I’ve tried twice to capture the amazing mix of architecture of downtown Birmingham. The first time, i went downtown on a Sunday morning, with a friend who grew up in Paris. I had my Nikon with me & gave my friend an older one. As we came around a corner, we were confronted by a tall, maybe 6 foot tall white man, with blond hair & blue eyes, wearing only a tan raincoat, socks & sneakers…he flashed us. my shock rocked me still. the man asked if we wanted some of “this” referring to his nether regions…my city wise friend shut him down with a laugh of disdain & “no, we’ve had much bigger.” she showed not once ounce of fear & it was the man’s turn to be shocked still. He slowly closed his coat & walked away very dejected, his head hanging down in shame.
But it kept me from going back downtown to shoot alone again. Yesterday, i decided it’s Monday & people of all kinds will be out, some working, others…who knows. i had to drive my husband downtown to collect his car, i brought only my phone because pain owned the day. But as i looked out the passenger side window, my art brain overpowered the pain & i told my husband that i would be a little late coming home because i was going to stop & take a few shots. I parked near the Alabama Theatre & i took about five shots, but out of the corner of my eye, i could see a black man, about 5’9″ 145lbs, in a grey t-shirt, old dress pants & brown boots (untied) cut across the street directly toward me. i put my phone in my pocket, put my longest key between my fingers, facing outward(standard defense). i walked quickly back toward my car, but he fell in time with my step & he held out three Mardi Gras bead necklaces, (red, green & gold) he said, “would you like to buy some beads? They are rare” (yeah, in the south, Mardi Gras beads are as plentiful as there are stars in the sky) this is when I stepped off the sidewalk, on to the one way, four lane road…walking into oncoming traffic, i walked in the street until i reached my car. He mumbled a few other words, but I didn’t hear any of them, due to the cars whizzing past me. When i was in my car, i looked in the rear view mirror & he was looking back at my car with a big smile, he was laughing. i don’t know if he would have hurt me, there were other people walking around, but on the other side of the street. But most of us can tell when someone is a little off…
what did scare me?
maybe it was the guy, on a Vermont highway way back in 1990, that stopped his beat up yellow half car/half truck thing…i rolled my window down just enough to listen to him, because he backed up almost to my car in a crazy way & walked all crazy. He was white, blond greasy hair wearing a baseball cap. He asked if i needed any help. I, as strong as an ox, lied to his face about a friend left with a cop to get a tow truck. He looked at me for a while, then wobbled back to his car/truck (brat?) started it up, put the gear in reverse & slammed into the front of my car, drove forward about five feet, backed into my car enough to start pushing it backwards. He hit the front of the car five times before he drove off.
Or maybe it was the guy (17 yr old, blond, 5’10”) who trapped me, when i was 12 yrs old, in the hay loft of his families barn & started to attack me…i fought hard & very loud. Then i heard my twin brother calling me from right outside the barn & the guy was forced to stop.
I told no one of this event either.
Or maybe it was the guy who followed me home on a cold winter night through downtown Burlington, Vermont. A man that kept my pace & said nothing, when i moved faster, so did he. When he finally thought we were rural enough, he put his hand on my shoulder & my boyfriend’s husky lunged at him. He told me to control my dog. Right.
I’m 5 feet tall, i used to be 5’2″ before all my fusions & messed up pelvis brought me down an inch. I am small. So are my daughters. My daughters who rolled their eyes at me when i wouldn’t let them go for a walk without taking a dog.
I finally told my daughters about these events…except for yesterday, but i will. The key in the fist is important for them to know, even though they have no keys yet. When i told them…i started with, “I know you think nothing bad will ever happen to you…but these things happened to me…” i got them to listen.
if you are a mother to a daughter, when they are old enough for to hear how babies are made, then that is when you need to share your own experiences with them. Because if i had held my tongue & something happened to either one of them. I would never, ever forgive myself. You may raise strong smart daughters, but there are some big, strong dumb & dangerous men out there…your daughters need to know that.
30 Comments Add yours
It’s really bad, dramatic to live in such a fear. Is this the world we have around ourselves? And what a contrast with your beautiful pictures, I like so much the third one with that Mondrian?s style geometry mixed with Paul Klee like colours, great!
