June 21, 2013
East Area Water Tank
I am here at our massive, circular and multi-colored water tank at the appointed hour of the Friday afternoon Summer Solstice to witness the miracle of the sun that we were all promised when the city forked over 75,000 bucks to two young and talented out-of-town artists.
Apparently, hiring locally didn’t apply in this case, or maybe it’s simply that Davis has no artists capable of pulling off such a massive work. Maybe if we were a university town things would be different, but as it is, the city had to go to the big city across the Causeway to find what it wanted.
I was truly distressed to learn that the artists in question had to cancel the tour of their work that was planned to coincide with the position of the sun at this time in June. The tour, no doubt richly anticipated by thousands of Davis residents, was scrubbed.
But, according to the story carrying this sad news in The Davis Enterprise, “Community members can still visit the artwork in late June to see the shadow letters fall into alignment with the letters painted on the tank.” As a community member, that is exactly what I am doing at this very moment.
According to the website for artists Sofia Lacin and Hennessy Christophel, the time of “ideal alignment” for viewing “SameSun” is 2:50 p.m., beginning today and running through the first week in July.
Because the tank is circular and nestles into a corner created by the Mace overpass and the westbound I-80 exit ramp, there are supposedly many opportunities for motorists to view this ever-changing work of art.
Heading eastbound on I-80, however, virtually nothing is visible. The same if you’re heading westbound on I-80 and fail to take the Mace Boulevard exit ramp. You can also view it as you head northbound down the Mace overcrossing. Then, of course, there is a frontage road running east-west on the north side of the tank, very near the Ikeda fruit stand.
Now, we all know that texting while driving is against the law because it’s dangerous. Equally dangerous is attempting, while driving, to read text and decipher letters cast by shadows on a massive water tank. Especially when many of those letters are partially blocked in seemingly every direction by a variety of beautiful native oak trees that grow near much of the tank.
So, wishing to give the artwork a fair shake, but not wishing to do something dangerous or stupid as we came here a few minutes ago, I switched places in the car with my 8-year-old son, Mick, and let him drive down I-80 and onto the exit ramp so I could concentrate fully on the task at hand. I did have to stack several Yolo County phone books on the driver’s seat so he could see over the steering wheel, but he did rather nicely, all things considered.
Nevertheless, those darn oak trees, pretty as they are, made serious viewing of the tank from the car virtually impossible.
So we pulled into the Park-and-Ride lot adjacent to the tank, surprised that at this magical, well-publicized and much-anticipated hour, we were the only ones there. I had expected balloons and marching bands and mayoral speeches and maybe a Sno-Cone vendor or two. I mean, hadn’t we all been waiting a full 12 months for this day to arrive?
Unfortunately, you can’t go up and actually touch the artwork on the tank. No, it’s surrounded by a high, insurmountable, industrial-black iron fence with no fewer than 11 orange-and-black signs affixed that state “Warning: It is a federal offense to tamper with this facility. Violators will be prosecuted per HR 3448.” Hardly something to put one into the party mood.
There are no picnic tables where you can sit with your family and enjoy the view and maybe some fried chicken and potato salad. Nothing but that big, ugly fence and all those warning signs from the federal government.
The sun does cast some shadows onto the structure, but rather than letters of the alphabet, all I can make out are four or five odd shapes that look for all the world like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle.
Again, trying to be fair about our $75,000 baby, we just walked all the way around the facility, dodging the sharp spikes of the ever-present star thistle and keeping a sharp eye out for rattlesnakes and other creatures that are likely to slither in the vast forest of weeds surrounding the tank.
On the southeast side, nearest the railroad tracks, I did find some more letters, these ones spelling the words “City Property: No Dumping Allowed. City Code 32.01.030.”
On the far east side, which was draped in blessed shade on this warm and breezy afternoon, I encountered Slurpee cups, cigarette butts, plastic water bottles, crumpled up straws, used Kleenex and a giant empty bag of El Sabroso Original Blazin’ Hot Spicy Nacho Cheese Tortilla Chips.”
I guess all that is to be expected when you’re dealing with a tourist attraction of such vast dimensions and appeal.
Having completed the circuit, we have now headed back to the car to collect our thoughts, but as we did, I nearly tripped on a screw-top bottle of Cypress Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, 2011 Central Coast.
Must have been used to christen this water-worthy ship of state.
— Reach Bob Dunning at [email protected]