Intro: You are now listening to the alternative perspective podcast where we explore stories of less fortunate people who are battling with homelessness. I am your host Tevin Fairclough.
Track: On November 20th a cold and windy day in New York City sitting on the side of the cold and busy street is David Washington a homeless men with nothing but the belongings he has his in a small plastic bag, sheets he sits on and blankets he covered himself with. Sitting next to him was his wife according to him, who he states his pregnant. David opened up to me about his life going.
Act: (David) I was born upstate in Albany but I grew up in New York City. I went to school as a kid I went to special education class I had a hard time I went to a remedial classes for anger problems and Educational Learning and I got better. I did always have a problem growing up in school so that was always my issues at home, my problems in school ended up coming home, my behaviors and relationship affected me and my parents leading to me growing up as a teenager doing the things I wanted to do as all teenagers [have] got to find their own way sometimes. I was kicked out on the street side 16 I’ve been on the streets ever since
Track: Things quickly spiraled down words for him as he was kicked out of his home at the age of 16 by his own biological mother
Act(David): I robbed somebody when I was 16 years old I made a bad mistake and a choice I went to jail for it I learned my lesson when I was in jail and I got my GED I figured that while I was there I would do something with my time instead of just sitting up there doing nothing so I went to school and I utilize my time to get my GED and I got it I’m proud of myself in that accomplishment my mom was proud of me too but unfortunately it wasn’t enough to let me back in the house hold so..
Track: He also mentioned that his dad wasn’t in the picture and also that he and his mom isn’t not on the best terms at the moment.
Act(David): My dad wasn’t really in the picture he’s just now starting to get into the picture which is really really great to say me and him never really had a relationship but now we’re going to have a good relationship.
Track: When he got out of jail he got a job as a digital printer and shipping clerk for Rick’s AEC Reprographics
Act(David): I worked there for a few years with my cousin really really good stuff. I got budget cut they had to cut people back because they couldn’t afford the extra staff that were working there so some of us got cut back.
Track: While working there he even had an apartment across from his mom.
Act(David): It was really good actually that was fly because and I did it across the hall from her because I wanted to show her that on my own I could do it, you know? And I showed her that.
Track: Once he was laid off he was struggling to find another source of income in order to support himself and make ends meet
Act(David): I turned selling drugs and I got arrested again for drug dealing. And I ended up getting two felonies behind it and that led me to not be able to work again. I was struggling with public assistance, food stamps, living from place to place which led me to be homeless now.
Track: Despite his downfalls Manchester mentions that he is constantly looking for new job opportunities.
Act(David): I’m always looking for a new job places. I go online or I go on my phone or I go to the library and I apply and I post my resume.
Track: He also mentioned that he does odd jobs here and there to get him and his family by
Act(David): A little bit of carpentry. I work at a barbershop where I clean their windows and I sweep and I clean up for them when they’re done. I work in another bar call The Heights on Bedford Stuyvesant where I go on certain days when they have like baby showers or different events and conventions and I’ll be like an extra help for them. They’ll call me and then they’ll let me know that they need an extra hand and they’ll pay me like three hundred bucks in the mean to be there for the night and I set up and clean up it depends every couple days and like 2 to 3 days sometimes a week.
Track: While I tried to further examine the reasons as to why he hasn’t been able to find housing at a homeless shelter his wife sitting next to him quickly interjected.
Act(Melvoun): The shelter system here for couples sucks in New York. For a single individual they get $3,500, for a couple they get the same amount, so every time you apply and get denied they get paid. But, monthly when a couple is in the shelter they only get $3500 so they deny the couple’s multiple times to put a wedge between the couples so they’ll separate. 35-35 you’d rather $7000 than $3,500.
Track: According to Manchester her name is Malvern Diane.
Track: She said she’s been homeless from the small age of 8 years old.
Act(Melvoun): Nobody knows when my mother threw me in that estrangement man’s lap and said I don’t want her. I was born a homeless girl, so yeah this is home the system fucked up, I was born homeless.
Track: In addition to the rejection from her biological mother, she was rejected from homeless shelters plenty of times.
Act(Melvoun): From the age of 8 to 21 on the streets: homeless, because New York forgot about me in this system a long time ago, the system sucks. Period. I’m 8, from 8 to 39 years old that’s 31 years of a homelessness off and on, you tell me that’s fair as a kid and it’s getting worse it’s hard on families and couples it took 14 tries my first time going through the homeless system. Everybody said it is the homeless’ fault, no it’s not, it’s the system the system denied me 16 times and it took my mother to die for them to say I can and that was in 2011. I got away from my abuser finally. I moved on got a new husband finally got my life together and yet we’ve been denied multiple times. We’re telling you we can’t go to these places and you’re telling us oh yes you can. You get denied multiple times, yes. At the end of the day people don’t get it, it’s the system that screwing you. You see me sleeping on the street for three for five, six months in the same spot that must mean I’m homeless but this is what they’re doing to us.