Art and fear, defense and attention to the details, your dog and your husband and your camera or phone, I cannot give you more advices than you already have received. That key trick I didn’t know but I’ll report this to my wife, we never know what…
Do not stop to share your art, please…
Thank you so much, Robert. Your advice is one i will follow. I will not stop taking pictures, although of late, it just seems to be things around the house. I’ve been busy with editing shoots & painting, i am not complaining, i am very happy to say so. I’m off to Vermont, it will be peek week with the maples turning to fire & I cannot wait to shoot & share those. ~amy
Lovely pictures, sad events. May you be wrapped in protective light.
Oh, how i would love to be wrapped up in a protective light. I dislike feeling fear. Thank you so much for your sweet words. ~amy
It incenses me to the Nth degree when men feel they can target women — gender should have no bearing on our safety and security, at any time. Unfortunately, life doesn’t work this way.
Your sharing of your traumatic events Amy moves me; you are brave and strong.
I too have been stalked, targeted, attacked etc. It never stops really.
Some women, for whatever reasons, seem to be targeted more easily and often than others.
My personal experience and suggestions that may help you, or others perhaps?
Be observant and assess situations. Always look for entrances and exits, when in a building. Use mirrors, storefronts, reflections to your advantage in knowing what’s happening around you. If possible, make sure there are people within your immediate area — friendly looking ones. Carry or wear a whistle around your neck. A high pitched shrieking may go a long way further than trying to shout and yell, although this is always a smart option.
And most importantly —– change your personal attitude. Just as an animal can sense and smell fear – so can a predator. Be strong and smart. On the defensive – bold – but safely so. Learn to swallow the anxiety and fear – and be your own best defensive – passive aggressive. You can freak out later, when you’re safe and away.
I’ve found these techniques have saved me a world of trouble – in some very dire situations in my life. And yes, Amy, I too suffer from physical health problems that mean I’m not as strong or capable as physically engaging with someone, if the need should arise —- but think about it —– the “dangerous game begins with the psychological aspect first” —- so be strong and determined in your mind set. It goes a very long way.
Hugs to you Amy.
Thank you, Pat. It is nice that you pointed out reflections to notice all who surround me. I do that. I also make a mental note as to their physical appearance & what they are wearing, to that i can describe them if i need to. I think these stupid dangerous men see me as easy prey because I am short. But i never act as though i am afraid when i see them, i act like i’ve got a place to go & I’m too busy to talk with them. The key sticking out of my fist is helpful, my father, the eye doctor told me to go for the eye & I will, then between their legs & use my voice to scream bloody murder. I have felt fear since that first attack in the barn. I do not like it. But i’ve notice that i seem to make most men a little ticked off & I’m not sure why. I’d like to think i’ve made them feel stupid, but it may just be that i am small & bring out the worst. That is why i have a dog. I will always have a dog. Thank you for your advice & wish you to be safe as well. Hugs back to you, Pat. ~amy
Well Amy, it seems we have quite a bit in common, on the “unfortunate side” too.
I too, am short – and for some reason, I too, tend to tick men off — must be the “don’t mess with me (I’m keeping it clean) attitude.” Some people just like to target our “types” — thinking that if it came down to it, we’d be easy “prey.” But we’re NOT!
Unfortunately, it does make for tiring circumstances – and clearly, you are well and wise in your ways, in trying to steer clear of potential dangers – but I can bet if I said to you, “don’t you just wish they would all bugger off?” – you’d be nodding your head in agreement.
So, as they say, “be safe out there.”
And I hope you had a wonderful weekend 🙂
Thank you, Pat for sharing your own fear & it seems, matching attitude. I’ve lost a bit of the attitude because i’m older now. I wish they noticed that i was older…and just leave me alone! I will take my dog or my husband with me from now on. I hope you will be safe out there too. Have a wonderful weekend! ~amy
Thanks Amy, I hope you have a great weekend too.
As you’ve mentioned, we do tend to mellow with age – so the attitudes change, which isn’t a bad thing, but as you’ve said, it’s like, “I’m not here! Let me be.”
*sighing* — maybe we should search out invisibility cloaks?
Be safe and strong – and don’t let it stop you from living your life and exploring. We just have to be “careful”.
Thank you, Pat for your advice. I really appreciate it. ~amy
thanks for both the images and the narrative – there is a great deal in life that is frightening – being gently prepared over a long period of time is better that a short and nasty shock to learn the lesson. My husband indulges me – we live out of the city and it would be classified as a low risk area. We have an electronic gate – high fences and yet I insist on double locking doors and bringing down the shutters at night. There are opportunists out there all the time and I have no intention of being anyone’s opportunity.
