How I Got the Shot

Photo by Steve Lowery Many readers have asked how I got the accompanying and rather stunning shot of a bent beer can on a curb in front of a kids' park. I've been surprised by the public's ongoing interest-cum-obsession with the shot partly because I'm rather modest and partly because the picture won't run until next week. Still, I've been told by people who know that it ranks in the upper echelon of the bent-beer-can-on-a-curb-in-front-of-a-kids'-park milieu, so I guess I owe the people the true and amazing story behind it: First, we needed beer. Accompanied by my colleague Anthony Pignataro, I went to a nearby 7-Eleven and bought one 24-ounce can of Budweiser and one 24-ounce Mickey's Big Mouth. We took care as to which cans would show up best in the picture. I walked to the counter with the beer, but felt less like I was carrying a Bud and more like I was toting Thai porn and ceramic butt plugs. It was 2 in the afternoon, and I found that I couldn't make eye contact with the female clerk. I told myself this was silly, that people must buy big-ass beer cans in the afternoon all the time, but when I looked up at the woman, I found she was not looking at me. Instead, she busied herself with shoving my beer cans into a bag, not into a single paper bag, but each in its own form-fitting sack, the kind favored by angry loners and associate professors. The kind used to drink under overpasses or during midterms. I wanted to tell her that these beer cans were destined to be bent and shot in front of a kids' park, but I wondered if she'd understand. We left. Feeling dirty. We got to a kids' park across from Trinity Broadcasting Network in Costa Mesa. Children were playing. Anthony and I got out of my truck, he holding the sacks, me the camera. We studied the park and the children intensely, looking for proper angles. As we looked, I noticed that the kids and the adults chaperoning them looked back. At us. We settled on a shot. But first we needed to empty our beers; loathe to do it in front of the kids or soil the street, we headed to the nearby bathroom. So, the two adult men walked into the park bathroom together after studying the children playing in the park intensely, taking with them their lamely hidden 24-ounce cans of beer and a camera. After dumping the beer into the sink, we emerged, wiping the residue on our pants fronts. The adult chaperones started to quickly herd the children onto a school bus that appeared from nowhere. As we approached the abandoned play toys, the bus sped off, and I was left to shoot the bent beer can on a curb in front of an empty kids' park, accompanied only by Anthony and a rather harried-looking woman, her young son under her arm, feverishly dialing some number into her cell phone. And that's how I got the shot.

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