Denver Street Photography

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Denver Street Photography

Life, Uncategorized

If it wasn’t this, it would be something else.







I’m out of town, away from my laptop and photo processing software, so this post is exclusively made up of iphoneography. I’m lying on a hard mattress in a stinky Motel 6 in Sun City, California. The room reeks of stale cigarettes as well as a paltry attempt at covering it up with what I can only guess is Febreeze.

My family and I flew to Palm Springs in order to purchase a 1985 VW Vanagon Westfalia Camper. The vehicle was to be our passport to a traveling lifestyle, one in which we would embark upon in a little over a years time. This was supposed to be the first step.

We really liked this one, it checked all the boxes. It has a straight body, no rust, all of the camping equipment is there. We liked the color and we were told by the owners mechanic that it was a “solid rig.”

The timing was right, the savings were sufficient to make the purchase so we thought we would put our faith in the seemingly trouble free history of the vehicle.

I was skeptical at first because we found it on Craigslist and the guy we bought it from lived in the desert. Part of the deal was that he would need a ride home if we decided to purchase. I was very paranoid at the thought of driving a stranger to a remote desert area after giving him over $8,000 in cash. I even posted a notice to all my Facebook friends advising them of our situation. Just to be safe.

I didn’t want to give him a ride at all. It seemed more than shady to me. My ideal transaction would have taken place in an all neutral location. As it turned out his need for a ride home was our saving grace, because we did purchase the vehicle after a quick verification that everything seemed to be as advertised.

He wrote up a bill of sale and we gave him the cash. The drive to his house was supposed to be the last interaction we would have with him. We were to drive from Palm Springs to Lancaster, CA, about an hours drive.

On the way to his house, the vehicle dumped virtually all of its fuel all over the highway. It happened in the worst possible spot: a sharp curve going up a steep grade. As you can imagine, the previous owner was mortified. What was surprising was his kindness and willingness to help.

The vehicle was already signed over to us, the cash and title were exchanged. He didn’t HAVE to do anything. Instead, he insisted the vehicle be towed to his mechanic who had just recently replaced all the fuel lines less than a month ago. It put a crimp in our plans but we were willing to wait an extra day to see if it was an easy fix.

As it turned out, it was, by 1:30 pm the next day we were at the mechanic picking up our new van, our bellies filled with the free lunch the previous owner bought for us while we waited.

We started it up, drove it about a mild down the road and filled it with gas. We decided we would take the opportunity to bring our daughter to see the Pacific Ocean for her first time.

We drive it back down the hill and just as we are about to leave town the engine just completely overheats. We are talking weird smells, tons of smoke, and bubbling coolant. We didn’t get more than 20 miles away before this happened. So Maizy called the guy and once again he was completely apologetic and offering to help in any way he could.

He called us a tow truck, offered to tear up the bill of sale and gave us our money back. All things that he did not have to do. We are defeated, deflated, exhausted and heart broken but otherwise unscathed.

I feel horrible for the previous owner. We contemplated what we should do for the 2 1/2 hours we were stranded on I-10 mile marker 62. I struggled with the notion that maybe I was somehow responsible for all these issues that came up so suddenly (according to the previous owner the van “ran like a top” for the last three and a half years).

I suppose that’s how these type of problems manifest themselves, in a sudden and violent manner. While this could be seen as a very unlucky trip, I think if it as just the opposite. We were extremely lucky on multiple occasions during this adventure.

We didn’t get killed on the worst part of a highway you could breakdown on, we never drove it enough to be accused of any negligence or wrongdoing on our part, and the owner of the van was a good and decent man.

I’d like to remain friends with him. Like Maizy he is a cancer survivor. He works in the film business as a freelancer, something that I admire about him very much. On the outside he took the whole thing in stride, as did we, but I think on the inside all three of the adults in this situation are pretty depressed about all of it. We had the keys to our dream car, he had $8500 in cash in his pocket, but the van just didn’t cooperate.

My prediction is the head gasket is blown. I only say that after hours of scouring the internet and reading a large number of similar stories of people running into the same issues as we did.

Our part in this story is mostly over. We dodged a bullet, but the other guy ended up with the proverbial nuclear explosion. A vehicle that may be completely dead all of a sudden after three years of loyal service. It is a good possibility he will have to replace the engine.

On the outside looking in, I think it might look like a case of “nice guys finish last,” big I have my fingers crossed for him that the problem isn’t a serious as I fear.

