Foto by tgw, New York City, 2003
Old Photos Like Old Wine
Aren't photos better when they're old? I've run out of current photos and I'm delving back into my old stockpile. I photographed off roofs for years but now I've been barred from most of the roofs I used to shoot off of. Still I am using the same out-of-date-and-fashion Toshiba digital. I've had it for many a moon now. It's reliable. I'll tell you one thing from a photographer's point and shooting: the afternoon skies have changed here in New York City.
I could call it New York. That's its real name. It's New York, New York, but I like adding the City on it to distinguish it from the state. The state outside of the City is pretty nothing. Pretty common. Like Texas in some parts. I used to live in Freehold, New York, and I swear this all-White part of the state so reminded me of Texas it gave me the willies. I was buying a beautiful 42-acre farm on Catskill Creek, a larger-than-your-ordinary-creek creek that crescent-bent around my farm and in the elbow of that bend was a beautiful stretch of white-sand beach. A little stretch, but a beach still, with large boulders set about in the creek, some high and flat and sit-on-able while others created barricades enough that the creek waterfalled over them and you could sit on the flat exposed rocks in the sun and feel magnificent, like you were the only human on earth. There was a peace involved in the space during the summer but come fall that all changed, especially when deer season came along. During deer season, the local yokels pompously violated my "No Trespassing" signs and when I tried to stop them they defied me. I put a huge chain across my private road--and in what sounded to me like Texas drawls, local rubes would holler at me from behind that chain, saying, "We'in's been huntin' on this here property for years...Miz Lucy used to let us hunt here...." When I told them I didn't want my deers slaughtered they got rambunctious and one bunch tried to run through my chain in a Jeep but the chain broke one of their headlights and swung up and almost cracked their windshield.
There was a large deer park on my property. Just off in a short distance out behind my house. I had to stay alert at night for high-powered flashlights in those woods as local yokels tried to sneak through my posted fences via the eastern entrance of Catskill Creek onto my property. One night a ringing out of shots came close to my house. I had rigged up powerful spotlights on all sides of the house and when I switched the back ones on, there were three local yokels carrying rifles headed for the deer park.
I'm not one to mess with when I'm angry. It's not that I'm a big guy, but I have one of the meanest and foulest mouths on the planet. When I come at you cussing you'd be better off shooting me and facing murder charges than you would letting me get close enough to you to tongue lash you. My bark is worse than my bite, but these local yokels didn't know that. They began to spread the word that I was crazy as a loon and pretty dangerous. I thought about buying a rifle, and you can easily by guns in that part of the state, especially rifles, but pistols, too. I, however, never have been a gun enthusiast. I had a friend in high school who was and we used to go out into the wilds around town and shoot his rifles and hand guns. One sport we liked was shooting at jackrabbits off the front fenders of his dad's pick-up truck, which also had a military spotlight attached to the driver's side. That was fashionable in those days in Texas. Even some cars had military spots on their driver's side. These spotlights on pick-ups became as common as gun racks in the back windows of those trucks.
So we'd take my friend's dad's pick up out on the out-in-no-man's land back roads at night and two of us would lay out flat on those front fenders with our rifles loaded and ready and whoever was driving would drive along until he saw a jackrabbit in the road. Then he would hit that jack with the spot and these jacks would then take off like greased lightning down the beam of that spot, too scared to dart into the black darkness on either side. While they were running, zig-zag running, those of us on the fenders would start popping away at them. Senseless killing since jackrabbits are no good to eat. Just killing them for killing's sake.
The friend who was the gun nut and had the pick up also collected venomous snakes, which he kept in a garage apartment at the back of the family home. While out on these back roads shooting at rabbits, they were dirt roads, seldom used, very lonely at night, we'd occasionally spot on a huge rattler crossing the road. When we did, my friend would jump out of the truck and with his snake catcher go after the critter--his snake catcher a metal rod with a looped rope device at its end that you looped over the rattler's head and then cinched it tight around the head, then whipped him up and stashed him in a burlap bag--or even a pillow case--which you secured tightly and threw in the back of the pick up. I was with them one night when we collected five giant rattlers, each over six-to-ten-feet long.
One night on one of these runs we spotted on the biggest and ugliest centipede I'd ever and still ever seen in my life. I mean this baby was huge, at least a foot long, I swear.
One night while shooting jackrabbits, I was out on the right front fender with a Remington rapid fire and the driver caught a jack in the spotlight except this jack didn't react right and zig-zagged his way out of the light and into the darkness to lope out across this weedy field with me shooting at him, following his form out and out and still I shot at him until suddenly a light came on across that field and we realized I had been shooting at and hitting some farmer's house. We got the hell out of there fast and after that, I stopped going on those adventures.
Since those days I've not owned a gun ever nor have I known any more gun enthusiasts.
Knives, yeah. Knives are another subject. I carried a knife all through high school. I learned to and practiced knife fighting. This knife of choice in those days was a stiletto, a switch-blade one especially. You carried them in your back pocket. You were sensitive to it being back there and when you got in a tight spot, you knew you could reach in and whip it out snapping the blade open as you whipped. I've whipped a knife out on adversaries many a time. It quieted them down, especially when you whipped it out right in their face. The surprise was too much for them. "Whoa, pal, wait a minute, let's talk this over."
When I got to New York City the knife of choice was the 007, a scary knife even when it was enfolded. Looked like a streamlined butcher knife when opened. You carried 007s strapped inside your lower leg. I was with a friend of mine going into the downtown Municipal Court Building when bells and whistles went off, crazy sounds that brought a guard over. It was my friend's 007 that had set off the alarms. The guard told him to unpack it and leave it outside--my friend handed it to me and told me to wait for him--"I'll never abandon my 007," he told the guard. The guard replied, "I know what you mean, brother."
Nowadays, I have protective devices around my apartment door--two stainless steel butcher knives and some old golf clubs. Nothing like whacking an intruder with a golf club; they're splendid weapons when wielded properly.
Thoughts evolving off old photographs. Can't paragraphs be photographs?
for The Daily Growler