At last! After several phone calls and being stood up twice, I can now finally introduce you to one of my favorite people in all of Pleasanton: Shinn. This is no random interview as you can tell. In fact, I went way out of my Tully’s Corner way to track down, meet, and ultimately interview this particular man.
Want to know why? Two words: his eyes.
Check me on this one, because if I’ve ever gone on about someone’s appearance, in any prior story, it would be a surprise to me. Mostly, I just take a picture, let you see what they look like yourself, and use my words to tell you about who they are, what they do — not what they obviously, by the picture, look like.
Shinn is my exception. Unfortunately, my words aren’t going to capture it either. All I can tell you, is one day I was walking across the street near the and this man, wearing a baseball cap, button-up shirt and jeans who walked with a slight limp and carried a cane, was walking across the street in the opposite direction.
And he may not remember me at all, but, we made brief eye contact, exchanged a neighborly Pleasanton smile and I instantaneously knew I wouldn’t rest until I learned more about him.
Weeks would pass, and I would I-spy him washing windows at one downtown business or another. But never when it was convenient to stop and introduce myself. One day.. one day…
Finally, we crossed paths at (when it was still Farmers Restaurant).
I’m sure it seemed to him we were meeting for the first time, but for me, having seen him around Pleasanton so many times before, carrying around this silent desire to learn more, to interview, get to know him, for me it seemed like I was finally meeting him.
Direct match between his personality and eyes. He was soft-spoken and kind. Couldn’t imagine why on earth I would want to interview him for Pleasanton Patch. I was able to get his name, Shinn, and C&S business card. We briefly discussed meeting at that upcoming Saturday morning.
He didn’t show.
Crossed paths again, weeks later. “Remember we were going to meet at Tully’s?” And we set another date and time.
He didn’t show again, but that’s .
My mental default when I face several obstacles in a row is not to get even more determined, as many people more successful than me tend to do, but rather, I go to a place of spiritual surrender. Guess it’s not meant to be ... and sometimes I’m right. And sometimes God corrects me.
I say that because, the morning after the night I spiritually surrendered to the idea I would never get to meet and interview Shinn, I ran right into him. Serious.
It was the day of the Veteran’s Day parade. I rushed to park, was already late meeting my handsome prince and beautiful friend at , hoping to catch at least the first half of the parade before I had to get to work. Was fast-walking past the Veteran’s Memorial Building, when BAM.
“Shinn?!” And there he stood. The same Shinn I had seen a hundred times washing windows wearing a baseball cap and jeans was suddenly before me dressed in a full blown, ultra-handsome, head-to-toe, brown suit.
And where I was used to seeing him walk with his wooden foot exposed and one shoe, today he sported two formal, well-polished dress boots.
“I knew he was a veteran!” I thought to myself. I didn’t actually know he was a veteran, I just guessed it. Something about the combination of the leg injury, and the life stories in his eyes. My guess was confirmed.
He graciously allowed me to take a couple pictures.
“Remember me? I freelance for the Pleasanton Patch. We were going to meet at Tully’s for an interview?”
And that’s when I learned he had just spent I don’t know how long at the Veteran’s Hospital in Livermore. He was battling a number of health issues, cracked ribs among them. Was just released Friday and showed up for the Saturday parade despite it all, looking deceivingly healthy and strong.
I called work for permission to be late so I could catch the entire parade. Did not want to leave without getting a picture of him in the parade. I had no idea on what horse, or truck, or tank he was going to be in, but I kept my camera ready.
Took more than 100 pictures, and am very happy, very proud, I captured a picture of him before I left for work.
Inspired and hopeful, I called Shinn the next day and requested to reschedule our interview again. “Saturday. 8 a.m.”
Saturday, 8 a.m. I was there. And my handsome prince was there too, with his fancy camera. But no Shinn.
Saturday 9 a.m. “Shinn!” And we spent over an hour talking over the crowds and coffee machines inside Tully’s.
He is a survivor of the Vietnam War, hand grenade claimed his leg, and he is the recipient of multiple military awards. We met again the following weekend and I was invited to join him and his fellow Veterans of Foreign Wars for their weekly Saturday morning coffee and donuts social at the and then spent another stretch of time talking, visiting on Tully’s corner that same day.
It remains one of my favorite two-part interviews and he remains one of my favorite people. The kind you are really grateful to cross paths with while you’re here.
Details from those subsequent interviews coming soon, in Part Two. Stay tuned!