Track: When she finally got her acceptance and it was time for her to move into her new apartment. she was put in jail.
Act(Melvoun): I’ve done 17 years in and out of prison for not switch snitching on people. I was already approved, I was three or four days away from my apartment. I was working with breaking ground and because I went to jail I had to start all over. I didn’t know anything I just know I was born homeless and everybody said it’s the homeless’ fault, people label you early I’ve been in and out of jail because the people shame me beforehand. I’ve never been to jail for my own crimes because I don’t commit crimes. I’ve always went away for somebody else is bullshit look at my records; for not telling. I went down for other people’s shit. I can take you to everybody I went down for and they will verify yes she did.
Track: She said that in order to get accepted to homeless shelters you need proof of homelessness in your housing history
Act(Melvoun): You mean to tell me you have a right to tell me that I have to walk around and get proof that I’m homeless. Where is that fair? okay I can get proof but let out reach do their job, there’s proof. I should’nt have to get a year Housing history.
Track: According to the Coalition for homelessness, you would also need to proove the identity
of each member of your family, with either benefit card from public assistance, a green card, drivers liscense, government ID, Passport or visa or an emplyment ID with a picture. She then told me of a time when she once met a girl who had an order of protection out against her mother and she was told she had to stay with her mother.
Act(Melvoun): They told a girl who had an order of protection against her that she can still stay with her mother. Tell the courts that!
Track: She also told me of couple who was denied housing when they had an infant.
Act(Melvoun): you know how many couple are out here with their kids, that the system’s loosing and forgeting. We saw a couple get on the train and they were denied, and they had an infant bro.
Track: She also mentions thay people are denied from homeless shelter because of the policies they have against pets as many homeless people with pets are denied housing for these same policies.
Act(Melvoun): There’s street people out here that has a dog that needs to be endorced that cant get endorsed because hes not a service animal. thats not fair to that man or that animal. That animal is keeping that man alive whether its a service animal or not why cant he take it with him. New Yorks so Dog Friendly right? anybody’ll accept it, so should the shelters. Its been happening for years, and years.
Track: I tried to continue my interview with following up with another question when manchester told me shes no longer open to speaking.
Track: I tried to aproach him with remaining questions when he states: “We’re just gunna end this now.”
Track: I tried to stand next to them as I tried to gather ambient sounds from the environment as another homeless individual charged at me while asking me to leave.
Track: Next episode we will explore the life of pastor Micheal Vincent crea, another individual battling with homelessness.
We’ll listen to your first podcast episodes and talk about them.
Class this Wednesday, Nov. 27 will be optional. Studio H will be open and I will be here if you need help with anything. Feel free to use that time to work on reporting your second episode or just get a head start on any holiday travel or festivities.
Scripts for episode 2 due Monday, Dec. 2. We will do an edit session that day as usual. Sign-up sheet is here.
AMBI: (Entering Apartment)
Track: This is a new apartment you’re fixing for somebody?
Victor Caltajeno: Yeah Wednesday the person is gonna come on wensday.
Track: So nobody’s lived here before-
Victor Caltajeno: Yeah somebody’s lived here before
Track: In the first part of this two-part episode, you’ll be introduced to Victor, a handyman or super who works around where I live. He’ll talk about his early life and his job as a super, also, his family, among other things. This was a conversation with someone I never really talked with that much before. Especially when he was on the job. I knew very little to nothing about him. We always greeted each other and said a few words about how things are going in our lives but nothing in-depth like this. On this day, he had to paint and fix up an apartment for a tenant in one of the buildings he works in. We were on the move getting equipment, going up and down the building, and from room to room as he fixed up the apartment. Here’s how that day started.
Victor Caltajeno: By the way, my name is Victor Caltajeno
Victor Caltajeno: Yeah Victor Caltajeno. That’s my name and you can call me super.
Track: Everything started pretty quiet as you would expect from two people who didn’t know each other that well. And before I could get the chance to ask, he goes on and starts telling me about his early life.
Victor Caltajeno: Yeah I was born in Puerto Rico came over here when I was sixteen first. No first I came here when I was like eight. Then went back and came back here when I was sixteen, then just… I been here since then.
Track: So you were born and raised in Puerto Rico?