That is why i have a dog. She can hear anything or anyone long before i do. I know that people in the neighborhood knows i have have a dog too. Next door are to very large Black Labs that bark at strangers who come to my door, so i can call them for help too. Thank you for sharing your thoughts & advice with me. ~amy
LikeLiked by 1 person
Sorry you have had to live in fear from crazy people. Don’t let them win! Go with friends so that you aren’t alone.
I will Keith. Thank you for your advice. ~amy
You got some good pictures.
I would be taking pictures of the flasher and the guy selling beads. I’ve found my camera to be a great offensive weapon, especially mounted on a monopod. lol
Be safe out there. hugs
LikeLiked by 1 person
I’m too small to keep my camera or phone from being taken from me. As soon as i saw that he was aiming toward me, i put the phone in my pocket & took out me keys. I HATE feeling fear. I wish i was bigger…Thank you for the hug. ~amy
I understand. As I get older I think I’m seen as more of a target/victim. I’ll often carry my camera mounted on a monopod. It looks like an effective club and I think I could use it as one.
That is brilliant, jr cline! Still, i’m bringing my husband. Or my Husky. Either way, never alone again. ~amy
I take a lot of street shots in cities. You are right to be wary. I’ve had a few close calls along the way.
I plan to go back downtown with my husband or my dog. It is such an interesting city. Thanks, Jr Cline. ~amy
None of us can be sure if everything happens for a reason, but if they do, just perhaps your experiences and the talk with your daughters may help protect them at some point.
(btw, your photos are quite good)
Thank you, Mike. If you are Abbey’s dad, then you might want to let her know that there are stupid dangerous men out there too. I am small, so i think i’m easy prey. I seem to bring out the meanness in some men. But i’m too old to be bothered now, or so i thought…Thanks for the compliment about my iPhone pix that day. ~amy
It’s so unfair that women always have to think about being attacked. I live in a very safe community and yet I won’t walk alone at our nature preserve (even in broad daylight) because I don’t feel safe. My husband never thinks twice about going anywhere alone.
it is very unfair. But testosterone wins the day when a dangerous & stupid man sees a woman alone. These men must be stupid, otherwise they would have a woman of their own. But stupid is dangerous. Ugh. My husband travels & i told him that i will have a dog to alert me to trouble before it happens, otherwise i don’t think i would ever sleep. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with me. ~amy
It is awful to live in fear like this, Amy. I’m really sorry you had these frightening experiences. May you – and your children – be surrounded by light and protection at all times.
Your photos of downtown are beautiful; I’m glad you could take them… and sorry that the encounter with that strange man interrupted what could have been a wonderful and exciting photographic adventure.
LikeLiked by 1 person
I don’t like living in fear…but bad experiences early in my life with men have made me so. I don’t know what it is about me. I suppose because I am 5’2″ ish…i guess i look like easy prey. I will shoot downtown again, I asked my husband to escort me & he said he would. Even though following me around as i take photos bugs him to no end. Maybe i can take Nala…she won’t mind. 🙂 ~amy
The key in the hand is a great trick that I learned at a self-defence class when I first went to university. I still do it to this day when I’m wandering about alone somewhere quiet or at night just to be on the safe side. I hope this most recent ‘incident’ won’t put you off taking pictures downtown. The theatre looks gorgeous.
I told my husband that he will have to escort me & endure the shlep through the city so that I can take photographs. the architecture is so amazingly different from one spot to the next. Thank you for sharing your key self-defense class trick, i hope every woman knows this one. ~amy
When I was in my early ‘twenties, I had a guy flash me as I was waiting for a train on the London Underground after I’d had a really hard day at work. I was so incensed, I jumped up and down on the spot, screeched at him then ran forward to attack him. He looked terrified and ran down the platform, the obligatory grey raincoat flapped around him, his crown jewels out for all to see as he didn’t have time to zip up. I let him go but it told me one thing, like you say: look after yourself and for you, make sure your daughters can look after themselves.
Oh, so proud of you! I wish i had handled it that way, but i think it was the feeling of the city being empty on a Sunday morning. That there was no one anywhere in case he became dangerous. I’m so grateful my friend was with me. Thank you for sharing your story with me. ~amy