Saturday, August 17, 2013

YOUNG TURKS, OR CONFESSIONS OF A BADASS, PART 11

"Fun times indeed," Wingo wrote in the Facebook comments after I posted this picture of us. "Bulletproof mentality and a take-no-prisoners approach to reporting. Fearless and aggressive. It worked well for us then. But we never took ourselves too seriously. Loved it."

We were not quite 30 years old when Wingo rigged up the timer and we snapped several pics in a hotel room in Joplin. We were reporting on a series about unsolved slayings involving women in the Ozarks, and whether a serial killer could be hunting humans.

(For the record, we never uncovered enough evidence to prove the serial-killer theory. But we did make a compelling case that it could be so, and in the process we managed to shoot a crime scene in McDonald County where a woman's skeletal remains had been found. During the shoot Wingo reached down and picked up a piece of her backbone that the cops had overlooked. Fun times, indeed.)

Yes, we felt bulletproof and yes, we were fearless. We asked intrusive questions of cops and crooks and expected answers. Wingo is right: the work was serious but we never took ourselves too seriously. We did not believe the hype. In that sense we were unusual. It's what made us members of the badass club.

Older now, and I find myself with the same mindset. After eras where I bought into the hype and lost my way, I have returned to the place where creation percolates with ease and being bulletproof is a fact of life, where relying on a bag of tricks feels lazy and persistent experimentation seems like a great plan.

The guy from that ancient time could (would) probably (certainly) run faster than I can now, and he could skip. But that's about it when it comes to mad skeels. He wasn't as good a reporter as I am today, and his writing voice sometimes cracked like a kid in the throes of puberty. I read his notes and his published pieces and see the places where I can do better today.

Still, I feel connected to that guy. I remember being that age and wearing that face. It surprises me that my reflection in the mirror sports a gray beard instead of the dark one in the picture above. I am also surprised, and gladdened, that my reflection doesn't wear such godawful glasses. Otherwise, it's me, just me, young at heart and eager to experiment. And ready to startle.

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