Dreaming of Spiders

Dreamingof Spiders

Vesta and I were in Midtown shooting Jeremy’s cousin’s senior photos when I saw these gas meters and all of a sudden I was attacked by a massive case of déjà vu. I couldn’t help it, it was those meters. So I asked Jeremy to stand in front of them for this shot.

And, for reasons I don’t know, those déjà vu demons, which should have been excised when I captured the spirit of those meters in my camera, were not. Sadly, it seems, that only works with film. Digital files, it appears, are just not strong enough to bury déjà vu.

And so I get to relive a sad day, when I was fired by the rotten, lousy, stinkin’ commie, no goodnik Southern California Gas Company.

It was a good job for me, working for the gas company. I worked in a part of L.A. called Watts, which at the time was called the ghetto by white people, because it’s where black people lived. But I loved working there, because everybody liked me, cuz I was the kid who came out to turn on their gas and to show them how to use their appliances if they didn’t know how.

Unfortunately, a lot of people who lived in Watts were poor and when you don’t have very much, every penny counts, especially back then. So to save money when summer came, they’d turn off the pilot lights on their floor heaters.

Which made these itty bitty spiders you can hardly see very happy, cuz they’d climb into those pilot tubes and spin their almost invisible webs. I can’t imagine what they ever caught in them, cuz they were really tiny spiders. I guess even on that level those spiders were a terror to something even smaller than themselves.

When winter came, people would try to light their pilots and they wouldn’t light. So they’d call the Gas Company and I’d come out, crawl under their houses, stick a pipe cleaner, which must have look like a great big pine tree to those spiders, down the tube, clearing out the web. 

Then I’d crawl out, dust off, light the pilot and maybe, if I was lucky, smoke a cigarette with the now happy home owner while I told him or her about those spiders. 

Then, one day, a month before my six month probation was up, I was getting ready to shimmy into a crawl hole when this a hundred and something year-old black guy says, “I wouldn’t go under there if I was you.”

“Why not.” I pulled myself away from the crawl hole.

“It’s them widers.”

“Widers? What’s a wider?”

“You know, them black widers.”

“Ah.” I stood up. “You mean black widows.”

“That’s what I said.”

“And they’re down there, under the house?”

“Most likely right by that crawl hole.”


“Cuz they like to be in the dark, by the light. In the dry by the damp. So you can find them around the crawl holes.”

I apologized to him for not wanting to go under his grandson’s house anymore and he understood. Then I told his grandson that I couldn’t fix his heater.

And in the next couple weeks I said I was sorry to a lotta folks about not being able to fix their heaters. But, unknown to me, the Gas Company had people who went around and checked up on the work of their new employees who were on probation and one day my supervisor called me in and told me to turn in my uniform.

It seems there was no room at the Southern California Gas Company for a kid who was afraid of black widows.

And for the record, I’m still afraid of ‘em. Just thinking about ’em gives me the chilly willies. Gas meters too, give me the chills. Brrr.

Ken Douglas Wedding and Portrait Photography, 1250 Ralston Street, Reno, NV 89503 
Phone: 775 393-9529