november 2002 -
The Big Black Harley got a clean bill of health after its 5000 mile service, so I packed the camera bag this weekend and headed out to follow the front wheel. The weather was gorgeous and the light was just right for b&w shooting, with high clouds diffusing the sun's rays making the visible world ripe with soft shadows and subtle tonal gradations. About ten minutes out, while heading south on US 101, the day's destination came clearly to mind. The Getty Center.
After riding past it a couple of times last weekend on brief photo safari to San Pedro and the Port of Los Angeles, I was primed for another visit to this spectacular museum in the hills. There is no admission charge, although it will cost you five dollars to park -- if you come in a car. If you come on a Big Black Harley it's free. And you get the best parking spot, right in close, closer even than the handicapped spots. It's a beautiful thing.
The thing about the Getty is the architecture. There's art in the buildings but it seems almost secondary. It was the first time I'd been there alone, and without the distraction of child herding or family mood management I was free to lurk and lie in wait for humans and stone and light to coalesce into just the compositions I hoped might arise. With sightlines so designed, with travertine and steel bringing out a Mandelbrot set of surprises, it's not hard to make a pretty picture. And that's what most of the visitors with cameras are doing -- either handing their Nikons to strangers to take pictures that prove they were there, or moving in close on a flower. Panoramas are popular too.
The thing about elegant architecture, or taking pictures of it and in it, is that one can't help but feel it's been seen before, that the picture in your viewfinder is a rerun. I'll pick an angle and suspect that the same damn angle can be found drawn out in ink on the third floor in building six on blueprint 3983W elevation 3b.
This is why humans are so delightfully useful. They move about, stand around, and unconsciously juxtapose themselves into the most wonderful configurations to make a synthesis of logic and chaos.
I cannot use the words logic and chaos without mentioning Amy. Her latest quest or, more precisely, obsession, is the acquisition of a wheelchair. As with the crutches she purchased a few months ago, she is saving up her allowance for a wheelchair which she has somehow convinced herself she cannot do without. She has absolutely no need for one other than the desire to play with hospital equipment. I'm torn between teaching her the lesson that money should not be squandered and the lesson that she is free to do whatever she pleases with money that is rightfully hers.
Whenever we visit the local pharmacy to refill one of her prescriptions she lingers all dreamy-eyed near the new and used wheelchairs for sale. This evening I had her sit in one and try it out, thinking maybe it might discourage her. See, here's the problem. Her CP is of the hemiplegic variety, as opposed to the paraplegic or quadriplegic sort. In her case, her right side is spastic and hypertonic. She has very little use of her right arm and hand. To make a wheelchair go straight one's hands must work in concert. Amy's hands do not, so she was basically just swerving off into the shelves every time she tried to get it going. I couldn't really pinpoint the cause of her dramatic disappointment about this; was she at last realizing the depth of her overall debilitation, or was she broken-hearted over the possibility of not getting a wheelchair? For whatever reason, tears came. I felt terrible. She really wants this thing. She scours the classifieds. Viv has called the thrift shops. Earlier this year, when confronted by their big price tags, she hung her head pitifully and murmured, "Maybe Santa will bring me a wheelchair this year. I've been pretty good."
God bless us, everyone. Sheesh. She really knows how to put the scroo into Scrooge.
"Eyeball Kid" -- Tom Waits -- MULE VARIATIONS
"Spare no expense to make everything as economic as possible."
- Samuel Goldwyn