"Retirement is the best thing that ever happened to me. It's like being a millionaire--you wake up and do what you want every day. You may not have the money to buy the farm, but you still can't beat it."
"Safe Harbor is an emergency shelter that helps people with addiction, and we do homelessness; people who are homeless can come in and they get free meals. We help 'em with job searches, we help 'em with applications, we help 'em with resumes. We have a pantry where they can come get food. Basically it's an organization that helps fight homelessness and we try to do homeless awareness."
"And how did you get involved with them?"
"I actually became a resident last year and relapsed and came back. I been sober ever since last year of July 28th and got back in there. They've been great--they have staff on duty at all times that if you need to talk to 'em you can talk to 'em. The director is fantastic, the case managers, the secretary. They're all fantastic people."
"How did you make the decision to become sober?"
"The programs that they offer--they do A.A. meetings on Saturdays, N.A. meetings, very supportive of sobriety. If you feel like using, it's not an issue to talk to one of them--they've all been through it. They all have a story to tell. They open your eyes to what life can really be about in sobriety 'cause they're walking stories themselves. They're recovered and they're sober and they let you know that there's more to life than being messed up all the time."
"Her name is Nemo and she's a Jack Russell/chihuahua mix. She was a rescue; my mom's vet was actually fostering her and other puppies and my mom rescued her from there. She's named Nemo because she has an umbilical hernia, so I named her after the fish from the movie. She's about eleven weeks old right now, and I've had her for a couple of days."
"Take your time and listen. You start growing up and becoming a bigger person and listening and communicating with others, and you get to learn and grow when you're in your twenties."
"Is there something you regret?"
"Not listening to my mother. She told me not to always listen to what men say. Yes. You have to pick and choose what you do. Listen to your mother. She knows best.
I asked him to sum himself up in a few words:
"I would say I'm outdoorsy, intellectual, and fun loving."
Boys and Girls Club of Easton, Executive Director
Jones Houston Way, South Side
"I have a young man who went on to become a principal. When I started my career, I came outside and we had was a sign on the wall that says ‘No Graffitti.’ And this young man had airbrushed some of the most magnificent airbrush I’ve ever seen. I’m torn between not being severe but being certain, so I called him right on the spot and he asked ‘are you gonna call my mom or call the police?’ I tell him ‘here’s what you’re gonna do—come see me tomorrow at three o’clock and we’re gonna talk about this.’ So he came in, spoke with me and we decided he was going to take the airbrushing that he was doing and teach the other kids. He became a leader. Now, I used the poetry that I write, and he took that and worked with the kids and they interpreted it through art, through dance, through drama, all with the arts.
Fast forward, he graduates Kutztown University in three years, dean’s list student. He goes on and teaches at Easton Area High School, and he calls me and tells me ‘We got something happening at Palmer Mall.’ I get to the mall and he says, ‘Don’t you see?’ I say, ‘Of course I see! I’m happy to see you!’ He says, ‘No, no, no, no. Look up! Look up!’ So as I look up, his students that I had presented poetry to had now done the same thing: they had interpreted my poems through art, and they were now all up as mobiles in Palmer Mall. What a great tribute. Not just because he graduated and not just that he had gone on to become a principal, but because he was also one to say ‘Come back and get engaged with the students I have, and, by the way, thank you.’"
Me: "What's the key to a long-lasting relationship?"
Him: "Trust and loyalty."
Her: "Honesty. We've been married twenty-five years."
Him: "We met at the Paradise Club here in Easton. We just renewed our vows."
Her: "We had an anniversary party for our twenty-five years, and we didn't know, but his family surprised us with a minster and we renewed our vows. That was beautiful."
Easton Farmers' Market
"I gave up being a self-employed mason. I always wanted to be a farmer and I found the right opportunity to land a farm. I gave up the masonry business and followed my dream and I love it. I just like working with the land, the animals, and the people that enjoy the food that we produce. That's a very good feeling inside."
"Last year's birthday was my best time ever. I went to Vegas by myself. Three nights and four days by myself."
"Why go to Vegas by yourself?"
She told me her tattoos were all about peace, and I asked her how she went about achieving the peace that she craves so deeply:
"Being by myself. Just being alone with my dogs. That's when I'm most at peace: outside in nature, when it's beautiful out, when it's hot out, summertime. By the water, in the woods with my dogs. That is my peace and meditation."
Easton Farmers' Market
Thisilldous Eatery in Belvedere, NJ, has been barbecuing since 1963. Here's some good advice from the owner:
"What can barbecuing teach you about life?"
"Take it slow… and stay low!"
"What's the most important thing for us as human beings to remember?"
"That we belong to the planet. That we are one with the trees, the animals. We are energy. We are one."
