Friday, July 17, 2015

That Water Movin' Underneath the Bridge

I know it's a cliché to think of your own life as a whirling tempest of "en passant" events. We all think that things pass too quickly, but of course it's only when you're a bit older that it really starts to make sense, and by then so much time has already gone by. Every time I hear the CSN&Y song Wasted on the Way - it pops up all the time on XM Radio's "the Bridge" channel -- meant for sixty-somethings who are caught in this thought provoking place -- I imagine that the song was written for me. Amazingly, the song was written by Graham Nash at the tender age of 40 (though let's face it, who else amongst us had an affair with Joni Mitchell by that age) and yet resounds with the kind of reflection which I have only begun to understand the last 5 or so years. 

dawn breaks as Apollo XI is bathed in kleig lights

"And there's so much time to make up everywhere you turn
Time we have wasted on the way
So much water moving underneath the bridge
Let the water come and carry us away" 

thousands shield their eyes as the Saturn V takes off into the sun
-- is one of those reminders that not only do the moments feel a need to pass us by, but that if you want to take note of those things in your life, you damned well better pay attention. There may be the occasional "2nd chance" in life, but for the most part, don't let the grass grow under your tootsies. It's all gone too, too soon. Just yesterday I was reflecting on the total impossiiblity that 46 (that would be forty plus six) years ago, I'd been camped out on the beach at Titusville, Florida, with about a million of my closest friends, awaiting with that combination of trepidation and excitement, the launch of the behemoth Saturn V rocket which would take the Apollo XI astronauts to the moon, land ON it, launch themselves back into lunar orbit, and then come home.

I wasn't going to photograph the crowds alone, having come all this way to see the launch, and not SEE it. I turned around as the Saturn V cleared the tower, and made a few frames
My assignment (the one I'd sold to the TIME picture editor, so he'd pay for my trip) was to photograph the throngs of ordinary folk, without Press pass, without VIP pass, who assembled on the beach to watch the launch.  A reminder that when you are in front of a million people, it pays to turn around and look behind you. 

When I received a letter, 40 years later, from one of the subjects in my picture (Published in SMITHSONIAN Magazine) asking for a picture, I wrote back to him saying "if you're in MY picture, maybe I'm in YOUR picture" and sure enough, he found the negative he'd shot 40 years before, and there I was, in my ever-present white jeans, along side Jean Pierre Laffont (who was smart enough to bring a ladder), watching the the launch as a helicopter flew by.
And of course this momentous launch was done in a space craft, state of the art for the time, but whose computing power was probably less than a new iPhone 6. We become so engrossed in the minutae of life (let's be honest, how many of those texts or emails that zombie-like pedestrians read in a trance as they transit a crosswalk actually are of any importance in their lives?) that we miss the real things that count. Friendship, love, a great read, and a cup of steaming gen-mai cha. Don't miss the boat. You just never know when the next Saturn V will lift off.  We're just sayin'... David

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