Sunset memories



Sunset just wasn’t sunset in LA after the do-gooder whole earthers got to fiddle with it for half a century.

Which was why I sit here on this hill side waiting for my chance to grab it.

Dusk settles into the valley as I adjust my lens, a creeping dark that fills each crevice like a fog with occasional street lamps glittering and the shimmer of the last gleams of sunlight off the bulk of a building just above.

Such moments are rare, even in a city like LA that once boasted a reputation for smog, people suffering while above them glorious sunsets reined.

I have seen old photographs from the time and still envy those whose fingers snapped the shot, those distant strangers unaware of just how extinct those moments would become to generations like mine.

Only when natural weather patterns cooperate, when a storm surges towards the coast, or away from it, can we even see a shadow of what once was.

I am locked into a drudgery of news photography, of grand openings, close elections and noteworthy funerals, while aching deep down to catch one special moment of sunset in my lens.

I wait, watching the head lamps of a handful of permitted vehicles stream through the valley darkness like creatures from another planet – on some official function ordinary people are denied.

Yes, in the more remote hills, reckless youth still indulge, their roaring hot rods defying the environmental police, and risking thousands of hours of community service as punishment.

Maybe I miss the point, preferring the old imperfect world to this pristine test tube in which our lives are now lived.

Maybe that sunset means more to mean than having to breathe so hard to climb so high so as to take its picture.

Each time I try, something goes wrong.

Once, when I had the perfect sunset framed inside my viewer, my camera failed.

Now I have four cameras hooked up to single switch, waiting for the moment when the sun and earth kiss, and the sky explodes with their love making.

Yet even as I wait, I am aware of a single set of head lamps rising out of the dark, a dark snail with glowing eyes sniffing out the twisted trail I have taken to reach my pinnacle.

As much as I wish to watch the sunset develop, I watch the snail instead, knowing its lamps search out my track.

I keep staring at it, growing blinder as its beams search me out.

I cannot feel the chip in my responding to its call, but I know it responds know that my name and occupation, my criminal history, my life in whole is now in the hands of those inside the vehicles.

“You!” the official voice says, filling my head as if a product of my own thinking. “What are you doing here?”

“Taking a picture,” I respond, speaking and thinking it, knowing they cannot hear my weak voice.

“Of what?” they ask, their computers already calling up all possible terrorist targets within the range of my lens.

“Of sunset,” I say and think.

“This is not a permitted use under your journalistic license,” they say as the sunset I sought winks out, leaving me and the police machine in growing darkness. “Please keep your hands where we can see them. You are under arrest.”


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