Russel is a waiter at Briarpatch Restaurant and Ice Cream Parlor, in Winter Park, FL. Guess where I had lunch that day. It was quiet, and Russell was not rushed.
Denise was sitting at an outside table, checking her phone for messages, in St Petersburg. She looked so relaxed and comfortable that I figured I might as well disturb her. She was a bit surprised and suspicious, until she saw my Photostream on my phone. Then she was on board.
She works for the fraud division of American Express, in a nearby office. The job is challenging and she loves her co-workers, but it is busy and slightly stressful. So every day Denise tries to get a break outside, for at least 10 minutes, that's how long it takes to make the day's worth of vitamin D.
She loved this image and immediately wanted a copy. She gave me this long, convoluted e-mail address that included the word 'greyhound.” Si I asked what that was all about. Denise now lives in an apartment, and regrettably cannot have a dog. But in the past, she has adopted greyhounds following their racing career. Greyhounds are finished racing at five years old, and live to an average of twelve. Denise says that they are absolutely loveable. Greyhounds are the second fastest mammals, only the cheetah is faster.
She wanted this picture soon, for her boyfriend. Hence, this image and write-up broke into the head of the queue.
I traversed Park Ave. In Winter park, FL, several times. Tish was always sitting on the sidewalk in exactly the same place. There was a shoe shine booth close by, but I could not detect a relationship. Finally, I couldn't control myself, and introduced myself. She was shy and quiet, but was willing to be photographed.
Tish was born in Orlando, but graduated from high school in martin County, on the Florida Atlantic coast. She is looking for work, but apparently wasn't looking too hard that day. Her goal is to work in security as a guard. But this requires a Security License which requires a course and exam. I asked how long the course was. The answer, “Three days.” She is waiting for a chance to take it.
Justin is originally from Connecticut (with that state, I'm always thankful for spell checker). But he found enlightenment and moved south, getting a degree in electrical engineering from Georgia Tech. Justin has lived all over, including an island six miles off the Maine coast.
Currently he is working for Mote Marine Lab, studying Red Tide. I said that Red Tide should ensure his employment. Justin replied, “You'll always have a job if the taxpayers want it.” That should raise a few eyebrows.
I have had poor luck getting permission for portraits from one demographic, the businessman/professional dressed in a suit and tie. I suspect that when someone dons this attire, he/she is also assuming a role, and that role does not include interacting with (non-paying) strangers. When I visited Winter park, FL, almost immediately such a man headed my way. When I approached him, I was pleasantly surprised that he seemed relaxed, interested, and a bit amused by the project.
While the camera was raised, I asked if he was from Winter Park. No, Paul is from Lake Nona (part of Orlando) and he was here to meet friends at a restaurant. I said boy, it must be a fancy restaurant to have to get dressed like that. He said, “Oh no, I'm just getting off of work.” Oh, what do you do?” “I work at the University of Central Florida College of Business Administration. I'm the Dean.” Whoa, a home run! This site is him, all right: http://www.bus.ucf.edu/faculty/?page=1850 I said that the university was HUGE. Paul said that the College of Business Administration had over 8,000 undergraduate students, the same as all undergraduates at the University of Notre Dame.
The 100 Strangers project intrigued him. “I am constantly looking for ways to challenge students to get out of their comfort zone.” Yep, this can do that, all right. Paul took my card and said that he'd check out my website.
As I was interested in the attire, I varied from my usual close crop format. I turned the camera vertical to make sure I got the tie.
I was with another photographer as Jacqueline and James walked by. They were happy to be included in the project. They are in Real Estate, and relocated from Savannah. Ah, Savannah. One of my favorite cities and I told them so.
James said that he also liked St. Simons Island, GA. I told him that I'd been there a couple of times, and always ate at a restaurant called Barbara Jean's. He brightened up, “Yes, I love Barbara Jean's crab cakes.” Yikes, me too! That's exactly why I go there. And there is a coincidence, my wife is Barbara Jean. She told the waitress that as a fellow Barbara Jean, she should get a Barbara Jean's tee shirt. Sure enough, she got a free tee shirt! Of course, there was a $15 handling fee.
Jacqueline and James were satisfied with the images, but were not interested in copies.
Sue was waiting for a friend in Winter Park. She lives in Oviedo, in the next county. Originally she was from Noo Yawk and I could easily hear it in her voice, even though she moved to Florida 32 years ago. She worked in the area for 20 years, and is now retired at 74.
I told her that I was in the Navy in the 1970s, and assigned to the Naval Training Center in Orlando. She said that the hospital in which I worked has long since been torn down. Our tax dollars at work.
She doesn't like any pictures of herself (where have we heard that before?) Nevertheless, Sue likes the 100 Strangers concept and took my card.
While visiting Winter Park, FL, I came across three high school students selling candy to raise money for the football team. Elijah approached me and showed a box full of large name-brand candy bars for $1 each. That seemed pretty reasonable; someone must have donated the bars so all raised funds would be profit.
I wanted to support the effort, but I had been consuming more than my share of junk food, and Insulin shots are very low on my wish list. So I gave him $3, but told him that I didn't want candy. I asked him to give a bar to the next three kids who came by and say that someone bought them a gift. He seemed a bit befuddled by this. I hope that he did it.
Elijah attends University High School, the beneficiary of the raised funds. He is a senior, and hopes to go to a junior college to major in business. And maybe, just maybe, get a football scholarship. He liked this image on the LCD and took my card.
Cornelius walked toward me wearing his Yamaka and scarf with Hebrew icons. When I approached him he flashed a huge smile and said, “Of course, of course.” Cornelius is homeless, but is grateful for everything in his life.
“I used to be homosexual. My boyfriend gave me AIDS, Hepatitis C and Herpes, but God cured me of the AIDS and Hepatitis C. Do you know why? Because in my heart I hold no hatred, only positive thoughts about everyone, including the man who gave me those diseases. God smiles on those who know no hatred. He rewarded me.” Then the Lord said, “You are now Jewish. So here I am.” His speech is punctuated by laughter and huge smiles. “The Lord gives back what you put out.”
What a great attitude.
While driving west, a woman was walking westward on the south sidewalk. She wore a cowboy-like hat pulled back in a jaunty position. I just had to try, so I drove three blocks further, parked, crossed the street and began walking toward her. I spotted a building in shade and wanted that to be the spot where we met. So I stopped until we were equidistant and began walking. When we met, I went through my spiel and she did not hesitate.
Theresa went to nearby Cardinal Mooney High School when Fruitville Road was two lanes – now it's six. She often walks downtown which surprised me, I've never seen her and she is fairly distinctive. I asked if she worked nearby. She said, “No, I can't work, I'm disabled.” I started to reply “Oh, I'm sor..” but she dismissively waved her arm and said not to worry about it. Theresa said that maybe she should try to meet strangers, she used to love to play tennis but now she can't.
I asked her to remove her glasses for the picture. She said that she wouldn't be able to see anything; I assured her that I was the one who had to see. When I showed her the camera's LCD she put her glasses on and got her nose fight to the camera. Part, if not all, of her disability is visual.