Thoughts on Newspaper Videos

It seems that one of the people at the forefront of newspaper video,’s Richard Koci Hernandez, has had a crisis of faith regarding the traction videos have with viewers. I applaud him for his honesty. It’s a rough neighborhood to speak out in. Staffers who question video or multimedia are often labeled luddites and moved to the back of the bus.

His column triggered me to comment with some of the many thoughts I’ve had recently about this video push, which comes at a time when the people who run newspapers are only seeing the gloom and doom and are scrambling for any answer they can come up with. Some newspapers have invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in video equipment only to produce videos that are small and badly compressed, and seen by only a few hundred viewers. Compare that to their 300,000+ print circulations and you see the problem.

Since it is a touchy subject let me just point out that until recently I was at the forefront of the Tribune’s multimedia efforts, planning our approach, ordering equipment, and training my colleagues. Whatever my current role, I’m all for great storytelling regardless of the medium and I remain committed to doing high quality work however I’m assigned: still, audio, or video.

Here’s the comment I left:

Is this a radioactive topic, or what? It seems like you can’t stand up and point out the obvious about video as it stands today (few viewers, no good monetization, and labor intensive) without a bunch of “forward-thinkers” shouting you down.

I’m not anti-video. Just open-minded.

Photojournalism is all about talent and storytelling. To attract an audience and a following your work needs to be something that “regular people” can’t do. That’s why still photos from a talented photographer are so powerful: Because there is no way the parents of the kid in the elementary school talent show could nail the award-winning photo a professional can. They don’t have the timing, skills, or experience, and that’s how our work becomes part of their lives, their scrapbooks, their histories. I don’t think those same skills are as apparent to the general public in video. They can spot a great photograph instantly, but video requires an investment of time that they’ve learned doesn’t always pay off.

There will always be something to be said about the power of high quality still photojournalism. It’s something we give the community that they can’t get anywhere else.

There are so many unknowns these days as the territory once owned by newspapers is invaded by the general public. But I’ll go down wondering if it was a good idea to abandon the power of the still image at a time when the public’s fascination with the still image was at an all-time high. Millions of digital still cameras being sold, billions of photos uploaded to sites like Flickr, etc. Couldn’t the best photographers in the world (us) be at the forefront of that movement, celebrating the power and joy of photography, rather than posting 320 pixel videos?

Answer me two years from now, from wherever you are. Maybe I’ll be shooting video, or maybe the fickle powers-that-be in newspapers will have realized that there are things newspapers have always done very well, and that those things (great reporting, powerful photography) can continue to bring them a profitable audience. We’ll see.

Categorized as Core Tagged

Sexiest Man Alive

12.12.2007 9050.JPG

A lot of the job is spent waiting. After going through this stack of magazines in a medical clinic while waiting for a subject to show up, I started talking to the receptionist about magazine theft (who knows how we got there). She said magazines like Good Housekeeping and Sunset are always being stolen, rather than men’s magazines.

She said women were thieves.

My only question is this: Who is the Sexiest Man Dead?

Private in Public

Creative input is everywhere. Today I heard the actor Wendell Pierce talk about his work on the television show The Wire, and acting in general. Listen to this:
“We should never be afraid to be private in public because that’s what art is all about, especially acting.”
His point is that great art is created through behaving in public the way you would in private. Think about that. To me it’s about honesty and being true to your identity, and not being afraid of who you really are. That will lead to creating art that reflects your identity.
When I think of my favorite artists, photographers, artists, musicians, etc., they are all true to their craft.
Am I? Are you?
I can tell you that yesterday I took photos that fell short of what I am capable of. But I can also tell you that today is a new day.
Are you afraid to act private in public? It’s a good question for us all.