Victor Caltajeno: I was born and raised in Puerto Rico. I went to school in Puerto Rico elementary school, middle school high school. I dropped out of high school in twelfth-grade cause I’m not gonna graduate with my friends. So I started working and it didn’t go as well as I want, Puerto Rico was hot a lot of people was getting killed. So I moved on over here. It’s hard to make money over there and not be killed. There’s a lot of jealousy a lot people growing up wanting to do the same thing as you. So my mom begged me to come over here and live with my father. So I won’t get- between the other streets and-
Track: So your dad was already living here?
Victor Caltajeno: My dad was already. He was a super. He was a super in the building and that’s why they saw me helping him out and it was basically that connection. When I first came over here my father was the one who basically was around me at that time so I learned a lot from him. Also I was working in construction in Puerto Rico. In a company called Caribbean Construction INC. They do pharmacies. It’s almost about the same thing you know. We work over here in Tremont, we work over here with stubs, tracks. But the super don’t really have to do much, we do it and when we know how to do more stuff they pay us extra. That’s what I like about this company other company management force you to do things that you’re not supposed to for the same pay.
Track: Ok you got here at sixteen and you became super at what age around?
Victor Caltajeno: Um exactly at the age twenty or twenty-one like at twenty or twenty-one. Yea because I was already a porter and then I became a super like three years after I became a super. I know I had my first son when I was twenty and my wife was eighteen. He came over here when he was two years old so twenty going to twenty-two years old and I’m about to be thirty-five next month.
Track: After mentioning his family I asked him about them, and how they met he met his wife and well it was interesting.
Victor Caltajeno: The love of my life you wanna know that. That’s what changed me from being a little kid to a responsible man. This created me, my wife, my wife’s name is Amari Gomez. I met her we went out a couple of times. I really kissed her the first time it was in January 12th. El anniversario de nosotro. So I met her. I had a friend his name was Jason he had a girlfriend. So I use to tell him listen winter is about to come, and I want a girlfriend to cause I got no girlfriend, so tell your girlfriend to bring to a friend, so it was around Christmas time. So my stepmother birthday is in the 25th on Christmas so they throw a party and she brings a friend her friend is Amari. So we dance some reggaeton. She didn’t want to dance at first. She was dancing salsa. I’m Puertorican I don’t know how to dance salsa, so they was dancing salsa she wanted me to dance I can’t dance that so I walk around the kitchen.
Track: You didn’t try?
Victor Caltajeno: I didn’t try, so it was a reggaeton song than I said I can dance this, so we danced I wanted to walk her home, but I ain’t had no job. This guy named champeon, they call him champion. He had a job. He had a chain, he had everything going on so he wanted to walk her home, so I said you know what I can go. So she said well you walk me. And since there you know we go the building she said she wanted to see me again and went to my father, my father was the super. So we start playing dominos one day, and she told me to kiss her that was January 12th. I kissed her and from their 15 years together.
Track: After that interesting story, it took a bit before we got back to talking about his job. He enjoyed just having conversations about something else for a change. So just for a moment, we talked about other things in his life, like his hobbies one of which we had in common. We started talking about boxing and his interest in boxing. He began to tell me about a scene he did for a movie where he got to play a boxer.
Victor Caltajeno: I like boxing, and when I was going to do more I had to leave when I was living there, and I move here to New York so I couldn’t follow my dream. But I still got the gym down downstairs, boxing equipment I train people, kids come to my house they come and box they call me super-agent. I train them with the mitts and stuff like that you know. That was my dream, but even though I didn’t follow my dream I still feel like I’m the people’s champ.
Track: Right, so you never even got to be an amateur boxer or?
Victor Caltajeno: Na but I fought people famous amateurs and stuff like that. I been in the ring I did a movie also called struggle. And it’s about a boxing guy you know. I wish you know I could have did more but it is what it is.
Track: Tell me about that because you mentioned it last time, but I forgot about that how did that come about?
Victor Caltajeno: I was helping this guy’s attic and he’s everywhere so he had an opportunity to make a movie with somebody else, and he said I’m not doing it I got somebody that knows how to box and fight so when he heard about the movie he got me. The person came to my house spoke to me would you like to be in a movie we’ll pay you. I said you don’t have to pay me that’s boxing I love it so we had the whole gym the whole day for us to be in there so I bring my kids in there. I had a good time it was the best day of my life, it was one of the best days of my life. Being in the whole gym for yourself alone. That’s what you’d like to do you know.
TRACK: As we finished that conversation we moved on to talking more in detail about his job as a super and future as a super. But that’ll have to wait till next time in part two. Until then, this is Christian Nazario signing off.
