Los Angeles is experiencing a heat wave this weekend and I had a great photo for you. It was about the heat, old and new, young and old, perseverance and faith in the City of the Angels. I've decided not to use it, but I can tell you about it.
I was sitting at a red light in the valley, late on Saturday afternoon. Despite the late hour, it was still 100 degrees. I was low on gas so the air conditioner was off and the windows were rolled down. The baking heat roiled around the car, the breeze brought dust and car exhaust through the windows. That's when I saw him.
He was standing steadfast and straight, his back a perfect straight line. And you could tell by the way the sun was shining low in the sky, the knap on the fabric of his long black coat was perfectly smooth. His belt cut across his trim figure at a clean right angle. His head held up as if standing before God Himself with a clear conscience. The hat he was wearing made him look ten feet tall. For a second, he could have been a statue of Abraham Lincoln As he stood perfectly still waiting for the light to change there wasn't a clue in his demeanor that is was sweltering out, not a hint of submission to the heat.
My son summed it up this way: "That's hard core, man". [i.e., he was impressed.]
There are a few Jewish temples near me. So as I'm out and about I'll see groups of people walking to temple. Although I was raised in a different faith, I find it somehow comforting to see that someone, somewhere is still keeping the faith. Never giving up. Doing it the old way. Reaching for the Devine despite everything. And, I gotta tell you, this old City of the Angels could use all the prayers it can get some days.
Then I saw her. Across the street at the other corner was a woman jogger, dripping with sweat, wearing shorts and a sticky t-shirt. It was too hot to jog in place. She was wearing headphones and her pony tail was half-heartedly stirring in the breeze. It was such a great slice of LA. Two polar opposites happily going on about their lives in peace. Her the modern world figure, dripping with fatigue and sweat, him representing the old world, regardless of the date or the temperature, cool as a cucumber.
So I took the photo.
He was walking across the street by this time, towards the woman. My son continued with his amazement; "That's bad-ass, man."
"Yes, it is," I replied. "good for him."
"He doesn't have to dress like that. He could loosen a button or something, nobody would know."
"But he would know."
He would know, and maybe as a result he wouldn't be standing with his head held quite so straight either. This is something between him and God.
So my photo is of him walking, and her trying to stand. I've done some research, I read about the photographer in New York who was sued over a street photo of an Orthodox Jew. My shot was from far away, you couldn't distinguish either face. It was more their silhouettes. It was a photo in a public place. So on most accounts I think I would have been legally in the clear. But what changed my mind was a discussion here http://photo.net/bboard/q-and-a-fetch-msg?msg_id=00ESM4 where someone noted that since it was the Sabbath, no one would be taking photos.
A friend of mine looked at it too. I told her about my research, we discussed the legal implications. She said that he may dress like that every day, so no one would know I took it on the Sabbath. But I would know.
So instead I've hopefully painted a better picture for you in your mind. One about old and new living in peace with each other. Given you a little hope that sometimes we all can get along. And let you know that someone, somewhere is still keeping the faith in the City of the Angels.