Category Archives: USA!

Sinister Sites: Slab City

If the Mojave is considered to be the cosmic graveyard of the West, then Slab City is the home to its unknown detritus, the potters field of the barrenlands and home to a bunch of lost souls that don’t even know that they’re dead yet. I had come here once before with Abi, venturing forth from the Los Angeles hinterlands, boiling alive in the middle of the desert with the stench of the Salton filling our nostrils. There was something intrinsically cool about it then, but maybe it was just some sort of hallucinatory side effect from our brains overheating inside of our skulls. I wanted to come back, to recoup after this great American voyage. The Last Free Place on earth, proclaims a painted concrete guard bunker upon one’s entrance to Slab City, an abandoned army base turned squatters’ haven laying just outside of Nihland California. This is Ground Zero of the middle of nowhere and the nexus of the American Dream. You could drop an atomic bomb out here and no one would notice or care.

I had to come back, it was preordained.

Part of the allure of this place comes from the fact that it’s free to stay here, or at least no one hassles you, which is great if you’re travelling on the cheap, or a drug addicted vagrant. The chocolate mountain gunnery range borders Slab City directly and provides a dramatic backdrop. Weird aircraft whip up the air sending thunderous and powerful vibrations in all directions and strange lights fill the night sky. The earth beats and shakes as bombs are dropped a million miles away. You can’t see but can feel them, exploding somewhere off in the Chocolate Mountains.

Look, freedom isn’t free anymore. You have to pay for it now with dollars and cents and tooths and nails. It becomes apparent after you’ve spent more than a day here that there’s no where to shit at Slab City, and there’s no water. I guess these people make do somehow, like animals. Savages in a savage and unforgiving land. You do what you got to do to make it, I guess. But where does all the shit go?

Stray Dogs roam the grounds at all hours of the day and night, settling into mean and lean packs, both wild and unforgiving. Their favorite hangout is the makeshift garbage dump and I ran into them there while searching for supplies to build a makeshift palapa. Don’t touch that discarded piece of plastic sheeting, it’s mine, snarled the alpha dog. I opened my swiss army knife. What was I to do? I resigned myself to the fact that I would have to gut this thing, or at least stab it repeatedly over and over again as it gnawed on my favorite arm. It was a tense standoff man, but luckily my Masters Degree in Psychology from Adelphi University paid off and I was able to calmly talk the dog out of mauling me. If that didn’t work, and I didn’t have my trusty blade, I would have had to do him chimp style and bite off his face. Then what? I would be stuck as some sort of hybrid human/alpha dog, forever roaming the wastelands and leading my newfound wolfpack across the desert and into Eden.

It had cooled down some since my last visit, yet the heat was still palpable. 100 degrees feels cool sometimes, like when you’ve been travelling through the desert for ages and you know that summer is winding down. I took it with little complaint, for I am the Sundog and the memory of Alaska and the North will always hold sway, but it was still hot; an uncomfortable heat that steals your prana and drains away all of your chi. There’s a weird and powerful energy that runs through the desert and Slab City is no exception, sitting out there in all its glory, the county seat in a terrible land that only God can appreciate, and only then with a great salty tear running down his cheek. All the negative vibrations from the city of Angels collect here as they drift towards the East, trapped in this gross basin well below sea level, where they can never ever escape.

Slab City. Take it. Leave it.

Cual quieres.

I would leave it in haste, in the dust, literally, as a massive sandstorm hastened my departure. But look, this is all old news (from several moons ago) and it is my duty to report it.

I’m not in Mexico anymore. I’m somewhere else, dreaming Mayan dreams of the American West…

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All the way at the end of the West…

One man can make a difference Michael…

L.A. is none too far from Vegas, a day’s journey on an old Honda. To complete this pilgrimage I would go through the Mojave and through its Joshua Trees, through the infernos of Twentynine Palms, Kelso, and Amboy and would stop at the Cabazon Dinos. I would let the CB cool down a bit at the Circle K in San Dimas for there was no sense in breaking down then. I still needed to get that canister of microfilm to Glendale before the Russians, and the LA skyline was in my sights…

