Thursday, October 4, 2012

Oh, the places we will go.

"Gimme a dollar! Gimme a dollar! Gimme a dollar! Gimme a dollar!"  The little man in the dirty green sweatpants barks incessantly, almost manically, as we quickly disengage and turn back to our news truck.  Just a few seconds before I am rapping on the front door of what is the last known address of the mother of Curtis Allgier, Maxine McNeeley.  Allgier, who is about as despicable a human being as you might ever imagine, has just plead guilty to gunning down a Utah corrections officer, and we hope to get a comment from the woman who likely knows Allgier best.

I track down the address using old court records, and photographer Mike "D" and I find ourselves rolling into a neighborhood, inhabited by worn and weary apartment buildings near the end of a dead end street.  McNeeley's unit is #1.  The black entrance is framed by a wooden storm door  with three panels of mesh.  The top quadrant is torn and tattered, the second panel remains somewhat intact and the third has been kicked or stripped out years ago leaving a jagged, border of steel.

The access to the apartment is shrouded in an uncomfortable touch of claustrophobia,  The unit is planted to the right of a narrow, crumbling sidewalk, straddled to the left by a tattered, weather-worn wooden planked fence that lilts and leans, and strains to stay standing. As I knock on the door, that fencing to my back seems just a bit too close, like a customer pressing near you in the grocery store line, who lingers a little too long in your personal space as you finger the minty gums and magazines at the checkout.

The paint chipped awning overhead seems to press down on my head, as I wait for some response.  I can hear the muffled tones of the TV blaring inside, and with each pop on the door with my knuckles, I hear the shrieking bark of what is sure to be a tiny little pooch.

To my left are yards of used, but for some time, underutilized building supplies, old mops, ladders, buckets, and a pile of rags, tarps and towels, long discarded, and colonized by ants and rats and Box Elder Bugs, years ago.

The close proximity of the tri-plex to the fence makes for a spider web wonderland, as clear strands of silk criss-cross back and forth from the tattered, uneven boards of the listing fence to the broken rain gutter that jogs jaggedly across the eave of the home.

Somebody nearby has, or had a cat, and never fully potty trained the feline, because with each breath the slight scent of ammonia from cat urine lofts occasionally and uncomfortably into you olfactory.

The old man inside jerks, turns and pops the tired old medal door knob, and lifts, wrestles and jams the door open, but instead of standing inside his threshold waiting for my question, he darts onto his front stoop, and I find him quickly within inches of my face.  His grey mane of hair is wild and wispy, his beard is long and untamed, I can tell he is a smoker, his mustache is stained with a sickly yellow glaze of nicotine   His top is clad in a faint grey sweatshirt that was, years ago, a potent black.  He's been wearing it for a while, as evidenced by what appears to be the dribble from a meal enjoyed days ago.  His green sweatpants hike up high on his left leg exposing his hairy calf, and rides low on his right leg, the dirty, tattered hemline having been dragged under his right heel for days.

"I'm looking for Maxine McNeeley?"  I ask doubtfully, assuming now that she must have moved some time ago.  "McNeeley, McNeely, I don't know any McNeeley," he says moving in to me even closer, "Well ok," I turn to see Mike 'D' has received the hint seconds earlier and is already strolling back to the truck with his camera in tow.

"Well, wait, wait," the man says eagerly, and begins "hey, gimme a dollar, gimme a dollar, gimme a dollar, gimme a dollar," He chants as I speed up my gate, "gimme a dollar, gimme a dollar,"  I've got to laugh as I wonder how long he will continue to holler these three words after we roll away.  Then I find, not too long as he changes tactics, noticing the camera slung over Mike's shoulder, "take my picture, take my picture, take my picture, take my picture, take my picture!"  As I glance back, I see he has choreographed a little dance to accompany his monotonous, monotone tune.  His hands are propped next to his shoulders, palms towards his audience, and he is hoping from one foot to the other, with each bark of the phrase, Take my picture," now to the right, "Take my picture," now to the left...

I was a bit taken aback by the whole scene, the oppressive surroundings, the manic chant and dance, Mike sees it a bit differently, as he hops in the truck, turns the key to crank the engine, he proclaims calmly, "that was awesome."

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