Listen to this while you read: “Transmission” – Joy Division
Life isn’t perfect.
I know this isn’t a shocking revelation. But, sometimes I’m reminded of this in funny little ways.
About a half a mile from where I live in the urbanish San Fernando Valley sits a large and lonely radio transmission station. An otherwise-vacant city block supports a squat brick building that says “50000 Watt Station” along the side, and three massive transmitter antennae. The impressive ensemble is guarded by two forbidding obstacles: A conventional chain link fence serves notice to casual passerby. For the bold explorer there is, improbably, a more stealthy deterrent: hundreds of small sandy hills in the scrub housing voracious red army ants.
It’s seemingly deserted. I never see any cars on the lot nor anyone coming or going. Yet, the lights are on and the transmitters twinkling red lights promise that all fifty-thousand watts are hard at work sending some sort of information out into the ether. A barely-alive imagination could easily picture some sinister government operation at the heart of this inexplicable installation, and my fancy is more than healthy.
I’ve always wanted to photograph the place. But, as intriguing as it is in concept, visually it poses some problems. The scale of the place requires a wide-angle, but there is so much empty space that a wide angle ends up being boring. Getting right up to the antennae might work, but I’m not yet ready to risk black helicopters by scaling the fence.
I figured the key would be to wait for a breathtaking sky. But, its rare to get skies in the valley. It’s always blue skies.
The weather in the valley has been hot over the past few days. It’s always hot in the valley, in the summer. But even the beaches have been hot this week, and that means a bit of moisture in the air that drifts over the hills.
As I drove home, I noticed the skies, normally a spotless blue, were mixed up with swirling clouds. As I drove past the radio station, as I do every single day, I wondered idly what the sunset would be like, an hour or so away. I didn’t plan to do anything, I was just wondering.
I got home, and brightened up knowing I’d walk the dogs. For just a moment, I considered taking them on a long walk to the antennae. But, as we made our way round the far side of the block, we were attacked by some insistent midges. Midges! Little bugs, just like in Cleveland in last year’s baseball playoffs, were dancing happily around my face. I mean, I am just guessing they were midges. I’m no entomologist. Just crazy. Luckily on our own block, these insectoids were nowhere to be found. We’re in a slightly more respectable neighborhood I guess. As we made our way up the steps to our front door, I noticed the sky was getting rather interesting, in places. The sun was setting quickly
I made up my mind to try.
I’m occasionally big on preparation, and in other things not so much. Riding my bicycle is one of the things I prepare meticulously for. Gotta wear shorts. The helmet. The rear-view mirror. The bandana under the helmet, the gloves, the backpack, and the tire pressure. It’s occurred to me that it often takes a half an hour just to get out on my bike. Some might call that anal. I think they’d be right. Yet, I never wash my car. Curious.
But, like I said I made up my mind. I made up my mind that I’d go to the antennae to see what I could see, and I decided that instead of driving that I’d ride my bike to get there. I realized there was no time to do anything at all that I usually do. I threw my camera over my shoulder, grabbed my bike and went.
Riding a bike in jeans is just annoying. Not having my helmet and rear-view was disconcerting. Feeling the handlebars in my hands was new. It was all good.
I got to my destination probably three minutes after the best sky of the night. And, even that sky wasn’t that good as it turns out. It certainly wasn’t Flickr-Explore good. Oh well. I rode my bike over the grass, over the ant hills! I pulled up next to the fence. I took some pictures, making sure not to stand in one place for more than a few seconds. I’ve had experience with angry red ants in the jungles of Orlando, Florida. I wasn’t going to let them get me.
The photos weren’t anything at all like what I wanted, but I still don’t know the right way to photograph this location. I chafe against the reality, unescapable in the end, that I’ll never have the true photographer’s eye. I’ll always be a dilettante. So, I’m mildly disappointed with the photo results, but I’m not at all disappointed with how it went down.
Life isn’t perfect, but sometimes it’ll do.previous post: Janelle Monae: Pinball Wizard? next post: Dream Job Goes Screaming By
This entry was posted on Friday, August 15th, 2008 at 1:50 am
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