For some odd reason, of the many of our own photographs we’ve posted, two images draw esnl readers back time and again, so we decided to repost both.
Our first and most popular image was original posted 19 January 2012, along with an essay:
The view from the gunfighter’s seat
Nikon D300 16 January 2011, 20mm, 1/250 sec, f4.5
Two phrases from the days of the Old West still resonate in modern speech. The first, of course is “Shotgun!,” the call made when claiming the front seat next to the driver.
The term originates from the days when folks traveled by stagecoach. When passing through dangerous country or when the stage contained a valuable cargo, an armed, shotgun-toting guard as assigned to sit up top on the bench beside the driver.
The other term, less well known, is “the gunfighter’s seat.” It’s the chair in the corner of the room farthest from and facing the door. Its name comes from its preference by ever-vigilant armed men who lived in daily expectation of violent confrontations with other armed men.
Sitting in the gunfighter’s seat gives a panoramic view of everyone in and entering the room.
We snapped this shot the other day while waiting for a friend at a local tavern. The Stetson belongs to esnl. Appropriate to our theme, it’s the Gun Club model.
Back in the 1970s, we had a friend who’d been a Los Angeles Police officer before signing up with the Central Intelligence Agency, then retiring to take a job in private security in the corporate sector.
We took him to a nice little French restaurant in Santa Monica, and planted our posterior in the gunfighter’s seat, which left him, the former cop and spook, seated facing the corner of the room.
We talked a few minutes, and then he stopped. His eyes lit up, followed by a grin, then a quick shake of his head. Then he fixed me with a bemused smile and intense gaze, followed by a laugh as he shook his head again.
“Brenneman, you son of a bitch, you did it on purpose!” He didn’t have to say what “it” was. I’d put him in the one seat in a crowded room certain to make to make him the most uncomfortable.
I smiled. He nodded.
We’ve always picked the gunfighter’s seat, a lesson our children quickly learned, sometimes to our disadvantage, as when they prankishly plant themselves in our chair of preference, forcing us into the blind seat because they know it’ll bug us, just as it did our ex-spook friend so many years before.
The journalist and the gunfighter
In many ways, the mindset of a journalist shares many traits with the gunfighter of yore, most particularly a peculiar sort of hypervigilance, attuned to changes and anomalies in the environment.
Because of our life circumstances, we’re particularly attuned to environmental changes and out-of-the-ordinary events.
We’d like to think that we turned what might have been a handicap into an asset, as is the case of many of the best journalists we’ve met during the course of the decades we spent behind first a lens and a typewriter, and later, a lens and a word processor [what an infelicitous pair of words].
Some of the best journalists are misfits. Why else would smart, perceptive people work at a craft where they earn much less than they might had they opted for law, medicine, business, or countless other “careers”? We suspect a lot of good reporters heard the same phrase we heard from our mother more than once: “Why a reporter? You could’ve been a doctor!”
Journalism, at least for us, is a calling, an engagement with the world that evokes the fullest possible use of our abilities, knowledge, and experience, turning an innate and potentially enervating vigilance into a positive force engaged, hopefully, for the benefit of the larger community.
But such is life in the Gunfighter’s Seat.
And the second image, originally posted 18 January 2012. . .
Isle of San Giorgio Maggiore, Venice
Shot from the Bridge of Sighs [Ponte dei Sospiri] on a cloudy summer day. Folks aren’t supposed to take cameras into the Doge’s Palace, but the staff was gracious enough to let me take my camera so long as I didn’t shoot interiors. Lord Byron gave it a name, poetically describing the last gasps of prisoners marched through its artful enclosure to the prison across the canal.The church with the dome and spectacular Romanesque facade is Andrea Palladio’s 16th Century Church of San Giorgio Maggiore.
To see the photo full size, go to the original post and click on the image, since WordPress no longer offers that option on newer posts:
29 August 2006, Nikon D70, 38mm, ISO 320, 1/2000 sec, f4.2
Here’s a romantic addition to the original post from the Wikipedia entry on the bridge:
The enclosed bridge is made of white limestone and has windows with stone bars. It passes over the Rio di Palazzo and connects the New Prison (Prigioni Nuove) to the interrogation rooms in the Doge’s Palace. It was designed by Antonio Contino (whose uncle Antonio da Ponte had designed the Rialto Bridge) and was built in 1600.
The view from the Bridge of Sighs was the last view of Venice that convicts saw before their imprisonment. The bridge name, given by Lord Byron as a translation from the Italian “Ponte dei sospiri” in the 19th century, comes from the suggestion that prisoners would sigh at their final view of beautiful Venice through the window before being taken down to their cells. In reality, the days of inquisitions and summary executions were over by the time the bridge was built and the cells under the palace roof were occupied mostly by small-time criminals. In addition, little could be seen from inside the Bridge due to the stone grills covering the windows.
A local legend says that lovers will be granted eternal love and bliss if they kiss on a gondola at sunset under the Bridge of Sighs as the bells of St Mark’s Campanile toll.