I'm sorry, guys - its hard for me to keep up with work and all this - but here';s my latest column
When I travel for work, I am normally accompanied by my oldest son, who happens to be exceptionally tall and in extremely good shape. It’s sort of like having a personal bodyguard with you at all times. I’m used to this and it’s created a tendency in me to go anywhere that strikes my fancy and talk to anyone I feel like.
Its easy to feel free when you have Brawno the Brave standing next to you looking down on whomever I’ve become psychologically fascinated with at that particular moment. He’s used to my adventurous tendencies. His brother, however, is not.
This last trip to Texas, my youngest son, Brandon, came with me to assist. After we checked into the hotel, I decided to wander around and see the sites. Right behind the hotel, I found a river that had cool little pathways winding around it, bridges, all sorts of neat stuff and I was drawn like a moth to a flame. About two minutes after we sat down to drink our beer, I noticed a lot of other people sort of silhouetted under the bridge. One of them noticed that I was smoking and came to bum a cigarette. This is how we met Fast Black (I’m not kidding). When he found out we were from San Francisco (you can’t explain Middletown to people like Fast Black – SF is easier, trust me) he engaged Brandon in a rousing discussion on Rappers and demonstrated some of his own talents for us.
Pretty soon others began to gather around and I decided I wanted to photograph these guys. Brandon was not so sure that bringing my camera into this situation was the best of ideas, but I had a plan. I had Fast Black walk us to the liquor store. This was quite a journey in and of itself, stepping over people’s beds, avoiding the random needle, watching two people squabble over the dregs of a bottle, things like this. For me this was good material, for Brandon, who happens to be a bit more realistic about things than I am, this was alarming. On the way we picked up T-Bird who decided to help Fast Black navigate me through “the jungle”. This was probably a good thing as my cigarettes had been spotted and I was beginning to feel reminiscent of the Pied Piper with a trail of drug addicts falling behind me.
I bought a case of Bud and two packs of Marlboros and returned to the Jungle with it. The idea was to hand out the beer and smokes to anyone who would let me photograph them. It worked great at first. Needless to say, we were quite popular. Fast Black was very proud to be involved in this and was orchestrating my photo shoot like an old pro. Within seconds we had quite the crowd. And I must say, they turned out to be wonderful subjects and quite a group of hams, actually. Brandon was dolling out the beer and smokes, I was clicking away, and then we came down to the last beer. That was when the Switch Blade came out. Fast Black was in this guy’s face within a second and I was pretty sure this guy was all noise. I started to scold him in my best mommy fashion, but as I was doing this, a hand was on the back of my shirt, dragging me, backwards, up the steps to the Sheraton.
“Mom? Are you OUT of your mind? Seriously, are you? You could have gotten us killed!”
“Oh, we were fine. Besides, they were interesting to photograph.”
“I see. Here we are in a beautiful city, full of beautiful people, and you want to shoot the crack heads. Great. Please tell me that you wouldn’t have done that alone. Tell me, mother.” I assured him that I wouldn’t have, but nonetheless he wouldn’t let me out of his site after that, apparently convinced that if he turned his head, I was going to go racing back under the bridge to finish making my point to Mr. Switch Blade.
The next afternoon we were downtown having a beer in a Brandon Approved environment and my girlfriend called me to tell me she had booked my flight to Chicago.
“Cool! Hey, how far are we from Detroit? Sinead wants me to hop up there for a couple days to shoot.”
The fall out was immediate. Brandon spits out a mouthful of beer and chokes out the word “Detroit”. He’s gone white and his eyes are as big as silver dollars. “MOM! You are NOT going to Detroit! I absolutely forbid it! Fast Black is one thing, mom, but those guys in Detroit are not to be messed with! Those guys carry guns, mother. GUNS! Promise me you will not go to Detroit!” It was beyond funny. My girlfriend could hear him and was howling with laughter on the phone and no amount of anything could convince him that my purpose in going to Detroit was not to head down dark alleyways at midnight looking for gang members.
“Fast Black used to live in Detroit. Maybe he could hook me up with someone to show me around.”
I shouldn’t have said that. “What? Are you crazy? You are not going back under that bridge to talk to Fast Black, mom. I won’t have it.”
“I don’t have to go under the bridge. I have his address.”
“WHAT?! When did you get his address?”
“When he was showing me his gun shot wounds. I got it to send him the photos, of course.”
“Gun shot wounds?” He orders a shot of whiskey. “Gun shot wounds. Of course. Oh yes. The perfect person to tour you around Detroit. That’s wonderful, Mom. Good plan.”
He decided to tattle to his brother who did not help the situation at all. “He has a point, mom.”
“You aren’t seriously telling me that you think I would go looking for bad guys in Detroit, are you?”
“Mom, I don’t think you would go looking for them. But I’m pretty sure you would manage to find them without looking for them. You do this kind of thing everywhere we go, Mom. Remember all the homeless guys in Sacramento? How about Seattle, Mom, when you decided to take every street person’s photo holding your stuffed pink dragon? And what about Switzerland, mother? How you managed to find a crowd of low-lifes in a city like Zurich is still beyond me, but you did it. Brandon has a point, Mom. I’m not so sure Detroit on your own is such a good idea.”
It’s very difficult to win when they gang up against me. So I promised I would not go to Detroit alone. They were both pacified with that. What they missed was the word “alone”. Now I just have to figure out which one of them I’m taking with me.