It was well after 9 PM and damn near ninety degrees. But the cloying heat didn’t stop the weekend crowd from stumbling up and down South Elm Street. Pretty women led packs of admirers from club to club as self-proclaimed hipsters traded quips and cloves. Half a block away a Jazz trio was rushing through a bit of Coltrane, but the overall effect was pleasant enough. I couldn't help but rock back and forth on my heels as I waited under the McGee Street sign and looked around. Earlier, I’d plopped down exhausted in my upper lair and without alot of thought checked my e-mail. Suddenly a 'Priority Message' from a bigger name popped up, urging me to dial a ten digit telephone number. When I did, a kindred spirit answered the line and spoke as if he knew me. Which is how I came to loiter outside Natty Greene’s Saturday night, trying not to look to deranged as Greensboro's beautiful people filed past. However still, I was on the hunt, clocking every distant silhouette for signs of symbiosis. There - that slightly swaggering figure heading my way. Though I 'd never before seen the man even move, I knew it was him before he stepped from the shadows and extended his hand.
“Hi Stewart, I’m Bryan.”
No introduction was needed, for before I ever started putting my thoughts to pixel, I worshiped at the church of beFrank. Something about his sense of Zen and generous grin always intrigued me, so much so I spent the first few months of this very blog imitating him. Since then, I've realized I'll never master this West Coast photog'd vibe, for while I am plagued by unending angst, he is the Apostle of Calm. At least that's the way he comes off on-line. A veteran of the L.A. news market Bryan Frank is at home on the red carpet as he is the yellow crime tape. When he’s not running a camera, a sat truck or a training session, he's taking photographs that occasionally grace gallery walls, waxing philosophic on a life of deadlines or simply grinning into his lens. No one pops off a self-portrait like beFrank and his early efforts convinced me it was okay to give it a shot. If you dig at all my 'likeable loner with a lens' schtick, know that beFrank did it first and does it better.
But we didn't face off in the Gate City's hippest street to stage an otherworldy sword fight. We went for a beer instead. In the state on family business, Bryan insisted on driving a little further to bust a suds or two with yours truly. This alone brought a glimmer of a smile to my face, for thrice we failed to rendezvous on my American Idol trips to Hollywood. This time though, we were not to be denied and we quickly repaired to the closest tavern for barley, hops and conversation. The exact transcription of said encounter was destroyed in an unfortunate bar napkin episode, but I can tell you we covered the important subjects: Shooting news, parenthood, mutual friends and of course, writing. Mr. Frank has much to say on the matter and encouraged me to work through the funk I've found myself in as of late. It was exactly what I needed, like a battlefield visit from a wiser, more powerful warrior. Not that Bryan is the least bit militant. Instead, he's funny and warm, regularly flashing the million dollar grin he's known for on-line. Like fellow elder Rick Portier, he's exactly the person his site would have you believe. That's always a relief and I only hope I returned the impression.
After our beer and a half ran dry, beFrank and I took to the streets. It was pushing midnight and downtown Greensboro was bursting at the sidewalks with drunks, debutantes and derelicts. Ever the photogs we stole glances at the more eccentric members of the late night parade, admired their reflections in plate glass windows and provided commentary. Finally, we paused for one of beFrank's trademark snapshots, promised each other we'd do it again and parted ways. As Bryan slipped back into the shadows, I turned to walk toward my pick-up and realized again that - no matter where else this silly blog may take me - it has already enriched my life. His too, I think...