American Photo


Profiles of People Who Gave Me a Job
Part Six – American Photo

My first semester of college, fall of 1986, was a disaster. Then my grades got even worse in my second (and last) semester. I had discovered photography. All of my time was spent reading about it or driving around southern Idaho doing it. Returning home to California after school let out I decided to find a job in photography.
I applied for and got a job at a one-hour photo lab in the local mall. It was one of a chain of photo labs owned by a Korean businessman. It was called American Photo and the place reeked of toxic photo bleach, which, along with the other chemicals, was dumped straight down the drain.
First day on the job I was taught to cut and sleeve negatives and put customers’ prints into envelopes. You had to look at each print before stuffing them to make sure they looked good. One of the first sets of photos I saw were from a party for a woman leaving her job. Here she is unwrapping presents; A watch, a handbag, and what’s this gift she’s holding with her eyes bugging out? Oh, it’s a dildo.
Photos like that came through all the time. And it was common practice to print out an extra print of anything funny, unusual, or nude. This happens at every lab. I used to have a great collection of images: dirtbags smoking pot, a topless overweight woman raking and burning leaves, a drunk woman at an office party dancing on a pool table to the delight of men in suits.
At American Photo they kept copies of these photos in a photo album. A thick photo album with a floral patterned cover stored safely in the back room held a collection of images probably years in the making. Bachelor parties, bachlorette parties, parties, drunks, strippers, amatuer nudes and more parties. One of the guys I worked with told me about it.
Of course, you can’t keep things like this secret. And somehow one of the mall security guards heard of the photo album. He would come by several times a day begging our manager into letting him peruse the photographs. He didn’t want to bust the place and confiscate the album, he just wanted to drool over the skin pix.
Finally, after a few weeks of this guy whining, they agreed to let him look at the book. Anything to get him off their backs. They take him into the back room, and he starts gleefully going through the book. He’s getting off on seeing all of the drunk and/or naked women pictured in their amateur snapshot lack of glory. He turns the next page and anger clouds his face. He turns to the manager, shaking his finger towards one of the photos.
“That’s my girlfriend!” he shouts in a rage.
The book was quickly disposed of. I should mention this happened before I started working there, so it’s a story I got from one of the old-timers.
When I was hired, there were about eight employees, including this weird manager who kept telling me how many cameras he owned (9) and how much money he made selling his photos of Napa vineyards through stock (a lot). I bought it, though now I’d bet it was all b.s. There was also an assistant manager and a bunch of other experienced printers. Within a month, all of these people were gone.
It was like the Khmer Rouge took over. Before we knew it there were just two employees left, neither of us with any real experience. Me and an thirtysomething guy named Julius. With everyone else gone we were forced into working everyday. The store was open from 10am to 9pm every day of the week, so we were going non-stop. About this time I met the district manager, this witch who basically ignored our complaints that there was no store manager and that we were working all day, every day. I remember they brought in a part-timer but it didn’t cut down much on the workload.
We were getting behind all the time. People always expected their photos to be done within an hour but it was impossible with just the two of us. We started giving out discounts to keep people happy. We’d give somebody 10 or 15% off their order, even if they were cool about things being late. One night alone we gave out over $150 in discounts. This really pissed off the district manager. But they still didn’t do anything to help us out. With all this going on the store absolutely had to be open on time and we couldn’t close early. If the store was ever closed the mall administration would fine the store around $150 an hour.
I remember driving home late at night, getting up, going back to the mall to work the next morning. I remember listening to loud and fast punk rock in the car and driving fast with the madness of it all. The job was killing me.
One day at the end of my wits I was scheduled to work a full shift alone. I was not looking forward to this garbage continuing. A shift alone was like hell. The district manager and owner were doing nothing to fix our problems.
So I just didn’t go in. It was great. Julius and I went into San Francisco together so there was no one for them to call to fill in. And I was the only one with a key so there was no way they could even get the shop open. The store racked up over $1,200 in fines from the mall before the district manager got someone to drill the lock off the door.

