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Opinion In Market: Walk around in my muddy, concrete-dusted shoes

In Market: Walk around in my muddy, concrete-dusted shoes

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Robert Francis
Robert Francis
Robert is a Fort Worth native and longtime editor of the Fort Worth Business Press. He is a former president of the local Society of Professional Journalists and was a freelancer for a variety of newspapers, weeklies and magazines, including American Way, BrandWeek and InformatonWeek. A graduate of TCU, Robert has held a variety of writing and editing positions at publications such as the Grand Prairie Daily News and InfoWorld. He is also a musician and playwright.

My shoes were a bit muddy, I could accept that. But then I walked around the corner and saw a giant concrete mixing truck backing toward my vehicle.

Ah, little grasshopper, my mystical sage was saying somewhere in the ethereal ether, you can never stop learning.

What was I doing? I was taking a photo. Actually the one that graced the cover of the Fort Worth Business Press for July 31. Still, it wasn’t worth a cover photo if my beloved RAV 4 had been crushed like a tin can, along with my new copy of Joe Jackson’s Greatest Hits. (Underrated, by the way.)

I had decided to take the photo because, hey, how hard could it be, a photo of a building? The weather was great, the sun was out and all I needed to do was take out the camera, point and shoot like those James Garner/Mariette Hartley commercials or those Ashton Kutcher commercials, depending on how old you are.

I was taking a photo at 212 Lipscomb St., near my old stomping ground of the Near Southside, once a place with warehouses, rundown homes, churches and other structures. So I was familiar with the area. I and my stingray bike had traveled there many a day, past loose Dobermans, women who wanted their lawns mowed and bums who swore they would use my nickel to buy a decent meal and clean up their act.

I also knew the area was undergoing some much-needed refurbishing. The old warehouse I was photographing was going to be the new home of the Rainbow Lounge, Fort Worth’s longtime “gay” bar that had burned down several months back, as well as two hip imports from Dallas’ Deep Ellum, the Twilite Lounge and the Anvil Pub.

I hadn’t assigned a photographer to take the picture because, truthfully, how hard could it be. But sometimes life decides to teach you a lesson that you had already learned many times over. Here’s a management tip: Before you begin thinking someone else’s job is easy, try it a bit for your own damn self.

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view … until you climb into his skin and walk around in it,” as Atticus Finch of To Kill a Mockingbird said.

First, some luck, something all journalists and photographers need. The Twilite Lounge already sported a beautiful, hip neon sign erected on the outside of the building. A bright blue, white and yellow sign to contrast with the funky industrial warehouse building. Contrast is also something photographers need. Old and new, what could be better?

Not so good was the block of Lipscomb itself. It was undergoing much-needed repair, so a road grader was traveling up and down the block, doing whatever road graders do. To avoid having my wheels covered in dust, dirt and debris, I parked a safe block away, on an out-of-the-way street.

No problem taking the photo, though I had to wait for the dust to settle to get a clear shot. I then headed back to my RAV 4, confident I had a decent photo with a bright blue sky, a neon sign and a dark brick warehouse from the past that almost told the story itself.

My smile disappeared as I turned the corner to hear – and see – the ominous, incessant beeping of a large concrete mixing truck backing up. It had its side chute extended out dangerously as it backed toward my vehicle. The RAV 4 now appeared ridiculously tiny, like an ant helplessly watching a man wearing boots striding toward him. If I had yelled, my cries would have been overshadowed by the beeps, the portentous crunching of gravel.

Just short of my vehicle, the beeping stopped and the 50,000-pound monster slowly reversed direction.

My heart racing, I got in the car, patted my dashboard and breathed a sigh of relief.

I cranked up Joe Jackson’s I’m the Man and headed back to the safety of the office, vowing never again to think a photographer’s job was easy. Or anyone else’s for that matter.

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