Frontage Road | Mark Lindsay

Today my truck needed its smog certificate and an oil change. Not requiring a full day of service, I decided to leave the truck with the repair shop and go for a three-hour walk. The shop is in an industrial part of San Rafael, a nondescript no man's land of suburban strip malls, highway ramps and construction yards. It seemed to be a good opportunity to find some intriguing photos outside the realm of the precious and picturesque.

In Fellini's La Dolce Vita, the protagonist, Marcello, finds himself returning repeatedly to the urban wasteland, both physically and metaphorically. I so love the film and its sense of moral desolation. Whenever I find myself on the other side of the tracks I think of it.

There is a romantic notion that life is to be lived in ideal circumstances and around beautiful things. But so often we find ourselves in ambiguity. Life seems transient, murky, ill-defined, impermanent, somewhere in Limbo. Marcello was constantly searching for something solid but only found more decadence and disillusion. The beautiful life's path led him back to the wasteland, like one of those awful, repetitive dreams where we can't find whatever it is we are searching for.

Today I decided to try to find something substantive in no man's land. Mostly we rush past it, pick something up, drop something off, discard something else. Being present in the urban wasteland is not something that comes naturally. We save that for the beach or the mountain or the meadow. We save it for the romance of Italy—though Marcello found plenty of wasteland there, too, in which to be mired.

Along my journey I kept coming back to the frontage road of Highway 101. There was no avoiding it. Finally I stopped. Cars rushed past. The other side of the highway peaked at me through the overpass. I found it so compelling that I stayed and watched. The watching became hypnotic. I made a photo or two.