Of all the shots in the 2-inch-high stack of photographs mistakenly mailed to Daniel Weston six months ago all showing the same bespectacled man with a snow-white beard, wearing a fleece jacket and a winsome expression, at various venues around England this one stands out:
It features the gentleman posing next to a section of the Berlin Wall, bearing the provocative graffiti message "Change Your Life." Said wall section has been liberated and resides outside London's Imperial War Museum.
Notice how the man stands a respectful distance from the wall, yet still manages to touch history by grasping exposed rebar. Notice, too, his inscrutable expression. Is he somberly reflecting on the Cold War history entombed in this slab of concrete razed from the Brandenburg Gate? Or is he just weary from a long day of sightseeing, yearning to kick off those hiking shoes and trade the water bottle stashed in his pocket for stronger potables?
Mere speculation, of course.
All Weston has to go on is the photos. Someone else's photos. This guy's memories of what seemed to be a pleasant trip across the pond. Memories sent from London to the wrong post office box in Orangevale with no return address, no identification beyond first initials and a last name.
How the package of snapshots wound up in Weston's P.O. box he may never know.
Maybe the anonymous sender transposed numbers. Maybe the destination was supposed to be another Orangevale (there is an Orangeville in Illinois, after all).
But for almost half a year now, he's been on a quest to find the mysterious Mr. Johnston, assuming that's who's in the photos.
He tried to give the envelope back to the post office but was told they probably would just toss it.
No luck there.
So he Googled "J.P. Johnston" and "Orangevale" and had a half-dozen hits. He called the Johnstons who listed phone numbers. He left notes wedged in doorways for Johnstons whose addresses he uncovered.
He printed up a flyer, á la lost-dog poster, with a close-up shot of the man in the photo and the text: "Missing Photos from England Vacation. Call Daniel at " He taped flyers at the post office, at Raley's, at Safeway, wherever the public around Orangevale gathers.
Perhaps your average good samaritan would've ended the search at that point. Not Weston, a 57-year-old IT manager at Rudolf Steiner College in Fair Oaks and devout Buddhist who believes in good karma.
"He can't resist a challenge," said his wife, Laura, "especially if there's a greater good behind it."
So, in desperation, he has turned to The Bee for help.
Our first question: Why? Why so interested in reuniting "Mr. Johnston" with his snapshots?
"Anyone who travels a lot knows how you just hate it when you lose photos," Weston said. "I lost some big ones sometimes a whole trip to Chile once. We did some rock climbing in southern Chile and I lost 10 rolls of unexposed film, Kodachrome 64, in an X-ray-proof bag. The bag never made it from the small airport to the big airport.
"You feel the loss. You can't show your friends your trip although now, of course, you can post to Twitter while you're down there. But not everybody is so advanced. I make sure that on all my memory chips now, I put a jpg in there that has my name and address."
The photos in question were not digital, just the old-school type that needed to be printed and mailed.
Weston said that at first he felt a little sheepish thumbing through another man's personal possession. But he was doing it for altruistic reasons, searching for clues that might suss out an identity.
What he saw was the same man in the same blue fleece jacket posing in front of Big Ben, in front of the Parliament Building, in front of the original Finch Foundry in Sticklepath, a village in Devon County.
The more he looked, the more interested he became. He noticed a certain resemblance between the man and himself white beard, thinning hair, slim build.
"The fact that my family had just been (to England) and that the guy kind of looks like me, I just couldn't let it go."
After his initial sleuthing, Weston tried to put it out of his thoughts. He wedged the envelope into the crease of the front seat of his Ford Focus. But every time he went to work, the sight of it there renewed his interest.
He could not, would not, just toss out the snapshots.
Didn't seem right.
"You know, I wasn't expecting a chunk of work," he said. "You pop on Google, you find him. You'd think with an IT background, I could track down things. Nothing. I'm stuck. I can't believe I'm stuck."
Weston's best hope, at this point, is that somebody recognizes the man, the presumptive Mr. Johnston, in the newspaper and contacts The Bee.
And if that doesn't work?
"I guess I can try the FBI," he said.