In a small town like Westwood, New Jersey, it’s easy to remember faces. One face in particular comes to mind when I think of the art of people watching, within the borders of our little village. People watching has always been a hobby, ever since I was young and my father would point people out to me. I always longed to find the stories of these strangers, each one unique in his or her own way.

When I think of my town, one face enters my brain. When I think of the local movie theater I work at, one face finds its way into my thoughts. The man with the orange soda. Crush orange soda to be exact. He comes in every Friday, Saturday and, sometimes, Sundays, if he has the time. Sometimes, he’ll come in more during the week to journey off into the world of film and cinematography.

He always gets the same thing: one medium orange soda and a small buttered popcorn. He has a cane. He has a slur. He’s different from everyone else and struggles to socialize. He’s old and very lonely. That’s why he goes to the movies. He has no one else. I watch the man with the orange soda closely and wonder who he was, what kind of life he used to lead and what changed…? What is his story?

Every story matters. Every person and every life means something whether we realize it or not. I have always believed that each and every one of us is a piece to a much larger puzzle in our world. My parents always taught me to see things through a different lense and with a versatile perspective – advice I have always carried with me and I will never forget.

It’s all about detail. It’s vital to pay close attention to the small things first, in order to understand a person solely based off observation. Bags under the eyes. A limp in the right foot. An aging face full of sags and wrinkles. The scars of living a long life. The man with the orange soda isn’t just anybody. Not to me. He is a story with two feet and a cane to keep him moving. He used to be just a customer, but now he means much more than that. To me he represents all that is good in my town and in my theater. Home.

That’s the beauty of people watching. To people watch you must learn to observe the truth and honesty behind every person and every story from afar. People watching is about looking past the surface of a person and moving beyond to a different place. If you do it right, you’ll end up learning more about yourself than anyone else. Most importantly, through people watching you learn a very important lesson despite bias, political affiliation, or opinion…

Every person is beautiful.

So maybe next time you find yourself sitting at a park bench or standing in a subway car, look around. Don’t just glance. Really look around and take it all in. The people. The scene. The story. You might be surprised with what you find within yourself.


With much love,

 Alex Palacios

Thank you to Molly Allen for the beautiful art!!!