Ashleigh (#908) 07-03-15

Ashleigh also works in Buddy Brew Coffee, an extension of stranger #664, but a different day. She likes the job. Buddy Brew has three locations, two in Tampa, and employes about 45 in all. She is an Army brat and constantly moved around. After five years in Sarasota, she is almost ready to hit the road again.

The Sarasota location has been open for about a year. The adjacent restaurant, Louie's Modern used to run it, but it was not successful. Buddy Brew Leased the location and is doing OK. It provides coffee for the restaurant, and Louie's Modern provides sandwiches for Buddy Brew. Between them is a breezeway with wonderful light.

Ashleigh is also enrolled at the University of South Florida, studying English. It hurts her that young people cannot write in cursive, nor look you in the eye while speaking. Internet appliances have changed all that.

While we were speaking, a guy came in for his second cup of coffee. She said that there should not be a third, he would get too jittery. So I told Ashleigh a story that was told to me many years ago – it was about martinis. “Martinis are like a young maiden's breasts, one is not enough, but three are too many.” She liked that.

Then Carlos came in. He is Ashleigh's beau, and was instrumental in her moving from California to Sarasota. He was from Hawaii. Both of them hate humidity, so they are destined to leave.


Jay (#907) 07-01-15

I have met, and photographed, several baristas from the coffee shop, Pastry Art. Now I have moved part time to Buddy Brew Coffee, and will be meeting some of their employes. Such as Jay. He worked for Buddy Brew in Tampa and was sent to Sarasota when this branch opened. Jay is the manager.

Originally he is from Dublin, Ireland, although his brogue is minimal. While living in Ireland he visited Australia and met his future wife there. She is from Brooksville, FL. The compromised on a city to live. He, Dublin, Ireland, she, Brooksville FL, and they settled in Tampa. I think she won. They were married five years ago, and have two kids, 1 and 3. Jay is glad that she can afford to stay home and raise them. In about five months, he'll be transferred back to Tampa, his work here done. Note: the humidity in Florida is greater than in Ireland, if you didn't know.

I asked for coffee after lunch and the big pot was empty. Rather than brew a new pot, he brewed a single cup for me. Jay did not just pour the water in, he gently poured as he moved the carafe around the rim so that all areas received it the same. This attention to detail separates real baristas from coffee shop employees.


Laura and Dan (#906) 06-29-15

Well, now it's really hot- and muggy. So when I visit a coffee shop, I sit inside, at first at least. While sipping Joe with the camera on the table, Laura passed by, smiled, and said, “Hope you're getting some nice shots today.” My thought was, “Not as good as I will in a few minutes.

She passed the opposite way, went outside, and sat with Dan. Suddenly it wasn't so hot after all, as I followed. When I announced my intention, I was surprised that Laura didn't jump at it. Instead she was reserved, and glanced at Dan who said, “Sure, why not.” Whew!

Laura is a psychotherapist and was not to anxious to talk about her work. I get that.

Dan is from the New York / Newark area and moved to Florida in 1978. He is in finance and had plenty to say about the debt run up by college students. Many of his clients are physicians who just don't have the earning potential of those a generation ago. Yet they have (Much) more debt. He worked with a couple: both were dentists. They had a combined $700,000 debt. How can they possibly pay that off?


Jamey (#905) 06-27-15

As I walked along River Street in Savannah, I noticed a fellow photographing a woman and (presumably) her daughter. I thought that it might be his family. Ambling a bit further, I stopped into a bakery, bought a pastry, and sat outside. The sidewalk in front of me became a bit congested, and here came the photographer again. He stopped an African American couple and asked them to take their photos. He was high energy and smiling, explaining that it was a hobby and there was no charge.

I was nearly stunned. He was doing almost the same thing I do! Unfortunately, he also got the same result I often get; they politely declined.

I fumbled with my phone, getting my Flickr Photostream ready. As soon as he was done, I shot up, showed him my phone, and explained what I do. Jamey does some studio work, but does street portraits for fun. While his wife and daughter were sightseeing, he had an hour to kill, and had made 12 portraits to that time. Jamey (who calls himself Rockit Surgeon) just gets images, no stories. Here is his website:

Of course, we exchanged cards. This posting is about three weeks later, and Jamey and I have had back-and-forth contact, including the infamous Facebook. Here is his Facebook presence:

Although he has not been obtaining stories from his 'strangers', Jamey has made a very impressive video with a most intimidating character. “Boo Boo” has a sordid past and intimidating presence. I am impressed that Jamey connected with him well enough to extract very specific and troubling information. I suggest that you at least watch the first couple of minutes. Like me, you may be hooked, and watch the rest.

