Monday, December 25, 2006

Baptized by Glass

There was no great ceremony during my Induction into the Lens, no stilted ritual as I hoisted a fancy-cam for the very first time. Just a new mentor of sorts, Thomas Cormier, poppin’ the locks on a pockmarked gray suitcase and revealing an outdated Ikegami. No trumpets bleated in the background when I was allowed to reach down and lift it from it’s smelly foam home, only a distant overhead page for Marge to come to Traffic. I didn’t heart it though, for the blood rushing to my ears drowned out everything, even Thomas’ grave warning never to leave it on a tripod alone. As the cushion-free metal frame of the old camera settled into my shoulder, I fumbled for the unseen hand-strap. Reaching up, Thomas steadied my grip and flipped the Iki’s power switch. Suddenly blue light burst from the scuffed eyepiece, filling half my field of vision with a scratchy test pattern shimmering in azure. Thomas switched another on-board toggle and the picture turned to the cramped gear room I happened to be standing in. For Thomas, it was the gearing-up of yet another new guy, something else to do before he left for his shoot at the car dealership. For me however, it was nothing less than baptism.

Perhaps I’m being too dramatic. It wouldn’t be the first time. Still, I suspect my journey to the news front resembles that of generations of young loner’s: a slog to legitimacy. It’s tough to explain, but the weight of an oversized camera is something my right shoulder fairly yearned for. It made me feel important, dashing, vital. Never one to push myself, or wave to a cop, I was initially miscast for the role of news-gatherer. But something about the heft of a lens left me feeling deputized. I suspect my brother felt the same when he embraced the firefighter’s life. We’d been chasing scanners for years, he more than me, of course. But as my older bro bounded to the red lights, I ran behind him, yearning to pull on turnout gear myself. Eventually I followed in his tracks as a volunteer firefighter, but with a lack of confidence and knack for inaction, I was far better suited for daydreaming in the brake-down lane than trespassing some inferno. Until I weaseled my way under a second-hand Sony and learned to master that distraction.

Now, I find myself closing in on full grown grizzle. No longer a swaggering young punk-ass just giddy to be on-scene, I am a jaded journeyman who’d rather write a thousand words on the Fourth Estate than shoot another fatal fire. I didn’t plan this, exactly - never gave a lot of thought to where this ragged-out news unit is taking me. But now that I’m halfway there, I can’t help but look back at the indelible landscape I’ve passed through. Charred foundations and prize patrol showdowns, over earnest peace rallies and lackadaisical Klan marches, New Year’s Eve bashes and commuter plane crashes. And the characters. Crooked sheriffs and stand-up felons, incisive addicts and half-cocked politicians, whimsical slumlords and the frothiest of failed-actors. All in all, it’s made for a superb milieu in which to grow weary. Early on I was once strung out on the very access, but now I’m hell-bent for the next deadline - hoping I’ll get a little downtime to sort through the residue of press-passes past.

At least I’ll always have something to blog about.

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