Arroyo Grande paramedic spends his spare time writing

gcuddy@thetribunenews.comJune 18, 2013 

Joe Amaral of Arroyo Grande is a paramedic and father of a young daughter, but he is also more than a “moonlighter” writer and poet. After spending 48 hours straight on the job and hiking with daughter, Zelia, he sits down to pen poems, short stories and, recently, a novel.

A sort of Renaissance man, Joe, 34, grew up on a Bay Area chicken farm bought by his grandpa in the 1940s. His family camped a lot and had a cabin in the Sierra. He grew to love the out of doors and majored in forestry at Cal Poly.

But as an avid reader from a young age (his parents were also readers, and the house was filled with books), Joe’s second-choice major was English. Some of his favorite authors were Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac and Hunter S. Thompson, “those that have something philosophical to say … people who observe humanity in all its light and darkness.”

They weren’t people to emulate, said Joe, but he was fascinated by literature with “some darkness and edge to it.” He also likes fantasy novels like those by J. R. R. Tolkien, and reads a lot of poetry.

A few years ago, before marriage and children, Joe traveled all over, including Portugal (he is 100 percent Portuguese), Peru and Africa. He hiked Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, the highest mountain in Africa at 19,340 feet. It took six days.

The day before the hike he rode a simple bicycle around the nearby town of Moshe with a Nigerian man he met locally. Joe has chronicled this escapade in a story.

Joe also mountain biked through the Andes in Peru, stayed in villages, hiked the Inca Trail and went to Machu Picchu, an ancient Incan site.

He returned from Africa and married his fiancé, Marina, a surgical nurse. They had Zelia, who will be 2 in September, and are expecting another child in November.

Joe likes being a paramedic because “you’re doing a good deed for the day … you’re helping others … helping humanity a bit.” It’s “an affirming kind of job.”

It’s also a high-pressure job, which requires “aggression versus patience.” You must be able to make quick decisions, at the same time being sensitive to the needs of the patient.

Joe has recently finished his first novel, named “The Street Poet.” It’s about a homeless guy in San Francisco in a wheelchair. The protagonist meets colorful characters, tries to help a troubled kid and meets a woman who runs a flower stand. He writes poetry for her customers.

It’s about his life and troubles and struggles with alcohol.

The guy is “funny and witty and trying to make up for his foibles,” Joe said. He finds some of his material from stories he learns from his patients as a paramedic.

Joe’s poetry and short stories have been published in numerous journals. He is a member of SLO NightWriters, and his story “Propagation” was published in the Tolosa Press earlier this year. He won the No. 2 spot in Arroyo Grande’s Centennial poetry contest two years ago, and received honorable mention last year in SLO NightWriters’ annual contest.

Gayle Cuddy’s column is special to The Tribune. She and Cynthia Lambert write the South County Beat column on alternating Wednesdays. Reach Cuddy at 489-1026 or

The Tribune is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service