Frank Flanagan is a freelance writer fresh from Rhode Island. This is part of a series of posts by Flanagan where he explores Orlando with a newcomer’s perspective.
By Frank Flanagan
Gregory Patrick was in Berlin when the Berlin Wall was destroyed. He was
fifteen seventeen years old. Originally from Savannah, Georgia, Gregory spent five of his later adolescent years in Germany. His father was a military man. Now in his late early forties, Gregory has experienced more over the past few decades than most probably will in a lifetime. In recent years he has found stability, but it didn’t come easy. Currently living in Orlando’s Milk District, Gregory writes books and knits teddy bears to pay the bills. Will Knit for Food, Gregory’s most recent book, chronicles his bouts with homelessness, and how he overcame them.
It was in Berlin that Gregory began writing. Assigned a personal nightly journal by one of his high-school teachers, Gregory had trouble producing entries, citing boredom as the chief symptom. Eventually Gregory began writing fictional entries in the journal, and a writer was born.
Almost immediately after returning home from Berlin in his early twenties, Gregory decided that Savannah was too small for him, and headed to South Florida. An unfortunate dance with the Key West party scene landed Gregory on hard times. Simultaneously working as a prostitute, his time in Key West was destroying his life. Although he was only there for a couple of months, looking back Gregory considers those days to be equally as miserable.
Later in life, around 2005, Gregory taught himself how to knit during a time of personal prosperity, and financial stability. Knitting was originally a relaxation device for the author – something he would do during his downtime. When his world began to unravel, knitting, a once relaxing hobby transitioned into an escape, became a distraction from the horrors of a life based on poor decisions.
Will Knit for Food, Gregory’s memoir, describes how he conquered homelessness, hopefully once and for all. Gregory has written several other books, some novels, and some memoirs. Will Knit for Food, is the first of Gregory’s work to make it to print. His other works are only available digitally for Kindle through Amazon. This time the local author wanted something tangible for his most personal and heart-wrenching work.
Gregory and I spoke briefly about personal images, and judgment. Gregory wore a dirty trucker cap, a goatee, a tight black tee shirt and jeans. He laughed, “You see me you think He should be at Nascar or something, not knitting.” Gregory wears his southern roots on his sleeve but fits no such negative stereotype. He’s more of the well-spoken, well-read, hardworking, big smile –type.
These days Gregory sits and knits, updating his blog Mad Man Knitting (Website) every couple of days. His knit teddy bears fetch for around $70 dollars online, and usually sell after just a few hours posted online. Gregory has been comfortable in the his Milk District apartment now for a couple of years, but a life of instability and running does leave Gregory cautious. For years, fear of sudden eviction persuaded him to keep his shoes on. Gregory also described a bag of essentials, the “bug-out bag,” that would be left near the door for easy access during quick getaways. Just now, after three years of security, Gregory is able to take his shoes off at home. He wears sandals around the apartment for comfort, and maybe some lingering fears.
CORRECTION: Gregory Patrick was seventeen, not fifteen, when the Berlin Wall fell and he is 42 years old at the time of this post.