"On a good day, it must be like being a rock star. On bad days, it must be like being the tax collector."So true. There are times when a camera on your shoulder is equal to an “S” on your chest, like the many times I’ve waded into a mob of American Idol wannabes only to have young and old genuflect toward my lens. Then there are the times the reception is a good deal icier - say, when you wanna tour Death Row. Luckily, you get used to it. After a while you view both reactions with a healthy dose of protective cynicism - at which point you’re well on your way to becoming a veteran photog. Today’s reaction, however caught even me off guard...
I was wandering around the midway of the Dixie Classic Fair around lunchtime, scanning the crowd for interesting visuals and recalling a most enjoyable book I read this summer, Eyeing the Flash. In it, former carnival con artist Peter Fenton recounts his lifetime as a sideshow barker and, with his irreverent wit and gift for dialogue, paints the local midway as a cesspool of scams and debauchery. It’s a great read - if only for Peter’s self-deprecating descent into complete huckster-ism. But I digress, as I often do. In fact, I’d mentally checked out altogether when a familiar cadence snapped me back to reality.
“That’s right any prize for any price. Just have land a disc on the ducks and you too will walk away a winner…”
The carny’s shtick was as wrinkled as his death-metal t-shirt, but I was entranced nonetheless. Something about the way his singsong delivery sounded coming through those tinny speakers held me enraptured, even if it did fail to ‘turn a tip'. An avowed recordist at heart, I fished a wireless lapel microphone out of a pocket and approached the ‘talker’, who at first seemed to welcome the attention. But as I drew closer and attempted to attach the tiny microphone to his shirt, the young man suddenly recoiled, scrunching his nose at my camera as if it smelled of elderberries. I, of course, didn’t relent. Years of staging spontaneous interviews have inured me to rejection; I can usually pin a wireless mic on a pickpocket before he has time to come up with a proper alibi. Some guy in a Slayer t-shirt and bad skin wasn’t about to give me the slip. Or so I thought.
“Naw man, I don’t want nothin’ to do with you.” he spat as he eyed the logo on my camera’s side. “Rupert Murdoch’s The Devil’.
With that, the young man turned on one combat-booted heel and retreated back into his sanctuary of plush yellow ducks. I remained frozen in space, hands outstretched, microphone in hand, slowly realizing I’d been politically rebuffed by a guy who didn’t have a permanent zip code or from the looks of it a working toothbrush - let alone a solid voting record. As I slunk off unceremoniously toward the livestock barn, I could still hear him mumbling obscenities my way. Halfway there, I remembered Chewie’s quote and began to laugh. This gig really can resemble that of a tax collector’s. Today wasn’t the first time someone mistook my station’s logo for that of the allegedly evil Fox News Channel. It probably wont be the last, either. Once, a student at Guilford College - wearing Birkenstocks, white-boy dreadlocks and pampered indignation - dressed me down for being a part of 'the world-swallowing cabal' that is FNC. I tried to tell him he had the wrong guy, but how do you discuss global broadcasting with a guy who, judging from his wardrobe and walking staff, is studying to be some kind of shepherd?