Chapter1 - Chapter 2 - Chapter 3 - Chapter 4 - Chapter 5

Not only is this a story about finding yourself. This is a story about letting people live their lives the way they want. Not everyone wants to live life the same way, and that’s what makes people so interesting. My belief is that people should do what makes them happy. In Will’s case his passion was discovering the world and getting into trouble. At one point my mother asked me to go talk sense into Will. I refused. In my mind he was already making more sense than anything I had ever done. He was out living life the way he wanted and not the way other people wanted him to. I think this is a valuable lesson that everyone should take with them. Please, keep this in mind as you go through this story.

Killadelphia— The City of Brotherly Love

Time approx: September 2008


“Yes mom?”

“Help me carry this stuff into your room.”

I groaned but consented.

I had already met my roommate. He was a complete douche. Never have I ever met a bigger poser than this idiot. With any luck he would spend too much time thinking about his queer hair and would flunk out quickly. It was my only hope to retain any sanity.

Most of the gear I brought was already in my room. We only had a few more things to move and then I’d finally be on my own. After a few more incidents I promised my mom I’d clean up my act. I wasn’t even sure I wanted to go to college for a while. But college was part of that promise I made, so here I was, moving in to Philadelphia University of Art. I never thought I’d study art. While I always enjoyed my painting it wasn’t exactly my passion. As a kid people always told me I’d make a great veterinarian, but it involves too much school.

My classes looked pretty lame. But when is school ever exciting? I already knew where three parties where going to be. College was going to be pretty cool after all.

Mom was crying already. “Okay, now you guys can go,” I said.

“But I’m going to miss you so much.”

“I’ll miss you too mom, but it’s time to go.”

“Okay,” she said kissing me goodbye.

I walked back to my room and lay in my newly made bed. I plugged in my headphones and started listening to music. The first song I played was Blink-182’s Going Away to College. My roommate was playing music as well; by coincidence he was playing the same song. It must have something to do with the material the song was covering.

He was singing along, rather poorly, “Don't depend on me to ever follow through on anything.”

I turned mine up loader, trying desperately to tune out his atrocious singing. Slowly I fell into a deep sleep. It was a long day and I needed to get ready to party hardy.


It had been three days since I moved in and I had partied harder than ever before. I had tried some new substances too. So much for cleaning up. I thought to myself as I browsed through Macy’s shirts. I had been party fouled out of my shirts, and needed to pick up some clearance shirts. There was a crowd off to the side of the room. Out of curiosity I walked closer and started talking to an employee.

“We’re doing a photo shoot today.”

“A photo shoot for what?”

“These are Macy’s models, they’re doing a shoot because it’s their job.”

“Hm. Sounds like a lame job. Just standing around getting pictures taken of you.”

“On the contrary it’s actually very exciting. The fame, reputation, and the money.”

“Wait. You’re telling me they get paid well to stand around?”

“It’s more than that. They have to do exactly what the photographer says, and they have to take care of themselves. It’s their job to look good. Have you ever considered modeling?”

“No, it never really occurred to me.”

“We’re having another photo shoot next week. Here’s my card, why don’t you come by and give it a go. We’ll pay you our standard and if we like what you’ve got we’ll hire you back.”

“Sure, sounds like easy money.”

“We’ll be glad to have you.”

I put his card in my pocket and went back to looking through clearance shirts. I picked out a few and paid with all the cash I had, and walked back to the bus.


The photo shoot ended up taking place during my English class so I skipped. I was failing but it didn’t matter, there was plenty of time to bring the grade up. Modeling was different from anything I’d ever done. I had to stand in awkward positions that apparently made me look more attractive. It was as slow as I had anticipated but it was good pay and required very little work.

At the end of the shoot they offered me a contract. My pay would be better than I’d be making off of my art degree, and I’d have access to the nicest Macy’s cloths. Naturally I took the job. Unfortunately the hours conflicted with school but I wasn’t going to need a degree with the money I’d be making while modeling. So, after a week in college I dropped out. I didn’t bother telling my mom. She’d notice when she got the refund on my tuition.

It’s better this way. I’m making money now and she doesn’t have to worry about trying to scrape the cash together. She’s having a hard enough time on her own; she doesn’t need me being a burden. If I can make enough I can even send some of it back to help her out. I think she’ll appreciate that.

