Friday, June 28, 2013

Taking the Train from Fullerton to San Juan Capistrano: a Photo-Poem

I do not own a car, so I either ride my bike, walk, or take public transportation to get where I need to go.  Not having a car allows me to see the world from a different perspective.  When you walk or ride your bike or take a bus or train, you don't have the shield of your car--you have to interact directly with people.  Recently, I took the Amtrak train from Fullerton to San Juan Capistrano.  Taking the train through Orange County allows you to see things you don't get to see from a car: industrial buildings and waste, giant dirt fields, massive office parks.  It always reminds me a bit of T. S. Eliot's The Waste Land.  It is a part of our consumerist society that we aren't meant to see, and it is quite ugly.  On the way to San Juan Capistrano, I looked out the window and simply recorded in my notebook what I saw.  On the way home, I took lots of photographs.  What I have done here is combine the observations and the photos to create what I call a "photo-poem."  Enjoy and reflect:

The first stop is Angel Stadium, "The Big A"
The conductor says, "This stop for the Magic Kingdom."
Past the stadium, new construction,

industrial buildings, freeways,

the Santa Ana "river"

chain-linked fence with razor wire,
Parking lots filled with cars, cars, cars

Houses and apartments (the backs of them)

Acres of white and orange storage facilities

Lots of stucco
Power lines,
the rare orange tree.

Suburban homes of southeast Anaheim,
quiet streets, brick walls
McDonalds, Hometown Buffet
In the distance, the low "skyscrapers" of Orange County
dirt fields of unknown purpose

Next stop, Santa Ana,
the largest and most beautiful
of the OC train stations,
Spanish "Mission Revival" style
that is so popular here.

A man on crutches, wearing a bright orange t-shirt,
hobbles off the train.
A Latino man pushing a trash can.

A big old recycling center,
more public storage,
more fences and razor wire,
a burnt-down building like a black skeleton,
secretive unnamed industrial businesses
of unknown purpose,

tubing and rubber and metal of unknown purpose.

The distant train whistle,
Jack 'N the Box,
State Farm Insurance.
Lots of cars on the lots of various car dealerships.

Into Irvine,
those huge sterile square buildings,

industrial "parks" and then
track housing developments,
more expensive-looking.

More enormous dirt fields,
a veterinary cancer group,
Tustin station,
more tract housing
(these ones are brown, not gray)

Strawberry fields between cement walls and the train tracks,
stooped workers in the sun.
More stucco, tract housing,

more cement walls and brown fields,
a waste land.
A golf course, golfers golfing.

The color palate of industrial buildings is very limited.
More brown fields, low foothills in the distance,

Three Latino Cal Trans workers having lunch
in the bed of a pickup truck under a freeway overpass.

"Alright, ladies and gentlemen," the conductor says,
"We are now arriving in Irvine, lovely Irvine."
But these industrial buildings are not lovely.
There is a hint of irony in her voice.

The Irvine train station is the ugliest in Orange County.
Irvine is ugly ugly ugly
and wealthy wealthy wealthy
"Last opportunity to witness the wonders
of the jewel of suburbia, Irvine."

Next stop, San Juan Capistrano.
Cars, dirt fields, roads, desolation, scorched earth.
What are these fields?
What used to grow here?
Will it ever grow again?

These transplanted trees feel artificial,
a mask to cover a cold and 
empty landscape.
What is happening inside these
square industrial buildings?

Into San Juan Capistrano,
a mobile home park,
cement walls, transplanted trees,

dirt, brown, Spanish tiles, 
a lone cactus, nopal,
Quality Self Storage,

apartment complexes like housing projects,
another golf course, golfers golfing
cement, dirt, an empty public park,
hints of coastal sage scrub,
Outback Steak House,

past the last orange grove,
the trees dying,
some already dead,
like skeleton trees.

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