Al (#540) 03-10-14

On a perfect Saturday morning, the Sarasota (FL) Police Department had a booth set up at the local Farmer's market. It was located at one end of a street, near a fountain with several benches often frequented by the homeless. A lady officer was 'manning' the booth, and she was supplying information about the department's new liaison program with the homeless. My next few strangers came from this location.

She spoke at length with one man with a scruffy beard, and the body language suggested an amicable exchange. When there was an apparent break in the conversation, I introduced myself to Al, and asked for a portrait. He said, “Sure”. Next to him was a large tricycle with ample side baskets filled with old electric motors. Al “dumpster dives” for old electrical equipment, as he has a source to sell reclaimed copper.

Al used to live on a sailboat, moored in Sarasota Bay. Police told him to move, several times, and he did. Finally, police inspected the boat and found no provision for proper waste disposal. Al told them that when he needed to use the restroom, he rowed his dinghy ashore and found a public facility. (We are not supposed to judge Strangers, but I find this not a credible response. Row ashore at 3AM?) Anyway, Al said that the officer pointed to a nearby high rise condominium complex and said, “Those people don't want this boat here.” The boat was confiscated and destroyed.

Prior to destruction, Al asked to go aboard and retrieve some copper containing materials that he could sell. He was told that the boat was no longer his, and to leave. I report this as I was told by Al, there is no verification.

At this point, I brought the camera into view. Al began to look at me, but then became teary-eyed, so I quickly put it behind my back.

Al said that there are several homeless communities in nearby woods. I would not be safe going there by myself with the camera (don't worry!). At 1PM on Saturdays, however, a benefactor buys pizza for the homeless and serves it at a local unused ballpark. Al said that that gathering is safe, and it would be a good place to meet strangers. I'll have to think about that. At this point, I got the images.


As we spoke, a couple of other homeless men joined the conversation. One was Dave, tomorrow's Stranger.