Friday, October 05, 2007

Meet Frank

In 1992, Frank lived in a van in San Francisco, where he scoured dumpsters for food, and was attempting to build his own sailboat out of old wooden skids he collected from the back of grocery stores. Frank was poor, yet happy and relaxed with life. He didn't work for someone else, giving him the flexibility to move about at his own pace. He ate well too, even if it was the waste of strangers food. "It's amazing what people throw out, especially outside of good restaurants", he says.

As luck would have it, Frank didn't have to wait long for his sailboat. One day a man who owned a sailboat died, and his wife wanting nothing to do with the boat or sailing, gave Frank the boat. Frank lived on the boat for three years in the San Francisco Bay and then, in 1997, moved to Florida, where he spent a couple years sailing up and down the east coast.

In 2000, Frank enrolled in trucker's school. As a truck driver, Frank spent five weeks at a time, often working eleven hour days,
driving coast to coast. "They ran me pretty hard into the ground by sending me to Los Angeles then San Francisco, San Francisco to Florida, Florida back to California...", he explains. And he quickly realized that the American highway system, was nothing like its coasts. Across the country, even in the desert, Frank discovered monotony. Corporate chain stores and restaurants, exit to exit. "Its amazing how somehow, they make THIS WHOLE country look exactly the SAME!"

Although truck driving was not what Frank had expected, he was able to save because he lived in a truck and had limited expenses.
With his savings, Frank purchased another sailboat. This time a 25-ft Pacific Sea Craft he named Senshi after a Japanese mystic poet. Frank plans to single-handedly sail Senshi across the Atlantic, and he equates the voyage to succeeding in life. It explains why Frank currently spends almost all day, even in the summer heat, grinding the fiberglass hull of his boat, preparing it for the journey.

Frank has had a couple of serious girlfriends, but in the past years has spent most of his time alone. He doesn't let himself get lonely though. He's not sure how he does it so well, but contributes it to self-reliance and faith. "I have faith in the Universe. I know I am an eternal being and when I die my energy will go on. Not sure how or where, but I know it will continue and everything that I seek will happen in time." He spends his free time playing chess, guitar, and just simply thinking. He is spiritual and non-materialistic.

Frank was not always this positive. It has taken him many years to become who he is today. He used to be fairly angry, a heavy drinker (he no longer drinks), and carried his past on his shoulders. When Frank was twelve, his father suddenly passed away, and his mother decided it would be better if he moved in with his grandparents. His grandparents were strict, however, and he was depressed by these new living conditions. One day, about a year after his father passed away, Frank's frustration reached a peak and he blurted out to his grandmother in the car, " I hope you die!". The very next day Frank's grandmother dropped dead of a heart attract, and Frank was left with guilt.

Frank contributes his current peace and universal understanding to motorcycling and sailing. He has loved the ocean since the first time he saw it at age seven with his father in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. Frank says that all his life he has been looking for a feeling, but he is not sure how to describe it, and has not reached it yet. He believes that he will reach this unidentifiable feeling while crossing the Atlantic.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Meet Marco Lopez Polo

Marco Lopez Polo works as a crewmember on an old 1944 tugboat that is docked on the island of North Bimini, Bahamas. Everyday since December, Marco has spent hours diving under the rusty tugboat in search of a small hole. He cannot leave North Bimini and return home to his wife and three children in Honduras until he finds this hole. But even if he found the hole, he still would need a welder, and on a small island of 1600 people that's hard to find. To make things worse, the owner of the tugboat, Marco's boss, ran himself into the ground financially and went bankrupt. Originally the crew was promised to make money off the barge full of goods it was carrying. But the barge sank outside Bimini and the tugboat sprung the leak. As a result Marco does not have enough money to return home from the Bahamas.

The tugboat crew spends their days working on what they can do -- small maintenance repairs such as painting and patching the steel boat. They all sleep and eat on the tugboat, eating a diet that mostly consists of rice and beans. Marco is proud of his recipe. He prefers to cook his rice and beans separate and then once cooked he adds his special ingredients: onion, garlic, salt, pepper, but not too much, and the occasional green pepper.