I live within my own head, completely and always forever until the end of time and it was always known that I would make L.A. no problem, with worries but no doubts; a fitting end to this strange journey, emerging as some sort of weird man, a gross butterfly pushing out from the American flag cocoon. Few can, few will, understand this strange psychic pilgrimage, and that’s fine. Fuck ’em. This was my journey from start to finish and mission accomplished. It’s true, I can allow myself to rest now, not at all at peace…never, but we’ve done something here, seen a real goal to its end. My goal. With style. Approaching the sprawl, and emerging from the terrible heat of that seemingly lifeless inferno, that magical desert, and descending into the cool, the weird, and the strange civilization of fantastic L.A. was a reward in and of itself and the feeling was one of subdued triumph. The weirdness, the magic, of the west ends here in this all encompassing concrete wilderness, completely American and so real as to be fictitious. The burning questions remain. Who are we? Where are we going? Every civilization has had some sort of answer, some sort of structure so as to help us make sense of it all. The Aztecs rolled heads down their thousand step temples of the sun. As Americans, we look to the West always because for us therein the answer lies. And on the shores of the Pacific, in burning sands and staring out into ocean’s abyss: America ends.

L.A. is a big bowl full of smog and mellifluous, weird and angry vibes. The Pacific Ocean and San Bernardino mountains keep out the intense heat of the desert but contain the fumes of madness. The public transportation system in L.A. is thoroughly awful and anyone who’s anyone drives in this vast concrete supercity. Indeed, Abi claims that the tire and gas companies own the rights to the public transportation superstructure, keeping the service poor and the Angelinos on wheels as some sort of profit driven scheme. Regardless, L.A. is pure sprawl baby, completely paved over, nearly every inch of it. It’s like a giant suburb, the Nassau County of the West and a complete and total creation of man, honking and noisy. It’s no wonder Los Angelinos are an angry lot, although one gets the feeling that they don’t really even know why.

Bradbury Building and the L.A. Downtown: A fairly famous building, the Bradbury has been featured in a number of famous films including Bladerunner and Wolf. Remember that one? With Jack Nicholson? Downtown L.A. is full of weirdness, a pulsing beating heart which you can set your weird watch to because you’re working on L.A. time now. At night, the tents come out. And there are thousands of them, set up on the sidewalk and some spilling into the street. This is like luxury living for the homeless. I know because I had been doing the same for months and most of the tents were better than mine. I’ve never seen a homeless person living in a tent in New York city, maybe in a box or under a tarp, but never in a real live plastic tent . That shit doesn’t fly in the boroughs of greater New York, at least not on a regularly trafficked pedestrian thoroughfare. But they do things differently here I guess, all the way at the end of the West. They have to.

I turned the magical age of 29 in Los Angeles. Just one more year to go before I’m officially washed up and can really look back on all my mistakes with an even stronger zeal. But I’m still here, drinking what’s left from the tarnished cup of wasted youth. The cup is filled with strong drink and I must continue pressing onwards.

There’s a bunch of great cheap bars in the L.A. downtown. They’re offbeat and cool, but the hipsters are moving in now and trying their best at destroying the powerful vibrations of forgotten L.A. I bore this witness firsthand and it makes for quite the scene, all those homeless people and rich children in skinny jeans commingling. It’s hard to decide which subspecies is worse really: hipsters or people in RV’s. They’re the same really and, although they’ll both deny it, they can interbreed. Listen, the first time I wound up Downtown it was via the L.A. Metro coming from Hollywood, and by chance really. It was a great introduction to the L.A. scene when the pedals on my borrowed Huffy melted off near the corner of Hollywood and Vine, iconic seat of Hollywood glamor and power. I knew there was something amiss when an older Latino landscaper slowed his beat up pickup truck just enough for his compadre to lean out the passenger side window and tease me in Spanish about my bicycleta. Image is taken very seriously out here, even by landscapers in old pick-up trucks, lawnmowers jostling about as they thunder off into the sun.

L.A. Library: A sinister site no doubt, but a pretty sweet library that is loaded to the gills with architecture, statues, frescoes, and tilework with a nod toward the Masonic. Completely weird and subversive. This is the nicest library I’ve ever seen, much better than the Island Trees Public Library. The library is also across the street from a statue of a woman standing atop a tall column. Normal in every way except that she be sportin’ a huge cock. Totally representative of the spirit of L.A., like a lighthouse that sends out powerful and strange vibrations to all corners of the empire.