Interestingly, when he photographed me, he had me put my chin down. Jamey automatically put his chin down for my image. We agreed that the angle of the jaw helps hide the neck. Some whiskers don't hurt either.


Sarah (#904) 06-25-15

Walking down River Street in Savannah, I happened to look into a bar (I said LOOK!). It was quite dark, and Sarah's hair popped out. So I went in and met Sarah. After explaining the popping hair, she was happy to be photographed – one of my few indoor shots.

After introductions, I asked if her name had an 'H' at the end, and of course it does. I explained that I have to Sara(h)s in the family, one spelled each way. Sarah assured me that it is always better to have the 'H'. Sorry, Sara.

Sarah is from Greensboro North Carolina, celebrating her birthday and 'getting away' for a while. Happy Birthday, Sarah!

“What do you do in Greensboro?”

“I'm a bartender.”

“So you work in a bar and 'get away' by going to a bar?”

“I guess I go where I'm comfortable.”


Jessica (#903) 06-24-15

Jessica has been around. She is originally from California (multiple houses), but has lived in Maryland, Boston, and now Savannah. Her parents were in schools while she was growing up: hence, the peripatetic lifestyle. After graduating from college she would like to move out west, Utah maybe.

Jessica is about to begin her senior year at The Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD). Her major is Graphic Design, but she really likes typography. Now there's a specialized field! I asked where one would work with that specialty. The possibilities include Hallmark Cards and Penguin (I think that's what she said).

I met Jessica at a table outside of the Gallery Expresso coffee shop. She works there part time while going to school. Jessica is very open and easy to talk to – she immediately invited me to sit with her. The open conversation is reflected on the artwork on her right arm. She designed it (of course), and reminds us to 'speak from the heart.'

I love it. I am trying to get in touch with her about buying the file. A shirt with that logo (and message) would be perfect when stranger hunting.


Linda (#902) 06-23-15

Linda looked like an unlikely parking lot attendant. But there she was, minding a lot that might have held 30 cars.

She only works on Sundays.

“What about weekdays?”

“I'm getting tired.”

Interview over.


Tommy (#901) 06-22-15

Tommy was sitting on a public bench in City Market, Savannah. I walked around a bit to envision a shot that would put his white hair against a dark background. Finding what I liked, I approached him, explained the project and asked permission for a portrait. His eyes drilled through me as he thought about it. Tommy looked to his side as if a friend would advise him. Finally he said, “OK, for a dollar.” Every man has his price; Tommy's price is $1.

I explained hot his hair would 'pop' against the background, but he seemed unimpressed. When I showed him the pics, he shrugged. Struggling, I said, “I could remove those scabs in Photoshop.” Tommy laughed and said “I got that when I fell on concrete.”

“Oh, bet that bled a lot.”

“Yeah, hurt like hell too. Tripped over a curb.”

“Were any alcoholic beverages involved?”

“Oh, yeah. OHHH Yeah!”


Stella (#900) 06-21-15

Stella was walking through City market, in Savannah, with a Canon 7D. She is an amateur doing mostly travel photography. Two years ago she went to Africa and bought the 7D for that trip. Stella knows art; she went to film school for a while.

Stella was visiting from Lake Wales, FL. Small world, my niece and nephew both graduated from Warner college in Lake Wales: Stella knows it well. She is an insurance adjuster for State Farm Insurance. Her mother was with her and they were about to leave for Myrtle Beach, SC. When I pulled the camera up and asked for no 'say cheese smile', Stella immediately assumed this pose.

She liked the photos, but did not want a copy.


Mike (#899) 06-20-15

Early in Savannah, Mike ran across the street and approached me. There were few people about, and my dress and camera were a dead giveaway that I was a tourist. I have been asked for money before, and I felt it coming. But this one had a twist.

Mike said, “I never ask for money, and I am very embarrassed. But could you buy me breakfast at McDonalds?” He didn't want money, he wanted food. So we went to a Mickey Ds a block away and he got $8 worth of calories. He isn't thin for no reason.

