Saturday, September 25, 2010

Cameraman Included

I love/hate it when a big man cries. It happened again just the other day and while I guess I should have put it on television, I refrained from framing his pain. Maybe I felt sorry for the guy, maybe i didn't want my own man-card yanked, maybe I was afraid the beefy firefighter would hunt me down months from now for the mother of all pummelings. Whatever the case, I averted my gaze just in time, robbing watchers a few voyeuristic tears while shielding a man most comfortable in a helmet and Nomex coat. But I'm getting ahead of myself...

By the time his van pulled up, I'd been loitering in the fireman's yard for the better part of an hour. I wasn't alone though, as half his firehouse was waiting there with me. Eleven days earlier, the firefighter we'll call 'Pike' met with a most unpleasant fate. While closing out a charity motorcycle ride, Pike and his wife were struck by a passing car. Contusions ensued and bones were broken, but the couple survived. While both convalesced in a distant hospital, Pike's firefighter buddies moved in and rendered assistance.

They built a wheel chair ramp in front of his humble home, trimmed limbs and cut the grass among many other amenities. When the day came for Pike to come home, they gathered on his stoop and waited, even chatted up a cameraman who'd gotten wind of their good deeds. As always with idling firefighters, a great deal of grab-ass followed, but the chicanery faded when the van pulled up and their fallen friend poked his head out from the backseat. Pale, fatigued and pretty much beat, Pike quickly vanished under the thrust of his buddies' embrace.

And even though I'd never met him, my lens and I were welcome at his homecoming. In fact, I was there among the crush of first responders as they fell over themselves helping him out of the van and into a wheelchair. They were just about to stand him up when he stopped them. "Marv, "he said, "Gimme my rag". A hand appeared from inside the van and gave Pike what appeared to be a washcloth. Pike took it, lifted his wraparound sunglasses just a shade and dabbed the rag at his unseen eyes. That's when I lowered my glass.

A few seconds later, he regained composure. I lifted my lens and began to backpedal as the pack of firefighters lifted their big, burly friend into the king-sized wheelchair he'd be calling home for awhile. Nothing was said as they positioned him in the chair, but the silence said what all those brokenhearted stoics could not express. Soon Pike was as comfortable as his injuries would allow and his comrades carefully propelled him toward the door, everyone on the ramp was dabbing at their eyes...

Cameraman, included.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Bloggus Interruptus

Gabbie and Dad at the Holiday Concerts Most times when I sit down to blog, I have at least a vague idea of what I want to say. Other times, a simple phrase gets lodged in my noggin' and the only way to work it out is through intensive syntax gymnastics. Lately though, I've just been ... empty. Mind you, I've got a half dozen subjects lying around, but for the life of me I can't think of a satisfactory way to unravel them. Not that I ever out too much forethought into my posts. Rather, I slump in front of my (gleaming new) keyboard and watch my fingers rub the letters off. As for re-writes, you gotta be kidding me. Count yourself lucky if I think to hit Spell-Chcek. You might say I'm blessed in that department, for I can usually throw myself into enough of a trance and let the guy in my head take over. Lately though, it's been tougher to summon that voice, to focus on my odd hobby as if my very paycheck depended on it. It doesn't, but my mental health sure as hell does. Fret not, however, for I'm climbing no towers (I'm WAY too lazy for that). Neither am I checking into rehab, shaving my head or even planning to exit my limo sans panties. Nope - I ain't crazy, not even depressed. But I wrestle with melancholy more than you know. Occasionally it gets me in a headlock I cannot escape and I find myself hovering over the delete button...

Relax. I'll never deep-six the blog. My ego couldn't stand it. I'll probably concoct these operas 'til I'm old and sputtering - at which point I hope my oldest daughter will wheel me away from the computer before I resort to posting song lyrics, pet photos or recipes... A word on my eldest: Like her younger sister, she's an intriguing creature and if this were a different kind of blog I'd gladly expound on both my kid's' many talents. As it isn't, I'll refrain - but it's about time I divulge one undeniable fact: The oldest one HAS IT. Yes, she of the cello and heightened IQ can put words to paper in such a way that leaves me reeling. At this typing she hasn't much interest in freestyle composition; she'd much rather ruin the grade curve for the entire student body or drag me through another dress shop. But mark my thesaurus; that child can WRITE. Whether she ever chooses to, one can never tell, but for the time being her term papers read like the effortlessly florid essays they are. Though never the student she is, I KNEW from a young age I could communicate on paper far better than in person. I just assumed everyone else could too. Who knew?

Now then, where was I? Let's see: I've made some excuses, bragged on my children and totally ignored where this last paragraph was headed. I can live with that. What i can't abide however, is losing focus on these mystical pixels, for what little you may have gathered from them all these many moons pales in comparison for what they've done for me. Ego strokes notwithstanding, this humble blog has greatly attributed to my quality of life. It's provided an outlet for my half-baked aspirations, given me a discipline I used to fantasize about and kept me engaged in a career I long ago fell out of love with. Well, that's not entirely true. One cannot write as much about a single subject as I have without some underlying affection. And as much as I dream of one day writing for a living, I can't imagine what I'd yammer on about if I didn't have a steady supply of froth and atrocity waiting for me every time I lifted the lens. Hell, my 13 year old recognizes that and she still thinks Justin Bieber will have a career in 24 months. Soooo, while I clean out the cobwebs in my head and try to straighten up this place, know that YOU have my eternal thanks, for there's a fair chance you remember more of what I've written so far than I do.

