There’s a first time for everything.
(So they say.)
They also say things come in threes.
Both of those famous clichés collided for me this week, and as a result, I’m shaking off some serious PTSD.
That kind of stress will melt your brain, so we’re going a bit non-traditional this week.
(It is what it is.)
As to the details, I had my first proper Covid test, my first colonoscopy, and was held at gunpoint, by a raving lunatic, who might well have killed me had things gone differently.
(Like I said, it was a crazy week.)
Let’s unpack some of these things, so I can create a functional column, and offer the educational and entertainment value for which I’m known. (Or so I tell myself.)
It would be cruel to keep you in suspense, given the drama bomb I dropped a few sentences ago, so let’s get to it.
And before you ask, no, I’m not exaggerating.
It really happened.
On Saturday, I walked up to the basketball court behind the firehouse, to shoot hoops, and burn off some stress.
I’d been dreading the colonoscopy, for obvious reasons, and the fact I had to go into the hospital the day before, to get tested for Covid, was also weighing me down.
Nothing like a bit of exercise to combat the stress.
Of course I brought my camera, because as I wrote last week, I’m shooting every day now, (or close to it,) and this autumn light will only last so long.
Around here, November brings high clouds, gray skies, windy days, and brown grass.
Once the leaves drop, and until the snow comes, Taos is often dreary, no lie.
But Saturday was beautiful, and the afternoon light was great, so I was excited to shoot hoops, and shoot pictures, but it never occurred to me the verb might pop up in the worst possible way.
For the most part, I don’t trespass.
People around here like their privacy, a hallmark of the Wild West, and almost everyone has guns.
But I’m also known around the neighborhood, having lived here for 12.5 years, and my wife’s family has been here half a century, so that carries some weight.
I’ve also been shooting my project for 10 months, so I’m confident the neighbors have seen me around, which gives a sense of protection.
Plus, I’m a trained fighter, and carry a knife.
(Normally, that’s enough.)
As I was walking home from the court, I noticed a glowing, wooden, religious statue in a neighbor’s driveway, sitting next to a blue tarp, which was electric in the light.
It was a sure-fire photo, and there were no cars in the neighbor’s driveway, that I could see.
Frankly, I’d shot the trailer a couple of times already, as the place was normally empty, and no one had ever looked at me twice, much less said a word.
I yelled “Hello,” and began walking the twenty feet or so up the driveway, when I saw a big, white pick-up truck parked there, and the door was open, so I immediately turned around and left.
Didn’t want to intrude.
That said, as soon as I walked another five steps, I saw a group of chickens right in front of me.
They belong to my neighbor, Morris, who lives across the street, and while the light wasn’t hitting them perfectly, of course I pulled out the camera to rip off a few shots.
There I was, crouching along the road, in full view of the trailer, with my camera, doing nothing but make art.
It got my blood pumping, but in a good way. All those creative juices flowing, combatting the stress chemicals I was trying to purge.
I got excited.
And it was totally quiet.
No one around.
So I got cocky, I guess.
And nearly paid with my life.
Having the camera out of the bag, watching the chickens literally cross the road, I wanted to keep going.
And as I said, it was totally silent.
So I waved at the trailer window, as I could clearly be seen, walked back up the neighbor’s gravel driveway, and took two quick photos of the wooden Santo sculpture, the blue tarp, the driveway detritus, and a part of the white truck with the open door.
Trying to be respectful, even though it seemed there was no one around, I walked quickly back towards the road.
But before I could get there, out of the corner of my eye, I saw the door of the trailer burst open.
A large, White, bearded man came charging.
He had a gun pointed right at me, with his finger on the trigger, was obviously very angry, and started screaming at the top of his lungs.
“GET THE FUCK OFF MY PROPERTY,” he yelled! “Do you hear me? Move! Move the fuck off my property. NOW!”
I put my hands up, started walking backwards, immediately, trying to create distance between me and the insane, armed man implicitly threatening to kill me.
“That’s right, motherfucker. I’m the kind of guy who carries a loaded weapon. You better get the fuck off my property right now,” he threatened, all the while, keeping the gun trained at my head.
“Listen, man,” I stammered, “I’m very sorry I trespassed. I shouldn’t have done that. Very sorry. That wasn’t cool. But I announced myself, waved at your window, and I’ve lived here in the neighborhood a long time. I’m an artist, and was just taking a quick picture. That’s it.”
I continued to walk backwards as I spoke, calculating how quickly I could get to the property line, as he kept coming at me with the gun, enraged.
“I just moved here,” he said. “I don’t know who the fuck you are. And I got robbed last night. So you better get the hell off my property. Now. MOVE!”
I kept my cool, and trained my eyes on the gun.
