Self-assignment – my 77 year old downstairs neighbor, Martin

Continuing with photographing people that live and work in my neighborhood.  About three weeks ago, I was heading out the front door where I live and the elderly black man, who lives in the basement apartment came to the gate of his front door. He mumbled something to me, I got close and asked him to repeat what he was saying, it was then that I noticed that his face was swollen.  “What happened to you Martin? Did you fall and hit yourself?” I asked. The right side of his face was swollen, and he had stitches on his upper lip.

“It is a long story, I’ll tell you later”

Later that day he told me.

I got to know Martin a bit better that day, I asked him if he had ever been married, in fact he had, and his wife was killed in 1972 while running across a street in DC to catch a bus.  She was on her way to work out in Virginia at her night job. She was taking daytime classes, learning to be a key punch operator. He took down to Florida to be buried under a “big ole’ oak tree” in a small town in central Florida.  I photographed him holding a picture of himself and his wife from the early 1970’s.

Later I took Martin to the hospital to get his stitches removed. The swelling of his face had disappeared, and he was looking a lot better.   On that trip I learned that he and  I share some common musical interests – mainly the blues and James Brown.  Martin told me he saw James Brown perform at the Howard Theatre in the 1960’s. The Howard Theatre is located just a few blocks up the street from us.

I learned that Martin has worked a variety of low paying jobs in his life.  He worked in Florida picking citrus, strawberries, and other crops. He worked in a DC hotel restaurant washing dishes at night and during the day, operated a jackhammer on construction sites.  At 77, he still works part-time at a local laundromat.

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December 3, 2015 - 4:57 PM

sharon suleski havent touchbase with u in a long time was thinking a lot about Rich today Watched the video the cow country classic where Rich was on the bridge giving a thumbs up so long ago and so sad he is not here hope your life is going ok you were such a dear friend of his

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