Dave (#541) 03-11-14

Dave is rather distinctive looking, and I had seen him several times in the past. He said that his friends call him Santa – gee, I wonder why. As Al (yesterday's blog post) spoke of life on the streets, Dave chimed in and related many frustrations. His demeanor remained friendly, however. The lady police officer remained almost at our sides.


After Al spoke about his sailboat difficulties, Dave picked up on the sailboat theme. He said that he knew that life afloat was difficult, particularly after “Kimmie died.” When I heard the name Kimmie, my ears perked up. Here's why:

A couple of years ago, a woman in this same location caught my eye. She wore a bandanna, had a frangipani flower above her ear, and wore earrings that looked like little airplanes. When I asked for a portrait, she looked suspicious, but nodded OK. But I was unable to engage her in conversation, hence I could not use the image for the100 Strangers Flickr project.


Almost exactly a year later, I was again in this location. There was a rugged looking man in a wheelchair with a scruffy beard and a Chihuahua on his lap. I have great difficulty approaching strangers in wheelchairs, but I summoned the courage to approach him. John was clearly appreciative of the encounter, and we had a nice five minute chat. John could get out of the chair and walk a bit, but he could not walk for any great distance. He became Stranger #139. See it HERE.

As I was about to leave, the lady with the bandana approached John. Their gestures implied that they were a couple and he addressed her as Kim. He told her that I was taking photographs of people, and like magic, she evaporated. I never saw her leave, she was just gone.

Back to the present: I asked Dave if Kimmie had a friend named John. He said that her husband, John, was in a wheelchair. Sometime in the previous year, she had a seizure on their sailboat and died. Subsequently, John became despondent and alcohol became an issue in his life.

So as a boater, I can conger up these thoughts. The boat was moored in Sarasota Bay. At the risk of being judgmental, I suspect that it was not a large yacht. It was probably a small boat with minimal accommodations, but it was home, and accessible only by dinghy. To get home, John would have to get out of the wheelchair, get into the dinghy, and row to the sailboat. Perhaps Kim did the rowing, but John would then have to transfer himself from the dinghy to the sailboat, an awkward maneuver for anyone. Then on the boat, Kim experienced a medical catastrophe. Help cannot arrive quickly to a boat moored in a bay. So John was by himself, with a deceased spouse, and no easy way to get her off. There is so much pain in this world.

When I got home, I printed Kim's picture 7X5, put it in a plastic frame, and went back to find John (I had only seen him a couple of times in the past year). When I got the shot I was amused by the headgear and earrings. Now after knowing this story, I readily see a tired kindness in her eyes. I'll bet that John has no photo that reveals this as well. I didn't find John, but found Dave again. He said that he hadn't see John for a few weeks, and that he might be with a brother in a neighboring town. The framed photo is now in the trunk of my car – if I ever see John again, he'll get it.

Recently I passed a milestone, Stranger #300 of the 100 Strangers Flickr group. Ann (Poupetta) left a comment: What had I learned from this project? I have not answered her, but the question has been rolling around in my mind. I'm not sure what I have learned, but I have certainly become closer with other people's experiences. When I got into this project I told friends that the camera is a prop, a passport to personal relationships that would otherwise never occur.

I stand by that.