I was sad that no one used my favorite mask during my dumb photo shoot, so while Christina was visiting over the weekend we went to this semi-rural area called Coulterville to take some pictures of her in rabbit-mode. Coulterville is one of those local areas ripe with urban legend, and while I’ve had some pretty intense experiences there in the past, it was pretty tame in the daylight.
We started out at this small abandoned church, but then a truck drove up and two old people started pulling out shovels and entire flats of flowers while I was standing precariously, and disrespectfully, on some stone ruin. We grabbed our stuff and bided our time on the nearby railroad tracks and woods.
Christina was sure she was going to take ticks away as a souvenir, and I kept swearing that I heard small wildlife burrowing through the weeds toward us, so I ran and left her there to hack her way out of the vegetation.
When I was fleeing the invisible rodents, the back fell off my Holga and one would have thought that it was a $1500 camera with the way I reacted. Meanwhile, the camera that is worth something was flopping against my chest like a candy necklace while I delicately pieced my toy camera back together. My priorities are a disaster.
"Would you like me to just dive in next?" Christina was getting irritated by this point, but luckily the old people were leaving the church and she seemed relieved to have a non-muddy, non-jagger-bushy setting in which to be bossed around. Unfortunately, we returned too soon, and the old people were idling in their truck at the top of the road. We tried to act inconspicuous, but they eventually pulled back down and the old man got out. I remained seated on the ground, camera in my hand, kind of frozen in confusion. I wasn’t sure if it was private property that we were on, and I wasn’t sure if this was the type of guy to tote around a sawed-off shot gun in the back of his pickup for just this sort of occasion.
We exchanged pleasantries and he explained that this was his family chapel and burial ground. I silently gulped a little and said, "Well, it’s very beautiful here. Is it ok that I’m taking pictures?" That seemed to placate him and he said it was fine that we were taking pictures, but then after glancing at Christina, Christina’s tattoos, and the animal mask and rail road tie in Christina’s hands, he added a few caveats about respect and vandalism. Then he gave us a brief history of the land, and I learned that the stone stump I was idiotically perched on when they first pulled in is all that remaIns of the original church that burnt down on that land a long time ago, and that the small shrine I was pretending to photograph when they pulled back the second time is his mother’s grave. He even said if he had more time, he’d have given us a tour of the chapel.
It was insanely awkward. I kept thinking "Please leave, Please leave" over and over again and this time we waited until the truck was completely obscured by trees before resuming our shoot.
Talking to that guy kind of killed it for me, because I had always been so certain that the chapel was haunted, or that skinheads were inside, roasting s’mores off the flaming carcasses of babies and cats. Talk about dispelling a myth.