Friday, May 15, 2009

Gateway to the West (and All That That Implies)

There are certain things you've seen pictures of a million times which, when you see them in person, are vaguely disappointing. And then there are things you've seen pictures of a million times which, when you see them in person, are way, way better than you ever thought. The Grand Canyon. The Great Wall of China. The Gateway Arch in Saint Louis.

As a monument it is a bit odd. Memorializing westward expansion strikes me as being in somewhat poor taste, since presumably one is then also memorializing the accompanying displacement of indigenous peoples. But right or wrong, the arch is certainly an unapologetic masterpiece of soaring mid century design.

If you wish to photograph the Arch from across the river, silhouetted by the setting sun, you must trespass on private railway property.

Let me ask you, what do you suppose the Alton and Southern Railway Police have to do with their time other than shoo away photographers? Given that I was surrounded by no fewer than three cop cars, I'd say "not much."

Officer Bradey was very polite. Friendly, even. He asked me what I was doing there, inspected my identification, and asked me a surprising array of personal questions, making a careful note after each answer.

"Any tattoos?"


"Any scars?"

Um... No.

"Are you currently employed?"


"I'm sorry to hear that."

And, as we were finally parting ways:

"OK Ben, sorry to keep you. Did you get some good pictures at least?"

You be the judge.

This is the first time that I've posted a panoramic photo, mostly because they display so poorly at small size. Click the photo to view full screen. When viewing full screen, double-click anywhere on the photo to zoom to that spot, or use the pan/zoom controls that will appear on the left.


  1. The "Are you currently employed?" question always bugged me, not so much because I worried about not making any money, but because of people's reactions if I said "No."

    Good thing I have a corporation of my own, so I can say yes no matter the current work situation.

  2. That panorama is gorgeous! Oh, and the display quality isn't bad small, you just can't see much of the detail. :)

    lol @ your scrape with the law.

  3. So you braved the fury of the railway, but didn't stop to photo the crazy giant tennis ball tree?
    Good photos, once again!
    - Chris

  4. Reminds me of my favorite answer I've heard you give a police officer to the question "what are you doing here?": "Ah, well, it's all so complex." I often give this answer to Jodi.

    You lied to the "police", I know you have at least one scar on your leg, and I'm the cause of it. Drafting, remember? ;p

  5. It's not a road trip until you've been stopped by the cops. But a night in jail would have been more impressive. :) Keep working on that one, ben. ;-)