Excerpt: Page Eight of Eleven

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Three days in Austin aboard the Obama/Clinton Press Show


by Ethan Persoff, http://www.ep.tc

The following is an eleven page excerpt from a larger work in progress
focusing on the upcoming Presidential election, with an emphasis on Texas and the upcoming brokered National Convention in Denver.

- 08 -

The "Spray"

When I received the media advisory from CNN nothing intrigued me more than these words:

Prior to the start of the debate, official still photographers will have an opportunity to photograph the "Spray" of all candidates inside the debate hall. There will be no access for video.

The "Spray" ... Throughout the rest of the advisory it remains in quotations, unexplained and deserving many many jokes. Once again I have to hand it to CNN for their word choices. They're clearly referring to an opportunity to photograph the two candidates, but to call it the "Spray" forces giggles. It's just too euphemistic and silly. And in fact, for the last three or four days I've been making my own dirty jokes about this "thing" photographers get to "do" to "all candidates" and have to hold back from telling these off-color jokes to anyone I run into or meet. But eventually I have my chance for "Spray" talk with two photographers I befriend while watching televised Serbia violence. We all bond witnessing a young protester's midsection nearly run over and busted open by a Hummer's heavy front tire. After a few minutes of good blood and guts talk I ask about the golden word:

"So What's this SPRAY, guys?"

They are bored of it already. "Ah it's just a moment before the debate, about ten minutes, right after the Master of Ceremonies introduces the candidates. About fifty or so photographers run out to the edge of the stage and take photos."

"So it's like US Weekly, The Red Carpet, Who Wore It Best?" I emasculate myself with these three rapid fire comparisons. "Huh?" They both respond.

"Sorry .. it's just a normal photo thing, is what you're saying" ... "Yeah, right, and it SUCKS too. You have to shove your way in to get a good shot, all that sort of shit."

"But you have to admit ... the name of it, it's sort of...." They look at me blankly. "Sort of like pissing, don't you think?"

They both laugh. "Ha, yeah I guess I've never thought about that." I continue, "Or at least like a champagne shower, right?"

The joke continues to devolve into all other possible "spray" fluids, including the most unsavory and glue-based. Finally, in what is clearly my favorite conversation of the day I shout out "This SPRAY! I have to be in it. How do you get in the Spray!"

Both photographers are humoring me. The one that's most talkative laughs, "well you had to get in here as a photographer and not a writer, for one"

"Yeah, I see that. Dammit. But I want to Spray!"

Pausing, I finally ask, "What do you guys think?" The more outspoken photographer again comes to my aid. It's obvious he just thinks I'm a jackass but he's willing to at least point me in the right direction.

"See that lady over there, she's the one who can get you into to it. Why not just ask her."

"YEAH, what's the harm in that! I will, I will ask her about the SPRAY!"

It's at this point that the joke takes on even funnier implications. A brief and cordial introduction follows, where I indicate myself as a writer but am wondering about being in the "Spray" as I'm covering it as part of my report. I wouldn't even need a camera, I just want to witness things.

She's extremely smart and also very professional and immediately likable. And I can tell her job is endless 'me me me personal favor' bullshit like this, so I appreciate her even taking the consideration seriously.

"Well, let me ask you. What kind of camera do you have?" Laughing, I pull out my borrowed tiny Canon portable. I can already tell the following response. It's about size! "Yeah, I'm sorry - but we can't let those onstage." I completely understand, "Just on appearance alone I get what you're saying - it looks stupid" ... "Right" she says, but then adds a weird reason, "and because of the Secret Service we can't allow cameras like that. If I let you I'd have to let everyone else."

At this point I have to consider if she's mixing up messages, but is this right? I completely understand not being able to go out to "Spray" the candidates without proper personal security clearance, but for it to only be about the size of my camera, that's sort of, well, ...

Later another cameraman sits down next to me. His name is Tony and he immediately becomes my favorite person in the room. Tony is from Houston, has been a political photographer for decades, and is about as off the cuff and funny as it gets. It wasn't uncommon for Tony to regard any woman in the room as "a fine beautiful lady" and to charm them with the snapping of his camera. We later get into the "Spray" conversation.

"You know the thing about the SPRAY" He says with a deep lived-in voice, "It's about the SIZE of the camera." I don't let on that I've already reasoned this joke and let him continue. Tony has a LOT of equipment. A ton of batteries, and about six lenses. "See this? This is a SPRAY camera. See how long it is" He's starting to laugh at his own joke, and the funny thing is he's speaking the truth.

"Now this" He pulls out a long tripod like shaft of metal about five feet long when fully extended "This is the King of Spray" "But it's an EXTENDER!" I scream "Male Enhancement!" He suddenly glares at me but acknowledges the joke with an inaudible laugh. I decide to keep myself from offending him. I reach into my pocket. "Me, I've just got this handheld Jewish Point and Shoot" He immediately laughs with a slap on my shoulder. I end with the punchline, "But you should see the pictures!"