It didn’t take long for me to see the evils of the modeling industry. When I signed my contract I didn’t fully comprehend the implications that would come from my actions. The implications were beyond my grasp.

The first shoot went good. They were able to take a few good ones out of our hours of work. Eventually they wanted me to come in twice a week which, they claimed was covered by the contract. Considering the life style I was getting into twice a week just wasn’t going to work. I had started partying four or five times a week. One party I went two had some pretty hard core drugs going on. At first I stayed away but I was the only one sticking to pot and alcohol.

These guys are all doing it. They aren’t dead, and they seem like they’re having more fun than me. Pot’s not exactly good for me, so why not give it a try. I’m sure all my old smoking buddies from high school probably moved on to this stuff by now.

And that’s how it started. One minute I’m smoking the best joint I ever had, the next I’m doing a line of coke with some total strangers. It was the biggest life changing experience I’d had up to that point. Nothing else mattered. I just needed to get that high again. No matter how much I took I could never reach that same sense of elevated understanding. I started blowing through my paycheck and I even took an advance.


“Will, I need your rent.”



“Give me another week.”

“Get me the rent by noon or move out by then.”

“Or what?”

“Or I’m gonna call the cops on your ass.”

I grumbled and walked off. That’s such bullshit. I haven’t even been living here a week and he’s already kicking me out. I don’t know where I’m gonna get the money. The advance I took already ate up next week’s paycheck and I don’t have enough money to eat this week. Fuck. Why’d I buy all that crack? I knew I couldn’t afford it. It’s okay, I just won’t buy anymore. At least not this week. But, I’d better start moving out now because there’s no way that I’m going to find the money in time.

So there I sat: all of my worldly possessions beneath me as I lounged in downtown Philly. I say beneath because I was sitting on top of my stuff. A few people walked by staring as they passed. Ignoring their judgment I tried to hock my stuff on passersby. With nowhere to go I needed to lose some weight and make some cash to eat with. My Bob Marley poster went for $2.00, well below its face value. My couch went for thirty, including labor as they expected me to lift it into their truck. At the end of the day all I had was junk and 80 bucks cash. I left my garbage on the street corner and started walking.

To this day I don’t know why I didn’t go to McDonalds and get something on the dollar menu, or find a dirt cheap motel. I was as hungry as I’d ever been. I hadn’t eaten in two days. But I had a deeper hunger now. It was a thirst that could only been quenched by fueling my addiction. Somehow I found myself in that alley behind the pawn shop.

It was getting dark and cold. Philadelphia in the winter can easily give clothed men frostbite. Fortunately it was still fall. Unfortunately, it was colder earlier than in the past. All of my warm clothes were either still at home or were sold along with my pile of stuff. Aside from the clothes on my back, a long sleeve T and some jeans, and the cash in my hand I had nothing. As I paid my dealer for a couple points, blowing the rest of my cash, I could see my breath.

Now what? I thought as my dealer left. I guess I’m homeless now. Where do homeless people sleep? It’s too cold to stay out here; I need to find somewhere warm. I could sneak into Macy’s. No, that’s too far, it’ll be closed by the time I get there. How about central station? No, they’re bound to have guards.

That’s how I ended up back at college. Luckily that tool of a roommate felt sorry for me because god knows he didn’t have to let me stay the night.

I went to my photo shoot the next day to work of the advance I’d taken. It was pretty boring and they said they wanted to have a meeting with me afterwards. I figured all the other models would be at the meeting too but they didn’t show up. So there we sat me and my boss. We stared silently at each other for a minute.

What, does he want me to apologize for something?

“We’re going to have to let you go. Actually, we’re firing you.”

“Huh? Why?”

“You’ve been showing up to the shoots drunk or hung-over. The photographers have been complaining that you’re less than cooperative. I mean look at you, you’re a mess. You’re eyes are blood shot. It’s clear you’ve either been up all night or you’re high. Either way you’re no use to us in this state. Your contract states that we can fire you at no risk should you be intoxicated upon arrival at work.”

“Prove it.”

“We can have a drug test and a blood alcohol test within the hour if you’d prefer that.”

“That won’t be necessary. But I will not leave without a severance bonus. Now before you say anything, if you have a problem with that them maybe you’d like to settle it in court.”

