Funny thing, the fancycam. It can throw your back out of whack and strengthen your spine at the same time. Take last week for example, when I found myself standing watch across the street from what can only be described as a crack infested hovel. Okay, so officially it was a convenient store, but according to frightened neighbors and a years of police reports, it was an outlet of ill repute. Hours earlier, it had been a crime scene. I forget the details exactly; Citizen A took offense at Citizen B and chose to settle matters with a sidearm. The particulars didn't concern me. All I knew is the nice ladies who lived next door seemed to fear for their lives from the violence surrounding the store and for once they were willing to talk on camera about it. This of course enabled reporter Roxanna Haynes and I to spotlight their plight and after convincing the desk were were on to something juicy, we set about to do just that.
My heart went out to the neighbor ladies. In sad, matter of fact tones, they told of nightly gunshots, open air drug deals and conjugal visits on their children's swing sets. This of course I founds repellent, but since I lack an S on my chest I relegated my role to that of documentarian. In other words, I shot video of the locked-up shop while Roxy coaxed the dope from the two brave ladies. According to them, the business was but a front for a thriving crack trade - a claim made all the more believable when the -ahem- gentleman who rented the store arrived to open up for the day. Needless to say, he wasn't happy to see your friendly neighborhood news crew interviewing a concerned citizen outside his sordid emporium. But rather than openly protest, he simply glared,until I pointed the lens his way -at which point he draped a jacket over his head and unlocked the door. Hey, nothing says innocence like cowering under outerwear as you fumble with a padlock key...
To her credit, Roxanna and the neighbor lady followed him inside as I stayed in the parking lot and listened in on the microphone she was wearing. Through broken English he explained he was a victim too, then vehemently declined the offer of an interview. Back outside, we conferred with the neighbors before thanking them for their cooperation. That's when the citizenry of Summit Avenue began rolling up in tricked-out caddies and beat-up Escorts. Most only threw me the stink-eye as they parked and entered the store, but inside a pep rally of sorts must have been underway, for to a pimp they emerged invigorated. I'll spare you the salty syllables (my Mom reads this blog!), but let's just say they all urged me to indulge in a brisk round of carnal shenanigans, before thrusting forth certain digits and questioning my lineage. I merely informed them I was doing my job, had every right to remain on public property and politely declined their offers of parking lot copulation.
It then occurred to me, for not the first time, that a brightly logo'd videocamera is both a weapon and a shield. With it, I can stroll into a gubernatorial press conference in progress without ever worrying about the fact I'm dressed like a zookeeper. I can backpedal in front of frothing protesters and know that, whatever it is they're pretending to be pissed about, they'll slow up enough to wallow in my gaze. And yes, I can stand my ground before a vexed parade of mid-morning gangbangers - provided they don't reach down their baggy pants and whip out a gat. Even if they did, I'd probably unwisely freeze in disbelief that they'd dare to do so in front of a rolling TV News camera. Mind you, I'm no bad-ass. far from it. My interests are reading and walks in the woods. I got a hell of a Barbie collection in my walk-in attic and on the right day, a really good orange juice commercial can reduce me to tears. Dirty Harry, I ain't. But grant me my fancycam of choice and there are damn few places I won't tread.
Except a kindergarten class, of course. A cameraman's GOT to know his limitations.