“you look fantaaaastic!” Philip Newton bellows, brandishing his camera from his 30-foot vantage, up on a cherrypicker over the crowd. behind him, white lights twinkle up and down the cables of the bay bridge, and clouds turn pink in the dimming sky over oakland.
Philip is addressing neither The Bay Lights nor the incandescent twilight, but rather the 1,000 people gathered beneath them on a broad concourse behind the San Francisco Ferry Building. as soon as he yells out, in a voice like a rock star on a stadium stage, the crowd cheers back and raises their glassybaby up over their heads. his compliment becomes self-fulfilling. all the glowing candles look like lighters raised at a concert. gorgeous, ethereal.
as the evening fades, the photographer’s light reaches an apex of beauty. for a sweet moment, each individual in the crowd stands out in unique profile, and so do the glassybaby in each hand, alit and aloft.
there is no music. philip is a rock star photographer, not a rock star. as cool as he is, the crowd isn’t celebrating him. the crowd celebrates itself, each person celebrating every other, celebrating the causes they came to support; education, cancer care, poverty alleviation, and more.
it was still broad daylight when people first arrived to check in and pick up their glassybaby. the group’s excitement bordered on chaos. nobody had been to an event quite like this. online and printed tickets overlapped and confused some of the larger groups. gangs of montessori schoolchildren clambered and chased at the foot of a statue of Gandhi. one woman arrived without pants.
but by 7:30, each ticket has been counted for the proper organization, and each “give me five” glassybaby has found a pair of hands to hold it up in the sunset.
after the beautiful, celebratory photos, the crowd gradually disperses to homes and dinners. but some people linger a while and cluster around the event’s real rock star. laid out on the ground, it glimmers now in the young dusk. 1,000 glassybaby “seconds,” a mix of 100 different colors, arranged in our three-arm spiral “triskelion” logo.
each light dances its color at its own pattern and tempo, to create the effect of a living body of water reflecting a supernova. children and adults gaze together at the flickering triskelion. mesmerized, we can’t turn away. the effervescent colors shine with positive energy. a bit like the people in this city where we’ve just watched the sun set.