-Don’t drink the water, they warned. You’ll get sick.
-Like what kind of sick? I asked.
-You really wanna know the details?
-No, I s’pose not.
I have to travel a lot for work. I’m a professional photographer. Freelance. It used to be you’d look for that one perfect shot: subject, perspective, color. Bokeh. Sure, there’d be hundreds of negatives from a shoot, and I’ve spent plenty of time in darkrooms, preparing chemical baths and hanging miniature masterpieces like wet laundry. I have dozens of cameras, from your basic point & shooters to high-end DSLRs, plus a veritable smorgasbord of lens ranging from small to absurd. My friends call me Tripod. Carrying so much gear can be problematic, especially when my sciatica flares up. It’s hard to get to the chiropractor in a war zone or in the middle of a desert somewhere.
Of course, these days I mostly use my phone. I pay extra for cloud storage. The world is changing. Before, the goal was to get a print on the cover of a magazine. Time. Life. Newsweek. Newspapers were on a somewhat lower, but still prestigious tier. Anything with a big circulation.
Now, everything is social media. The democratization of whatever. Everyone has a voice and all that mumbo jumbo. I read a statistic that something like a billion photos are posted every single day. How can one have a voice when everyone speaks at once?
Fortunately, my industry contacts have given me an edge on Joe Schmoe with an iPhone. I personally maintain a Facebook page and an Instagram account. I Snapchat for behind-the-scenes goodies. I even keep around Google+, in case that ever becomes popular. This is what life has become in a thumbs up economy.
So, I was on assignment in South America. Sunscreen, bucket hats, and bottled water. I had a decent day of shooting. Plenty of action and adventure. Afterwards, I went to Was Ist Los?, a local dive bar. The beer was watered down and tasted faintly of day-old piss. I sat at the side of the bar sipping my beer and trying to connect to Wi-Fi. Some asshole started playing Hasselhoff on the jukebox and began to dance. The tough old broad behind the bar scowled and shook her head. I tried to surreptitiously snap her photo.
In an attempt to distract her long enough to get a good shot, I decided to order a cocktail.
-What kind? she asked.
-Uh, something girly. Top shelf. And blue.
She took down the good vodka and poured a decent helping into the shaker. A generous splash of champagne, blue curacao, and a squeeze of lemon. Ice. She shook the shaker like a pair of maracas and poured the concoction into a highball. She added a pink umbrella and impaled a piece of sour candy on the lip of the glass.
-Besos medianoche, she said as the presented the cocktail on a napkin.
-Gracias, I said.
I looked through the pictures I had snapped on my phone. The lighting wasn’t ideal, but the results were golden. I took a sip of my drink. Her raised eyebrow awaited my appraisal. Because I am a dumbass, I gave her a thumbs up. I downed the rest and then ordered another.
The next morning, I woke up in an unfamiliar bed. I was naked and my stomach hurt. Like, bad. Like, find a toilet bad. The bartender lay asleep next to me, smelling of smoke and sex. I tapped her gently on the shoulder. I could feel my bowels slowly liquifying. I tapped again, this time with more urgency. She began to stir.
-Dónde está el baño? I said, perhaps louder than necessary.
-El baño! El baño! Rápidemente!
She pointed and I sprinted off, holding my hands against my butt to prevent an accidental explosion. I somehow made it just in time and braced myself against the seat as my intestines were squeezed empty like a wet chamois. As I sat there sweating and shitting, I tried to think what could have caused this. I knew I had eaten carefully and drank only bottled water or beer. Then I remembered the cocktail. Midnight Kisses, she called it. That’s when I remembered the ice.
Never play with ice.