Part Five – The Country Scoop


Profiles of People Who Gave Me a Job
Part Five – The Country Scoop

Through my friend Ted, I got a job at an ice cream shop around the corner from my house. It was a very strange situation. While the owner of the place didn’t work there, he lived right down the street in eyesight of the shop so you were always looking over your shoulder to see if he was coming in for one of his surprise visits. His name was Ed.
On my second day there I was working with two girls. In the middle of this busy Saturday they decided to take a break together, leaving me alone at the helm. I think the most instruction I had gotten up to that point was a ten minute primer you could have titled, “How to make a single scoop ice cream cone.” So when they left me all alone and the next customer ordered a hot fudge sundae, I knew I was screwed.
I can still see the sundae I made for this guy. The whipped cream looked like a dog turd sitting on top of the ice cream. It was ugly. And I guess it’s burned into my memory because right then the owner, Ed, walked in making one of his surprise visits. He comes in just in time to see my mediocre scoop-work and hear me tell the customer, “It looks ugly, but it will sure taste good!”
Ed pulled me aside and said, “Boy, you need to learn two things: how to make a hot fudge sundae and how to ask for help.”
When I started at the Country Scoop they had me doing the ice cream stuff. That was the easy job. But after I while I was “promoted” to the grill side of things- cooking fries and hamburgers. This was a good thing because you can only eat so much ice cream during your shift in the back room. If you know how to cook burgers and fries, too, you’re able to sneak a much more balanced meal into the back room. Instead of a huge oreo shake for dinner it was now huge oreo shake, fries, and burger for dinner.
Since Ed lived down the street, you had to be very careful about sneaking food. The bathroom was a good place to hide out, and if you were working with someone cool, you would take turns covering for each other.
I always thought it would be fun to work with Ted, but it didn’t pan out very well. We had too much fun. Ted would be in the back inhaling the propellent out of the whipping cream cans, or turning off the radio with a solid kick from his foot. One night we changed the radio station from its usual quiet soft rock to a cranked and frantic mexican station. Of course, this was the moment of Ed’s second surprise visit to one of my shifts. I’ll never forget it. He walked in, calmly went to the radio, turned it off, and walked right out without saying a word.
We were never allowed to work together again.
Ted had been hired by the previous manager, who knew him from church. To hear Ted tell it, she was always going on about her yeast infections. I was never around for any of that. I was hired by a pair of co-managers, Kevin and Sarah.
We were supposed to close the store at 9pm. No exceptions. Then you’d put up the chairs and start mopping. So one night, at 9:05, this guy starts knocking on the door and is begging me to let him and his kids in. They had just attended their school concert and he wanted to buy them ice cream. At first I told him no, but he wouldn’t let up. So I figured I’d get him his cones and get him out of there quick. I was all alone, so I figured if Ed didn’t look out his window no one would ever know.
The guy comes in and starts ordering banana splits- stuff that takes a lot of time to make, and now I’ll have dishes to wash, etc. Big mistake letting him in. He even starts pulling chairs down off the tables so they can eat in the shop. All in full view of Ed’s house!
Just then co-manager Kevin walks in to check on me. What a nice surprise I have for him- some jerk with his kids waiting for their sundaes. I remember Kevin being upset, but he actually rolled up his sleeves and helped me make the sundaes and hurried the guy along while I finished closing the store.
I kind of liked Kevin after that. That’s why, when I decided to get a mohawk, symbolically giving the finger to society, I did it right before I was working a shift with the other manager, Sarah. We never really hit it off, and I knew my new six-inch mohawk was going to be a big deal in the sleepy suburban ice cream shop.
Joey and Aaron cut the mohawk right before my shift. It looked awesome. I was so excited to stick it to Sarah. She was going to be so pissed off at my surprise.
I go down to the shop, walk in with a big smile on my face, and there’s Kevin. He had switched shifts with Sarah. His jaw drops and he says nothing. He just stared at me for a long, unbearable moment.
The rest of the night was very uncomfortable. All the customers who came in were seriously freaked out at my haircut. You could really feel the vibe. After an hour or so, word had gotten back to my parents. We all laugh about it now, but they loaded my sisters into the car and drove over to see my hair. They pulled up and sat in the car watching me through the window, heartbroken and bawling that they’d lost their son.
First thing the next morning my dad got me out of bed and took me to a salon and had them cut off the mohawk. The nice lady convinced him to leave a little stripe of hair, maybe a quarter of an inch high. “You don’t want him bald,” she told him. It looked ridiculous.
After the forced haircut I went in to work. Kevin gave me the news. He, Sarah, and Ed had talked it over. I was fired.

