Category: Storytelling

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Lupe’s Last Day

This afternoon, a real estate agent trapped Lupe, who was featured—along with companion Laramie—in my “Cats of University Heights” series (December 2017). Two weeks ago today, the animals’ owner left the pair behind, when he moved out of state. The gent rented the property that the three shared, along with two dogs, for 17 years. To her credit, the agent selling the place stepped up to assure the outdoor kitties would find a new home. (The guy also left behind goldfish, which a fourth grade school teacher adopted for her class.)

My feelings are deeply mixed about trapping and removing Laramie and Lupe. While walking down Alabama Street this morning, I spoke with neighbors worried about the abandons. One asked about adopting them. Another and I discussed the realistic possibility about caring for the pair as community cats—fed and kept in familiar territory. That would be my preference, although it is likely unrealistic. In my conversations with the realtor, who has been in contact with rescue groups, the animals’ future is tenuous if deemed to be unadoptable. They might not be put down, so to speak, but they could be put away in a feral colony. Neither belongs there, and I don’t believe Lupe would fare well.

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Boatload of Trouble

Since starting the “Cats in University Heights” series in October 2016, no one has objected to my photographing their animals—until today. In fact, some neighbors have asked me to include their pets. The story: As I approached the multi-family dwelling where Blue and Valentine—both nicknames—reside, a skinny and frisky shorthair walked down the sidewalk alongside a nearby open-fenced yard. As I approached, the putty-tat retreated to the grass. From there, another feline moved my way, and I started clicking the shutter of Fujifilm GFX 50R, with attached Fujinon GF63mmF2.8 R WR lens.

“Why are you taking pictures of my cats?” a woman calmly, but firmly, asked from behind a home’s security door. She didn’t step out onto the porch, and I couldn’t see her even while looking straight on from the sidewalk. I explained about my photographic project that started two-and-a-half years ago. My demeanour was friendly then, and when asking the name of the kitty whose portraits I had just taken. Gaping silence followed. “It’s okay, you don’t have to tell me”, I interjected, trying to diffuse any tension. 

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The Barber of Seville

The Fujifilm GFX 50R is meant to replace Leica M10, with which I parted ways four months ago. The camera arrived yesterday afternoon, and I unboxed it last night—in disbelief. The thing is ginormous! Perhaps had I read PetaPixel story “How the Fujifilm GFX 50R Compares in Size to Popular Cameras“, my choice would have been different. The medium format shooter appealed for image quality, rangefinder-styling, and straightforward ergonomics—and all three attributes satisfy straight out of the box. I am pleased. But I don’t know about the size, though. I chose the GF63mmF2.8 R WR as my one—and so far only—lens for the GFX 50R. Applying the crop factor, the Fujinon glass is about 50mm, full-frame equivalent.

This morning, I grabbed the 50R, which is surprisingly comfortable to handle (rather than being cumbersome, as the bulk might suggest), for a photo walk. I arrived at Park Blvd and Monroe Avenue, in San Diego’s University Heights neighborhood, just as my barber opened shop. Explaining about the new camera, I asked to take his portrait, and he kindly obliged. 

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The Joy Ride

Classify this story in the category of surprising Sunday dramas. Painters have been working on our apartment building and parking their lift truck along the street. Around 11:45 a.m. PST, I saw some stranger climb onto the lift and start it up. While he wore yellow utility belts that gave the aura of authority, his presence was suspicious, because: Neither he nor his buddy was one of the three painters; his companion drove a nondescript white utility truck, while the painters’ vehicle is branded and red; and he initially fumbled around like someone unfamiliar with the controls.

When the dude unparked the lift, I wondered: Is he stealing it? Off he drove down the street, with his companion following behind in the white truck. This is my neighborhood, it’s a sleepy Sunday, and I am more curious than a cat. I had to follow, first on foot and then by car. The pair drove about 1.8 km (1.1 miles) through University Heights to Rhode Island Ave., which is nearby an area called The Point and overlooks a canyon leading into commercial area Mission Valley below. 

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Where Did My Leica M10 Go?

