Moments of change
Locals share noteworthy moments with the CN&R
Everyone has a story. If you don’t believe that’s true, all you have to do is go up to someone and ask. Recently, I did just that. Inspired by a piece in the Sacramento News & Review by photographer/writer Noel Neuburger (see “Moments of Change,” SN&R, March 10, 2011), I asked people to describe a moment, no matter how big or small, that changed their life. Answers ranged from the everyday—work, marriage—to the adventurous (check out Robert Stanley’s story!) to the esoteric. But every single response—from brief to lengthy—was meaningful to the teller, as the occasional tears or laughter indicated.
I thank each one of the people who spoke to me for sharing their stories.
Active retiree, volunteerAsked in front of Cyclesport
The day I found out my best friend had breast cancer, and she called me on the phone and she told me. And when I started to cry, she told me I couldn’t—I had to be strong for her. And she allowed me and many of her close friends into her journey from life to death, and it was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever experienced. And because of that, I became a hospice volunteer.
Spiritual adviserAsked in doorway of vacant building next to the downtown post office
In 2004, I was living in India, and I met my beautiful wife, who I love so much. I traveled the world with her; and that’s the one thing that really changed my life. It opened my eyes to all these different kinds of spiritual aspects of life. You know, “God is one”—in so many ways.
Homeless, “bipolar”Asked in doorway of vacant building next to the downtown post office
I’ve been homeless in Chico for a long time, and I used to hang out downtown by the gazebo [that used to be in City Plaza], and I went to a business over here to ask for the time and the lady said, “Get out, get out!” Anyways, I got arrested and I went to prison. The officer lied and I went to prison, and that changed my whole life. I learned not to hang out in downtown Chico and be a drunk. And now I don’t drink anymore.
Karollynn ‘K.C.’ Cardoza
Manager, Broadway Music Center; musicianAsked in front of the downtown post office
Helping a homeless person get off the street and get his life straightened out. I found him under a bridge, discovered he was someone who used to be famous who had bad luck with a head injury, and I helped him get his own apartment and continue with his life. I see him every week. We play saxophone together. He’s doing very well. An inspiration for everyone: They can always turn their life around.
PsychologistAsked at the Thursday Night Market
I was about 17 years old, and I was working summers in Los Angeles at the airport. I was what they called a “roadrunner”; I assisted skycaps. I was at American Airlines; my dad, at the time, worked at Pan American Airlines. While out to lunch, I heard kind of what I thought was an industrial trash can drop. And the cab driver came in—he took his lunch where the employees would eat, in that big dome there at the airport—and said that a bomb had gone off at Pan American, where my dad was a skycap. And so my cousin, who worked with me, and I ran there to see if he was OK. I asked my father’s colleagues where he was, and they said he had entered the building. And, um, I was standing there when he walked out of the building, with all the smoke behind him. And one of his colleagues had his head blown off, and a couple other people had died. And from that point on, I looked at life and death differently—and my father. And that’s changed my life.
Shoe repairman, Preston’s Shoe RepairAsked at his downtown Chico shop
When I moved up here in 1985, I was looking for work [laughs]. When I was down in Los Angeles, I used to clean parking lots—I drove a sweeper truck. I made pretty good money down there doing that. So when I moved up here, I was doing pool service with some guy, and he stopped coming to pick me up. And so all of a sudden it was like, “Damn, I need to find some work!” So I went out looking in the early mornings for the people who clean the parking lots around here, and I bumped into a guy named Paul Reed, who was actually from Glendora, down in Southern California. So we had something in common—he was from down there, and I was from down there. And I asked him for some work—he was cleaning the parking lot over where Pay ’n’ Pak used to be, which is now In Motion Fitness.
So he was cleaning that parking lot and I stopped him and said, “Hey, you know, do you have any work?” And he said, “No, I don’t have enough parking lots. I have just enough for me,” and he said, “Uh, hey, have you ever worked with leather?” And I said, “Oh yeah, man. I work with leather all the time.” You know, I made a belt in the eighth grade.
And he says, “Well, there’s a shoe-repair shop in this western shop downtown that, you know, they bought a shoe-repair shop and they got it in the back [of the store]. And they got me helping the guys out—I used to have a [shoe-repair] shop up in Paradise. They got me in there working, and my wife’s getting upset, so I need to find somebody to take my spot.” He says, “We’ll start you at minimum wage.” Minimum wage back then was, I think, $3.25 an hour. And he says, “We’ll see if you can do it. If it works out, you got yourself a job.”