1998: Africa – Ghana Airport

February 14th, or is it the 15th now? I’m too tired. 1998

I walked off the plane into sensory overload. Piercing hot darkness. This was definitely Africa. It was very humid and a pungent tropical smell (a mix of sweat and coastal breeze, unlike anything I’d ever smelled) filled the night air. The dark of night was nearly complete. Just a few post-midnight lights marked the city of Accra.

Inside, the terminal was dimly lit with fluorescent lights that were only 20% as bright as you’d see in the West. It made everything seem darker, older, and dirtier than it really was. From a group of plainclothes guys with ID badges, a man approached and asked for my immunization records. He took mine and Peggy’s to a counter where another guy stamped them.

He took our passports and led us ahead to a series of lines labelled “Ghana Nationals,” “West African Nationals,” and “Other Nationals”. The “Other” line was very long. The guy with our passports led us into the “West African” line and then started talking money. He said he would get us through quickly and we would give him ten dollars. We grabbed our passports back and got in the long line, while he went off in search of a new mark. After a long wait we got through.

I went to exchange currency. We would need walking-around money. I exchanged $100 and got a very thick stack of Ghanaian Cedis. Their largest bill is only worth $2.50, and I didn’t get any of those. My $100 was exchanged into 100 red 2,000 Cedi bills. The wad of cash was so thick it bulged out of my pocket.

While Peggy waited inside I went out to see if our local contact was there. In front of the airport there was a huge crowd of people gathered, and seeing me, they began hollering. “Are you okay?” “Need a taxi?” Others tried to get my attention by hissing sharply like snakes, “SSSSSSSS!!!”

I walked out trying to project confidence, as if I knew what I was doing and where I was going. In reality I was thoroughly confused and overwhelmed. In my mind it played out like those scenes in movies where the Marlboro Man westerner walks through the chaotic exotic marketplace, all calm and serene. The reality was not even close.

I didn’t see any sign of our ride, anda guy named Frankie started following me around. He led me to a guy selling phone cards out of his wallet. Frankie acted like he was helping me out and asked for money. I told him I would get him later. Since the shops were closed I bought a phone card for an outrageous sum.

Back inside, Peggy went to call our ride with the phone card. I laughed when I saw a man behind her, reaching in to push buttons. Another helper! Peggy managed to wake up one of our local contacts, but the call was useless. She could hear him but he couldn’t hear her. We were on our own for transportation to the hotel.

The Ghana Airways flight with my hard-case was due soon. Miraculously, the case arrived intact with the film scanner and photo equipment safe and sound.

We waded back into the sea of “helpers” outside the airport and Frankie was on us immediately, along with a bunch of other guys. We figured we might as well have Frankie take us to the hotel.

He led us to a van in a very dark parking lot. There were a couple cars labelled TAXI, including one with a shirtless man sleeping on the hood. Frankie threw in our luggage and another guy got in to drive.

They kept insisting that our hotel, the Golden Tulip, was too expensive and offered to take us somewhere “more affordable.”

“Take us to the Golden Tulip, now!” Peggy ordered.

The Golden Tulip turned out to be only about a half-mile from the airport. And for that short drive they wanted $20. I was so exhausted I just handed them the money without argument (20 red Cedi bills).

As we started to get out of the van they said, “You can leave your baggage in the van while you check in.”

I smiled. At least they were being polite about conning us out of our belongings (possibly). We took the bags, checked in, and slept. In only a couple of hours, the phone would ring and it would all start.

Links to the rest of this series:


12.6.1986 – 12.8.1986

Note: My short-lived attendance at Ricks College in the small town of Rexburg, Idaho twenty years ago was a defining stage of my life. Mostly for unpleasant reasons. Taking an extremely impulsive anarchist skate punk from California and putting them in the Rexburg of 1986, what can you expect? My being an 18-year-old with the maturity of a 9-year-old didn’t help, either. But it was in Rexburg that I fell in love with photography and abandoned my academic career to follow my passion.

