Some stories take a while to process in your mind before you actually feel comfortable sharing them with the world.
Or maybe it just takes that long to actually understand everything that happened, come to whatever sort of peace you can manage with it, and then start trying to move on.
Maybe that’s it. Maybe this blog is a sort of healing for me.
That photo is from my good friend Jeremiah Spray. It was taken by him while I was sitting on his front porch in Whitefish, Montana. That porch is actually the setting for this story. Please note my Chuck Norris tshirt I found at the Goodwill there. #poppintags
Another dear friend, Bryan Bartlett, had flown out to Montana to shoot a wedding with me a few days prior. Not really for any other reason than me saying, ” Hey. I’m doing a wedding in Montana. Wanna hang out? Sweet.” He showed up with his assortment of film gear, his perfect hair, and a collection of bow ties that would make any hipster jealous beyond words. I’m honestly glad he came for several reasons. Aside from taking incredible photos at the wedding, he also was my backup when I fell out of the rental car while trying to take a photo of a grizzly walking in front of us. Well. I say backup. He was actually laughing hysterically in his seat with tears rolling down his cheeks. I like to think they were tears of relief that I was ok. But beyond all of that, he was also a witness to what happened that fateful night on Jeremiah’s front porch.
The scene is Jeremiah and Rachel’s (hi Rachel!) front porch, 2AM, Whitefish, Montana. Sleepy little town, beautiful surroundings, sidewalks that will take you anywhere you want to go, great food, great everything. I’m a huge fan.
Bryan and I had just returned from our Glacier Park adventure and made it safely to Jeremiah and Rachel’s house to crash for the night. I will again reiterate that aside from being great friends, these two knuckleheads are some of the most creative, amazing photographers I know. Period. If you’re into gorgeous photos and especially film photography, check them out.
Three dudes. Front porch. 2 AM, Montana. Beers. Lots of beers. As a collective, we’re probably three of the most non-confrontational guys I know. Not that we wouldn’t beat the living crap out of someone if absolutely needed, it would just take extreme circumstances to get us there. Jeremiah is quiet, shy, adorable as heck, and laughs a lot. Bryan is quiet, not as shy, also adorable, and laughs a lot. And…well then there’s me. Abnormally sexy man-beast, laughs a lot, closet grumpy old man, non-confrontational. I don’t think any of us have a temper to speak of. And we all know this about each other. We’re shy, huggable, quiet creatives. Honestly, it’s a miracle we have women that love us.
So there we are. Three dudes hanging out on a front porch in Montana. Guy time. It was perfect. I’m not sure how many beers had been consumed, but I remember Jeremiah giggling a lot, me laughing at Jeremiah giggling, and Bryan shaking his head and laughing at both of us.
Directly in front of their house is a sidewalk, the street, then another sidewalk across the street, then more houses. All evening long, well into the early morning, you would see groups of people walking by, the occasional cyclist, hipsters wandering around looking for the meaning of life, etc.
Around 3 AM, we all see this shadowy figure walking across the street on the sidewalk. He walks past, stops, stares in our direction, then proceeds to walk across the street towards us. Three hours earlier we probably wouldn’t have cared, but when someone walks towards you in the dark at 3 AM, you get twitchy.
We all got twitchy.
This man was somewhere between annihilated and shnockered on the intoxication scale, and was mumbling something about a cigarette. We didn’t have any, we said.
Long pause. Silence. No one moving.
Somewhere in the beer-logged regions of my mind, I knew that this situation had the possibility of ending badly. This guy could either have a knife, gun, incurable disease, or leave us a negative review on WeddingWire. All unacceptable outcomes. My mood instantly went from happily giddy, to attack mode. I’m not going to sit by and let my two sensitive, creative friends be mugged by a drunk guy mumbling about cigarettes.
