Making Money without Cutting My Hair: An Interview with Geno

by Caroline Griggs

What is your name?

My friends call me Geno.

What is your favorite thing about Free Food Philo?

To me it’s different. I mostly eat meat and potatoes. The food here feels exotic. It reminds me of food while I was living in Europe. The vegetables take me back to living on the islands of the Azores.

How did you come to be homeless?

I became homeless while being treated for cancer. I was diagnosed with cancer, and I came to California to be with my family, but my family abandoned me. I just finished up my radiation treatments in May and don’t know yet if it is gone.

I lost two riding buddies to lung cancer. I miss them.

I am afraid of relying on anyone anymore. I feel like I have to take care of myself.

What do you learn from being homeless?

I feel humbled. I took for granted a lot of things I had in life. The comfort of knowing where all my stuff was. Being able to leave my things out. The freedom — I took advantage of the solidity I had in society. You lose that when it all gets taken away or lost, and I started seeing all that I had.

After being homeless for a while, I feel like I can see the details of the situations, and I listen to others more. I am more mindful of what I say and what I do.

I used to be an extremely violent person, and I had drug problems.

I heard a woman speak once about her addiction. I felt like she was describing me. After she was done speaking, a weight had lifted, about half gone.

Since then, my drug life has dissipated.

What did you learn from being addicted to drugs?

When I was a drug addict, I played rock n’ roll concerts. I did heroin for 13 years. I felt a wildness, and I felt myself being taken over. I spent a lot of time waiting, not knowing what was going to happen or what my life held next. People were always telling me to get a “real job” and to cut my hair, but I made good money in rock n’ roll, so I kept doing it. I felt like I proved people wrong, and that there were other ways to make money that didn’t require me to cut my hair.

What did you love about playing music?

Music was an outlet for me to express myself. It was a big part of my identity. It was a place where I could express my anger. I was still very angry, but music helped.

What do you notice about the people of Free Food?

They are people showing up and reaching out. They want to help. They are sincere in their act of good. I can feel the vibe of love and caring.

How would you describe Free Food Philo?

Free Food Philo is a place to come and munch — it’s an enlightening experience. The food is different.

It’s nice having a place to come and eat. A place where addicts are accepted is a miracle.

Final thoughts?

I want to thank you guys. This is a good thing you’re doing, don’t quit!

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