He has no wife or kids. Last year he had a job in Athens, GA, delivering furniture. It paid $8/hour, but the company went out of business. Currently he lives in a tent, under a bridge. Mike insisted on showing me a picture of Tiffany with her phone number. Tiffany had two days work for him at the end of the week – he hopes that it will develop into something more. Mike also showed me a shiny new VISA card. H & R block filed his income taxes; he is due refunds from both the state and IRS. When Block receives the money, the VISA debit card will be charged up.

For most of us, the United States is a first world country. But some citizens live in the third world.


Dyshakira (#898) 06-19-15

While walking toward River Street in Savannah, I saw a tall, slim woman with looong hair on the other side of the street. Walking fast, I could not overtake her without breaking into a run. Not gonna happen. So I temporarily gave up.

A few minutes later I had arrived at the Savannah River's edge, and there she was, standing still. So I immediately approached her. As soon as I began to ask, a freighter blew a prolonged horn signal, six seconds of ear splitting noise. I just looked at her, smiled, and shrugged. When I got to explain the project she sheepishly said OK. She was shy with a tiny voice.

The problem came when I asked her name; I just could not understand it. She kept saying, “D-Y-S, then 'like the singer.” Ok, Dysinatra? Dystreisand? It took a quick Google search to find the singer Shakira. That was it, Dyshakira. How could a guy of my generation miss that? I hum Shakira tunes in the shower every evening.

Dyshakira is a Savannah native, and attends Armstrong State University, in town. She works as a hostess at the Westin Resort, on the opposite side of the river. She was waiting for a ferry. That's why she walked so fast, but then stopped.


Pierre (#897) 06-18-15

Pierre was reading outdoors in City Market, Savannah GA. He looked serious. When I asked him to be part of the project, he said, “Sure, sir.”

“Just Bob, please.”

'OK, sir.”

He was just formal, and couldn't help himself.

Pierre was from Lauden, SC. During high school years he spent two years in technology school. His specialty was graphic arts. Pierre's next stop was Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD). It's amazing that SCAD has become a revered art school in only about 40 years. He just graduated! The next stop is California later this summer where he will look for a job designing packaging.

I asked about his name. His father is Haitian, and he speaks creole. Pierre does not.


Ryan (#896) 06-17-15

Ryan was entertaining with the guitar, in front of the same wall as Happy, #892. He is from the southeast coast of Florida, visiting friends in the area.

He loves Asheville. In fact, I'm not sure why he's going back to Florida.

Oh yeah, most of all he loved being photographed.



Warren (#895) 06-16-15

What a character! While sipping my cup of java, I was outdoors at a railing delineating the coffee shop territory. On the other side was the property of a noodle restaurant. Warren (on the noodle side) walked up to a table next to me and said, “Mind if I sit here?”

“Of course not, why wold I mind?” (It was a different establishment, after all).

“People need a certain amount of space”

“I'm fine.”

Then Warren talked. And talked. He has lived in Baltimore, Charlotte, Chicago, and Asheville for one year. He moves to follow the spirits (this must be a North Carolina thing). He is Hebrew born, but of Cherokee descent. Warren said that the word Cherokee means chosen people. With a quick Google search I was unable to confirm this.

He spent several years in the army as a non-commissioned officer. Warren was stationed in Washington, in communications, when Lyndon Johnson was President. One morning he delivered a notice to LBJ in the White House. An hour later, Johnson appeared at Warren's door, in his bathrobe, and chewed Warren out, complete with profanity, and Warren had no idea why. He was petrified. Later in the morning, Johnson returned and apologized. And he insisted that Warren, and a coworker, attend a highfalutin state barbeque that afternoon. Warren said that he later learned that the message that he had delivered announced that Bobby Kennedy was running for president. According to Warren, LBJ and Lady Bird were incensed at the insult. As a sitting president, Kennedy should have told Johnson personally that he was running.

About this time, I mentioned to Warren that I liked to photograph strangers, etc. As I suspected, he was suspicious and wary. “You can't be too careful. That's why I sit at the back of the table, looking out, I can see danger approaching and take action. I learned that in the military.”

Well, Warren and his cohort didn't know what to make of the barbeque invitation, but they figured that they had better show up. A guard immediately escorted them to a door when Lyndon Johnson rescued them, told the guard that they were his guests. The 'guests' could not believe the spread of food available. Befitting of their low rank, the proceeded to fill their pockets with roast beef.

Then Warren waved his hand toward a public park and said that there had been a musical show recently. But when he came, police escorted him out and said that they didn't need any crazy people there.

