Day 10: Luke

Luke turned and elbowed me. "This bird here won't come back. I tip her two out of three times and now she won't come back," he said. In the sound of the bar, I couldn't tell if his accent was a put-on, but it very quickly became apparent it was no act. I shrugged. "Do I have to give her a dollar every single time she opens a can? Let me back there and I'll do it for free." He laughed. I told him I didn't know and asked where he was from. "Australia. Adelaide to be exact." 

"Where is that? I know someone from Sydney?" I asked

"Oh yeah, Sydney is a rad town. Adelaide isn't bad, but you really got to know where to look for a good time, you know?" At this point, Luke's friend came over and asked about the status of his beer. Luke told him the same story he told me. Then after asking me to decide which of them was better dressed (it was very close, but I had to give it to Luke) they thought I might have better luck and gave me the money to buy their drinks. I didn't mind, but it did take awhile. I nearly missed the band. They invited me to join them after the bar to hang and when I ran into them after the concert Luke gave me a hug. 

Day 9: Doug

Doug touched the brim of his hat and showed his yellow teeth. "Yeah, they got a real good museum up there don't they?" I nodded. He touched his belt and retucked his shirt. "A few years back they had a painting of his here. I mean this huge, huge thing. Massive. It was Central Park." He pointed at an empty wall and spread out his arms. 'So I knew I had to go buy a book about him. He wrote a letter at the time and said, 'If I sell this I won't have to work for a year.' and he was right. I guess he sold it to one of those oil titans or something. Doesn't sound so bad does it?"

Day 8: Amanda

Amanda bounced through the room. A smile like yarn. I told her that I was from out of town and the conversation swayed to travel. "I used to travel a lot. More than I do now." She looked across her shoulder. "It was with my ex. When he used to take business trips I would tag along and we would get all cramped up in hotel rooms too tiny for two. Still some of the best times I've ever had."

Day 7: Belinda

Belinda was wearing a purple t-shirt when I met her at the baseball game. "You know, I'm afraid of driving over bridges" 

 

That was one of the first things she told me. I'm not even quite sure how it came up. "I'm fine as a passenger, but just going over myself skeevs me out. I don't know why exactly. I guess I'm just a little odd." She tapped her fingers on her knees and looked back at the ball hitting the grass. 

Day 6: Robert

"I don't know why I don't really like it here. It's not home, I guess." That's what Robert told me, decked out in a denim jacket and jeans. He smiled a vaguely crooked smile. "It's not the same as New Orleans, that's my home."

I asked him about what he was eating. It was squares of pita bread with red and pink piles of fish on top.

"Have one," he said. So I did and it was delicious. "That's how we do it down there in Louisiana,." He smiled his brown smile again. I smiled too. 

Day 5: John

I'm sorry there has been a delay. I've been meeting people and scribbling there stories in notebooks but I haven't had a computer. Rest assured I will be sure to catch up. 

John was so kind. He told me how he began his career. "I came to Manhattan wanting to be a banker. I literally didn't know what a copywriter was." He scratched at his beard and spoke softly; I had to lean in to hear what he was saying."I don't even know how it works anymore. As you rise in your career you end up getting more and more general." It was raining and he tapped the side of his coffee with his forefinger. "You know sometime to figure things out you just got to move."

You know sometimes to figure things out you just got to move.
— John

Day 4: Denise

I guess when you spend your whole life around something, I don’t know, you get used to it—or tired of it.
— Denise

Today I went out to visit my friend who works at a jewelry store. I had never been there to visit so it was a treat. I walked in and was quickly greeted by a procession of shiny people and sparkling rings. Denise was kind enough to show me around. 

She knew everything. I saw interloking rings cut like gears, I saw gold and silver rings, and hand-hammered rings. I saw a ring made in Switzerland by hand winding a single thread of carbon-fiber hundreds and hundreds of times around the band. It was beautiful. I asked Denise, "How long have you been doing this?"

"Since I was thirteen. My dad was a jewler so I grew up around all of this stuff." Then I asked, "What's your favorite piece of jewelery?" She looked around, shrugged her shoulders and said, "I, I'm not that into jewelery. I guess when you spend your whole life around something, I don't know, you get used to it--or tired of it."

Day 3: Kim & Amanda

Kim sat next to me typing away on a laptop with piles of paper on the table. At first, I wasn't sure if she might be the person I would meet for the day. She was wearing headphones and had her head down reading. Eventually, she did stop to talk to her friend, Amanda, and that's when we talked. 

Kim was there to work on an assignment for med school. "I'm just happy to be here and nearly finished," she told me. She asked what I was working on and I told her about this blog. She laughed. Both Kim and Amanda were waiting for their daughters to get out of ballet class and we talked about dance and particularly tap. 

It’s about helping women. Women are my true passion.
— Amanda

Then Amanda told me about her writing project. "I was on the wrong path for awhile, but through my faith, I've really gained strength." She's writing a book about that experience. Interestingly enough it was something Kim didn't even know. "All I knew was that it was a secret writing project," Kim said. Amanda smiled and shrugged and simply said, "It's about helping women. Women are my true passion."

Day 2: Ian

Ian came late in the day. For only my second day I was pushing things to the wire. We met at a bar surrounded by screens showing an NCAA hockey game and people drinking tall boys. 

I guess the most important thing if you’re a creative is finding creative ways to be creative...
— Ian

Ian works as a news broadcast director. He told me he likes it, but he's not sure how long he might keep doing it. "It's a lot of the same, even in a job like this." You go in day after day and do the same thing he told me. "I guess the most important thing if you're a creative is finding creative ways to be creative--" he laughed "--because most jobs, even one like mine, are going to have moments where it gets stale."