Griffith Park: L.A.’s equivalent to Central Park is a vast area north of Hollywood that’s all hills and desert scrub and full of hiking trails. It feels weird to hike in a huge city like L.A. and it’s a weird place to put an observatory, on a hill overlooking the brightest place in the world. Whatever, nothing makes sense anyway in L.A. and Griffith Park is a fantastic piece of Art Deco architecture overlooking the city of light. It’s the view you’ve seen in countless movies. You can even see the Hollywood sign from here. It is where I would spend my nights, emerging from the mysts of time nude and demanding people’s clothes. Nice night for a walk. Wash day tomorrow. Nothing clean. Right. Right…?

Watts Towers: Simon Rhodia’s artistic, and autistic, masterpiece. Screaming up towards the sky in the ghetto, they are the tallest things around for a ways, infinitely cool, and constructed entirely of concrete, found materials, and broken shards of tile. The city wanted to tear the towers down years ago, their reasoning being that they were unsafe. An outcry of residential furor saved them, and the city relented only after the Towers passed a test to determine their rigidity, with flying colors. What a weird time to be able to make something like this in your backyard, and in the city no less. You can’t even do this shit in the middle of the desert anymore. See: Phonehenge.

Venice Beach: The blood stains remain on the roofs and the palm trees in Venice, which is the de facto place to rollerblade in a neon green g-string. You know, if that’s something you’ve ever wanted to do, in public. Do it here. No one cares. More tents. Venice Beach is a great place, one of my personal faves of the L.A. experience. I would spend my days here pumping iron on muscle beach and prepping for the emergence of the bald Cole Rexton, Hollywood sex symbol and it boy.

Randy’s Donuts: This was on my list of most seeables and I feel a better man having seen it. There’s not much shit out there with personality left. This is iconic America here folks and I predict that it will be torn down within the next ten years. Get your delicious sugary donuts while you still can. They are good, real good, but the sugar in them will make your teeth hurt. But it’s a different kind of hurt that feels good.

The Freeways: Wheels man. The great American road trip comes to an end now and there is no better place for it that the freeways of Los Angeles. Ride them all the way West and into the sea. I would if I could. But the adventure continues…

We’re in old Mexico now.

Staring into the sun.

And Growing old.

The West is the best.

Endgame Vegas

Enter: Vegas

The American dream is both deferred and denied here, in this city of Sin. It’s no secret that the great experiment is over and long since dead, drowned in murky canals and buried under seven feet of sand.

The tour of America brings us twice through the faux glitz of Las Vegas, first as a sober stopover on our way to Los Angeles and then back through once more to rendezvous with an old radio partner DJ buddy to close the book on this place for good and to do it to it Original Hooligan style.

With class.

But first things first, a trip to the Hoover Dam would be in order, yet another American road trip staple and just a scant half hour’s ride away from the Vegas strip. Looking for all accounts just like it does in the movies, sans Optimus Prime, Hoover Dam is Heavy Duty in the blistering desert sun. It will last for a million years, supremely functional in its architecture and blatantly Masonic in its superficial decoration. You can even drive your motorcycle across it, which is awesome. I doff my hat to the builders of this shining American gem of ingenuity. It had to be built, of course. It was 116 degrees before noon that day, a face melting heat that I will never forget. But the Dam stands cool and resilient always, its back to Vegas but eyes to the Sun.

Travel Tip: Vegas hotel rooms are, like, super cheap. Never ever pay more than $30 for one. This is top secret intel brought to you by the manchild. Just go to Travelocity and roll the dice on the mystery hotel. You have to. It’s in the spirit of Vegas. You can usually guess which hotel it is and they’re all the same anyway but only if they’re on the Strip or on Fremont street. Only if. You have been warned.

No trip to Vegas would be complete without spending at least some time, and some of one’s hard earned kopeks, downtown where Old Vegas reigns supreme. The neon glitz of Fremont street stretches as far as the eye can see but only when it is not blocked by the “Fremont Street Experience,” a huge domed screen which runs over the Fremont Street gauntlet of shitty casinos and neon lights and sets the music of the Doors and Queen to cheesy effects laden photos. Fremont Street without the Experience is iconic Vegas. It’s where you’ll find the Golden Nugget and the giant winking neon cowboy, now a souvenir shop. I holed up here for a couple days in a twenty dollar suite at the Four Queens, doing reconnaissance and logistics for the Big Man’s arrival and eating cheeseburgers in bed while drinking cheap beer.

