Challenge: Keep our minds open
By Steve Portigal at 7:02 am, Friday June 19 2009

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Johnny Holland has published my latest article, Let’s Embrace Open-Mindedness.

A few months earlier, however, I gazed at the edge of my comfort zone and decided not to cross: walking through Santa Monica we came upon the Independent Spirit Awards ceremony. Crowds of people were gathered, waiting for a glimpse of the stars. We found the serious autograph hounds who were there with portable plastic bins stuffed with headshots for signing (and reselling on eBay). It was a definite subculture: people filled each other in about the unspoken rules: what happens when a celeb approaches, when to use your Sharpie, how to hand it to them, and so on. I was fascinated but my obvious outsider/passerby status felt like a barrier. And then I saw a woman covered in tattoos, where each tattoo was a signature. I realized her particular shtick was to get autographs and then go directly to the tattoo parlor to have that autograph made permanent (the ultimate version of “I’ll never wash this hand again!”). I watched her and the group for a while, and thought about whether or not I would ask her for a picture. There was something slightly wild about her and I couldn’t figure out how to make the request. Sure, in the cold light of these pixels, it’s easy to think “What’s the worst that could happen?” but in the moment itself we may deal with it less rationally. I was actively taking pictures during my trip and I really wanted a picture of this woman but I was never able to do it. As with the cheese, I did step outside the experience for a moment, look at where I wanted to go, and decide whether I was able to cross that gulf. Here, I couldn’t.

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