And so, well, you know, what’s that saying? “Necessity is the mother of invention.” I just bullshitted my way into shoe repair by bumping into this guy. Then, after I get the job and I seemed to be working out OK—because they didn’t let me go—then the new mall [Chico Mall] was built, and he picked up that account, bought another sweeper truck. I started sweeping parking lots for him in the early morning and doing shoe repair in the afternoon. That was in 1985. I worked there through 1989, and I opened over here in 1990.
So, that was a key thing—I wasn’t planning on staying here [in Chico]. I was going to move up to Oregon.
Journeyman sign makerAsked in doorway of vacant building next to the downtown post office
When I was asking for help from a medical place like Immediate Care. The [doctor] right away got a funny look on his face. I was having a heat stroke this summer, and he said, “I don’t know what you need,” and I decided I wasn’t gonna waste my time on him because he wasn’t gonna help me. So I stepped out of the door and picked up my packages and put them in a laundry basket from next door at the laundromat just so I could get out of the sun, and they called the cops. The cops came [starts to cry] and beat my face, pounded it into the blacktop and put their boots on my arms and my ankles. And while I was bleeding and trying to spit the blood out of my mouth, they took me to the hospital and put a hood over my face. They said I was spitting on them. And that was about three hours of the worst I’ve ever been through. And that’s changed my life. I can’t even trust the police or doctors now.
Insurance agent, Blue Cross/Blue ShieldAsked in front of Lyon Books
The day I met my wife here in Chico at a barbecue. We got married. I’ve been married all my life—[since] 1951. It’s a great experience, and we’re still going.
Volunteer at Chico Democratic Headquarters; retired RNAsked at the Chico Democratic Headquarters
Well, I was undecided most of my life about whether to have children or not. And when I was 39—my husband and I had been married for six years—I used to go day by day: “Yes, that sounds great!” Next day: “No! I don’t know.” And then I did finally have my son. It was March 1 in 1990—it was the best day of my life. And being 39, it just made it so much more exciting. I felt great. Everyone told me I glowed when I was pregnant. I think some friends were thinking they’d see me crumble. But I couldn’t have been happier and I couldn’t have felt better through a pregnancy than I did at 39. So, I wouldn’t tell anybody to wait that long, but it worked for me.
Robert ‘Joey’ Morris III
“Researcher,” Church of the SubGenius, the John Dillinger Died for You SocietyAsked at Chico City Plaza
One of the moments that changed my life was I began looking at what was going on around me in the world—not to say this place I’m at, but any given place, any given time—and there are certain patterns that stick out. And then what sticks out more than that are the patterns other people, such as yourselves, begin to notice.
What changed my life completely? Um, maybe God. I’m gonna label it or define it like that because a lot of people have their own personal perspectives and beliefs of exactly what is going on in the world. There are people in places who know the truth—some of them don’t want to talk about it, some of them do. But for me, it was like the instant that I took a look around and realized that I was realizing.
Chico State studentAsked on campus in front of the Performing Arts Center
I guess a moment that changed my life was getting accepted to Chico State ’cause from going to college I’ve learned so much from the professors. I learned things that I can apply not only in school, but [also] in other parts of my life. So I guess coming to Chico State has made a really big difference in my life, because it changed my view of the world and it just had a really positive impact on me.
Senior, Rose Scott Open-Structured SchoolAsked on the lawn in front of Rose Scott School
Probably when I was about 12 [or] 11 years old, my mom came into my room and she told me, “Honey, I found out what is wrong with, you know, why you have trouble in school, and why you have trouble making friends.” And it was because she found out my diagnosis and it was autism—called Asperger syndrome. And it was really different, ’cause, I mean, I was relieved that I knew what was wrong with me, but it changed my life because I know that I have to work twice as hard as, you know, a person who doesn’t have it. It’s about social rules, like a person who doesn’t have it would know social rules, whereas me, I would kinda look at them like, “I don’t understand.” And you know, I’m still working at it, ’cause I only found out—I’m still new to it. And I was misdiagnosed many times to where, you know, I didn’t know what to do.
It changed my life, and it’s still changing my life, ’cause, you know, I have a twin sister who doesn’t have it. So, you know, it changes our lives as one, ’cause she’s out there doing her own thing, she has friends and she does, I guess, what you would call “normal” things, whereas me, I’m not normal. But then again, I guess I’m not like everybody else—I’m a unique kind of person.
