Anyone having been around in New Brighton long enough will have either seen or heard him enclosed in a hoodie on a footpath with his tattered backpack trying to roll a cigarette.
Mostly likely ‘under the influence’.
Many will know “Speedie” as he has earned a reputation as a troublesome druggie and there are plenty of people who would gladly see the back of him, but few will know him as “Garry”.
He is a resident and a bit of Jeckyll & Hyde, mostly visible as the less welcome “Speedie” and downright danger to himself, currently on a crutch having fallen down the stairs at a local business.
Behind every Speedie there is usually a Garry, the name from birth, and you can see outbreaks of normality in his chaotic life getting him through each day.
Garry is a member of the New Brighton Residents Assn but would not be aware, as he has no computer, no current phone and forget anything requiring reading or writing like mail.
Information comes from the television when able to watch and comprehend or being updated by neighbours.
He is one of many on the fringes of ‘normal’ functioning society as is the case anywhere one looks, but behind every face there is a story.
House ownership would have been out of reach except for the fact he is a ratepayer and in possession of a house courtesy of a pay-out for significant abuse in his early teens within St John of God Maryland’s School in the 1970s.
Well documented by the many victims since and guided by Males Survivors of Sexual Abuse Chair Ken Clearwater through an almost non-existent complaints process.
Garry has been a self-confessed abuser since age 13 and for a 51-year-old, this adds up to 38 continuous years, where the pre-adolescent dope smoking evolved into needles and anything able to be induced into a needle from heroin to Ritalin and experimentation with other drugs including cocaine.
Very few heavy drug addicts have significant longevity but to his credit he knocked most of the heavier substances off his list and today is left with glue and alcohol.
It would take too long to summarise the background leading to this current lifestyle suffice to say his dad committed suicide at 32, and his mother (died about 6 years ago) could not cope, and he was homeless by age 14.
There were little bits of stability like the time he joined the territorial army and lasted long enough (couple of weeks) for his commander to discover he was solvent sniffing.
Before that he attended Aranui High and even played football for a local team, but by and large the streets remained his home and education.
Garry has two children from different relationships but does not see a lot of either though one lives in Australia, although not estranged from either, prefers them to see the best side of him and contact is spasmodic.
Moving into his ownership house after so many years sleeping in places like the old Barbadoes St cemetery, was foreign to Garry and for the first few weeks he slept on the floor.
As for how anything worked like the oven and microwave was completely foreign, and initially he lived as he would have in an abandoned building.
The big love of his life was his black dog named “Dopey”. This canine was a big part of Garry’s life and you very rarely saw them apart.
Dopey never complained and would patiently wait close by as Garry meandered through a challenging day yet was never judgemental about the fact his owner spent much of his time on another planet.
There is a burial site under a door and shrine on Garry’s property to his faithful companion, and an ever-present sadness around having Dopey put down (cancer),
New Brighton though has a strong local social conscience and there are those very good people recognising the value of engagement and bringing new experiences into his daily routine
Various local groups have invited him to participate in activities and rather than lecture him about the perils of drugs, provide other outlets.
Garry does pottery at St Faiths on some Wednesdays and has a little garden from plants given to him by Cathy from the Community gardens.
Plays touch rugby for the Brighton Ball Breakers (alongside me and others) on Sunday mornings, aware the rules around some of these engagements is not turning up “trolllied” (off his face), otherwise it is no-go.
His love of participating in a touch team for instance means a lot and Garry will turn up relatively coherent and now rarely misses a game.
Garry’s daily life will continue to be punctuated by booze and Bostik but he is increasingly embracing new challenges and is looking forward to joining the new fitness gym due to open in the old Westpac Savings bank building in the mall.
The owners invited him to join when the interior fit-out is completed, and Garry gets a coffee and biscuit and smile at the Grace Vineyard Beach Campus Church.
This post of Garry aka Speedie provides a back history to one person and the pathway he took early in life, largely determined the nature of the subsequent journey.
He accepts his addiction and behaviour bring consequences and has been working on his ‘clean days’ each week, but no illusions around hopes of ever being free of drug and alcohol addiction.
Not in need of money or sympathy, Garry wants to participate in the New Brighton community the best way he can.