Monday, November 9, 2009

44th Week Update - Miles Neighborhood Food Collection Project

Hi Folks,

Most newspaper photographers I have met are rugged guys in safari jackets. Their many pockets are stuffed with pens, notebooks, flash attachments and half eaten sandwiches. So when Jill Torrance, The New York Time freelance photographer called me on Thursday to set up a time to meet for Sunday’s collections the only thing I could imagine was the safari jacket…maybe a pink one.

As Jill climbed out of her SUV in front of my house on Sunday I realized a safari was the right analogy but instead of a hunter, I was greeted by Sheena, Queen of the Jungle in jeans. Wow, remembering to smile was not going to be a problem today.

The second house we stopped at did not have a can in the usual place so I knocked on the door. When the door opened Andrew said, “Hey, you caught me in my boxers but I’ll get the can.” A few seconds later the screen door opened and there stood Andrew. At first I though the bright yellow boxers had a huge image of Tweety Bird printed on them or at least that is what I saw through my squinted eyes. I introduced Jill and she clicked away capturing our can and Thank You note exchange. As I turned to leave looking down at the can in my shopping bag, I inadvertently saw those boxers again. It wasn’t Tweety Bird, it was Homer Simpson. How appropriate!

On the way back to the sidewalk, Jill said, “I got the photo I wanted and was able to crop out the boxers.” To do that Jill has to be some kind of great photographer because those boxers were bigger than life.

More Neighborly Conversations
Twice I was asked by neighbors if I go to the Miles Neighborhood monthly meetings. The question was obviously motivated by the delivery of the meeting notices just three days earlier. Yes, as often as I can, I said because the meetings are well run and things get done. For instance they needed a small donation for street signs. A few months later the handsome Miles Neighborhood signs were up on Broadway and Kino telling everyone where they are and where we are for that matter.

Folks asking about our neighborhood activities is such a great Oman because a community only grows when neighbors decide to participate. It doesn’t work any other way.

Returning the Favor
When Jill and I drove up to Brandon’s house on Miles, she was taking to Emily, her new neighbor from across the street. Her three-year-old daughter dressed in her Princess Halloween costume was drawing at the table on their porch. Jill took a few photos and Brandon, charming and effervescent as always, talked to us about why she looks forward to donating to One Can A Week. “It wasn’t too long ago that my daughter and I were on food stamps. I really needed the help. But now I can afford to give back. It makes me feel good to now help others like I was helped.”

We left the Cabriolet parked in the driveway and followed Emily to here home to pick up her donation. Jill took a couple of photos of Emily hands dropping the food into my black shopping bag and we headed back to the car. By this time Brandon was sitting in her daughter’s seat at the table and her daughter had moved to the chair facing us in the driveway. Through the windshield I could see Brandon pointing to her daughter.

“See thinks she is a real Princess.”

We laughed and I replied, “Yes, but she is the understudy.”

A huge smile exploded across Brandon’s face and she nodded approvingly then gave us the thumbs up sign. We laughed again and drove out of the driveway.

Taking Responsibility
Today, just before I drove our food collection to the Community Food Bank I took my Westie pups for a spin around the block. Josie Zapata and I met on the corner of Miles and Highland. She told me she just turned a lost boy over to the teachers at the Miles School. I asked her how she got involved and she said she first saw the lone boy near the arroyo and thought it unusual that he was not in school. She saw him cross the street by himself and thought that unusual, too, because of his young age. Josie followed him down to the Miles School where the boy climbed the fence to play with the other kids in the playground.

Josie alerted a teacher and she took the boy in tow. I could see them walking toward the cafeteria door. “Where’s the mother?” Josie asked as she looked up 13th Street. “Bet she’s out looking for him. Maybe that’s her now way up the street.”

I continued walking Adam and Molly and Josie intercepted the mother who than started to run haltingly toward the school. She stopped to ask directions and another teacher gestured to the front of the school building. As I walked back up Highland Street a burley man in an SUV with a Mexico license plate drove slowly down the street toward the Miles School. I could see stress in his eyes and pain on his face. “Have you seen a little boy?” he said hoping I would have an answer to his dreadful question. I told him to park his car in the parking lot in the next block and go to the office in the front of the building. His wife and son are there.

I had lots to think about on the rest of our walk. Mostly I thought about how responsible Josie was and how rare, unfortunately, it is for people to see danger and act on it. Why is it we experience terrible things like Fort Hood and then learn afterwards that people saw danger or trouble and they did nothing?

We need more Josie Zapatas. No, actually, we all need to follow Josie’s example and not shun responsibility when it shines its light on us.

What the Heck is VEET? – Howard at the Community Food Bank and I, together have lived on this planet well over 100 years and neither of us had any idea what VEET was. We deserve some credit; however, because we saw the word ‘wax’ and weren’t fooled into thinking it was something to eat. We finally decided it should be called a waxing kit and listed under the non food items on the receipt. The total collection this week was 158 lbs. of food, 2 lbs. of non food items and $13.00 in cash.

See you next Sunday.


PS. The New York Times article is scheduled to be published on Thursday, November 12th. I will send everyone a link when it becomes available.

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