March 28, 2008

Westside Story

Highway 33

Highway 33

Derrick Avenue, The Coalinga-Mendota Road, Highway 33, Utica Avenue, Highway 99, The Stockdale Highway, Buck Owens Boulevard, Coalinga, Avenal, the Lost Hills, Kettleman Hills, McKittrick, Taft, Maricopa, Oildale, Weedpatch... Bakersfield, again.

In the Lost Hills area you drive for miles along rural two-lane blacktops through surreal treeless landscapes of rounded near-desert hills scarred by pipes, pale tanks, rutted tracks and the usual rusted twisted junk strewn around forests of nodding donkey pumpjacks, a stinging smell of burning. Everywhere, driven dust, tumbleweeds, pale willy-willies against the haze, and mountains looming in the murk just off stage. Everything natural in this harsh hard-edged landscape is in soft subdued pastels; everything else glints or flexes in bright colours or black. This landscape defeats my attempts to photograph it; it'd work much better as video shot from a truck.

At Vons on the Stockdale Highway, there's a bunch of "Jindabyne" DVDs on special near the checkstand. Outside in the parking lot, huge dark-painted SUVs and pickups with tinted windows, ostentatious crosses, Raiders logos, assault stereos, raised suspensions and oversized tires, "Jesus would bomb the Cr*p out of the Iraqis, That's what He'd do" stickers; what did I expect?

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