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Wednesday, December 8, 2004

Stand-by Unit 10:
POV of a Chicago Photojournalist

Whoa. Clueless until you see the bus leaving the curb across the street, now it is certain you might be a little late. The cold rain wakes you up second by second as you move through the air and you turn your face up to gladly dose on Nature’s Caffeine.

You get into the hot taxi and try and settle into your morning routine. The cabbie’s spicy aroma and braking style stirs up nauseous whiplash as you pull out some needles and yarn. Focusing on the task at hand is attempted and seeking to improve your odds you clean your glasses, not once but twice, because everything is foggy. One more quick jolt at a stop sign then the taxi pulls away leaving your stomach behind but your brain firmly locked onto the idea it’s not your glasses but your EYES that are really dirty.

You were at a huge fire the night before and somehow even though you were in the direct line of smoke and debris, you are unwilling to tolerate the fact that you might have some bad job hangover. All the experts have told you that you are NOT supposed to take it home with you. Even when your clothes smell so weird they walk themselves out to the trash, you are in denial. It is happening to other people not you, even when you’re standing right next to them.

The flames shooting out of the high-rise windows look especially fierce through your telephoto lens. People from the restaurant across the street fill the sidewalk around you and stand gawking at the workers rushing out of the building. We are fascinated by their tears and when they tear their hair we marvel because that’s something you see only in the movies. The reek of burning office equipment is joined by the cigar smoke of sidewalk diners and the fumes of the diesel powered firetrucks which suddenly are everywhere.

The fire department helicopter is overhead pouring light onto the black wall of smoke to guide the jetstreams of water but its wings fan the smoke down the building onto the street. And yet people do not move.

When glass and debris come flying out the windows above, the mass finally runs for cover. The firemen and police are now in force and they dispatch the stragglers straight away from the danger and you marvel at the resistance. You marvel when the firebugs show up and start recording the event for their scrapbooks. A non-fireman in a CFD uniform jacket covered with souvenir medallions and badges badgers you for the private phone number of your reporter so he can give him some hot fire tip. His eyes seem even brighter than the flames overhead and you move away, at last, yourself.

Six hours later, when the fire is officialy struck, you walk your 65lbs. of gear and yourself the half-mile back to where you left your van. When you tell the cop standing next to the 5 trucks surrounding it you will drive it on the sidewalk to leave the scene, he grimaces then just starts laughing in your general direction because that’s probably the only funny thing he’s heard all night. You’ve never heard NO delivered with more glee…

The next morning, when you get dropped off at the impound lot, you jump out into the rain and pull on the gloves you grabbed as you rushed out the door that morning and begin your new day.

gloves.jpg

Like the rest of it, they just make sense.


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