Having loitered alone in a live truck for much of the week, it was awful good to hang out with my peoples. The occasion: Barack Obama's visit to the Piedmont, of course. Ever since the Mayor's breathless presser two days back, I knew I'd get sucked in the belly of that beast. I just didn't know I'd be the first one eaten. The Greensboro Coliseum complex was dark and shuttered when new reporter Roxanna Haynes and I pulled up. Then again, it was 5:30 in the morning. With a security guard nodding in the distance and nary a supplicant in sight, it was high time to set up a TV studio - especially since the suits were gonna punch up my shot in thirty minutes. Wheeling the rolling billboard around the perimeter, I finally found the one parking lot designated for the media. Only problem: the gate was locked. Sooo, I did what any good TV News photog would do: I slung the live truck around in a wide arc, zeroed in on a particular patch of sidewalk and punched it. Coffee flew and cries rang out as I forced the live truck up the curb, dodging trash cans and concrete planters until I made it to the pre-approved lot. Minutes later, as I stood behind the truck watching the mast slowly poke upward, a security guard drove by all ghetto slow and gave me the dirtiest of looks. I smiled back and checked 'Irritate a Rent-A-Cop' off my mental list.
What began as an empty parking lot didn't stay that way for long. At first my competitors' trucks arrived by ones and twos - most making sure not to drive their giant logos through my shot (honor among thieves, dontchaknow). By quarter to seven however, professional courtesy was a thing of the past. Satellite vans from out of town, production trucks slathered in cable news slogans, even those pesky multimedia cats from the local paper invaded my workspace - turning Parking Lot "I" into what I will always think of as 'Camp OJ'. By the time my own back-up arrived, poles draped in red cable dotted the skyline and the low roar of too many generators filled the air. I love the smell of a live trucks in the morning! So too, I hope, does our newest repoter. Roxanna Haynes is young, pretty and largely untested. Though this isn't her first station, I got camera batteries with more experience. But unlike those portable power supplies, Miss Haynes didn't poop out halfway in. Instead she delivered her info, looked good doing it and earned another stripe or two in the eyes of us lifers. And what a crew...
First, there's Danny Spillane, (See Satellite Dan, Spillaniac, the Captain of the Santa Maria). Ole Danny likes to portray himself as a simple truck driver, but don't be fooled. He's a natural born shooter from back in the day; one who was slaying real world deadlines back when I was still dickin' around with a buddy's camcorder during high school phys-ed. For the past decade, These days, there is no one I'd rather see roll up in a sat truck than Dan the Man. He is, quite simply, one of my favorite humans and I ain't just saying that 'cause he loans me dry socks at hurricanes. If that ain't love for your fellow man, I don't want to know what is.
This dude you already know. Chris Weaver has been my partner in crime ever since we realized just how much we have in common. See, aside from working for the same logo and sharing a passion for all things cyber-like, Weaver and I hail from the same county Downeast. We were even members of the same Boy Scout troop - though by the time Chris was old enough to earn a merit badge, I was learning to roll my own cigarettes in the back of somebody's rusty Camaro. Not Weaver. From the moment this dude learned how to spell TV, he's wanted to be a news shooter. That, he is. In fact, The Mighty Weave just may be the consummate photog - whether he's winning an Emmy, getting so close to Barack he could smell what the dude had for breakfast, or merely whipping out an elephant's diaphram to throw a little sunlight on our newest reporter. Now if we could just do something about all that enthusiasm!
As for me, I'm rarely so cheery. But a funny thing has happened in my early forties. I'm ... learning to accept who I am (and most importantly, who I'm not). No longer under the false impression that my writing compulsion will deliver me from news, I realize just how much it enriches it. Equal parts therapy and ambition, this whole Lenslinger thing has kept me in the game far longer than if I lacked the emotional outlet. That's a good thing, for no matter how I love to skewer this business, I am a willing participant its ongoing inanity. What else would I do - write books? You're dreaming! Besides, what literary gig would allow me access to Kingpins and Crackheads on such a daily basis? You can't get that penning Hallmark cards!
SHHHH! It's The Chief! Actually, it's just Keith Hale, dashing Brit expatriate and seminal figurehead to the El Ocho photog community. These days he manages as much as he shoots, but the man knows the magic of a wide-angle, the mystery of missing gear and the value of a greasy spoon. That's key, 'cause if you're gonna lead a bunch of hardcases like us, you'd better walk the walk and talk the talk. Keith does just that, usually in a pair of careworn cowboy boots. If that weren't enough, this is the dude responsible for my return to news! It was ten short years ago that I met with Keith over a plate of cherry cobbler and divulged my dreams of becoming a storyteller again. Of course, a million news stories followed - a stat that leaves me wondering if I should sincerely thank the man, or wait outside his office for a clear chance to punch him in the throat...
So, what have we learned? Not alot, I'm guessing. But if there's one thing you take away from my grammatical release, let it be this: There are deep vats of talent (and pomp) collecting on the other side of that lens. With any smarts, a rookie reporter can skim what they need from that reservoir, before leaving to out-earn us all at their very next station. Beats MY career path!