a skyline in los angeles...

I first heard about the Watts Towers sometime in 1974. In 1977 I dropped out of college for awhile and rode my motorcycle from Colorado to California on a romantic pilgrimage to visit the site.

On that trip I was very young and had some silly notions. For example, I thought I would just cruise down highway 101 and see the Towers from the road, that they would be as prominent and visible as the manmade Matterhorn at Disneyland.

Of course the Towers turned out to be a bit more obscure than the famous theme park, and finding them became part of the adventure. They rise from the sort of off-the-map neighborhood that might frighten most casual tourists away, especially those having heard of the riots and gang violence of that era.

The day I found the Towers in 1977, I was their only visitor. I wandered freely among the structures, pondering their creation and meaning. The place was quiet, open, colorful, sparkling, the perfect spiritual highlight for my journey.

Today the Towers are locked behind steel fences, and you must first pay an admission fee for a brief guided tour. Still, I was happy to find the Towers yet standing and in good care, some 30-plus years after my first visit.

Los Angeles, November 2006.

Rolleiflex T, Fomapan 400.