What do you want for nuthin'?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

All Apologies...

Science Center StarePity the local media pack. Not only do they have to elbow their way to the middle, turn soft-centered stories on a dime and fend off crazies outside their live trucks, but they have to deal with me popping off shots of them during press conferences. Really, it's inexcusable. I mean, would you want to look up from your TPS Report to see me looming over you with lenses and one-liners? Probably not. But then, that's the role I've chosen as lenslinging defender of the news crew nation. For more than half a decade now I've toiled over a coffee-stained keyboard to spotlight their plight; not because anyone's asked me to, but because I find the plugged-in data-gatherer to be a particularly intriguing breed. That doesn't mean I like everybody. Or they me.

Science Center StareBut hey, I'm not about to run down a list of who I think should and shouldn't be allowed to slay deadlines all day. No, I'm way to in debt to do that. But while I have you, there is one detail I've always wanted to share about the making of Viewfinder BLUES... If you and I cross paths or lob lenses together on a professional basis and I haven't gotten around to featuring you on these humble pages yet, there's one of two reasons why: A) Your charisma mystifies me and I'm waiting for just the right frozen frame to capture but a fraction of it. or far more likely, B) I consider you a complete and utter putz and wouldn't darken these pages with your visage if it brought me all the web-hits in Googledom. You know who you are.

Science Center StareSo, why am I divulging all this? Eh - no reason. Okay, okay, I was rifling through some random photos I'd collected on a card and I came across one serious case of Stink-Eye. I give you Kira Mathis: reporter, photographer, fitness enthusiast. I know this because she once chased me off her lawn. Okay, not really - but we DO live in the same neighborhood and I think I once freaked her out by saying "Hi" one day on a dog-walk. Hey, who knew the drifter looking dude in the ball cap being dragged by a small white Eski-Poo was an official member of the Fifth Estate? Apparently not Kira, who for only a second, looked like she might drop-kick me in the thorax. Thus, it was with special chagrin that - upon closer inspection of said photo - I realized I'd once again weirded her out.

I hate when I do that.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Men Who Stare At Goats

Editing GoatsGuess what I did today? Okay, so the title and picture pretty much tells you that, but allow me to elucidate anyway, won't you? I'd barely strolled into the morning meeting this fine Monday when an odd combination of letters screamed at me from the dry-erase board: Stewart/Goats/Edit... Scratching my head, I withdrew from the room, wondering what all this goat business was about when it hit me: I did shoot a bunch of goats last week! You know, the fact that I can travel out of town just to hang out with a bunch of cloven-hoofed beasts as they masticate AND THEN FORGET ABOUT IT FOUR DAYS LATER should tell you a thing or three about the mental capacity of a forty something photog. Especially one like me - who churns out TV News at such a steady boil that very little of it is left simmering in my brain-pan. You might also chalk it up to my powers of focustration, for I'm quite able to walk through a squad of riot cops and remember only the glint of light on that one guy's visor. Not sure that's always a good thing, but an eye for detail comes in damn handy when you're locked away in an edit bay all day.

Well, not ALL day. There were the few minutes I spent trying to open that bag of Doritos, the half-hour I devoted to trick-clipping my fingernails into a trashcan, not to mention that whole post-lunch period where I tweaked one clip so many times I finally lost consciousness. Dude, was my neck stiff! Luckily, I had a chance to stretch it, for no sooner had I awoke and finally leaned into a sequence than a shadow fell over my edit bay. Minutes later, I leaned into a steering wheel instead, racing to record the image a building in Winston that, frankly, wasn't going anywhere. But who keeps score? Not me. I'm way too busy 'making slot' (deadline), which is basic Tee-Veese for "you get to come back to work tomorrow". Most days though, I go it alone and whatever I chase down in the morning I serve up fresh and steaming later that day. This gig, however, was different. This was deeper, delayed, more densely formed. This was from the mind of the Piedmont's Premiere Journalist of His Generation. This, was a Buckumentary.

"Buck-yuh-men-tuh-ree". That's an insider El Ocho term for 'any pre-recorded report helmed, hosted and/or written by Senior Reporter Bob Buckley. Ya know, it's not every talking hair-do who enjoys eponymous bonding with the glass-handling staff, but then again, there are very few Bob Buckleys. In fact, I've only met one, a rather adept fellow from the Midwest who never met a subject he couldn't wrap several layers of television around. Just ask any of the many shooters who've accompanied Bob through some of the most esoteric reportage this side of that guy who throws darts at the map. They'll tell you there's no one better than Bob at illustrating abstract issues on screen. Why he once explained supply-side economics using only a half dozen eggs, shadow puppets and the long lost transcripts of Copernicus. You can't get THAT in some tiny feeder market! Nor can you acquire the kind of crushing headache a full-on Buckumentary can provide from some live truck script hastily scribbled onto the back of a Jimmy John's sandwich bag! No Sir, for that particular migraine you need a stack of neatly typed analysis, highlighters in five fruity colors and and soundbites gleaned only from the wrinkled corners of your tape. Speaking of which, I'd better get busy...
First though, any chance you can help me with these Doritos? It's like they're hermetically sealed or something...