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Pistolero

December 8, 2007

A few days ago I got to thinking about guns.

I grew up in a rural community, a community in which hunting and fishing were the average pastimes, like shopping and plastic surgery are around here…….just kidding!!!
But I did really grow up in the sticks.
A gun to me is like any other tool, it has a purpose and doesn’t evoke any particular type of response in me. I’m a good shot actually, even had the offer of a full-scholarship to a prestigious school if I had intended on going that route. But, alas, I didn’t. I started shooting, a camera, and ended up where I am now.

I’m no gutsy-photojournalist, nor am I a war-photographer, but I sure have had my fair share of guns pointed at me. You would think that having a gun pointed at you would be a horribly traumatic event, but actually I don’t recall it being that way. In fact, I remember times where it didn’t really bother me at all. Okay, chalk a few of these up to being young and stupid, and a few more to being aging and stupid, but overall, still, not that bad.

Mexico, Cambodia, Brazil, and kind of a half hearted, boredom gun barrel in my direction in Bolivia, but I’m not really counting that one. I was more afraid when an angry Bolivian mob was trying to turn our car over. But, no guns involved, just lots of big rocks. Always get the insurance!

In Cambodia I had a very young kid point an AK-47 at me, at point-blank range, and demand 1500 rial for walking on the grass along the Mekong. Of course this was absurd but he just wanted the cash, which amounted to about one dollar. I wanted to throttle the little punk, but I never really felt afraid because there were so many people around, not that it mattered to him.

The worst gun situation I’ve been in might have included people who were shooting directly at me. But, I don’t know for sure because for about a fifteen second time period I have no recollection of what I did. I remember hearing bullets hitting the cars around me, but I just zoned out, and when I came to I was crouching behind the front of a car with a mother and her child.
This was in Austin, and I had just begun what I thought was going to be a great project. Oh ya, I didn’t shoot one frame during this little “outing,” and in fact it never even crossed my mind. That shows you how I perform under pressure.

But I have to say, even though these events didn’t bother me much at the time, they do make me think a little bit now. All these years later, when I have learned how fickle life is, I realize one small shift in the DNA of the 3D world and I might not be here writing this mess. During most of these encounters I was alone, operating in that space of fragile isolation where there is no 911 and you can’t count on anything other than luck, logic and quick thinking.
The world, in many locations, is harsh, dirty and fast and in these places life has, often times, little meaning. In a odd way, in some cases, that’s what makes these places so damn alluring and that is what ends up drawing you in, just so you can have this type of experience, a RICH moment of your bodies natural speed dumped into your bloodstream in near overdose levels. Yes, a cheap thrill.

I think what reminded me of these times was seeing the images of the gunman who recently murdered eight people during a shooting spree at a mall in Middle America. There was a security camera angle which made it feel like the gunman was aiming at me, and it reminded me of the past. It reminded me how fickle things are, how quickly things can change and how it can pay to keep your eyes and ears open at all times.

Now that I think about it, it has been a little less than one year since someone pointed a gun at me. The guy pointing it at my was also trying to stuff me in a metal cage in the back of his van, which I know must sound somewhat surreal, but it is true. Again, I was working on a project and ended up in the wrong place at the wrong time. But again, I wasn’t worry about being shot, but I was REALLY worried about being stuffed into the cage, especially with the three guys who I was going to be stuffed in with.
What I’m thinking is that I really hope this is the last time someone points a gun at me. I don’t think it will be, but I can still hope.
It doesn’t get better, or more fun, or more interesting, quite the contrary.

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