Saturday, November 06, 2004

The Humbled and The Incumbent

N.C.’s CEO rotated at the waist like a southern-fried robot...

I kicked off 2004 in grand style, huddling under a homeless-shelter awning on a freezing-cold January morning. That morning, the local paper led with a story on a new study examining the number of transients in North Carolina. As often happens, my managing editor read the story over breakfast and decided he’d like to see it televised. Thus, I found myself loitering outside the local urban ministries, looking for sights and sounds to go with a few cold hard facts.

It wasn’t a hard assignment, and neither was it my first trip to a homeless shelter. Any TV news photographer who’s been on the street six months has stepped foot in a shelter or soup kitchen. In fact, most shooters can tell you what the turkey smells like on Thanksgiving morning there, but that’s another story. For now, I just wanted to get in and get out without any drama. For the most part, I was successful.

Most shelters turn out their residents first thing in the morning - declaring the living quarters off-limits until five o clock or so that evening. As a result, a shifting crowd of sleepy vagrants can usually be found orbiting the premises. This day was no exception. As I popped open the tailgate of my heavily festooned Ford Explorer, two dozen men sporting varying degrees of bed-head eyed me sourly. Walking toward them, I smiled innocently, looking from one bedraggled stranger to another. Most met my gaze with indifference, some seemed uneasy, and one person broke into a dentally neglected grin. Suddenly, a fellow on the left broke and ran, perhaps to avoid my camera’s gaze, perhaps to attend an important board meeting. Whatever the destination, I knew better to look around after him too much. Without a word, a pockmarked stranger opened the door for me, and chewing on his unlit Newport as I squeezed past. When I pushed my camera and tripod through the worn doorframe, pitch-black washed over me.

Until my eyes adjusted to the low wattage lighting of the shelter’s interior. When they did, a large, familiar face met me with a smile. I didn’t know his name but instantly remembered the three hundred pound ‘floor boss’ with the low rumbling voice. I remembered interviewing him a year earlier, his on-screen image seared into my brain. With a motion to follow, he turned and waddled slowly through the maze of bunk beds and dirty laundry. I walked behind him, holding my gear up high and scanning the edges of the room for pools of natural light. Along the way, my hefty host checked the bunks. A few featured silent sleeping forms, shelter residents who worked night shifts and were allowed to be inside during the day. I use to wonder how they could sleep so soundly in a room filled with noise and daylight. Then I remembered interviewing people living under train trestles, and I kept my mouth shut.

After framing up my portly guide in a mercifully medium shot, I asked a few questions while the tally light shone. As he answered, I listened through my headphones and trained my eyes on the viewfinder. Though his bulging waistline seemed incongruent in the threadbare surroundings, I knew my interview subject’s massive bulk warehoused a heart of gold. Still, I was certain someone back at the shop would snicker at the fat man’s image and ask me how many homeless guys he ate. It never failed.

Fifteen minutes later, I was back out in the cold, interviewing those who agreed to be on camera, and keeping a casual eye on those who wouldn’t. Overall, it was pretty casual. Despite what you might see on a bad cable TV movie, homeless people are NOT addicted, delusional drifters. Not all of them anyway. Poll the members of your local bread line and you’re sure to find the formerly refined, surprisingly educated and once well cared-for. You’re also sure to be glared at, flipped off and continually asked for cigarettes - even if you show no signs of smoking.

But surfing the edges of the Great Unwashed is just part of the street-level craft some people insist on calling “Photojournalism” Whatever name you use, it’s an intensely twisted gig. My TV news camera acts as a potent passport, one that brings me in regular contact with urine-soaked vagrants and over-cologned captains of industry - often within hours of each other. That was certainly the case that cold January Day. I’d no sooner knocked the dirt from the homeless shelter off my boots than the silent but deadly pager on my hip began vibrating madly.

‘GUV @ Convention Center - NOON’

Thirty minutes later, so was I - strolling across the plush carpet of a bejeweled ballroom with trusty camera and not so trusty tripod in tow. My faded jeans and station fleece once again distinguished me from the crowd but in a far different way than at the shelter. Outside the soup kitchen, I was a dashing figure of assumed-authority and countless freedom. But once inside the Grand Hall filled with fat cats in dark blue suits, my casual apparel marked me a member of the lower class - no more noticeable to the high-dollar crowd than the army of Filipino waiters scurrying about in heavily starched tuxedo shirts.

