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CitiMortgage World Headquarters, Technology Drive, O'Fallon, Missouri (Photo by Pablo Manriquez)
O’Fallon, Missouri is my hometown, and the world headquarters of CitiMortgage – the same CitiMortgage that lent more money than existed, through contracts written in a legal Aramaic even Greenspan couldn’t read or recite slowly, but that Americans happily autographed like Mylie Cyrus at a Kids ‘R’ Us going-out-of-business sale.
On Saturday night, I cruised Hwy K in O’Fallon photographing the downturn for The St. Louis Beacon. After shooting a depressing series of endless “For Lease” & “For Sale” signs in strip malls, factories, and foreclosed American homes, I turned onto Technology Drive, the street built to accomodate CitiMortgage and the feckless American Dream it extinguished. After several twists and turns, I came upon the “No Trespassing” sign pictured below, and was happy to see it there. It was good to know my property was protected by a street sign.
After all, this is my property, is it not? My elected brokers on Capitol Hill just bought me an ownership stake in it at the firesale price of $45 billion. I contemplated having a Super Bowl party the next night on my new asphalt space, and maybe hosting a post-game orgy in the cubicles. There is so much my fellow Americans and I can do with our new real estate, I thought, as I went to work with my camera with Tupac’s “Hit ’em up” bumping at top volume through the open windows of my automobile.
Suddenly, my shots were fucked by the brighted headlights of a white Chevy Trailblazer with paper license plates from Enterprise Rent-a-Car. I signaled the driver to dim them.
“Don’t worry, chief!” I shouted, “I know you’re there!”
A security guard in a tissue-thin white short-sleeve button-up dismounted into the brisk night air and asked, “What’re’ya doin’ there?”
“Taking pictures for The St. Louis Beacon,” I said.
“The St. Louis Beacon – the best goddamn news website the St. Louis Area ever clicked on. Give it a read after work. You won’t regret it.”
“Ha, well alright,” he laughed. “So you’re press?”
“Yup,” I said, which felt strange. I often claim to be press to get in where I oughtn’t be, but this time I meant it. And I meant every word I said about the Beacon, too. For years, the St. Louis Area has been condemned to depend on the hopelessly inadequate Post-Dispatch, and their equally-Right Wing counterparts on the network TV news, for information. The Beacon is the objective & accurate game-changer, and I am their relentless photojournalist and reporter-in-training in St. Charles County.
The guard took out a notebook. “Lemme git yer information,” he said.
“I’m gonna have to make a report of this,” he replied. “This here’s private property, and you know how it is after 9/11 and all that…”
Two can play that game, I thought. And so I took out my notebook and asked for his name. He gladly provided it (and his rank too). I omit them here, for the same reason I opted that night to do what I was told instead of launching into my ready-made & eloquent misinterpretation of the First Amendment, about the Freedom of the Press and the Press & Democracy.
The security guard was an older Missouri gentleman, and my guess is that his shirt fit him better when he bought it. It was starched with the careful pride older generations take in these things. He struck me as the kind of guy who had seen, brought, and taken an ass-whippin’ in his day, and would surely whip mine if I got to running my yap in his ear.
“What kind of car is that?” he asked.
“A Prius,” I said.
“Ohhh,” he replied, unable to conceal his awe. “So it’s a hybrid?“
“It is,” I said, before leaving peacefully with his supervisor’s contact information to call when I needed more pictures.
To run me off was his job, as he understood it, and he politely afforded me every courtesy his anti-ruffian trade required. A job ain’t an easy thing to come by in ’09, and I saw no reason to make his any more difficult than sitting alone at his age in an empty parking lot all night already was.
But still, I left with questions like: What does it mean to have an ownership stake in Citi? Why does CitiMortgage rent its security SUVs? With all of their bad credit, did they not qualify for an auto loan? And where do CitiMortgage and post-9/11 legislation intersect?
This last question is the strangest of them all, to me. What would “the evil doers” want with the buildings of a company worth an estimated $300 billion less than just last year, when Citi’s tycoons were still happily destroying the American future?
Tags: 2009, bailout, big banks, CitiMortgage, good writing, journalism, Missouri, O'Fallon