March 12, 2014

Nervous Breakdown Autopista

Finding beauty in the ugly

I was driving my five year old son, Gabriel, to a birthday party outside the city. There was torrential rain, accompanied by sheet and forked lightning. The windscreen wipers were overrun by the downpour, and still the cars and lorries passed by us on both sides of the motorway. I knew I would miss the turning, and sure enough I did. Never mind – push on some distance to find an exit to return back towards where we had come from, I glanced to the south bound carriage and saw a car overturned and prostrate somewhere near the central reservation of the ‘Autopista’. I knew it was going to be bad.

The police arrived before us and shut down all three lanes heading in our direction. We were stuck, so amid the frustration and the nagging sensation that I should have listened to my inner voice that had told me not to venture out in a Bogotá thunderstorm, there was nothing to do but switch the engine off and play I Spy with my son. It was perhaps 30 minutes later that the traffic began to rumble again in to life, like a giant convoy of disgruntled tired dinosaurs. The only problem: my car, or more accurately my father in law’s blue Honda Civic, refuses to start. I had left the headlights on. The rain pours down, and the trucks and cars begin their symphony of klaxons as we stay stranded in the middle lane.

As the traffic starts to flow faster I fear for our safety, and sure enough a bus passes us on the inside at speed and with the merest of touches, tears off a small piece of bumper. At a clear moment I take a risk, jump out in to the rain and push the car towards the hard shoulder. A friend arrives to deliver my son to his house, as I sit while the light goes from concrete gray to black, waiting for help to arrive in the form of a mechanic. Perhaps an hour later I remember I have a smart phone, and that it has a camera. I truly dislike this phone, and find it practically impossible to use on a daily basis. Eventually I while away a few minutes pointing the phone through the steamed up windows, until someone arrives to jump start the car in a matter of seconds. Once home I pour Gabriel in to his bed, and myself in to a glass of red wine.

I download the images from the phone and fiddle around with them in the form of an edit, using music from my archive that reflected my mood. It’s nothing much – a couple of minutes of low resolution images put to music, but it’s transformational. A situation full of frustration, resignation and somberness, is turned in to something that is vaguely creative – something positive. It was a reminder, if I needed reminding, that in the ugliest of things you can find beauty, and if you are lucky, the most trying of situations can be a source of creativity.

Images and edit by Laurie Castelli (shot on a smart phone).

Music: Northern Light by Line Adam