“Listen, like I said, I’m sorry. I apologize. My bad.”
“GET THE FUCK OFF MY PROPERTY,” he screamed again!
I kept back-tracking, but he stood his ground, instead of charging, or pulling the trigger, thank God.
Finally, when I was in safe range, I went with empathy.
“I’m so sorry you got robbed. That’s awful. I can’t imagine how you feel. Really, there are a lot of nice people in the neighborhood too. I’m sorry you got robbed, and that it’s affected your experience here.”
“Yeah, well,” he replied, “as long as you get the fuck off my property, and never come back, we’ll be good.”
With that, he turned around, walked back into the trailer, and stared at me through the window. The same window, I should add, I waved at a minute before, so anyone might see me approach.
“Listen,” I added loudly, “please, let me bring you a beer, to make it up to you. I shouldn’t have trespassed, and I’d like to make amends.”
“You don’t need to,” he said, “just stay away from my property, and we’re all good.”
But that’s tricky. We walk by there every time we go to the basketball court.
So I headed home, got a beer from the fridge, wrapped it in tinfoil to be discrete, and walked back up the road, my heart pounding quickly.
I stayed by the property line, yelled towards the window, and told him I was back with a beer, as a show of good faith.
“I don’t drink,” he said, more calmly than before.
Are you kidding me? The only truck-driving, gun-wielding, large White guy in America who doesn’t like beer?
Just my luck.
But the tone of his voice had changed. I could tell he no longer perceived me as a threat.
“You don’t need to do that,” he said, more calmly still. “We’re good.”
“Listen, man, we’re neighbors. It’s important there be no bad blood. I just wanted to show you I’m a good dude.”
“Don’t worry,” he said. “We’re good. You’re peaches and cream.”
“OK,” I replied.
“I’m peaches and cream.”
So I re-wrapped my beer, turned on a dime, and walked home.
I’m going write about Chicago soon enough, but one thing was clear to me, traveling through two airports: people in America are ready to blow.
There is a seething anger that is not even below-the-surface anymore.
In both Albuquerque and Chicago, despite the Federal mandate, I saw people without masks, or confidently wearing masks below their noses, and under their chins, constantly scanning the area around them.
These people were waiting for someone to step to them, baiting anyone into speaking up, so they could unload.
They wanted to fight; to spew their anger at the world.
It was so unsettling.
You know I’ve been writing about the decline of America for years now, and when I came home from San Francisco in 2019, I did a big article reporting the social fabric in this country was badly frayed.
Clearly, the pandemic pushed things over the cliff.
People are ready to shoot, punch, or stab, and ask questions later.
I’m truly concerned.
When you have to kiss someone’s ass, and beg forgiveness, just so they don’t kill you, we’re in really bad shape.
But there’s one last part to this column, before I jump off and meditate some more. (It’s been helping with the PTSD, for sure.)
Today is Thursday, (as usual,) and this time on Tuesday, I was under anesthesia, having my intestines probed with a digital camera.
The whole thing was humbling, to say the least.
And it all came to pass, because my brother and Uncle both reached out this summer, within a week, to tell me the medical guidelines had changed, and people were supposed to get a colonoscopy at 45 now, instead of 50.
Then, my Uncle and Mom told me my grandfather had died of colon cancer, in his late 50’s, which meant I had a family history of the disease, making it vital I get checked ASAP.
Even typing the word, colonoscopy, I cringe a little, as it’s so much easier to say procedure.
I really don’t want to evoke any visuals for you, (unlike last week, with the yellow hot-air balloon,) but I promised the surgical staff I’d use my platform to spread the word.
Colon cancer is deadly, and took down Chadwick Boseman last year.
Black Fucking Panther, dead, in his prime.
But it is also preventable.
Listen, getting this cancer screening sucks.
I won’t lie.
Having the Covid test, with a Q-tip jammed almost into your brain, then taking all these medicines to clear out your insides, sticking to a liquid diet, following all the rules.
It’s laborious, and given the reality of many people’s work schedules, and insurance situations, I can see why so many put it off, or don’t do it at all.
Truly. I get it.
But having faced down the fear, and gone through the process, (with a clean bill of health, thankfully,) I wanted to at least share what I’ve learned.
There are so many things that can take you down, these days.
From Covid, to cancer, to crazies with guns.
Hell, a young Las Vegas Raider killed a women the other day, by driving drunk, at 156 miles an hour, crashing the back of her Toyota at 127.
She burned to death, trapped inside.
That is a nasty way to go.
But so is colon cancer.
So if you’re over 45 here in America, please consider checking with your primary care physician, if you haven’t had your screening.
It can save your life.
See you next week!