I never expected to part with Leica M10 six months after acquiring it. But such was the circumstance on Oct. 5, 2018. So shocking the suddenness, I waited three months to explain. The camera was my dream shooter—a magnificent manual rangefinder that fit my personality. Problem: Too often I couldn’t focus fast enough, or with appropriate precision. Perhaps another six months of use and practice would have made perfect.

But my wife and I were looking at possibly moving from San Diego to Julian, Calif. So serious our intention that we had put down an offer on a house, where we went for formal inspection that fine Fall Friday. Thinking about living in the mountains in nature, I couldn’t imagine using the M10. For the wild woods, autofocus and telephoto lens would be better. So I had posted the camera for sale, with intention of replacing it with a Fujifilm mirrorless. 

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Sanctuary No More

I started more closely watching what the Wilcox clan calls the Butterfly House—a lush Monarch (and other creature) refuge along Maryland Ave., going down the hill from Meade. A major culling of plumage made me wonder if the residents might be leaving. Yep. Last week, I passed by as a moving truck was loaded. Three days ago, I spoke with one of the tenants. They’re Hawaii-bound, and the future of the mini-wildlife habitat is uncertain. Much depends on whomever resides there next. The longstanding caretakers, who contributed much to the neighborhood by way of their overly-committed gardening, bought a house and acre of land on the Big Island. Their tending will be missed by many.

For a small sense of what will likely vanish, please click through to the “Cats of University Heights” profile of Wink, laying low in the middle of the magnificent front yard. Incidentally, two other felines—Flower and Skull—were previously profiled in the adjacent properties on either side of the Butterfly House. 

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Saying Goodbye to a Classic Car

On the morning of April 15, 2018, a (now former) friend of my daughter rang my cell in frantic state. The (then) twenty-three old had borrowed her car, while his vehicle was in the shop. The young man claimed that someone sideswiped Molly’s convertible when parked and he was away meeting a client. I learned that dents and scrapes spanned front to rear panels and the door between them, amid his gasping and repeated promises about paying for repairs. He never did.

The car is gone now; the why and how is an oddly twisted tale that I tell after depositing the insurance check. That act closed the story’s last chapter. 

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James

For as long as we have been in San Diego’s University Heights neighborhood—11 years next week—a homeless man lived near the top of Texas Street before it passes the Valero gas station at Madison. James was a fixture, seen day or night, every day, regardless of weather. If absent from his chair for any length of time, there would be chatter across social networks—in recent years NextDoor—asking where he was. Sickness or even police harassment were the more likely reasons for his absences.

Near the end of September, James vanished again, raising roarous concerns on NextDoor, until someone stated—and later was confirmed—that this homeless man had passed away. I didn’t know James, but some of my neighbors engaged him. “Friendly” and “kind” are two words used to describe him among many NextDoor posts and comments. I just took James for granted. He was as much a part of the scenery as the palm trees. As I would drive up Texas, or walk across the Adams Ave. bridge, he was an expected sight—and refreshing one, too. Something about his presence, and neighbors embracing his homelessness, was a triumph of humanity and dignity. 

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Luci Lost and Found

Some stories can’t be left behind, even if their telling is delayed. That is the case with Luci, who was featured in my “Cats of University Heights” series about three months ago. She disappeared on June 1, 2018. The following afternoon I saw on the NextDoor social network posting “Did anyone lose an elderly Tortise Shell cat?”, from about three hours earlier.

Verbatim: “I saw her Friday morning, June 1, (yesterday) walking very slowly on Florida street between Meade and Mission. She was heading north and looked disoriented and lost. Definitely an elderly kitty, based on how slowly she was moving. I was in the car and late to work, so could not stop to help her. Please is she someone’s lost kitty?” I immediately thought of Luci, with some frustration. Had the women posted 24 hours earlier, I could have searched for cat. 

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A Memory for Mom

Perhaps because my parents were perennial renters, our family moved residences every few years during my wayward youth. Undoubtedly, the house on Vesta Drive across from Hilltop School is most memorable place. I fondly recall walking out the front door, across the street, sneaking through a neighbor’s yard, and onto the elementary school’s sports field to classes.

During summer evenings, several adults would fly gas-powered model airplanes, using Hilltop’s driveway to take-off and land. Watching them soar was the coolest thing for a fourth-grader. Drones are their modern-day equivalent and way more prevalent.