“You won’t win.”

“You’re right, but it’ll cost you less to pay me off than it would in legal fees,” I said smiling.

He cleared his throat, “Heh hm. Upon exiting this door your severance will be deposited into your account.”

“I’ll take it in cash if you’ve got it.”

After paying me from his Gardall safe he proceeded to call security to escort me from the premises. To this day I am still banned from all Macy’s. It’s okay, I left my mark on the front door in the form of a golden shower. That door has never been so sexually gratified in its life. Luckily no po-po were walking down the street at that moment. All I needed was to end up in the bighouse. On the other hand, it would be somewhere warm to sleep for the night.

That was the first night I spent on the streets. Nights on the streets were unsettling at best. Whoever said, “The city never sleeps,” certainly knew what they were talking about. Every little sound caught my attention. I had seen the headlines in the news paper. The murder rates were through the roof. Each night a new body would go belly up. That’s how Philly earned the nickname Killadelphia. Each stray cat was a shadow lurking in the darkness, ready to kill me. Cabs sounded like gunshots and gunshots sounded like the darkness of my dreams.

Finding a place to be homeless is actually difficult now days. The fuzz is always out looking for someone to bust on. Whether it’s the druggy down the alleyway or the gangster popping a cap in someone’s hind end the pigs are always out looking for someone to beat. Sleeping in the wrong place could place you on the hard end of a night-stick or in the back of a Crown Victoria. Parks, malls, hotel lobbies, trains, busses are just a few places that were off limits. Even dozing in one of these areas would cause some prick to “alert the authorities.” Fuck them. Let’s see them find somewhere to sleep.

By this point there were rumors of economic hardship. No one was going so far as to call it a recession but the numbers weren’t lying, the shit was about to hit the fan. From the streets you see things other people won’t. Politicians and economists were refusing to call it a recession or a depression. The alleyways didn’t lie. There number of homeless people was growing at an exponential rate. Dark corners that were virtually uninhabitable when I first started sleeping on the streets became hotels for the homeless. Scraping together money via begging became more competitive.

With my compensation money from my job I had bought a guitar. At first I played for fun. I wrote my own music or played what others had already done. Eventually my pile of dough ran out. If I hadn’t needed to buy marijuana, cocaine, and alcohol my stash might have lasted longer. One day I was on the curb playing for hours. On either corner of the same street were two other musicians playing with their cases open.

I kept playing and playing. It was wonderful. I completely forgot about the world and the money. Losing myself I played until it was pitch black out. Suddenly I was shivering uncontrollably. My hunger was so great for food and substance alike. There was a pain. It was unbearable. My hands were on fire. Looking down there was a stream of blood flowing down the guitar frame. My fingerless gloves were soaked.


My drug fueled ecstasy had prevented me from feeling any pain. I was probably playing with bloody fingers for hours and I didn’t even realize it. This, I guess, explained why my guitar case had so much money in it. People truly appreciated my dedication to the art. Collecting the money I shoved my earnings into my pocket and closed up my guitar in its case. The cuts on my visceral fingers were so bad I couldn’t use my right hand for anything.

For the next couple days I was without income. My hand was too badly damaged to play guitar and simply begging was out of the question. First off, it was too far beneath me. Secondly, the last time I’d tried it I hadn’t made anything. There were too many people all preaching to the same audience. No one had any change to spare anyway. There was a negative correlation between the number of people coming onto the streets and the amount to money one could earn from passersby. It was hard to say if the recession was hitting people hard enough to prevent them from helping out a boy in need or if people were becoming desensitized because of the amount of homelessness. Over the past month homelessness had become such an epidemic that people were sleeping on the doorsteps to the homeless shelters.

My entire life I’d been part of the majority. Albeit an outsider inside the majority, but part of the larger racial group none the less. On the streets of Killy it was different. For the first time I was clearly the minority. Still, I was an outsider. I was here by choice, sort of. These were people who had been dealt a bad hand and couldn’t do anything about it. “Why don’t you get a job?” I’d heard many times when asking for money, or sometimes just because people wanted to spite me. And for me it was true. I simply didn’t want a job, and wasn’t trying to find one. The others though. They had legitimate excuses that people didn’t seem to care about. Some were simply discriminated against. Jobs were going away at a rapid rate. To put it blatantly blacks went first. American’s think they are so self righteous. People actually believe that there is equality in the U.S. That is the biggest load of bullshit. We are still a bigoted nation. 80% of homeless people are African American. Only 15% are Caucasian.

