Benny Barrett is Homeless(ish)

Categories: News

Benny6_gaines.jpg
Photo by Drew Gaines
Benny Barrett records stories of the homeless on an iPhone he received as a Christmas present.
For the past three and a half years, Benny Barrett taught Latin at a Catholic high school in Waco. Now he's living on the streets and in homeless shelters in downtown Dallas. Except, that is, when he needs a break.

"My job was killing me," Barrett says, sitting at a table in Main Street Garden Park on a recent afternoon. Barrett is 28, but with rectangular glasses framing a boyish face, he could pass for one of his old students. He pushes aside a book to tell his odd story.

He felt overwhelmed and disinterested at his job, he says, designing curriculum, teaching and grading and feeling all the while rather do something else. Half of his salary went to his student loans from studying at Baylor University, where he majored in Great Texts, "books written by dead white dudes," he says. He could hardly keep himself afloat. So he quit and moved back to Dallas, his hometown.

That's when he decided to live out the "what ifs," the ones that sink into the darkest of daydreams. His parents live in East Dallas -- but what if they didn't? What if he had no one to support him? He didn't want to burden his parents anyway. So with no money and no benefits, he moved to the streets on May 23.

What's ensued has been a sort of experiment with no formal hypothesis and no strict variables. He's gathering experiences and stories and video-blogging it all -- using an iPhone his parents bought him for Christmas. He uses a pseudonym, Arthur B. Black, in the videos. A lot of street people have fake names, he says; one of them told him he should too, so he complied. Each dispatch begins, "Arthur B. Black here," and ends with him signing off like an old-time radio host.

In the inaugural days of sort-of street life, he kept things light. He chatted with other homeless people in the downtown parks, posting a video of man named Chaos who can play guitar well enough to keep himself fed and praises the freedom of street life. Other videos show Barrett with Jimmy, who's happy to comply with anything his new companion suggests. And there's Andrew, their third musketeer for a short time, a clean-cut young man whose blank expression seems to indicate a man numbed by life's troubles.

Barrett says his goal is to tell the stories of those living on the streets. At first those stories came in the form of vignettes that were random and quirky. It all looked too fun for a reality that's anything but. He's settled in now, though, and the mood has turned more honest and raw.

In one video, Barrett and Jimmy sit on a bench sipping beers while Jimmy shares his story with the frankness of someone with nothing to lose. Jimmy was hit by a bus in Colorado and received a $250,000 settlement that only fueled his additions to crack and alcohol. "Smoked it and drank it up," he tells Barrett. He and the woman he had recently made his wife blew the money in less than six weeks.

That was a little too heavy for Barrett, who proved, if nothing else, that homelessness isn't some open-air version of funemployment. Jimmy's story, combined with his own self-imposed reality, recently forced him to take a break. He crashed at his parents' house two nights, a comfortable reminder that his story is different than the others he aims to tell. But after the brief breather, he's back to his parallel universe on the streets.

An earlier version of this post misspelled Barrett's name.

My Voice Nation Help
13 comments
bbb11
bbb11

You people could try asking his family. or just fuck off. either way.

jcougars28
jcougars28

Hmmm... Can't believe I'm just now reading this.... I really don't know what to say, Mr. Barrett. Yeah, your "high school students" are pretty ticked off, but we still miss you SO much & wish you could've said goodbye. Stop by & give us a visit?

-Latin 3 Student

Theatregirl152
Theatregirl152

Meanwhile, the students of his were left with no explanations, basically no curriculum the second semester of school, and a waste of class. Personally, I felt as if he abandoned all the students and never even told us goodbye or anything. Then we see these videos? Thanks for two years of Latin, actually make that a year and a half.

Titicut
Titicut

You are lying about quitting your job, Benny. Why don't you tell people what really happened? You have made such a spectacle of yourself that the truth is bound to come out.  Go to your mother and father and get help before you get killed by some homeless whack job. You don't have to live like this. 

Titicut
Titicut

Did you really quit your job? What happened with the campus police that day? Tell the truth, Benny. Come out from behind your mask. Pretending to be a "street artist" is not an excuse for lying. 

Bmarvel
Bmarvel

Quo usque tandem abutere, BennyB, patientia nostra?

Benny Barrett
Benny Barrett

Um , once again : Arthur B. Black has been living on the streets --until today ( mtblack.com ) .  Benny Barrett the fellow that spends most of his time on the streets so that he can play Arthur B Black .  The character Arthur B. Black's history is built upon the history of Benny B. Barrett ; neither Benny nor Arthur ever lie because of a very frightening verse toward the back of his Bible .  Benny Barrett created Arthur B. Black so that he could make some provocative political statements in the near future on his blog book , mtblack.com .  He is a street artist .  Benny would have said "chill" earlier , but was amazed by all the energy out there .  Pax Christi .

Benny Barrett
Benny Barrett

I kept a journal while I was a student at Baylor University and while I taught high school for 3 and a half years ; I do not recall ever having met a Titicut .

Benny Barrett
Benny Barrett

I don't believe Jesus ever fucked Christ , although they were friends .

Benny Barrett
Benny Barrett

Not one thing in the story was untrue .  Bring in the journalists :)

Titicut
Titicut

He had some kind of very serious mental breakdown. It's too bad that the Observer didn't do more homework. If the journalist had come to Waco and asked around, they would have found out there is a lot more to the story than Benny told her. Personally I was shocked when I first read this story to see that the reporter didn't ask him if there wasn't something weird and irresponsible about quitting his job as a high school teacher in the middle of a school year. That should have been a clue that something was wrong with Benny's story. He is making Reicher look bad and Baylor look bad by telling lies and half truths. Benny needs to be medicated and/or institutionalized, not indulged or treated like some kind of Beat hero. 

Now Trending

Dallas Concert Tickets

From the Vault

 

General

Loading...