Sunday, August 26, 2012


I am standing on a cold cement sidewalk in the massive shadow of a freeway overpass.  It is daylight and the sky is blue, but from where I stand, the wind has a biting chill.  There are multiple cement ramps high overhead, roads in the sky held up by thick round columns that delve deep into the earth.  Not a bit of sunlight makes it past the four overpasses that from my vantage point, seem to be stacked upon each other.  
The sidewalk reverberates with the thousands of cars driving overhead, coming into me through the sole of my shoes and then up through my legs, venturing further within. The sound of the combined motors, all swooshing and speeding so high above is like a mechanized river, sometimes fading in and out with strength, but never ceasing. 
On the street in front of me, shadowed too by the freeway overpasses above, is a white car.  It is the kind of vehicle used for commercial purposes.  The kind with tools and extra seats for capable men and a spot for a water cooler in the back.  It is a new, still shiny, clean and white, baring none of the scratches of a well-worn vehicle. 
There are a dozen police milling around the vehicle.  Some have climbed into it, pulling open the screwed in seats.  Others look through the dozens of compartments along the sides, pulling out tools, inspecting them, holding up greasy bottles to the light. 
Inside the car I can see a brown skinned man crouched in the compartment below where a seat cushion would have hidden him. The vinyl seat is still in a police officer’s hand as he shouts orders. The man is wearing jeans and a white t-shirt.  He remains in the fetal position he had been in as the shelter is revealed, stunned, blinking at the new source of light.  Several Latin men are already on the sidewalk, laying flat against the ground, their arms handcuffed behind their backs.
The cops' voices are loud and harsh.  The motors of the half dozen police cars are still running, their lights are on, the bright colors of their screaming sirens diffuse into the day. The smell of car exhaust is strong, unchanging despite the steady breeze.
People in business suits walk by the scene undisturbed.  Most give only a passing glance to the white commercial vehicle and its occupants. Women in gray dresses and lipstick, men carrying briefcases and sacks of takeout from nearby restaurants.  Barely a glance at the scene. A breeze blows past me, sending chills over my sandaled feet. The chill rises, finding my chest. 
The police men are pale and distant, uncaring in this bust spawned only by human need.  Their bodies are big and covered in muscle, covered once again by thin blue fabric.  Their guns are black, somehow glistening even in the shade of the multiple freeways overhead. 
My white skirt blows in the wind, tempting my calves with a delicate touch.  I am cold, standing in the shade of a thousand moving cars.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Yellow Hills

The six lane highway is sandwiched between two hillsides whose peaks angle away from each other, creating the illusion that I am driving through a long bowl with only two sides.  The earth angles smoothly upwards, symmetrically but in opposite directions towards the peaks one hundred feet high.  The hills seem perfectly aligned, cut from the earth for this long highway that takes no turns or deviations.  It is a straight line to the mountains, hidden now by angry clouds.  And though man has tried for symmetry, nature has taken over once again, bringing chaos into the optimistic order of carefully designed things. 

The hills are blooming brightly with wild mustard plants that reach five feet in the air.  They wave in the wind, bending easily on their thin stalks. The yellow blossoms are like an electric lamp blaring loudly into the midday sky.  They cover the hills in a dense world of vibrating yellow, painting a nearly perfect blanket of uniform color, a pattern changing with each new breathy gust.  Moving not in unison, but in a myriad of shapes and directions that change continuously, rapidly, leaving not a moment for reflection.

Ahead is a gray sky. It is dark and verging towards black, just one step from madness. Huge puffs of water filled clouds hang overhead, threatening with their very color.  Towards the right, to the horizon in the east, the clouds are bubbly and pale gray. I can see one small patch of blue fighting through a thick blanket, another color adding to the living palette.

On the right side of the highway, at the base of the hillside, are the plastic orange cones and metal road signs of imminent construction, though not a soul in a hardhat walks beyond the temporary cement barricade that separates the road from the construction zone. Piles of stacked lumber lay waiting, sitting beside metal bound packets of rebar and thin poles, themselves wrapped in sheets of thick plastic wrapping.  Small peaks of sand and dirt wait for use below blue plastic tarps, the edges flapping just slightly in the wind

I stare out though the slightly dirty windshield. The contrasting colors of the world losing no brilliance despite the thin gauze of accumulated dust and orange splattered innards of unfortunate bugs.  I avoid turning my head, but through peripheral vision I see the red, black and white of passing cars beside the windows.