Not a very interesting photo is it?
There’s a story here though.
About thirty some years ago, I worked at an art gallery in the Wynwood neighborhood in Miami. Dwyane Wade and Pitbull were babies. Sonny Crockett was sporting that white blazer and Al Pacino was practicing his bad Cuban accent. This was long before the area became a major attraction due in large part to the eye-popping, internationally famous, Wynwood Walls murals. Our clients were mostly interior designers and my job involved delivering and installing framed artwork to hotels for their lobby decor. We had a framing workshop upstairs but since there was no elevator I would usually run up and down the stairs to pick up finished work and prepare it for delivery. On one typical morning, I was doing just that - running down the stairs when out of the corner of my eye, to the left, I saw a guy with a gun, about fifteen feet away aiming at me and within a millisecond firing a shot at me. There were two of them - both with nylon stockings over their heads - yep, just like the movies. As the shot was fired my legs became like jello and buckled as I hit the floor. Next thing I knew, I was on my side, on the floor, with one of the robbers kneeling over me pointing the gun to my head. “Where’s the money?!” He asked / yelled. Somehow I had the presence of mind to tell him that it wasn’t a cash business. He moved way and joined his partner in the showroom where he had all the other employees and customers on the floor and was rifling through their purses. One old designer lady refused to hand over her purse and my co-worker, a strong, statuesque black woman, yelled at her to give it to him. She had a sense that these guys weren’t playing. The men left quickly with whatever money they could grab. They seemed young, maybe twenty, and probably as nervous and shaky as we were. I was still on the floor of the stockroom when the gallery owner came back and asked if I was ok. I wasn’t. With my head spinning, pulse racing, and feeling pretty rattled I got up and told him I was alright. The police arrived about fifteen minutes later and asked me to reenact what had happened. When I stopped on the stairs to show the officer where I was when the shot was fired he pointed and told me to look at the wall to my right. There, I saw that a chunk of concrete had been taken out by the bullet’s impact. “He missed you by a foot or two” the cop told me. He figured that the gunman thought I was coming after him since he heard and saw me running down the stairs, when in fact I had no idea what was going on. They had come in through the back entrance which was unlocked. The experience left us all shaken for days. I went to dinner with my mom and step dad that night and we all expressed gratitude for being alive. We mused that my grandfather must be my guardian angel since I could have just as easily been killed that day. There was no serious national gun control movement in the US at the time and that wasn’t my main takeaway then. I remember wondering who those guys were and what led them to that violent moment. The gallery was in a neighborhood that was bordering on a low income, high crime area. The gentry, so to speak, hadn’t arrived yet. I left that job about a year later. Not long after, I was shocked and saddened to learn that the owner, Glen, a married father of two, had committed suicide by carbon monoxide poisoning from his car’s exhaust. I recently went back to the area just to look at the building and reflect on those days. The block has changed to the point of being unrecognizable. There are now bars, coffee shops and boutiques lining the street. I was surprised to find that the building was gone, probably razed several years ago. It’s now a small parking lot sandwiched between a lounge and an office of some kind (which made sense since I couldn’t see it on Google Maps). A couple cops were passing by on the sidewalk and we got to chatting. I told them the whole story; explaining why I was taking pictures there. They were curious as to whether the guys were ever caught. They weren’t. We had a nice chat about film cameras and one of them commented that my old Canon was pretty cool. As I walked away he shook his head and said that the building had “some kind of bad karma” and that “some places are like that you know.” I'm not sure if I'd call it karma, but I think I know what he meant.
The photo above is the lot where the building stood. The picture of the ground is approximately where I had fallen on the stairs. Not to be overly maudlin but it’s a strange feeling to stand in a place where your life could have come to an end. Now, more than thirty years later I still wonder how Glen's family is doing and what ever happened to the young men who robbed us.