In the late 1980s, my shooter buddy Keith and I traveled to D.C. for what would become the largest public demonstration in American history to that point, far bigger than Martin Luther King’s 1963 March on Washington. The occasion was a pro-choice rally. Hard to beat a gorgeous spring day in D.C. with a story that was gonna write itself. Low-hanging fruit everywhere: Strident activists in full fierce jaw-jutting roar (phodogs love that shit), jeering religious fanatics …. and just about every fringer without anything better to do that day.
As we took a victory lap around the mall and prepared to split, my notebook and Keith’s Nikon each filled to bursting, a sort of miracle occurred: We came upon an emaciated, half-naked fellow with that John-the-Baptist-true-believer asceticism who was …. wait for it! … nailing himself to a full-size big boy crucifix!
I crouched down while Keith circled and shot, peering over his camera at me and shaking his head occasionally. This faux messiah had obviously done this before. He had lots of scar tissue on his hands and feet and I watched as he actually slipped a slim spike through his left foot, and another through his right. Color me impressed! Ah, but what a conundrum, too. As I watched him literally crucify himself I inconveniently pointed out that he was headed for a logistical logjam even the faith of Lazarus could not overcome: “You know, no matter how you do this, you’re never going to get that last nail in. Not possible.”
The mall teemed with protestors. Music blared. Someone shouted through a megaphone. A news chopper whizzed overhead. And there Keith and I were, guests at a crucifixion, chatting easily with the host. Keith lit two cigarettes and handed me one. We loomed over the prostrate figure until finally we were fully sated with quotes and images. Thank you Jesus!
The faux messiah sighed as he considered his dilemma. “Yes, I know,” he said finally. “I rely on help for the last part. Will you help?”
“Ah, jeez, hey, no-can-do, we’re with the press, we only observe, never intervene.”
I held out my cigarette. “Want a drag?”
“No, no thank you! Those things are bad for you.”
“Yeah, well. We have to be going. Good luck with that last nail. I have no doubt you’ll find someone who will be happy to drive it home.”
He said he had no doubt either.