The yard sticks - Page 4

A train-hopping trip from the Polaroid Kidd's hobotopia to William T. Vollmann's tramps -- and the truths in between
Photo by William T. Vollman

They're snatched from razor-wired train yards and robot train cops: a view through a boxcar door of elk at sunrise, or the taste of cold water from a trackside creek in the middle of nowhere Montana. These experiences are so rare and true that mere images of them are worth thousands in galleries.

The holes in the net are rare these days. I think often of my first train ride from that place out of time. It is a place seen in my favorite photo from Brodie's exhibition at SF Camerawork. Through a rear window, it catches seven kids in the back of a pickup truck rolling down a flat Middle American prairie road at dusk. Hair is blowing all around in the wind, but one guy on the left is bent over in cool concentration, rolling a smoke, as warm yellow sunlight the very color of nostalgia floods the image. Whether you're Mike Brodie, 22, or William Vollmann, 48, or myself, just now 35, you can't help it; you want to live in this photo forever.


Through May 24

SF Camerawork

657 Mission, second floor, SF

(415) 512-2020,

More train hoppin' in this issue:

>>The end of the line
Trainspotting America with James Benning's RR

>>Time travel ticket
Excerpts from a book that is Mostly True

>>What is Who is Bozo Texino?
"I hear you callin', baby, but you ain't gettin' me. Not today, anyhow."

Also from this author