My job is a lot like The Amazing Race. I race from one random location to the next with cameras rolling, chasing staggered deadlines as hardened competitors try to get there before me. Yes Sir, take away much of the fun, all the exotic travel and any chance of winning a million dollars at the end, and you got my career in a nutshell. Take today for instance …
It became apparent early that I wouldn’t be allowed to leave for the day until I procured imagery of a 9/11 edition Gibson Les Paul guitar, one of only 30 Stars-and-Stripes models manufactured in the days following the attack. Luckily, I knew where one was. According to the crumpled e-mail on my desk, the Loaves and Fishes Christian Food Ministries in Burlington harbored one such axe, courtesy of a local donor‘s generosity. Apparently area native Frank Pyrtle is a music fan of some resource. His recent donation of this sought-after Les Paul would feed the Ministries’ clients for a year. Knowing good TV when I read it, I straightened out the paper and dialed my long distance code.
The lady on the line sounded busy, but when I mentioned my station’s call letters she found time to talk to me. Yes, she confirmed, said guitar was in her possession and publicity was welcome. When she let it slip that another TV station was due there at noon, I weaseled my way into her 11:30 timeslot. Soon after, I loaded up and hit the interstate, tired of talking about the celebrated instrument and eager to lay a lens on it.
When I arrived at Loaves and Fishes Food Ministries, smiling volunteers unloaded a delivery truck at breakneck speed. By the time I leveled my weapon they were almost through, but by that time Brenda Ingler and her assistant Shannon were there to greet me. A ew seconds later I found myself squeezing through a maze of cardboard boxes and packaged produce, following my most gracious hostesses to a back room where the much ballyhooed guitar lay in state.
“Isn’t it beautiful?” Brenda asked as she cracked open the case. It was. Staring through my viewfinder at it’s red white and blue paint scheme, I thought I heard Jimi Hendrix blistering the Star Spangled Banner in the not too far-off distance. But there was no time to be lulled into complacency by my delusions of Woodstock - not with other news gatherers racing toward my find. So before they could mar my unfettered canvas, I got busy, shooting the guitar from every possible angle and quizzing Brenda along the way.
As she told me about the history of this instrument and its jingoistic paint scheme, I realized it was even more valuable than I first assumed. Number 22 of only 30 made, this Les Paul was popular among jet setting musicians. Joe Perry of Aerosmith owns the prototype and Kid Rock had one before it was stolen on tour. Now, organizers hope the scrawny rap-rocker from Motor City will get on-line and buy this one. Of course if you want to beat him to it, check out Ebay on Monday. Bidding starts at a hundred thousand dollars.
As much as I enjoyed staring at the mercurial musical tool, I could almost hear my competitors rolling up outside. So I did what any good news man/ reality show contestant would do: I gathered my things and scampered off, already focused on the deadline down the road. As I was leaving the parking lot a few minutes later, a fellow photog from another station ambled up with an armful of camera and tripod,
“I thought we were supposed to be here at noon?”, he asked with no small amount of annoyance in his voice.
“Uh yeah, they’re right in there.” I said, pointing the way. When he turned to enter the building I high-tailed it to my waiting news unit and sped off, chuckling to myself at my own cleverness. Two miles down the road, my grin faded as I realized I’d left my wireless microphone back at the Loaves and Fishes Ministries. Screeching out a curse, I whipped my news unit into a tight U-turn and sped back toward the building I’d just skulked away from. As I did I couldn’t help but punch the steering wheel in low-level frustration.
I’ll never win a million dollars this way…