LOVE from Above
By Monte Thrasher
When I was a kid at Burbank High (I graduated in '78) I heard a teenage rumor that if you climbed to the top of the local mountains and looked down upon Burbank by night, the word “LOVE” was spelled out in streetlights. And this is true!
Of course street lighting changes with time, so it may no longer be so. I acutely remember the old blue-white streetlights of my teen years, before they were replaced by that plague of orange crime lights. I'm a painter, and keenly sensitive to color, and I hate those things. Their one virtue was that their efficiency, since they put out all their energy in exactly one finely controlled too-narrow orange frequency. They really ruined the beauty of the night, turning the sky the color of rust, so even the clear nights seemed smothered in smog. And they did not turn blue with distance, as white lights do, so the vast ocean of starry lights that was the Valley at night became flat and tedious to behold, all the same irritating orange. Actually, the orange had a dose of nasty ultraviolet mixed in, which soured it and made it even harsher to the eye.
My glasses have one thin and one thick lens, and since any lens is a prism at its edge, I can look at a light obliquely through my thick lens and get its spectrum splayed out for analysis: one orange and one purplish ultraviolet, a sad, barren spectrum. I remember on my first acid trip the sweet revelation that those blue-white lights were not all the same color: this one was a little greenish, that one had a dash of pink, or of violet, or frail yellow. That's a fact of optics, not of hallucinogens, since every filament is imperfect and idiosyncratic and shines a slightly different spectrum. I remember studying an orange streetlight, too, one of the first ones I'd seen, and thinking (with a kind of anti-amazement, a super-letdown) that it was the one thing that didn't get more interesting on acid. It buzzed in a supremely grating way, too, as if to underline how fiercely uninteresting it was. And then they took over the night and ruined it, creeping across my beloved night landscape for the next twenty years, like a spreading stain, or infection. The 80's for me was horrible orange streetlights, interminable car alarms (they had no automatic timer to shut them off, originally, and seemed to run for hours) Reagan (eight years of him) and Rap (thirty years and counting, God help us). The Four Horsemen of Tedium.
As for LOVE, I'm sure the V was formed where Burbank slices sharply into Victory. I'm a bit vague on the other letters, though. I think Alameda meeting N. Victory formed the L, and Buena Vista and Hollywood Way formed two horizontal strokes of the E. The O was the largest letter, and rather irregular. Somewhere there's a satellite or aerial image of Burbank at night that would resolve the issue. Actually, it's a lovely idea, of LOVE writ large right across the city; with a few strategic lights added here and there and a night-flying photographer to capture it, it would be quite a memorable image...
I just now got a street map of Burbank, inverted it in Photoshop to make it pale lines on dark and tinkered with it here and there to get an approximation of what I saw, see attachment. Done with proper care (based on a nice nighttime photograph) it would be quite a pretty thing. A black Burbank T-shirt, in rhinestones, perhaps?
By the way, thanks to years of effort from the Department of Energy, a new White Light hath come to replace the dreaded orange Lamps of Hell. It uses a focused blast of radio energy to energize the element, making light as white as pure sunlight. On my nocturnal strolls through the Burbank hills I feel a pang of gratitude every time I see them, slowly spreading to redeem and relieve the achingly tedious orange expanse.
Disclaimer: Monte's comment about Ronald Reagan is not shared by Burbankia management. (I liked the Reagan Administration.) But I do share Monte's opinion of those ghastly orange streetlights. I recall seeing them start to pop up all over in the late Seventies. (This 1976 nighttime view of Burbank shows that the old style blue-white lights were mostly in use.) As for seeing things from above Burbank, my pal Mike and I noted that if you drove to the curve in the road on Via Alta at night, you could see what looked like a "XIII" etched in streetlights. Since we liked the Blue Oyster Cult, we referred to this spot as "Cult Point XIII (thirteen)." It's hard to see nowadays, the residents having erected wooden, view-blocking fences.