When the Colors Fade

We are a town built of failed attempts at fame. The town that could never beam like the twinkling space hogs floating overhead. We built progress from leaping off the backs of our own and claimed our trip up’s as full leaps forward, never learning, only rushing ahead down the aisles knocking everything off the shelf.*

Another “thing”, a “whatever”, a something that could have never been, but made a difference. A mural on 4th and Santa Clara it was the towering backboard of a gas station, looking up out of my dads truck window as we’d pass or walked by it took my fleeting looks and absorbed them into careful stares as it approached, arrived and faded into a blurry obstruction in the distance. It was an image of Jesus Christ on a cross crucified in the middle of downtown, bloody and dark spread across a million bricks. I can recall it in a dream as if it was the backdrop to my childhood, I feared it was closer to my family than my last name.  It felt like that painting of Vigo in the Ghostbusters movie, something about it was more real than the paint used to create it. I could imagine it was the same as in the movie. Channeling people’s negative emotions needed for the conjuring of an army of angry spirits. Little me with my Reeboks softening on the hot concrete downtown lost in thought, eyes faced upward as downtown swirled around me, like the coins swirled around in the donation cyclone in the mall, I was the hole.

    Murals are important, art is important to culture and community, when money is low when the hurt is too much there is always art and people will always flock to the beauty of these interpretations and can interpret it in other ways it’s a process for the artist and it takes a totally different path to the viewer. Unlike art in all white walls free from distraction or outside influence. Murals, especially those positioned in prominent and public buildings are designed to interact with the onlooker, and the spaces in which they are set into, painted on to, impressed upon. More times than not they tell a bigger story, something greater than what could be said with words. Despite what it is it is ALWAYS a story or a frozen image about a specific time, a specific place, and specific people.

The viewpoint of the mural was strange, it was as if you were floating above him as he bled out onto the gas station below. For a town that seems so heavily doused in pride, it’s so violent to disturb the landmarks that cover the landscape of our minds. It creates this freaky dysphoric state where people stop believing they have a stake in things, we are blank spaces in the past and apparitions haunting our own futures. It’s sad to see what is there now and know that one day in years to come people will be speaking of the same thing, unknowing what once was, it’s the same with these shitty apartments that took place of my old warehouse, in 50 years people will be fighting to keep those apartments.

They painted over this specific mural and put a bright colored mural over it, pastel colors suffocating the dark imagery. San Jose fades out all its past for the hope that it breeds signals of distinguished and progressive Status, but truth is we are buried in our past. The days here are collecting dust and I watch as the town I was born rises in price, but everyone sinks. What is it about this place that wants to be what its not? We compare and contemplate change never appreciating how great we are. It bleeds into the people. Every year they set up a new art project to improve “quality of life” and every year it fails horribly. My friend nick says He loves it, that “San Jose can’t have nice things” I believe in this down.

I can never find even a photo of it online. I wonder if it ever meant anything to anyone else. There is a video on YouTube of riots in San Jose during Cinco De Mayo years ago. In the beginning there is a glimpse of it in the background as gangsters destroy a bus stop and the gas station. It’s just another thing that never really mattered I guess. I wonder what was there before. I wonder if there was a boy in penny loafers melting on the sidewalk looking up at that wall as they painted that mural, cursing them for covering up the red brick he’d carved into. We only believe in change because it’s inevitable, it is scary to wait for change, so the sooner we rush into its arms the sooner we can forget all the shattered past, or try to forget. We will always remember though, you just add on layers. Cause and effect, you create a change and it ripples into time and space changing everything else around it.

When the colors fade and ‘progress’ takes a backseat, our history in the minds of those who remember will be all we have.


* ” San José’s Electric Light Tower was the inspiration of J. J. Owen, editor of the San José Mercury. On May 13, 1881, Owen printed an editorial suggesting that by providing one high and immense source of arc light, the night would become as day for the downtown area. With the enthusiastic financial support of local citizens, construction began that August, and on December 13, 1881, the gigantic, 237-foot tower was lighted. Straddling the intersection of Santa Clara and Market Streets, the tower proved to be more spectacular than practical, since its 24,000 candlepower failed to sufficiently light the area. Although the tower did not fulfill its original purpose, it represented progress to the people of San José because electricity was a relatively new source of power. It became one of San José’s “national known” landmarks. Legend says that the designer of Paris’ Eiffel Tower visited San José’s Electric Light Tower when seeking ideas. Already damaged by a windstorm in February 1915, the tower completely collapsed into the street at 11:55 a.m. on December 3 of that year. The tower telescoped into itself and no one was hurt.“

Richard Gutierrez