"It's tough to get anywhere in life without staying in one place long enough to make it happen. I have lots of friends who like to travel and I feel that I never really got the travel bug, but in not traveling I was able to make a place for people who DO travel to come whenever they want, you know? And I always have that space for them to be able to live."
Woman on left: "Every day I get up and focus on not what happened yesterday and not what's gonna happen tomorrow, but what's happening today."
Me: "So how do you know that you're living in the moment?"
Woman on left: "I'm not dwelling on the past and I'm not focusing on what I can't control in the future. Sometimes we wait for good things to happen while you really have the power to make them happen yourself. When your life is going good, things just keep coming to you, but when it's not, you're like a shield deflecting good things. Like, I was thinking about my ceramics studio and I called my friend who has my kiln and I was like, 'Oh, can I have my kiln?' and she was like, 'Oh, absolutely! And, hey, do you want another kiln?' So now I have a place to have a studio and an electrician to run the electricity. So, it's just like more and more things keep happening. But when you put out that deflecting part, people don't want to get close to it--it's like a disease. Yeah. But things are coming together."
Him: "Life has been a struggle for me, so I would say you gotta go for the gold. I'm a truck driver and coming from a broken home and being locked up, I gave up on life in general. Then I got my CDL and now I'm traveling the world."
Me: "What's the coolest place you've been to?"
Him: "California, definitely. And New Mexico. They got a very different lifestyle over there from New York. See, I was born in Harlem and left."
Him (Laughs): "New York is rough--it traps you. You get used to one lifestyle to live and die by. You got three options there: hang with the boys on the corner, go to prison, or die. The best way to do it is to get out, which I did. Now I live in North Carolina with my grandma. That's why you gotta go for the gold."
Melanie Martinez is a co-owner of Don Juan Mex Grill on March Street, which has been open for four years.
Me: "Why a Mexican restaurant, and why College Hill?"
Melanie: "We had this concept for a long time that we were looking for, and we found this location, and it's great--right next to the college here, as well as that we love the community, so we decided on this area. A Mexican restaurant is something we always wanted to do."
Me: "Is there a specific dish that's your specialty? What would you recommend?"
Melanie: "Umm, we're fast casual, so we do tacos, burritos and bowls--that's simple, and our carnitas are excellent. People who usually have them, they don't change and they stick to that."
"A lot of stuff has gone right. I had a kid when I was eighteen; it's the best thing that ever happened to me. You know, I married the mother of my child, my daughter was the flower girl at my wedding. It doesn't get much better than that, really."
South Third Street
"I got an email last night from people in Missouri who were asking for people across the United States in faith communities to gather to speak against the violence that's happening in Missouri. So, as 'faith people,' we always say there's another answer to when violence erupts in the community, and we feel very strong about that--we're a pretty tight group here, and we work well with our police department and the city and with the community members. So, yeah, we want to make a statement that it doesn't have to be violent in a community. We can do things like communicate with one another, pray together, and anything like that. So that's the message for today."
Easton Farmers' Market
"We have to be healers. Every contact you have with another person is to help the other person function at a higher level of social consciousness."
New York Times Bestselling Author
Oechsle Hall, Lafayette College
"Tell me about your visit to Easton."
"It was a short visit, but the people's warmth and good nature came through loudly and clearly. Loved the vibrant downtown and was impressed with the way the Easton Public Library serves its contemporary patrons and also respects its past history."
Me: "What do you like about owning a business on College Hill?"
Her: "This area is very safe and in the college are many students, who are very good customers. It's a very nice area here. I enjoy that many young people pass by the street."
Me: "May I take your picture?"
Her: "No, no pictures of me. Just store."
We settled on her hands.
Easton Farmers' Market, Weyerbacher Wednesday
"If you try to be somebody else, eventually they're going to figure out that that's not you, and you're going to be really unhappy. And you'll be unhappy trying to pretend all the time."
-"Was there a time in your life when you were pretending?"
"There was, there was. When I was looking for jobs, I was trying to be somebody else, trying to do what I was 'supposed' to do and be something that I wasn't. I had to stop and go, 'Wait a minute… I need to be who I am, and if they like me I'll get a job and if they don't, then I wasn't meant to be there.'"
-"So, who are you, then, in a couple of words?"
"Hmmm… I'm a friendly, loving, and compassionate person who loves people and animals, and thinks that everybody deserves a shot."
Tara from The Cosmic Cup.
Tara: "We get all sorts of students and older people and commuters. It's really a great community."
Me: "What's your favorite type of coffee?"
Tara: "Oooooohhhh… I'd have to say the lighter Ethiopian blend. A *lot* of flavors in it."
These are the stories of the people of Easton, PA