INTRO: Whether you are someone who could care less about your feet’s or an adamant checks over stripes kinda person, the global sneaker market raked in a whopping $58 billion in 2018. With the popularity of street wear where your sneakers can make or break your fit, reseller apps such as GOAT and STOCK X have people selling shoes that once retailed for something like $160 for thousands of dollars after its release. But while companies like Nike are raking in the dough from collaborations with artists such as Travis Scott and Virgil Abloh, these in high demand shoes that can be flipped for generous profits, are still being mostly released in mens sizing. Lauren Cardenas explains how women want the cool shoes in their sizing too.
AMBI: Royalty free hip hop music
TRACK: When you walk through the entrance of sneakersnstuff you are greeted with an overwhelming amount of sneakers. From Nike air maxes to Adidas nite joggers to New Balance 990’s every table and even the meat freezer they turned into a sneaker display is filled strategically that would make any sneaker lovers wallet scream. As I pass the array of shoes and am lead to the back by assistant manager Kevin Vidal who is flexing in a pair of Dover Street Market air force ones, shelves filled with a rainbow of sneaker boxes make the tiny office/stockroom/employee break room a tad bit claustrophobic. Lauren the general manager enters the back out of breath and apologies for leaving me waiting. According to her the adidas meeting she was at went passed the time it was supposed to end and then there was the 6 train. In a Yankee fitted, a black Nike ACG vest, black hoodie, black stone island track pants and grey and white New Balance 576’s, Lauren is effortlessly cool. Like not trying to be cool just naturally wakes up like that. At the start of our interview apparently she had another one waiting for her an employee informs her while apologetically interrupting us.
AMBI: Employee ambi
TRACK: She tells everyone else to only interrupt us if it’s urgent and then goes on to recall the moment every sneaker enthusiast has; that one moment in their lives where they fell in love with kicks, for Lauren, it all began at the age of 7.
ACT: So growing up I was one of six kids, we really didn’t have money. And my grandmother took care of me, some of my siblings and this cousin I had whose Kathleen and we only a couple days apart. So we were always competitive, always fighting. And one day she got really really pissed and she pushed me in the pool. All my clothes were ruined so we had to go somewhere. My grandma had got us in the car and I had the opportunity to buy new clothes so I was hype and it was like these bootleg, I mean they were real nikes but nothing cool what would probably be a dad shoe now it would probably be cool now but it wasn’t back then but it was my first swoosh. I was like seven years old and after that, It was a wrap. I just wanted to collect shoes and i would try and get my grandmother to buy me new shit.
IMANI: So that was the start of you liking sneakers?
LAUREN: Yeah just like walking into a store and seeing how many different shoes. I wasn’t going to run in these shoes but when I put them on and I felt cool. Like every celebrities and athletes I was looking at. I played soccer at a young age. Mia Ham was like a big thing, she was like the first biggest woman in sports. Lisa Leslie, Cheryl Swoops and they were all like Nike girls. So like when I put that swoosh on, even if it wasn’t a basketball shoe when I put those shoes on, I wanted to be a better soccer player, better basketball player as a female. It was like being better at everything in life that what it was equivalent too.
TRACK: With already 250 pairs of sneakers in her Brooklyn apartment, Lauren joking gives free advertisement to the storage company she rents from thats houses the other 250 pairs of her collection.
ACT: I use make space. It’s really good storage.
IMANI: And you really wouldn’t call yourself a sneaker head with over 500 shoes.
LAUREN: I’m a hoarder. Like now i have this system because i can’t literally fit anything in my apartment that if i get a new shoe i give one away. Like in the past sb’s were really big for me so i refuse to get rid of sb’s because they don’t really make them anymore. Tinker Hatfield who is a long time Nike designer. Anything he touches i like to collect.
IMANI: You even have a signed shoe by him right. Is that your favorite memory of a shoe?
LAUREN: Meeting him was actually really cool. I actually got out of sneakers because I was tired of working in the sneaker world and I worked for the eyeglass company Warby Parker. And everyone there was like super yuppie, upper east side, suit and tie and I was the only one that wore sneakers and i guess they got this email from Nike like hey, one of our designers want to come in and get fitted for frames. No one knew who he was. So the owner of the brand sent me an email, and was like do you know who Tinker Hartfield was and didn’t even spell his name right. And i’m like Tinker Hatfield…
TRACK: You can hear her voice get a little higher when she says his name and the big smile she has on her face just shows how much sneakers can mean to a person.
