“Think working in this business has, ya know, makes us weird?” Whitey asked as we tiptoed across the floor of what used to be Lake Brandt. It was the same route I’d taken back in 2002, when a similar drought turned the same lakebed into a craggy moonscape. With my tripod slung over his shoulder, Whitey chose his steps carefully as I followed him out onto the sandy carcass of Greensboro’s primary watershed. Nearby, a steady procession of cars and trucks passed over a bridge, with only a few passengers noticing the distant figures on the sandbar. Perhaps the farsighted even noticed the man in front was wearing a tie; his businessman’s silhouette looking weirdly out of place out there in the stumps and the muck. Behind him, the other man paused and shifted his low-slung load.
“What do you mean, exactly?. I asked, switching the camera strap from one sore shoulder to the next. Whitey kept walking, a bit gingerly when the ground grew spongy. “I dunno - would we be the people we are today if we sold stereos for a living?”
I considered the thought as we reached our destination: a bone-dry shale that’s normally several feet under water. Whitey handed me my sticks and I wrestled them into possession before hefting the camera atop the tripod’s locking-plate. Ten seconds later, I leaned into the eyecup and white-balanced on my partner-of-the day’s dress shirt. He ignored me as I did, muttering lines to himself and looking for a place to squat. In the blue haze of the viewfinder, I kept Whitey center-screen and thought about his question. Eric White’s been with El Ocho for four years now. In that time we’ve worked numerous scenes: tension-filled stand-offs, city council stalemates, inner-city living rooms. Of all the silly backdrops that popped in my head, I couldn’t for the life of me imagine Whitey prowling some hi-fi showroom, looking to move a few more units to make his monthly quota.
“Yoooooo whasssup bitches?” The voice sounded twelve, but was punctuated by the throaty rumble of a muscle car. Looking over my shoulder, I caught sight of arms flailing from the open window of an old souped-up Nova. Once the arms’ owner saw my head turn, he (or she) let loose with a rebel yell that sounded like a hyena with a lawn dart stuck in his throat.. Turning back, I saw Whitey’s face on the tiny screen, his eyebrows scrunched together, his mouth hung slightly ajar. As the sound of the revving engine and redneck’s yell bounced off the dry lakebed, I hit the ’Record’ button and gave him my answer.
"Compared to some, we're damn near normal."