However, I didn’t come to model the latest in photog wear. I came to cover my state’s top administrator addressing a group of bored business leaders, and doing so wouldn’t call for any costume changes or ‘wardrobe malfunctions’. What it would require is a little patience, for while the footage of the Governor glad-handing the local jet-set would only last forty-five seconds on TV- procuring said images takes a little longer. After whispering in a PR flack’s ear, I settled in a far corner and leaned on my tripod, watching idly as senior executives poked at overpriced lunches of rubber chicken and chewy salad. Manning the podium, Governor Easley droned on - mixing democratic double-speak and homespun homilies with practiced skill.

My skills weren’t getting much practice at all, however. After taping the first few minutes of the Governor’s speech, I turned the camera off and daydreamed, occasionally scribbling in the small black-and-white notebook that never leaves my person. By the time I’d filled up the first page with disjointed phrases, the distinguished speaker uttered the phrase, “Finally, I’d like to …” Years of press-conference conditioning kicked in and I put away my notebook, shouldered my gear, and began creeping toward the side stage entrance. As I did, the PR flack I chatted up earlier made eye contact with me from across the room and began strolling in my direction.

By the time we came to meet at the side door, waves of applause were washing over the podium. North Carolina’s CEO rotated at the waist and waved like a grinning southern-fried robot. When he’s made a clean sweep of the politely adoring crowd, he broke from the spotlight and began walking briskly toward me. As the din of a thousand manicured hands clapping filled the Grand Hall, I was wordlessly whisked into a backroom with the top politico, his handlers and a few bodyguard types.

As I pinned the wireless microphone to the Governor’s crisp lapel, I thought about how that very same mic had been fastened to a half-dozen unwashed transients just ninety minutes before. I chuckled to myself and the silver-haired gentleman from Raleigh raised a well-manicured eyebrow. For a brief second, I wondered if he could somehow read my thoughts. That’s when I realized I had no idea WHAT to ask the Governor. Luckily, experience kicked in, and I lobbed a softball anyone could knock out of the park.

“So tell me Sir, what message do you bring to Greensboro today?”

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

GROW IT YOURSELF!

Anonymous said...

Cool blog you have. I have a the hun yellow pager related site. Check it out if you get a chance. The URL is the hun yellow pager

Anonymous said...

I never realised how important a good bed was until I got a bad back�.
Over 1,400 members of BackCare, the national organisation for healthy backs, responded to our Back Your Bed survey - the first of its kind to explore the views on beds of those who suffer from bad backs and the experts who treat them.
SUMMARY OF THE BACK YOUR BED SURVEY RESULTS
Buying a good bed is one of the most important purchases you can make when it comes to back pain relief. Nine out of 10 say their bed is more important to them since they developed back pain; 98% agreed that a good, supportive bed could help a bad back. 82% of experts felt that the right bed could help prevent back pain.
"If you cannot rest properly and sleep well, this hinders recovery from back problems."
A firm, supportive bed, not a hard one, can do wonders to ease and even prevent bad backs. Only 22% of sufferers had bought a bed classed as �orthopaedic�; while 28% describe their bed support as �medium�. Only 6% of experts would recommend an orthopaedic bed to patients.

Three quarters would be prepared to spend more than �500 on a new bed: compared with just 36% of the �normal� population. Nearly one in 10 would pay more than �2,000 for a new bed to get the comfort and relief they need.
Back pain sufferers are twice as likely as the rest of the population to own a new bed - 50% have beds that are less than five years old compared to the national average of 24%.
88% are satisfied with their choice � but 16% said they would get a better quality one next time; while 9% would opt for something firmer; 5% said they would choose a softer bed and 4% wanted a bigger one.

Sufferers are three times more likely to replace their beds when they no longer feel comfortable (65% compared with just 20%).
31% own a king size bed compared with 11% generally. Separate mattresses zipped together are also popular with couples whose support needs differ or who are easily disturbed by their partner's movements. top
So worth considering when buying a

Anonymous said...