Only for some reason that night, attack mode equaled me standing up from sitting on the porch, then squatting with my back against the house. In my mind, I was preparing to leap like a spazztic walrus off the porch and tackle this dude at the first sign of anything shifty. In reality, I probably would’ve grunted as I tried to stand up on legs that were completely asleep, fallen on my face, and helped absolutely no one. The added bonus to this level of emergency preparedness I was achieving was that when I squatted next to the house, I sat down on several empty beer bottles, knocking a few of them over.
Well this is awkward. No one can really be in ninja attack mode if you sit on empty beer bottles. That’s not threatening at all. I didn’t care. I was still in attack mode.
At this point I hear Bryan start silently laughing at what just happened, while Jeremiah was still in dead silent mode.
Replay. Shifty guy walks up, we all go quiet, I get ready to attack by standing up, then squatting on empty beer bottles knocking several over, Bryan laughs.
The drunk dude, after a long silence and obviously unphased by my display of aggression, then proceeds to say ” I know why you guys hate me. It’s because you think I’m a Mexican. But I’m actually Honduran.”
Bryan’s laughter is becoming more audible at this point, I’m trying to process what I just heard while thinking that I couldn’t even see this dude’s face in the dark, Jeremiah has formed a slight ball in the corner of the porch. Probably because of my display of aggression.
Bryan then attempts to clarify that we don’t actually hate the guy, that we’re just hanging out, and he should probably stagger on along home.
More silence. It hits me at this point that I’m sitting on beer bottles. I’m a big dude. Big dudes aren’t made to sit on beer bottles.
The drunken Honduran then proceeds to unload his life’s story, most of which consists of the bars he’d been to that evening, how his wife had kicked him out, and then back to did we have any cigarettes again. No. We were still fresh out of cigarettes. At this point I think I’d gently mumbled something about the guy needing to move on along a few times, all polite hints being ignored. I’m thoroughly convinced by now that we’re all going to get stabbed, robbed, molested, or at least aggressively cuddled by this guy and whatever patience I had left was running out.
And then it happened. I don’t exactly recall what the guy said, but it was along the lines of really insulting his wife. Even when sober I don’t have a tolerance for that from any guy, but in beer-squatting, spazztic walrus attack mode, it snapped like a twig in my mind before he even finished his sentence. I have no idea how I made it from where I was squatting to the edge of the porch directly in front of him, but from the eyewitness accounts it was a non graceful jump/leap/stagger sort of thing. This guy is maybe 5’5″, 140. I’m 6′, 250, and standing on a porch 2 feet higher than the ground he’s standing on. It’s dark.
At the exact moment I (amazingly enough) land on my feet in front of the guy, he staggers backwards into the yard. I honestly feel bad now. I probably scared the little dude. But at that exact moment in time, I’d heard enough. My porch time with Bryan and Jeremiah had been interrupted, my butt was hurting from sitting on beer bottles, my legs had fallen asleep, and he’d insulted his wife. Game over, pally. You’re done.
From Bryan and Jeremiah’s account, I pointed down the street and told the guy to leave and leave now. Only the part I don’t remember is they said I did it in a Batman voice. Not George Clooney Batman. Christian Bale Batman. This sort of hiss/wheeze/growl kind of thing.
Bryan was close to snorting at this point, I think Jeremiah had reached full on fetal position, and I was standing on the edge of the porch sounding like Batman.
The guy mumbled something about cigarettes again while staggering backwards, then disappeared off into the night.
We all sat there in relative silence trying to process what had happened for several minutes after, then simultaneously they both took great pleasure in pointing out that I had sat on beer bottles. Who does that? Honestly. Little did they know I was trying to save their lives. Jerks.
Bryan and I recounted this story to each other the following evening in a really nice restaurant in Bozeman, MT, which led to both of us laughing so hard we were crying for about 15 minutes. You get some really weird looks when you’re giggling really loudly in a nice restaurant, which actually makes you laugh harder.
Good times, those.
I’m actually dragging Bryan back to Whitefish with me this August. We’ll probably end up on Jeremiah’s front porch again. Probably with cans of silly string this time.
And plenty of beer bottles for me to sit on if we get threatened.