Tag: storytelling

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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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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. 

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Thanks Isn’t Enough

Thirty years ago, on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, I knuckled down for a lonely holiday with the mainly foreign students on the University of Maine campus. I had no way home but was ready to tough out the long weekend with the other students.

With a difference: Many of my companions came from countries with no Thanksgiving. They didn’t have the memory of family and feast for this particular holiday. I was a freshman, too. Some of the guys planned to hang out in the computer center and play keyboard games and read the print-out action on teletypes. I would join them.