Sunday Projects: Humans of Memorial Park

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Anjana Melvin

Co-reported by Priya Reddy.

On a clear, brisk fall afternoon the week before school lets out for the holidays, there aren’t many people at Memorial Park. The summer festivals and concerts are long gone, and all that remains are empty playgrounds and fields, and the faint noise of a tennis ball being hit as people practice in the courts. But among those who decide to venture out into the cold are dog walkers, a pair of highschool kids who used to be a couple but insist that they’re just friends now and a homeless man transporting Tazo tea from the bags into a container. Check out their stories below.

JAZZY DJENGO
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Donna King and her dog Djengo Doghardt

His name is Djengo. I’ve had him about eight years. He’s 10 years old and he was named after Djengo Reinhardt, who was a jazz guitarist in Europe in the earlier part of the 20th century. [Reinhardt] was missing many fingers, I don’t know how many, but he was very talented. He was part of a movement called Le Hot Jazz, I think it was in France. He had a very distinctive style. We named our dog Djengo and instead of Djengo Reinhardt he’s Djengo Doghardrt.

WAY BACK IN ’08
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Mayra Partida and Czarina Pangayan

EE: What are you guys doing here?
We came here to smoke.

EE: What’s your favorite memory together?
Pangayan: I don’t know there’s a lot, pretty sure we won’t remember some of them.
Partida: Probably back in middle school being in line next to each other.
Pangayan: Oh yeah! I’d bring her my notebook and be like ‘Dude, these are my new favorite songs.’ I remember some of them were Alicia Keys songs, others were those emo songs people were into in 2008.
Partida: Our teacher would have us line up alphabetically by last name and both our last names start with a ‘P,’ and so she’d be in front of me. Ever since then we’ve always been together.

EE: What’s your favorite thing about each other?
Partida: We live a block away from each other.
Pangayan: Oh that’s true. It’s very convenient.

THE TWO-HUNDRED-FOOT FALL AND LIFE AFTERWARDS
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Milo White

I had a pretty privileged upbringing. I stayed in one house the whole time, in a nice neighborhood in Seattle. I had a pretty good childhood, [but] the end of high school was a turbulent time. The economy was bad and I’d barely missed going to Vietnam, so then I had a few rough years, picking apples, working at canaries in Alaska. Not really rough but I wasn’t getting ahead all that much. The whole family thing was real strong for me. We had 5 kids in the family, we all pretty much got along with Mom and Dad. It was really good in that way, which hasn’t really happened since then.

My dad went first because of cigarettes. So that was a traumatic time and I went on a long bicycle trip down the coast, trying to get my head straight. Then my mom passed away; that was even worse emotionally for me. But I suppose that is the thing [I miss the most], the home life.

I’ve been homeless for 25 to 30 years. What happened to me was, back in 1978 I was hitchhiking, and the vehicle went over this cliff at Big Sur, a 200 foot cliff, and I got all busted up. I still have metal in my body from then, which gives me problems. Well a 200 ft. cliff you can imagine is like a 20 story building, it can mess a person up. I’m doing alright considering, I’d say.

When I was recuperating I went to the community colleges, and I went to every one, I think there were seven of them in the Seattle area. I studied journalism, social work, teaching, and I was trying to find myself. My fourth year is when I did art therapy. The studio art classes helped me get my head back together.That’s when I think I finally came to terms with what happened.

Nobody hired me as a bookkeeper. They told me I didn’t look like a bookkeeper, or I wasn’t the type.

So I got a degree in liberal arts, art therapy. And a bookkeeping certificate, but nobody hired me as a bookkeeper. They told me I didn’t look like a bookkeeper, or I wasn’t the type, that kind of thing. I heard that over and over. Then I started working as a cook when I was physically able to. Once I got my degree in ‘84, I went to San Diego and I tried to become a stockbroker, and I worked a couple years for Dean Witter. Didn’t really like it all that much, I kind of fell out of it. Found my passion in cooking in restaurants, which I did for about 14 years.

But altogether, I’m pretty content. That was a real bump in the road, going over the cliff, but it’s meant to be. What happens happens, you just gotta accept it and get on with it.

milo's tea

When we found him, White was using a knife to take the tea out of the bags and pour it into a container. Tea is one of the few things White carries with him on his buggy.
[Right now] I’m transferring these tea bags into this bulk tea container to save space; i’m downsizing from my buggy to my bicycle. So I’m trying to rearrange things and get them more organized. Transferring tea is the short term thing but the longer range moving into the bicycle mode. And traveling on the bus, they tell me I have too much stuff even though you know it’s all my stuff in the world. Most people have more stuff than me.

They tell me I have too much stuff, even though you know it’s all my stuff in the world.

Kindness has been showered on me really, it seems like every day over and over. Jennifer, the case manager [at the senior center], just brought me over a nice meal and she’s going to see about storing my buggy. I did a lot of street music too, flute harmonica and drum. I still do. And I had my basket or hat out in front of me, it’s amazing the kindness of people especially if you’re putting out positive vibes and attitudes.

JUST FRIENDS, NOT ON A DATE
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Hannah Mok and Ian Hsiao

EE: What are you guys doing here today?
Hsiao: We’re just chatting.
EE: Is this a date?
Hsiao: No.
EE: Just friends?
Mok: Yeah.
EE: Do you come here often?
Mok: No this is our second time.
EE: How did you meet each other?
Hsiao: We had math together last year….um. That’s it.
EE: That’s it? How did you become friends?
Mok: Ok so basically we got hooked up through one of our friends, and we dated for a while. And that was like last year. And now we’re just good friends.
EE: So the last time you guys came here together was on a date?
Mok: Yup.

EARLY MORNING YOGA
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LP and Sipra Sribastaba

Every day in the early morning 8 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. [I do] yoga. I’m a teacher actually. I teach yoga. One or two ladies [used to come], but now it’s too cold and at 8 o’clock they can’t [anymore]. I still come here though. I taught 18 people here, but I’m from Bangalore, and I taught yoga there early in the morning from 7 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. Everyday, free of cost. I’m 72 years old. In India I taught for 15 years, but I’ve been doing yoga for 30 to 35 years.