These entries are written from the journals I kept when I was 18. -Trent

Saturday, December 6, 1986

We rented a VCR and three movies: “Hitcher”, “Party Animal” and a tape of Captain America cartoons. Pam had faked her way into an overnight pass, so she was out for the night.

At about 3am, Pam and I went in on Joe’s bed. We made out and around 4am we went downstairs to my room at #20 and went to sleep in my bed. It was the first time I had ever shared a bed with a girl and I don’t think I ever fell asleep. Pam was out, and the whole night I was so worried about disturbing her peace that I just laid awake trying not to move.

Sunday, December 7, 1986

After sleeping in my room, Pam and I woke up at 4pm in the afternoon. But we couldn’t leave the room right away; Jud Miller from the Bishopric was in the front room, and we would have been in trouble if he found out that she was in my room.

I took Pam home and she made me a late breakfast. She also talked me into going to the Christmas Conference message. Pam is, I would say, very religious.

Monday, December 8, 1986

Bought three boxes of magic colors candy cigarettes (Hey man, cool!).

Band practice.

Went to my aunt’s house for dinner. Took Dave and SNFU-Shoe. Ate. Played guitar a little. Left. Went to dorms where we were supposed to be a lot earlier. Gave Tina and Pam Hershey’s Giant Kisses. They were appeased.

Called home.

Lit a smoke bomb in our room.

11.26-29.1986 – Thanksgiving

Note: My short-lived attendance at Ricks College in the small town of Rexburg, Idaho twenty years ago was a defining stage of my life. Mostly for unpleasant reasons. Taking an extremely impulsive anarchist skate punk from California and putting them in the Rexburg of 1986, what can you expect? My being an 18-year-old with the maturity of a 9-year-old didn’t help, either. But it was in Rexburg that I fell in love with photography and abandoned my academic career to follow my passion.

These entries are written from the journals I kept when I was 18. -Trent

Wednesday, November 26, 1986

Today I flew home for Thanksgiving. After dinner with my family I took mom’s car out and drove around. I criss-crossed around San Ramon and Danville for two hours looking for my friends and came up completely empty. No one was at Crow Canyon, Twin Creeks, or anywhere. It was thoroughly depressing.

Thursday, November 27, 1986

Thanksgiving was pretty uneventful. We played Risk, ate dinner, played Bingo, and then watched Dad’s “Deadly Weapons” video, where people with big guns shot up watermelons and full milk jugs and large pieces of raw steak. After that we were all forced to watch Grandpa’s slides from a trip to Alaska.

Friday, November 28, 1986

“The #1 Shopping Day in America”

I saw Naomi today. Her hair was all spiked except for her bangs, which were pink. We talked in her room for a while, then we watched “Santa Barbara.” I was going to ask her out for lunch or something but she had plans with Jenny Canning. She also told she was going to be kidnapped tomorrow by Eric Perryman and Paul Skipper. I left feeling kind of unwanted. It sucked.

I was really “down” so I went to the mall to see if Jerri was working at McDonalds. She wasn’t, but I saw Jef, Marc, and Lori. I was bummed but followed them and we browsed at the bookstore. I left.

Went to the ramp being built at Terry’s and saw Joey. I told him to call me later on. I saw Jerri. I told her about Naomi. She said I should tell her how I felt. Jerri told me to bring Joey by Andey’s later.

That night, Joey, Pee-Wee, and I went skateboarding at a parking garage in Danville. It was cool, and so nice to skate smooth surfaces again. Idaho is all about rough concrete. Mike and John D. were there too. We drew graffiti with a paint pen. Pee-Wee wants me to play bass for his new band.

Saturday, November 29, 1986

Dad and I went to Wayne’s gun store by Safeway in Dublin this morning. I picked up Joey next and we went to brand practice (Rabid Lassie) at Jason’s house in Alamo. Jason had gotten a new Peavey amp, the heavy metal-themed “Butcher” half-stack. We started out playing “Fighting for Peace” and it sounded great. We talked about the record afterwords and stuff.

