On People

Honestly, it was the most fun I’ve had in awhile. I sat on the porch of a cafe this afternoon, eating banana bread and sipping a café con leche, and writing about the people I saw. Here are some of the ‘characters’ that inspired me today.


Old guy with defined abs drives a golf cart down the middle of the road.

Middle-aged couple stop to discuss the construction site across the street. They are tan and comfortable with each other, as if they could be walking on the moon and still feel at home together.

Woman wearing a stoic look, a short bob cut, and an old 90s sweater strides past.

Man with wild, stylish white hair smokes a cigarette out of his car window, glancing at me in hopes of some attention.

Two very fat people hunched over on scooters ride by in lurid, pastel-colored shirts.

Trio of old guys stop on the sidewalk to check out a construction site across the street. They speculate. They shade their eyes with their palms. They wonder and exchange ideas. As they move on, a woman I hadn’t seen before falls in line and walks with them silently.

Teenager, lanky, with faded, oversized tie-dye shirt, carries a backpack and looks at their phone intently. Their long, blond hair hides their face as they walk.

Pink-in-the-face guy with cigar and light blue shirt bikes by, adjusting his baseball hat.

Woman with bright blue flowing skirt and skin-tight shirt carries herself like a festival queen.

Very prepared tourist couple come into view with freshly-purchased straw hats and gatorade. They each carry a bag, and stroll in an easy way that allows them to turn their heads in all directions to see the sights.

Two guys drive up in a white van, one driving, one delivering. The delivering one runs out with a single package of toilet paper, jogs the package into the cafe, then leaves. I hear laughter and Latino music as they drive away.

Stylish older couple float by. They both hold themselves with a lot of grace, and have grown their hair out long. The man has arm tats and the woman’s arm is in a sling. She carries a breathy white bag. I inhale and think about my future.

Little girl, about 10, rides in an open-air tour bus, wearing an oversized cream-colored tee shirt, looking off into the distance at nothing in particular. She looks tired. There are little wisps of hair all around her chubby face.

Guy in a white tee hunches over an exceedingly noisy scooter, which is probably about to fall apart.

Woman in black tee and a ponytail points to the cafe, saying “And that’s the coffee house my next-door neighbor used to own.” She’s riding a beach cruiser bike. Her friend, trailing behind on her own bike, looks at the cafe with interest.

A young couple walks by on the other side of the street. Their body language looks a bit dejected, like they’ve given up on something. The man walks slightly in front of the women. She keeps her body in really good shape, him not so much. He takes out his phone as they turn around, probably lost.

Young guy on a scooter holds a guitar in one hand, and steers with the other. He yell-sings “Hey! Come, come on!” as he zooms past me, blond hair flowing and waving wildly in the wind. I smile. How can you not, when someone is singing and scootering.


Once I started noticing all these things, it was impossible not to be interested in every single one of these people. I wanted them to succeed, whatever that meant to them. Once you start noticing, like Mary Oliver once said, you start loving. “Attention is the beginning of devotion.” Here’s the full excerpt, from her collection of essays, Upstream:

“Teach the children. We don’t matter so much, but the children do. Show them daisies and the pale hepatica. Teach them the taste of sassafras and wintergreen. The lives of the blue sailors, mallow, sunbursts, the moccasin flowers. And the frisky ones—inkberry, lamb’s-quarters, blueberries. And the aromatic ones—rosemary, oregano. Give them peppermint to put in their pockets as they go to school. Give them the fields and the woods and the possibility of the world salvaged from the lords of profit. Stand them in the stream, head them upstream, rejoice as they learn to love this green space they live in, its sticks and leaves and then the silent, beautiful blossoms.

Attention is the beginning of devotion.” -Mary Oliver, Upstream