On my eighth birthday my mom made me a Ghostbusters themed cake. On Saturday I turned 31 and something else spooky happened.
This year as a present to myself I turned off my phone and my BlackBerry. I turned off my computer. I didn’t check email. I completely disconnected. Several years have passed since the last time I had a day where I was completely unreachable. As wonderful as it was, I may have to make this a more frequent (perhaps monthly) occurrence. I know some people might find the thought of being without their iPhones or CrackBerries flat out frightening, but seriously, I found it delightful. It might surprise you how much more clearly you can think and focus yourself without the distractions. I highly recommend the experience.
Anyway, the spooky stuff…
Early in the morning, very much pre-dawn, I tossed my camera and tripod in the truck and headed west. The whole point of my “Day of No Distractions” was to clear my head do a little thinking and reflecting on the last year, and perhaps set a goal or two for this year. I find both driving and photography to help put me in that relaxed, meditative state of mind (especially when I’m able to get away from the city), so hitting the road in search of scenic locations is a little like doubling up on Nirvana for me.
Also, I know it’s super nerdy, but I was hoping to be able to take a picture at 3:51am, the exact time of my birth (adjusting for the shift from Eastern to Central time) — the moment I turned 31. I did it last year when I turned 30, and I was hoping to make it a tradition.
That was the plan, anyway.
I got away from the interstate when I got to Weatherford, and took Highway 180 towards Palo Pinto county. I hung a left on a state road that twists and turns its way through the dips and dives of the Brazos River valley. Another turn took me across a causeway, and eventually I found myself on a pitch dark county road in the middle of nowhere. At this point I was about 10 miles from the nearest ghost town.
Despite thoroughly enjoying the drive, I found it a bit disheartening that I couldn’t find jack squat worth trying to photograph. With the moon spending most of its time hiding behind clouds straight out of a vintage Scooby Doo cartoon, it was just too dark to shoot anything out there, even with long exposures.
I looked at the clock on my dashboard and grumbled something uncouth as the digits clicked over to the moment I’d been waiting for, and the only sight out of the windshield was pitch black.
Then, as if on cue, a brown “Historical Marker Ahead” road sign popped out of the darkness and into the path of my headlights.
Now, for those of you who live elsewhere, you have to understand that there are over 13,000 Historical Markers in Texas. They mark everything from the Alamo to “this field is only a few miles from a place where a guy ran a trading post for a few weeks in the 1850s before moving a few miles further down the trail where there was a creek with fresh water.” The vast majority of these signs are more like the second example than the first. So the odds of there actually being anything worth shooting at this marker were, quite frankly, pretty freaking slim.
But it was all I had, and the timing seemed almost providential.
I skidded the truck to a stop in the gravel in front of the sign and realized it was so dark I couldn’t even read the damn thing.
So I grabbed my camera, turned on the flash, and took a picture just to figure out what was too dark see. I blew up the image on LCD, and the first line creeped me the heck out.
So here I am, at the very moment of the anniversary of my birth, staring at a marker in the middle of nowhere that memorializes a guy born on my birthday.
I’m just struck by the eeriness of that first picture I took of the marker, though. That blue glow is probably just an odd, errant reflection of the lights on my dashboard. Although I had the window rolled down so I’m not sure what could be casting the reflection…
… it very well may be the ghost of Mr. Whipple reminding me not to squeeze the Charmin.