How We Met — Hey Hey Paula

Many of you asked how I met each person I have interviewed for Another Door Opens, so this How We Met series is an answer to how I met the first 10 generous Another Door Opens people. Thank you for reading. Here is today’s short story.

HEY HEY PAULA

The decision was made early that morning. I would approach the day with a sense of curiosity and fearlessness.

Some days that comes more naturally than others. Perhaps on this morning, I felt the need to bolster my confidence some. I had to muster the guts to find another door.

The door part is easy. It’s the people part that can be challenging. As a gesture to this commitment, I made sure my camera and recorder batteries were charged and that my notebook and pen were easily accessible. If an opportunity arose, I wanted to be ready.

As I approached Cottonwood, Arizona, it was around lunchtime and I planned to look for a restaurant there.

Just before I reached the historic old town section of Cottonwood, a thrift shop on the left caught my eye. Immediately, I felt compelled to stop. That was the next door.

But I kept driving, maybe out of fear of approaching unknown people at random for a project that had been in existence for all of about two weeks. No sooner had I talked myself out of stopping, and forgotten about eating, I was quickly back onto a desert road.

“Turn around. Just go back there,” I said to myself.

And so I did.

I did a U-turn and drove back to Paula’s Attic, parked the car and went inside with my camera, recorder, notebook, pen, all of it. That was kind of presumptuous.

I walked in the door and Paula came out from the back. We said hello and she told me a little about the store and asked where I was from. When she asked what I was doing, I told her about Another Door Opens. Then, was there any chance she’d like to talk with me as part of the project, I asked.

She thought about it, then said “why not.” We sat in two high chairs near the glass counter in front, and began the interview.

Feeling mutually blessed to have met, we hugged goodbye and wished each other well. Thank you, Paula.

Advertisements

How We Met — Modern Management/Old Soul

Many of you asked how I met each person I have interviewed for Another Door Opens, so this How We Met series is an answer to how I met the first 10 generous Another Door Opens people. Thank you for reading. Here is today’s short story.

MODERN MANAGEMENT/OLD SOUL

It wasn’t that I’d driven very far so much as I was ready for a rest. That morning, I left Flagstaff, Arizona, and headed south toward Sedona, and on the sage advice of my friend Michael, I took the scenic Highway 89A. As I drove that winding stretch of road, my mind shifted back and forth between scenery-induced wonder and cliff-induced awareness.

I continued through other-worldly Sedona, over to Cottonwood then through the old copper mining town of Jerome when I decided to stop for the day in Prescott, “Everybody’s Hometown.” I picked the Hassayampa Inn, a 1920’s-era hotel near the Courthouse Square.

While checking in at the front desk, the manager, Michael Kouvelas, introduced himself and wanted to make sure I’d parked my vehicle in a spot that would not be ticketed. He walked back out with me to direct me to a better spot, helped me with my bags and told me a little about the hotel. I remember he used the word “portecochere” which I had never heard before. Due to context, I knew what he was talking about as he pointed out the narrow drive where the old Model Ts once arrived. Still, I made a mental note to look it up and figure out how it was spelled.

When he asked about my travels, I told him about the storytelling project I was working on — Another Door Opens. He lit up and said there were some wonderful doors in the hotel, including the stained-glass entrance to the Arizona Ballroom. I asked if I could interview him. He said yes.

Later that afternoon, I returned to the main lobby as planned, where we did the interview and took a few photos. Respect is the number one offering at the Hassayampa Inn, and they aim to make every guest feel like family.  Thank you, Michael.

How We Met — Saddle Up and Ride

Many of you asked how I met each person I have interviewed for Another Door Opens, so this How We Met series is an answer to how I met the first 10 generous Another Door Opens people. Thank you for reading. Here is today’s short story.

SADDLE UP AND RIDE

With the states of New Mexico and Arizona behind me, I continued west. Lulled by the mirage on the hot ribbon of road, I thrilled at sights I’d never seen — the proud saguaro cactus and jagged mountains cutting a sharp edge on a distant horizon.

I was feeling under the weather when I arrived for a two day visit with my childhood friend Darla in southern California. But I was made to feel welcome and comfortable, as her family is like family.

The next morning, I asked her Mom, Judy, if she had any suggestions on where I should go for the day. The answer was quick and certain. “Norco!” she said. “Also known as Horsetown, USA.”

She knew about Another Door Opens and encouraged me to keep going.

“Go to Norco. And you find yourself a door, and you find yourself a cowboy!” she laughed.

I drove the strip of Sixth Street through Norco, noticing several people riding horses and waiting at stoplights where cross signals are horseback-high.

Still feeling under, I stopped at Circle K for some Vitamin C. I sat in the parking lot with my window open trying to open a bottle of orange juice when a dog came running up to my front wheel well, followed casually by a guy (Brian), then another guy (Michael Dean). They were laughing a little, and I heard Brian say, “See! When he runs away, he always runs to Circle K!”

By this time they’d followed the dog to my vehicle and open window.

Then Brian looked at me. “He always runs away to Circle K.”

And so it began, by chasing Henry.

We talked about what they were doing, what they do, who they are a little bit. They clearly had a long brotherly bond, and with all their joking, I didn’t know when to believe them and when they were pulling my leg.

Then they asked me what I was doing and what I do. Since I’d just left my job months prior, I still had trouble knowing how to answer that question. So I told them about Another Door Opens.

Immediately, Brian pointed to Michael Dean and said, “You have to do a story about him. He’s had a kidney transplant, a pancreas transplant, triple bypass heart surgery and he’s blind in one eye.”

