November 17th, 2005

caillebotte_man at his window

Looking At What I've Found

Something I enjoy about the Internet is that it brings me information which is of no importance and which I have no need to know, but which is nevertheless enjoyable to know. An example of this is the fact that I now know that, in 1944, Los Angeles held a small Armistice Day parade on November 13th, and that there was rain that day. Stumbling across this old newspaper photograph of the head of that parade marching up Broadway and crossing 7th Street pleased me beyond all reason. Some pictures, regardless of whether or not they have any aesthetic merit, are inherently evocative for me, and this is one of them.

Rain On the Parade Rain On the Parade

Rainy Broadway at 7th Street, Los Angeles, November 13th, 1944.

In part, this is the result of seeing depicted a place, which was to become very familiar to me, as it was before I ever saw it. In part, it is seeing depicted an ephemeral moment when all of history reached a particular congruence of individuals and objects, of pavement and walls and window displays, of light and raindrops, of rumbling motors and wafting exhaust fumes and unheard ticking of watches and clocks that moment and click! There it now is, as it no longer quite is, and I see, like a shimmering airborne reflection of the street's shimmering reflection of clouded light, all the thoughts in all those heads under all those wet umbrellas, an ethereal emanation which I know is drawn from my own imagination, but which I sense as being as palpable as those pavements under my feet where I walked in other years, overlaying the concrete sidewalks and polished trolley tracks and burdened stones and bricks of aging walls with my own perceptions, wearing away time as my shoes wore away the pavement, watching the slow tattering of shop awnings and quick sputter of nearly spent neon, the accumulation of grime and its dispersal by other passing storms, and the always vanishing crowd into which I would vanish.

The place is still there, little changed in all but content, like a theatre marquee on which the names are changed again and again, and yet also something more mysterious, like a yellowing page of text the meaning of which changes through annotations and subtle shifts of perception, and by words fading away to reveal other words beneath. All my thoughts are conjured from the past, layer upon layer, blurring like the reflections of dissolving moments that waver in wet streets, and destined to evaporate into the thirsty air of some dry day to come. Like the now nameless photographer who leaned from a window in November of 1944, I make a dim record of a single moment, depict a shade of a fragment, and send it out to become its own fragment. It feels like watching a parade pass and vanish behind a dispersing crowd.


In the east, Indian Summer is a period of mild weather that comes after the first frost. Here, autumn frosts are an extremely rare occurrence, so Indian Summer is any period in the fall when it gets warmer than it has recently been. We had a few chilly days a while back, so I guess that everything since has been Indian Summer. This afternoon, shirtless guys were out riding bikes and playing basketball while the streets were still paved with golden mounds of fallen pine needles. Now, I smell meat being barbecued. Shortest fall ever.

Venus was improbably bright this evening, and hanging around with some small star, which, bright enough to show before full darkness had arrived was actually quite large and brilliant, but seemed small next to the unwinking glare of the planet. They've both vanished behind the pines now, so I no longer get the feeling that a flying train is approaching when I look in that direction. The action has shifted to the east, where the moon is rising to flood the woodlands with light. I'm going out to watch it and enjoy the unexpected balminess. Had I known the night would be so warm, I'd have made some iced tea this afternoon.