Thursday, March 10, 2011
Random thoughts from the road:
Saturday, March 5, 2011
One of the things that has always amused me is the lengths to which some property owners will go to keep people out. They string barbed wire atop fences and walls and in the strangest places. Places you wouldn’t think would need to be secured from invaders—parking lots filled with motorized equipment that no one but an expert would even know how to drive, shitty vacant lots overgrown with weeds, buildings no self-respecting homeless person would deign to sleep in, yards filled with things so useless that stealing them would be doing the owner a favor.
While driving east on I-10 between Los Angeles and Palm Springs I look up at an overpass and happen to notice that strung around the sign for the next exit is a garland of concertina wire, invisible from a distance and just barely discernible as I speed under the bridge. The sign is suspended on a little metal platform, like a cup holder hung on the inside of a car window. I’m puzzled at first until it hits me that someone is trying to prevent people from spraying graffiti on the sign.
This, it strikes me, is an insult to the tenacity of any graffiti artist. If you’re determined to sneak out onto a little metal grate twenty feet above speeding traffic, probably in the middle of a dark night, carrying a can of Krylon with the intention of tagging a sign that says “Mountain View Ave. ¼ Mile,” you’ll think nothing of taking along a pair of wire cutters for the barbed wire.
Speaking as someone who’s spent a year and a half climbing with relative ease over barbed wire, I can tell you that it’s not a serious deterrent for a human being, at least not if you have the time and patience. As a topper to prison walls, I can see its effectiveness. There the key is to move fast and the wire will definitely slow you down. Not to mention the fact that you probably don’t have the right tools at your disposal. Around a highway sign suspended from a bridge I suppose the stringing of barbed wire isn’t supposed to be a deterrent so much as a way for the powers that be to say, in effect, “We know what you’re doing and we don’t want you to do it any more.” Just posting a note to that effect would be cheaper and no less ineffective.
Monday, March 7, 2011
Somewhere north of where I-10 passes Palm Springs, on California Route 247 cutting through the hills and the desert and a succession of tiny towns, I see a white industrial-sized dumpster. At one end someone has painted, “GOD IS #1.” To the nonbeliever such a sentiment is silly and irrelevant. To the believer it can't help but trivialize the omniscience and omnipotence of the creator. It invites you to imagine that God, over a long, sweaty and hard-fought season, has managed to reach the semi-finals and then the finals, edging out Mammon or Satan or some other tough opponent. Had God slipped on the court, or thrown for an interception, or walked in the winning run in the bottom of the ninth, God might not be #1 after all. He might have to retreat and lick his wounds and wait till next year, spending the off season at his home in Florida with his wife and kids. And there would be something really worth writing on the edge of a dumpster, or for that matter on a road sign on an overpass: “GOD IS #2.”