If you want to know what autism is, it’s like it’s a social thing. It’s nothing to be ashamed of, really. It’s not like I’m ashamed of it. But I know that I have struggles against it. It’s kind of like a love-and-hate relationship, ’cause I’m unique. One thing I get out of it is I have an extraordinary memory. But the social thing is just hard, ’cause I want to be doing what normal kids would do, but it’s hard ’cause either, you know, I don’t know what to say or I wouldn’t know what to do in a certain situation, so I have to practice at it. It’s kind of like acting, you know. It’s like I’m playing a character. I play like different characters a day. And it’s kind of cool to play a different role. But my favorite role is being me—that’s my favorite role of all. It’s a story and it goes on for as long as you want it to go. It never ends unless you end it.
“Adventurer”Asked at the Chico Democratic Headquarters
Well, there was a bunch of them, like, uh, swimming with a whale. Over in Hawaii I was walking along the coast and the whale was swimming straight in, so I swam out to meet it.
And I almost got jumped by a mountain lion up by Butte Meadows. It was just sitting on the side of this logging trail when I was walking by. And I looked at it just in time to see it, and it slithered away. But it was bigger than I was.
And I flew over a 1,000-foot fountaining volcano at night in Hawaii. And I told the pilot to go closer and he went too close and we almost blew up. Then we hit a downdraft and dropped a thousand feet and almost hit the treetops. And I’m so foolish I went to where the lava’s going out in the ocean. I went and swam with the chunks of lava that was so porous that they were red on the inside and black on the outside, and the water was boiling hot. I lived in that neighborhood in Kalapana that got run over by lava, and a bunch of my friends’ houses got run over. And I walked on fresh lava that was just 24 hours old—I poked sticks into it.
I nearly drowned. I was a really good surfer. There were 40-foot waves on Oahu, and then by the time they got to the big island they were about 25 feet. And the Hawaiian lifeguard says, “The beach is closed. If you go out there, I’m not gonna save you.” And I went out there anyhow. I got thrown over the fence on this big 25-footer.
And I crashed my motorcycle. I broke my back and neck. I went snowboarding once and I lost my balance and flew 30 feet and landed upside down on my neck. Ow!
One time I actually died and my spirit went out of my body and I’m looking down at my body from outside my body. That was kind of interesting. And then I came back together. And I’m still here [laughs].
One time I decided to swim out to sea for an hour straight. And then I’m out there in about a hundred feet of water and I could see down; it was so clear that I could see down and see a big grouper down below. And I turned around and I’m trying to come back in, but the winds kicked up and they were pushing the surface of the water out to sea, so I’m swimming for 15 minutes but I’m—I had snorkeling equipment, fortunately—so I looked down and I’m looking at the same rock and realizing I’m not going anywhere. So I had to actually dive down about 8 or 10 feet and swim along 40 feet or 50 feet and do these “duck-diving” things to swim in for like half a mile just to get back.
So, I was in Yosemite camping for a month up in the high country and I had many encounters with the bears. The first few times I was like really scared seeing them a couple hundred yards away, but then we helped the ranger chase one up a tree. And we kept it up there for a couple hours. It bit off a two-inch branch and threw it down at us. We kept it up the tree to try to discourage it from coming back into camp. But this one kept coming back into camp. Like one day, it came in the middle of the day. This one girl had cocoa butter on and it sneaked up and it started licking her.
And another time these people had all their food out for dinner and it snuck up quietly in the bushes and grabbed their backpack and took off and got it [the backpack] out in the woods. So I foolishly went running after it [the bear], and I’m out there in the dark woods and I’m going, “What am I doing?” And I look around with the flashlight and I spot the bear about 30 yards away, and he’s gobbling up all the food in the backpack. So I pick up a rock and I throw it at it and I hear this thud, and the bear runs off. But he ate about a week’s worth of these people’s food in just five minutes or 10 minutes.
Another time I saw a bear asleep on a log and I threw some sticks at it to wake it up. I tried to chase it into a creek ’cause I wanted to see it swim. But they run a lot faster than I do, so it ran away.
And then the worst time, I went farther up in the high country and there was a really big bear. And so I tried to chase this really big bear and it did not run. It stood up on its hind legs and it growled at me. It was like over 8 feet tall, and I was just like, “Oops!” And I just slowly backed away and got out of that one. The little bear that was coming into the campground was just a 2-year-old, maybe 130 pounds or so, instead of this big one that was over 400.
I guess that’s it.
Now I just stop doing things before I start. I realize, “Wait a minute—I can’t even do that now!” ’cause I’m too wild and crazy.