By James Maher
Occupation: Factory Worker
Location: 6th Street and 2nd Avenue
Time: 12:15 on Monday, April 29
I’m coming from Social Tees [Animal Rescue]. I know the owner since it’s where I take my other four cats. Right now I have an apartment in Crown Heights and I heard [the kitten] crying there for three days. I thought he was a bird and I couldn’t find him at first.
He’s a baby. The mother left him. His eye was shut so I took him upstairs and flushed it with hot water and then I gave him some Amoxicillin. I don’t know why but something told me to give him that for the infection. And then I gave him some stuff for his eye.
My family is Basque. They come from the Pyrenees mountain from Spain and France. I'm from 7th Street and Avenue B. I’m 60 years old. This is where I’m from. I’ve been all around the Lower East Side. I‘ve lived in other places but this has always been home.
I mostly worked in factories. I put together costume jewelry. It was no big thing. I worked in publishing. I write and I used to write a lot of poetry. I even tried acting school.
My whole family was down here. They never left. This was my real family, but when I was young I was given to foster parents in the Bronx and I got raped and beat up and all of that by them. I’ve suffered.
I’ve been in the streets most of my life. I had my friends and my family around here, but I didn’t go to my family. I don’t know how I survived. I hardly ate. I wouldn’t ask anybody for anything. I was too traumatized. People would come and bring my food and I would shake in my boots because I didn’t want anybody to touch me. And I didn’t know how to ask for help.
So I started hanging out with gay people. They were accepting. But I was never gay. They just assumed I was. I was always very quiet or sad. I was never talkative. I don’t know how to tell you how I went through all that trauma and survived it.
I think it has a lot to do with being Basque. Our history is very interesting. When I say I’m Basque to somebody that knows what it is they go, “What?” We’re cavemen — all the way from the caves.
I tried drugs in my 30s. I started late. Before that I was just trying to get through my own trauma. I was lucky I started late or I would’ve been dead. I’ve never seen so many weird people in my life. I’ve seen rock stars; I’ve seen movie stars come here — all that stuff. I remember the lines around the block for drugs. People just didn’t care I guess. It was wild; it was a wild town.
The cat is fine. He’s fighting. If I let him walk, he’ll walk all over me, but I can’t yet because I don’t want him to get sick. I know what it’s like to suffer and that’s why I like to rescue things. It’s to be human.
James Maher is a fine art and studio photographer based in the East Village. Find his website here.