The first time I came here was the first time I realized how much I adored the girl shuffling to the hidden button that would open the gates. I don’t think it would have ever occurred to me that within a few years this would be the location where I would announce to her family that I’d asked her to marry me and that she had said yes. No, at the time I was too busy turning the soil, plucking the sprouts of an oak tree, singing to myself. I wanted to come back, sit on the patio and write or play my guitar. That was the first impression this place ever had on me.
My hands shook as I raced into my boots, eager to join the crowd of people fleeing their vehicles. But people have all fled and the tunnel now is quiet, and nearly calm in the narrow aisles between lumber trucks and gravel trucks. The light is dark and yellow, already thick with smoke. An abandoned Caltrans truck silently flashes red and yellow light on the walls and in the windows and mirrors of other abandoned vehicles. Paint and engine oil are burning, I’m the last idiot in the tunnel breathing in their fumes. But their selling point is in their cinematic appeal. And although I am not terrified, and the owners of these abandoned vehicles are safe, there is just enough fear mingling with this smoke for me to close my eyes and imagine terror, open them as a spectator in a nightmare. And the novelty of that feeling is keeping me here.
A few weeks ago I was delivering a bobcat to a tree service company out in Clyde, it was shortly after ten in the morning, the sky was a clear blue, mustard bloomed on the otherwise green hills, and I was seduced. Two weeks later, I wandered slowly from street to street, camera in hand, full of apprehension. Angry dogs in every yard told the whole town where I was, whenever I was anywhere. Where they were when I was delivering the bobcat is a mystery to me.
The first overcast day in weeks came the day after my new lens arrived in the mail, the beautiful gray hills lost there charm to a dull gray backdrop. I was regretting my determination to photograph the town, the dogs hated me, the population of almost seven hundred seemed to have convened in a secret underground bunker to determine what it was they would do with my body. The tree service company comes to mind. That had been my first stop, actually; I had asked the lady working there if I could photograph the enormous piles of rounds, or the mulch, or the equipment necessary for the transformation. She had plainly told me no. In my imagination, she’d shot the other receptionist a nervous look after I walked out.
Closed blinds, secrets, an uncanny proximity the naval weapons station, and an obscure past. I don’t like Clyde
“Excuse me, can I help you?”
“Oh I was just photographing this birdhouse.”
“I can see that, what makes you think you can photograph other people’s property without their permission?”
“There was a bird… in the birdhouse.”
“And what are your pictures for?”
“Just a photo project.”