Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Who's New?

    One of the pleasures in travel for me is striking up conversations with people along the way.  These people that you meet in faraway places have no knowledge of you, no idea who this goofy person is.  You can be anyone you want to be in that moment.  Mostly I choose to be just me but I can relax into the conversation because, in all probability, I will never see this person again.  Allow me to introduce you to some of the people I met along the way when visiting in SoCal last week.

    William was a barista in a little coffee joint in downtown Los Angeles.  Matt and I had been wandering about the old downtown on a Sunday morning and Matt was looking for coffee.  We finally located a place that was open on a Sunday (remember, this is the civic center area - not a lot of work day traffic on a Sunday).  William was downright friendly - perhaps we were entertainment for him on an otherwise slow morning? When he realized we were tourists staying out in Santa Monica, he urged us to try the Metro (the underground).  He not only gave us clear directions and things to note along the way, he also slipped us a bag of cookies for "sustenance on the way home".  Yay, William!

     Let's call this man Gabriel.  Gabriel was the security guy on the Metro bus line (which we picked up when we got to the end of the underground line).  While waiting for the bus, we had been approached by a couple of guys (decked out in the Sureño blue colors) asking if we were wanted to buy a bong - only $200!  And why, I asked, did they think I would want a bong.  "You wear aviators,"  the 20ish year old man replied.  The two guys got on the bus with us and I noticed that our security guy came and stood right by where Matt and I were.  Matt engaged him in conversation after a bit and, despite the mean look, Gabriel was pleasant and friendly to us.  I was glad he was there.

    Later, on that same expedition, we needed to
change buses.  While waiting on the corner, we were approached by Farid.  He had questions about the bus which we tried to answer, letting him know right off that we really didn't know what we were doing.  While we waited together, I discovered that Farid was a 27 year old PhD student at a mid western university.  His homeland is Egypt and we had a wonderful conversation about the contemporary Egyptian culture and the values of the Muslim religion.  We continued that conversation once the bus arrived and, when we had to part ways, we exchanged emails.  Farid and I are now email pen pals!

    We met Myron on the pier in Redondo Beach.  He observed me taking photos of everything and he asked me if I would like him to take a photo of me!  Frankly?  No thanks but it didn't take much persuasion for Myron to tell me about his life.  He was born in the Ukraine, was an engineer on the nuclear sub Trident construction, had a beautiful home in Connecticut which he and his wife sold when they came out to California to be closer to their two sons.  He and his wife live in the Salvation Army Senior Residence, less than two blocks from the pier. He considers himself a lucky man.  From our conversation, I would agree.

 Mariella wouldn't smile for my camera but just a couple of minutes before dad picked her up, she had been toddling around the church, all smiles.  There were several of these little tiny girls, all dressed in white with proud family members surrounding them.  They are too young for First Communion and maybe seem too old for Baptism (but maybe not?).  Matt wondered if maybe wearing fancy white dresses to church was part of the Sunday culture among the Latino families in that area.  I don't know but it was fun to watch the children and parents together!

                                                                                                                                                                             Spike was quite the character.  We spotted him while walking to dinner one evening.  He was set up with a whole fighting ring in the little grassy strip that runs between the sidewalk and the curb.  Go, Spike!

        And then there was Porter!  I met Porter on the grass near the pier in Santa Monica.  Matt and I were just chillin' for a while when Porter and his peeps showed up.  The lovely couple who had brought him to the park were very busy with intimate attentions of their own but the man kept tossing out a ball for Porter to chase -- and he ran after it every time and returned the ball to dad - never once barking!   I kept trying to get Porter to play with me (without interrupting or intruding upon his peeps) and, finally, as we were about to leave, Porter gave me some attention.  Which meant, I could do the same back.  He was super soft and so playful.  His peeps turned out to be very friendly and I discovered that he was a poodle terrier mix.  Never thought I would ever yearn for a poodle but, let me tell you, his cousin might come to live at our house one day.

   Enough for today.  What these conversations tell me is that most people are much the same all over the world.  For the most part, we all want the same things:  a safe place to live, someone to love and someone by whom to be loved, enough financial resources to take care of yourself and your family, a little fun, and a friendly world in which to live.  I sure found SoCal to be home to lots of good people.


  1. What are "Aviators?" And what the heck were you doing in church? I'm glad you met some quirky, fun people. I would have liked to chat with the dudes selling the bong. You know, just make with the palaver...I have a medicinal interest in all things pertaining to the relief of my illness. Thanks for the details of your adventure.

  2. I forgot to mention that my favorite character was Porter.

  3. I liked Porter a lot too! Aviators refers to the style of the sunglasses I was wearing. I have one pair of sunglasses and I like them b/c they have pinkish /purple frames. Maybe aviator sunglasses are worn by people who want bongs?

  4. Oh, and I wasn't really "in" church. We were walking the historical district in old Los Angeles and there was a beautiful old Spanish/Mexican style church there.

  5. Very nice summary of interesting people.......yes, I completely agree; most people are as you describe. Although, I will share I met one creepy man in Independence, which is the little town that sits @ the base of Mt Whitney. He was apparently the owner of the sporting goods store that we parked in front of. I pointed to what I thought was Mt Whitney, and asked him if he could confirm that for me. He was completely devoid of spirit and acknowledged that in fact that was Mt Whitney. I noticed he had a tee shirt hanging in the window that said, "If you can count the number of guns you own, you don't have enough!". But those are rare people. I love that you obtained pictures of your people!

  6. This is such a fun post! I love that you met all these random people and they let you take pictures and you got their stories. I think another fundamental trait of humanity is that we want to be able to tell our stories or at least have people notice that we're alive. So your post is a gift to these folks.

  7. It's great that you met so many friendly people (and Porter!). I am in awe of people who can strike up conversations with strangers.