Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Endeavour

I press the final button and our tickets for the California Science Center's Endeavour exhibit are booked. These last few days have been the culmination of such a truly historical event and whilst the TV coverage may have dominated our screens, the experience of actually being there has truly dominated my heart.

I think back to the last month's achievements in photography, racing through them with such a zest and explosion of creativity in my head as must partly have been fuelled by the experience, just as the many previous huge historical events that I have witnessed first hand before have recharged me. To be a creative requires input or else my soul becomes depleted, and for me that creativity has always been born from experience rather than emulation.

I'm picked up by my pal Erick and Sara, fellow photographers after my morning shoots, brandishing our gear about our persons, my weakly flickering batteries, relishing the sight of roadblocks and downed traffic lights,  a cultural explosion that is happening on the streets. Our pace slows at a dawdler's pace when we chat and photograph the locals, the wagons filling the area with the smell of chili and burgers. Every sense is thus awakened, an arresting feast of sights, sounds, smells, tastes and touch of the shutter, with no urgency in our steps to thwart it. This is the historic Martin Luther King Blvd where a cluster of pines planted in its namesake's honour have been zigzagged with complex precision to aid their historical preservation. The navigators make necessary last minute trims to the leafy suburbs, the still proudly standing saved trees punctuated with the bitter stumps of their gigantic slain rivals.

Many hours later after the boys have joined us at sunset, the endless false alarms of anticipation behind us, heads stretch to their limits above the crowd in their 10,000s, boys on shoulders, Erick giving me a lift up to grab a shot, suddenly the Endeavour appears glowing ahead of us. At first the tower of its soaring tail, to jubilant cries from the throbbing crowd, the space directly above us filled with the lights from countless phones and cameras adding to the drama of lights. In the time it has taken from the end of the boulevard where we first spot it to its arrival at Freedom Square, creeping at a rocketing 2mph pace both mocking and juxtaposing its history, the light has changed from twilight to night. Luminous white tiles only serve to heighten the Close Encountersesque moment, set to the majestical Star Wars theme tune, swaying with the spectators eagerly awaiting its arrival. Yet there is not sadness at its pace; it merely exacerbates the dominance of the environment, builds the crowd to such crescendo.

My heart swells with excitement to be witnessing this entire spectacle of a journey from that awe inspiring day in September when the Shuttle landed, the dust cloud from impact right before my eyes as I waited by the runway, experiencing its final ever days in flight, that symbolism not being lost on me, through its journey through our neighborhoods and soon the day it will be permanently retired. 

Yet what is it that has so enchanted the city, the nation and the wider world watching from TV sets? Is it not the testament to human endeavour on every level, something which could never have been predicted but a century ago, coupled with the shear arrogance of a space shuttle barging its way through the streets of Los Angeles which were clearly not designed for its path.

Or is that this gigantic bulk has taken on the statute of life, humanized, yet at the same time, managing to have the persona of something so utterly ethereal, at times humorous, others awkward, but overwhelming majestic in its strength, its dominance of street life, and how truly awe inspiring the shuttle is as a great feat of human engineering. That is something we surely all can marvel at.

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