Joey and I left for Berkeley after that. I bought the Jackshit 7”. Nothing spectacular. We went back home, then Liz came over with Vanessa. Liz’s hair was really long, and she was dressed just like me a year ago: Jungle combat boots, a flannel around her waist, a green army jacket. It was cool talking to her, I guess.

Joey, Pee-Wee, and I went to San Francisco to see Clown Alley play Club Foote. We saw Crash-N-Burn, who weren’t too bad, and Clown Alley, who were the best band I’ve ever seen that night. It was intense! What a great band.


Note: My short-lived attendance at Ricks College in the small town of Rexburg, Idaho twenty years ago was a defining stage of my life. Mostly for unpleasant reasons. Taking an extremely impulsive anarchist skate punk from California and putting them in the Rexburg of 1986, what can you expect? My being an 18-year-old with the maturity of a 9-year-old didn’t help, either. But it was in Rexburg that I fell in love with photography and abandoned my academic career to follow my passion.

These entries are written from the journals I kept when I was 18. Of course, at 38 today, I do not advocate any of the illegal activity discussed here. -Trent

Monday, November 17, 1986

I got up at 11:30, really tired. I went up to the school and ate lunch. I came back and Larry, Drake, Ray and I went to court. It was really kind of funny. When the cops came to our apartment, the other guys admitted to doing a bunch of stuff. When it was my turn, the judge asked me what I had done. Since they had nothing on me but Tom’s statement, I simply admitted to writing on a sign with a marker.

The judge ordered us to apologize to Mr. Gardner, whose hayseed signs we particularly enjoyed destroying (Knocking the heads clean off!). He also ordered us to do five hours of community service and pay a forty dollar fine. Right after our hearing, Larry pressed charges against Tom for assault. The police are going to pick him up tomorrow.

(38: Aside from paying the fine, you never did any of that stuff the judge ordered you to do, did you?)

We went to Idaho Falls after that. I sent a letter to Jerri to see why she didn’t write me. Charlene never wrote me back either. Very suspicious! We went to the Grand Teton and Country Club malls.

We came back to Rexburg. We went to the arcade and Ray and I each played 25 cents worth of Gauntlet. Fun! I went to Albertsons and bought some ice cream. It was good.

B called me and we talked. I let her know that I knew that she wanted to break Des and I up. She told me something about me that I knew but it only hit me when she said it. “Trent, we both play games with people, but you’re better than me. You have always won, except once.” She doesn’t know it but I’m undefeated. She just thinks she won that one. But I do play mind games with people.

Chad just called at 1am. What a dork. Says he’s on the Mafia hit list and that he killed someone with a knife. Reminds me a lot of Ray from Concord, the bisexual punk rocker who used to cut his arms up. All drama.


Note: My short-lived attendance at Ricks College in the small town of Rexburg, Idaho twenty years ago was a defining stage of my life. Mostly for unpleasant reasons. Taking an extremely impulsive anarchist skate punk from California and putting them in the Rexburg of 1986, what can you expect? My being an 18-year-old with the maturity of a 9-year-old didn’t help, either. But it was in Rexburg that I fell in love with photography and abandoned my academic career to follow my passion.

These entries are written from the journals I kept when I was 18. Of course, at 38 today, I do not advocate any of the illegal activity discussed here. -Trent

Saturday, November 8, 1986

Had an interesting night this week, thanks to Tom ratting me out his new roommates, the football jocks in #18. He told them that I was the one who had been prank-calling them for weeks. This huge hulking neanderthal came over and was towering over me, leaning into my face swearing and threatening to kick my ass because he knew I was the guy crank-calling them. I was sure he was going to flatten me. But I stood my ground and yelled right back at him, denying it. Eventually he tired of the game and left. (38: Hey 18, to this day I don’t know why he didn’t just kick your skinny ass!)

Drake, Larry, and I went to Idaho Falls. Larry was looking for a car and spotted a red Volkswagen square-back that he wanted. It was cool. I bought a bass guitar at a pawn shop with the rest of the month’s money. Now I’m down to $6.04 for the rest of November. Luckily I have two meals a day paid for. I like the bass though.

