Sunday, March 1, 2009
Feed Your Head
It's probably not a wise idea to grab for one's camera while driving at 65 MPH across the Dumbarton Bridge at twilight, but I couldn't resist that numinous Pacific sky. And now it occurs to me that my impulse to take a picture was informed by that shot of the Port Arthur bridge, which I posted with Jericho Brown's "Track 5" a few days ago. I've been reading Lawrence Weschler's Everything That Rises: A Book of Convergences which makes the makes the case that Joel Myerowitz's photographs of the World Trade Center site are informed by the paintings of Vermeer, Bierstadt, and Rembrandt. So there you have it: the shot of the Texas bridge is no Piranesi, but I must have been holding its image in my head when I felt the need to balance the camera on the steering wheel. I love what that suggests about the imaginative impulse: a (sometimes inadvertent) conversation with another piece. Spark to spark. Fire to fire.
Anyway, I've been thinking a lot about Palo Alto, especially now that we'll be back in New York in a few weeks. It's curious that a place with so many beautiful houses, so many beautiful redwoods, so many cars with all the right bumper stickers might not be the best place to get writing done--why should that be? I pull out my notebook here, and it feels like homework. I pull out my notebook in San Francisco, and my imagination's back--even when I'm sitting on the chairs outside the shopping center on Market Street, hunkered beside the tower of the huge Safeway sign. I don't exactly get it, but now I understand why all the Stegners live in San Francisco and Oakland. What's not to like? I still think that as I walk down the street here. And all the Eichler houses--there are more Eichlers in Palo Alto than in any other town, over 2200, and anyone who's read any of this blog knows how much those houses stir up my latent Famous Builder fantasies. And yet? And yet?
So I walked into the Whole Foods down the street last night and what should be playing but Jefferson Airplane's "White Rabbit." Irony upon irony. Grace Slick, former Palo Alto resident-outsider. Once transgressive song recast as reassuring wallpaper. Pro-chemical anthem in natural foods emporium. And I lifted the spoon for a sample of organic raspberries....