I’m not much of a conversationalist at parties. I’m a bit insecure, and so where as some make 5 new friends at every party they attend, I stick to whom I already know, and freeze when someone new strikes up a conversation. I think I am scared of the situation because I want to tell them a good story, to be impressive. To be someone they mention the next day to their spouse, “Did you talk to that guy? He was pretty cool.”
I have one story, totally true, and if I seem to have nothing in common with the person I am talking to, I tell them the following story.
I like to make photographs. If I could all day, every day, I would, but no one would buy the photographs I want to make. When I am out making photographs, more than half the time I pack light, so I bring my small vinyl camera bag seen in the picture above. One of my best friends in college gave it to me, last day of class, freshman year. He was cleaning out his room, and said, “Here Chip, you’re the photographer, take this, it was my dad’s when I was younger.”
I took it. At the time, whatever said friend thought was cool, I did too. So this out of date camerag bag became something I carried around a lot.
Fast forward to my first or second year out of college. I worked all day Tuesday through Saturday, and spent most of Sundays and Mondays driving around North Carolina making photographs. I’d get a lot of stares, or people coming up to me to ask questions. Usually it was because I make photographs with Twin Lens Reflex cameras, which people do not see anymore and are always curious about. Sometimes they came up to me to talk because I was tresspassing.
One summer Monday, I headed south from Efland NC where I was living, and headed towards Pittsboro NC. This must have been 1996. I was 23 at the time. It seems funny now, I had no recollection at that point of ever visiting Pittsboro before, though its only 35 minutes from where I had lived a majority of my life.
I motored on into Pittsboro, and saw plenty I wanted to photograph, old buildings, and people walking around a small downtown square. What first caught my eye was the county courthouse. Not that the building itself was so impressive, but that it stood right in the middle of the street. In downtown Pittsboro, the main north/south route and east/west route cross right in the middle of downtown, but instead of there being a traffic light, there’s a big circle roundabout. In the middle of the circle, about the size of a baseball field, stands a 4 or 5 story courthouse, for Chatham County NC.
I parked my car, threw the camera bag in the picture above over my shoulder, and crossed the road to the courthouse. I made a photograph or two, but lost interest. I then spied accross the street, in the middle of brick commercial buildings, an old house, probably built before the brick buildings. The town had grown up around the old house, but a family lived in it there just the same, two asphalt lanes from the county courthouse.
From the lawn of the courthouse I trained my camera on that house. I wanted a picture. It was a hot day, and I was sweating clean through my clothes, but “what’s new?” in North Carolina summers, so I carried on. Cars were continuously driving around this huge traffic circle, slowing down to turn on one of the 4 roads. I was standing there for awhile, waiting for a break in the traffic.
The vehicle traffic was noisy, but I noticed that out of my right ear I could hear a very loud car. I had heard the noise a thousand times before, someone’s hot rod car, with a custom motor, and a throaty exhaust system, if one at all. I love old cars, so I turned my head around to meet the noise. The noise was coming from what I call a “bigfoot truck,” an older truck someone has put up on huge wheels . This one was a full-size truck, Chevrolet or Ford I am sure, and the wheels made the bottom of the truck set up a good 5 feet from the ground. There was a guard on the front, with a winch, and a custom roll-bar in the bed.
There were two gentleman in the truck, both about my age, if a year or two younger. Both were attired in what I see most owners of huge trucks wear, black racing t-shirts, and those hats that advertise a NASCAR driver and some basic household product, like Tide clothing detergent.
The driver was half out of the window, grinning ear to ear and looking right at me. Half of his body was outside of the window. I do not know how he was keeping the truck in the road, or his foot on the gas pedal. His friend in the passenger seat was folded over convulsing with laughter.
Keeping one hand on the steering wheel, he used his left hand to wave at me, as if he were in a Christmas parade. He then took a large, gulping breath, and yelled at the top of his lungs, “NICE PURSE, PUSSY!”
For the slightest second, I thought about taking offense. But, my sense of humor quickly stepped in, and I found myself buckled over laughing too. That was funny! Those two guys probably had the time of their life telling their friends and family about the peculiar little dude in town making pictures and carrying a purse.