This post wins the prize for longest title in the existence of the blog.

As a journalism student I like to practice by submitting stories to CNN’s iReport. One of the current assignments is to send in some photos of rogue shopping carts found abandoned in recognition of February’s designation as National Return Your Shopping Cart Month. Seems silly really, but it is a real thing. The stolen and lost carts represent a loss of around $100 each and I can imagine that probably hurts a smaller store owner more than a giant corporation, but a loss is a loss.

So one morning after dropping my daughter off at preschool, I decided I would take my hour and a half of freedom and seek out a shopping cart. I drove around in circles through Denver, and spotted a red one behind a Dumpster in the snow. I thought to myself “Hey I have this big car, and maybe if I return this cart I’ll get to talk to somebody or get their picture.” A little human interest added couldn’t hurt, especially with an assignment like National Shopping Cart Month.

All I did was return the cart to the store. Once it was back with the rest of the carts, I took a quick snapshot of it. That’s it. One picture. It isn’t even really that good, just a boring old shopping cart returned to its rightful home.

This worker from the store comes running out. “Why are you taking pictures?,” she says with a stern look on her face. I tried to explain what I took the picture for. That I just found their cart abandoned in a parking lot and decided to return it to the store on a whim. It’s National Shopping cart month they said. It’ll be fun they said. Now here I am, sitting here watching this angry lady wagging her finger in my face and telling me that I HAVE to delete the images on my memory card. I told her straight away that no I absolutely will not delete anything from my memory card.

Demanding that I delete images from my memory card is intimidation. I will not be intimidated by the manager of the Family Dollar. I laughed in her face and told her that it wasn’t gonna happen. All this after a simple picture of a shopping cart. A shopping cart that I returned after finding it behind a trash can in a local apartment complex. The whole stupid thing started over my attempt to do a good deed.

I would of let myself get arrested over it. Over my dead body will you delete a picture from my camera or try to force me into doing so. I didn’t say that, but the phrase was repeating itself over and over in my head while I just smiled and waved as I was backing away. She got on the phone while giving me a disapproving glare. I imagined to myself what that phone call must have been like. Was she calling the cops? Her corporate office? The head of security?  I guess I’ll never know because I wasn’t sticking around to find out.

I suppose that’s a little extreme, especially over a picture of a shopping cart, but it’s the principal of the thing. If I let you intimidate me into deleting my photos what kind of precedent does that set ? Who are you to enforce a law that you do not even understand? And most importantly why couldn’t you just say thank you for returning the shopping cart?

I don’t feel as if I have done anything wrong in this instance. I can see if I was harassing someone or causing a disturbance, but I wasn’t. There was NOBODY in the store, the parking lot was empty, the $100 I saved them is probably more than the store made all day. They didn’t even have to lift a finger. It’s trivial. I get that. I was just having a bit of fun, trying to participate in a corny awareness month.

I will NEVER delete that shopping cart photo. In fact I’m going to have it framed and hang it in my office. I’ll never share it online because I can respect that a privately owned store can ask me not to take photos, but they do not have the right to force me to delete images from my camera.

What is the Family Dollar so worried about? Why are their employees demanding people who take pictures inside their store to delete images? Especially one as innocent as a memoir of a good deed gone bad.

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A Funny Thing Happened to Me While Hunting for Shopping Carts in Observance of National Return Your Shopping Cart to the Supermarket Month

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People’s chonies, panties, underwear, boxers, tighty-whiteys, banana hammocks, grape smugglers, skivvies, nut huts, butt huggers, and “da dunt da dunts” were all out in the open during Denver’s Third Annual Cupid’s Undie Run.
They bare all for the cause of raising money for research to combat Neurofibromatosis, a painful and debilitating genetic disorder that causes tumors to grow on nerves throughout the body. These tumors can create learning disabilities, blindness, deafness, and chronic pain. There is no known cure.
NF affects roughly 1:3,000 births in the U.S. and is in desperate need of new discovery, which is why 100% of funds raised through Cupid’s Undie Run go directly to the Children’s Tumor Foundation.

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Fighting Diseases in Your Unmentionables

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Denver Street Photography

The Street Photography is my holding pattern. It keeps me interested in photography. It keeps me in practice. I do it to satisfy my curiosity and test my limits. I think that all people are beautiful and that beauty is only relative anyway. I’m looking for direction, trying to determine what story it is that I want to tell. I keep expecting that I will have this epiphany, that these journalism courses I am taking will somehow trigger the creative enthusiasm that lies dormant within me.

The truth is, I am learning a lot, but it is really just the basics, and so far I am not impressed by the level of instruction I have received versus the amount of money I am now on the hook for in my pursuit of this journalism dream. This is merely my opinion, but I get the feeling sometimes that my professors are competing with me. It might just be me being paranoid or egotistical, who knows? I just felt that in some instances I was being completely ignored, shunned even, when it came to positive or even negative feedback on my work. I felt virtually ignored. This is what $20,000 plus in student loan debt gets me?

I am tempted to go it alone, to try and break in on my own, but I’m afraid I need more structure and planning. In the next two years, I will be required to perform an internship which I both dread and long for, as I believe I will be ridiculed and exposed as a no-talent fraud, but I’m holding on to the hope that just maybe I am a diamond in the rough. A guy with a chance to break out into something bigger. Isn’t that what we all want to believe? That our dreams are attainable? Realistic even?

So for now, I walk the streets with my camera and document existence. One thing about taking your camera with you everywhere that they forget to mention, it exposes how boring and mundane your life actually is. I can’t even count how many times I’ve pointed my camera at the same thing over and over again, trying to capture it in a way that I’ve never seen before. All it does is drive me crazy and give me the urge to see something new.

While I pursue my personal goals, my family life also is presenting challenges. In three weeks, my girlfriend Maizy, the mother of my child, will have her final mastectomy. I await the day with great sadness and worry for her well being. the one story to tell that has meaning, but needs to be kept private for the most part. Suddenly my petty problems pale in comparison to the love of my life having flesh removed from her body permanently. Cancer is so overbearing. It all seems so matter of fact at times. We have to plan for it, schedule it, budget for it. It hangs over our heads at every chapter in our life. It’s always “once we pay off this $5,000 bill, everything will be so much easier,” only to receive another bill in the mail we forgot about.

So I grab my camera, I take off. I walk the streets and I watch. I walk until I can’t take another step, then I shuffle slowly back home clicking all the while. Hoping for the best.

This image has nothing to do with anything I just said, other than it is street photography. Maybe I shared it because the facial expressions are an illustration of how I feel inside right now at this moment. I can’t be sure.

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Denver Street Photography

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