Shawn the Ex-Crip

Have you ever noticed that hotel front desks are almost always an ungodly height? At least, for a desk. And only on the outside – the attendant’s side is usually pretty normal. You might think this is just an aesthetics or security thing (it’s much harder to jump over something tall), but I think the reason is much simpler: elbows. I rarely walk into a hotel in a state other than exhaustion, so I’ve always been appreciative of being able to prop up my arms and lean on the front desk as I hand over my credit card “for incidentals” and await my room key.

I struck this same pose in December of 2018 on the second night of our stay at the Holiday Inn in Phoenix. It had been another long day, complete with hiking 1,300-foot Camelback mountain on an empty stomach and then loading a trunk full of film equipment, so I was ready to get back to the room, have dinner, and go to bed. That plan had been foiled when my key wouldn’t work, so there I was, patiently awaiting a new one.

The gentleman behind the desk checked my ID, scrolled through the guest list, and began programming a new card. As he went about his business, I languidly scanned him. The plain white tag on his mint-green vest told me his name was Shawn. He was clean-shaven, wore thick-rimmed glasses, and sported a unique tattoo in the bridge between the thumb and index finger of his left hand. I looked more closely, but couldn’t quite make out the design.

“What is it?” I asked, gesturing.

“The three crosses at Calvary,” Shawn replied. “When I was 10 years old, I gave myself this tattoo because I knew that I would eventually get out of the gang life, and I didn’t want any gang marks on my body.”

The Day I Fell in Love

Somewhere in some archive in some basement in central Florida, there exists footage of me crying. I’ve only been on the Jumbotron once in my life, and it was when I was 5 or 6, attending my first soccer game. About 60 or 70 minutes through, the camera guy directly in front of me laughed, turned the camera around towards me, and next thing I knew my face was plastered on a screen in front of thousands of people. Why? Because I was crying.

It wasn’t that my team was losing. In fact, I don’t remember who was playing or even what league it was. I was crying because no one was scoring.