Tag: storytelling

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An Unexpected Request

About a month ago, I observed something odd while waiting in line at the pharmacy. The gentlemen standing at the counter, who looked worse for wear, had come to pick up a prescription. But he met an obstacle. The druggist asked for identification, which the customer didn’t have and he was confused why any would be needed. “It’s a controlled substance”,  the pharmacist explained. But in a sad and naively poignant regard, the gent didn’t understand. The medicine had been prescribed for him, but he didn’t possess any kind of identity card. Please, could he have his medicine?

Unkempt, and likely a recovering addict who belonged to San Diego’s ever-growing homeless population, the guy was plaintive rather than abusive—as someone else might have been. “Come back when you have ID”, the druggist informed. The fellow stepped back from the window and approached me, waiting next in line: “Do you have ID I can borrow?”

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Brother and Sister

Uncle Arnie passed away last night, Eastern Daylight Time, in Northern Maine. He was 74. Three years ago today, we lost Mom, his sister. Their bond tightened as they aged, and I wonder about the strange synchronicity of one sibling departing on August 4 and the other on the 5th.

My strongest personal memory of Uncle Arnie is him yelling at me and my being perplexed by his reaction. He was known to be cool-headed. I was as old as 12 and about to cross the street in front of my grandparent’s house to the neighbor’s place when he screamed “Joey!” with supreme urgency that caused me to stop and turn towards him just as a car topped the hill and roared past. Uncle Arnie almost certainly saved my life that summer’s day. He gave me one hell of a scolding and sent me inside.

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The Incident at Texas and University

Last night, as I pulled into Pizza Hut’s parking lot, a lady driving a SUV blocked my way. While plenty of spaces were available, she chose to wait for one right in front of the store. There, a most ramshackle man lean-lifted a walker—one without wheels—slowly advancing between the painted lines towards the sidewalk. He was so weather-worn and browned from the San Diego sun, his race wasn’t identifiable. There are people who panhandle and pretend to be homeless, but not this gent. He was beaten down and bent over,  pushing snail-like forward. He genuinely lived on the streets.

Eventually, he cleared past, and the lady parked, allowing me passage to do likewise. Because of the SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome Coronavirus 2)—also known as COVID-19pandemic, the Hut only allows one customer to enter; others wait outside. By the time I advanced on the door, the chonky SUV driver had gone inside and a petite younger woman stood before me. While waiting, I observed two unexpected happenings.

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Someone Tried to Steal Bruce

As my wife and I walked along Monroe today, a voice called from behind: “Hey, there’s something I have to tell you about Bruce“—not an exact quote but the gist is right. She approached, with her dog leashed and the tabby trotting behind. He was profiled for my “Cats of University Heights” series in May 2017.

Three days ago, someone came pounding frantically on her door, agitated: “Something happened to Bruce”. The tiger tabby likes to hang out and watch the kids at a nearby daycare, and he had stretched out on the sidewalk waiting for them to come outdoors to play. They didn’t, as the place is temporarily closed—along with most other businesses in the city because of state and county orders that everyone should “stay at home” as a means of slowing spread of SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome Coronavirus 2), better known as COVID-19.

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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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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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Paula

Funny, the people whom you meet unexpectedly and the ways that they surprise you. As my wife and I walked up Maryland Street towards Monroe Ave., here in University Heights, an elderly woman raked leaves off the sidewalk. We stopped, started talking, and she graciously shared some of her life story.

Paula moved to San Diego in 1958 but to University Heights just a few months ago. She lives with a 90 year-old man who moved into the house about 60 years ago.

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Missing Kuma

Five years ago, Jan. 15, 2012—also a Sunday—our Maine Coon, Kuma, glanced up at me quizzicality before shimmying under the back gate and into oblivion. We never met eyes again. I still feel guilty about his loss. The cat and I had developed a bond of trust, which I betrayed by letting him out at 6 a.m, into darkness—alone. Typically, he left the apartment an hour later with me as see-him-off, down-the-alley companion. Sixteen days later, city workers found his collar in a nearby canyon, leading us to believe that a coyote got our bear, which is Kuma’s meaning in Japanese.

The 18-month-old Maine Coon and I were constant companions in our apartment building’s courtyard, where I often wrote news stories on my laptop. I have fond memories of Kuma coming and going, slipping under the back gate. Even now, I still look for him when walking up from the alley or along the street when returning home. I no longer work outdoors, because it unsettles the other cats, Cali and Neko, which want to come out, too.