We talked about my writing and it brought us to his writing. "I write screenplays and I've been thinking about entering them in some contests." I told him he should and I asked him what he's been writing about-- a short film about the Atlantic City mafia. I hope to see it get made. 

Day 1: Brittany

Here she is holding the art of our conversation.

I owe Brittany a lot of credit for this blog. Not only was she the first person I met as a part of this project she was also the first person I told about the idea. We had our conversation at TEDxRVA set to the backdrop of the Free Ice Water project. It's an art project where you have a distraction free conversation over a set period of time, share some water in a mason jar and then fill the glass with a token of your conversation. This is what really helped to push me into this idea. Brittany was working the event and was nice enough to indulge me. She sat down at the tiny table across from me, took off her glasses and we started to talk. 

I told her about how I became a writer and a musician. She told me about the day she learned not to rely on anyone. After her mother and father split up and her father neglected to pay the rent they were told they had a few days to move. Not enough time for everything. She was only nine years old when it all happened. Her mother told her to grab just one thing from her room to take with her. "How do you pick just one thing?" she said. I didn't have a good answer. A few days later when she got off of the bus after school holding her sisters hand, she saw the dumpster on the corner brimming with everything from their, now old, house. "I know it was really a dumpster but to me, I mean it was basically a box. It's really something to see basically your whole life in a box." That sight, she told me, was when she knew not to depend on anyone.

It’s really something to see basically your whole life in a box.
— Brittany

"My mother was really doing the best she could. I don't hold anything against her at all but because she needed someone else that's what got her, got us into that situation." Hearing her say that was something. She poked at her glasses on the table after she said that. She was quick to clarify, though, that it wasn't that she wouldn't trust other people, it was just that she now refused to rely on other people. Before we left I told her about this blog, this project. She told me to go with it so here we are. Maybe next year, just like some of the presenters and their collaborators, she'll get pulled on stage with me when I am giving my TED talk about the success of this project. I can only hope and dream and I guess meet a few more fantastic people. 

Beginnings

I suppose that 1 Person a Day begins over four years ago. I had a sublime moment. I was sitting in a coffee shop on a rainy afternoon scribbling away in a tiny purple notebook when a girl with a black trench coat and drizzle in her hair walked in. She ordered her coffee and sat down across from me. She scrolled through her phone and I continued to scribble away. This went on for some time set to a background of steaming espresso machines and the wafting smell of chai tea before she said, "What are you writing?" 

This set in motion one of the best conversations of my entire life. Why was it the best? It was all set around the idea that we had no connection to each others lives, no in-depth knowledge of each other. Which meant we could tell each other whatever we wanted with no repercussions, no strings attached. We could have life long memories of each other, as perfect secret keepers.

Where the blog began.

She told me about her mother and her attempted suicide and her sister and her passions and hopes and dreams. I told her things I had never told anyone else, burdens that I needed help carrying. She made the world seem lighter. The power of conversation is amazing, the power of interaction, connection, honesty, anonymity, community,-- everything. This is a blog dedicated in honor of those great conversations whether they come in dire moments or great ones. The people who crossed your path at just the right moment.

So why start now? Well, it took me until the fantastic day of Friday, April 8, 2016, to really understand how to channel this passion for the seemingly mundane, for the ordinary people and interactions we take for granted or avoid altogether. I had been floating in a malaise for months and I finally decided to wake up. 

I think it's a pretty universal desire to hunger for impact. Everyone wants to be (or at least reveres) great artists, inventors, and leaders. I'm no exception. I'm the musician who wants to write Sgt. Peppers and the novelist who wants to be Nabokov. These goals are overwhelming and obviously, they are things the vast majority of people can't achieve. This sort of realization combined with changes in my life had me depressed and at times physically ill. Nauseous with anxiety and crippled with an existential crisis. I needed to do something. I thought about writing a blog featuring monthly long-form profiles of ordinary people but that didn't seem quite right. 

These aren’t extraordinary people these are just ordinary people who are doing extraordinary things.
— Andy Stefanovich

On April 8th I attended TEDxRVA and that's when everything clicked. From the first speaker to the last everyone had an impact, but there were a few moments that really brought it all together for me. The first was a project by John Fryer called Free Ice Water. You can read more about it on his website but the core message is built around conversations, connections and in this case some shared water and a totem of the talk stored in a jar. That was the first piece of the puzzle and you can hearth details in my day one post. The second piece was when the curator of the event, Andy Stefanovich, said something to the effect of, "These aren't extraordinary people these are just ordinary people who are doing extraordinary things." Finally, there was a multitude of speakers to spoke the power of community and engagement--from the story of a borrowed snow shovel, to a woman who put a table into her front yard that became a community center, and a chance encounter with some artists in a bar leading people (myself included) to tearing up. 

At some point this all combined with everything else I had been thinking about and it be came this idea. I knew I had to act. (In fact, I bought the domain name in between sessions.) Ultimately, I just want to connect with people and become a better part of the roughly 60 square miles of land called Richmond, VA and this rock called earth. Maybe people will be interested and get something out of it. Maybe it will become a book. Maybe on day 136 I'll meet a lifelong friend. Maybe people will be inspired to do the same thing and enrich their own lives and the lives of people around them (if you do please let me know.) I don't know what will happen. Maybe it will be a disaster. All I know is that I'm committed to meeting people and striving to make life a little bit better, not just for me, but all the people who cross my path through the power of conversation.