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Camera Angst

Composed on the 18th of January in the year 2009, at 3:15 PM. It was Sunday.

I refuse to allow anyone to shoot video of me unless I'm the editor.

Not many people know this because I'm neither attractive nor talented enough to have people chase me with video cameras more than once every 14 years,1[1] and when the issue comes up, people assume I'm camera shy or had a bad experience.

For the record, I've done things on camera that are illegal in forty-eight states, not counting drugs, so camera shy isn't the problem. Since I never intend to run for office and I've already admitted to far more fabulous crimes–that I didn't commit but that the Bangor police still think I did–during my summer retreat in a nuthouse, these videos could all go up on youtube tomorrow without tremendously affecting my lifestyle, except for two. One because the statute of limitations still has a few more years to go, and the other because it captured my soul.

The video holding it is somewhere on Jake's computer, Jake being the cinematographer, director, and editor. He shot it when we were seventeenish, I think. The video itself is a piece of history more than it's a work of art, but for a first run, hardly burn worthy. That, and the fact that I don't have a key to Jake's apartment, is why there are still a few copies floating around.

There's nothing in the video that singles me out more than any other participant2[2] It's the outtake reel tacked on to the 2002 re-edit. In that reel, there's one shot of just me, ducked-taped to a chair. The shot lasts somewhere between the time it takes to back up after you've hit a dog and the length of a funeral for an unpopular relative.

My glasses were too big. It took me years of wearing small, narrow frames to realize how ugly my old glasses were. They drag my face down. They wall my face in. They dip the better part of my face in two giant pools of glassy-eyed dope. The worse part of my face was already suffering from some poor dental hygiene, the horror of which can be glimpsed through my slightly gaping mouth, framed by the opium den facial hair grown by teenagers who haven't admitted they just don't have the genetics to be beard people.

To provide contextual narrative, there's a conversation going on off camera between Jake and the other participants. They're discussing what to do with the next shot, throwing out jokes, having a good time. I'm obviously trying to think of something to say. I also, obviously, haven't yet learned to appreciate what's going on around me without trying to be like the less shy people who always seemed to have wit on tap. I think I say something at one point that falls flat, and resume looking back and forth between the speakers while my face performs a series of staccato half-smiles.

When I watch these few minutes of film, I'm not struck by how bad Jake accidentally made me look. I'm thinking of how accurate the portrait is. The poorly groomed, embarrassingly embarrassed, and disastrously bespectacled boy in that reel is exactly what I was, and exactly what I dreaded being in my late teens.

Now, of course, I'm supremely and unrealistically confident in all aspects of my life, as long as I deny myself sleep, drink regularly, and glutton myself on media. Yet this video reminds me that as a seveteenish boy, all my anxieties and midnight fears about how I was perceived were true, and I'm lucky I didn't realize it at the time. It reminds me that at any moment, the homunculus I watch acting out the part of me in my brain might be terminally assaulted by video camera left on too long.

I still fantasize about going back to some part of my youth, knowing what I know now. But, honestly, I don't think it would have helped, and I value more and more the illusions and hopes I wore when I was younger.

1 My age, to date, divided by two.

2 Actor would be too strong a word.

I haven't used a hole punch in 16 years.

Hi there! You should totally go buy my book for the low low price of 6.73! It's like buying me a beer at an out-of-the-way dive bar in Brooklyn! Not in Manhattan. Manhattan prices are ridiculous, though there are a couple of decent Irish dives where you can snag a drink for five bucks. Otherwise, you're looking at a two or three book beer.