We went to Drake’s aunt’s house and picked up his cousin, Des. She is cute. We went to movie at the Paramount, an old theater in the downtown part of Idaho Falls that charges like a dollar for a ticket. Des and I sat in the back of Larry’s car and we were holding hands quick. We saw “Nothing in Common”. Des and I sat away from Drake and Larry. We started kissing and some girls behind us giggled. It was great. We went back to Des’ house after finding nothing else to do in Idaho Falls. We sat in her room and talked. Then left. I wanted to go back to see her on Sunday, but didn’t.

11.1.1986 – Chaos

Note: My short-lived attendance at Ricks College in the small town of Rexburg, Idaho twenty years ago was a defining stage of my life. Mostly for unpleasant reasons. Taking an extremely impulsive anarchist skate punk from California and putting them in the Rexburg of 1986, what can you expect? My being an 18-year-old with the maturity of a 9-year-old didn’t help, either. But it was in Rexburg that I fell in love with photography and abandoned my academic career to follow my passion.

These entries are written from the journals I kept when I was 18. Of course, at 38 today, I do not advocate any of the illegal activity discussed here. -Trent

Saturday, November 1 – Monday, November 3, 1986

(38: Readers, this is where things get really crazy. To update you on several factors that came into play on this Halloween weekend, remember that A) Some of the roommates forged one of Charlie’s checks to buy pizza and cokes; B) Tom, Larry, Drake, Ray and I have been making multiple outings to deface and destroy campaign signs throughout southeastern Idaho; C) Tom and Larry, previously best friends who drove out from the east coast together, are now at each other’s throats; D) We, wait…I, have been repeatedly prank calling the guys in #18, saying only the words “urine bomb,” threatening to leave a open-mouthed piss-filled bottle of gatorade leaning on their front door, where it will empty into their apartment the moment they open their door. They are getting very pissed off and respond with profanity-laced tirades and multiple threats of ass-kickings if they find out who is making the calls. E) The six guys who live in #18 are huge, football playing hulks. Got it straight? Here we go…)

On Saturday, the tension between Larry and Tom boiled over and their friendship ended forever in devastating fashion. While Tom was gone, people ate his food, erased his floppy disks, and even took a load of his belongings down to a pawn shop; though the pawn shop refused to take any of his stuff.

After a trip to Idaho Falls I came home to find Tom was moving all his stuff out of Larry’s room and into Charlie’s room. He had had enough of rooming with Larry. Roommate Jeff was taking Tom’s spot in Larry’s room. Charlie wasn’t around to find out that Tom was moving into his room, his third roommate in two months.

We went to a party (Ray and I) at Tina’s. It was cool. When we got back, we all waited for Charlie to come home so we could see his reaction to his new roommate, Tom. He finally came home, went into his room and closed the door. They talked quietly for a long time and then Charlie came out and asked, “Who is going to reimburse me for the check you guys wrote?” Tom had told him everything. The guys all denied it.

It was late. Larry, and Ray and I went out driving and talked. This was really bad. Tom had been out with us on several sign-destroying and graffiti missions. He knew all about our stolen groceries and just about everything else we had done, all of which would certainly get us kicked out of school and in trouble with the cops. Not to mention there were people who would certainly kick our asses if they knew who we were. Since Tom and Larry were now enemies, and Larry was part of our group, Tom would certainly finger us all.

We came back after midnight, woke up Drake, and loaded our huge stolen grocery stash into our cars. We drove out to the sand dunes and buried it in several plastic garbage bags. Early the next morning, we went back, dug it all up, and moved it to a new stash spot. It was an abandoned sugar beet factory in Rigby. To scare people off from stealing it, we spray-painted a bunch of satanic stuff all around our hiding spot.

During all of this, Drake and Ray were freaking out. They were sure that Tom go to the cops, putting us all in some serious trouble. They kept talking about running off to Canada to escape the law. They said they would take Larry’s car and send him back the money. The biggest problem in this plan that I saw was that Larry’s car was a piece of junk and probably wouldn’t even make it there. My car was new, and I had given Drake had a key to my car. It was obvious they would realize this very soon. Once they started talking about running away to Canada, I started parking my car in different parking lots every night so they wouldn’t be able to take it. Sure enough, Drake later told me that they had planned on taking my car.

