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  • Havana | 03.06.12

    Havana | 03.06.12

    "I love people. Because you just never know."

    This was how a conversation started today between me and Mr. James Glen, a case worker in Berkeley who brought one of his clients into Quest Diagnostics to get her blood work done. Today was my first face-to-face with Covered California (aka: Obamacare). Started with a standard, yet somewhat cold, reception from a doctor who treated me more like a number than a person. I met James after being told I had to go elsewhere for blood work, and upon arrival at said location, was told I needed to wait about 45 minutes. I didn't expect a doctor's appointment would take all morning. Felt like stealing candy from a baby just to see her cry. No, I didn't. But I was edgy. 

    And then I heard James, talking to this sweet old lady who may have been crazy (speaking loud, twitching), or may have been the most sane one there, myself included. For after complimenting James' degenerate looking client on her beautiful blue eyes, she started talking to James about how she's still "doing poetry." They knew each other, and seemed genuinely fond of each other. I got the feeling these two were fond of everyone. She says, "for a long time, I wanted to die. I took a whole bunch of pills and as I was moving towards the white light, I heard a voice say 'Come back, sweetie. Everything is gonna be alright.' And it has been ever since."

    My mood changed.

    They called that woman in for her blood work, leaving me to smile awkwardly at James. I quickly broke the silence, telling him that I couldn't help but listening. James smiled and continued to blow me away with his calm tone, and experienced understanding about the flaws of our system. We talked about health care in Canada and why things are so broken here. Greed. He wasn't angry, nor preaching. He didn't blame anyone. He just spoke like somebody I'd want to listen to for a lot longer. 

    I didn't take a picture of James Glen. I don't even know if this is how you spell his name. The image above is of a man I met on the street in Havana, Cuba, while shooting there a few years back with street artist, JR. We were looking specifically for older people with faces that told a story. The project is called Wrinkles of the City. I don't know this man's name, but he was seemingly crazy. When we met him, he was standing on a street corner collecting plastic bags. Many hours later, he was still there, doing the same. He told us his story, in Spanish. I could only understand his tone, and his sadness. 

    You just never know.