Friday, October 30, 2009

The Rhythm Within(?)


I was on the outskirts of boredom when the drums kicked in. Until then, I'd been sleepwalking through my week: chasing invisible beaver, corralling camels in small darkened rooms, even profiling weirdos at a local costume shop. None of it thrilled me. Sure, it could all pass for party fodder - but technical snafus, well-meaning newcomers and a rash of predictability had placed me squarely in a ten day coma. I get that way sometimes; so wrapped up in my own cranium that I become impervious to verve. That's where I found myself Friday as I stumbled out of a convocation I'd crashed at Winston-Salem State University. Inside some educated folk were preening in cap and gown. Outside, a clutch of scruffy drummers were standing in a loose circle, fondling their tom-toms. No sooner had I noted their position when they noticed me and my glassy-eyed friend. With a bleary precision they began hitting their skins, and I had no choice but to fall in behind them.

From there things get a little blurry. I remember the fancycam floating free, it's heft turning buoyant as it lifted me off my feet, dragging me to the source of all that rhythm. Suddenly I was surrounded as street performer and professor alike gave into the primal vibe. Moms, Dads and brand new Grads poured from the auditorium doors and the campus of WSSU took on the atmosphere of a New Orleans garden party. With a red light glowing in the corner of my tiny screen, I forgot all about shot selection. Instead I followed my instincts around the edges of the drummer's scrum before breaking off to catch a few faces. To a person they all exuded a certain groove and even this rhythm-less Father of two eventually fell into place, as for the first time in weeks I found myself shooting free, loose and unencumbered.

I just wish I hadn't tried to do 'The Robot'. Who knew they'd walk me off campus like that?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Oblivion or Bust

drive 006.1
Hey I'm no Willie the Wimp, but when I pass, you can bury me behind the wheel. Why not? I've spent most of my adult life entombed in a procession of Fords: a pre-OJ White Bronco, skeevish EconoVans, all sorts of Escorts, one two-door Explorer and the esoteric little number I drive today. Couldn't tell you every make and model; but I bet I've fled, bled, and even played dead in more near-new hoopties than a parade of repo-men. It's not how I envisioned spending my very adult weekdays, but neither did I see all that lower back pain coming. Perhaps I was distracted by all the gas I passed. Or maybe I was taken with all those logos on the doors. Empty promises and day-glo striping can hypnotize any pilot, ya know - from that fresh faced traveler with dreams of prizes on the horizon to that craggy has-been who now lives in my rear-view mirror. Was that mental breakdown closer than it appeared? Or am I just a little highway-shy after flogging oh so many miles?

Ya got me. All I know is a thirty minute commute each way and a never ending list of stilted missions have left me a lot less fond of the cockpit than back when I first stowed away in a rusting production truck. Back then I'd let the older guys strap me to the hood if they'd let me hold their fancycam. It never occurred to me I'd have that pleasure for years and years, but now that that the groove in my shoulder matches the one in Unit Four's driver's seat, I can't help but glance at the places I've been. Clogged interstates and empty back-roads. Fog-choked mountain passes and trinket shop parking lots flooded by twisters with nicknames. Ritzy neighborhoods I could never afford and squalid housing projects where all eyes were on the cracker behind the wheel. I rolled low and slow through trailer parks where I wasn't wanted and emptied whole gas stations just by pulling up to the pumps with an unleaded icon on board. Mostly though I've leaned forward as the engine roared, wondering what normal folk feel when they grip the wheel and squint into the distance.

I may never know, for proper reflection would require me to slow down a bit - and as long as there's a cell phone diggin' into my side I simply cannot afford to coast. If I did, the good citizens of central N.C. might miss out on the latest in ribbon cutting intrigue. Whole imbroglios would go unnoticed if I get stuck in traffic.Viewers may even be forced to shut off their tranquilizing tubes and look outside should they really wanna be a Weather Spotter. No, I'm not crisscrossing the same eight counties day after day for nuthin! I'm on an expedition of utmost import: a timeless journey of stale drive-thru items and fine-divining u-turns. Yes, there's no mistaking I lead a purpose-driven life; I just wish it ran through Easy Street. Still, I saddle up most every morning fresh but never rested- knowing that no matter where I may end up, I'll have forgotten how to get there the next time I try to find it in a hurry.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to ask some stuttering drifter how to get to the Pop Tart Emporium.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

I, Disciple

Norman Alley BookMuch love to Amanda Emily for her donation of a hefty tome to the Lenslinger Library. Actually, I was on something of a reading sabbatical; having devoted my scant downtime to the far less enjoyable task of assembling a book proposal. Still, when the tattered but loved copy of Alley's 1941 autobiography appeared in my mailbox, I knew I could safely file this hardcover under 'Research'. After all, the man known as "Mr. Newsreel" accomplished my goal 26 years before I was even born: he turned his time under glass into a crisp narrative people clamored to acquire. Then again, Norman William Alley was no mild mannered mid market master-hack. He was THE pioneering lenslinger whose early newsreel work helped shape the very globe it covered. The man rode with Pancho Villa, shot vital footage of the U.S. gunboat Panay as it sank beneath him, recorded the German invasion of Poland and covered every earthbound skirmish from the Spanish Civil War to the protracted one in Vietnam. Not bad for a high school dropout. His mid-career memoir, I Witness, was a best seller of its day and while I'd read about it before, I never expected to be holding such a delightfully dog-eared First Edition of this sacred text. Thanks, Amanda. Know that it will soon join other seminal works on my shelf of mentors' memoirs - just as soon as I finish parsing every word...

Then, I'll post a review.