Living the American Dream.

Take a brisk walk down Fremont and, on the cusp of the ghetto and past the El Cortez and a delightful little burrito shop, you’ll find the Western Hotel and Casino. $1 drinks and the dregs of society rule the roost here and it truly is a gem. Not subtle at all. You’re looking at the metal endoskeleton of the Vegas Terminator now; no glitz here, just a blinking pair of red eyes, cold and dead, boring a hole directly into your soul. This would be the best part of Vegas.

Moving on, know that no Vegas experience would be complete without attending some sort of show. Purple Reign, Mike Hammer comedy magician, and the jokes of Andy Kindler would not escape my watchful gaze. Look, I’m on a strict budget and would never have attended any of these things if I didn’t run into free tickets. But listen, and this is top secret intel here, I really enjoyed Purple Reign and would probably actually buy a ticket if I ever go back to Vegas, which I won’t. But if you go to Vegas and enjoy the music of Prince, do yourself a favor Sharon and go see Purple Reign playing live at the Hooters Hotel Casino. They are better live than Prince and they even have an actor playing Morris, and even Jerome holding a mirror, who trades barbs with Prince and dances into the audience. Cousin Jerome reigns supreme as Vegas’ number one hype man and looks great in his zoot suit. Seriously, Purple Reign. Mike Hammer was excellent too, but I’m not into audience participatory schtick no matter how good it is and Hammer is good at it. He also looks great in his tiny little suit, and even eats razor blades which is cool. Small time cool. In Old Vegas. Andy Kindler was a bit of a douche and got upset when the audience didn’t laugh at every single one of his average jokes. And Kindler had a great hype man in emcee of the Playboy Club Paul Hughes, who was funnier than him and showed no contempt for his audience, or at least disguised it well enough. Well, I guess we can’t all be Purple Reign now can we?

I never meant to cause you any pain.

“The Circus-Circus is what the whole hep world would be doing Saturday night if the Nazis had won the war. This is the sixth Reich. The ground floor is full of gambling tables, like all the other casinos . . . but the place is about four stories high, in the style of a circus tent, and all manner of strange County-Fair/Polish Carnival madness is going on up in this space.”

Beautiful prose no doubt by the illustrious Hunter S and a perfect description of Vegas that rings true even 40 years later. Circus Circus hasn’t changed one bit since 1971. I know because I stayed there for two nights, drinking at the revolving bar and playing penny slots at the revolving slot carousel downstairs forever into the night. The carnival midway is still there and I even won a couple of stuffed bananas by tossing a ball through a hoop or something. The kitsch is outstanding and there is even a KOA in the superheated parking lot out back where you can just make out the 200ft tall neon psychedelic clown; a real place to take the family. This is where I wanted to take the DJ, and he was all for it too; but we never made it, hamstrung by a pushy cabbie.

Indeed, the birth of the American Decline is on full swing in Las Vegas and it wouldn’t be any fun to deliver it alone. A reunion of sorts would be in order and the illustrious DJ Jared was on a plane 1 2 3 to rendezvous at the Vegas Super 8; you know, the one down on Koval Street. It’s attached to Ellis Island, a casino of sorts that is both terrible and great.

There’s only one real way to do Vegas, dressed and smashed to the nines in loud shirts and $4 sports coats from the Salvation Army. Throw some handkerchiefs in your breast pockets, then add a fedora and soccer ball while you’re at it. Iconic Vegas.

So there we were, a couple of hobo crooners on the brink of oblivion, staring out at the end of days. The Vegas Super 8 would not contain us and the world would never be the same.

Travel Tip: Cheap eats abound in Vegas and anyone who’s anyone never pays more than $4.99 for a terrible steak dinner. Ask for the Gambler’s Special at Mr. Lucky’s Café in the Hard Rock Casino. This top quality and top secret delicious steak dinner with mashed potatoes and shrimps and can be had for bottom dollar but you have to ask for it because it’s not on the menu. Delectable. Then get your bib on and your eat on at the Sunset Station $4.99 breakfast buffet in downtown Henderson. If you get in line before 10:45am you’re paying breakfast prices for the lunch buffet baby. And if you’re a real man you dine at the Circus Circus buffet, complimentary with your hotel reservation. Don’t forget that the world’s largest indoor rollercoaster is right upstairs, although you wouldn’t wanna lose those gorgeous eggs and bacon strips to the crowds below. Best to save them for later when you’re at the Tropicana leaning way over a spinning roulette wheel.