I didn’t believe him. That’s a fast turn in a conversation, and the guy standing in front of me looked strong. Turns out he’s even stronger than he looks.

They sensed my skepticism and got serious. “No, really,” said Brian.

Silence.

“That’s all true,” said Michael Dean.

The conversation went on for hours that day and topics changed and circled back throughout the morning and into the afternoon.

Finally, we all agreed to meet the next day to do an interview and photos, where I met their families and was welcomed into their homes.

Thank you, Michael Dean. Thank you, Brian.

Back to Darla’s house, and Judy opened the door.

“Well, did you find a door?” she asked.

“I did.”

“And a cowboy?” she asked.

“I found two.”

How We Met — Designing a New Future

Hello Readers, I’m taking a walk back and sharing with you how I met the first 10 people of the Another Door Opens project. I began with the most recent and am working my way back to the first. 

DESIGNING A NEW FUTURE

I had just come back to Chicago after about nine months of traveling and living out of a suitcase, and I was looking forward to boxing and kickboxing again with my friend Aaron.

Whenever I need to feel grounded in a new city — an experience I became accustomed to after moving around for more than 13 years for work — I find a place where I can do martial arts, boxing, kickboxing.

I’d only recently started down the path of opening new doors in the form of this Another Door Opens project, and I was eager to find the next person behind their door…. To hear their story… To ask them about their life… To share more deeply in the human experience.

Aaron knew of my project and was enthusiastic and encouraging. Then he mentioned his friend and colleague, Justin — telling me little, but emphatic that I should talk to him. I met Justin not long after and we agreed to meet again for an interview. He was 25 and making big changes in his life.

We sat on the floor at the gym, surrounded by heavy bags, and he told me his story with honesty, ownership, humility and pride. Thank you, Justin!

How We Met — Easy Come, Easy Go

Hello Readers, I’m taking a walk back and sharing with you how I met the first 10 people of the Another Door Opens project. I began with the most recent and am working my way back to the first. 

Easy Come, Easy Go

It had been a great brainstorming session one day with a radio producer friend of mine named Kristin. We discussed some ideas about Another Door Opens. Stories. People. Doors. Experiences. Places.

Afterward, Kristin sent me an email with an afterthought. I think those are often the best emails to receive — the ones that follow a spirited, inspiring conversation, and begin, “I was thinking… and…”

She told me about the Green Door Tavern and thought it might have potential for an Another Door Opens story. I am embarrassed to say I hadn’t heard of it, especially after learning of its colorful history. Once I knew a little, I liked the idea a lot. Doors are kind of fascinating to me —  some more than others.

I opened the crooked tavern door and a smile spread across my face. Even though it was coming on noon, after passing through the door, daylight dimmed and time faded away.

As I received my grilled chicken salad, I asked the waitress if I could tell her about my project. She listened kindly and with interest. She asked me to call Jeff Lynch.

Two days later, we met at 10:30am and Jeff shared his passion for the Green Door Tavern, for the people he’s met and for the memories he’s made there. Thank you, Jeff!

How We Met — Hats Off

Many of you asked how I met each person I have interviewed for Another Door Opens, so this How We Met series is an answer to how I met the first 10 generous Another Door Opens people. Thank you for reading. Here is today’s short story.

Hats Off

It was mid-summer in the Windy City, and the urban heatwave was blanketing Chicago.

I wanted to find another door. But which one?

I decided to see where the sidewalk would take me.

Back in time and offtrack is where it took me. Or so I thought.

The plain but smart storefront of Goorin Bros hat shop had caught my attention many times and caused me to swerve a time or two, yet I don’t have a good reason for not stopping in sooner.

Inside, the big band music, ornate carpets, an aged chandelier and the caramel colored kaleidoscope of timeless hats was intoxicating.

Tanya Jaramilla, the shopkeeper,  greeted me with a bright easy smile and confirmed for me the surroundings were intended to evoke a sense of nostalgia for decades past.

Tanya answered every one of my hat-related and shop-related questions with enthusiasm, knowledge and ease.  As she gave me her business card, I asked her about talking with me for the next Another Door Opens story. She agreed.

One hour later, when Tanya’s colleague came in, I returned. We sat down on the old-fashioned sofa, and the conversation began. Thank you, Tanya.

How We Met — Where Is Home

Readers! I’m going to take a walk back and share with you how I met the first 10 people of the Another Door Opens project. I’ll begin with the most recent and work my way back to the first. 

Where is Home?

Anita Ong and I took Mandarin Chinese language classes together. At 6:30pm on Tuesday nights, we’d meet in a nondescript tiny classroom in Chicago’s Chinatown. Usually I’d speed from work through southbound traffic, past many Chinese restaurants and beyond commercial glass doors to a class that consisted of one teacher and two students: Anita and me. Our mutual friend, Z.J. Tong, founder of the Chicago Chinese Cultural Institute, had placed us in this class together, a chance for small-group adult language learning. Although we learned a bit about each other through our structured Mandarin dialogue, I knew only small pieces about Anita’s background.

Schedules and geography changed, and our class disbanded. More than one year later, while having lunch with Z.J. at Chi Cafe, one of my favorite spots in Chinatown, he told me about Anita’s citizenship and how until that time, she’d been stateless. With Z.J.’s encouragement, I reached out to Anita by email, and we met for lunch about a week later at the very same restaurant.  We talked about the possibility of doing an interview so Anita could share her unique situation in the form of an Another Door Opens story.

She told me after some thought that she would do it. She told me she does at least one thing each year that requires extra courage on her part, something that scares her a little or a lot, and that puts her outside her comfort zone. And so we met again. And she shared her story. Congratulations, Anita! And thank you.