It Caught My Eye: Under The Bridge


(click to enlarge the two-frame pano for better legibility)

As found this morning on the Ballona Creek Bikeway under Overland Avenue on my commute to work — and mere moments before the almost ever-present and duly diligent Culver City graffiti abatement crewmember began painting it out.

“Not your average tag,” I said to him after dismounting, and with several quick shots of compressed air through his sprayer’s nozzle he smiled and nodded in agreement. I attempted to capture the statement in a single snap, but stepping backward I ended up pressed up against the bridge support with only “I’m a human being God damn it. My life has” fitting into the frame. “Value” was out of reach… wide right.

Is it ironic to proclaim one’s worth in so worthless a manner; to present such lofty sentiment from the dank shadows beneath the surface; to argue such an ideal in so not idyllic a place? Or is the greater irony found in the validation that comes from bringing this truth up from where it now lies buried under a layer of fresh cover-up paint for the rest of us to see?

14 Replies to “It Caught My Eye: Under The Bridge”

  1. Will, that’s a quote from the classic 1976 movie “Network”, penned by the brilliant late Paddy Chayefsky. The character of Howard Beale (Peter Finch) utters those lines as part of his “I’m mad as hell and not gonna take it anymore” speech.

  2. yep rodger, you beat me to it. i might add that it’s an ironic statement on it’s own – that is to say, irrespective of it’s location.

  3. I’m your go-to guy for classic 70s movies, Will, just about the only decade since 1950 worth paying attention to for revolutionary leaps in the advancement of American film as a story-telling medium:

    “Patton”
    “Five Easy Pieces”
    “Carnal Knowledge”
    “Network”
    “The Hospital”
    “Fat City”
    “Chinatown”
    “One Flew Over the Cuckooo’s Nest”
    “Dog Day Afternoon”
    “Shampoo”
    “M*A*S*H”

    Oh, the list could go on and on.

  4. Will, if in your cycling adventures around town you pass a bank and there’s a dark-haired man out front in a white dress shirt chanting “Attica! Attica! Attica!”, just keep moving.

  5. I can understand the need to remove graffiti but that statement seems less ‘pollution’ and more civic comment. I know the people in charge of removing graffiti are not allowed to discriminate, but I think we could all benefit from being reminded of such statements.
    On the other hand, in the south of France, there is so little graffiti that I have seen political statements left up for years (the French have probably decided it is a matter of free speech and since it’s not a frequeent occurance, not worthy of official notice). The one I remember is a quote from Jose Bove (anti-OGM/modified foods,e tc) “Le monde n’est pas une marchandise”–The world is not a commodity.
    Rather than seeing it as graffiti, when I drive by (it’s along a major highway, across the river) I regard it as a good reminder and old friend.
    I wonder if anyone has done a study about taggers–if their actions are consciously anti-social or if they in their own limited ways are trying to say that they are a person, an individual also…

  6. “Is it ironic to proclaim one’s worth in so worthless a manner; to present such lofty sentiment from the dank shadows beneath the surface; to argue such an ideal in so not idyllic a place?”

    The whole thing was eerie and thought provoking. I don’t think it is a worthless effort, it almost shrieks last act of desperation. I knew it was a movie line before roger chimed in, but the whole media chosen and placement is provoking. Better than some tagging crew just pissing around marking territory this one.

  7. Considering that the speech Chayefsky wrote for Howard Beale addressed the feelings of hopelessness that Americans were experiencing at that time, yes, it was a well-chosen piece of text. We will see a lot of this kind of sentiment and discontent as the economy goes further in the tank and even more millions lose their jobs and homes. Those Wall Street bailouts did more to sew discontent in this nation than the Iraq and Afghanistan wars put together.

  8. my first impression was that it was a statement made by, or w/regard to, the homeless that “nest” on the narrow flat space at the top of the slope at the underpass; such as the one along LA river path, just south of fletcher. i hadn’t noticed them there before and, at first they startled me; all lined up precariously against the wall – like anonymous grey cocoons, i thought. i wished for their metamorphosis and emergence as beautiful winged souls – human beings with reason for hope and a better existence.

  9. Hi Crunchy… What a beautiful sentiment!

    Under this particular bridge I’ve seen the occasional homeless persons there in the past year, but more often of late there is some posse of kids/students from the nearby high school who congregate under there or down by the creek’s edge.

  10. It will never be a worthless sentiment, and especially in the context that it has been immortalized here, in your photography. Thank you, Will Campbell, for saving a vision that maybe only a few would have seen.

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