[Nfbmo] Vendor is no longer a no-ware man

James Moynihan jamesmmoynihan at gmail.com
Tue Oct 15 14:20:22 UTC 2013


This was a great story.

Jim Moynihan

----- Original Message ----- 
From: <DanFlasar at aol.com>
To: <nfbmo at nfbnet.org>
Sent: Monday, October 14, 2013 2:00 PM
Subject: Re: [Nfbmo] Vendor is no longer a no-ware man

> Very well-written story about a real Mensch (if  you don't know the term,
> it's a Yiddish term meaning  "a real, warm human  being).  Thanks for 
> sharing.
> Dan
> In a message dated 10/14/2013 9:41:02 A.M. Central Daylight Time,
> freespirit at accessibleworld.org writes:
> COLUMN ONE.  Vendor is no longer a no-ware man. Rick Lopez ran the
> cafeteria and snack bar  at the Long Beach courthouse for 20 years. Forced 
> out, he's
> set up shop  elsewhere. By Christine Mai-Duc..
> When Rick Lopez packed up the sodas,  chips, gum and candy on his final
> day, he knew he was leaving a lot behind.  There was the security guard 
> who
> helped him set up shop in the morning and  would give him a ride home in 
> the
> evening, the judicial commissioner who raved  that his egg salad sandwich 
> was
> the best in town, the attorneys who arrived  early for the freshly brewed
> coffee -- and even the old, dilapidated Long  Beach courthouse itself. For 
> two
> decades, Lopez was a fixture there, running  the cafeteria and snack bar
> through a state program that gives blind vendors  priority in government
> buildings. But when all the judges, bailiffs and clerks  moved down the 
> street to
> a gleaming new courthouse this fall, Lopez didn't  make the trip. State
> officials told Lopez there was nothing they could do to  keep him in Long
> Beach, but they could transfer him to another location.
> The new courthouse was built by a public-private partnership and
> developers were given the right to lease out the food stalls as they 
> pleased.  Taking
> his place would be a food court with chains such as Subway and Coffee 
> Bean
> & Tea Leaf. Lopez was crushed. A courthouse is often a place where  some 
> of
> life's sad and dire dramas play out. But for Lopez, it was also a  place
> where he and a regular cast of characters found ways to bond. As he 
> walked
> away from the old courthouse for the last time, he cried. :: Lopez, 59, 
> has
> never married and lives alone in a one-bedroom condo in Long Beach. Every
> night he phones his 92-year-old mother to catch up. Blind at birth, he
> regained some sight in his left eye as he got older. He credits his 
> mother,  who
> prayed over him every day. She would wave her palm over his head, and one
> day his eyes began tracking it. She could never take no for an answer," he
> said. In high school in upstate New York, he ran track, always careful to 
> keep
> his competitors to his left so that he could see them with his good eye.
> When  he was 23, he left New York to study at a small theology school near
> Disneyland. He stayed in California, taking odd jobs to make ends meet.
> During  one stretch, he worked as a night-shift manager at a tortilla 
> factory.
> When a  friend told him about the state's blind vendor program, he applied 
> and
> landed  at a tiny snack bar at a juvenile hall in San Diego, selling chips
> and sodas.  It wasn't until he was transferred to Long Beach several years
> later that he  finally felt at home. Family members of defendants and
> victims, along with  prosecutors and defense attorneys, came to know him 
> by name.
> The court  interpreters, whose offices were next to Lopez, would come in 
> to
> get their  weekly fix of French fries. He was there long enough that some 
> of
> those who  were called to jury duty for a second or third time became
> regulars. I eat up  the years like I eat popcorn," Lopez said of his 
> decades at
> the Long Beach  courthouse. His hair has gone gray, and his constant 
> laughter
> has carved deep  lines in his face. But, he said, "I don't feel old. He 
> has
> a knack for  remembering names and faces, even of people just passing
> through. When someone  says a kind word, he replies simply: "You're nice. 
> Lydell
> Ball, a security  guard, looked for him first thing in the morning at the 
> old
> courthouse and  sometimes helped him set out the pastries and get the
