James Huff at WordCamp LA 2011

For the first time in five or six years, I finally met James Huff in person at WordCamp LA. I’ve known him for about seven years. In addition to being a talented musician and all-around helpful guy, he’s a Happiness Engineer with Automattic.

Since his Gravatar is from his wedding three years ago, I demanded politely asked for a portrait. 😉

Thanks for the good times, James!

Edit: Thanks, Amy, for suggesting that I reword my post. To clarify, this was my first time meeting James.

Meet Brian

Meet Brian

The first day I went into Downtown Philadelphia, I waited at the airport for the SEPTA train to Market East Station.

An older man walked up the steps, onto the platform, and asked if this train would be going into town. I assured him it would, but not before warning him that I wasn’t a local.

Apparently, he’s lived here most of his life, but hasn’t used the public transportation system.

For the next hour, we chatted Brian told me his life story.

At six years old, Brian and his parents got into a huge car accident. His mother was 33. His father, Bernie, was a captain in the Philadelphia Police Department.

Sadly, his mother lost both of her legs from that accident. He remembered the firefighters trying to pull him out and being confused, unable to compute that his mother’s legs were being amputated within the wreckage.

Both parents recently died at 90 years old.

Brian’s eyes welled up with tears. There was so much pain. There wasn’t anything I could say. He took a breath, apologized, and continued.

Brian theorized that he was probably bipolar after that accident.

For forty years, he was an alcoholic until a horrific vision snapped him out of it. Two feathers are in his wallet as a reminder, and he’s been clean for 18 months.

During Brian’s alcoholism, he had a three-year relationship with a girlfriend, then married her for six years. They had a son and grandson. Sadly, they got divorced because “she wanted to stop partying and he didn’t.” (He hasn’t seen his son or grandson in years. Sad.)

Brian is good with numbers, so he was an electrician for a long time. Now, at 57 years old, he’s trying to get his commercial driver license (CDL) in Philadelphia to be a trucker.

Brian currently lives in Las Vegas, but plans to move to San Diego, CA. He still has two sisters, but I can’t recall if he mentioned where they live.

As Brian spoke, he was calm, peaceful, and positive on life. I was overwhelmed with emotion.

Compared to him, I can’t complain. I was heading on an epic journey around Philadelphia, with my camera, lenses, and Twitter to keep me company.

As quick as the conversation started, he arrived at his station, shook my hand, smiled, and said goodbye.

Good luck, Brian.

Note: If you’re wondering, I took his photo before we boarded the train. I wasn’t sure if he’d keep talking to me, but he did.

View photo on Flickr

Dave, the chicken man

While waiting for the Metro Gold Line at Union Station, Dave saw my camera in hand and approached me, asking if I wanted to take his photo.

Since I can describe the conversation like a moth in flight, bullet points might make more sense.

  • He explained that he wasn’t mentally right. He was talkative and easy going.
  • “I know the new Incredible Hulk movie. He has a special power,” which he then demonstrated as if he were generating a fireball or something.
  • He talked about his brother who fought in Vietnam, but wasn’t receiving benefits. Somehow, that was a segue into him not getting SSI.
  • “You know the Spiderman song?” *singing the Spiderman theme song* “I’m chicken man. Chicken man, chicken man…”
  • “A girl I know on the subway. She sees me, says, ‘Hey chicken man!’ I give her a hug and kiss.”
  • Lastly, he holds up a circular opaque object. Apparently, it’s a valuable ashtray. I tell him he should try to sell it, but he’d never part with such a priceless object.

Dave's ashtray

When the train finally arrived, I wished him well…and sat half a car away[1. I just wanted to veg. Nothing against Dave!]. I’m pretty sure he struck up a random conversation with someone else.

If you ever meet Dave around LA, talk to him for a bit. (Or, listen to him talk.) It won’t hurt!

View on Flickr