Army and Healing Place during the winter? Why wouldn't you stay there year round?

OS: Air conditioning is not that great there and the second shift would come in and wake me up every night at 12 in the morning. And you're going to day shift. 60:00And after I'd already got used to sleeping outside out west, I went back to sleeping outside. Once you invest in a sleeping bag, they're not cheap, I think a couple hundred dollars, yeah the mountain climbers pack was only 100, I got those at Dicks a guy off the street turned me on to that, in Indiana I'd go over by bus, 75 to and I did, actually I spent two or three hundred. Backpack was on sale, good deal, and I got a sleeping bag, which I learned in Colorado, remember I slept outside in the cold, there you buy [unintelligible], there is a major, or Caribou, Caribou is the expensive one.


CF: You said earlier that the streets were addictive, can you talk more about what you mean by that?

OS: well once you get comfortable, addiction is comfort, once you get comfortable with it, its easy street, that's what's addictive. Again its only people, its only the tramps that cause problems, people don't cause problems, they'll leave you alone. Its only the tramps, and you've got to watch where the tramps are, and they're getting back here too I can tell they're getting over crowded, it has to do with overpopulation. One or two tramps yeah , three or four or ten next thing you know overpopulation. It [unintelligible] like a flea one or two fleas, big deal, fifty fleas there's a problem.

ES: so I did want to ask you kind of final questions about relationships and 62:00your sense of belonging. So to you who are the most important people to you in your life?

OS: well my case workers and family, that's it. Case workers and family, I'm learning that one.

ES: and how often do you see your family?

OS: I call them on the phone, I'm actually about once a month, I call Jerry actually talks to me, Larry he doesn't talk a lot, I'm going to try and get him down here now that everything is running. Because he's got to apply. I don't know where he's going to apply for social security, probably E-town, they've got the spots out here. I told him to come down he knows where I live, he can call anytime.

ES: and has your relationship with, you mentioned that when your father died there was some issue surrounding the farm that you all inherited?


OS: oh yeah everybody wanted all the money. [laughs] especially to the mother in law, not the mother in law, she wasn't my mother what's that called?

ES: step mother?

OS: step mother. And her family was definitely upset.

CF: so do you all still have problems because of that?

OS: no I don't have any problems, she's dead her brother died, drug overdosed, and her daughter died, drug overdose. Because she worked in a local nursing home in Hodgenville and they were selling the pills, she showed me the whole cabinet in there full of pills. Opiates. And she was super I mean I thought she was her 64:00mother, that's my daughter, three chins, four hundred pounds, Betty Jo, was her name, Betty Jo, its sad. Oh yeah her other daughter. I could tell she was trying to fix me up, she was trying to dump her boyfriend who wasn't working and he got he inherited a lot of money, people inherit a lot of money out there they have a lot of land, he inherited $20,000 and he died from a coke overdose I found out from the guy across the street, who is from that part of town I keep forgetting, I keep wanting to say Auvern, but anyway. He's from there and he's a retired 65:00soldier. On one of grandpa's pieces of land across the way and real flat real nice, but ours was hilly with woods, but dad was a deer hunter, so I see what he did. The deer come up the holler that's there from the deeper holler that's there further. [unintelligible] in the country you live on the hill because of the [unintelligible] plus wolves, deer, wild animals, that's where you hunt but that's not where you live. Plus it caves in. Sinkhole that's why it's a holler. Sink holes are, that's where we dumped our garage in the sinkholes, big sinkholes.

CF: interesting

ES; okay so the next question I've got for you is what does the word "home" mean to you?


OS: a place you feel comfortable [1:06:03] and you can exclusive, and that's what I see. Which is really what you've got to wind up doing in the streets anyway if you're going to hang onto your money. You have to be exclusive, secluded. You have to be secluded and exclusive, you have to be I mean there is no choice. This is a man is a predator, he is an animal, he is a two legged animal.

CF: So Otis you've, you've turned a small studio apartment into a home, it feels very homey and inviting when you come in, can you kind of explain your apartment to people listening since they cant see it?

OS: oh yeah. I have a lime green dividers, which goes back to the oriental 67:00Chinese [unintelligible] which they usually change clothes behind but they also were sued as dividers for families, which those families, were usually overpopulated, especially Chinese, they don't tell you that but they were overpopulated , so instead of one big room for the family, divide the family center, the cooking center from the family, the husband and wife.

CF: so what do you use your lime green dividers for?

OS: a bedroom, I created a bed room in a studio. Which blocks out the light and hides my clothes, dish washing liquid, I got shelving in there, shoes I got plenty of room for shoes, I was crowding that closet space up, now I don't have 68:00to crowd the closet space up, not my closet space is roomy, I can put a lader in it, I ought to show you this, want to see it?

ES; we can see it but we should probably finish this up.

OS: yeah.

ES: so my last question is, well my second to last question is, does this place feel like home to you?

OS: yeah, I got it set just right.

CF: what's your favorite thing about it?

OS: My favorite thing about it? The kitchen is pretty decent. I just don't have enough counter space all the sudden I've noticed. That's my only argument otherwise my kitchen is very convenient. The stove is good, the fridge is excellent its Frigidaire, that's why I went ahead and got Frigidaire air conditioners, I think that's a Kenmore, they're very good stoves. Their air 69:00ovens boy hose are nice. But then [unintelligible] but I'm satisfied, the price is right.

ES: So last question for ya, looking back over your life what are some moments or times that have particularly shaped you?

OS: Particularity shaped me? Strangely enough what particularly shaped me was the negatives, yeah. Getting ripped off, dropping out of school, breaking up with my wife, the accident, the negatives, the negatives that's actually what creates, back to the symbol of the cross its reclining it goes across its 70:00horizontal, but what shapes the standard, the standard the structure up and down creates the standard, from a negative to a plus, a positive.

ES: so you feel that from the negatives in your life have come the positive things as well?

OS: Yeah that's what separates us from the ape. Overcoming adversity, I knew I would find it in there somewhere. I always said turning the negatives into a positive, but overcoming adversity. That has a lot to do with DNA our electrical circuits, our electrical universe were not [unintelligible] that's the whole point I was trying to get, were not separate, were not separate from the sun and 71:00the rest of the universe. Yeah that's why those guys study horoscopes and the stars, they weren't wrong there was an influence. Maybe they'll find out someday. I even had a cross

ES: IS there anything else that you would like to talk about hat we haven't already discussed?

OS: No.

ES: (to Cortney) did you have anything else that you wanted to talk about?

CF: No I think he has been very thorough.

ES: okay I'm going to stop recording then.

OS: yeah