I met this kid when we both spent a few weeks volunteering in post-Katrina New Orleans. I caught a few Craigslist rideshare lifts from L.A. to the 9th Ward, via Austin, hoping to help out and get a sense of what things were like down there. I think Matt showed up in Louisiana to get away and get his head straight. He'd dropped out of college and he may or may not have been trying to get off his meds. We bonded quickly and had some great talks. We gutted houses together for Common Ground Relief and when the work day was done we strolled around those deserted 9th Ward streets near the converted St. Mary's Catholic school where we stayed with hundreds of other stanky Hazmated volunteers, Matt smoking his cigarettes and talking about the events that led to him showing up down here. Me puffing on joints of New Orleans schwag, talking about the things I've done, the places I've been and my fascination with the number "13." The 2 volunteer trips I took to volunteer in New Orleans with Common Ground left a lasting impression on me—largely because of the people I met. Like Matt and Quentin, the singer/songwriter/altruist/hippie I hung out with during many a safety meeting during my 1st volunteer stint in New Orleans during Thanksgiving in '06. Matt was mi amigo during my 2nd go 'round at Common Ground the following spring. Along with a black dude named Wendell, who'd been left homeless after he stuck around during Katrina and stayed in the house he grew up in—until it ended up getting swept away through his 9th Ward neighborhood. The 3 of us—myself, Matt and Wendell—a trio of mismatched misfits if ever there was one went out for a late evening meal on my last night in New Orleans. We jumped in a cab and told the cabbie to take us to the best place nearby to get some food. A few minutes later he dropped us off in front of place on Frenchman Street. As I peeled myself out of the cab, I was shocked—yet somehow not surprised—when I saw the name of the restaurant: "13." I think from that moment, Matt and I were bonded forever. A few years later Tamale and I saw him in San Francisco. We met for drinks at an old Kerouac hangout. I haven't heard from Matt in a few years now. I hope he's okay.
Do I know you? One man's attempt at a lifelong head count.
NOTE: If you think I might have a photo of you—most likely at least one great photo of you—don't be afraid to ask me to post it (firstname.lastname@example.org) along with a brief entry about how I know you. And if I've met or known you but don't have any photo evidence, feel free to send along YOUR favorite photo of you. (I'm fascinated by what that slideshow might look like.)