This is Pirate Steve Yarling, from Morrow Bay, California. When he is visiting his mother in Henderson, he comes to the Strip and dresses up as a pirate for tips. He has the whole get up. His tips “jar” is a silver bucket with a huge skull and crossbones etched into it.
He spent most of his life on the water, mostly as a commercial fisherman. He is the real deal. I met him as he was getting ready for his nightly “show”, his van was parked on a side street off Koval Ave. I was there checking on the progress on the Linq project, an extravaganza so monumental that they leveled the entire O’Sheas Casino, one of the last cool vibe joints on the strip. Walking back to my car, anxious to see if it had been towed or not, I came across this guy in a cluttered white van, side door open and putting on pirate boots. With that God-In-Heaven-That’s-Huge shark tooth around his neck.
I don’t know what made me stop. Actually, I didn’t at first. Walked right by. But then, I stopped. I don’t know what made me stop. And turn around and start up a conversation with this total stranger. I’m so glad I did. He talked like he had a thousand stories, like you would imagine men of the sea would have a thousand stories.
I’m also glad I got his picture. Even if it is a crappy picture. I wish I took about a dozen more.
Everyone has a story. Fact.
This is my mother. The back of the photograph has this hand written note: “Paul Bailey & Carole Parker, Dec 25, 1952, Hermosa Beach”. That’s it. No other info. I doubt I’ll ever find out who exactly Paul Bailey is. Or how they ended up in Hermosa. And, who took the photo? But, I’m sure there is a story there. Everyone has a story.
It’s not too much of an exaggeration to say that, after my mother past away in 2011, we divided up her belongings into two separate, distinct categories. There was the stuff, mostly junk, that we ended up either giving away or throwing away. And photographs.
Photographs of her in high school, photographs of the places she hung out, photographs of her brother, my uncle Patrick, who was also a man of the sea. Somewhat. I’m eternally glad I have these photographs of her. They provide an insight into her life that would have been forever lost had it not been documented through photography.
I’ve written before about how my father would drag me to airshows when I was a kid. He was a bit of a shutter-bug as well, taking copious shots of the rare planes on display. And in flight. He had albums upon albums of air show stuff. Mom always chided him every time he turned his rolls into the local pharmacy for processing. “You shouldn’t take so many pictures of things things,” she would say, “You should take pictures of people. Things don’t change. Those planes are the same they were during the war. People change.”
So very true. Ourselves, our children, our friends, our lovers. We all change. We grow, we shrink, we get sick, we stay strong. We laugh, we’re awkward, we think we’re cool. And some people go to Heaven without warning.
So, I’m glad I stopped to talk to Pirate Steve, hear a small fraction of his story, and get something to remember him by. May his winds be swift and his skies be fair. And, I’m glad I’ve got all these pictures of my mother. She changed so much.
Everybody has a story. And everyone changes.
So, this year, I vow to take more pictures of people. Don’t get me wrong, I love shooting cars. But, cars usually stay the same.