Marco has been to America, were he met his best friend Rex, who is dying on lung cancer from smoking too many cigarettes. He says that I remind him of a girl he once saw while visiting Rex in Ocean Beach, Florida. Growing up Marco did not spend time on the water in Honduras. He is from a small inland village. It was not until he started working in shipping, which paid well, that Marco became familiar with the deep sea. He likes the ocean though, and has many stories of swimming with sharks. Marco says the secret to swimming with sharks is to not let them know you are afraid. People often make the mistake of trying to swim away, and that is when the shark will attack because it thinks you are food.

I met Marco when the 26 ft Columbia sailboat I was traveling on collided with the tugboat after loosing control in strong harbor currents. I drew a picture for Marco of the sailboat and tugboat together to thank him letting us dock there while we went on land for food and water. He then helped us push our boat successfully back into the harbor where we waited out the currents. Three weeks later we traveled back to North Bimini to buy a new anchor and ran into Marco on the street. He was happy to see familiar faces, looked bored, and told us that not much had changed, but that he was growing more and more unsatisfied and impatient with his job. But for Marco all he can do is continue to dive and hope one day he finds the hole that will fix the boat and take him back to Honduras.

Monday, April 30, 2007


Incase you have been wondering, "Why no post lately?".....well I have been working overtime in order to take a month-long sailing adventure to the Bahamas. I leave in a week and hope to meet some new strangers along the way! In the meanwhile I encourage you to do the same!

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Meet Scott

A month ago, twenty-five-year-old Scott left Bardstown, Kentucky for the first time in his life and traveled to Texas to work as a freelance construction worker. Scott's girlfriend, who is pregnant with twins, lives in Texas. The two met several months ago when she visited Kentucky. "She is something else, now. She has blonde hair, blue eyes and is good natured and kindhearted like myself", says Scott of his girlfriend. He is really excited to be a father, but is fearful of getting married. He certainly did not enjoy his experience in Texas and has no desire to return. The trip confirmed that he is a true Kentuckian, in love with the culture and people of the region.  After all, Scott has spent his whole life in Bardstown where he was raised by his grandparents after both his parents died of cancer when he was five. He loves his grandmother and says he wouldn't take a million dollars for her or the spicy spaghetti she makes.

Wishing to return to Kentucky from Texas, Scott purchased a one-way greyhound ticket home. However while leaving a store on his way out of town, a guy robbed Scott at knife-point and took all the money he had made in Texas. By the time he arrived at the greyhound bus station in Kentucky, Scott had no other option but to walk the rest of the way home.

This is where my friend Jill and I first spotted Scott, on a sunny spring Saturday afternoon walking down the side of a quiet highway, lugging his suitcase with a sideways tilt. We pulled up to him in our car, with the windows rolled down, and I ask Scott what was in his suitcase. "Clothes", he answered.  Jill and I offered Scott a ride back to Bardstown in exchange that he would allow Jill to photograph him along the way. Scott was not expecting a photo shoot with two random girls to finish his journey home. However, he did say that this was the most adventurous thing he has ever done and that we were the weirdest people he had ever met. We dropped him off at a gas station across the street from his home and I waved and took one last picture of him as he walked away.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Meet Colonel Don Decker

This is Colonel Don Decker, a Kentucky Colonel, who for the past three years has been the host at T.G.I. Fridays restaurant on Fourth Street Live in downtown Louisville. Don owns and wears a variety of different color traditional colonel tuxedos and ruffled shirts that he adorns with honorary medallions. He admits that his outfits are out of style for today, but comfortably says, "I am out of style too". Don's attire is, and at the same time, isn’t a costume. He would not wear his tuxedo into a business meeting, but would and does wear it around town. In fact, he owned all of his colonel tuxedos before he even started hosting at T.G.I. Fridays on Fourth Street Live.

