Sunday, June 13, 2004

The Story of Smokin Stan

Stan Strugnell is this old guy I see around my neighborhood sometimes. He doesn't live there, but I see him hanging outside London Drugs, or sometimes outside Eddies Groceries, down the block from my place. Some guys call him Smokin Stan. Maybe it because of his permenently yellow fingers, or it could be the big hash pipe he whips out when the cops aren't around. The other day, he was outside K-Net, the computer store and Internet Cafe where I'm writing this.

Anyway, the reason I'm talking about his is that I saw him recently, and decided to say something about him. He's had this crazy bad, addicted life, and over the last couple of years, he has slowly gotten cleaner and healthier, stronger in many ways.

He must be pretty old like maybe 45, he told me that he was addicted to heroin when he was 14. He said his Mom gave him the nickname "scrags". I don't know what that means, but he laughs about it like it's a private joke between him and his dead mom. He told me he has been homeless sometimes, and even did time in San Quentin. I think that's in Califonia.

When I first met Stan a couple of years ago, he was out front of London Drugs holding the door open for people and trying to sell his tattoo drawings. He had a full set of paints on him - like a full artist's kit, and he'd sit outside for hours drawing and painting as he said hi to people. Some people thought he was just some old bum, but even though he was sometimes wrecked, or sick and didn't look too great, he had a sense of humour and people would talk to him like a regular person and say hello.

He told me that he had cancer and pointed down to his groin. It was harsh and hurt like hell. He also said he was HIV positive. Holy shit. I couldn't believe he could live with that, and would still go out there every week anyway.

A year ago, he told me he was on a methidone program to get off heroin. He said he thought it was working, but it was fucking hard. Every day he struggled with it.

It's inspiring how he has survived and even gotten better from being so sick.


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