I made up a story and excused myself. As I was leaving, I mentioned the portrait again. He said “Yeah, I trust you. You are not one of them.”

I earned this one.


Jeremiah and Ana (#894) 06-15-15

While sipping coffee al fresco in Asheville, I saw Jeremiah quickly moving from place to place with his DSLR. I wasn't sure what he was photographing; I assumed that it might be architecture. As luck would have it, he and Ana came to the same coffee shop and sat outside. When they got settled with drink and pastry, I made my move.

Both were very pleasant and receptive to the idea of being photographed. Jeremiah, who had a Canon something-or-other is getting into professional photography. Being self effacing, he was a bit evasive about his exact plans. He is planning to shoot groups and weddings. On this day, he was just shooting local attractions with an occasional candid of people. He was impressed with the 100 Strangers concept, but could not see himself approaching strangers.

The light was a bit bright, and Jeremiah had trouble keeping his eyes open after removing sun glasses. Not so Ana. I told them that her eyes were great for portraiture, and they knew it.

Jeremiah and I now follow each other on Flickr, here is his Photostream.

He asked about my camera, and Ana was surprised that it was digital. The Olympus is such a good conversation starter!


Leslie (#893) 06-14-15

As I strolled through Downtown Asheville, I spotted Leslie and her stylish hat. I love women's hats. It gives me an excuse to introduce myself, and I really DO like them. She was seated outdoors having an animated conversation with Ken. When I approached her, she was shy, but willing. In fact, she stayed shy. She is a senior at the University of North Carolina, Asheville, majoring in Political Science. She hopes to go on to Law School at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

Leslie kinda shrugged when I showed her the posted image. She wanted a more 'natural look,' Ken suggested that they continue talking, and I shoot as they spoke. I was not for that and went into one of my camera diatribes. “The problem with shooting when someone is speaking is that the camera sees, we perceive. While a friend is speaking, shoot a burst of 12-15 images over a few seconds. Almost every one will look ridiculous to downright freakish. You might think that you were watching her and she never looked like those unflattering images. But, in fact, she DID look like that for 1/100 second. But our brain receives a series if those images and somehow averages them out to the imagined image that we perceive. That's how political candidates show such horrible pictures of their opponents. Just catch 1/100 second of anyone giving a normal speech and he looks like an ogre.”

Ken said, yeah, we know this, we're photographers. Oh. Ken said he does general photography without elaborating – and he declined being photographed. Leslie likes photographing sports, events, and weddings. I told her that I could never shoot weddings.

“It's OK, if you choose the right bride and groom.”

“And the right in-laws.”


Once she becomes an attorney, she'd like to do professional photography on the side. Here is her website:

After wanting a natural look, Leslie preferred this image. 

To me, it looks more staged.


Happy (#892) 06-13-15

After I photographed Jen and CJ (previous post) My cousin Joel gave me a 10 minute walking tour of downtown Asheville. He pointed to a man across the street; he was in a wheelchair. Joel said that his name was Happy, and that he was a local icon in the area. After Joel left, I headed right for Happy.

He was very talkative, and half of the passersby knew him. Happy acknowledged everyone as 'My Brother', or 'My Sister.' A young man named Tug came up and began working on Happy's motorized wheelchair. It looked well used, and the control arm was held together by several yards of Georgia Chrome (Duct Tape). Tug tugged off the tape and snugged a few bolts with an off-brand, ersatz crescent wrench. Tug befriended happy on a city bus a few years ago and has been giving him a hand ever since. Nice. The VA has provided Happy with four motorized devices in the past, and all came to tragic ends. They told him that this one will have to last for five years – unlikely, in my opinion.

I asked Happy if I could ask a personal question. “You want to know how I lost my leg (pronounced lay-egg).” “Well, you guessed it.” Happy served three tours in Viet Nam, as a medic. Numerous times he was under enemy fire, but the leg was a casualty of a Brown Recluse Spider bite. Delay in seeking medical attention, and underlying diabetes, nearly cost Happy his life. That was 4 ½ years ago.

What interested me most is where he was situated. Behind him, on the inside of the sidewalk, was a black makeshift wooded wall, part of the 'Before I Die' project. This global initiative consists of similar walls in over 300 cities. They have repeating lines “Before I Die, I Want to:________ .

Chalk is provided and anyone can fill out a line. Here is a brief description:

I saw this 6 minuted TED talk a couple of years ago, and then bought a book about the project.

