Posted on April 21, 2012
A surge of adrenaline pumps through my veins. My hands are tense as I take the key out of the ignition. I am in South Central. I am tentative.
I woke up this morning with an idea swirling in my brain. And so I begin my day. A day that will no doubt be very different from any other. I drink my single cup of morning coffee. I check my email. Take a shower. The thoughts still running through my mind. Brush my teeth. Get ready. Today, these mundane tasks are filled with apprehension. Maybe even a little dread.
The day’s agenda looms in the distance. I grab my camera. I grab my bag of dog treats. I think of the possible sights I may see. I push them from my mind. I take a deep breath. I am focused.
As I’m driving to my destination, I am overcome with an unexpected feeling of peace. I’m about to go into the heart of South Central Los Angeles and photograph the dogs that live there. I don’t know what I’ll find, but I’m certain the scene will pull at my heartstrings—maybe even make me angry. And most definitely I’ll feel a sense of helplessness. The dogs that I see will not be ones I can help. Not directly, anyway.
I don’t know where I’m headed exactly. Florence Avenue and some random crossroad. I suddenly worry that no one knows where I am going. I haven’t told a soul. This is a very rough neighborhood and I will be carrying my expensive camera, driving a brand new car and more than likely, I’ll look very out of place. And so I text Maureen. It was brief.
“I’m in South Central. Photographing dogs”.
She knows me well and responds with a simple, “OK. So sad”.
Nothing more needs to be said.
I find a parking spot. There are some men loitering there. I say hello. They look at me but don’t answer. I can feel their eyes follow me. I’m a little nervous, but don’t show it. I reach the alley and take out my camera. As my first footstep falls on the cement, the barking begins…
I am done. I climb back in my car. The images still fill my head and threaten to drown me. It’s soul crushing. The people. The despondency. The homes. The dogs. The gloom. The sounds. The hopelessness. I see each and every moment again. Feel every emotion wash over me again. I close my eyes. I’m filled with melancholy. With a of deep feeling sadness. For the dogs. For the people that live there.
I am driving home with thoughts swirling in my brain. So different from the ones I had upon waking. And then I saw him. I drove by so quickly I wasn’t sure what it was. But I had to go back and see. I had to take a photograph. I drove around the block and found a parking spot. Then I had to walk across 4 lanes of traffic with no crosswalk. My heart was pounding. Adrenaline coursing through my body. Probably much like the dog I was about to photograph. Images of him entered my thoughts. Where was he trying to go? Why didn’t he turn back? What was he feeling as he stood in a spot not far from where I stood. Trying, like me, to navigate the busy road. I wonder if he suffered.
A surge of adrenaline pumps through my veins. I run to my car. Shut the door. My hands are shaking as I put the key in the ignition. I am leaving South Central. I am overwhelmed. The sight of the dead dog is the last straw and my heart can’t take anymore. But the tears I have anticipated all day, don’t come. I am numb. Thinking. Wondering. Feeling. I drive home in the silence—contemplating when I will return.
Music: Breeze by Xavier Rudd
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