Editors Note:


EDITOR'S NOTE: Fresh off a three year managerial stint, your friendly neighborhood lenslinger is back on the street and under heavy deadline. As the numbing effects of his self-imposed containment wear off, vexing reflections and pithy epistles are sure to follow...

Thursday, January 10, 2013

License to Grill

DSCF0572Ever parked a billboard on the edge of misfortune and trolled for commotion? It’s not as fun as it sounds, but if you’re gonna be any good at this gig, you gotta ingratiate. Take today - all thirteen hours of it. What started as friendly hello at a reporter’s desk grew into an urgent journey, a feverish bee-line to a distant ‘burg, where reticent detectives, quivering witnesses and a halfway decent lunch made for a Thursday I’ll most likely soon forget. For now, though it’s on my mind, so let me knock this out so I can go get some sleep...

What makes a man stab a deaf-mute? It’s a question I hadn’t considered until fate placed in a speeding live truck this morning. Carter Coyle rode shotgun, a young reporter with a winning grin and considerable energy. She too had no clue why a guy would (repeatedly) plunge a knife into a stranger, but we both knew our lunch depended on nailing down the other four W’s. That may seem crass considering the crime, but when you data-mine calamity for a daily wage, you learn to do so from a distance. Emotionally, anyway. Physically, you gotta get up in it, which is why, after questioning a guy with a badge on his belt, Carter and I plunged into the heart of darkness. Actually, it was a rundown block on the West side of town, but you get the idea.

Twelve hours earlier, a young man with a history of violence did his best to end an old man’s future on this very spot. The old man was well known on these streets, a grizzled figure who didn’t let his inability to speak or hear stop him from begging for cigarettes. But bumming smokes was de rigueur in this ‘hood and the old man was much beloved among the saints and sinners that roamed its many yards and alleyways. How do I know Because they told us so. Five minutes after we’d parked the live truck in a side lot, a phalanx of aging neighbors lined up before our lens, eager to ask my glass why anyone would try to kill such a harmless old soul. We had no answers for them, only carefully crafted questions, designed to spawn responses in full sentence form. Oh, did they oblige.

“He ain’t ever done nobody no harm!” a man with deep creases on his forehead said. “I hope who ever did this suffers!” wished a woman with more fingers than teeth. Carter and I didn’t dare look at one another, for we knew better than to question such on-camera manna. This was the kind of emotional outpouring are bosses crave, soundbites to die for, if you will (even if you won’t). At that very moment, the young man with blood on his blade sat in a jail cell downtown. The old man was much further away, hooked to wires and tubes in a distant intensive care unit. His stab wounds were many, his chances few. Sad as that is, we didn’t really dwell on it there on the street.

We were on deadline after all, and with so many locals emoting on-cue, my focus was on the glowing red light in the corner of the screen. But the pitch and timber of all that anguish eventually seeped into my skull and as I edited the footage later in the day, I couldn’t help but think of my place in the world. Who am I to swoop in and demand answers? I hold neither a degree or warrant. I can offer the average bystander little more than a soapbox and a rickety on at that. Aside from my empathy, they will receive no cash or prizes for appearing in our show. But time and time again, people in precarious positions step before the glass and pour forth their darkest fears. Why? Is it just the chance to be on the Tee-Vee? Or is it just human nature to share perspective, hurl invectives and whisper things into a logo'd lens that they wouldn’t even tell detectives?

Don't ask me. I just drive the truck...

3 comments:

cyndy green said...

Used to ponder this myself...but talking is therapeutic. Repeating what you just saw...horrific as it was...somehow helps you as you try to figure it out. Too many accidents and other slam bangs of nature and too many interviews with folks wanting to tell all to the camera...and they weren't clamoring to be on TV. They genuinely had to talk.

turdpolisher said...

I often wonder the same thing. Then I realize it's time to get home to MIss Gail and the young 'uns. . . she's usually pouring me a Maker's.

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