SideWalk Ghosts / Interview 203: “We Fix Furniture?”

Up Sherman Way I hike, another from my doorstep to friend day. And after my running out of auto fuel yesterday, it is a fresh relief to be safe commuting upon water-powered footsteps.

I’ve heard many times, and from many people, that Los Angeles is an isolated city. Not like New York, London, Tokyo or Shanghai where people on the streets are more engaged and aware of each other; and having spent time in all four cities, a premise that I can definitely understand.

For many years I have bought into this theory, sadly bagging on my own place of living. It’s strange how we can always see the grass greener on the other side of the pond. And even though we may be standing on fertile soil, at times, we choose to look at the neighbor’s garden rather than to look at the soil beneath our very own feet.

May I be brash in proposing a concept, no matter where the grass is… it is still grass. With this premise, we are left with two choices, 1) we can nurture it and help it to grow; or, 2) we can look upon the grass on the hill, wishing our grass would green as it, and in peering away form our own turf, we passively let it die.

Sure I can make a list a meter long of the reasons why my city is less than others. I can even group the culture as a whole or dream of greener pastures. But what positive impact is that to the land, that for whatever reason, is where I find myself inhabiting.

Several entries ago I researched the population of the San Fernando Valley: 1.7 million people, all individuals, all with their own stories, and all with their uniquely personal set of dreams, wishes, and situations.

I’ve written of my findings that even though the expanse of the globes populous is vast, that from the very act of looking at the faces of the society around us, the wide streets may narrow and the faces become clearer. Bottom line, in a wonderful way I am creating my own community and it is accepting me into its arms.

So I walk today, to the East up Sherman Way, no schedule, no pre-planned agenda and more importantly, no “this city is closed off” attitude. I have to clarify one point; I promise that I am not looking at the world with rose-colored glasses, just working on experimenting with an adjusted perspective.

I admit the planet has some terrible things going within its orbit; atrocities that test the very soul of mankind, at times dropping us in bent knees of tears and anger. Even this morning, during my struggle to see the good in the world, I read of several horrible murders, some of which were committed in the name of righteousness, or motivated by handed down hatred towards differing beliefs.

In admitting this, my intent is deliberate, to relieve all of us from the bondage of the pain associated with broken optimism and bolstering us into the reality of world events and wicked acts… disappointments that can snuff out the greatest of positive outlooks.

Yet in the paths of the oncoming of great darkness, we at times find ourselves in the companionship of fellows. And it is in these moments that we can assume there is hope for what is in store for us. Like I said, it’s all grass.

So here I am, strolling on the concrete sidewalks of grey yard that zoom under accepting the strides of my sneakers, chin up, eyes open to my community and continuing my experiment of the acknowledging head nod.

As expected, many look away… “Don’t look at the hatted dude (me), he’s dark and un-trustable.” But here is the wonderment… Not all are repelled by my gesture in this the city of spread out isolation. Many accept my gesture… Some even verbalize a “Hello…,” “Good Day…” or other reciprocating acknowledgments.

My community is shrinking, and it is fascinating to look back at the evolution of my life in owning my own personal witness that humanity is in the eyes of the beholder.

It gets better as I begin to realize that many of whom I am greeting are not first time passing’s, some are familiar, and as I recognize them, they too recognize me. Five of them are people who even know of my blog or have been featured.

I am sincere in saying that I have zero idea of where 365 is taking us… Still don’t, but one thing is becoming clearer and clearer every day, community is an outward manifestation from an inward desire. And, at the anniversary of hitting my 900th stranger talked to mark, I am learning that no matter who, for most, some form of community is a real dream for everyone.

A point that is never-ending in slamming me in the face, every time I wander my neck of the woods or journey beyond its borders.

Now, before I introduce you to today’s friend, I have to clarify that I’d be a hypocrite to say I know all cultures. That would be an incredible pompous and self-promotion claim. But I’m no babe in the woods either. My career has blessed me to have been able to travel to many continents, mingling within the cultures of Asia, Europe, Mexico, Canada and many parts of the United States.

The lesson learned is one of empathy in doing my best to blend in along side of these world citizens. Some have embraced me; others have scorned me, justifiably saying, “You have no idea of my life!”

So I walk on, face up, desiring to know the Streets of Angels this day. Good and bad, healthy and ill, happy and sad.

Spring is in the air this week, and with the bright sun burning my neck via its piercing rays, I seek a shelter.

One shady dwelling emerges, an antique store invitingly titled, “Old Friends.”

In a way, it reflects a truth having briefly met, its owner, Alan, a few weeks earlier during a brief antique browsing outing with my better half. Even then I asked him if he would be willing to contribute to 365, but he graciously declined, “I’m not certain what I would say, maybe another time.”

I lock his response into my mind as we departed his store that day. Strangely several days later, we again ran into Alan miles from his store, during a visit to a local hamburger haunt at 10:00pm. 1.7 million people in my area; the odds of a chance meeting are a little more than a coincidence. We again share hellos and I promise to visit him on a later day. We exchange nods and return to our lives.

Here I am, walking, neck on fire, head sweating into the brim of my fedora, “Now is the day,” my inner voice directs… I follow.

A simple, “How are you, may I interview you today?” I extend.

“You caught me on a bad day, I have a delivery I need to do…” Yet after a few minutes of friendly chat Alan opens in sharing a few thoughts and a little of his life.

Our time is very limited, about ten minutes or thereabouts, but the depths of what we discuss is empowering.

We talk of aging parents and of the issues of aiding them into the later years. “It’s hard, I am now getting my parents into an assisted living center.”

Having a healthy, but aging mum of my own, I empathize with Alan in sharing a few of my experiences. The worries, guilty feelings, and remorse for times changed. But in formally interviewing Alan, what I partake of is a man who is all about family and taking care of his responsibilities; something that I highly value and admire in a society where so many set the elderly aside.

“I worry about what is to come for us, my mom has some retirement, but with the state of the economy, I’m not so comfortable there will be anything for us when we are ready to retire.

“Times are tough, and most people are selfish, and it makes sense, we have to think of our families first,” Alan shares.

We discuss this point for some time and conclude in a philosophy, “’We need to do whatever it takes to secure safety, security and a future for our families, but in doing so the question is, ‘Do we do sacrifice our integrity to society?’”

I’ll leave it at that.

Alan is a good man, twenty years in building his business and a commitment to doing the right thing.

The sign on your door say, “We fix furniture.”

Alan, Perhaps today you have fixed more than that.

Thanks for the shade from the sun my old new friend.