Al and Friends Feed the Hungry

Al is late. The normally light Sunday morning traffic is filled with onlookers and runners for the Big Sur Half Marathon. Blocked by the traffic police, Al sits three blocks from Del Monte Beach and those waiting for a hot meal. The starter’s gun fills Del Monte Avenue with hundreds of runners and their police escorts, plus the media riding on motorcycles and bicycles. Al is boxed in.

As the last runners pass by, Al convinces security to allow him through to the beach. The tattered bus rattles its way up Del Monte Ave and slowly turns into the

Al Siekert’s Sunday Breakfast

parking lot. There, a cadre of volunteers and many of those waiting for breakfast move to the bus and begin the process of unloading tables, chairs, and food. Volunteers add the food they prepared at home to that cooked in Al’s rented kitchen. Everyone knows the process and the the meal for about 75 people is ready.

Al and Friends serve the hungry

In short order they open their outdoor cafeteria.

For the next hour and a half the serving line fills plates, including second servings for those wanting them. The line of eaters stretches about fifty yards on the beach, then shortens as everyone gets their fill.

The chairs and eating tables fill quickly and others sit in the sand under the large trees. Groups of friends talk as they eat while many quietly sit alone apart from the others. A young woman arrives on a bicycle with

Volunteers help with the meal.

a guitar strapped to her back. She begins singing well-known songs, but few seem to listen or care. Like a lonely troubador, see carries on with her music.

Since Al’s bus rumbled in I have made pictures. Nearly all but the volunteers and Al shy away from the lens. I try to respect their dignity, but find it difficult to tell their story through photographs. I ask several if I can sit with them and listen to what they have to say. Two show an interest, but they obviously do not want to talk in front of the others nearby. I give them my card. They say they will contact me for a time and place to talk. I hope I will see him again. (Two weeks later Jan and Regina take my offer to record their stories to me. I am thrilled. More later.)

Unfortunately, I do not see any of the friends I normally meet on the street.

I get what I can with the camera and feel privileged for that. I will return until I build some trust with this group, hoping to learn more about them.

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