I never realised how important a good bed was until I got a bad back�.
Over 1,400 members of BackCare, the national organisation for healthy backs, responded to our Back Your Bed survey - the first of its kind to explore the views on beds of those who suffer from bad backs and the experts who treat them.
SUMMARY OF THE BACK YOUR BED SURVEY RESULTS
Buying a good bed is one of the most important purchases you can make when it comes to back pain relief. Nine out of 10 say their bed is more important to them since they developed back pain; 98% agreed that a good, supportive bed could help a bad back. 82% of experts felt that the right bed could help prevent back pain.
"If you cannot rest properly and sleep well, this hinders recovery from back problems."
A firm, supportive bed, not a hard one, can do wonders to ease and even prevent bad backs. Only 22% of sufferers had bought a bed classed as �orthopaedic�; while 28% describe their bed support as �medium�. Only 6% of experts would recommend an orthopaedic bed to patients.

Three quarters would be prepared to spend more than �500 on a new bed: compared with just 36% of the �normal� population. Nearly one in 10 would pay more than �2,000 for a new bed to get the comfort and relief they need.
Back pain sufferers are twice as likely as the rest of the population to own a new bed - 50% have beds that are less than five years old compared to the national average of 24%.
88% are satisfied with their choice � but 16% said they would get a better quality one next time; while 9% would opt for something firmer; 5% said they would choose a softer bed and 4% wanted a bigger one.

Sufferers are three times more likely to replace their beds when they no longer feel comfortable (65% compared with just 20%).
31% own a king size bed compared with 11% generally. Separate mattresses zipped together are also popular with couples whose support needs differ or who are easily disturbed by their partner's movements. top
So worth considering when buying a

Anonymous said...

Choosing the right Bed: Bedcare
Proper care will keep your bed in good condition. Always read and retain manufacturers care instructions and ask your retailer for advice, too. Otherwise, the following tips will help you to get the best out of your bed during its natural life.
Use a washable, protective cover to protect the mattress (and pillows) from stains. Barrier fabrics for allergy sufferers are also available.
In the mornings, throw back the bed clothes and leave the bed to air for 20 minutes to allow body moisture to evaporate.
Turning your mattress over from side and side and end to end every few months (every week for the first three months) helps upholstery fillings to settle down more evenly. Some more luxurious mattresses, with much thicker layers of fillings designed to mould themselves to the contours of your body, may retain signs of these impressions, despite turning.
Don�t make a habit of sitting on the edge of the bed and don�t let the kids bounce on it.
Don�t roll up or squash a mattress to store or transport it - this can cause permanent damage.
Handles are designed to help you position a mattress on its base - do not use them to support the full weight of the mattress - they may pull out and damage the fabric.
Don�t leave polythene wrappings on a new mattress - dampness, mildew and rotting could all result from a build-up of condensation.
Vacuum your mattress and base from time to time to remove fluff and dust. This should be carefully done so as not to dislodge fillings or damage tufts. Open windows while vacuuming -especially if there is an asthma sufferer in the house.
When tackling stains, use mild detergent and warm or cold water. Never over soak a mattress or base.
Putting a new mattress on a base for which it was not intended, a new mattress on an old base or a board between the mattress and base can impede comfort and reduce the useful life of the mattress - as well as affecting any guarantees or warranties.
Out with the Old: Once you�ve bough yourself a new bed, make arrangements to have the old one disposed of (many retailers will do this for you). Don�t give it to the children, relatives, guests or neighbours. If it wasn�t good enough for you, it�s not good enough for anyone else, either. In fact, it�s a veritable health hazard - get rid of it
Definately something to think about if you plan to buy a
http://bedsforlessonline.co.uk

CODYLDHU said...

Hi,
You have a neat blog here. I have a site on Rv Awnings that you may be interested in linking to.

bunkbeds said...

If you are in the market for loft beds or bunk beds, a major choice is wood versus metal. Depending on the overall look and size you desire, you will want to choose a differently constructed bed. Find out more about bed bunk loft site you.info