The Ellis Island Casino is attached to the Vegas Super 8 and is a perfect showcase for the worst of humanity. Somehow loosely based on an Ellis Island theme (there might be a plaster statue of liberty in there somewhere and maybe even some shabbily dressed Slavs), the name of the game here is penny slots and cheap eats. We started our days here, injecting a healthy dose of Vegas into our guts before taking the town. There’s a brewery inside Ellis Island and it touts itself as Nevada’s best, which is sad because the beer is absolutely terrible and will make you sick. Their famous rootbeers arrive flat and warm, guaranteed to make you throw up later in the pool.

Now listen up! These are tales of real men. They came to Vegas from the East risking their blood to play the slots and run the tables, conquer the greedy and carve out a legacy of freedom. These are stories of men honed by desert fires and edged by combat with fist and gun. These are tales of women tested to the limit of endurance by an unrelenting land. Now, in this awaiting Blog update, Pipe Adams tells of the real heroes of the frontier, the survivors, Rich and Jared, for whom hanging tough was as natural as drawing breath.

The Western was where we spent the first of our days, chillin’ out max and relaxin’ all cool, sipping some $1 shots and actin’ a fool. $11 got us both smashed and the Western would be remembered as the best place in Vegas. No faux glitz here, just some toothless locals, cheap hot dogs, and a Coors Light mountain bike taped to the wall. A man can really feel at home here in a turquoise sports coat and pink button up. But listen, all the slots are rigged there and you’ll get done in by the cheap drinks and blow your life savings if you stick around too long. Best to pick up some acrid cigars and head on over to Mermaids where a man can be a boy and shoot the slots to his heart’s content. Puff away on those stogies and let the smoke cloud mingle with the scents of the fried pickles, twinkies, and oreos wafting out of the kitchen. Scream loudly like a girl whenever you hit it big on the nickel slots; the jingle of coins and the scent of cold hard metal cash will send the drink dolls your way with free beers.

That’s the thing with Vegas, the people that own the casinos want you to get drunk, but just drunk enough to loosen up so that you lose all your money. They don’t want you to get drunk to just have a good time and enjoy yourself. So usually, there will be just one bartender walking around slowly at a big bar. Order up some doubles and then move on to the next joint because you’re always being watched. Spend too much time not gambling and the word goes out and the creeps move in. Everyone’s got an earpiece in with the powers that be whispering to them from their secret clouds in the sky. You have to keep moving in order not to draw any suspicion. You have to be smart if you wanna get smashed in Vegas. Trust me. If you see someone really drunk, prowling the Vegas strip at night, they’re probably some sort of genius. I know because I was there. They say sometimes a genius will get so drunk in Vegas that they’ll either wake up in a strange hotel room dry-firing a revolver at their head or get thrown out of the Bellagio.

It’s inevitable really. This trip would have been a complete and abject failure if the DJ and me didn’t get thrown out of the Bellagio for teasing some middle aged middle American dopes who got upset after we insulted their wives or something. We were like some kind of brilliant psychological matadors in our flamboyant colorful outfits, working those chaps into a sort of snarling nostril flaring mental frenzy while coolly ordering drinks from the busty barkeeps who pretended not to see or hear us (nothing exists anyway). The Vegas Gods up in their search clouds never bargained for a couple of jerk dopes like us and were taken completely aback for a brief moment at least, no doubt fooled by our crooner gear, all done up like Vegas ghosts from a million years ago.

Well, they were good times really and will remain so as one of the high points of this great American voyage. Me and the DJ would sort of ride that wave into the night, but the tide always rolls out, revealing endgame stenciled in the sand. Right after I saw the DJ off in his taxi the next day I went to the bar. The music was blaring, blasting. Katy Perry first, then Gwen Stefani. Hollaback Girl. A group of middle aged business men in scratchy collared shirts shouting over both Katy and Gwen. I ran out of money and couldn’t afford a Pepsi. All’s I wanted was a Pepsi. I wondered if the DJ could see me from the window of his plane, all the way up in the sky, already set adrift on memory bliss of good times forgotten past.