Don, whose mother was a dancer, was raised in the entertainment business and began in Vaudeville dance at the age of three. He can act, dance and sing, and has worked in various phases of the entertainment industry throughout his life. He is most proud of his nightclub and movie performances, which include appearances in the 1960’s hits Can Can and Li’l Abner. As a child, Don dreamed of being on Broadway. "I went through New York, but quickly. I never did what was necessary to get on Broadway.... that's a real struggle”, he explains.

For many years, Don was also a bails bondsman in Florida. When he retired he moved to Louisville and found the job at T.G.I. Fridays a perfect way to supplement his social security. “I enjoy meeting people, plus I am getting old and if I don't do something, I would just sit in my chair and think, what, am I, waiting to die?"

Ten years ago, Don completed his first novel, Forfeiture, a story about a man named Danny Duncan, who shares many similar experiences as Don, and winds up robbing a bank. “A lot of people think I am Danny Duncan, or we are one in the same. And they might be right, I am not going to say one way or the other,” Don says with a smile.

Don enjoys his job at T.G.I. Fridays. On an average day between ten and twenty people ask to have their photograph taken with him. Don just happens to look a lot like Kentucky Fried Chicken's founder, Colonel Sanders. But he says it is not intentional and he does not sell chicken! Don believes that he is doing something unique on Forth Street Live, by attempting to create a greater since of hospitality.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Meet Skaters in Cumberland, KY

Local Skaters
Bank Drive Thru
Cumberland, Kentucky

Jonathan, Corey, Eric and a few other skater friends are showing off skateboard tricks at a closed bank drive-thru in Cumberland, Kentucky. The skaters are a mixture of middle school and high school students who all grew up together in Cumberland, a town with a population of under 3000. Eric, who wears a loosely tied sideways bandana, says that the police are always hassling them when they skate on public places. In fact, today, they have already been kicked off the bank property four times.

Jonathan, Corey and Eric started skateboarding because they were bored and tired of sitting on their couches. Corey explains, “I said, man, we don’t want to get fat, we got to get ourselves something to do.” After discovering skating on satellite television during the X Games and thinking it was cool, the boys rented the skate movie, The Lords of Dogtown, and were hooked. Their parents don’t mind that they skate, but they do mind that the boys won't get haircuts. The skaters consider themselves "top dogs", and like listening to rap, especially Fifty Cent and Snoop Dog. Most of them have never left Cumberland but their hopes are to be in a large city one day to enjoy a real skate park.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Meet Haley

Benham, Kentucky

Haley, an eighth grader, is enjoying a Sunday afternoon four-wheel ride alongside an old railroad track in Benham, Kentucky, originally a coal mining camp. According to Haley everyone in Benham owns and rides a four-wheeler. Today she is riding her fathers. Four-wheel trails exist throughout the mountains of Eastern Kentucky in areas abandoned by coal mining. Many towns have started promoting their trails to tourist as a form of economic recovery. Haley says that there is not much to do in Benham. Besides four-wheeling, she spends time playing softball. Haley dreams of becoming a Meteorologist one day in a city much larger than Benham, Kentucky.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Meet Men at a Shooting Competition

Sunday Shooting Competition
Bell County, Eastern Kentucky

Ben Barney, Bill Wilder, Charles Ranghard and Dale Snowden along with a couple of other friends hold shooting competitions every Sunday in their hometown of Bell County, which is located in the Appalachian Mountains of Eastern Kentucky. The men say that there are few job opportunities in their county that primarily produces coal. Their local elementary school even closed down last year, due to lack of funds, and their children, as young as four years old travel on a bus for an hour to attend school. The men, who are all hunters, say that guns have been apart of their lives and culture since they were children. There is not much to do in their dry town so this provides a good source of entertainment. Ben explains, “Some weekends this place is packed and we often bring our kids out. The fellow with the closest shot to the x wins his wife a turkey or a ham.”

After the first round. Seeing who shot closest to the center of the X.

Closed Elementary School.

My friend Jill shoots a gun for the first time.