Young, lonely, and a stranger in Phoenix and Los Angeles in the 1980s
Since I collect old photos of Phoenix, and post them on the internet, I often see comments from people that express a real appreciation of those times, when they were younger. And today I'm thinking about the 1980s, when I was in my twenties in Phoenix, and Los Angeles, as a lonely stranger.
If you've ever been a young, lonely stranger in a strange town you know what it's like. If you haven't, well, I guess I can see why it's difficult for you to understand. And I'm not going to try to explain it. If you've been there, you know, and if you haven't, you don't.
Traveling thousands of miles to go live in a place I'd never been before was a decision that I made the year after I graduated from high school. Something told me that I needed to go west, and grow up with the country. No one forced me to do it, it was my own decision to be a stranger in a strange land. And then I did it again when I moved to Los Angeles, just looked at a map and went west. The lessons that it taught me have made me more understanding, and have given me clearer vision of the people around me who are strangers. And I've learned to recognize people who have had the same experience.
People who have been strangers themselves know how it feels. They're the ones who are the first to offer a kind word, to provide a little encouragement. They're the first to welcome someone to a Facebook group, the first to know that sometimes a smile is all someone needs. They simply say, "You're welcomed here."
Of course, there are people who have never been strangers. And I recognize them, too. They have lived in a familiar world all of their lives, never venturing very far. And in their innocence, they can often be cruel to strangers. They were the kids who shouted "no more inners!" when they were playing a game with friends, people who always surrounded themselves with things that they already knew, and people that they already knew. To them, strangers were dangerous, probably wanting to steal money from them, or saying hello in order to flirt. I can recognize these people, and it makes me kinda sad. But they really just don't know.
As a young and lonely stranger, I very much appreciated people who reached out to me. No, I didn't expect them to "pay my way" or "pull strings", I just wanted to know that they weren't afraid of me, just because I was a stranger. And anytime I start to feel cynical about people in general, I think of these people.
Image at the top of this post: Phoenix, Arizona in the 1980s.
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Posted by Brad Hall