A Picture of Fights

It was by far the cheapest 35mm camera one could buy in the time of the place of this memory. It carried no massive lens to snap pictures of the observable universe, nor had automation of any sort. To describe this camera aptly, it was a step above the shoe box camera one creates in a photography class, or as a hobby. It has one latch to unshackle the door for the precarious loading and unloading of film, and another latch for sliding open the lens protector. The brand of camera has been lost to time, but in recollection I can affirm it was unpronounceable my most tongues. Be it as it were the camera was mine. I had purchased it with hard earned allowance and donations. I had stocked it with the best of the cheapest 15 exposure films on the market. This was the kind of film where it felt akin to touching the heavens, when you could squeeze out a sixteenth picture from the reel. For the younger crowd, you used to have to put film into a camera. Anywho, it was a locked and loaded point and shoot camera, ready for action.

I was hovering over becoming a teenager and like nobody who looked like me, I was damned awkward. My mother’s new beau had a son a few years my elder. Through some act of a deity he had managed to procure my soon to be step father’s Ranchero. This thing was like an El Camino, but better. It was part truck, part car, all dope as hell. With simple modification to the carburetor the thing would go 20 miles per hour without touching the gas pedal. A real nice ride, I had a camera, and all we needed was a place to go. It was a Saturday and over in another town some boxing matches. It was the perfect venue for my camera since I was fond of boxing as well as getting away from the apartment. I can recall being beyond excited for the adventure, and feeling that perhaps this attempt at making me less awkward by my mom would work. A motherly provided aperture from which I could emerge less of an oddball. My soon to be step brother, two of his friends, and me set off to watch the fights. I must have sweated all over my camera as I sat clutching the device with nervous anticipation.

It was like some summertime epic, cruising down the street with a place to go. The music was flowing out the Kenwood car stereo, and the windows were down on one of forever sunny days in Cali that I used to take for granted. We probably made it about halfway to the fights when we crossed the town of Cudahy. We were pulled over by the police. Pretty commonplace for the time, I suppose it can be called the Neanderthal equivalent to today’s stop and frisk. The police were never there deep within the inner city where gun shots were a nightly occurrence. They weren’t there when my cousin got shot in the face in a public park. Not there when my friend got stabbed, or when another was murdered in her home. Strangely far from sight when I’d get chased, or when some homies packed in a gremlin tried to steal my bicycle. However they seemed to be there to accuse me and mine of anything they felt like accusing. They seemed to be there to knock down my friends. They seemed to be there to knock down a man named Rodney King. Then they seemed to watch my city burn.

Regardless of all these things, none holds an image to me as virulent as this one innocuous moment. They pulled us over and asked us to step out of the vehicle. Never a reason for the stop was made, but I was questioned almost to tears while we all sat on the curb as to where I stole the camera from. In their eyes I was far from an awkward kid. We were all immediately guilty of something. Of what we were guilty of I’ll leave to the reader. The vehicle wasn’t stolen, the radio, and camera weren’t either. Nobody had priors or so much as a jay walking ticket. In that moment I went from excitement to feeling like I was nothing. My first mistake was saying we were going to watch the fights. Cause that compelled them to hold us up for no reason for over an hour, making us miss the fights and retreat back home.

Now I never ascribe to being anything other than a normal child and will not equivocate to admission of strife to seek pity or notoriety, but such things let it be known that I do not put down to cause a flash, but in an effort to be forthright and honest with myself and posterity. Even in recent years I was pulled over and given a barrage of sobriety tests and breathalyzers by two units to prove that I was stone sober. In the grand scheme of the universe I’m well aware of my significance, however when I flash back to that one moment among moments I can still feel the trappings of insignificance like a freeze frame in my mind’s eye. I hold no ill will to the police or those who devote their lives to the service of others. I still hold firm that there are a few bad ones out there everywhere, and we must keep to the promise that the good will outweigh the bad in life and in one’s living. I’ve learned from this experience, albeit there are probably books to drive the point home better, that it’s vital to one’s constitution to not allow anyone to have the power to control your significance in this world. Put another way, cameras take pictures but at least back in my day how you develop the film is entirely up to you.

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