…some may never live. But the crazy never die.

An excerpt from the writings of Francisco Bizarro and his search for the lost American dream…

I am the Raven

Hatched from Thunder Egg.

Soaring.

…nevermore?

The CB500T and me pushed on, fighting tooth and claw against the heat, the earth baking all around and something shimmering off in the distance. The Great Basin Desert encompasses nearly the whole of Nevada. It is something to behold really, this state firmly clenched in the grasp of a great searing aridity with no escape. Really, as noted before this is a land of savage beauty that is delicate in a ways but always dangerous. It is something else entirely, and totally new. Riding through it in the summer, you get the inkling that no person should ever live here.

The crowning jewel of conspiracy theory and anyone who’s anyone’s distrust in the American government lies somewhere south of the nothing town of Rachel, Nevada. To the West there is absolutely nothing for 150 miles. To the East, there is a gas station in Ash Springs some 50 miles away. In the middle there is a dirt road which stretches farther than you can see and gets lost somewhere in the mountains, cuts through to a valley and then on to an alkali flat known as Groom Lake. Area 51: well known American secret and road trip staple. This is isolation to the extreme and a Godforsaken place. It is the perfect place to hide something if you don’t want it found ever even if everyone knows where it is.

The "black" mailbox. Entrance to the underworld and demarcation of one of several access roads to top secret government base that no one knows about.

 

 

Access road to Groom Lake, Area 51

The little Ale’inn is Rachel’s number one and only business, profiting off of conspiracy buffs and weirdos because it is the only thing of structure anywhere close to Area 51. They sell burgers here, and beers, and they even have a selection of pretty good conspiracy and alternative archaeology books in the gift shop. I would have this place to myself if it wasn’t for a new breed of American asshole that I discovered. I seem to run across these types a lot on my journeys through America and was taken off guard somewhat due to the far outness of this place. I just wasn’t expecting them. They call themselves geocachers and it’s what middle class American nerds become when they have too much disposable income and too much time on their hands; hands I envisioned slicing to ribbons with a rusty blade or forcing onto a hot exhaust pipe and holding them there until the bone showed white. Know that there is absolutely nothing more offputting than a beautiful starry night being ruined by some idiot’s generator running until dawn. Geocaching is some sort of game that adults play where they drive about collecting “caches” by the side of the road while their vehicles idle close by. “Caches” are tupperware containers with pieces of paper inside which one signs in order to note that one has found it. Then one puts it back for the next “person” to “find.” There is no pluck or skill in finding these things as it’s all done by GPS. Uninquisitive and umempathetic in the lives that they were so undeservedly given and so offputting to the thoughtful lonesome adventurer, whence I finally retired to sleep I dreamt only of death.

We knew the world would not be the same. A few people laughed, a few people cried, most people were silent. I remembered the line from the Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad-Gita… “Now, I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.”

 

Next Stop: Vegas 

Sacred Sites

Blythe Intaglios: Just across the Californian border, 18 miles North of the nothing town of Blythe, lie great humanoid figures scraped into the desert floor ages ago by a forgotten few. The Old Ones. In this great dark age, even now, their traces remain and are remarkable.

 

Quartzite, AZ: Snowbird haven and resting place of the last formally ordained federal camel jockey, Hi-Jolly. This Syrian beastmaster was responsible for taming the 70 odd camels that were part of a US Army experimental program that sought to utilize the dromedaries’ unique adapations for freighting and communications in the US Southwest in the mid-1800’s. After the Civil War broke out, the project was abandoned and the camels were left to their own devices out in the wastelands; the last reported camel sighting was in the 1940’s, nearly 100 years after the genesis of this weird experiment.

 

Casa Grande: The Old Ones still have a few tricks left up there myriad sleeves, eh? Indeed. A trip to Coolidge, AZ and a visit to Casa Grande will confirm. According to white scholars this ancient ruin was abandoned by the Hualapai in the 1450’s, although little is actaully known about the structure. Holes in the remaining portion of this ancient four story relic line up perfectly with celestial events. Come here and marvel at history’s forgotten past and note the well kept giant sun shade, erected in the 1930’s, that keeps the suns violent rays from damaging this adobe structure.

