SPONSORED by lil indies (Facebook): Inhabit is a new series by local photographer David Lawrence (Website), that shares stories about the people who call Orlando home. It’s an exploration of where people live and spend their days, whether that be at home, in an office, the streets of downtown, or anywhere in between. Lawrence explores who people are and how they ended there.
Every other week we will be sharing Lawrence’s interviews, featuring a different Orlandoan and telling the story of the places they inhabit.
*This interview was transcribed and edited from an audio interview on 5/09/2017
Who are you?
“My name is Doug Delia. I’m 70 years old and I’m an old hippie. I grew up in the Sixties and still maintain the values of working for change and peace activism. I’m an artist, which for me involves writing and poetry; I’ve written quite a few theatre pieces and plays. I have done a lot of photography and I’m looking for ways to integrate those modalities together. Right now I have two books out that I call Poetography as they are a combination of poems and pictures. I’m trying to integrate photography into my artwork by painting over photographs and using photography in unusual ways.”
“I think that art history needs to be told by artists, not by historians, and I’m working on that; using my poetry as an avenue to tell stories. Lately I’ve been inviting friends to come and play music while I read poetry. I’m very interested in collaborations of any kind with people. Bringing people’s talents together in one place and playing off each other.”
Is art something you have always done?
“I think that you manifest whatever it is you’re meant to do at a very early age. I think that if you have parents or friends that are supportive and you have outlets, you can go from there. Some people go right from childhood into art school and they become an artist and they are in galleries and all that. But that wasn’t my route and its not most people’s route either. We tend to go on. As John Lennon said, ‘Life is what happens while you are doing other things.'”
“For me, that’s what happened. There were a lot of things that intervened for me. I wrote some poetry. I remember being in one anthology in high school. I submitted a couple poems that were in the anthology and right after that I went to community college in Holyok, Massachusetts. I wrote a theatre piece that was produced by the college. They were looking for some original materials, so I wrote this thing about going back and forth in time between the beatnik era and the hippie era.”
Note: Doug ended up flunking out of college and was faced with two options in his small town; work in the mill or enlist in the military. He was a conscientious objector, but decided to join, just as Vietnam was beginning to ramp up.
How does a conscientious objector join the military? I want to hear all about it.
“Well, the rest of the story was that because I was joining, and there were so few joining at that time, I had some leverage. I joined the Air Force and I told the recruiter I would only join if I could be in either the chaplain’s office or I could be a medic.”
“He told me he couldn’t guarantee anything. However, I did get to become a medic. I helped with the wounded as they came back. There wasn’t enough resources in country to handle all of the casualties, especially after the Tet Offensive. The casualties were taken to the Philippines or to Guam. I was never in combat, but I was stationed in Guam as a medic and ambulance driver. We would go down to the runway every day at 5 o’clock to the ambulances and help transport the soldiers back to the naval hospital on the other side of the island.”
“I always say I didn’t go to war, but war came to me. I saw the atrocities of war without actually being stationed in Vietnam.”
It’s easy to oppose things and remove yourself from a situation instead of saying ‘I don’t agree with this, but I’m still going to be here and help.’
“Well, I had a set of moral values that I wanted to adhere to. I never wanted to kill or injure anyone else. I wanted to be on the other side of that, the healing aspect of that. That continued after the war. I went to college at UCF with my Veterans benefits and got a degree in Philosophy and Religion; later in life I became a massage therapist, which is in the healing arts, and from there I started two schools in central New York training people for licensure in massage therapy. I feel good about that path…because it allowed me to create healers, thousands of graduates who are out there in the world, healing people. I feel like I was the tree and they were the branches and it was a blessing to have that opportunity. I think healing has been a part of my life and I think that my writing and my art is an extension of that. A lot of my writing is about healing our wounds, whether it is the war experience, childhood abuse, political or anything that has to do with healing the planet or self.”
Where are we currently and how did you end up here?
“Well, you know, I love College Park. It was either going to be Thornton Park or College Park for me because those were the places where they have the cute little bungalows. I didn’t want to live in a mansion type house. I like a big house, but I don’t want it to be pretentious. I’m not a pretentious person. By most people’s standards I have a lot of wealth, but I don’t want to be perceived in that way. I drive a Subaru, not a Mercedes. I dress in bangles and beads because that’s what I feel comfortable in. Being in College Park really fits into that sort of lifestyle.”
“So I have this little oasis back here in my backyard. I put most of these trees in because they weren’t here when I moved in. I enjoy being out here and writing and of course, Credo is a haven too. I love that I can wake up and walk over to a coffee shop and I get to sit there for a couple hours and work on photography and writing. It’s sort of like an office and the wonderful people that come in there, like you. You get to network with people and share ideas and thoughts––that’s community––and I love that I can probably live here without a car. I can walk to restaurants. Everything I need is right there. So, I like that idea.”
Besides Credo, do you have other places in Orlando that are important to you that you don’t find in other cities?
“There’s a great abundance of independent coffee shops here. Stardust coffee is a very interesting place with all the books. I’ve read poetry there. I’ve done the storytelling nights and I really enjoy that area. It’s a little enclave and I love the used clothing stores over there. It’s very Boho. I also like going down to Drunken Monkey. Its across from Barnes and Noble. You can have a cup of coffee and work there and you can go and look through the books. So that’s interesting. And you know, I’m a Starbucks fan too. I know it’s a chain and I prefer indies, but it also does a lot of great work. It’s a Seattle-based company and I feel they have a lot of integrity.”
You told me when we were walking over to your house, about your marriage and your kids- I’d love if you could share about your family.
“You know- I’ve been married three times. I used to say that reluctantly. People think that if you’ve been married more than once, there’s something wrong with you. As I’ve grown older, I’ve come to understand that’s not the case. It’s a natural progression for people to grow apart at some point. Not everyone of course. Some people are very content.”
“I married very young. I think I was 20 years old when I first married and I don’t think that I had any concept of what a relationship was. So, of course, I don’t want to say it was doomed, but it was an immature love.”
“I’ve been married to Liz now for 27 years and she’s an artist. She does pottery and we have two girls together. At this age, we are more independent now. We don’t cling to each other like we would at 20. We live independent lives. Sometimes she’s up north and I’m here. She does her pottery and I do my art. We come together and have date night and make sure we do enough things to sustain the couple-ship, but we are more independent now. I think that’s a healthy thing at this age. My goals for myself are different than they were when I was 20. I’m looking at a limited lifespan at 70. I realize that.”
If you’re curious about Doug’s work- He currently has a showing called Feed Your Head, on exhibit at Henao Contemporary Center. It is a sampling of photography projects he has been working on over the past year. You can also follow him on Instagram at @dougvandelia
About the photographer:
David Lawrence is an Orlando-based photographer with a passion for people and storytelling. Lawrence lives in Colonialtown with his wife, Dawn, and when he’s not taking photos he occasionally attends church, drinks a lot of coffee, and overall just tries to be a kind human.