Tuesday, September 24, 2002

Wow, it's been a little quiet on the blog lately. Huh. "Quiet on the blog" sounds dirty without meaning to, kind of like saying "Otis Spunkmeyer muffins." What sounds dirty to you without meaning to? (This is a shameless attempt to elicit comments and see if I still have any readers out there. Thanks for playing!:)

Okay, this is a story I don't tell too often, because it doesn't reflect terribly well on me or my abilities as a young journalist, but when I was in Prague in 1998, interning for the Prague Post, (which was unpaid and I mostly shadowed staff photographers, which was fine, because I only had one photo class under my belt and had no idea how to shoot with a flash. And I was afraid of photographing people at that point, which is problematic) I got an assignment with a Post photographer, to go to a campaign event where the presient of the Czech Republic, Vaclav Havel, was going to greet voters and give a speech in Wenceslas Square.

I got into what photographers glvingly refer to as a "Cluster F*ck" where everyone is elbowing and shoving and essentially trying to get the same shot. It's never, ever good. Bt it was my first time in one, and a Czech photographer from CTK (pronounced "Che-Teh-Ka") started screaming at me, in Czech, which is easily one of the scarist experiences of my life, to be five feet from the President of a former Eastern Bloc country and have someone screaming in my face in a language that I have just enough knowledge of to know he's really, really, really unhappy. (Surpassed in fright, in many ways, only by being arrested in Heathrow Airport) I got into a verbal scuffle with a photographer who spoke English, telling me to leave that I was taking up space from "legitimate journalists." I was embarrassed and intimidated, but I didn't leave. I also only made, like, a head shot, of the president, because I didn't know any better, really. It was a learning experience, though, one I think about all the time when I am in situations like that.

Anyway, two nights ago, I was working for the Merald, and they asked me to go relieve a sick photographer who was photographing the Czech president meeting with political prisoners. I called P., and he told me everyone was really, really dressed up. Which is standard for the Czech press, actually. They all always wore black, always very dressy clothes (which didn't help my feeling intimidated the day the guy started shrieking at me, as I was wearing a bright green windbreaker). I looked at what I was wearing, realized I had a giant ink stain all over my ass (the first time since May when I was on CNN in a press conference with ink all over my ass), and drove like a bat out of hell to an Old Navy about 7 minutes from where I currently was.

I ran in, like, "I need...PANTS! Dressy pants! Black pants! Dark gray is fine! Size __! Anything! But the shirt has to go with this silk scarf in my hair! Can't take off silk scarf! Bad haircut! Non-negotiable! The scarf stays! I'm shooting the president of the Czech Republic in 40 minutes and I have ink all over my pants!" This really nice saleswoman leapt into action, tossing me pants and shirts, asking (while laughing and smiling) "Who? Who are you "shooting?" What? Who *are* you?"

At this point I'm wheezing, (the Old Navy is on the third floor of a big uber-shopping building), "Photographer ...with...Hiami... Merald... Political Prisoners from Cuba....Vaclav... Havel... YES! The pale yellow shirt! That's good! That goes!" I ran to the register, ran to the fitting rooms, put on the clothes, dashed outside, ran back up three flights, the saleswoman tossed me my cell phone, I caught it, shouted my thanks, ran back downstairs and made it with half and hour to spare.

If this were @(ss) P I would have missed the whole thing, a symbol of my changing luck, I think. :) As I was working, I was totally calm and collected, I got to the front of the Cluster F*ck of Press easily, I even had time to check my exposure and compensate my flash for the ceiling height, and then.... Someone was shoving and muttering angrily in Czech behind me.... and it was him! The Great Screaming CTK Photographer of 1998! I never thought I would see him again. Knowing I had all that I needed, I could have given him my prime position in front of Press Cluster.


Although, for one thing, with situations like that, especially in front of former communist political prisoners turned world leaders meeting with political prisoners under Castro in an effort to dsemonstrate how great democracy is for a former, small communist country with Russian ties, (if you call being invaded having "ties"), about 150 miles from Castro's front door, you seriously never know when someone will dash out of the crowd and assassinate him. I know this is more evidence of the emerging Conspiracy Theorist Angie, but I don't want to have to call my boss and say I let CTK get in front because he screamed at me four years ago.

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