The genre flowed from the early work of Stephen Shore, especially his Amarillo postcards. The DNA of Robert Frank & Walker Evans is also evident. This early morning image of a Vegas parking garage begins as trite & trivial, but the approach outlined above elevates it to a decent shot. You might say that we can turn shit into sugar, so to speak. Carefully notice the composition, golden light, color, texture, and never overlook the funk.
Young Dave’s Lament—The True Untold Story of the Rusty Panamint Can
Jimmy Pro held the Jetta at steady 80,
speeding hard West.
Golden Hour Light beckoned as we hoped to
We raced to photograph a majestic mountain
Lady, but our full lizards prompted an early stop.
The High Sierras went on hold as we happily
squeezed out every last drop.
Jimmy saw it cocked sideways, half covered
by scrub mesquite.
We set it dead upright; the morning
sun lit it just neat.
I called out to Young Dave that this rust
Bucket might hold a million colorful stories…but
He blew me off in an instant, saying
“Hell yeah!”—his words were just noise.
But that pinged, rusty can was really a big treasure,
not just junk as Young Dave imagined.
For the grizzled old miner who once
toted it was bonafide desert legend!
Death Valley Sam started hauling borax
in ’99 with 20 leather tough mules who conquered the heat.
But when he found his first yellow eyeball
sized nugget, he realized gold was neat.
Rhyolite was home, a burgeoning ville
which featured a stock exchange and indoor tennis court.
Sam prospered big time by prospecting
hard on the desert floor as he pushed due North.
Kerosene was a staple, it provided light
His five gallon can was a fixture strapped
tightly to his truck, nothing more than a heap.
The gold ran slim by ‘09 and after.
Hauling borax now failed to satiate Sam
who could no longer find what he was really
His truck was found deserted outside
a seedy Rhyolite saloon.
The body was another mile out, dead stiff
under the pale desert moon.
How Sam’s rusty can came to be out in
the Panamint, we can never really know.
But it was crammed full of stories
from that exciting gold rush so very long ago.
I unscrew the rusty cap and listen
against the desert wind.
Sam’s strong, gravelly voice is
heard at last again.
Young Dave coughed up a hearty laugh
as I cupped my ear to the can.
He shouted out an inane obscenity and off
To the car he ran.
Sam’s voice held steady as gold
rush tales poured out.
Enough to fill my writer’s notebook,
and I didn’t even need a spout!
I turned in Sam’s gripping words to
fancy lit magazines scattered ‘round.
Dave’s cynical smirk later changed
a bit when my fat author’s check rolled in bound.
Now every time I drain my lizard in my
old shaking hand,
I picture Young Dave foolishly mocking Sam’s battered
can, amid the desert sand.
|Panamint Highway heading west to the High Sierras|