Last night, after an exquisite Chinese banquet in Berkeley with some friends of ours (vanilla prawns with glazed walnuts!), we took a little stroll down Solano street. A small crowd was gathered outside an art gallery so we stopped to see what all the commotion was about. What happened next was one of the most remarkable experiences I've had in years.
There were three paintings in the window. Each seemed to be nothing more than a completely random splattering of colored dots. A note in the window suggested, however, that some people who stared at the pictures for long enough eventually saw something more. And indeed a woman in the crowd was tugging at our sleeves and pointing and exclaiming "I SAW IT! There's a DINOSAUR in there!"
I stood in front of one of the pictures and stared at the dots. Nothing happened. Other people in the crowd were beginning to mutter that it was all just a trick. No one except the woman could see anything but dots.
I tried to relax and, as the note suggested, focus on a pool of light glaring off the window glass. A few more minutes went past and I was just about to give up when, quite suddenly, the picture snapped into place! I found myself staring not into a flat plane of colored dots but into what looked like a tank that was about ten feet deep and filled with various three-dimensional objects.
There was, sure enough, a Tyranosaurus Rex and, behind and above him, a Pteradactyl, with moutains and jungle in the distance. The blue-green Tyranosaurus leaned hungrily over a golden Stegosaurus and in the distance a Brontosaurus looked on from the mouth of a cave. It was like a terrarium with paper mâché dinosaurs placed in a cardboard swamp. As I moved my head I could see behind trees and around corners.
The picture was, apparently, a computer-generated hologram in which all the modeled objects were covered with a mottled pattern that made them difficult for the brain to process. But when my brain was finally able to resolve the information into a consistent tableau the effect was breathtaking. I began to point excitedly and exclaim "Dinosaurs!" just as the woman had done. My dinner companions regarded me with the cold skepticism of the unbeliever.
After much prodding and more minutes of staring blankly at the dots, Walt finally achieved his breakthrough, but Monica and Betsy were never able to see the dinosaurs or the scene from Star Wars, or the Stealth bomber in high orbit.
I found the behavior of the onlookers, both skeptics and converts, as interesting as the effect itself. Just as an earthquake or power failure will sometime cause neighbors who never speak to each other to suddenly chatter away like old friends, the miraculous nature of these paintings created a kind of intimacy. We who had shared in the vision became brothers and sisters while those who remained in the dark became annoyed by our zeal. "Stop pointing!" snapped Betsy, "it's just DOTS!"
The amazing dinosaurs of Solano Street are now grazing in our bedroom! Betsy purchased the dinosaur picture as a surprise gift on the occassion of our first anniversary. She has finally been able to see the illusive creatures for herself and all Archipelagoans who wish to experience the miracle first hand are hereby invited to make the pilgrimage.