Three lives cross on Mill Ave
Mill Avenue on a weekend night is often scattered with Patrón-thirsty students, eager to get into the club and dance to Lady Gaga’s latest single. But for some, the historic Tempe street makes for a stage, a gallery and even a home.
The Mill Avenue and Third Street stop of the Metro Light Rail takes passengers into the lives of street performer Paul Miles, artist Bruce Cormier and drifter Adam Rule.
Detroit native Paul Miles, who is found strumming the strings of his well-used guitar on a Friday night, has been making music since the ‘70s.
“I call my music the peoples’ music,” Miles said. “People have vibrations just like songs.”
These vibrations, some good and some bad, tell stories ranging from the excitement of love to sorrow, Miles said.
The people who walk Mill Avenue are full of excitement and spontaneity, which Miles says gives him inspiration for his music.
“I play on the street so I keep on the rhythm of what’s going on,” Miles said.
He has lifted enough ideas from crowded streets to create 10 albums, one of which includes a song titled “Mill Avenue.”
Miles has filled the ears of many street-goers with his music, and regularly visits streets such as 5th Avenue in San Diego and La Jolla Boulevard in La Jolla, Calif. But he said he always comes home to Arizona because he loves the weather.
Another artist who includes Mill Avenue in his artistic endeavors is Bruce Cormier, who has traveled across the country and stumbled into the heart of Tempe, where he has sold his spray-paint art on the corner for a decade.
“I always liked Arizona,” Cormier said. “The weather here is very good for this type of art.”
Cormier creates most of his art outdoors, and the warm, dry and sunny climate combined with the lack of wind make perfect conditions for spray-paint art, he said.
He uses spray paint on panels to create colorful scenes of all sorts, including planets and pyramids.
The artist said his inspiration comes mainly from life experience, and like Miles, the reason he returns to Mill Avenue is because of the people who walk it.
“I’m out here to make a living, and this is where there is a lot of people,” he said. “Mill Avenue is really where I’ve done it mostly my whole life.”
Cormier said being a creature of habit, Mill Avenue is comfortable to him now, and he has regular patrons who support his art.
“People know me here too,” he said. “I have some people who have their whole apartment or house filled with my art. People know where to find me.”
Miles and Cormier might find comfort in the rousing atmosphere of Mill Avenue on a Friday or Saturday night, but for some the hard brick sidewalk is home.
Adam Rule, originally from the golden coast of California, has been living and sleeping on the streets for a decade.
“Mostly I just drink a lot, and smoke a lot of pot,” he said. “It’s pretty much it. It’s not real complicated.”
From a four-bedroom house 10 years ago, Rule has come to stand, homeless, on one of the four corners of the Mill Avenue and University Drive intersection.
Rule said that becoming a man living on the streets was “quite by accident.”
“Somebody lied to me,” he said. “He said, ‘Let’s come stay with my friends.’ They were homeless. I didn’t know that.”
Rule has been drifting Mill Avenue for the past four months, he said, and he isn’t minding the winter.
“You can always put more clothing on in the winter time,” he said. “But in the summer time, when you run out of clothes, you can’t take them off to cool off.”
He sleeps wherever he can, and despite the police often kicking him off the sidewalk and Tempe being a hard place to collect donations, he doesn’t mind it.
“Tempe is actually quite difficult,” he said. “A lot of college kids don’t have much money.”
Rule, who receives a $600 disability check from the government each month, said he can afford a storage unit and even an apartment, but doesn’t desire that.
Even if he could go back 10 years in time, he said, he wouldn’t change a thing.
“It’s not all that bad. It’s a little rough. A little bit uncomfortable,” he said. “But the thing is the freedom.”
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