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Solano Stroll vendor's masks
September 14th, 1999

Wuss is eating this new cat food. Good for him. Good for me.

Walking home I was asked by a passerby if I knew the neighborhood and where he might find a tow truck as his car had broken down in the Kaiser Center parking lot. I told him I didn't know the immediate neighborhood, but I did know he'd have to find a phone and look one up in the yellow pages as there were none that I knew of in the area. He'd called AAA, he said, and discovered his card had expired and the two policeman he'd talked with told him they couldn't do anything for him since he was stuck in a private lot. If you've ever been stranded out in the middle of nowhere, he said, you probably know how I'm feeling.

Ah, yes. I remembered the shtick. In fact, I think Preparing for the Solano Stroll parade I remember this very guy: Neat, trim, well spoken, approaching me three years ago late one afternoon ten blocks from where we stood now as I returned to my car after work, telling a similar story of a car that wouldn't start, ending with the "have you ever been stranded" bit. I believe I loaned him $5 to get home, embarrassing for him to ask of course, but he was in a bind. I knew three years ago as I handed him the $5 that I was being taken, but I was being taken with some skill and talent and I appreciated how he'd made the connection and reeled me in. I know what you're saying, I said, but no thanks. He laughed and we parted on the sidewalk heading in our separate directions.

This was a panhandle that required talent, a kind of stand up street routine played before an audience of one, the ability to size someone up and tailor a story on the fly to extract a "loan", the price of the ticket. I'd paid $5 for my ticket three years ago and I'd been in the show, I didn't want to be in the show again, so I cut him off saying thanks, but no thanks. No need to put him through the entire routine. I wonder how he really makes his living? Is this some off the wall prank he pulls every now and then whenever the mood strikes, a kind of mini-grifter street routine? I doubt it. Much too romantic, but an interesting encounter on the way home tonight.

The photographs were taken at the Solano Stroll on Sunday.