Happy said that he was in charge of maintaining the wall in Asheville. Often the wall is defaced, and he pointed high on the wall to the word F**K. It was out of his reach, so I took his damp rag and erased it. Then I added my missive: “Before I Die, I want to 'learn what it's all about'”

This wall has been up for 11 months. Happy hopes to get 49,000 entries in the next month so it will have 500,000 in the first year. I looked up the Asheville wall online, and could not confirm that Happy has any official role. Who knows.


Jen (#891) 12-06-15

I had an early breakfast with a cousin, Joel, in downtown Asheville, NC. He said that he wished he could watch me approach strangers, but he was plagued by the curse of the middle class: work. When we exited the eatery, Jen and CJ (and Jen's hat) were at an outdoor table. Joel had a few more minutes, so I ran uphill to the car (gasp!) and fetched the camera. I walked back while modulating my breath and immediately approached Jen. She seemed both amused and befuddled. She said OK, but not convincingly.

Both were living in California, but Jen was born in Oregon. They were in Asheville for a wedding; so they were travelers, just like me. Jen has a farm which is energy efficient. I guessed that she grew only organically, with no GMOs. Yep, I was right – she just had the Green look. She and CJ met in Western Africa while in the Peace Corps, starting farms, of course. How many friends have you made in Western Africa?

I told her about a relative who served in the peace Corps in Malawi, about 20 years ago. She made many good friends, but they have all died of AIDS. Jen said that Malawi is in Eastern Africa, Western Africa is less affected by AIDS.

She was quite shy and laughed through most of the photographing. I assured CJ that he had 'photography eyes', so he relented too.


Pat (#890) 06-11-15

I peered in the window of a small jewelry and art store in Black Mountain, NC (near Asheville). The lady proprietor happened to look my way; to me, she had a kind, understanding face. So I asked her. Pat seemed slightly bemused by the whole thing, but cooperated.

Pat is from Wisconsin, and Connecticut, and Baltimore, and Santa Fe..., Pat is from everywhere. She moves when she gets spiritual messages, and she gets them a lot. I asked what kind of messages. All kinds. When she and her (then) husband lived in Connecticut, she started getting messages about relocating to Wisconsin. She'd hear the word on TV, see it repeatedly in newspapers, and meet people from Wisconsin. Pat asked him if he was getting messages. He was, but they did not reveal them to each other at first. Finally he admitted that he too, was getting messages about moving to Wisconsin. So off they went.

After they split up, she had spiritual thoughts about relocating to Western North Carolina. She wound up in Black Mountain with no money, but no debt either. Within six months, she had a job, a home, and a new life. She was properly guided. Pat is very open and understands perfectly why I like to meet strangers.

She is also an artist, doing sculpture and jewelry. And she wrote a book. Pat first had an idea of the book 24 years ago – writing can be slow, I guess. She had no copies in the store, but a local eclectic hardware store sold them. So the next day I took a look, expecting a thin book with a simple writing style. Wrong! The title is “The Education of Temple Fox”; is is full sized, written in a sophisticated style, and with a story line so convoluted that I hope I can follow it. (I photographed Pat during the first encounter).

She later said that it is self published and makes no money. But she plans to write two sequels - she had better pick up the pace. Pat will write them because she is bombarded with relevant spiritual messages, of course. Pat's e-mail address includes the word “Prana', the Sanskrit word for “life force”, or “vital principle”.

Pat has strong beliefs, and lives by them.


Timothy (#889) 06-10-15

While I continued to patrol the outside of Cumberland mall in Atlanta, Timothy approached me. He pointed and said, “Wow, do you know who you look like?” Recently I've had a couple of people say that I look like Will Farrell (good), and years ago people said that I looked like Oliver North (not quite so good.)

“No, who do I look like?”

“You look like a Bush. You should run for President, you look like a Bush.”

That surprised me. So we got into a discussion about the Bushs, and Republican politics in general. Timothy is a strong Republican, and quite well read on political matters.

“You know, Timothy, as an African American Republican, you are in a rather small group.”

“Yeah, most blacks are Democrats, but they don't think of consequences. Democrats want everyone to have jobs, and that's great. But take that business (points to the Cheesecake Factory), there are lots of jobs there. But what if the owner goes bankrupt? What if he goes out of business? All the jobs would be lost. Republicans want to protect the owner. They want businesses to succeed.”

A very interesting young man, and interesting encounter.

(Check my Flickr avatar, do I look like a Bush?)