On Sunday, Ray, Drake, Larry, and I were home, sitting in the front room. Tom was home, but because of the tense situation, he was staying in his room with the door shut. He had been in his room all day. Larry couldn’t stand it. He wanted to throw a rock at the beehive. He got his camera, went into Tom’s room and snapped a picture of him and then came running out. Tom chased right after him and they started to fight. It was a furious, physical fight right in the kitchen and we all just sat there, stunned and watching these two former friends battle it out.

It’s hard to say who won, as it was pretty vicious on both of them. Tom got in some good licks and backed off when he realized that there were three other guys watching who were siding with Larry.

After the fight, I drove over to my aunt’s house for dinner, elk-steak. It was really good and I enjoyed the time at their house with their family. It is such a peaceful home. Little did I know that that hour and a half at my aunt’s would be the only peaceful moment I would have for a while. Things were completely spiraling out of control.

I came home to find out that Larry had been taken to the hospital for his wounds from the fight. Tom had vanished. Drake and Ray were also unaccounted for. Charlie said he thought that Drake and Ray had gone after Tom and “hurt him.” Larry was home now, with a seriously bruised hip. He was on codeine and really mellow. Things were falling apart all around us. Our apartment was in complete chaos. The once-mellow Charlie installed a lock on his door.

Tom never came back to #20. They moved him out of our apartment. And guess where he ended up? He’s now moved in with the jocks I’ve been prank-calling over in apartment #18. This can’t be good for me. How long before he tells them who their tormentor is? How long before he spills the beans on all of our other activities?

On Monday, Charlie went down to the bank and reported the forged check. Things in the apartment weren’t normal after this weekend. They never will be. I’m writing this nine days later and I haven’t been to any of my classes since that weekend. I’m so confused about everything. More events follow…


Note: My short-lived attendance at Ricks College in the small town of Rexburg, Idaho twenty years ago was a defining stage of my life. Mostly for unpleasant reasons. Taking an extremely impulsive anarchist skate punk from California and putting them in the Rexburg of 1986, what can you expect? My being an 18-year-old with the maturity of a 9-year-old didn’t help, either. But it was in Rexburg that I fell in love with photography and abandoned my academic career to follow my passion.

These entries are written from the journals I kept when I was 18. Of course, at 38 today, I do not advocate any of the illegal activity discussed here. -Trent

Sunday, October 26:

Today we had to go back to Idaho. A seventeen hour drive. Mom told me to call her when we’d made it so she’d know we were safe. We picked up Ted and started driving. At the Benecia toll bridge, we gave the attendant 40 pennies (the correct amount for the toll) and drove away quickly as if we were short-changing him. His response: “Hey! HEY!!!” We kept going.

We stopped at the Nut Tree (a mistake, wasting precious time).

We stopped at Circus Circus in Reno and played Gauntlet for two hours (a terrible mistake).

Drake got a ticket in the middle of Nevada and the highway patrol acted too suspiciously about it. They were screwing us over.

We stopped for dinner at the Red Lion in Elko.

We got to Ted’s at 1am, mainly on the adrenaline gained from listening to Metallica’s “Master of Puppets.” It was horrible. We still had five hours of driving to go, and I had a class at 8am.

I called home and told Mom that we were back safely (we weren’t, but I didn’t want her to worry).

Drake drove the rest of the way while I slept but he took a wrong turn that cost us another hour. We were home at 7am, Monday, just in time for me to go to class. Instead, I went to sleep until 12:30 or so, missing four classes!

The whole drive I wondered why I was going back. I knew I had to, and couldn’t have stayed if I had wanted to, but my heart ached at the prospect of not seeing Naomi. I’m writing this Tuesday night, and the aching hasn’t stopped.

And worse, Mom was worried sick when I called early to tell her we were home. We would have had to drive 100mph to make it home when I called, so that was a big screw-up. By trying to have her not worry, I made her terrified.