After all we have been through together these last few days, the man deserves a break.

So far our family trip to California to purchase the VW of our dreams has been a whirlwind tour of Palm Springs retro hotels,Best Westerns, Motel 6s, two run ins with the California Highway Patrol (one in which a state trooper pushed our vehicle up a mountain with his own cruiser in order to remove us from harms way) swimming pools and movie stars.

Now if we could just find that Texas tea.

I felt compelled to share this experience for x couple reasons. One is to keep the blog going, I don’t like missing a day. The other is to further illustrate that the capacity for human kindness is just as great as our capacity for evil.

In these days of the psychopathic internet troll becoming prevalent in our society (see any internet articles comment feed) it is refreshing to run into a person that still seems to hold onto the notion of having good morals and doing the right thing.


I am awkward. I can’t help it, I was born like that. I am self-centered, egotistical and opinionated. Aren’t we all? I am flawed but I am kind. That’s why it pains me to say that I feel like I have done the man in this photograph a disservice.

He and his friends were the best group of people I ran into on a Thursday photo walk. We shared a brief encounter and it was an experience that left me feeling great about people’s capacity for kindness. They called me over, they encouraged me to take their pictures, and we shouted some niceties at each other while I stuck my camera in their face.

This man took off his overcoat and showed me his intricate and colorful tattoos. The light was all wrong, the pictures of him all turned out bad, and I didn’t get the exact representation of the moment the way I remembered it with him.

I gave them all my name, thanked them, and before I left the presence of their company I went to shake his hand. He grabbed my hand with both of his hands as I thanked him. He seemed sincere in his kindness. It felt great to me.

A couple of days later I was back in the area, and I ran into him again. He was alone this time, but I recognized him from across the street, and as he crossed my path we shared Hellos. I said “What an odd coincidence seeing you again” and he agreed. The conversation was awkward, I felt like I should say something, but I wasn’t sure what. He asked me what I was doing and I told him I was “just looking for interestingness, just taking pictures seeing what I can see”

Somewhere in the awkwardness, it came up that he was sick of the “bullshit at the mission.” AS I write this I’m shaking my head at my inability to seize the moment and take initiative. I’m a journalism student, and here I am with a chance to form a bond with someone that obviously has an interesting story to tell, and I’m just not talking.

He didn’t say he was homeless, and I didn’t get that vibe from him in our initial encounter. As I realized that he was in some sort of state of displacement, but was not really coming out and saying it I became confused as to how to proceed with this social interaction.

So we began to drift apart, and the further he got away the less eye contact I made. I shouted after him to “stay warm” and went on about my business.

I’m ashamed to say that I believe I was not talking because I didn’t have anything to offer him, and once I realized he might be homeless I knew I didn’t have a place I could offer him to stay. It seems rather hypocritical to write something on the plight of homelessness and not really have anything to offer in the way of immediate assistance. So I feel like shit now.

I have a three-year old daughter and a wife in a small apartment on the other side of town. I don’t have a job so I can’t give him any money because I just really don’t have any. I don’t even have enough money to take him to get some lunch at a fast food place or something. It’s pathetic. I want to help him.

Instead of just saying all that to him, and sticking around, we just both let each other go on about our business. He might not even be homeless. Maybe he works at the mission, maybe he is just a traveler passing through town, I don’t know because I didn’t ask.

I just let him go. I didn’t tell him that I wanted another picture because this one turned out so bad. I didn’t offer him a helping hand, I didn’t try to keep the conversation going, and I didn’t even get his name.

I’m sorry for that kind stranger and I hope your path in life is a positive one. I’m sorry that we didn’t talk more. I’m still overcoming some social awkwardness. I have bad habits when it comes to dealing with people in public. I didn’t have anything to offer and I walked away.

The least I could have done was taken the time to get to know you and your story a little better. I had fallen victim to my own self-preservation. In this society of virtual conversations and online anonymity kind strangers are becoming fewer and farther in between. The ugliness of the internet gets to me sometimes. I cherish these moments of face to face interaction, even though initializing them is like pulling teeth. In my years of experience in socializing I have been burned enough times to know that you just can’t trust everyone. Since I don’t know you, I don’t trust you. I’m sorry for that. It’s just the way of the world. I feel horrible about it and the person it has turned me into.


The Kindness of Strangers & Social Awkwardness