July 7, 2006


A couple of days ago in Florida I was wandering around... driving semi-aimlesslessly exploring parts unknown when I came across an interesting little neighborhood outside of Palmetto. Beckoned by brightly colored houses, chickens in the yards, and plastic statues of the Virgin Mary, I parked my rental car, met some old men playing checkers, and started hanging out and taking a few pictures. The men introduced themselves as Little Louis, Speedy, and Tubbs. They talked hurricanes, jail, and women. Tubbs told me to find his friend Wanita up the road. "She loves having her picture taken," he said, so I headed down the road.

Half a block away a young guy with an extraordinary face appeared out of nowhere. A deep scar ran from forehead to chin and when he opened his mouth it glinted in the sun. His teeth were gold, all his teeth were gold, and it gave him a striking somewhat mechanical look. I desperately wanted to photograph him but something told me not to raise the camera without chatting first. Rarely do you run into such a face, so I smiled and asked him about paintings on a pair of what looked like airplane hangers (apparently an old strawberry cannery. I got no smile in return.

"What's your business?" he growled.

"I'm just taking some pictures. Thought that building looked interesting... and Tubbs over there told me Wanita might want her picture taken," I smiled.

"Why would anyone want a picture of that busted bitch?"

Taken aback, I answered carefully, "Because I like to tell people's stories, and it sounds like she has a story to tell."

"There are stories everywhere and you have no call to visit" he said, spitting close to my feet. "I say you're getting into other's people's business. You have no need to picture me."

At this point I was choosing my words with extreme delicacy and speaking softly, "I haven't taken your picture. I was just over there with Little Louis and Speedy and I didn't point my camera at them until after I asked to take their picture. I showed them respect, and I'm showing you respect. I'm not pointing my camera at you."

"I don't like having my picture taken."

"No problem, I'm not taking it."

"Ok then," he said looking at me.

Tubbs called out, "He's not the law fool, look at his scrappy shoes. You ever seen the law in shit shoes like that?"

And with that the guy gave me a big golden smile and I started walking away thanking god for my chucks. Little Louis came running after me. "It's time to leave now boy. Booger thinks you're police and he's running. He's a shooter if you know what I mean."

That was all he needed to say. I'm not one to look for trouble. But Booger if you're out there, I'd still like to take your picture and hear your story and I think you're wrong about Wanita I hear she's got dance moves that make an old man young.

posted at 12:40 AM by raul

Filed under: travel

TAGS: bad situation (1) florida (3) gold teeth (1) i look like a cop (1) palmetto (1) photography (58)


07/07/06 02:14 PM

Wow. It is too bad that the best stories can't always be shared.

07/10/06 01:07 PM

Cracking story, thanks. I always like to hear the background to a picture as much as to see the picture.

07/13/06 05:52 AM

how much i would like to hear his story... i think i kind of know the situation you've been in. at least a little.
this year i went to a nasty neighborhood in the bronx together with a friend of mine who grew up there. he wanted to revisit the place he grew up in. that area was already nasty when he was a kid, we expected it to be nicer now. the opposit happened as victor told me.
we went to visit his old house which by now is totally run down. people looked at us in a weird way. a hispanic and a white guy walking around in this neighborhood together... an elderly guy came over to us and told us that we looked like cops. casually dressed but usually a hispanic guy and a white guy together in this area... cops.
i mean at the end everything was fine, we got hard and strange looks but nothing happened. many untold stories there as well!

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