I'm cruising over the open road - not cruising, soaring - and it's not as open as I'd like to think it is since those days of the endless open road died in the 70's, which was before I moved to L.A. and, furthermore, before I was born. But the hope lives on. The hope of an uninterrupted ribbon from hot, dusty dashboard to the curling wave of the horizon, stretching from here till forever. Before the Inland Empire. Before Hunter S. Thompson, even. Back when it was an original thought.
Bombay Beach, Salton Sea
Though the main artery to Palm Springs and further east, Vegas (that glittering bastion of poor decision-making), has yet to become clogged with expectations of cocktails and more bad decision-making, there are other cars but still, I'm cruising. Not cruising; soaring. Vegas isn't really East so much as it is Northeast, but it's all the same in that lonely desert landscape. East is east is east.
Leonard Knight and his Salvation Mountain.
The car has shrunk - miraculously! - to one eighth its size and reflected six times over in every window are the whorls of enormous futuristic windmills; the blooms of Alice in Wonderland-sized flowers pollinating the desert floor; pale, arthritic hands reaching toward heaven, clawing at heaven, waving to God. God waves back, the wind's inertia causes the fingers to wiggle, releases energy like pollen to teeny-tiny towns and itty-bitty metropolises, the turbine trees of the field clap their hands.
I worship too while I punch through the sound barrier, back to full-size, a sonic boom through cities intended to be an oasis but instead feel like a prison. Can one be imprisoned by banality? I wonder smugly, riding my high horse now, galloping ever eastward to the sea.
The sea! Arthritic and dehydrated canyons carve a map at her shores leading in all directions toward perfect nothingness: the siren call of the desert. Instead of inlets and watersheds and symbiotic give and take, there is only perfect parasitism. The desert draining her reserves with each drawing breath. Visitors drawing conclusions and filling journals and SD cards with observations and assumptions. Visitors on vacation. Visitors on the lam.
A-frame, Desert Beach
I find that even manmade mountains praise the Lord and even empty places aren't completely void. I find that there is charm in bees that sting out of instinct and die believing they'd done the right thing. I find that even a dying civilization can live on the oxygen of a hundred thousand desert flowers, a hundred thousand broken bottles, a hundred thousand decaying structures.
I'm at The Range now, its silence teaming with anticipation, its stillness flippant about the future, its residents insulated yet exposed. Empty except for the upright expectant smiles of theatre seats and fraying armchairs. Empty, except for an inscription scratched in chalk or blood on the ground at my feet:
"Inside all of us is a wild thing."