Junior knows when we’re on the last walk of the night. He has an uncanny sense of time and often knows what I’m going to do before I do. Standing under a moonlit sky at 1:30am we listen to crickets, cicadas, and katydids perform their summer symphony. He’s thinking biscuit and bed. I’m thinking it a good night for a ride.
The nice thing about being married to an artist is that a middle of the night ride falls within the limits of normal behavior. Kim’s only misgiving is that she can’t come along. If my employer is reading this please note I am on vacation this week.
Night stimulates varied responses among riders. For some (like me) it evokes a time of stillness and reflection. For others, it's a time for terror of deer, drunks, and unfortunate interactions. I remember a book on motorcycle technique that admonished the reader to venture into the night only in an emergency and in dire, personal peril. I believe that. The heightened risk is real and I manage accordingly.
I arrive in town as the bars are closing and people are on the sidewalk making final social decisions. With camera in hand I walk across the street to make a few pictures. Too lazy to retrieve the tripod I sit down against a parking meter and steady the camera against my knees for a half second exposure at a grain generating ISO.
Forgive my photographic indolence.
On campus the pervasive illumination keeps the night at bay and lends a theatrical feeling to the surroundings. Night is somewhere other than here.
Kneeling in the middle of the street behind a little tripod I struggle to make a picture of the Vespa and the moon. I police cruiser glides by watching me work. Law enforcement everywhere knows that photographers using tripods constitute the good guys. I thought he might question my Vespa parked on the sidewalk but he departed in search of more interesting miscreants.
It’s 2:30am as I ride out of town in search of a more suitable landscape to breath in the night. I’m transported into childhood as the scent of Queen Anne’s Lace growing along the road reminds me of playing army in the fields and woods of years ago.
Standing in a field of corn and soybeans the moon illuminates the controls of the camera. Everything is painted in a cool blue gray with deep shadows hiding any real detail. Fireflies and the taillights of an occasional passing car provide the only rich colors.
My interest in making pictures wanes quickly. A few lame attempts to use the flash and I’m done. Dew has formed on my helmet as the temperature drops. I sense a nearby skunk. In the distance a car engine moves over the road coming closer and bringing it’s bright light with it. When the car stops I wonder who’s behind the wheel – someone concerned for the safety of a man in a black and yellow riding jacket standing next to a Vespa? Or is it just someone looking for trouble and sees a scooter as an easy target?
The car slowly moves away and disappears over a hill. I’m left alone looking at the stars and thinking it gets no better than this.