The Cabazon Dinos or Tuesdays With Abi and the LA Manchild: A Prologue

“Everyone I knew in Harlem seemed to have some sort of dream. I didn’t have any dreams, not really. I didn’t have any dreams for hitting the numbers. I didn’t have any dreams for getting a big car or a fine wardrobe. I bought expensive clothes because it was a fad. It was the thing to do, just to show you had money. I wanted to be a part of what was going on, and this was what was going on. I didn’t have any dreams of becoming anything. All I knew for certain was that I had my fears. I suppose just about everybody else knew the same thing. They had their dreams, though, and I guess that’s what they had over me. As time went by, I was sorry for the people whose dreams were never realized.”

 I was closing the gap, hot on the heels of my own sick version of the American dream on my way to LA. Vegas had been done. What was left really? The Grand Canyon? To experience Texas?

Approaching Cabazon, my helmet was stifling. It narrowed my vision and I needed to see far. It was heavy and threw off my balance. The Dinos were far away.

Somewhere out in the Mojave, cosmic graveyard of the West, lies the Wheel Inn and the dinosaurs from Pee Wee’s Big Adventure. They say that a dream deferred is a dream denied. Well Destiny was calling and I had to pick up the phone; musn’t let Destiny go to voicemail for I am Destiny’s Child.

The dinos are still there, looming large 100 miles East of the sea and the City of Angels. You can still go up inside of them and even peer out from the T-Rex’s mouth like you’ve always dreamed, however the whole lot has been converted into some sort of weird Christian themed dinosaur theme park that uses the great Jurassic beasts to teach creationism. Ironic I know. But it’s all legitimate. I know because I was there. I saw it all. I reached up with my dead hand and signed away the deed to America with my own blood.  

I know you are…but what am I?

What am I?

A dinosaur. 

I am the Sundog

Buddha says that life is suffering.

I hear you dog.

It was time to forget Alaska, time to move on. I promised myself that upon my triumphant return to the real America that I would strike for the desert, immediately and hard. The memory of the rain and the cold would need to be banished from the mind forever, scorched into oblivion by the arid heat of the desert sun.

Summer.

What a bummer.

She passed me by man.

But in the desert summer reigns supreme,

always and forever.

Seek and you shall find.

Broiling alive.

The Oregonian high desert: Here again the road stretches into infinity. We’ve seen this before and there ain’t nothin’ out there. A man could dissapear out here and get lost forever. The farther east you go in Oregon the more desolate things become. Fantastic banded rock formations and sage scrub line the road for a hundred miles, and this is truly a land of unspeakable beauty. A tumbleweed blew across the road in front of the bike and I nearly wept, such was the division of scenes between the Alaskan nightmare and this new thing, so iconic of the American west. As you start coming out of the high desert and drop in altitude, so does the mercury rise. It is like desending into an oven. I’m cool with it though and would ride directly into the sun if I could. The mornings would now find me prostrating myself in worship before this God-king just like an Egyptian, and the afternoons might see me taking the roads shirtless at seventy miles per hour, screaming along next to an alkali flat and absorbing that precious vitamin-D into my naked flesh.

