From the Graphics Editor: THE NIGHT OF THE TERRIFYING TRANSITION
From the Graphics Editor:
THE NIGHT OF THE TERRIFYING TRANSITION
There is a beautiful section south of Los Angeles Inernational Airport that comprises a number of communities collectively referred to as South Bay. This is the area I'm moving to, and as you read this, I will have already started a new job where I will make my home for the forseeable future. In fact, if you check out the local beach webcam at http://www.eatgoodstuff.com/strandcam, perhaps you'll see me jog by in the early morning or late evening from time to time. You may well see me near the ocean, but you'll never see me in it voluntarily -- there's just too much "life" in that water for my taste. I'm more than content to walk or jog along the wet, flat sand that separates the current tide from the dry sand. Over the years while on travel to this area off and on, I've seen sea lions napping on the coast, whales migrating north and south, porpoises at play, numerous shore birds racing the waves in and out while searching for dinner, and pelicans (they look eerily like pteradactyls in flight) fishing.
Hermosa Beach is an area I fell in love with years ago. It's a quiet, eclectic little beach community barely one square mile in size. Time seems to have stopped here in 1950-something in many respects. The architecture is mixed but for an Art Deco junkie like myself, there's plenty of that around. Unlike the surrounding sibling Redondo Beach, there is much less a commercial feel here. And although it's costly, Hermosa is not nearly as excruciatingly expensive as its big sister to the north, Manhattan Beach.
But all three Beach Communities have something in common. There is a concrete strip that separates the ocean and sand on the west from the start of civilisation on the east. This few-foot-wide strip runs through these communities for a few miles and it's called The Strand. Popular with walkers, joggers, cyclists, roller bladers, and surfers, it is abutted by many fabulous and modest homes and businesses on its eastern border.
On the west of the Strand are numerous cut-outs that allow access to the beach proper, as well as to the few piers that defiantly stretch out over the water. One of these cut-outs was placed in Hermosa Beach a few years ago. It is an inviting little spot which houses a fountain for the thirsty, a bench for the weary, and a parking spot or two for the pausing cyclist.
This little spot is much more than a rest stop. It's a memorial to the crew of the Space Shuttle Challenger in general, and to Hermosa Beach's own Greg Jarvis in particular.
This memorial is particularly close to my heart, since my primary work in the last few years has been with the space programme. Last year we launched a space telescope, Chandra, that was carried on the space shuttle (scope out the latest pics on http://chandra.harvard.edu). I was one of many ground operations personnel, headset on and eyes focused on the consoles, watching and waiting for launch and deployment. During the launch I learned that a person can indeed hold his or her breath for quite a long time. As the shuttle roared into space I kept thinking "Go, go, go," while every moment remembering what happned in 1986 to the Challenger crew.
Seeing the plaque that is placed here, reading the words, and taking in the vast, unyielding ocean facing the visitor, one is reminded that real life heroes do indeed rise and fall, and unlike on XENA, they don't come back.
Indeed, in the calm and peaceful setting of the beach, the reassuring constancy of the ocean waves, and the unkown frontier of the water itself and what lies beneath it, one is simultaneously filled with hopes and dreams for the future, the reality of the present, and the recognition of mortality, not only for the fallen heroes whose names are etched in this resting place, but also for ourselves and what we might become, what we are, and what we have been.
At times like this, television seems very small and unimportant, and even less important is the bickering, infighting, and petty squabbles that erupt on the Internet.
Rather than get locked in to a routine of four walls and a computer screen, it might be better to get out into the world for a bit, breathe some clear air, see nature up close and personal, and when you do return to your entertainment programmes, try instead to take something positive away with you that speaks to you, encourages you, inspires you.
And if it fails to do that, keep your fond memories and look for something else.
24 March 2000