> coffee going. Ball would  take Lopez on Costco runs, and Lopez always made 
> sure
> to stock up on Whoppers  -- the guard's favorite candy. Ball misses the
> vendor. Lopez went by the new  building a couple weeks ago after hearing 
> Ball had
> been out sick. I want to  make sure you're doing what the doctors tell
> you," Ball recalled Lopez telling  him. By that time, the old Long Beach
> courthouse had been shuttered -- its  escalators still, and a sign 
> advertising
> Lopez's sixth-floor cafeteria papered  over with a misspelled notice: 
> "Serado"
> -- closed. --. After leaving Long  Beach, Lopez set up shop at the Downey
> courthouse, a two-hour train and bus  ride from home. He wakes up at 3 
> a.m.,
> dedicating an hour to prayer before  heading out the door. He sees well 
> enough
> to get around on his own, but has  little peripheral vision and no sight 
> in
> his right eye. Lopez was able to take  two of his employees to Downey with
> him, but the snack bar doesn't have a  kitchen, and he had to let his
> longtime cook go. His shop is tucked into a  windowless corner on the 
> first floor
> where he can hear the constant beep of  the security screeners. He is 
> still
> getting the hang of the register, and the  ice machine and freezer are in
> need of repair. Business is slower, but he's  convinced his store will 
> thrive.
> Shelves that were practically bare when he  first arrived are stacked with
> neat rows of packaged bear claws and doughnuts,  the fridge stocked with
> sandwiches. Near the register, a hot dog warmer  clinked as it rotated.
> Quarter-pounder, all beef," he said, beaming. Lopez  took apples and plums 
> and
> rearranged them into neat rows. We buy with our  eyes," he said, looking 
> up. He
> is getting to know a young security guard who's  about to become a father.
> It's going to change your life," Lopez advised him,  patting him on the 
> back.
> The guard, a foot taller than Lopez and half his age,  grinned sheepishly.
> During his first couple of weeks, Lopez said, his sales  weren't enough to
> cover his employees' wages; he drew from his savings to pay  the bills. He
> has big plans: a popcorn machine, ice cream, and, eventually, 
> made-to-order
> breakfast and BLTs for lunch. Remember 'Casablanca'? We just  have to get 
> a
> little piano now," said Lopez, his eyes squinting with laughter  behind 
> thick
> glasses. Still, he said, he had been praying for change -- for  sales to
> improve or another courthouse to serve. Two weeks ago, the state  granted
> Lopez a temporary contract to run the cafeteria at the Compton 
> courthouse, too,
> a far busier facility that's closer to home. He called his  cook to tell
> him he could have his job back. Lopez will spend time at both  spots. --. 
> One
> morning, he was walking through the hallway in Downey when he  noticed a
> somber-looking man in line for small claims court. He stopped to  talk to 
> him.
> David Lugo had recently lost his son, killed when the driver of a  parked
> car he was sitting on sped off and ran him over. Lopez listened to his 
> story
> and suddenly hugged Lugo, a bear of a man, and invited him to the snack
> bar. The two talked about faith and purpose and grieving. Before he left,
> Lopez shook the man's hand and discreetly slipped a $100 bill into his 
> palm to
> help with funeral costs. Just after noon, one of the security guards 
> walked
> in  with a nod and retrieved his sack lunch from a refrigerator, leaving a
> dollar  at the register for a 'cup' of coffee. A few minutes later, a
> gruff-looking  man with a mustache and tattoos on both arms showed up. So 
> you took
> over, huh?  he said, looking around. Yeah, I did," Lopez said. Do you work
> here? Just  passing through," the man replied as he paid for his water and
> stepped out  into the hall to wait. Lopez has begun to cultivate a new 
> group
> of regulars.  He's introduced himself to court employees and traded laughs
> with the building  manager. Between customers, he recited one name after
> another, committing them  to memory. You grow where you're planted," Lopez 
> said
> with a shrug, and then  turned to his register to ring up the next 
> sale. --.
> christine.maiduc at latimes.com.
> Los Angeles Times Metro 2013 10  14
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