Now, I’m not a big believer of fate or destiny or the like. But the abundance of lucky coincidences within these past few weeks have been too perfect, that I'm forced to rethink my beliefs. By simply doing the things I routinely do, I’ve been blessed with the meeting, presence, and lasting essence of so many wonderful souls. It has to be something bigger making this all happen.
I volunteer for a program called READ/ San Diego (more on that in another post), but my position (Literacy Tutor) calls for me to meet with my student once a week at a library. We usually meet on Thursdays, but both of our schedules this week didn’t allow for that- so we rescheduled to Tuesday. Today. But when I got to the library at our meeting time of 11 am, I found that they open at 12:30 pm on Tuesdays- so I called my student and we agreed to meet at a nearby Starbucks. We finished up our lesson, and as I was walking out I ran into a delightful man by the name of Dan Piedra.
I noticed his sketches during my lesson, and was meaning to take a closer look when I came outside. I asked him if I could take a photo of his work, to which he replied, “Of course! And I’ll draw you too. Do you have a few minutes?"
I didn’t. But I sat down anyway. Naturally.
I was taken by surprise by how welcoming he was- usually, I’m the one to approach people and ask about their lives (hence this blog). But he was asking me about my ethnicity, my family, my schooling, what I was doing there.. A small part of me was thinking, "Hold on, that’s my job!” But I soon learned that these “interviews” can be enhanced tremendously by a more give-and-take style. He would acknowledge my replies and reciprocate with so much more. I couldn’t have been more thankful at how easily I got to learn about him. Which is weird, considering I was physically immobile while speaking, trying not to break from my pose.
Dan is from the Philippines, where his entire family resides. His mother is deceased, but his father and siblings (2 brothers and 2 sisters), and the majority of his friends, are still there. He moved here alone, and has been practicing art for 30 years. All completely self-taught. He’s the epitome of ‘charismatic’- a sweet talker, a charmer, an intuitive and caring person, who knows exactly what to say to his “models.”
Me: “Who was the favorite person you ever drew or painted?”
Dan: “…You! Of course! You are beautiful.”
Me: “You’re lying! But thank you so much, I hope you’re making me look good..”
D: “I am, I am. It’s easy because you pose like a professional. You’re Korean, right? You have the prettiest features.”
Me: “Oh stopppp. No don’t. Keep going.”
Me: “You are such a sweet talker. Women must be all over you!”
D: “Well… I am single. I am looking for a woman to love, who will love me as much as I can love her. Forever and ever.”
Me: “Whoever she ends up being will be a very lucky woman!”
I explained the idea of my blog before we started talking, and this is where he said:
D: “You can write that in there too. Talented, passionate artist. Looking for a woman to love and be loved by.”
Me: (laughs) “I will, don’t you worry.”
I told Dan about my dancing, and he asked me if I sang, as well.
Me: “No, unfortunately, I can’t carry a tune to save my life. But something tells me you can!”
D: “Oh yes, oh yes. Do you like Elvis Presley? I can do his songs.”
Me: “Oh yeah? Sing! Right now!”
(all his friends laugh)
And he did.
Dan has been featured on TFC, a Philippino entertainment channel. Here is aYouTube clip of his work as well. Bob Filner, ex-mayor of San Diego, heard about Dan and personally wrote him a letter expressing thanks for being such a wonderful community member who contributes to the positive atmosphere of the city. I’m not surprised- he is, no doubt, one of the warmest and most refreshing people I’ve had the pleasure of just sitting with.
I left our conversation in a hurry, realizing how late I was to get to work. Dan gave me my portrait, as a gift, and promised to contact me for several more sessions.
D: “We will do sketches! Paintings! Big, huge, oil paintings. You will be my… what do you call it? Muse! You will be my muse, Jessie.”
Oh Dan. You. People like you. Are my muse. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for the sketch, the inspiration, and the ridiculous flattery that I soaked in like a sponge.
Looks like a cuter version me, right?
Some of Dan’s other work: