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a peaceful protest

I was 16, and the thought of being forced to mention God as part of the pledge of allegiance was too hypocritical an act for me to play along with. Each day of high school began with this mundane recitation, as most people just stood with their hand jutting from a hip, the other dangling across their chest as they counted out the seconds until they could sit back down. They leaned against desks, and talked through it about what party and where it would be, if there would be a keg or a bonfire in the woods. I recited the words, omitting the "under God" part as a sort of half-baked protest. I was raised to flaunt my family's ramshackle atheism, as a choice of smug pride. We knew better, was the prevailing logic.

But one day, I could not stand and say any of it. It felt so rote, so hollow, so devoid of choice. There was no law that said I was required to say it. I knew this was my right, a form of free speech. My homeroom teacher was a legendary drinker, a trash-talking re…

night shoot

A poodle scatters across the ice, approaching me. It sniffs my boots in the darkness. I see it is gray, or maybe just a very dirty white dog. The camera is next to me, pointing up at some trees and a streetlight, some apartment windows out of focus behind it. I see an old man approaching and I try to say a quiet hello. The monitor is perched on top of the camera. I am shooting night cutaways for Blackbetty. His nose wiggles, as if he is sniffing the air around me. I stand, waiting for them to pass before I move on to the next location. He stops and says something to me. I think he asks where I am from. I have gotten into the habit of saying "Canada" just to keep life more streamlined. I cannot imagine someone on the streets of New York asking a stranger something like this. Well, I used to think that way. Maybe things have changed there too.

I try to explain that we live a few houses over. He asks what I am doing. I tell him I am making an art movie, just about life, about trees, sky, moon, streetlights. He does not buy it. He repeats a word, over and over "snimat" which I understand is "to get dressed" so I really have no idea what he is asking. He asks for my passport and my registration. The little dog is stiff sniffing my boots. I tell him they are back in the house. He pulls out his phone and is threatening to call the militia. 
"Fine, I am going." I explain, yanking the heavy tripod and camera to my shoulder skidding across the bed of wet ice towards the path that will lead home. 
"Unfuckingbelievable." I announce, to the trees. 
I do not look back. That is what guilty people do. 

At home, I call N and tell her what happened. She asks if I was shooting near some nondescript two story building. I think for a moment, yes that is close to where I was. "Well, you should keep away from there." She explains. "It is not an apartment building."  Of course I want to chew on this silliness, if it is such important building, why are there no guards? But it doesn't matter. I should have known better, and now I am thinking about the next time I go downstairs to shoot the snow falling, or ice on the tree limbs, or a scene of E coming home from school, or something else and that shitty little poodle and the old man with his phone perched by his ear as he calls the militia. That is how my camera gets taken, my favorite lens, my movie. 





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