I brought Zaydee along on a trip downtown to skid row last week. Zaydee is a professional photographer taking shots for actors, models, couples and much more. She’s volunteered on skid row for over two years and has passion for helping people in need and has made many connections with those that live on the streets where I’ve been filming.
We went by a spot with some of the guys that she knows and as we made out way up the street at about 6:15 while the sun was setting Zaydee said,” it’s weird coming down here at this time.. and with out any food to hand out”. Together we walked by familiar faces, most of which didn’t recognize her or me out of context. Although as we approached the end of the block where some of these guys set up their tents, they recognized her immediately. “Zaydee!" rang out from two of the three men.
We were there to talk to Gerry, one of the men that Zaydee has a good relationship with. But as we were setting up someone stopped by and asked if he was coming to get his tent from it's storage spot. Most of these guys stay in tents at night and sleep on nice cut up cardboard boxes. But they don’t carry them around all day, they hide them in strategic places so they can come by in the evening and safely get the ingredients to their camps. So Gerry took off to get his stuff with the promise that he would be back soon and we could talk to him.
While we waited I went down the block and across the street to talk to James, a man who i've talked to regularly and even posted about on here. I wanted to see how he was doing and to catch up on what things have been happening with me. After about 15 minutes of talking with James, Gerry still wasn’t back, but Zaydee had sat down next to another man, Ricardo, who she also knows pretty well. Ricardo doesn’t have a voice box. Almost no sound comes from his mouth as he tries to talk to you, but does a very good job communicating by mouthing to you what he is trying to say - and he has a lot to say. So I started setting my camera up in front of him, and pointing the mic, not at him (because that didn’t do much good) but at myself and Zaydee. The fun part is that he speaks spanish and english and switches back and forth, so it can be hard to follow when no sound comes out.
Ricardo, like many people didn’t want to be recorded at first, but after a little reassurance he conceded that we could film for one little bit. He told zaydee to look up a song on her phone and after she hit play, he held his arm up at an angle and wrapped his other hand’s fingers around his wrist. The guitar in the song kicked on and his fingers started to mimic a guitar player holding down the strings of each chord as they played over the speaker, and when the lyrics came up he sang right along.
After the song was over he went on to tell us all about his life before coming to LA 25 years ago, how he lost his vocal chords 9 years ago due to infection from smoking cigars and ultimately lost his construction job because of the surgery to remove his infected vocal chords. He talked about Pueblo, and showed us on the map his home town. He went on about his love for music, how his father played the violin and the saxophone for the Pueblo philharmonic and he picked up his first guitar in 1966.
Eventually Gerry came back after the sun had set, which meant it was too dark to shoot. I was also running low on battery anyway after talking to Ricardo. We promised we’d come back another time to talk to Gerry. Then Zaydee and I walked back to our cars. On the way we talked about how special Ricardo is and how much fun it was to hear his story. He told us that he wants to go back to Pueblo, but he has a doctor’s appointment that he can’t miss coming up and then after that, he wants to head home. However, he’s 66 and that’s a long trip for someone that doesn’t have a car or money to make the journey.
He had us laughing the whole time we were with him and I asked him why he was so funny, why not sad. He said to us, because that’s not how you relate to people. The best way to connect with someone is to laugh.
Look at our conversation with Ricardo in this 360 video.