ACT: and he’s like yeah come into the store and try on some frames. This was when Nike was launching the hyper adapts for the first time. So he was going to be at the new SoHo store. I stayed up the whole night before, I went through my whole closet trying to find which shoe I was going to choose and it was the Jordan 3 he designed to get Jordan to stick with/ staying with Jordan brand and Nike. And it was the first shoe I had bought with my own money. So it was crusty, falling apart, disgusting but he didn’t think it was weird. I met my hero and he didn’t disappoint me. We got in the photo booth, i’m pretty sure it smelled, there was dog hair in it and shit. It’s been around for some time.
TRACK: Lauren’s first job at 16 was at a small sneaker store and today at 30 her resume boasts big name retailers such as Nike, Flight Club and Kith. With more than ten years in the industry, Lauren explains that when women actually help create something fire, they do not receive the acknowledgement they deserve. She describes how women specific shoes aren’t at all what women want.
ACT: Women have made a huge impact but they are not being acknowledged for it. So like even the Nike design team, out of the three head designers two of them are female. But most people wouldn’t know that. People don’t even know who Tinker is. The people behind the scenes, the people who are actually producing the things we like follow story lines and we fall in love with are being produced and created by women but there is no spotlight on them and when you think of like women’s sneakers you think of something with like glitter on it, its pink, its iridescent, and its just like what that has to do with being a female, I don’t relate to and I don’t feel like any female relates to that.
TRACK: The male dominated market according to Lauren is antiquated and all they have to do instead of wondering how to win there female customers, is actually allow for women to give their feedback and make decisions for themselves.
ACT: We want the same thing that the entire market wants which is dominated by men. We have to allow women to give more feedback instead of it just being men sitting around talking about how do we win her. Allow her to just like make things for herself and just allow those women to actually make the decisions instead of sitting there and getting feedback from men about women. A man can’t tell you what a woman wants because he’s not a woman. And I think that’s the problem. It’s a male voice speaking for women.
TRACK: She expresses how while people who didn’t know better might argue that in recent years there have been various women who have collaborated with sneaker brands like Jordan and Adidas, its really not black and white.
ACT: But what you see in the media makes it seem like, you know you see like Aleali Mae, you see Olivia Kim, you see all these people. They let us get a collaboration every now and then. But there is no female equivalent to a Travis Scott. Like there is no one that could put out shoes and can sell at the value that these collector items. Because every female shoe is the same. There is no value around it. If i wanna do a shoe they’ll just put my name on it, make it pink and i would never fucking wear that a day in my life but that’s what they think women want and we’re going to continue to silcence that female “sneaker head”
TRACK: While she explains the faults with the way women are treated in the industry, she believes that change isn’t impossible.
IMANI: Do you think it could change?
LAUREN: I think it could change, I think it is changing. I think what kind of like hurts us is that there are influencers and you see these office people who don’t live life in real life, they live their life through instagram. So they see an influencer who maybe about fashion or beauty and they say oh a million girls follow her so she must gotta know what’s up with sneakers. When its like no it’s probably the girl who has a thousand followers, she probably skates and she’s probably not the most attractive because you know when it comes to women, sex has to sell. So because its not sexy, we don’t choose her. We are picking women to be in front of things but not the right women not one of this comfortable imagine of whatever it means to be a woman.
IMANI: you feel like women like Vashti like Aleali Mae and Olivia Kim, they are just these names… They want to be like oh here is a woman she’s popular she doesn’t really know about shoes but she seems cool
LAUREN: Yeah like Aleali i’m sure she knows about shoes, she’s with it but then it’s just like Olivia Kim… no one even really knows who Olivia Kim is. But like everyone is like fuck it . Oh they made a Jordan 4 and it’s close to the black cats and its a girl and i’m going to support it. These shoes mean something to people. People would sit outside and wait for a shoe for six hours and not want to flip it for $600. That’s the shift in cultures. But that’s not sustainable. That consumer will eventually get bored and move on to something else where you have these real die hard fans of quality and storytelling and then they won’t want it either and the who thing dies.
TRACK: For Lauren is really just boils down to something simple.
ACT: If you just make good product by good people with good stories, that last forever. That is why the air force has lasted so long. That is why kids are still buying Jordans but the kids that are buying Jordans weren’t even alive when he was actually playing. So those are the real stories and I think if we just stick to the basics then we’ll be able to make progress from all points.
OUTRO: While Lauren might not continue with a career in sneaker retail which she has been doing for 14 years, she cannot imagine her life not involving sneakers. She hopes that one day they realize that women who have a love and passion for them just want the same ones they release for men in their sizes and more quantity of them so they don’t have to pay $1000 for a $120 shoe. Thank you for listening to Sneaker Shawties where female sneaker enthusiast tell their stories and opinions. Tune in to episode two where Nia Spencer, a college student who has her own Nike air max 95 tells us hers ! This is your host Imani Seda.