Alvord Desert Hot Springs: There is some sort of “town” named Fields in Southeastern Oregon. It’s on the map, but you can’t always trust maps and you can’t always trust these “towns” to be anything more than a tight cluster of trailers out in the middle of nowhere. Fields is actually some sort of place in that you can get gasoline there and even a burger. But that’s it, just a gas station and burger joint in the same building with no town to speak of. With my brain boiling in the noontime heat I stopped in for a burger and some choice intel from the local sages regarding the Alvord Desert and its hot springs. The Alvord Desert is a big ol’ dry lake bed that looms out there in the wastelands. On its western shore geothermal activity and the ingenuity of man have resulted in an oasis of sorts for the weary traveller. I’m a sucker for these things man, and a trip to the hot springs in the searing 100° heat would be in order, although I wouldn’t be the only out there because the desert is full of weirdos. Much of the Alvord was covered in a slick film of water and mud, a resultant of the spring rains, and for the first time in twenty years too. People come out here with sailboats on wheels, landsailers, and zip along the playa. But because of the mud, none roamed the playa that day. A dissapointed chap, his landsailer strapped to the top of his van, noted that it was no matter really, because he would be headed to Burning Man next week and the flats of the Black Rock desert are next to none. My interest was piqued somewhat at the possibility of checking out Burning Man, what with it being so close and me so near, but this was only for a moment once it was revealed that tickets would cost somewhere around $250 and that they were already sold out anyway. I had always thought Burning Man was free. Where does the money go and what does it pay for? I guess everyone has their hands in your pockets these days. We’ll get to that at some point later on but for now listen up: the Alvord Desert hotsprings are free. My own rating system for hotsprings, really anything, always takes into account set and setting and the Alvord ranks highly on such a personal scale. Those were trying times up North and the moment had finally come where I was touching toes with an endless desert, baking in the sun, and experiencing the American West in my own selfish way. The playa would stretch to the horizon if it wasn’t interrupted somewhere out in the beyond by mountains rising from the earth. The springs are rustic at best, cordoned off into two separate bathing pools made from cinder blocks and poured concrete. There’s a wooden walkway to keep your feet from the sage and a little changing area under a hot tin roof. A pipe diverts the hot water from the spring into the first pool and you can regulate the temperature by moving the pipe around. It gets as hot as you want it really. Beautiful. The sun sets forever out on the playa and when it does the stars come out to play. The night is ablaze with a million of them, the milky way clearly visible above and also below as it is reflected in the ancient lake.

The state of Oregon bleeds into the state of Nevada and the desert reigns supreme as always, the landscape indiscernible between the two as we continue further south on this great voyage. More nothingness. The distances between “towns” increase and the heat becomes nearly unbearable. Fantastic. Make sure to meter your gas properly and bring extra water. You will die here if you get lost or breakdown, your bones bleached a sickening yellow like a Salton tilapia. This is beautiful and foreboding country. Hundreds of dirt roads stretch to nowhere in a land that is both beautiful and bizarre, magical and weird. Who were the ones that made these roads, to where and why, for what purpose? Follow them and they will take you to all sorts of weird things.

I stopped in Austin Nevada on America’s lonliest highway, Route 50, camping behind a Baptist church for the night. Just a small speck of nothingness in the Nevada desert, Austin tries to be a tourist trap but there are no tourists. A long time ago Life or Time magazine or something christened Route 50 as America’s lonliest road. There are lonlier roads out there and Austin seemed a bustling place as far I could tell. There are 3 bars in town. A PBR will cool a man off in this heat and pave the way for siphoning some top secret intel out of the locals. Seems Austin used to be some sort of happening place a million years ago. A huge mahogany barback runs the whole length of The Pub, brought over from England for $200,000 before the Panama Canal was built. It was shipped around Cape Horn to San Franciso and then on mule back to this absolute outpost. Something was going on down here and people knew how to drink back then, in style. I was also given coordinates to commune with the Ancients and take in some more hot springs, all accessible on the morrow via a dirt road which goes straight up into God’s mouth after the junction of Highways 50 and 376. A map was drawn on a knapkin and I was sent off into the night. In the morning I found the road exactly as described and set off in search of the toquima cave and the art of ancient man. A hot spring lay somewhere to the North but, mercury rising, I bothered with it not and set my eyes on those marvelous glyphs awaiting me at the top of the mountain. 8, 9, 10 miles in and the road got worse and I strained my eyes for the road to the summit so marked on the knapkin. At 20 miles I would be running out of gas on the return leg and would need to turn around. I really wanted to see those glyphs man so I pushed on and took a “road” to the left that quickly deterioted and just kept going up. It was all rutted and the bike was overheating, eventually stalling out and stopping upright within a rut. The kickstart would hit the side of the rut and it wouldn’t kick over. I left the bike and went on foot, hiking through the dwarf pines and ignoring a creeping thrist. No petroglyphs in sight. I would have to turn around and go back or risk running out of water and then gas in the wastelands where no one can hear you scream. Getting back to the bike I discovered that in my frenzied state I had left the key in the on position when I dismounted, lights on and battery draining. I mounted again, furiously pushing the bike up the hill and kickstarting it as we slid backwards into oblivion with the front brake locked. Already envisioning my death and the raven plucking my eyeballs from my not quite dead yet sockets the motorcycle Gods smiled upon their very own motostud and the CB started on the third attempt. There would be no petroglyphs on this go-round.