What better application for my new Canon EOS 50D camera than trash day in Phony Phrench Estates? Molly and I bravely set out around 7.30 a.m. The brilliant sun highlighted those determined droplets inside the recyclable plastic bottles. It all reeked of a photo essay.
But during my first close-up, a hairy-faced fellow rolled past on his ten-speed. He had been out for an early ride, and finding a photographer bending over a tub of recyclables made him squeeze the brakes. (He lives next door.) “You’re taking pictures of trash?” he said.
I don’t know what I mumbled in response. After parking his bike he came back and asked why, but I just shrugged and walked away. When Henry Ford II got busted with his mistress, he wisely said, “Never complain, never explain.” Besides, the hirsute son of a bitch neighbor has rarely shoveled his sidewalk in winter, so he certainly doesn’t deserve any consideration from me.
Some ways down the street, the next shot, or the next, caused me to rotate slightly, and I saw Bristle Jaws still standing in the same spot and still gaping. Some people just don’t relate to the artistic temperament, I guess.
Plodding ahead, I soon found a ludicrous black superjumbo Lincoln Navigator roaring up to the curb before me. The squarish woman who jumped out looked rather disheveled: buttons not quite buttoned, hair uncombed. Wobbling onto the sidewalk , she introduced herself as Mrs. Fitzpididdle, who is the neighborhood association president. I was confused because there are two identical ludicrous black superjumbo Lincoln Navigator SUVs in our neighborhood, and I thought the fat lady who drives the other one was in fact Mrs. Fitzpididdle. I should have remembered her from the time I attended one of her open-house showings; Mrs. Fitzpididdle is a real estate agent and wants every listing in this subdivision. She now said she recognized me, but what was my name? To this pseudo-sheriff, I duly revealed my identity. (Maybe instead of speaking, I should have simply offered my driver’s license.) She demanded to know what I was doing and griped about having been awakened by three, yes, three calls from neighbors complaining about a man taking pictures of their trash.
In my typical fashion, I was utterly dumfounded. Three strands intertwined in my mind. One, why had she been Fitzpiddling in bed on such a fine summer morn? Two, why would people call her? And three, what difference does it make if your trash is photographed? But none of these points fluttered across my lips.
At least I was not so flustered as to realize that any attempt at explanation would lead to grievous misunderstandings and heated recriminations. My purpose, I offered, hoping to sound as innocuous as possible, not to mention the sheer truthfulness of it, was simply the hobby of photography.
“Well, just as long as you’re not taking pictures of any houses,” she huffed.
I disavowed any house exposures, although now that she mentioned it, there’s nothing illegal about taking pictures of a house. Hers, for example.
Before hefting herself back into her megajumbo SUV, she complained anew about being awakened, as though it were all my fault. The martyr’s role added an additional incongruous note.
Through the open passenger’s window I tried to say something intelligible on the order of, “You needn’t have come out in the first place.”
And away I toddled, trying to steady the 50D during the next few shots.
Indeed, I’m taking pictures of garbage!