Race aside, others had more simplistic issues. Some were born with mental disabilities. This doesn’t mean they were impaired socially (although some certainly were). One example of this was a guy who was dyslexic. He was raised in a center city public school. It took them until middle school to realize he had a learning disability. Their inability to discover his actual problem stranded him on the street because it raised him unable to read. And if you can’t read why bother trying to learn at all. Public schools had damned this man to the streets.

Some others were like me though. Plenty of people simply did not want to accept a job at McDonalds. Some of the homeless people were businessmen: brokers and home sellers who lost their jobs in the recession. Downgrading wasn’t an option and because of their hubris they failed to get a job. Still, they kept looking for high paying jobs while working off the streets.

Some turned to prostitution. It wasn’t hard to find a whore on the streets. They say that prostitution is the world’s oldest profession. There are statistics that prove and justify just about anything. Regardless, there are studies that show a direct relationship between economic hardship and prostitution. The worse of people are the more prostitution there is. This can actually be a bad thing believe it or not. More hookers means more STDs. More hookers does mean they cost less due to supply and demand but it also means that some ladies of the night won’t get any business. Because of this some of them won’t eat. And a ho without food is not a happy ho, nor a pretty ho. Oh yeah, there’s also the fact that they end up on the streets.

With my money well drying up I was fortunate that it was October. Baseball was getting big. The Phillies were on a winning streak and there was no stopping them. Game five was four days before Halloween: free food day. People were so happy that the Phillies were winning that the bars were practically giving away drinks. It wasn’t hard to order drinks and slip out once we won without paying for them. The tension was so high that when they suspended the game I was still able to slip out unnoticed. It was important that I not go to the same bar twice. I met some really cool people, but most of them were just drunken sports fans. The game resumed the next day and the drinks were on the house when Philly took the win. The streets were wild. People were everywhere.

The real party was the parade. Everyone from around the Philadelphia area came into the city. There were so many wasted people they were practically handing out their money. Those that didn’t give it away easily usually had it taken from them, either through force or guile. I admit, things got a bit out of control.

Sitting next to some guy I said, “Hey.”


“You want to flip that car over?”

“The two of us?”

“We could do it. Plus someone would probably help out. It would only take one more if that.”

I was so inebriated by that point that I honestly believe the two of us could turn the car over top of itself. Obviously the guy I was talking to wasn’t doing much better. It was cold so I had on a grungy pale jacket that looked like something a homeless man would be wearing, a sweatshirt with a hood, and a bandana to protect my face from the chill. I looked like a bandit from the Wild-West.

So this guy and I stumble over to some Chevy and proceed to push as hard as we can. It isn’t hard to imagine that the car didn’t move an inch. Luckily the streets had become such a rave that we instantly had thirty people helping out. The noise we made must have attracted a few cops because suddenly people were dropping to the ground. I didn’t wait to see if it was tear gas, night-sticks, or pepper spray but people were dropping like flies. Running I saw an officer of the law riding a horse. He swung at me with his Billy-club and I ducked under it. I tore off into the crowd and faded away. It was getting dark out and people were starting to leave so I was able to maneuver through the throng or fans.

I broke one of the rules I stated earlier that night. I slept in a mall. People had broken the window in one of their frenzies. Always one to take advantage of a given opportunity I climbed into the mall and passed out. The police were busy enough with everyone else to keep them occupied for a while.

The temperature was dropping rapidly. It became harder and harder to sleep at night because of the coldness. One night I was drinking a Colt-45, after waking up in a gutter. Yes, I know that sounds bad but after you’ve had a rough day a cold one really helps your troubles fade away. Of course, the next thing you know, I had to piss like a fucking god damn race horse. So I shambled over to the nearest wall. Something was written in front of me. Someone had spray painted, “Go South,” on the wall. Unable to decide whether someone was promoting the south or commanding me I stood there for a moment. Eventually I decided it was a command, because nobody would cheer for the south, and I thought to myself in a daze, it must be a sign. So I unzipped my pants and proceeded to defile that wall with a urine bath.