When I go back to town, I enjoy photo walks through streets that eventually reach Old Town and then the harbor. Some of my favorites are posted in an album in my Flickrstream. It’s a small New England town bridled by the ocean with some unique character details that go back nearly 400 years; predating the formation of the United States.
When I met Bob, my 59/100 strangers, it was during a morning walk along the length of Pleasant Street. I was admiring and photographing a home that still hung its patriotic decorations to celebrate the 4th of July.
Bob was smoking a cigarette and he stopped to see what I was capturing. We were alone on the sidewalk. I did what was only natural: started a conversation with the curious stranger.
Once we cleared the air that I wasn’t an ordinary tourist, and had grown up in town, he shared, too. Bob is a native of Boston and he had worked in Marblehead’s Abbot Public Library for 23 years as the main custodian. Now retired, he lives in town with a girlfriend who rents a place that he feels is too small.
Since we were going in the same direction, we picked up our walks together. I explained the 100 Strangers project and asked if he would participate with me. He agreed as we came to 61 Pleasant Street. This is the site of the former Old Town US Post Office; it is now converted into a few luxury condos. In front of the building, along the sidewalk, there is a concrete granite bench that is surrounded by perfectly in bloom hydrangeas. It was there I asked him to rest his feet and to allow me to make the photographs.
It was a cloudy morning without a glimmer of direct sunlight. I thought the best opportunity would be to crouch low and surround him with the bush since it could fill the frame, and the colors were sympathetic to his sunglasses and jacket stripes. I liked also, that in his sunglasses I could position a reflection of one of the historical buildings from along the street.
While I made my shots, he shared the reason for his walk on Pleasant Street: just another block down the road a small house was for sale. Bob has placed two offers on the property and it is now engaged in a bidding war with another party on account of the greed and obstinate attitude of the current owners.
After the picture taking, we walked to it for a closer look. He wanted to see it, to pacify his longing to own it. Anyone could see that the home is in need of a lot of love and restoration and it also lacks a garage and car spot. Bob is willing to overlook these deficiencies because other than its price range, it has a “Beacon Hill sized backyard,” which means it’s small but enough for setting up a grill and a tidy garden to make a place for dinner outside. The location on the busy narrow main street would be a drawback for many. For Bob, it is merely a few hundred feet from the bus to Boston making it an ideal place to wait for a ride into the city to see old friends. He wants to own in Marblehead because over the years it had grown to feel like home.
We parted after I thanked him and wished him tenacity in closing his property deal. We bid each other farewell and a good morning.