Stranger 10/100 – Bob

I photographed my tenth stranger in Brewer, Maine.

Brewer is a small town on the Penobscot River, once known for brickmaking and shipbuilding and sawmilling. It is also my wife’s home town. When we visit, I make a habit most mornings of walking across the river into downtown Bangor to have coffee at a bagel shop and read the local newspaper.

The lead story in this morning’s Bangor Daily News was about the local high school principal ordering a math teacher to remove a Christmas tree from her classroom, only to relent when the teacher took her cause to social media. Although Christmas is just two days away, the weather felt unseasonably mild, and a dense fog had settled over the river as I made my way back to my in-laws’ house. As I turned onto their street, Bob was stepping out of an antique shop onto the empty sidewalk, and he nodded good morning as we passed. Something in his look reminded me of Maine, and I decided to ask him to be part of my project.

“Bob Cresser — c-r-e-s-s-e-r,” he said, shaking my hand. Bob had a good chuckle when I explained the project, and he agreed to let me take his picture.

He said he lived an hour north, in Sebec, and that he was spending the morning as a volunteer driver for people in need of transportation to run errands and for doctors appointments. He had a few minutes to spare before his next pickup, so we chatted a bit as I made his portrait.

Bob came to Maine thirty years ago by way of New Jersey and Pennsylvania. When I asked what he had done for work, his answer was not short. I recall he said he laid cement and painted tanker trucks for a time, then worked as a carpenter and a taxidermist, and, finally, as the owner of a service station. He is a hunter, and in his wallet he keeps a photograph of himself posing with an impressive buck he shot. He wore a camouflage cap with a gold pin fastened to the front (“Marine Corps, ’57”). When I mentioned I was from Chicago, he said, “God bless you,” by which he meant something else entirely.

Once I had taken half a dozen frames, I wished him a merry Christmas, which seemed to please him. “Or happy holidays, these days…” he said. Handing him a business card, I thanked him for being part of my project.

“Not sure that you learned anything,” he said with a smile.

“Sure I did,” I replied. “I learned a little about Bob Cresser — c-r-e-s-s-e-r.”