The Soldier in the Brick Canyon
This afternoon, after spending the morning with my son, I was driving back to the city (Buffalo) and decided to go home through downtown. While driving downtown I noticed the wall of a relatively tall building in the Washington, Clinton, Ellicott and Eagle block in Buffalo. It had one time been painted white; however neglect over time had resulted in the paint peeling leaving large chunks of exposed bare brick wall. It looked like a good photography opportunity. I always have a camera with me, and although I had spent more of the day away from home than I had planned, I stopped to take pictures.
I was in a parking lot that was surrounded by tall buildings on three sides and standing in the center of the lot was like being in the bottom of a steep walled canyon. While taking photographs I noticed a covered bus stop across the street from the parking lot. There were three men sitting there, two white one black, and by their appearance, demeanor and nature of their belongings it appeared they were homeless. The black man was in a wheelchair. Each was drinking out of cans hidden inside a paper bag. I simply noticed them and immediately returned to my photography. Coincidentally, into the parking lot an old rusty white Ford Ecoline van arrived, drove to the far end of the lot, away from me and parked. Two men exited the van and began walking toward me. The one walking toward me on my right side, was carrying a stack of about ten DVD cases. He wore a black tee shirt with the imprint of some rock band on the front, he had a hunk of face jewelry protruding from just below his lower lip, he wore fingerless gloves, and covering his long greasy dark hair was a black baseball cap. The other guy wore a blue t-shirt and jeans, had a brush cut and was the first to say hello and inquire as to what I was doing. I didn’t perceive it to be a totally friendly or social address, more of the start of an interrogation. He told how he had lived in the tall building to my right, Hotel Lafayette. He appeared to be one of these individuals that talks a great deal, however could never be trusted as to the truth or motive of his conversation. I answered I was just taking pictures for my own benefit. He saw I was not intimidated by their presence. They left, walking toward the Library to return the DVD’s. They walked past the homeless men. I noticed nothing more as I continued to take photographs.
A few minutes later I noticed noise coming from across the street, behind me from the direction of the covered bus stop. Unnoticed by me, the van had left the parking lot and was driving past the homeless men, slowed down and some kind of argument ensued. The van pulled away at an angry pace making lots of engine noise.
One of the men from across the street stumbled over to position himself right close to me in the parking lot. He wore a relatively clean and new Vietnam Veteran’s baseball cap, had a really decayed smile on his unshaven face and carried the odor of beer. He complained to me that the guy in the van had spit on him. I did my best to simultaneously sympathize and ignore the dirty odiferous man. He walked away.
I went about moving my tripod and resetting my camera while photographing the environment that surrounded me.
Leaving the parking lot I asked the black man, wearing an army camouflaged jacket, sweatpants, untied sneakers and sitting in a wheelchair under the covered bus stop whether he would mind if I took his picture. (the one you see above)
At that time the van returns, and empowered by my presence, one of the men runs out toward the slowing Van and exclaims specifically for the van “to get the fuck out of here”!