It was late on a Friday morning and a beautiful sunny California day. Taking advantage of my flexible work hours, I headed to Ocean Beach to check another pier off my list. Even though it’s closer than many of the other piers I’ve photographed, getting to OB Pier is a challenge given the narrow streets and constant traffic so I had avoided it for a while.
Everything started off great. Not only did I get there quickly but I even got a parking spot in the lot right next to the pier! I picked up my camera bag, my favorite ball cap and walked towards the stairs.
Before I could take a single photo, I slipped and landed face down on the concrete with all my weight on my right hand. It was one of those slow motion moments when you see what’s going to happen but you can’t do anything to make it stop. First came the shock, then the searing pain as I got up and looked at my hand. My palm was the first thing to slam into the concrete and my fingers were bent back a weird way. I thought for sure something was broken. Thankfully that wasn’t the case. It was very painful but I could move all of my fingers.
The guy that helped me up said his name was Goldilocks. He was young, maybe in his late twenties, with blonde dreadlocks and the bluest eyes I have ever seen. His skin was weathered from the sun and he wore overalls and a tie-dyed t-shirt. It was clear that he was homeless by choice and that the freedom he enjoyed was worth more to him than money or regular meals. I sat and talked with him for a bit and it was so surreal I felt like like I was talking to an imaginary character; like all of a sudden he might just vanish. I was immensely grateful for his genuine kindness and I think he realized how badly I needed some comfort. Goldilocks convinced me to go shoot the pier anyway—he said it would help me forget my pain. Looking back I wonder if he meant literally or metaphorically because it could have been either. What the heck, I thought, Goldilocks is right. I’m already here I might as well go. I decided to follow his advice, we hugged goodbye and off I went.
Well, there were no DSLR photos that day—my hand wasn’t broken, but my camera was. I took a few cell phone photos as my hand throbbed and decided to call it a day, go home, and hug Mr. Bear.
A month later I went back, this time with a friend who was visiting from the east coast. Wouldn’t you know it as I was crossing the street I tripped! I didn’t fall that time and my friend was there for moral support but tripping twice at this location really spooked me.
I was nervous but I wasn’t going to give up and walk away. This pier has a unique structure with its “T” shape and extended length. It had to be in the series. Besides, if I let my fear stop me this time, it would likely happen again. I kept thinking about my talk with Goldilocks and how he had inspired me. So even though I wasn’t “in the mood” to shoot I began anyway. My friend and I chatted as we walked all the way to the end of the pier and back, and as I continued to shoot, I continued to relax.
In the end I was extremely happy with the images I got and even happier that I was no longer afraid. Sure, it was (literally) a painful lesson to learn but it was worth it to find my courage. I still think of Goldilocks and wonder where he is now. Was he real? Was he in that place at that time because he was meant to comfort me and show me what I needed to do? I’ll never know. What I do know is he’s a very special person and meeting him was no accident. I imagine he’s probably still traveling from place to place and his sunny disposition is inspiring everyone he meets.
Namaste, Goldilocks, and thank you.
PS the photos included in this post are not iPhone images, they were taken with my DSLR and my wide-angle lens on my second trip to the pier. As it turns out my camera didn’t break, it was my go-to 24-70mm that needed repair.