Telephone Poles and I

Go way back to the day when I was a kid living in Monterey Park, a suburb of Los Angeles, when my dad, one beautiful afternoon, took out his dad’s paint box and painted a watercolor of the telephone pole that stood tall and proud, like the tree it once was, on the hill behind our backyard. That painting has been missing for as long as I can remember but I’ll never forget what it looked like. Simple, straight forward, a little amateurish but somehow haunting, I attribute my continuing fascination of telephone poles to that early watercolor.

Of course now, they have taken on a lot more meaning for me. The contrast of yesterday’s old technology to today’s new, wireless technology is profound. The clear connection between each house, each pole and every other house literally underscores, for me, how we are all in this world together as a community. The knitting together of our world with a tangle of high wires is, in my mind, bittersweet. As much as I like looking at the stark, naked poles, with their wires and transformers, I ultimately prefer they were underground so the sky and vistas were uninterrupted. As I write this, I realize I am of two minds about them. I like watching crows and ravens, morning doves, jays, and squirrels commandeer the poles and take them for their own purposes. They stand as a reminder to me of the way the world once was and still is. And I love the look of the weathered wood.

I happen to have a telephone pole in front of my house. I can see it out my office window. I’ve never once painted a picture of a telephone pole but I must have taken hundreds of pictures of them. They are simultaneously random and messy as well as systematic and dangerous. They are like modern day totem poles without faces; purpose without meaning. I love them but I wish they weren’t there and one day they will be gone. The technology will surpass their need; wireless will replace wire and then what will happen to them? Like the old ships that sailed into the San Francisco bay, will they be dismantled, dug up from the ground and reburied whole, landfill, new foundation for new skyscrapers or will they instead, return to their first human construction and become the houses of the future? Only time will tell. Waxing poetic, I remain your

Design Detective,


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