Published on June 12, 2014
Chris Nettleton cleaned up, with a job and looking forward in May, before pneumonia struck and laid him up in hospital for nearly two weeks. With no way to work during his recovery, he is now back busking, despite his doctor's disapproval.
Published on March 26, 2014
FILE PHOTO - Chris Nettleton was been busking daily at the corner of University Avenue and Kent Street in Charlottetown all winter. In March he claimed that two drunk men smashed his guitar, kicked him in the face, took his money and left.
Nigel Armstrong - The Guardian
Chris Nettleton says he wants to apologize for his armed robbery in 2012, but that has been strangely difficult to do.
Charlottetown busker Chris Nettleton has a job, some new guitars and buckets more trouble on his plate as he struggles to turn his life around.
Nettleton was in the news in March after two men beat him up, stole his money and smashed his guitar.
That caused an outpouring of help for the man who plays some serious riffs on the corner of University Avenue and Kent Street.
With donated guitars and a crowd-sourced fund in his honour, Nettleton was turning his life around.
People helped him get settled with a P.E.I. health card, a place to live and most importantly, a job.
It was physical labour but Nettleton dove in with vigour, until one day recently, he just couldn't.
Then his name appeared on a list of most wanted issued by Charlottetown police.
Nettleton tells the Guardian he knows that Islanders either hate him, or helped him and his new message is that the help is deeply, profoundly appreciated, and all is not lost.
The trouble is, he's back busking and not working. He can't.
"I was in the hospital for a couple of weeks because of almost dying from pneumonia!" he wrote in an email to The Guardian this week. "I am unable to work for four weeks as per doctors orders but I still have my place and job, but have no money of any kind till I get working.
"(Doctors) said I had it (pneumonia) for a long time," said Nettleton. "I got sick because of the time on the streets (busking), being exposed all winter. They were amazed at how long I fought it for.
"I was told that I almost drowned in the fluid in my lungs and have to be very careful that I shouldn't busk but I don't have a choice,"
He continues to have people lining up to either help him, or hate him.
Those that hate him are friends, family and supporters of a young clerk at a store that Nettleton robbed in October 2012. She still hasn't received a letter of apology.
Those that are helping are drawn into the drama of Nettleton's life.
Nettleton has been living a drug-addicted, drifters life across Canada for years, making his way to P.E.I. from Halifax in 2012.
Years ago he had been a semi-professional touring musician performing opening acts for David User, the band 54-40 and for Brian Byrne of I Mother Earth. Then addictions took hold.
"Unfortunately it ended in disaster, both for myself and the young lady working," he said of his 2012 robbery in Charlottetown.
Nettleton said he wrote a letter of apology while in jail but was advised to let his lawyer handle it's delivery. That never happened, said Nettleton.
He called his actions heinous, says he is still working getting the apology to the victim, and that his actions will haunt him forever.
After the Guardian published the news story of his smashed face and smashed guitar this past March, support started arriving.
People gave him guitars and told him to do what he needed. Some he sold, some he gave away,
He received a spectacular guitar, a Seagull acoustic electric that he figures was worth around $700. He found the owner and returned it.
Agents for Ron Sexsmith and Brian Byrne also attempted to get in touch with Nettleton to give him a guitar, but he didn't pursue that because the Island community was already getting him on track, he said.
"I don't know if it was God putting his finger on my heart, because I can't say I'm fully there yet, but out of nowhere, I just broke down," said Nettleton of one day in church. "That kind of opened the door for me because I felt something there."
Being in a church community now helps him enjoy the company of "good, clean, safe people," he said. From that church community came a job.
Jodi Morrissey LeBlanc ran a successful crowd-funding program for Nettleton on GoFundMe.com titled "Help Chris get his sound back".
"She took me up to Long & McQuade and bought me a beautiful Fender acoustic electric guitar with all the bells and whistles and a case," he said.
He later learned that people where on social media giving her grief for the help she offered.
"My life doesn't need to be public," said Nettleton last month. "The main reason I'm doing this interview is for the people that stepped up and helped me out, went out of their way to dig me out of the muck I was in.
"I want all these people to know that their efforts are not in vain," he said. "I have taken every bit, and I have turned it into a productive, safe, drug-free, solid life.
"I have a place to live. I have a job. I have a P.E.I. health card.
"I am starting to relax a little bit, kind of enjoy life," he said while talking to The Guardian in May.
On a ride into town he noticed the white blooms of a magnolia tree.
"Four months ago I wouldn't have noticed that because my mind was so cluttered with everything else," said Nettleton. "Now I'm taking the time to notice those things."