When traveling in a new place, I’m drawn to the backgrounds, the negative spaces, the tapestries of color and texture that exist just behind the people and cars and advertisements and graffiti. That background is what differentiates one place from another; it’s what makes a place a place. But it can be hard to photograph [well] because there’s all that other stuff in the way. And I didn’t have the weeks or months, let alone days, to immerse myself in the buzzing energy of Oaxaca enough to anticipate those moments of perfect urban composition.
As luck would have it, I stumbled upon a handy conceit. I was struck by how many Volkswagen Beetles were plying the cobblestone streets of the old city. So I took a photo of one or two—I love the juxtaposition of an old car against an interesting facade. I found that the familiar and graceful shape of the Beetle was a convenient foil for my true intention—to capture something of the place behind it. So what started out as a whim, turned into a sport, and I began walking the streets of old Oaxaca intent on collecting Beetles in their natural habitat.
From the front it looked like I was just wearing a plain green t-shirt and shorts, so people would invariably ask, “And what are you?” That was my cue to lay down on the floor and wait for the moment of recognition. Actually got a few good laughs out of it. I loved it when someone said, “Oh, you’re The Wiggle!” (For those who don’t live in San Francisco, these “sharrows” are starting to pop up along the major bike routes all over town.)
Living in the Mission, working in Union Square, and bicycling between the two means I get to work in about 12 minutes. I’m pretty sure it’s the fastest commute I’ve ever had, and it’d probably be even faster if it weren’t for all. those. lights. I’m kind of glad I don’t have gears, or I’d be even more annoyed by the reds slowing me down.
My route is also pretty flat, so the only thing that really gets my heart beating is the occasional, inconsiderate driver forcing me to sound my barbaric YAWP. Which is not much of a workout. I pedal occasionally, I coast frequently. Bikes are great for that. But I can tell that I’m not exerting anywhere near the level of effort of my one-time, 30 minute walk to work.
Lately I’ve been joking with friends that I actually need to lengthen my afternoon commute in order to break a sweat. So today I did that. And I think I’m going to keep doing that every day going forward. Not only did the new route double the mileage of my morning commute, but it turned out to be a nicer ride, with longer stretches between lights. Plus, I like that the entire day’s commute forms a loop.
One of my favorite “car photos” is the Pink VW Cabrio on Pine Street, so I was delighted to stumble upon the pink Golf once again on my way home from work yesterday. I smile whenever I see it around town.